§ (1.) £45,032, Irish Land Commission.
said, he desired to call the attention of the Committee to the increasing amount of this Vote. Last year it was estimated by the Government at £92,000, and this year it was £137,000, showing an increase to the enormous extent of £45,000, or about 50 per cent. For the present year—1883–4—it was proposed to ask for £20,000 more, making the total amount £157,000, which, capitalized at 3½ per cent, meant something like £4,000,000 of money; and this sum, added to the £2,000,000 which was to be paid out of the Irish Church or Consolidated Funds for the arrears, represented a capital sum of £6,000,000 already voted by the country to back up the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Now, he fearlessly asserted that if the House had, two or three years ago, foreseen that they would be actually called upon to vote millions of money—enough to have bought up all the interests of the indigent peasantry in Ireland in their holdings—they would not have passed the Land Act. Well, they were paying these large sums, and the question for the House to consider was, what good they were doing with them. He maintained that the Land Commission Courts were not giving satisfaction in Ireland, either to the one side or the other. The people who got the most benefit out of 4 them were those who were asking for more money; and he had very little doubt that there would be another Supplementary Estimate next year, seeing that the work of the Commission would be greatly in arrear. He said that both sides were dissatisfied. The landlords had every reason to be so; and if the same sort of thing were to go on long, he believed they would have as much dissatisfaction among the loyal population of Ireland as had existed for so long a period among the disloyal. The Land Commission Court was said to be a Court of Equity. He himself called it an Arbitration Court, and he was not aware of any other case in which the country had been called upon to pay anything towards the expenses of an Arbitration Court. The cost had always been paid under the arbitration itself. The only contribution by the tenants who were taking advantage of this Court appeared to be a sum of £6,000 out of the total of £137,000. This was the solo sum paid by the tenants, who were receiving millions under the Act, and who were, nevertheless, crying out for a new Land Bill. The country paid all the rest. He warned the Government that they were laying down a dangerous principle in making provision that the expenses of an Arbitration Act should be paid out of the monies of the State. One subject which he had specially risen to call the attention of the House to was the manner in which the Land Commissioners were discharging their duties. He was sure that, through the usual courtesy of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, he should receive some explanation. If he did not, he should consider it his duty to propose a reduction of the Vote for the amount allowed for the new Commissioners. The question he had to bring before the House was this, that the Land Commission Court was a most unfair and unjust tribunal in its present mode of proceeding. He was sorry to say that of any Court in Great Britain. There was no reason why the Commissioners should not be able to deal justly between landlord and tenant; but they appeared to have taken up one particular line, and they were necessarily one sided and biased in their views. They had not to go far to see why it was that the Commissioners were at present acting in a way which must be, in the opinion of 5 those who wished to weigh his words, unfair to one class in Ireland. When they were appointed, it was to reduce rents; they all knew that the Land Bill was brought in to bring about a reduction of rents. When it was found by the Government that the idea of Land Commissioners, as to reduction of rents, was being carried beyond all reason or justice, they did take an honest view by appointing Court valuers—men who had acquaintance with land, who understood how to value it, who knew the use of land, and what it was worth. But when these Court valuers went to work, it was found that they did not reduce the rents as far as the Commissioners had done before, and the consequence was that the Government said that if they did not give satisfaction they must be removed. They did not give satisfaction, and a great outcry was raised against them. But who was it they did not give satisfaction to? It was the tenants. And the sole cause of disaffection was that they did not cut down rents below what was fair and just; therefore they were removed, and there was a large sum in the Estimates for the services of these Court valuers, and then another large sum for the Assistant Commissioners, who replaced them when they were thrust on one side. In this way the Government had attempted to please everybody by blowing hot and cold. In appointing Sub-Commissioners, it was quite evident that the intention of the Government was to go back to the large reduction of rent which formerly took place, and not to renew the fair rents which the Court valuers were fixing. The result of all this was that the Sub-Commissioners saw they could only please Her Majesty's Government, and retain their posts, by acting unfairly and unjustly towards the landlords; and then they again began to reduce rents below their proper value. Since the time when the Government showed their hand so plainly the valuations had been made lower and lower, and the rents cut down. The Land Commission had altogether put on one side the word "appeal" which ran through the whole of the Act. The Act provided that those who were dissatisfied with any decision should have a right of appeal to the Commissioners themselves. But the Land Commis- 6 sioners, knowing that the landlords would be dissatisfied, and would appeal, had made rules for the guidance of appeals which virtually set aside the provisions of the Land Act. The appeal cases of the Land Act had consequently become absolutely null and void; and it was deserving of the consideration of the House whether they ought to Continue to vote money to a body of men who were distinctly putting aside, by rules of their own, that which ran through every clause of the Land Act—namely, the right of appeal. He would tell the Committee one or two facts connected with this matter. In the first place, the Land Commissioners had passed a rule that they would not give costs in any case where the landlord, being the appellant, did not get back the whole of the rent which had been reduced by the Sub-Commissioners. The consequence was, that if the Sub-Commissioners reduced the rent by 25 per cent, and the Chief Commissioners, on appeal, gave back 20 per cent of it, the landlord would still have to pay the costs of the appeal. It could not be supposed that this could have been done except with the intention of keeping the landlord out of the Court, and it was a monstrous injustice to him. He would mention a circumstance which took place the other day in Armagh. An appeal was brought before three of the Land Commissioners. Mr. Vernon being absent, and the decision given by the Court in the first case was so flagrantly unjust, that the barrister who was to conduct the appeals, consulted there and then in open Court with the attornies by whom he was employed, and asked if it was worth while to proceed further. It was decided at once not to go on with the rest, as it was found impossible to obtain justice. He thought that the House should put its foot down upon these sort of proceedings at the first opportunity, by refusing to vote further sums of money for such a body. Before, however, moving the reduction of the Vote, he would wait until some answer had been made by the Government; but unless he received satisfactory assurances from the Government, he should certainly move the reduction of the Vote.
§ COLONEL O'BEIRNE
said, the hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down (Captain Aylmer) had pointed out 7 the enormous increase this year in the cost of the Land Commission Court. He (Colonel O'Beirne) quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Member in protesting against that increase; and he further objected to the Vote, because it did not set forth any particulars—such, for instance, as how much the Government allowed to the Land Commissioners for travelling expenses per day, and whether all the sub-Commissioners received the game remuneration. Were they all placed on the same level as Professor Baldwin, who was a skilled agriculturist, and did they all get the same salary as that gentleman? The additional expense incurred by appointing Sub-Commissioners had been proposed with a view of expediting the working of the Land Act; but, nevertheless, the work had been scamped. It had been done in the most hurried and incomplete manner, lie knew that was the case personally, because he had had cases decided under the old system, and under the new. The Sub-Commissioners hurried over the holdings, made a pretence of examining the land, and then cut down the rent; and the Chief Secretary for Ireland would tell them that all the satisfaction they could get from the Castle was the assertion that the very best men who could be appointed had been appointed. He (Colonel O'Beirne), however, knew from the way in which the Sub-Commissioners had done their work, that at least half of them were unfit for their position. Last year it was stated in "another place" by the Leader of the Opposition that the Land Bill was passed under false pretences. That was a sentiment which, he thought, the whole of the country now agreed with. He certainly thought that the extra Land Commissioners had been appointed under false pretences.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he trusted that some explanation would be given by the Government with regard to this Vote. There were two different points of view from which the question ought to be regarded. In the first place, the Government should see how far the expense would be justifiable from the point of view of the Administration itself. As to the Land Act, he did not wish to re-open that subject. He had repeatedly said that it was an Act which confiscated a considerable portion of the property of 8 Her Majesty's loyal subjects in Ireland, and handed it over, without compensation, to a class who, on the whole, were disaffected and disloyal. As a matter of statecraft, he thought nothing could be more mischievous than for any Executive Government to propose such a measure to Parliament. But Parliament, in its wisdom, on the assurances of Her Majesty's Government that this most unprincipled enactment would produce peace and contentment in Ireland, had most unfortunately participated with the Government in the perpetration of one of the greatest legislative crimes which could be traced in the annals of history. So much for the Land Act. They were told that this measure, which took away, without any compensation, a large portion of the property of the loyal inhabitants of the country, would be successful in restoring peace. It had already been seen, by the statements of Her Majesty's Ministers themselves, that the Act had signally failed to restore peace, and that it had proved a signal and notorious, and, he might add, a well-merited failure. Having spent the money of the country, and jeopardized their own reputation, by passing this measure, they now asked Parliament to put its hands still more deeply than it had already done into the National pocket in order to extend the expenses of the Act. In regard to the salaries, he was not prepared to deny that the labourer might, in many cases, be worthy of his hire, and that if they had Commissioners they ought to be paid. He was not going to say anything with regard to the individuality of the gentlemen who had been appointed Sub-Commissioners. He wished to avoid all personal references; but he thought it worthwhile to point out that a great deal too much of the energy expended in the criticism of the Act had been wasted on the gentlemen who were popularly known in Ireland as the "sub-confiscators," whereas the action of the "sub-confiscators" having been confirmed on appeal by the Chief Commissioners established under the Act, the blame ought to be laid on the shoulders of those who were really mainly responsible—the "chief confiscators." It had been said by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone (Captain Aylmer) that a great injustice had been done in re- 9 ducing all rents throughout the country, without any regard to whether they had been previously high or low. Now, it was notorious that the panacea of the Liberal Party a generation ago for remedying the grievances of Ireland—namely, the introduction of free land, which was to get rid of all the old encumbered owners, and to allow the laud to become a marketable commodity and to pass freely like any other article of commerce—had resulted in introducing a class of owners who had inflicted great injury upon the cause of proprietary rights in the country by raising their rents to the point at which the investments became remunerative. The "chief" and "sub-confiscators," however, combined in simultaneously reducing indiscriminately, by an uniform standard, not only the rents of farms upon estates such as those, but likewise in reducing the rents of holdings upon which for centuries the rents had never been raised a single shilling. Both classes had been reduced, without distinction, about 25 per cent. This was the result of the proceedings of the Commissioners, and it ought to instigate Parliament to look more closely into any augmentation of the Expenditure of the country in machinery of this kind. His hon. and gallant Friend had referred to the disinclination exhibited on the part of the Chief Commissioners in giving facilities which the law contemplated with regard to the right of appeal. By the rules which they had laid down they studiously evaded the provisions of the ordinary law, and refused to grant facilities for overhauling their own proceedings. He granted that the Commissioners might have some reason for desiring that their conduct should not be reviewed by an impartial body learned in the law, because he thought that on the only occasion when, despite all efforts to prevent it, they were forced to allow an appeal, so that their proceedings might be overhauled, there had been a significant dissent from their conclusions by the highest tribunals of the land. The result of all these things was that the country had got into a worse state than it had ever been known to have been in in the course of its previous history. It was said that "the proof of the pudding was in the eating," and although that was generally a very unfair test to apply, he must 10 remind the Committee that Her Majesty's Government had never denied that the only justification of their Irish policy, even from their own point of view, must be its success. In this case they found that rents which had always been considered fair had, to the intense astonishment of everybody, been arbitrarily reduced, and, before the ink which gave the award was dry, the fortunate tenant, who had succeeded in getting that present made to him by the gentlemen whose salaries the House were now asked to increase, sold that right to occupy the land for a rent considerably below its value for a very large premium. That had been done over and over again, and numerous instances of the kind must have been brought to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government. In reality, Parliament was asked to spend this money, not for the purpose of benefiting the position of tenants for all time, but to put a premium into the pockets of the person who happened to have the good fortune to have hired the land for 12 months, and who, during that time, induced the Government to become his accessories in a scheme of spoliation. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in discussing last night a question affecting Jamaica, said it was not a question of a Parliamentary subscription, and reminded them that the proposal for transferring various charges from the Colonial to the Imperial funds did not impose taxation upon themselves, but upon the people of the country generally. Now, who were asked to contribute these heavy bribes to the disloyal tenants of Ireland? It was, among others, the long-suffering English tenant farmer, who had had bad seasons and times of heavy depression to struggle against for a long series of years—the long-suffering British farmer, who had not even the promise of a Seed Bill, or anything whatever to be done for him, or even a word of commiseration in Her Majesty's gracious Speech for the sufferings he was undergoing. Yet that British farmer was now called upon to provide his share of this large sum to be spent in the way he had referred to. And what were the results even from the point of view of the confiscation of property in Ireland—the lowest standpoint he could take? The net results of the national expenditure under con- 11 sideration were infinitessimal, even from the dishonest tenant's point of view, as the reductions of rent resulting from this large expenditure were comparatively trifling. He trusted that the House would set its face against any further contribution of the public money in that direction. The money already granted had been badly invested. The results had been disastrous, and he thought they would, if persevered in, be not only serious for the interests of the British taxpayer, but a discredit to the nation.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
said, he regretted the spirit shown in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. Lowther). The experience which he had acquired as Chief Secretary ought to have taught him that its tone and matter would arouse and spread the discontent and disaffection which at present unfortunately existed in Ireland. Those in that House who were willing to allow themselves to come to a calm and impartial judgment, could not, he believed, fail to perceive that the present state of that country was in great measure occasioned by blind and unreasoning opposition to all reform, and the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman himself when in charge of the affairs of Ireland. Persistent refusal to even consider acknowledged grievances had given strength and force to that flame of agitation which had recently swept over that country. Indeed, even those of the landlord class who understood their real interest now knew how detrimental that policy had been. If a well-considered Land Bill, like that of the late Mr. Butt's, had been fairly considered, discussed, and carried on its merits, he thought they would have had Ireland at the present moment loyal, happy, and contented. But it was in consequence of rash and ill-considered statements such as those which had now been made to the House, and the belief that reason and argument would be of no avail, that a great number had sought to attain the object they sought by those unconstitutional and illegal practices which had done so much evil in Ireland. Having made these few remarks in reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he desired to pass a few comments on the Vote at present before the House. He certainly considered that the principles laid down in the Land 12 measure of 1881 were right and just. They were founded upon demands that were made by the whole of the tenantry in Ireland, and supported by a considerable number of the landlord class who understood the people and their own interests. But he must also say that many of the provisions of that Act, and the procedure devised to obtain the benefits it professed to confer, as well as the manner of its administration, necessitated and encouraged agitation and a war of classes. Observations had been made with respect to the appointment of Sub-Commissioners, and with some of those observations he entirely coincided. Although he attributed to Her Majesty's Government the best intentions, has thought there was but too much reason for the belief which was entertained that fitness and capability had been overlooked, and that very many of those appointments had been made on political grounds and considerations. Men had been selected, apparently, only for the reason that they had given a political support to the Party in power. The question of religion, he admitted, ought not to be allowed to weigh over-much in matters of this kind; but it was strange to find so few Catholics had been appointed. Not unnaturally did he and others feel distrust when they found that the claims of some Catholics whom he could name, of high position, who could not be said to have given any ground for suspicion that they would not act impartially, and hold the scales of justice evenly between all parties, men who had discharged the duties of Grand Jurors with satisfaction, had been wholly overlooked and ignored. He thought that this was a deplorable state of things, and one which ought to be remedied. He did not intend to enter into any lengthened statement as to the qualifications of the particular men on the Sub-Commission. On an Estimate of this character it would be unreasonable and unfair for the House to do so; but he would ask any fair-minded man to consider the general qualifications of many of the men who had been appointed Sub-Commissioners. He regretted to say that there had been an undue preponderance of the Body to which he had the honour to belong—namely, the Bar of Ireland. He certainly failed to see how a junior barrister could obtain any practical knowledge of 13 the value of land, sitting in the Four Courts, and studying dusty volumes of legal lore. He admitted that at the head of each Sub-Commission, as at present worked, a barrister might be required, but he should be a man of eminence and high standing, in whom the public would have confidence. But on what grounds could a number of junior barristers, even though men of talent, be considered qualified to discharge the duties incident to the task of ascertaining fair rents? Those having a practical experience in the different qualities of soil, and the capabilities and mode of working different farms, could alone be expected to come to a just conclusion on this matter. A wide-spread opinion existed that very many of these appointments had been conferred upon individuals simply for political services, and for having gone down to a contested election to aid the Liberal candidate. For the sake of the tenantry in Ireland he thought the Government ought to have appointed upon that Sub-Commission men of practical judgment, experienced men who knew what the value of land was, and who could arrive at a fair conclusion upon the matter. He was not speaking unadvisedly on this matter. Any hon. Gentleman who took the trouble to look at the evidence given before the Lords' Committee, would see that what he was stating was fully borne out. Mr. Justice O'Hagan himself, when examined, gave a remarkable instance, which certainly proved that, so far from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) being right in asserting that the members of the Sub-Commissions were appointed in the interest of the tenants, the tenants themselves had been the sufferers; for the learned Judge narrated that when he and Mr. Vernon sought to ascertain on what principle one of these gentlemen so appointed as Sub-Commissioner would proceed to fix a fair rent, this gentleman made them all smile; and Mr. Vernon was much amused, and said that if the land was to be valued in that manner, no tenant could possibly get a living out of it; and, as an example, it was stated that this gentleman had now become and was one of the ablest of those acting as Sub-Commissioners. How could the Government expect to find satisfaction amongst the Irish people, when appointments in con- 14 nection with the administration of the Land Act were given to persons unqualified to discharge the duties required to be performed by them? If practical men had been appointed, and the barristerial element diminished, there would have been a better representation of the Catholic majority. He claimed no monopoly for Catholics; but it was believed—and he thought on good grounds—that there had been—though he believed Lord Spencer had acted with the best intentions—a practical exclusion of many well-qualified Catholics. The appointments of the Sub-Commissioners should be made because they were men qualified to do the work—men who understood the letting value of land, and able to arrive at a just decision respecting it. At present, there was the greatest uncertainty and want of uniformity in the decisions given. It was simply a drawing for prizes in a lottery. One portion of a gentleman's estate was valued on Monday, for instance, by two gentlemen, probably barristers; and, on the Saturday following, another portion of the estate was valued by two other gentlemen, who might, perchance, be practical valuators or land agents. Even assuming, as he was willing to do, that the gentlemen who went on Monday arrived at such conclusions as they, from their standpoint, considered just, it was little likely to be based on the same principles or to agree with that arrived at by those who valued on the Saturday. He hoped the Government would give some attention to this subject, and allow the Act to be amended; or, if they did not think that amendment was required for this purpose, that they would give such directions to the Commissioners in Dublin as would render its application in this respect more satisfactory to the people of Ireland. It was acknowledged in all parts of the House, and the matter he was glad to say had passed out of the region of Party feeling, that the Purchase Clauses, if they were properly worked, would be the portion of the Act from which the Irish tenantry would derive this most important advantage. Peasant proprietary-ship was the kernel of the Act, and it was by that alone, as had been pointed out over and over again in that House, that any satisfactory solution of the Irish Land Question could be arrived at. But what 15 did he find? There was a Gentleman at the head of the Commission who was regarded in Ireland as representing the Government view of this matter—Mr. Litton, the late Member for Tyrone. And Mr. Litton's views were given in no mistakable manner; they were thoroughly opposed to the extension of the Purchase Clauses, or, in point of fact, to what he called "the action of the Purchase Clauses being stimulated." That was Mr. Litton's opinion, and he fortified it by what they could well understand as coming from a Northern Member. Forsooth, in the judgment of Mr. Litton, although every other man of sense might think otherwise, if they gave peasant proprietorship to Ireland, they would lead to the separation of the two countries. That was the reason why he did not aid in the working of the Purchase Clauses, and Mr. Litton, as they all knew, being one of the most active Members of the Land Commission, and representing, as was believed, the views of the Government, it was but natural that they should find the result of Mr. Litton's opinions in the Report of the Land Commission which had been laid on the Table of the House—namely, that the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act had not merely been overlooked, but apparently impeded in their working. Under these circumstances, he thought the Committee would do well to look very carefully into the Estimates, and that they should receive a very satisfactory statement from the Government before they assented to the Vote.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, in the few remarks he had to make on this subject, he should probably be found not to agree thoroughly either with those hon. Members who made wholesale charges against the Sub-Commissioners, or with those who held their administration of the Land Act to be perfect. With regard to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther), he (Mr. Biggar) had read in the newspapers, from time to time, reports as to the amount of judicial rents fixed by the Sub-Commissioners, and his experience certainly did not coincide with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. He found that in many cases the reductions were exceedingly small, while in others they were very large; and he was led to believe that 16 the Sub-Commissioners, in the main, tried to value the land upon its merits. At the same time, he had been told in conversation with agriculturists, that a very sound judgment was not displayed by the Sub-Commissioners, who, he was informed, in some cases, drew a slight distinction between very indifferent land and that of a superior kind; and that information led him to the conclusion that although the Sub-Commissioners endeavoured to do their best in the main, they were not really competent, and that their business qualifications were not such as to entitle them to the full confidence of the people. There was another objection, which he thought had been properly raised, as to the action of the Sub-Commissioners generally—namely, that a very great discrepancy was believed to exist between the decisions on certain points by the Sub-Commissioners. He was told that, in similar cases, certain Sub-Commissioners fixed the rent at a sum which gave the tenants good value, but that other Commissioners made reductions that were not at all adequate. The point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. P. Martin), that amongst the Sub-Commissioners there was a very great divergence of opinion, became more important when it was considered with regard to some parts of Ireland. In the valuation of land, it was essential that the persons who valued it should be free from local prejudice; at the same time, it was desirable that" they should know something of the system of agriculture and the nature of lands in particular districts, in order to arrive at a correct valuation. But the fact was, that in many cases gentlemen had to value lands in the South or West of Ireland who came from the Northern part; and although, perhaps, they had some knowledge of the value of land, conditions of climate, as well as mode of culture in that part, yet they were sent away to remote districts in the South, perhaps, where their judgment was of very little value. These were two difficulties which seemed to him very great. Again, there was a great fault in the drawing of the Act of 1881. When the Bill was introduced it contained a definition, if he remembered aright, as to the way in which fair rents were to be arrived at. This, however, in order to facilitate the passage of the Bill through the House, was eventually 17 struck out. From all he had heard, however, notwithstanding the promise that instructions to the Sub-Commissioners should be given, either by the Government or the Chief Commissioners, to the Sub-Commissioners, there was nothing approaching to a principle upon which this re-valuation of land in Ireland was conducted. If the Bill had not been drawn too fast, and if it had contained the principles which were to guide the Sub-Commissioners, then, he said, the tenants and landlords would have had an opportunity of bringing their eases into Court, and, as a result, more substantial and regular justice would have accrued. Again, as far as he could see, the Chief Commissioners were very unwilling to change the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners, and, except in a very few cases, they seemed to discourage, as far as lay in their power, anything in the shape of an appeal or the re-hearing of a case. Whether that were right or wrong, it was not for him to say; but the fact was as he had stated, and it seemed to him that the old Government valuation, which was so very much discouraged during the passage of the Act, was much more regular and consistent than the valuation now being taken by the Sub-Commissioners. With regard to the attack which had been made by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire, he was bound to say that it was perfectly uncalled for. For his own part, having had experience of four Chief Secretaries for Ireland, he very much preferred the right hon. Gentleman to any of the other three.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, the speech of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had been conceived in a tone which seriously affected the criticisms made in all parts of the House in connection with the Land Commission, and he thought it contained one or two points which particularly deserved the attention of the Government. The hon. Gentleman had said there appeared to be no principle of re-valuation of land in Ireland on which the Sub-Commissioners were proceeding. Now, that was a point the Committee were bound to deal with before passing the Vote, because, if it were a fact that confidence was established neither amongst landlords nor tenants by the way in which the Land Act was 18 being administered, then, he thought, they were right in considering whether the country was justified in spending £140.000 a-year on the administration of an Act which was not giving satisfaction. He submitted to the Committee that it was ridiculous to suppose that the Chief Commissioners in Dublin could really review the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners; he did not mean to say that occasionally, on a matter of principle, they could not do so, but that it was impossible in practice for any Commissioners sitting in Dublin to change those decisions. If that were admitted, they were brought face to face with this difficulty. The Government had introduced the Land Act, and carried it so far, in order to deal with existing rents; and the fact, by the admission of all classes, was that there had been no appreciable effect on the distress in the Western districts of Ireland. The Land Act was pronounced and admitted to be wholly inadequate to meet that distress, which had to be encountered by other means, including the ordinary method of Poor Law relief. It was equally admitted that the Purchase Clauses of the Act had been rendered inoperative, greatly in consequence, he believed, of the way in which it had been administered. The Government had, in fact, outbid themselves, by placing before the tenant so large an inducement to remain in his holding, that he was not inclined to sacrifice money, in order to purchase what, in a few years, another Act might give him a large slice of. When they looked at the remedies proposed for relieving the distressed districts in the West, and the remedy of purchase agreed to by all parties for making the various classes of the population contented, then, he said, it was wrong to vote large sums in order to sustain the administration of an Act which was giving so little satisfaction. And now, having placed the objection he had to this Vote on a general principle, he wished to point out the position in which they stood with regard to the predictions made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, as to the satisfaction which would be given by the Act. He ventured to observe that every single prediction made from the Government Benches, as to the working of the Land Act, had been wholly falsified. Going back to the time of the passing of the Act, it had been stated by Lord Car- 19 lingford, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and the Law Officers of the Crown as their opinion that rents would remain unchanged; whereas, the fact was that, hi nine cases out of ten, or, perhaps, 99 cases out of 100, they had been reduced; and he might add that the prediction as to the whole of the Irish tenantry going into Court had not been entirely swept away. It was said, also, that the reductions made would not affect the large estates on which the rents had remained unaltered for a great number of years; but, in view of what had taken place, he thought it was incumbent on Ministers of the Crown to remember that if they were to continue to make statements of that character, they should in future support them by a reference to facts. The truth was that rents on the large estates had been very greatly reduced. He would take one instance of this which he had met with that morning, in looking through the Reports. The rents on the estate of Lord Gosford, in Armagh, were below even Griffith's valuation; 31 cases were, however, taken into Court; the original rents amounted to £760; the judicial rent was fixed at £560; the deduction being 25 per cent of the former. In another instance, the deductions made were over 25 per cent, and that in the case of some holdings the rent of which had not been changed for 25 years. He submitted these figures as a proof that the prediction as to the confidence to be established by the Act had been entirely swept away. Another statement made constantly was that there would be an increase in the selling value of land. He did not think anybody really believed there would be any such increase, although, it no doubt, suited the Government to suggest it at the time of the passage of the Bill through the House. But what were the facts? The selling value of land in Munster in 1876 was 21 years' purchase; the average in the Estates Court was now 14 years' purchase. But in 1876 the sales of land amounted to £1,100,000, whereas last year they amounted to only £100,000. These were facts that must be dealt with by the Government side by side with the agitation now, to a certain degree, existing in the country, when they came to consider whether confidence was being established in the country by means of 20 the Land Act. Again, they were told that the Act had increased the competitive value of land, notwithstanding which, he believed he might say that in many parts of the country there had been no such increase. In those districts, the security for the tenure of land was so small, that tenants could not be found to give nearly as much for it as they did four years ago. When these facts were taken together, he ventured to think they were entitled to hear something more from the Government Bench than they had yet heard. Whenever hon. Members brought forward complaints as to the action of the Sub-Commissioners, they were always met with the statement that of the 90,000 cases brought forward in the Land Court, 22,000 had been decided, and about 20,000 settled out of Court. The Government knew perfectly well that the cost of going into Court was absolutely ruining the poorer tenants; and they knew that on estates where the landlords were on good terms with the tenantry, the landlord often had to choose between impoverishing his tenants by going into Court and impoverishing himself, at the same time, by the enormous costs which had led so many landlords to the necessity of cutting down their establishments. They had been told that, when rents were fixed, they would be paid as regularly as the dividends at the Bank of England. But that was not the case. The present system was actually that described by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar). The Sub-Commissioners drew no distinction between inferior and superior land. Some of them had not got the desire to go into the case sufficiently deep to be able to decide properly; indeed, most of them had gone most cursorily over the cases on which they were called upon to judge. No valued of land could do his work efficiently in such weather as the present; and Griffith himself maintained that no land ought to be valued at any time except in late spring or early summer. He saw that, in the County Cork, one Sub-Commission had to settle within a week 115 cases; and he asked, how could any body of men do justice under such circumstances? Every time, however, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland spoke on the subject, he mentioned with pleasure the enormous number of cases which had been settled in Court 21 during such and such a time, a fact which was damning to the idea that the Sub-Commissioners could possibly do the justice which it was desired to see them do. These were important matters, which must meet with the attention of the Government, when they asked for such a large Vote of the present character. It could not be forgotten that the evidence of one section of those engaged had been severely shaken by the action of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Since the right hon. Gentleman came into Office, a body of valuers had been appointed, and the speech in which the Chief Secretary for Ireland explained the reason of their appointment produced an exceedingly unfortunate impression upon the owners of land in Ireland. Those valuers, after a short time, were removed, and their places had been filled by men who were believed to be less efficient for the work they were required to perform, and no cause for their appointment was shown, except that to which he had previously alluded—namely, that the Sub-Commissioners were not getting on sufficiently fast. That was one thing that was unsatisfactory. As to the dissatisfaction of the tenants, he knew that, in some parts of the country, there had been dissatisfaction because the reductions had not been so large as in other parts. He believed he was right in saying that the hon. Member for Cavan belonged to a part of the country in which the reductions of rent had been as large as 40 per cent. That was a very satisfactory state of things for the tenants immediately concerned; but, of course, all the tenants in the neighbourhood who had not been equally well treated were dissatisfied. Still there was a system of hurrying on the Courts; and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether confidence could not be produced by enabling the Commissioners to use proper time and judgment over their business. He would remind the Committee that, during the last three years, the increase of expenditure for the Civil Service Administration of Ireland had been £450,000 per annum. We were at this time paying close upon £500,000 more than formerly, in order to produce a state of facts which was no more satisfactory than it was when the present Government came into power. We were face to face with as many 22 problems of the Irish difficulty as we were three years ago, despite all the legislation, all the agitation, all the bad feeling which had been engendered; and he submitted that the necessity of the enormous and increasing expenditure now proposed should be made clear to the country by the Government, and it should be justified by language a little less general than they had hitherto listened to.
§ MR. O'SHEA
said, he did not hesitate to say, despite what had been stated by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brodrick), that there had been sales of tenant right where very large prices had been obtained. Rents were, no doubt, being reduced; but he hoped rents were being paid. ["No, no!"] He was sorry hon. Gentlemen opposite had thought it right to contradict him on that point; because he knew that in the counties Limerick and Clare and in Mayo rents were now well paid. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was now in a position to state what arrangements he had made for expediting the business of the Land Commission in County Clare. The right hon. Gentleman had acknowledged that the business of the Commission was in considerable arrear. Generally speaking, the tenants whose cases had been tried expressed no dissatisfaction; but enormous dissatisfaction had been created by the extreme delay in that county in the fixing of fair rents. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to tell them that day what arrangements had been made in the matter. There was another practical grievance in the County Clare—namely, that no man belonging to that county had been appointed on the Sub-Commissions.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, he wished to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant what had been the cost of the operations of the Land Court? The reductions that had been effected by the Land Commissioners had been something like £20,000 a-year; but what had been the expense? It had been calculated at something like £200,000 to the public, and £200,000 to the landlords and tenants. That was, undoubtedly, a good deal to pay. If his right hon. Friend could inform the Committee on the point, it would clear up considerable doubt. With respect to the number of eases going into the Land Courts, it should be remem- 23 bered that the Land League devised what seemed to be a very practical suggestion in the way of remedy. They proposed to take a certain number of test cases, advise the tenants so far as they could influence them to abide by them, and then allow the result to rule in the different districts to which these conditions might apply. Government, however, refused to comply with that reasonable and practical proposal; and he (Mr. Cowen) thought that a good deal of the expense consequent upon the numerous applications under the Act had been occasioned by the action of the Government. Complaint had been made by an hon. Member on the Opposition Benches as to the decrease in the value of land in Ireland. It was quite true that there had been a decrease; but there had been a great decrease in the value of property all over the country in recent years. He (Mr. Cowen) had had painful experience of the fact in the North of England, where land could not be let at anything like the amount it realized a few years ago. He believed that, in Ireland, they were suffering exceptionally; but still, remembering that the value of all trading commodities had declined, he thought it was unfair to draw such a comparison as had been drawn.
§ MR. WARTON
said, the question put to the Government by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) was a very practical one—namely, what the cost had been of making the reductions of rent in the case of the Irish tenants? The hon. Gentleman had given the reductions of rent at £20,000 a-year, and the cost of obtaining the reductions £200,000 to the tenants, and £200,000 to the Government, to say nothing of the enormous cost to the landlords. He supposed the landlords were not worthy of consideration in the opinion of the hon. Member for Newcastle. If the system of insane legislation—for the recent legislation of the Government was insane, as well as dishonest—was to continue, it was very necessary that proper Estimates should be framed—that the Committee should have some idea conveyed to them of the cost of the rash proceedings of the Government. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Porter) would direct their 24 united minds to the subject, and be able to give the Committee some practical figures regarding the cost of the working of the Land Act. It seemed to him (Mr. Warton) that all this enormous expenditure might have been avoided by the adoption of a very simple plan. Why did not the Government honestly bring forward a Bill, providing that all rents in Ireland should be reduced 25 per cent? Only a very short Bill would have been needed to do that, and it must necessarily have been as simple as it was short. Evidently such a reduction was what the Government aimed at, and what, indeed, some of the Sub-Commissioners had been making. The Land Courts were perfect farces; they were not Courts of Arbitration, and, in the proper sense, they were not Courts of Law. They were overshadowed by the influences of the Government, and were composed of a set of persons who knew that the retention of their posts depended upon the pleasure they gave the Government. The way they did give pleasure to the Government was by showing that the wretched measure had produced some results. The object of the Government was, by pampering and sopping agitation, and by introducing a measure which would inflict loss upon the loyal population of Ireland, to retain their hold upon the country, and to a certain extent they had succeeded. He had shown how the enormous expenditure the Committee were now called upon to meet might have been avoided. Let them see in what better and more profitable way the money might have been spent. He would not go into the general question of distress in Ireland, for they had heard all the details from hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway. They were, however, told that the sum of £150,000 would be enough to relieve the distress now prevailing in Ireland; and, in the opinion of the Government themselves, a similar sum would be sufficient to promote emigration in Ireland for two years. Thus the Committee would see that the sum they were asked to vote for these unjust Courts would be enough to relieve distress, or to promote two years' emigration. It was amusing to him to see the constancy with which hon. Gentlemen opposite believed in a Ministry of political quacks, whose prescription was false, and whose remedy 25 had made the disease worse than it was before.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he did not propose to go into any details regarding the working of the Land Act, because they would have ample opportunity, next Wednesday, of discussing all matters connected with the administration of the Act, and amendments required in the Act. He only wished to say a word or two in reply to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther). They had listened to the right hon. Gentlemen's usual denunciations of the Land Act, and had heard from him a repetition of the statement that the property of the landlords of Ireland was being confiscated and handed over to the tenants. Now, as an Irish Member, knowing something of the Land Question in the Province of Ulster, he would tell the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee that not one shilling of the value of the property of the landlord had been touched by the decisions of the Land Courts. By these tribunals the tenants had partially restored to them a portion of their property which had been confiscated steadily during the last 50 years. He would ask hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Ministerial side of the House—because a great many hon. Gentlemen opposite were not open to reason on this subject—to refer to some of the Blue Books in the Library, and they would find that three-fourths of the reductions made by the Land Commissioners were made upon advances put on the rents during the last 20 years. He entreated hon. Gentlemen to examine the facts, because it was only by going into particulars that they could really ascertain what was being done by the Land Courts in Ireland. The increases of rent made during the last 20 years were on the tenants' improvements, and had confiscated their value, and had destroyed, to a great extent, the tenant right. And yet hon. Gentlemen opposite wondered why there was a Land Question. These increased rents lay at the very root of the discontent prevalent in Ireland. Year after year, while the landlords' property was protected, the tenants' property was left without one particle of protection; and hence the state of affairs that had occurred in Ireland during the last three years. They had heard a great deal in the House, and in a por- 26 tion of the English Press, about those who bought in the Encumbered Estates Court having the rents they purchased reduced; but he did not know of a single case. Let him give the Committee an instance. A gentleman bought in the Encumbered Estates Court a rental of £117 a-year in the County Antrim. He paid for that something like £2,200. What did the Commissioners find? Why, that the rental of the estate was now £425. He (Mr. T. A. Dickson) would ask the Committee to whom the difference between £117 and £425 belonged? Was not that extra rack rent put upon the tenant's improvements, and the value of his tenant right destroyed? Reference had been made during the debate to the question of peasant proprietary. He could only say that, at the present time, in Ulster, there was not the slightest anxiety in regard to purchasing. The question to them was the settlement of a fair rent, and until fair rents were determined by the Courts, it was perfectly useless to talk about the creation of a peasant proprietary; and Parliament need not expect in the meantime peace or rest in Ireland. He would refer, in conclusion, to a remark made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick). The hon. Gentleman quoted the case of Lord Gosford's property in the county of Armagh. As he (Mr. Dickson) lived within a few miles of it, he understood something about it. The hon. Member said that the rents on Lord Gosford's property were fixed below or about the Government valuation. Now, what was the fact? The County Armagh was the last of the counties valued in Ireland. It was valued in 1865, and, according to the testimony of the valuation officers in Dublin, the valuation of Armagh was 20 or 25 per cent above that of the rest of Ireland. Armagh County was valued in prosperous times, when the linen industry was flourishing, when there was a hand-loom in every cottage, when flax-growing was a most profitable industry. All that, however, had passed away, and the Commissioners found that the people had solely to depend upon agriculture, with the result that the rack rents could no longer be paid. On Wednesday next, when the Land Law Amendment Bill would be introduced by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), he (Mr. Dickson) 27 would prove to the House, from evidence given before a Select Committee, that Griffith's, or the Government valuation in the Province of Ulster included the tenant's improvements; and when rents were being fixed at Griffith's valuation, and when Griffith's valuation, according to the evidence given by Mr. Green, Mr. Vernon, and Mr. Richard Griffith, included the tenant's improvements, he could only say that instead of the fair rents fixed confiscating one shilling of the landlord's property, they really included a substantial portion of the tenant's improvements.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, so much had been said recently of very great moment that he was extremely anxious to answer one or two points, while the impression produced by those points was still fresh on the minds of the Committee. His hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) had stated some figures in the shape of a question which, undoubtedly, made an impression on the Committee, and which, no doubt, would, if they went uncontradicted, make an impression on the country. The answer he was able to give would, he hoped, be gratifying to his hon. Friend. The hon. Member said that the reductions of rent made, up to the present, amounted to about £20,000 a year, and he wished to know at what cost to the country those reductions had been made. Now, as to the expense to the country, the Vote for this year was £137,000; but the Vote last year was certainly very much smaller. He supposed the two sums together would not very much exceed, if they exceeded at all, the sum of £200,000. "Well, now, what had been done in the matter of reductions of rents? He would not argue upon the justice or injustice of the reductions, but simply inquire what the reductions amounted, to. In fair rents fixed, up to that moment, the reductions amounted to quite £130,000 a-year. But the Committee must also take into consideration the agreements which had been arrived at out of Court, which were exactly as much the result of the operation of the Land Act as the fair rents fixed. Up to the present time the agreements out of Court had resulted in a reduction of rent to the extent of £80,000 a-year, so that the reductions in the yearly rental of Ireland was equivalent to the amount already spent in a capital sum upon the working of the 28 Act. Whatever conclusion hon. Gentlemen might draw from these figures, it must certainly be very different from that which they would draw from the figures of his hon. Friend.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
asked if the right hon. Gentleman had taken an account of the risings made in some of the rents, and what was the cost to the landlords?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
in reply, said, that he did not think that would make much difference; but the Land Commission had not supplied particulars on that point. The Commission not being a Public Department, it was impossible to get from them statistics in the same manner as from an ordinary Public Department of the State, and therefore the figures he gave were generally but fairly accurate. The Committee must likewise take into consideration the reductions that were made outside the Court; and he remembered, on a previous occasion, stating that there was reason to believe that the reductions made directly in consequence of the Land Act were scarcely greater than those made out of Court altogether. He drew this conclusion from a paper which had been prepared by a very distinguished and much employed land valuer in Ireland. He had valued about 1,250 holdings for the purpose of fixing the rent; and out of those l,250 holdings, only a small number, somewhere about 100, had gone through the Court, and in all the other cases the rents were fixed by agreement, while it was almost certain that a very small proportion of those were agreements not under this Court.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, they did not carry a judicial rent of 15 years; but there was an understanding that that was the settlement upon which the landlord and tenant would work. At any rate, it would not be denied that the indirect effect of the Land Act had been a considerable reduction of rents. The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Captain Aylmer) had gone upon figures which were far more alarming than even those of the hon. Member for Newcastle, because he took this large Estimate of £137,000, and, having capitalized it, said it represented £4,000,000. That was the most extraordinary way of dealing with Estimates 29 in a business-like country that he had ever heard of, because it implied that the Land Commission would be perpetuated at the size at which it was at present required by the Land Act. Now, whatever view might be taken of the slowness or rapidity of the work of the Commission, it was certain that that work must have a term, and the time was coming, whether at the end of one, two, or three years, when the staff of the Land Commission would be considerably diminished; but the hon. and gallant Member's calculation proceeded on the supposition that the Land Commission would, sit to all eternity. The hon. and gallant Member had stated that, in his opinion, the Commission was unfair and unjust in its present mode of proceeding. Upon that Estimate it was extremely natural, and quite Parliamentary, for hon. Members to criticize the proceedings of the Court; but he did not think it was necessary that on that Estimate the Commission should defend itself. He had got into the hottest water he had ever experienced in the House of Commons upon criticisms of the decisions of the Land Court, and he did not intend to put his fingers into that hot water again that day. The hon. and gallant Member had repeated the old story of the valuers. In calling it the old story, he did not mean that it was one which should not be referred to again and again in the House. What happened in regard to the valuers and the Sub-Commissioners was a matter which presented appearances of great gravity; but the Government thought its gravity was exaggerated on both sides. His defence on that occasion was extremely detailed, and even lengthy, and he did not propose to repeat it now; but the hon. and gallant Member had said it was evidently the intention of the Government that the rents should be reduced, and, therefore, they dismissed the valuers. In the first place, they did not dismiss all the valuers. Five of those gentlemen, who most commended themselves to the judgment of the Land Commissioners—whose advice the Government took in regard to those gentlemen—were appointed Sub-Commissioners; but whatever valuers they dismissed or retained, their action was not on account of their having reduced or raised rents. The right hon. and learned Gentleman 30 opposite (Mr. Gibson) had frequently urged him, last Session, to lay on the Table a copy of the Letter, dated August 28th, from the Land Commissioners to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with reference to the constitutional mode of procedure of the Sub-Commissioners. That was the Letter, in fact, in which the recommendation was made that these valuers should be appointed. [Mr. GIBSON: It was always refused.] The Letter was refused practically because the Land Commissioners were unwilling to give it; and it was only after considerable difficulty that he had been able to overcome their unwillingness. The Letter was now on the Table of the House, and he would quote the first paragraph—May it please your Excellency, I am directed by the Land Commissioners to submit the following observations to your Excellency, with respect to the change in the constitutional mode of procedure of the Sub-Commissioners, with a view to increased efficiency and despatch.The Government, as he had explained, were not unwilling to regard the feeling, whether it was right or wrong, that there was too much despatch in valuing the lands, and, therefore, they were glad to adopt a method by which the lands could be valued with more thoroughness and more leisure; and the Government, in changing the system from valuers to Sub-Commissioners, were quite satisfied that they had secured that object; because, instead of having but one pair of Sub-Commissioners who surveyed the land, and then hurried back to settle the decision with the legal Sub-Commissioner, they now had two pairs, who were always at work, and not under the same pressure—as only one pair were obliged to do the work with the greatest rapidity in their power, in order to got back and utilize the full time of the legal Commissioner. Now, with regard to the rapidity of the work, the Government had been thoroughly disappointed with the valuers; but their hopes, which, at any rate, with regard to some were not excessive, had been fairly satisfied with respect to the rapidity with which the work was done by the double Sub-Commissioners. Down to the 18th of August, the end of the time when the Commissioners, as originally constituted, sat, the greatest rate of progress was 76 judicial rents fixed per day. Then the Commissioners with the valuers sat, and there was one more Sub-Commission at 31 work; but the whole effect produced by one more Sub-Commissioner, and the addition of these valuers, was that the average number of decisions rose from 76 per day to 77 per day; and, considering that there was a new Sub-Commission, it might be fairly said that the effect of attaching the valuers to the Sub-Commissioners was not to quicken this progress, but rather to retard it. From the middle of January to the end of February, the Sub-Commissioners bad been working on the new system, and the result was that the same number of Sub-Commissioners as, with the valuers attached, produced 77 decisions a-day, were at present producing 100 decisions a-day. And it must be remembered that the time during which this system bad been in operation was perceptibly shorter than the time during which the Sub-Commissioners and the valuers were at work; and rapidity of work told cumulatively as time went on, because it was in the earlier weeks and months that decisions came slowly, while it was in the later weeks and months that the cases began to quicken as decisions were more rapidly made. Therefore, as far as rapidity was concerned, the Government watched the proceedings of the newly-constituted Sub-Commissions with hope. With regard to this Estimate, he felt that, in some respects, the Irish Government were not as responsible as the Treasury, though he was willing to answer any questions on the subject. Reference had been made to the high salaries of the Assistant Commissioners, and it was said that while some of them were worth their salaries, others were not. He thought, however, that it would be a very dangerous principle to apportion the salaries of Judges according to an official estimate of their value. With respect to another question, the travelling expenses of the Sub-Commissioners were their actual railway expenses, with a guinea a-night for their subsistence allowance when staying at an inn or hotel. While he was hardly prepared to answer questions as to the pay of these officials—though he had no objection to answer such questions—he was fully prepared to reply to any criticisms upon their appointment. There had been a good deal of criticism by hon. Members on the personnel of these Sub-Commissioners. He could quite understand that an hon. Member might know 32 some gentleman who would make a good Assistant Commissioner, and that when such gentleman was not appointed, while someone of whom he knew nothing was appointed, he should think that the Government had acted with a want of knowledge equal to his own absence of knowledge of the gentleman who had been appointed. But if the Government had erred in this matter, it was quite clear that they had not erred through a want of diligence. In this matter the personal knowledge which he possessed of Ireland had stood Earl Spencer in good stead; but it was not true that these appointments had been dictated by the Castle. It was difficult to define the Castle influence, but he could define it as an influence other than that by which these appointments were dictated. By far the most influential advisers of the Lord Lieutenant in this matter wore the Land Commissioners themselves. He himself was present with the Lord Lieutenant during one of those lengthy sittings of many hours, which had been so common in recent months, at the Viceregal Lodge. At that sitting the Lord Lieutenant went through the list of men, and even considered those whom he thought very likely to commend themselves to his judgment. He went carefully through them with the Commissioners, heard everything that was to be said about them; and afterwards he sent a list of the names to the Commissioners, in order that they might make separate inquiries, in addition to the inquiries he made by letter of every possible authority who could be trusted to give an opinion. A letter from Earl Spencer describing the principle upon which he made these selections had been quoted, as far as he could gather, in a derogatory sense.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
No; excuse me. I praised the frankness of the letter in the principles it contained, and said I believed a Member from the North of Ireland had said it was a foolish letter, because it threw light on the way in which these appointments were really, in fact, made.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he did not know the name or the views of the hon. Member who made that observation; but all he could say was that, so far from it being foolish, he thought it was a very well-judged step to publish that letter, when so important a tribunal was having 33 two-fifths added to it numbers. It was a judicious step to publish a letter stating, in strong and clear terms, that no private influence was of any avail, and no regard was paid whatever to the religion of a candidate. No regard whatever being paid to the religion of the candidates, the consequence was that among those appointed were gentlemen of almost all persuasions. There were 30 members of the Church of Ireland; 35 Roman Catholics; 9 Presbyterians; I member of the Society of Friends; and 10 who were unwilling to state their religion, or whose religion was not notorious; and he was bound to say that, in spite of the criticisms passed to-day, he thought these appointments had been satisfactory in Ireland, so far as appointments made to carry out any Act which did not give satisfaction to the people could reasonably be supposed to be satisfactory. The hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny County (Mr. P. Martin) had objected that there were too many barristers on the Sub-Commissions; but he should remember that, by Section 43, the Sub-Commissions must have the prescribed qualifications, and one of those qualifications was that one of the number of each Sub-Commission must be a barrister. With the exception of the legal members of the Commissions, there had been every desire to appoint gentlemen who were thoroughly and practically acquainted with land. Then, with regard to the question of the tenure of office of the Sub-Commissioners, there ought to be no mistake upon that point. Twelve would hold office for seven years from the date of appointment; 35 who had been appointed most recently would hold office until December 31st; there were 39 gentlemen who were appointed nearly a year ago who would hold office until April 13th next; and under the latest rule made by the Land Commission, as to tenure of office, those 39 would be re-appointed by the Lord Lieutenant before the 13th of April, and would continue to hold office until December 31st. It was the intention of the Land Commissioners to recommend their re-appointment, and there was little doubt that that recommendation would be adopted. In that case, by the end of the present year all these short temporary appointments would expire together. What would then be done it was too soon to say; but the feeling of the Go- 34 vernment was quite as strong as that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. Lowther) could be against temporary appointments. He thought he had now replied to all the points upon which discussion had arisen. It was necessary and right that the Government should reply, and if he had omitted any matter he would gladly deal with it. On the question of how far the sufferings of Irish landlords, with whom he thought all ought to sympathize in the highest degree, were local or general, he must say, with his experience of English land, that he thought some of the defects ascribed to the Land Act were due to deeper causes than the dismissal of valuers. He would not enter into that branch of the subject, but would leave his right hon. Friend to answer any objections. With respect to the arrangements in the county of Clare, that was a matter to which the Land Commissioners had applied their full attention, and when they promised to look into a matter he had always found their promises fulfilled.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that, having regard to the magnitude of this Vote, and its obvious importance, and the practical nature of the debate now proceeding, he thought everyone, including the Members of the Government, no matter what their haste and urgency, must recognize that it was in the best interests of the country that this discussion should take place to-day, rather than at a quarter before 2 o'clock in the morning. This Vote amounted to £45,000, and anyone who looked at the Civil Service Supplementary Estimates would see that this was much the largest Supplementary Vote submitted to Parliament on the present occasion. On account of its size alone, bearing in mind that all Supplementary Estimates were to be regarded from a very critical point of view, this Vote challenged inquiry and criticism; but even the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and statements made earlier in the debate, indicated that the expense of the Land Commission in Ireland, always high, had been advancing in size by leaps and bounds; and that the enormous figure upon this Supplementary Estimate fell short of the Estimate which would be discussed after Easter for the coming year. The country could not too clearly understand that the original Estimate 35 for 1882–3 for the Land Commission amounted to £92,500; while the Estimate for the coming year reached the enormous sum of £157,381; in other words, the Estimate for the coming year, as contrasted with the Estimate of the past year, showed an increase of £64,829 to be paid by the Imperial taxpayers of the United Kingdom. That was a very startling state of facts, which should be discussed and explained in the face of day, and not hurried over in a scamped discussion at 2 in the morning. The original Estimate for 1882–3 was £92,552, and, the Committee were now asked to vote a Supplementary Estimate amounting to an increase of 50 per cent; in other words, £45,032. He thought he was entitled to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who was obviously appalled by these figures, this question. This being the enormous subvention which the Imperial taxpayers had to pay for the Land Commission, what was the amount contributed by the Irish suitors, who gained all the advantage, towards the cost of this tremendous machine? Every tenant applying to the Court paid Is., and that was all. For the payment of that 1s. on the originating notice, he was free of the Land Commission, and could get, almost for the asking, a reduction of rent varying from 20 to 30 per cent, and a lease certain for 15 years, renewable as long as he pleased. He would ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to put into a total sum these shillings; and until the result was given, he asserted that the amount did not exceed £7,000. So that, according to that estimate, the Imperial taxpayer had to pay for the past year £157,000, while the Irish suitors, who got all the benefits, contributed only £6,000 or £7,000. That calculation left out the figure brought into the discussion by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen)—namely, the expenses of the suitors from their own pockets for counsel, and solicitors, and witnesses. That was a large and an unknown quantity; but, no doubt, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury could give the figures. He (Mr. Gibson) himself could not give them, as he had not the necessary information. Anyone who considered the number of these inquiries—assuming that only £2 or £3 was spent on each of them—would see that the total expenses on each side, for landlords and tenants, 36 was great. So that now they were face to face with the inquiry—the cost of it, and what was produced by it. To the landlord, it meant grave, sometimes ruinous costs, to avoid which he was often induced to make a settlement. The tenant, on his side, must have great cost to meet, and he also was influenced by that in arriving at his settlement; and over and above these obvious costs to the parties, which were to be counted by vast sums, they had to consider the costs to the Imperial taxpayer. This suggested very serious inquiries. It was an unsound principle of judicature that the suitor alone should be called upon to keep up the Courts and administration of justice in the country. He did not suggest it—he had never done so, for he did not think it would commend itself to any Parliament worthy of the name; but he might say that the suitors who availed themselves of a great machinery like this should pay some fair part of the cost. If the effect of requiring the payment of some small fee was to induce suitors to reflect before they embarked in litigation, an advantageous result would have been achieved. He ventured to think that these fees of 1s. were fixed originally at that ridiculously low figure in order to entice suitors into Court at a time—at the outset in October, 1881—when it was thought very doubtful whether there would be any suitors at all. It was the only way possible of explaining why they had only put that one charge on that one transaction. He ventured to think it was almost the only tribunal calling itself a Court which charged nothing to the suitor for an appeal; and bearing in mind the steady way in which the Government and the Land Commission, as a question of policy and politics, had tried to discourage and penalize appeals, it was marvellous that they had never thought of the simple expedient of putting some small—not prohibitive—sum as a charge on lodging an appeal. That could not be said to be a proposition from a landlord point of view, because a large number of landlords had appealed. Instead of proceeding in that logical way as to appeals, the Land Commission, agreeing with and following the Government, had proceeded—as had been pointed out by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had introduced the debate (Captain Aylmer)—by methods which would not 37 stand the test of criticism, to discourage and penalize and undo appeals. He should like the Committee to consider—and it did not require any legal mind or technical training to do so—what were the methods by which the administrators of the Land Act had endeavoured to discountenance, discourage, and punish appeals? The system of costs had been stated already. The landlord might have had his rent largely reduced by the Sub-Commission—say 30 per cent. On an appeal he might have succeeded in raising the rent again, not to the original point at which it was before, but 25 per cent—that was to say, instead of having his rent reduced 30 per cent, as reduced by the Assistant Commissioners, he might have succeeded in reducing the reduction to 5 per cent—an immense change. The rule laid down by the Commissioners—to be applied broadly and as a rule—was that although he had succeeded in the substance of the appeal, and although he had so materially reversed the action of the Sub-Commissioners, because he had not got back the rent as it originally stood, he must pay his own costs. He (Mr. Gibson) said, with a reasonable knowledge of the transactions of most Courts in the United Kingdom, that there was not another Court purporting to administer any system of justice which had such a rule as that. What was the other method? It was to discourage appeals which came before them by wholesale affirmances. Every suitor, landlord or tenant, if lie was dissatisfied, and if he felt aggrieved—knowing his own interests, and he was the person to judge of his own interests—had a right under the Act to demand a re-hearing, and have his case heard on appeal. A notorious case was that of the appeals in Armagh—in the absence of Mr. Vernon, he was bound injustice to that gentleman to say. In this case it appeared that in almost all the appeals which came before the Commissioners, whether it was an appeal against a large reduction, or an appeal against a small reduction, or appeals from decisions wholly divergent, although the same class of cases and the very same properties had been the subject of those decisions—no matter what the appeal was, in almost every case the appellant failed, and had to pay his own costs. Anyone who read the proceedings of the Appeal Court at Armagh would find this startling state 38 of facts, that the leading counsel—counsel as eminent as any in Ireland—said, after consulting with their solicitors, that it was worthless and hopeless to go into the cases and explain the matters. Was that the way an appellate jurisdiction should be administered? If it was thought a wise policy that appeals should not be allowed, a neater and shorter operation than this would be to abolish appeals altogether; but let it be done in the face of day by Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had referred to the abolition of the valuers. That abolition had caused a very substantial addition to the Supplementary Estimates. He (Mr. Gibson) asked—and they had a right to be told before the debate closed—what was the cost to the nation of the valuer system? He asked to be set against that, in plain figures, and not in vague generalities, the cost of the system that had superseded the valuers. He asserted that the comparison would show an increase of thousands of pounds, and he demanded that the contrast should be submitted to the judgment of the nation. He declined now to discuss—he had done it on previous occasions—the policy of the Government in dismissing the valuers. It was a thing which would for ever remain a matter of criticism against the administration of the right hon. Gentleman. He did not now discuss whether the valuer system was sound or unsound—whether it was good or bad—but what he said was this—that it was the system deliberately selected by the Land Commission, as the system they themselves considered soundest to administer the Act of Parliament entrusted to them, and that their opinion upon the vital and crucial point was overborne, for political reasons, by the action of the Executive Government. As he had said before, he cared not whether the system was sound or unsound—that was not his point. In this instance, a precedent of a most perilous significance had been set in the administration of an Act of Parliament, which should have been administered impartially and independently, and solely in regard to justice. As the right hon. Gentleman who had just preceded him had stated, he had repeatedly asked, during the discussions in the Autumn Session, for the letter of the 28th August; but he had 39 never been able to get it. He had asked for it seven or eight times. The letter had now been produced, and what did it state? Why, it said that the appointment of the valuers was asked for, in the opinion of the Land Commission, because it would lend efficiency and despatch to the administration of the law. The Government now practically admitted that they put despatch before efficiency. They did not contravene or question the fact that the valuers' system had worked well. They admitted it in the House. The valuers were got rid of, not because they dissatisfied the Land Commission, but because they did not come up to the views of the Government with regard to despatch. The Government evidently put haste, scamped work, rapidity of action, before the administration of justice, and the administration of this great Act of Parliament. There was another letter written later than the one to which he had referred, one which he had not in his possession, but which he had no doubt would be produced before the debate closed. He had not had time to get it since the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The Chief Secretary, on a previous occasion, had read a passage from it, and, having done that, he was compelled to lay it on the Table. Let them contrast the letter of October with the letter of August—the letter of October being the document to which he was now referring. They would find in that letter of October how strongly the Land Commission approved of the appointment of the valuers, and how reluctant they were to see the action of the Government discredit them. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone (Captain Aylmer) had called the Land Commission "Courts of Arbitration;" but he (Mr. Gibson) could not accept that description. No doubt, a great many papers of the highest authority made that statement; but the very essence of an Arbitration Court was either that the parties interested should have the selection of the arbitrators, or that they should concur in their appointment. Why, if the Government administered this Act from their own point of view, and if they had the sole appointment, they could not be surprised if one set of litigants were dissatisfied when they saw arbitrators appointed to give decisions in favour of the other. Now, did the new system work better than the 40 old, or, as he was now entitled to ask on the Estimates, did the new one work more cheaply than the old? This, no doubt, was a topic dear to the mind of the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He did not now discuss the personnel of the new appointments. He passed from them with this general criticism—that, so far as investigation had taken place and anything was to be found out about them—he said nothing about their private characters, for he was sure they were excellent sons and husbands—very worthy and excellent people—he had no doubt that these gentlemen had been extremely useful in many Liberal elections in the North of Ireland. He heard very recently, in "another place," a distinguished Nobleman connected with Her Majesty's Government—a Nobleman holding a high and dignified Office—say that the present administration of the Land Act showed that the reductions were not so high as they had been, and that the larger properties, which had already been referred to, they either did not touch at all, or they touched with a very delicate hand. That was an utterance of only a week old; and they were, therefore, bound to assume that the Cabinet had got some knowledge of the question. The Nobleman (Lord Carlingford) to whom he referred was connected with Ireland by family and property, and by past official service; and he had been speaking as the Representative of the Government, having full knowledge of the subject he was discussing. He (Mr. Gibson) asked anyone whether the reductions which were now made were less than they were when the Act first came into operation? They were told at the outset that the cases dealt with were bad ones. It was said that the first eases that came into Court were worse, and that every year the reductions would be smaller. But were the reductions smaller? Were they less now than they were during the first three months of the Act? He did not know any of the cases that had been referred to by some of his hon. Friends in the North of Ireland personally; but he knew this—that the Duke of Abercorn had estates which were as well managed as any to be found in the North of Ireland, and that his Grace was as popular a landlord as there was in that part of the country. Well, what happened on the pro- 41 perty of the noble Duke? Why, a Court was held there quite recently by five Sub-Commissioners, four lay gentlemen, and one legal. One set of lay Sub-Commissioners went out on the property, and decided upon a reduction of 6 per cent; and the other two lay Sub-Commissioners went on the same property, examined tenancies of precisely the same character and in precisely the same condition, and decided upon reductions ranging from 20 to 30 per cent. It devolved upon the legal Sub-Commissioner, sitting on the same Sub-Commission, to say, in regard to the same properties, that 6 per cent was fair one day, and the next day to say that 20 or 30 per cent was a fair reduction. It was impossible not to feel that that situation indicated that the old properties, which had been managed under the kindest relations between landlord and tenant, and which had been referred to by his hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson)—properties on which there had been no increase for years—were hit as hard as many of the properties of the harshest rack-renters in the country. Now that the valuers had been removed, and another system that certainly could not be said to proceed on any scientific principles had been established, it seemed that there was nothing to guide or regulate the tribunal, but that on inquiries instituted into cases almost precisely similar, and on the very same property, different decisions might be given. Well, had litigation lessened under the new system? Had this vastly increased expenditure that they were now asked to sanction—mainly due to the substitution by the Government of the new tribunal for that tribunal sanctioned by the Land Commission—lessened litigation? Was it not familiar to anyone with any knowledge of the subject that, as had been stated by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kilkenny, the present system was a premium upon litigation? Did it not appear to everybody who understood the matter that this system encouraged people to embark in what was to them a lottery in which they might draw a very substantial prize? It was not easy to see, so long as the Land Act was administered in the way which had been indicated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, how this litigation was to be 42 checked. He did not himself see much prospect of diminishing the litigation under the present system, and especially with a people quick-witted and intelligent like the Irish. Such people they found were litigious. [Laughter.] Well, they were not to be blamed for it. All clever people were more or less litigious; but anyone who was acquainted with, the subject knew that the Irish people were very fond of the law, and they could not blame them if they found that those who had not gone into the Court were only waiting their time and were going into Court every day in the week, and that the result of that state of things was that everything in Ireland connected with the land system was in a state of unrest and unsettlement. Where there had been judicial rents fixed comparative quietness was secured for 15 years; but, on other properties, where perhaps, the rents had been very low, and the relations between the landlords and the tenants had been so good that up to this the tenants had not gone into the Courts, the landlord could never tell on what day an agitation might not spring up or dissatisfaction might not arise, or something else might not occur to plunge his property into all the turmoil and confusion of litigation. If such a landlord wanted to sell his property, he could not do so for a fair price—say for the price at which he had bought it, and, maybe, he could not sell it at all, because purchasers would not care about taking over a property which might be thrown into the turmoil of litigation when they could get properties upon which the rent had been fixed. He could understand the Government trying to meet this question in some reasonable manner. He should like to see a fuller use made of the Purchase Clauses, and he only said that to protest against what was said about these clauses recently by a Member of the Government—who were bound by the statements they had made last year to revise the "Bright Clauses" of the Land Act. There could be no question about that. Having a tolerably good memory he could give the date. Lord Granville, on the 2nd of May, speaking as a Member of the Government, stated that the "Bright Clauses" required revision. Six days after, or on the 8th of May, in the same place—namely, the House of Lords—the same noble Lord stated that the Go- 43 vernment were prepared with a measure dealing with the "Bright Clauses." He should be very glad if these facts were occasionally remembered by Her Majesty's Government, when, from time to time, utterances were made indicating a total forgetfulness of any such ideas ever having crossed their minds. There was one suggestion which he would not discuss now, though he mentioned it—for it might be worth much consideration—and that was that all present tenants who had not appealed to the Land Court might be taken, after a certain day, not to have any urgent desire to go into the Court, and that upon a given day it might be assumed that they were tenants for a judicial term at the rent that they at present paid. He thought himself it was a proposal—and it was one put forward by some very able men—which was well worthy of attention; but it was far too important a matter to go into now in detail. At present the position was this—Litigation was encouraged, the Land Act was administered as a political measure, and this Estimate showed them, as well as the Estimate for the coming year, that the expenses were enormously increasing. What was the round result of the whole of the administration of the Land Act up to this? Why, it was this. Extravagant hopes that no Parliament could satisfy had been stimulated; the tenants of Ireland found, under the administration of the Land Act, that they had been granted what their wildest hopes had hardly suggested to any of them they would ever obtain from Parliament, and, having found that, their hopes were naturally extremely excited in a way which it was very hard to realize and utterly impossible to satisfy. This was shown by the fact that although the Land Act had not been in operation two years, legislation was already proposed, suggesting, practically, to re-open and re-discuss at length some of the most important topics, which it had been believed were settled, at all events for a considerable time, by the Land Act of 1881. That was a result that could not be expected to lead to any very peaceful or rapid settling down of the country. He himself, since the Land Act was passed, had endeavoured, so far as he could, to consider the matter fairly and from a reasonable standpoint, and his proposition had never varied. It was 44 this—the Land Act was now the law of the land, to be so regarded and so treated by everyone, even by those who opposed it in this House. But he said also—and he had never hesitated to say it—that the Land Act should never at any time be administered as a political measure. It should be administered fairly, impartially and judiciously; and if it was so administered—if it were administered in a way that indicated that politics would for ever be kept out of the matter—if it were administered on the broad and salient points he had indicated, it would be found that the Treasury would reap their reward, and that these expenses would not be increasing, as they had been, so rapidly and painfully. No doubt, before this debate closed, they would have the privilege of hearing the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, although he (Mr. Gibson) did not wonder at the hon. Gentleman's shrinking from the discussion. If, however, the hon. Member were tempted to speak, and probably he might be, he (Mr. Gibson) should be glad to ask him—if he cared to indulge once more in the rôle of a prophet—whether he thought they were at the maximum of expenditure? They sanctioned the Vote of £92,552 at first, now £132,000, and they were now asked for £157,381 for the coming year. The hon. Member, no doubt, had had a vigorous imagination; but, appreciating that fact, he should like to ask him whether he thought he was at the end of the figures, or whether he thought, if the Administration were spared to them, the expenditure by the Land Act might not reach £200,000 the year after next?
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Gibson) appeared to be most disturbed, because some hope had been excited in the breast of the Irish tenants. [Mr. GIBSON: I did not say anything of the kind.] So long as the class of whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman was the ablest advocate—namely, the landlords—had the power of dealing with the Irish tenants as they pleased, the Irish tenant felt very little hope. It was a fact to all acquainted with the antecedents of Irish landlords that despair in the heart of the Irish tenant was a passion much more acceptable to them than hope. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was cer- 45 tainly in a painful position. He felt himself to be a politician in search of a principle. He wanted to know the principle that had governed the reductions made by the Land Courts. Well, probably, if the Sub-Commissioners were questioned, they would say that they had guided themselves by the circumstances of each particular case. But that was not the answer that suited the symmetrical mind of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The only principle acceptable to him was the principle which made the will of the landlords dominate over the life and fortune of the tenants, and which put into the hands of a small class of men in Ireland the right to say whether the people in that country should live at home, or be forced to go abroad. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as also the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, had concerned himself greatly with the question of the cost of the administration of the Land Act. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had entered into a comparison between the cost of the machine, and the amount of reduction it had effected. This was a question interesting enough from an official and administrative point of view; but to hon. Members who were not administrators, and not officials, and who regarded firstly and lastly the condition and prospects of the Irish tenant, this question of absolute cost and relative cost and reduction was one of comparatively little interest. There was very little indeed in the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, which, from his (Mr. Sexton's) point of view, appeared to call for special comment; but he would venture to make upon it one observation. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the new system of Sub-Commissions, and invited them to congratulate the Government upon the increased speed which had been obtained by the appointment of pairs or teams of Sub-Commissioners instead of the old practice of sending out one Sub-Commissioner. Well, he (Mr. Sexton) had had an opportunity of hearing eminent opinions upon the subject; and his impression was, from what he could gather, that the Government were falling from one mistake into another, and were probably falling deeper and deeper into the mire. He had heard that so long as the Sub-Commission consisted of three or four Members, 46 each gentleman felt himself concerned in the speed, efficiency, and reputation of the Sub-Commission; but now that the Sub-Commission consisted of two pairs of gentlemen there was no central sense of responsibility—now that each pair held itself free from the work of the other, the result was a very indifferent, slovenly, and torpid way of doing business. He confessed he found it hard to believe that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen sitting above the Gangway on that side of the House were serious in the speeches they had made that day. Listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincoln (Mr. J. Lowther), he could scarcely imagine that his denunciations were levelled against the reform of an agrarian system, which, as long as it was unreformed, produced a state of chronic disaffection, caused the eviction of thousands of families, kept up a forced system of emigration, and was not ashamed to supplement its inflated and exorbitant rents by the contributions sent to the people of Connemara by their relatives who had emigrated to another country. The right hon. Gentleman assailed the Commission, upon which three of the four Commissioners were landlords themselves. What reason was there why he should assail the system of valuation, when the first precedents had been set, either by members of the landlord class, or by persons who made their incomes by being agents to landlords? Was it possible for any landlord to assail a system of valuation arrived at upon such a basis? The right hon. Gentleman was an artist who only played one tune. "Confiscation" was the burden of his lay, and then, by way of pleasing variety, he went into the strain of "Communism." The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Captain Aylmer), who opened the debate, seemed horrified that the Government should have to pay for what he called a Court of Arbitration. But it was pointed out by the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) that these were not Courts of Arbitration. The essence of Courts of Arbitration was that the parties went into them of their own mutual free will; whereas, in this case, the landlords were mostly unwilling parties to the transaction. The English and Irish landlords between them were responsible for the miseries and sufferings of the Irish ten- 47 ants, and for the condition into which Ireland had been brought; and if the bill was heavy and the estimate was large, both ought to be called upon to pay any amount and to incur any cost, no matter how heavy, which promised to bring Ireland out of a state of anarchy and convulsion into a condition of approaching peace. The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone seemed to think that he was uttering something very sarcastic when he said that the Land Commission was created for the reduction of rents. In the name of common sense, what could it have been created for? Was the Land Act passed in order to keep rents as they were? If so, there was no necessity for passing it at all. Was it passed in order to increase them? Was there any grievance affirmed or true on the part of the Irish landlord that induced the Legislature to pass the Land Act of 1881? Not at all. If it had been necessary to raise the rents, the landlords of Ireland had long ago proved that they were well able to raise them themselves. Obviously, the work of the Land Court was the reduction of rents. He did not think that that was the most suitable moment for the consideration of this Supplementary Estimate. A fitter occasion to inquire into the proceedings of the Land Commission in regard to recent reductions of rents would be offered when those proceedings could be examined more usefully. But this he said frankly, that the reductions of rents had been, up to the present moment, grossly inadequate; and it was not until the judgment in the case of "Adams v. Dunseath," which left the letter of the law to the tenant, and took away the spirit of it—it was not until that judgment was overborne and wiped out by fresh legislation, and the tenant was made the proprietor of his own improvements as a matter of soil and as a thing of value, that the reductions of rent in Ireland could ever possibly be adequate to the occasion, or anything approaching it. Until the Healy Clause—associated with the name of his hon. Friend whom the Government in their zeal had thrown into one of their prisons—until that clause was carried out in the spirit as well as in the letter, the reductions of rent in Ireland, miserably small as he regarded them, and large as the landlords did, would prove utterly inadequate in af- 48 fording—he would not say the settlement, nor even the temporary appeasement of the passion which had been thrown around the Irish Land Question. The mournful wail of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway on that side of the House showed that they knew this as well as he did; and he contended that the past conduct of the landlords had rendered them directly and solely responsible for the decrease of the value of land in Ireland. They had had warnings enough. The approaching rumblings of the storm had been constantly in their oars; but they had listened to them with stupidity, or had been afflicted with deafness. They had allowed affairs to go from bad to worse, and they had persisted in asking for rack rents through years of seeming famine, and sometimes of actual famine. When the country became convulsed, a set of forces came into operation which destroyed for ever all confidence in land in Ireland. He believed that the art of buying and selling land in Ireland was a lost art, and that the knowledge of it would never be regained. An hon. Gentleman had spoken of 14 years' purchase. The more the landlords got embarrassed, the more they would endeavour to sell their estates in bulk, and they would find it impossible to sell it at all to individual buyers who were not their own tenants. He could, therefore, very well understand the desire of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) that the "Bright Clauses" should be more carefully developed, because the landlords were finding that those clauses were their only hope. When the tenants discovered that the landlords must sell to them or to nobody, the value of land would fall, and instead of 11 years' purchase being obtained, he foresaw a time coming, and coming rapidly, when seven years' purchase, and, perhaps, five years', would not be considered a very small price. Therefore, he advised the landlords to bestir themselves, if they hoped to get anything at all, except a ruinous price, for their estates. An entirely new state of things had come into existence in consequence of the insecurity which was now felt in regard to the value of land. Before he sat down he wished to impress upon the House that the Land Court, much as had been said in its favour by the Chief Secre- 49 tary for Ireland, had proved itself thoroughly and lamentably inefficient for its work. It had now been three years in operation, and it had 17 sets of Courts, each consisting of five Commissioners. Now, what was the number of tenant farmers in Ireland who held leases of the farms they occupied? Out of a total number of 550,000 farms, he believed the total number of leases was about 100,000. Therefore, the number of unleased tenants, estimating them roughly, was about 450,000. And what was the total number of tenants who had made application to the Court, and of the tenants who had agreed with the landlords outside the Court? He would give the Government full credit for the figures they gave as to the number of tenants who had made settlements outside the Court, although he attributed that particular fact to the operation of a very different set of causes. The total number of tenants who, up to January, 18S1, had made applications to the Court, or agreed with the landlords outside, was 116,000—that was to say, that, although the burden of unjust rents was felt, generally speaking, by the whole body of the Irish tenantry, only one-fourth of the Irish tenants had applied to the Court, or agreed to settle their claims. Why had the rest not gone into Court?
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he had certainly not seen any sense of general satisfaction, even in Ulster, where the tenant had power to sell his tenant right, and where he had security.
said, the fact that the tenants had not gone into the Court must be held to be a proof that they were satisfied.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he did not find that at the meetings recently held a less grave dissatisfaction with the Act had been exhibited. Of course, the hon. and gallant Gentleman near him might say that the tenants were satisfied; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman knew that they had in operation at the same time the most stringent Coercion Act they had ever known, since the time when Pitt brought about the Union. Under the Crimes Act—like the Act passed by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster)—no man could utter a sentence without making himself liable to be instantly arrested, thrust 50 into gaol, obliged to wear the prison dress, and pick oakum. Well, one-fourth of the tenants had gone into Court, or settled with their landlords. What were the other three-fourths of the tenants doing? Why did they not go into the Land Court? It was because the Land Court had affected the tenants of Ireland with distrust of its operations. In the second place, he wished to show that the Land Court was making no impression on the great mass of arrears before it. If he went back to the month of June last year, he found that up to the end of that month 88,000 applications and agreements had been dealt with in the Court, or outside, and 67,000 remained to be dealt with. Passing on to the end of the month of January last, covering a period of seven months, at the end of that month he found that there had been 116,000 applications and agreements, of which 55,000 had been dealt with either in the Court or outside, and 61,000 remained still to be dealt with. In other words, there were 66,000 cases to be dealt with at the end of June last, eight months ago, and there were still upwards of 60,000 to be dealt with at the end of January last. Then, what improvement had there been? What impression was the Court making upon the mass of the cases, and what was to be the fate of the tenants who had been kept dangling before the Court ever since October, 1881? He knew in the County of Sligo, of the cases of tenants who had made applications to the Land Court on the first day on which the Act came into operation, now nearly a year and a-half ago, and many of these tenants were still lingering in an agony of suspense. They were liable, until the Court chose to decide upon their cases, to pay the whole rent to their landlords, to be pressed by him for payment, and to be threatened with eviction for non-payment of the old un-reduced rent, notwithstanding that this old unreduced rent had been universally declared to be exorbitant and unjust. He asked the Committee to observe the moral position of the Government. They possessed all the machinery of the Land Court, and their 17 sets of Commissioners; and yet in seven months, down to the end of January last, they had been unable to make the slightest impression upon the arrears. There were two classes of tenants in arrear—those who had 51 made their application on the first day on which the Court sat, and those who had made their application since. The first were in a better position than the second class, because the reduction, when given by the Land Court, would date back from the day on which the application was made; but those tenants who made their application on the day on which the Court sat were a very small proportion of the entire number. The great bulk of those who had brought their cases into the Land Court were those who had gone into the Court in the interval which had occurred since 1881; and they had been threatened, pressed, and some of them evicted for non-payment of the old rent. Their 17 teams of torpid Sub-Commissioners were unable to overtake the arrears. In point of fact, they endeavoured to apply the old maxim—"Live horse, and you will get grass;" they told the tenants virtually to hold on to their farms, to pay the rack-rents by which they were now oppressed, and in the course of time these 17 teams of active Sub-Commissioners would reach their cases. In point of fact, the machinery had broken down, and the Government were placed on the horns of a dilemma. Then, let them do one of two things. On the one hand, let them augment the number of Sub-Commissioners, and make them adequate to deal with the cases before the Court. He confessed that he was not at all concerned about the cost. It was very easy for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to tell them that the poor rack-rented tenants, who had to dig from morning to night on 10 acres of poor soil, and pay a rack rent of £7 10s. could not, having lodged his rent two years ago, wait until it was lowered to £5; but it was time that the hon. Gentlemen who could philosophize upon the subject should feel the real gravity and the reality of the position. He said that one of the alternatives for the Government to adopt was to increase the number of Sub-Commissioners, which would enable them to get rid of this intolerable failure, and meet the requirements of the case. The other alternative was to pass a law, preventing a landlord from evicting a tenant, until the Land Court had decided on the tenant's case, provided that the tenant in the interim paid a fair rent for his holding. It was intolerable that Her Majesty's Government should re- 52 fuse to provide adequate machinery for doing the work of the Land Court, and, at the same time, to permit the landlords to evict their tenants before the question was settled. It was useless to boast of the efficiency of the Land Court so long as it could be shown that for seven or eight months it had failed to make the least impression either on the original system of Court valuers, or on the second system of Court valuers, or on the present system of Sub-Commissioners. On neither system had the Government been able to make the slightest impression in regard to the arrears. Lastly, the Court was losing the little confidence it ever possessed in the minds of the Irish tenants. He saw the total agreements up to last June were 93,600, and there had only been during last year 11,543 cases decided. Out of a grand total of 115,000, the number of applications since last year was 11,000. That number was not very much larger in eight months than there used to be lodged in one month. It was perfectly clear, therefore, that not only had the machinery of the Court failed, but that the Court itself was failing to attract the confidence of the people. He invited the Government to consider the dilemma in which they were placed, and either to pass a law protecting the tenants from rack rents, or to enable the Court to deal with the applications by increasing the staff. This was a crucial point, and on the speed and courage with which the Government dealt with: the question would depend the success of their Land Act.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, that, after the long discussion which had taken place on this very important subject; he did not mean to stand long between the House and a division upon the Vote, as full opportunity would be given shortly to the House to discuss the entire bearings of the Land Act; and, as many improvements might be suggested in it, he would confine himself closely to the I manner in which the money now asked I for was being spent. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Sexton) referred to the anxiety felt by the tenants of Connaught during the delay which arose in the decisions of the Sub-Com-missioners being given. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member that they were placed in a cruel position. It was 53 cruel also to the landlords that there should be so long a delay in knowing their fate. But when the hon. Gentle man spoke of the tenants of Connaught digging from morning to night to pay a rack rent of £7 10s. per acre—
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the hon. and gallant Member misunderstood him. He had not said £7 10s. per acre, but £7 10s. altogether.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, he had known tenants who had been called upon to pay £5 per acre; but that was certainly not the case in Connaught. With regard to the Commission, he must remind the House that it was the English people who had placed it in the country; and it was no great matter to Ireland what the English people, who passed the law, had to pay for it. At the same time, he did object to the way in which the money had been spent, mainly on account of the manner in which the law had been carried out. He agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), in saying that it was the duty of the Government to see that the provisions of the Land Act were carried out with honesty, impartiality, and despatch. But the matter had not been even approached by them in a fair or honest manner. To begin with, three Commissioners were promised to the House, and the names of some of them were submitted and approved. The House was told that these Commissioners were to be assisted by three Sub-Commissioners; but their names were never mentioned, and, had they been, he thought the House would have strongly objected to them. But there was another point that deserved consideration—namely, that the Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners into whose hands the fortunes, he might almost say the lives, of a portion of the Irish people were committed, unlike any body of men exercising similar functions, were absolutely unsworn. The Lord Chancellor, on taking his seat on the Woolsack, had to take oath that he would do his duty; every officer of a Superior Court had to take oath to do his duty with justice and impartiality; but the Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners of the Land Court were unsworn and unfettered by any obligation whatever, except those which their consciences imposed upon them, He was 54 not going to disparage any of those gentlemen. He knew a good deal about their judgments and decisions however, and had himself been the subject of many of them; and he would say this—that had their names been submitted to the House, and had they been sworn in the usual manner to carry out the law, their decisions would have commanded greater respect. Again, on the question of appeal, a very grave fault was noticeable in the present system, in the fact that the appeal was practically from one set of Commissioners to another. They had heard of an appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober; but the appeal here was from Commissioners determined to reduce rents in a given ratio to Commissioners determined to give no appeal at all. The Commissioners began by stating that they would not vary the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners where the reductions were small, forgetting that where the whole of the rents were small these decisions made a difference of thousands of pounds in the incomes of the landlords. But the question was, whether the rents had been reduced on rack-rented estates in a greater ratio than on those estates where there was no rack-renting. It was well known that the rack-renting landlord had his rents reduced in no larger proportion than the landlord who had been the friend of his tenants; and he said that the decisions of the Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners in respect of rents in Ireland had struck dismay and terror into the hearts of landlords, especially those who had done their best for their tenants. Moreover, he said that those decisions had commanded no respect amongst the tenantry of Ireland, for they were a shrewd and sagacious people; and when they saw one decision given one day, a different decision on another, and so on, some of which might be in their favour, and some of them to their disadvantage, they undoubtedly felt that, as the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. P. Martin) had pointed out, that the whole thing was a lottery, into which they rushed at a small cost to see what they could get. He did not blame them for that; most men would do the same thing. He maintained that if the law were carried out, honestly and without wavering, and upon a sound principle, the expense would not have been nearly so great, 55 because one case fairly and properly settled, on judicial principles, would command for the decisions of the Commissioners support throughout the county which would render practicable the settlement of many cases out of Court. But, in the present state of affairs, this was made impossible; because, on one day, a certain reduction of rent would be made, and, on another, a decision would be given of an entirely different character. He maintained that, by the way in which the law had been administered, discredit had been thrown upon its administrators; that hopes had been raised which had been more or less dashed and minimized; that the country had been kept in a state of excitement and doubt, everything being in an unsettled condition; and that the result of all this was the bloated Supplementary Estimate now before the Committee, and the further large Estimate they would have to discuss after Easter. Having dealt with the question relating to the Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners, he would pass on to that of the other officers whose salaries and allowances they were asked to provide. They had heard much about the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act of 1881, and it appeared there was a portion of the office establishment of the Laud Commission set apart to carry those clauses into effect. Shortly after the passing of the Act, he (Colonel King-Harman) had his suspicions as to the value of those clauses, and as to the intentions of the Government with regard to them; and he would mention the circumstance that, in Queen's County, he had an estate on which there was no residence, and which was so far removed from him that he thought it would be well if the tenantry on it could purchase their holdings. That property he had offered to the Commissioners to arrange for its sale to the tenants, and Mr. M. O'Brien went down on behalf of the Commissioners to see the tenants. Some of his own friends, who knew what was taking place, were also on the spot at the time; and he could state his belief that, by the visit of Mr. O'Brien, the tenantry were quite discouraged—that was to say, after his visit to the estate in question, there was, on the part of the tenantry, a greater disinclination to purchase their holdings than there was before. The same kind of thing occurred in the case of the 56 tenants of his friend the O'Conor Don, who were willing to arrange with respect to some of their holdings; after a gentleman had gone clown on behalf of the Commissioners, the bargains fell through, and the tenants refused to go on with the negotiations, although the proposed arrangements were fair, and favourable to the tenants. And now, having made a clear statement, mentioned names, and called the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the facts, he asked whether any explanation with regard to them would be given before the Committee passed the Vote which included and authorized the payment of the salary of the gentleman he had referred to. With regard to the valuators, he believed that these gentlemen had done good and wholesome work, and that their dismissal was both arbitrary and impolitic. It was not, however, his intention to pursue that part of the subject. He wished to know whether the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland could state to the Committee how many investigators had been appointed immediately after the passing of the Arrears Act, and how many of those gentlemen who were men of experience and ability now remained? He would also like to be informed how many much younger men had been put in their place? His own impression was that the latter had been taken out of offices in which they were doing first or second-class clerk's work, and put into the Commissioners' office, where the business of both tenants and landlords was greatly delayed, and an immense amount of bad feeling created in consequence. He had now made a deliberate and fair arraignment against the whole of the officials of the Land Commission. His contention was that the work of the Commissioners was not well done, and that there was delay in the settlement of business far exceeding what was necessary; that the same thing prevailed in the arrears department, and that no work, or bad work, had been done in the department for the arrangement of purchase. Having gone through the whole list of offices, he could say there was no one except that of servants to which exception might not fairly be taken; and, that being so, he held that the present increased charge was not justified by the way in which the Act was being carried out.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PORTER)
said, that no single department connected with the working of the Land Act of 1881, except that of office servants, had escaped the censure of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just addressed the Committee (Colonel King-Harman), although that censure had been, in many cases, very indefinite in its form, one portion of it being especially open to that remark. He referred to Mr. M. O'Brien, the accusation against whom was that the hon. and gallant Gentleman having property in Queen's County on which there was no residence, and which he was willing to sell, Mr. M. O'Brien went down to see it in the discharge of his duty, and that after his visit the land was not sold.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
I said, before Mr. M. O'Brien went down there was a greater inclination on the part of the tenants to purchase than there was after he went down.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PORTER)
said, he was at a loss to see how that could be made a charge against Mr. M. O'Brien; and he suggested that it would have been more fair, in the case of a public officer against whom it might be necessary to prefer an accusation of the kind, for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to have given some notice of the facts beforehand. For his own part, he (the Attorney General for Ireland) was not aware of the circumstances connected with that portion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's property which had been referred to, and he was not ashamed to say he was entirely unacquainted with the facts, having no kind of notice of or information about the matter. But he would say that Mr. M. O'Brien, who had been in the public service for a long time, was a gentleman utterly incapable of coming to any decision in the slightest degree apart from what he considered to be right. Again, the hon. and gallant Gentleman referring to the Arrears Act, said that charges had been made in respect of the investigators who were appointed at the time the Act was passed. He was not aware that dismissals had occurred. If, however, after the original appointments were made, it was found that any of the investigators were inefficient for the discharge of the duties of the office, others would, no doubt, be appointed. 58 But, as he had before stated, lie was not aware that that had been the case. [Colonel KING-HARMAN: I say that it is so.] In that case it was not fair for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to bring forward the dismissal of officers on these Estimates without giving Notice of his intention to raise the question. One of the charges against the Land Commission was that which had been preferred in a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther), who spoke in the earlier part of the debate—namely, that the Land Court had done all it could to discourage appeals, and that the reason for that was that its decisions were almost always reversed. He was acquainted with the appeals which had been taken from the Land Court; and he said, after considerable study of them, that having regard to the number of appeals that were withdrawn, the number of cases which had to be decided upon points not discussed before the Land Court, and having regard to the decisions that were affirmed, there remained but few cases involving points of law in which their decisions had been interfered with. Having regard to that fact, and the novelty of the Court, and of the law which they were called upon to administer, he regarded the result as very far from discreditable to the Commissioners. He agreed that the work of the Land Court was not to be measured by the amount of the reductions made in rents. But he could not agree with one of the observations of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) that the Land Court was established for the purpose of reducing rents. It was, of course, established in consequence of the state of affairs existing between landlords and tenants; but in no case coming before the Court was it for any other purpose than that of investigating and deciding upon the merits of each particular case—reducing rents where it was proper to do so, leaving them as they were where no reason for change existed, and in some cases increasing them. As regarded the amount of business actually done by the Land Court, he might inform the Committee that in the last year and a-half, up to the end of last month, the number of rent cases decided by the Court was 24,774; cases withdrawn, 3,362; cases heard and dismissed—that was to say, adjudicated 59 upon, 4,812. Thus there were more than 28,000 eases actually decided in the Court of First Instance; and when one considered the enormous amount of work involved in their settlement—although he did not conceal the fact that, in some instances, there had been a certain amount of superficial investigation—the result, as he had before pointed out in respect of appeals, was not discreditable to the Court. Besides the cases in which the Court had decided fair rents, there were those which 'were withdrawn in consequence of agreements between landlord and tenant, and the cases settled out of Court and in which the agreements were brought into Court, so as to come within the provisions of the Act, and these raised the total number of cases up to the end of last month in which fair rents had been determined to 57,874. When to this was added the enormous number of cases which did not come into Court at all—namely, those settled by private agreement out of Court, he felt sure that at least 100,000 cases between landlord and tenant had been adjusted since the Act came into operation. Thus, out of a possible number of 400,000 which might be brought into Court, something like one-fourth had been actually arranged between the landlord and tenant within the space of a year and a-half since the Act began to operate; and, that being so, he must say that the Court must be regarded as having worked expeditiously and well, and it had certainly belied a great many of the predictions which were made at the time of the passing of the Act. They had heard much of unfulfilled predictions, and sentiments had been expressed in the course of the discussion by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and in other parts of the House, that it was the duty of the Government to instruct the Court as to the manner in which their duties were to be carried out. He could not agree that it was the business of the Government to see that influence was brought to bear on the Courts established by the Legislature with a view to controlling their operations. It was predicted at the time of the passing of the Act that it would take 10 years to get to the end of the 60,000 cases referred to by the hon. Member for Sligo, and that other cases would, in the meantime, crop up which would further tax the 60 administration of the Act. He admitted that the reduction of cases during the period of three months named by the hon. Member for Sligo had not been very large; but in consequence of the recent appointment of additional Sub-Commissioners the working of the Act had been accelerated, a result which he was sure everyone had at heart. He would not deny that inconvenience might result from different valuators being engaged upon parts of the same estate, respecting the value of the land on which they might take different views; but he pointed out that it did not follow because, in one case, the rents were reduced by 6 per cent, and in another by 20 per cent, that the Sub-Commissioners were not impartial in their decisions. Bat, oven assuming that there was inequality, by no machinery could absolute accuracy be obtained; and they could only expect from the Commissioners, as in the case of every other tribunal, that the best should be done under the circumstances. With regard to the appointments, some general allegations had been made; and although, as he had pointed out, there might be opportunities for discussing individual merit, this was not one of these occasions. He was, therefore, not disposed to go into that subject. But he would say this—that no man entrusted with public responsibility could have approached a question with greater anxiety and more sincere determination to do what was right than Earl Spencer had with reference to the appointment of the Sub-Commissioners; he had, moreover, brought to bear on the question his great skill and experience, and had, to his knowledge, been engaged early and late making personal inquiries as to the qualifications and fitness of the candidates for these appointments. He was aware that the other day a noble Lord had said that one gentleman had been appointed a Sub-Commissioner because he was one of his (the Attorney General for Ireland's) strenuous supporters in County Londonderry. The gentleman was mentioned by name. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) never saw the gentleman; he never heard of him until after his appointment, and he had no more to do with the Londonderry Election than hon. Gentlemen opposite had. Now, as to the prospects of reducing the arrears of business. The number of cases still undecided amounted to 60,000 61 odd. There were now 17 double seta of Sub-Commissioners at work investigating the cases, and the Government believed that not only would there be such an acceleration of business as the increasing experience of the Sub-Commissioners would enable them to produce, not only would there be an increased tendency to settle out of Court, on which he placed a great amount of reliance; but they would find that in a short time some of the Sub-Commissioners would be liberated from the districts in which they were now engaged, and thus be able to go to places which were at present undermanned. He knew one county which was now nearly worked out by the Land Commissioners, and that was not a county in which there was any disinclination on the part of the farmers to assert what rights they imagined they might have. As soon as the Commissioners had completed their work in that county, they would be transferred to some other, where the work was in arrear. It was impossible not to regret that the work did not proceed more rapidly, both from the landlord's and from the tenant's point of view. It was urgently necessary the work should go on as quickly as possible; but there were certain reasonable limits that must be assigned. He thought the Treasury, in the large increase they had made in the means at the disposal of the Commissioners, had contributed as much as could be expected of them. It must be remembered, that there was not an unlimited supply of men from whom Sub-Commissioners could be selected. It was impossible to get beyond a certain number of persons, who were qualified, by any standard that could be assumed, for the work. The men appointed as Sub-Commissioners ought to have some experience and skill in the valuation of land; they ought to have some knowledge of the actual working of farms, and they ought to be men above suspicion of partiality. A great many of the gentlemen who had been well recommended had turned out to be persons who, for some reason or other, not connected with politics or religion, it was very undesirable to appoint. Not only might an acceleration of work be reasonably expected, but he believed in some districts the applications had almost ceased to be made. Those who delayed sending in their applications in the first 62 instance had had reason to regret it. As a consequence of the temporary cessation of agitation, applications had come in rapidly for some time past. He believed, however, that applications would not in future be made in very large numbers. Into many of the general questions which had been introduced in the course of the debate it would be unreasonable at present to enter. The matters with which he had endeavoured to deal were matters connected with the administration and the finance of the Act. He had not gone into questions of general policy. He believed that, whatever opinion was entertained as to the policy of the Act, hon. Members in all quarters of the House felt that what was now wanted was a vigorous administration of it. That was what they all had at heart. He could not think that any section in the House would, at present, venture to talk of the repeal of the Land Act. Undoubtedly, many tenants were expressing dissatisfaction at the working of the Act; but there was no hon. Gentleman in the House, and no sane man out of it, who would say that the tenants of Ireland would be willing to give up any of the advantages they had secured by the Act. It was perfectly certain that neither landlords nor tenants had the slightest notion of departing from the principles of the Land Act; and, that being so, he hoped the Committee would see its way without further opposition to approve of the present Vote, which was to defray the expenses incurred in the administration of the Act.
said, he would not have ventured to intrude himself upon the Committee, but for some remarks made by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) in the course of his speech. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the number of the tenants who had entered the Court, and of the number of tenants who had abstained from taking that step; and he said that, after looking at the figures, it was right and proper to conclude that a large number of tenants had held aloof from the Land Court, because they had not confidence in the Court, and were not satisfied with the provisions of the Act. If there were no agitation going on in Ireland, if no agitation had been commenced, immediately after the Land Act passed, for the purpose of altering the provisions of 63 the Act, of advancing the interests of the tenants in a larger degree, and of depriving the landlords still more of the property they possessed, it would have been surprising to him had not the tenants, to a man, gone into the Court. But when there was an agitation carried on by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the Opposition side of the House, and by some of the professed supporters of the Government on the opposite Benches, with the object of altering some of the most important provisions of the Land Act, so recently passed, he did not think it was in the least surprising that tenants should abstain from entering the Court. They imagined that while such a squeezable Ministry like the present was in Office there was a chance of another Act being passed which would enable them to get more advantage, and get a far larger share of the property which did not belong to them. His hon. Colleague (Mr. T. A. Dickson) said that the property which was now being given to the tenants in Ireland was only their own, and had been unjustly held by the landlords. He was surprised that a Gentleman coming from the North of Ireland should make such a statement. Hid the tenant right exist in the North of Ireland before the passing of the Act of 1881? Had not the tenant a right to sell his holding, and were not his improvements respected? Did not the price of his holding include the value of his improvements? At the present time a tenant not only got the benefit of the improvements he made before his rent was fixed, but he was also entitled to get the benefits of improvements made since his rent was fixed by his landlord. He had now, therefore, a double benefit, which did not exist before. If rents were fixed 90, 95, or 100 pears ago, it seemed a most unjust thing that he should be able to claim in the Court a reduction of his rent in respect of the improvements he had made since the fixing of the rent. The rent was fixed before the improvements were made; the improvements were his property; but why should the landlords be deteriorated because the tenant had made improvements? It must be remembered that the tenant had the right to sell his holding, including the improvements he had made. It was also said that the tenants should not be satisfied until leases could be broken. A long discus- 64 sion took place upon the question of leases when the Act was passed, and what was the result? Why, that where it could be proved that a landlord, either by unfairness or intimidation, or by threatening that it might be worse for the tenant if he did not take a lease, forced a tenant to take a lease, the Court might break it; and it was also provided that if the terms of a lease were unreasonable and improper, and if under it the rent was exorbitant, the lease might be broken. If all the leases had to be broken, no matter what their conditions were, would the tenants agree to the leases which were advantageous to them being broken for the benefit of the landlord? If a lease might be broken for the benefit of one man, it ought to be possible to break a lease for the benefit of another man. He had no intention to make any remarks concerning the Commissioners or Sub-Commissioners. If anything was wrong in the administration of the Act, it was because the Government were at fault in having appointed some men who were not qualified to carry out the Act. He must, however, make a remark upon another observation made by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton). The hon. Gentleman said he knew an estate which could not be sold at a higher price than 11 years' purchase; but, turning round to the Conservative Benches, he told hon. Gentlemen sitting there that in future they must not expect so high a price—he, at the same time, hinting at seven, five, and even three years' purchase. The House had, at various seasons and at different times, passed Acts for the purpose of preventing the tenants being ill-treated by their landlords. If it was in accordance with the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Sexton's) idea of justice and propriety that Irishmen, as much Irishmen as any of the hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway—that Irishmen, whose families had existed in Ireland for hundreds of years, were to be told that they were to be persecuted and hunted out of the country, and then paid three years' purchase of their property, all he could say was that he should be sorry to share the hon. Member's opinion.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, he would like to make an observation with regard to the statement of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. The hon. Gentleman 65 accused the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) of having stated that he hoped that in a short time land, which was now sold for 11 years' purchase, would be sold for so small a sum as five or three years' purchase. Now, what the hon. Member for Sligo did say was this—that if the present system continued—that was to say, if there was any longer arrears of cases untried, and the incompetency of the Sub-Commissioners continued—such would he the state of the minds of the tenants in Ireland, that they would be probably unwilling to give more than this very small sum. He (Mr. Molloy) should be sorry that, in his absence, his hon. Friend should be supposed to advocate that land should be taken from the owners for such an absurdly small sum as three years' purchase. It was only necessary to draw attention to the fact to show how ridiculous the assumption of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) was. Now, the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Porter), in the remarks he had just made to the Committee, reminded him very much of the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke). The late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he was much pestered on the subject of Egypt, and kindred matters, and when he was questioned in a manner unpleasant to him, got in the habit of rattling out and throwing at the questioner a number of small details and facts which had no connection whatever with the Question on the Paper, but which so confused the interrogator that he was obliged to accept the answer. The speech of the Attorney General for Ireland, in dealing with the grave matters which had been raised in the course of the debate, was exactly of the same character. The right hon. and learned Gentleman touched upon a thousand and one little things in his speech, but he never came to the real point at issue. What the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had said was that within the last three months there had only been an increase of 11,000 applications to the Land Court; and that while eight months ago the arrears of cases amounted to 66,000, they stood to-day at 63,000. They might, therefore, say that during eight months only 14,000 cases had been settled by this gigantic Sub-Commis- 66 sion, composed of 34 members. It was ridiculous to suppose that tenants who had to wait 18 months before their fail-rents were fixed should continue to have any confidence in the Land Courts. If the recommendation which was thrown out by hon. Members from Ireland at the time of the passing of the Land Act—namely, that a reduced rent, based on a just principle, should only be demanded from the date of application to the Court—had been adopted, much of the present uneasiness and dissatisfaction would have been removed. They had heard to-day that the tenants were not satisfied with the Land Act, and they had heard, in the clearest way, that the landlords were not satisfied either. Surely the Act was passed to satisfy someone. It was passed, lie presumed, to please the tenant or else the landlord, and yet the representatives of both these classes were everready to tell the Government that neither party was satisfied. The position of the Government at the present time was this—they were perpetually apologizing and excusing themselves to the House, and the Attorney General for Ireland was constantly acting as counsel for the defence in the matter of this Land Act. Never once since the Act had been passed had the Government been able to agree with the landlord class in the House, or with the Representatives of the tenant class. If the Act pleased neither of the bodies it was intended to affect, what was the moral to be drawn? It was that they should so amend the Act that it would please someone. Reference had been made by the hon. and gallant Member for County Dublin (Colonel King-Harman) to the "Bright Clauses." It was an astonishing fact that though the "Bright Clauses" emanated from the Government Bench, they were the unworked clauses of the Act. The hon. and gallant Member had referred to a case in which the tenants were inclined to purchase; but that under the incentive of Mr. Murrough O'Brien they had declined to do so. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland seemed to think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman attacked Mr. Murrough O'Brien personally. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman evidently meant to convey was that something in the Offices charged with the administration of these clauses was of 67 such a character, that, instead of promoting the operation of the "Bright Clauses," it actually retarded it. Now, the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his speech took up the question of a personal attack upon Mr. Murrough O'Brien. He did not deal with the fact that the "Bright Clauses"—the Purchase Clauses—were not working satisfactorily, nor did he give the Committee any information upon what had been previously stated by Earl Granville—namely, that the Government had in its possession a Bill for the amendment of the "Bright Clauses" of the Land Act. This statement of the noble Earl was alluded to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the junior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), and he (Mr. Molloy) invited some Member of the Government to say whether the statement made by Earl Granville, a Member of the Government, was true or not. He maintained that much of the well-being of the Irish tenantry was wrapped up in the successful operation of the "Bright Clauses" of the Land Act; and it was, therefore, very natural that the Representatives of the Irish people should display some anxiety as to whether the Government had actually prepared, or were preparing, a Bill for the amendment of the Purchase Clauses.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) had just stated that he would not have taken part in this debate only for something the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had said. He (Mr. Blake) would do so from an opposite reason—for something he had not said. He was disappointed that in dealing with the question before the House he did not allude to a very important part of the function of the Commissioners, which they appeared to have failed nearly altogether to carry out, and that was to give as much effect in their power to that portion of the Land Bill, and a subsequent Bill which was passed, providing for the erection of labourers' cottages and the allotment of half-an-acre of ground to each, both to be held at a fair rent, as the law now stood, on a judicial rent being fixed and filed in Court. The tenant, for every 25 acres of good land held by him, was bound, on necessity being shown, to build a cottage for a labourer and allot to it half-an-acre of land; but, as a rule, the law 68 in that respect was a dead letter, for which he considered the Sub-Commission were, to a great extent, to blame. He would give an illustration from his own experience. He had a small property in the county he represented near Dungarvan. Although his tenants were leaseholders he had allowed them to adopt their own mode of valuation; they elected arbitration. The arbitrators, in his opinion, had leaned too heavily against him. Their award resulted in depriving him of one-fourth of his income, although he believed the two principal tenants, to whom his remarks would altogether refer, were not only fairly rented, but at the rents they paid previous to the arbitration, had very valuable interests under him. However, he submitted to the arbitration, and did not appeal, as he might have done, against it. Two of the principal tenants held each over 100 acres of good land, and he directed his agent, as these tenants had obtained such very large advantages, to ask them to do something for the labourers in the way provided by Act of Parliament. This they refused to do. The matter was brought, at his instance, before the Sub-Commissioners at Dungarvan, and these gentlemen decided in favour of the tenants not doing anything in consequence of their allegation that they provided for their labourers in their own houses. Now, the Committee could judge of the nature of the accommodation when one labourer slept over a boiler-house, and another over a most unwholesome potato-house; and he believed the rest of the accommodation was not of a better character. He contended that the Sub-Commissioners ought to have informed themselves better on the subject before they decided off-handedly against the labourers. Amongst other things, they should have been influenced by the fact that the farms in question were fully three miles away from the only town where accommodation could be procured, and that his tenants only temporarily gave shelter to the labourers employed. He would now turn to that portion of the hon. Member for Sligo's speech in which he found so much fault with the Land Act, and predicted that if the landlords did not sell on reasonable terms to the tenants, they would in the end only obtain five years' purchase for their properties. He thought the hon. Member made a great mistake in giving 69 so little credit to the Land Act, as it was really taking from the credit of the Party to which he belonged. It should, in fairness, be admitted that only for them it probably would not be so good or so soon passed into law. It had done much good for the tenantry of Ireland, although it was still open to improvement; and he hoped the efforts in that direction of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) would prove successful. He trusted that the value of the landlords' interests would not be reduced to five years' purchase. If so, what would become of them? He (Mr. Blake) spoke from a selfish point of view, being a small landowner. If the hon. Member for Sligo's prophecy should turn out correct, the landlords should either earn their bread, or ask for outdoor relief. [An hon. MEMBER: With the workhouse test.] He was sorry the landlords had not accepted the situation with a better grace, and turned their thoughts from hunting a poor fox to something nobler and more useful. Nothing, he thought, showed them in a more contemptible light than their lamentations when they could no longer go out to inflict a needlessly painful death on an unfortunate terrified animal. They gave themselves too much up to that and kindred pursuits to the neglect of things more elevating and beneficial to themselves and the human race. How different were the old French noblesse, and later the nobility of Poland? They were men of culture, and had acquired the knowledge of many useful things that stood to them in their hour of need. When they lost their land and had to fly their country, they became the best music masters, fencing, drawing, and even dancing masters to the civilized nations of the world. But from the difference of their tastes and occupations, what would the great body of the Irish landlords be fit for if they had to live by their own exertions? He really did not know, unless it would be to become huntsmen, horse jockeys, whippers-in, and gamekeepers to all Europe.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, it was the habit in these discussions to review the Land Act either with eulogium or unmixed censure, according as it was regarded from the Government point of view or the lordlords' side. The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Dickson) appeared to hold a brief on the Government 70 side. The fact was that the Land Act was hastily passed, and the House had not considered how it would affect the various classes in Ireland other than the particular tenants who were to be benefited by it. There was no proper provision made for insuring that the tenants who were benefited would act fairly to their labourers; and the small portion of the Act which referred to labourers appeared to be altogether disregarded by the Commissioners in their valuations and rules. Unless someone was present before them on the part of the labourers, nothing was done for them. The lowering of rents which had not been raised for the last 20 or 25 years or longer was a subject for fair consideration; he admitted that those rents should be lowered to whatever amount the Commissioners believed a man could live and thrive under. But there were various degrees of living and thriving, and that House was not the proper arena for a debate upon that question. But with regard to rents which had been raised exorbitantly of late years, that appeared to have been done, for the most part, by the new proprietors who came into possession under the Encumbered Estates Act, and subsequently under the Landed Estates Court Act. The Encumbered Estates Act was at the time considered a panacea for all difficulties; but those new landlords for the most part regarded the matter altogether in a mercantile spirit, and raised the rents as high as they could. But what about those who purchased under the Encumbered Estates Act, and did not raise the rents at all? What was to be done with them? Would the State say they must be mercilessly cut down to the standard of fair rents, according to the views of A or B, and receive no compensation? He knew of landlords, however, who had purchased under these two Acts he had mentioned, but had not raised the rents. They had paid full market value for the land according to the rental; and how could the State now step in and say that although they had a right, under the Acts passed to induce them to purchase, to their rents, those rents must be cut down without compensation? That injustice placed men who were willing to enter into fair arrangements in a wrong and invidious position. This was the injustice—the Act had left those who 71 had raised their rents better off than those who had not. He had never raised his rents, but he wished to consider the subject as one who had no experience one way or the other; but he knew of landlords on whoso lands the rents had not been raised for 50 years, but who had been treated by the Land Commissioners worse than those who had raised their rents 30 or 40 per per cent in 25 years. These things ought to be carefully considered by the Government, in order to see in what cases there should be compensation given. He would, in some cases, give compensation to those who had inherited property, as well as to some of those who had purchased under the Landed Estates Court Act. He did not say any of the rents had been lowered below a proper point; he did not take up that position; but the Committee might depend upon it that if they did not apply fair principles in Ireland, as elsewhere, the landlords of England would be subject to similar rules. About one-fifth—or one-fourth, perhaps, would be nearer—of the rental value of the land had been reduced by the judicial assessments, and that might be taken as a fair example of what was to come; and he believed that in two-thirds of the cases there would have been very little compensation requisite. The routs had merely been restored to what the landlords ought to submit to, and would have submitted to in case of arbitration. The tenants of Ireland were not the whole population of Ireland; the landless peasantry were quite as numerous; and there was a very large proportion of the population, for instance, in Mayo and Donegal, who, unless there was further legislation for them, would be, without any sensible difference, as poor if they got the land for nothing as they now were, for, notwithstanding that they had not paid rent for some years, they were now reduced to the lowest depth of power; and he did not think the Government were dealing with them in as liberal and considerate a spirit as was shown elsewhere. He had been very much tempted to ask whether the 11,000 people who were now receiving relief in Lewis were getting indoor or outdoor relief, and whether the workhouse test was applied to them? A far more liberal policy ought to be adopted by the Government in regard to the distressed districts of Ireland; otherwise, 72 he would venture to say that the Liberal Party would be accountable for a state of things which would reduce the people to perpetual poverty.
§ MR. KENNY
said, he wished to call attention to the manner in which the Sub-Commissioners were distributed in Ireland. There were 17 Sub-Commissioners, and what might be called 34 teams of Sub-Commissioners; but seven of those Sub-Commissioners were in the Province of Ulster, and the remainder had to suffice for the three other Provinces. In answer to his question, the Attorney General for Ireland stated that the Sub-Commissioners were arranged in accordance with the number of applications sent in from the different Provinces, and that Ulster was not unduly favoured in that respect; but he found now that that principle had not been always adhered to, and he could point out cases within his own knowledge in which that principle had been entirely violated. There was a single Sub-Commissioner appointed for Clare and Limerick; but the number of applications from Limerick was something like 1,500, and from Clare nearly 3,000. The Sub-Commission would, in the current quarter, sit four times in each of these two counties; but already from Limerick there were 973, and from Clare 3,000 fair rent applications, and only 696 had been settled. Of course, that included the cases fixed out of Court, and they were somewhat more numerous in Limerick than in Clare; but that did not materially affect the matter. Therefore, he thought that if the guide suggested by the Attorney General for Ireland were adopted, it should be adopted in regard to all cases, and the people of Limerick and Clare ought not to be allowed to suffer in this matter. The people of Clare felt very much aggrieved at the manner in which they were treated, and considered that they had been defrauded of whatever benefits the Act afforded. The Attorney General for Ireland had stated that in some counties the applications had almost entirely ceased; but the reason of that was that the farmers saw no probability of their cases being heard for an indefinite period. Some of the applications from Clare had been pending for 16 months; and how could others be expected to apply when they saw there was not the slightest probability of their cases being 73 heard for no one could tell how long? The Attorney General for Ireland had referred to some counties in which the work of the Sub-Commissions was nearly complete. He hoped that when their work was completed the Sub-Commissioners would be sent to other counties where there was a tremendous number of cases still unheard, where the people were rack-rented, and stood very much in need of relief. The appointment of a sufficient number of Sub-Commissioners was a matter that concerned the people in a very serious manner; and he thought it was entirely unfair that the tenant farmers should be kept in suspense for four or five years, as they would be if the present system continued. The principle of dating the judicial rents from the date of the original application was one which he thought should be extended, so that now when applications were made the rents fixed should date from the gale day immediately following the date of the original application. That plan would meet a great many difficulties which at present were experienced. The people of Ireland felt that by the present manner of administering the Act they were unfairly treated, and with just reason, for there were many cases in which the inability of the Sub-Commissioners to deal with them had led to bankruptcy and enforced emigration. What he desired to impress on the Irish officials was that they should send into the congested districts a sufficient number of Sub-Commissioners to dispose of the cases in a reasonable time. He could not account for the observation of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) that the Ulster tenants were not desirous of taking advantage of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act; but in the remaining three Provinces of Ireland, where the agitation had been thoroughly carried on, and where the people fought for a better object, they were very anxious to take advantage of those clause's. In all those Provinces the people were too poor to advance one-fourth of the purchase money; but if the Government would advance the money, they would take advantage of the offer, and the Government could rely on the security of the land for the redemption of the loan within a reasonable time. The number of applications from leaseholders had been 1,500; but only about 105 of the 74 leases had been declared void. There were about 135,000 leaseholders in Ireland, and by being deprived of the benefit of the Act they were unfairly treated. He knew a case in which leases had been forced on all the tenants on an estate except five. Four of those went to the Court and obtained reductions, varying from 40 to 60 per cent, and to the one who did not go into Court the landlord voluntarily allowed a reduction of GO per cent; but the remainder, about 40 tenants, had to continue to pay rack rents, which were forced upon them by threats of eviction. The result was that, in some instances, the tenants, being unable to pay those rack rents, were evicted, and disorder and crime followed, bringing discredit on the district. Extra police were drafted in, and in consequence the tenants had to pay rack rents, and also 7s. 6d. in the pound for the cost of the extra police. He thought the manner in which the Sub-Commissioners were doing their work was a subject which demanded the attention of Parliament.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he understood that he had been saddled with a statement that the Government were bound to see all the predictions fulfilled. He had said nothing of the sort. What he had done was to warn the Committee against trusting to further predictions, or receiving, without the utmost caution, any prediction coming from so unreliable a quarter, and to warn the Government against entering upon any course involving expenditure against the advice of those most qualified to judge.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he could not state, because the Commissioners had not made any Return of such cases.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, it appeared, from the uncontradicted statements of several Irish Members, that the wise and humane provisions in favour of the erection of labourers' cottages had become almost a dead letter. He, therefore, asked in how many cases the Labourers' Clauses had been put in operation, and in how many cases houses had been built under those provisions?
§ Vote agreed to.
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £15,410, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, for the Salaries, Allowances, and Expenses of various County Court Officers, and of Magistrates in Ireland, and of the Revising Barristers in the City of Dublin.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he had a few words to say as to this Vote—he wished to make one or two suggestions. This question of County Court Judges, Special Resident Magistrates, and Resident Magistrates was very important for Ireland. The County Court Judge formed a Court of Appeal for persons accused under the provisions of the Prevention of Crime Act, and sentenced by the Resident Magistrate; and the suggestion he had to make in regard to this matter was that steps ought to be taken to induce the Inferior Court to allow prisoners the right of appeal to the County Court whenever they desired it. At present, a person sentenced under the Prevention of Crime Act had not a right of appeal unless the imprisonment exceeded a certain term, and numerous cases had occurred in which prisoners found guilty had appealed for an increase of sentence in order to enable them to go before the County Court Judge, although, in several instances, the Inferior Court had refused that appeal. The Government, he maintained, should use their influence in some way with the Inferior Courts to enable all persons convicted to appeal if they chose. Then the County Court Judges, instead of acting as moderators, as it was expected they would, were even more severe than the magistrates themselves. The Mayor of Wexford was sentenced to a fortnight's imprisonment by the Resident Magistrate. He desired to have an appeal, and, in order to secure it, asked for an increased imprisonment. His imprisonment was accordingly increased to five weeks, and he appealed; but in the Court above his sentence was confirmed, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he induced the Judge to reduce his imprisonment to the original fortnight. Now, John Chute Nelligan, the Chairman of Westmeath, in the case 76 of Mr. Harrington, laid it down that to tell a man he was apathetic constituted an offence under the Prevention of Crime Act. He would like to know whether the Government approved of that principle laid down by Mr. Nelligan? Mr. Nelligan was a Kerry squire, and Mr. Harrington was what Mr. Nelligan would regard as a Kerry agitator; and when the Kerry agitator got into the hands of the Kerry squire, he had very little mercy to expect. He claimed two rights—first, that men convicted under the Prevention of Crime Act should have, if they wished for it, a right of appeal; and the second, that instead of a rigorous, County Court Judges ought to exercise a moderating influence. With regard to the Resident Magistrates and the Special Resident Magistrates, the Predecessor of the present Chief Secretary created a series of Pashalicks in Ireland. The jurisdiction of the ordinary magistrates was suspended, and for a time the jurisdiction of Dublin Castle was also suspended, in favour of Mr. Clifford Lloyd and half-a-dozen others, who had authority more supreme than Queen Victoria for the time being. He saw that these appointments were originally made only to last till June, so that he supposed it was intended to dispense with them then; but he now found that they were to be continued up to the month of April. At any rate, did the Chief Secretary expect that he would be able to dispense with the special Vote for the salaries of these Special Magistrates by April? It was said that Ireland was in a disturbed condition. Was that the case? Was not the country tranquil; at least, was it not peaceful? He would refer the Chief Secretary to the speech he had delivered at Hawick, in which he referred to the tremendous decrease which had taken place in crime in Ireland since last year. The right hon. Gentleman was able to show that crime in Ireland now was only a fraction of what it was up to a recent date; and, in further proof of the fact that crime had decreased, he would refer the Chief Secretary to the speeches of the Judges who had lately been on Circuit. From those speeches it appeared that the Judges had not found it necessary, in most cases, to refer to the County Inspectors' Reports, because the Calendars contained a fair and accurate idea of the amount of crime in each county. 77 He would challenge the right hon. Gentleman to show that the country was not eminently peaceful, or he would challenge the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) to rise at the Table and show it in his usual loud and effective manner. To go to another point, he would ask the Chief Secretary for an explanation of an occurrence which took place recently in Ireland, in the county he himself represented (Sligo). He had happened to come within the jurisdiction of one of these Special Magistrates, a meeting at which he was present, and which he was to have addressed, having been suppressed by an armed force of the Crown at a place called Cliffoney, in County Sligo, where his constituents had arranged to meet him. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had said in that House, and in his (Mr. Sexton's) absence, that if he had known he had intended to address the meeting, the Government would not have taken the measures they did. But why did not the Government know that he intended to address the meeting? The district had been placarded with an announcement that he intended to address his constituents, and the week before he had inserted a notice in The Freeman's Journal to the same effect. He had intimated that he intended to speak at three places. At the first place the meeting was held, and the proceedings were orderly, and were entirely to the satisfaction of the police. On the following day he spoke at Sligo, and then went to Cliffoney, where he was to address the next meeting. The Head Constable of Sligo visited him at his hotel, and informed him that he would not be allowed to address the meeting. He had asked for a copy of the proclamation forbidding the meeting, but the constable had not got it. He drove to the place of meeting, where an immense concourse of people began to assemble, some arriving on horseback, and some on foot. As he himself moved up the police came out with arms loaded, and indulged in a series of threatening manœuvres; and on his attempting to organize the meeting one of the Special Magistrates went up to him and told him it could not be held. Why had this meeting been suppressed? The conduct of the Government on this occasion was such as might have led to very serious results; for if the people had not been 78 very intelligent, and allowed themselves to be guided by him out of the village, and for a mile or two along the highway, the consequences might have been most deplorable. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would be able now to give some assurance that, for the future, no meeting between a Member of Parliament and his supporters would be interfered with. On the occasion in question he had succeeded in inspiring the people with the necessity of recognizing the authority of the law; but on some future occasion a Member of Parliament might not be so successful in inducing the people to follow his advice as he (Mr. Sexton) had been in Cliffoney.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, the hon. Member for Sligo, arguing from his own knowledge of the state of Ireland, and likewise from statements of influential persons who had every possible reason to know what that state was, expected the time would be soon approaching when the Government, from their own point of view, would be able to dispense with these Special Magistrates. The hon. Member said his opinion was that things had mended in Ireland. He (Mr. Trevelyan) had given an intimation of this a fortnight ago, and the Reports for the past fortnight agreeably confirmed that intimation, so that the task of maintaining order in Ireland made it less and less necessary to have recourse to the Prevention of Crime Act. The number of cases tried under that Act had fallen from the very large number of 40 and 50 a-week to what was now a pretty steady average of five or six, and that in itself was a very great indication of tranquillity in Ireland. The hon. Member asked when the tenure of office of the Special Resident Magistrates, who undoubtedly were originally instituted under very special circumstances of turbulence, would come to a close? As to that, the hon. Member could not expect him to say more than this—namely, that in making and revising the police and magisterial arrangements the Government had, and would have, very great regard to the state of Ireland—which he thought he might now call an improved state—and that, while they were quite determined that in any alteration they made there should be no risk of order being again disturbed, they would make it their object to reduce the great 79 burden on the taxpayers—of which they had heard something to-day from a quarter from which, he must confess, he did not expect it—namely, from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, whom he did not now see in his place—and to remove those anomalies in the administration of Ireland which the Government considered, when they adopted them, were necessary, but which they deeply deplored. He did not want anything he had said on this occasion to give rise to the suspicion that the Government were willing to allow the hold which, the law had regained on the country to be in any degree relaxed. They had already given an indication of their willingness to take advantage of the amelioration of the state of things in Ireland to entirely remove from the Army the disagreeable duty of protection and patrol. Every single soldier had long ere this gone back to his military duties; and he had no doubt that as time went on they would be able to absorb the temporary magistrates in the country—he meant the Special Resident Magistrates, who were appointed in very considerable numbers to supplement the Resident Magistrates. With regard to the ultimate arrangements the Government might have to make for the supervision of the peace and order of the country, he should be to blame if he made any allusion to them before the Government scheme could be laid on the Table of the House. The considerations, however, to which the hon. Member had referred, would certainly not be lost sight of. With regard to the occurrence at Cliffoney, of which the hon. Member had spoken, he (Mr. Trevelyan) had not anticipated that it would be mentioned, although he quite admitted it was a very natural thing for the hon. Member to refer to it. He was not prepared with the details of the circumstances; but the outlines of it he had, he thought, very clearly in his head. He did not intend, in consequence of the hon. Member's remarks, to defend generally the policy of the Government in forbidding certain meetings to take place. He might say, generally, that in these proceedings they had been governed by the advice of the authorities on the spot as to the state of the district in which the meetings were announced to take place, and as to the class of people who were supposed to have made arrangements for the meet- 80 ings. As to the meeting at Cliffoney, the plain fact was that he had not been informed by the authorities on the spot that the hon. Member intended to ad-dross his constituents.
§ MR. SEXTON
asked whether the local people did not send a placard to the Castle, announcing the fact that he was to address his constituents?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, a placard was sent—he had it now in his hand—but it arrived too late. The information sent was of the usual kind, and a general recommendation was made, founded upon certain circumstances, which, on examination, were found to be thoroughly borne out. There was no doubt that the number of outrages in the district in 1881 and 1882 was very great. They had been 1,781 and 1,982. The meeting in question was got up under the auspices—or it was supposed that it was got up under the auspices—of Henry Brennan, an ex "suspect," who had been recently in prison for three weeks for assaulting the police. The Government were informed that that part of the country was very much disturbed, and the recommendation to forbid the meeting only came on the Saturday as the meeting was to be held on the Sunday or Monday.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
Yes, on the Saturday. The Government were, he thought, right in every case in which they stopped meetings, although he could not expect everyone to believe so. They had always thought that it was important to give the notice stopping a meeting as early as possible; and, considering the auspices under which the meeting in question was to be held, and the condition of the district—which was reported as very dangerous—they had little hesitation in saying that the meeting should not beheld. The one circumstance which would have induced them to take a different view of the matter was wanting to their deliberations. But the hon. Member might say that a meeting had been stopped at which the)' knew a Member of Parliament was to be present—the meeting that was going to be attended by the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. Commins). Well, that case was a very serious one. The place where the meeting was to be held was in the im- 81 mediate vicinity of the spot where Mr. East was murdered; and at the moment that instructions were given to stop the meeting he (Mr. Trevelyan) was in possession of special information in connection with that murder, which showed him that the family of Mr. East, and a small circle of farmers to which Mr. East might be said to have belonged, were in real danger, and that any extra excitement in that district would have led to their inconvenience, and probably have placed them in real peril. The murder of Mr. East was one of the most serious that had occurred, and was a recent affair. Even though the hon. Gentleman the Member for Roscommon was announced to speak, the Government came reluctantly to the conclusion that, on the whole, the meeting must be stopped. The total number of meetings which had been prevented from taking place was very small, probably a dozen all over the country. It might be retorted that, by stopping a dozen, they, in fact, stopped hundreds, and he allowed there was some weight in that argument; still, his firm belief was that, where meetings had been prevented, the districts were such as it would have been dangerous to hold meetings in. The stoppage of meetings in districts where it was dangerous to hold them had not caused the stoppage of meetings in places whore it was safe to hold them. The more tranquil Ireland became the more possible would it be to hold meetings without danger, and the more willing would the Government be to refrain from that interference which was so extremely distasteful to them. As to the pledge the hon. Member wished him to give, that they would never interpose between a Member of Parliament and his constituents, all he would say was that it might be relied upon that if they did interfere it would only be most reluctantly, and under the most exceptional circumstances.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the excuse which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had given for proclaiming the meeting which was to have been addressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) was that the Executive was governed by the advice of the local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the resident or local authorities in the neighbourhood where the meeting was to have been held advised 82 the Castle to proclaim on Saturday this meeting, which was announced to take place on the following Tuesday. He wished to point out that, where many days' notice of the holding of a meeting was given, the local authorities should be directed to send their recommendations, with regard to the proclamation or non-proclamation of that meeting, within a sufficient time before the date on which the meeting was to be held. In the case of the proclamation of many other meetings in Ireland, the placards proclaiming them had only been posted on the morning of the day of the meeting, and that only in the immediate neighbourhood; and it had consequently happened that crowds of people had assembled from all parts of the country, and that considerable risk had arisen of a collision with the police, two young men, ignorant of the law and of the fact that the meeting had been proclaimed, having, on one occasion, afforded some pretext to the police for charging them under the Prevention of Crime Act. It was only reasonable that, where the Lord Lieutenant decided to proclaim a meeting, considerable notice of the intention to hold which was given by placards, some days' notice should be given that the people were not to attend the meeting. In the example of the meeting that was to have been addressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo, there was fully 10 days' notice given of his intention to address his constituents in the particular locality, and yet it was only on the Saturday, with all the knowledge of the officials regarding the state of the district, and notwithstanding all the placards the hon. Member had sent round, as to his intention to hold the meeting, that the local authorities sent word to the Castle that they desired the meeting to be proclaimed. Further, it was only on the Tuesday that placards were published in the village of Cliffoney, warning the people not to attend the meeting, and his hon. Friend had only received the placard after he reached the field where the meeting was to have been held. If his hon. Friend had not possessed considerable influence with his constituents, and had not advised thorn to withdraw, there might have been a collision with the police. It was surely one of the first duties of the Government that due notice should be given to the inhabitants of the surrounding dis- 83 tricts where these meetings were proclaimed—the latter, he said, should receive several days' notice, considering the large number of people who were interested in them, and the risk there was of collision with the police. The right hon. Gentleman said there had been a large number of outrages in the neighbourhood of Cliffoney—12 in 1881, and 15 in 1882—and that was his reason, conjoined with the fact that on every one of the placards was the name of Henry Brennan, an ex-"suspect," for proclaiming the meeting in question. Now, it so happened that the county of Sligo was the one in the whole West of Ireland which had been most free from outrage during the Land movement; it was, without exception, according to the Government Returns, one of the most peaceable of all the counties throughout the distressed districts. He had in his hand the Returns relating to agrarian offences from the 1st of January, 1882, to the 31st of December, 1882; and, looking over the list of offences laid to the county of Sligo, he found that not one of them was of a grave character, the vast majority of them being the sending of threatening letters and cases of ordinary intimidation. But the column relating to murder, manslaughter, firing at the person, assault with intent to murder, aggravated assault, assault endangering life, assaults on bailiffs and process-servers, maiming the person, incendiary fires, burglary, robbery, highway robbery, taking and holding forcible possession, slaying, cutting, or maiming of cattle, demanding or robbery of arms, riots, resistance to legal process, firing into dwellings—the column relating to these important and serious forms of agrarian outrage for the county of Sligo was blank, with one exception—there had been one case of assault endangering life during the whole year. Having given the Committee a list of all the more serious offences included in the Government Returns, he believed he had shown that the County of Sligo was singularly exempt from any agrarian or other offence during the whole of the year 1882; and the reward which that county got for being so peaceable was the proclamation of a meeting which had been called by its senior and most trusted Member. But with regard to the proclamation of meetings in Ireland, the right hon. Gentle- 84 man stated last night that all these had taken place within a period of five weeks.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
I beg pardon, the hon. Gentleman is referring to a speech I made upon the subject of prosecutions.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman applied also to the proclamation of meetings. It happened at the very time that these meetings were proclaimed that agrarian offences throughout Ireland had never been lower for a period of three years; they had been steadily diminishing by leaps and bounds during some months, up to the time when the right hon. Gentleman commenced to proclaim the meetings by leaps and bounds, and practically to put a stop to every public meeting in Ireland. No one in Ireland would, after those proclamations, go to the expense of getting up meetings for the purpose of Constitutional demands or agitation, and run the risk of having it proclaimed on the very day it was to take place, or run the risk of losing the money which the meeting cost to get up, besides the risk of endangering the lives of the people who might attend at the place where the meeting was to have been held. The reward which Ireland got for being quiet was that public meetings were put a stop to. The right hon. Gentleman said he would wait for a better state of things in the country in order to lessen coercion and restore the Constitutional rights of the people in this respect; but it was hopeless to expect that Ireland would ever be more quiet than she was at present, because the outrages were equal to the normal average in times of distress in that country; and to expect that there would be fewer was to expect that the Millennium would come to Ireland before it came to the rest of the world. With, regard to the meeting which his hon. Friend was to have addressed, the right hon. Gentleman had alleged an excuse for proclaiming it which he ventured to say was not the right one. It was perfectly well known in the district—he did not know whether it was known to the right hon. Gentleman—that this meeting was to have been held on the property of a gentleman who was a Member of the Government—the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Evelyn Ashley), Under Secretary of 85 State for the Colonies. During the progress of the Land movement, disputes had continually existed between the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight and his tenants; he believed many of those tenants had gone into the Land Court, where they expected to get considerable reductions of rent, and that the hon. Gentleman had also been obliged to give considerable reductions. However that might be, he had had a long course of wrangling with his tenants, and had caused some persons to be arrested. Mr. Henry had organized the tenantry on the estate, and helped them in their demands for the reduction of rent, which were afterwards agreed to. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight felt the pressure of Mr. Brennan's opposition to his love of rack rents, and his influence was so strong that he persuaded the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) to arrest Mr. Brennan under the Coercion Act, and keep him in gaol. The charge of assault brought against Mr. Brennan was simply this. The police were in the act of arresting a servant of Mr. Brennan, who, as he was walking along the street, happened to see the altercation going on between the police and his servant. He went out into the road, laid his hand on the shoulder of the policeman, and said—"What is the matter; why are you arresting my servant?" That was the only assault alleged before the magistrates, and for it he was sent to gaol for three weeks. In this way the law was administered by the Resident Magistrates and by the Sub-Inspectors and County Inspectors of the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland; and it was upon their advice that he prevented the Constitutional exercise of the right of the people to assemble for the purpose of discussing their grievances, and demanding legitimate alterations in the law of the country.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 88; Noes 16: Majority 72.—(Div. List, No. 27.)
(3.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £33,020, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day
of March 1883, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Commissioners of Police, the Police Courts, and the Metropolitan Police Establishment of Dublin.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER,
asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, if he could inform the Committee what arrangements had been made consequent upon the retirement of the late Chief Commissioner of Police in Dublin? Captain Talbot served many years to the satisfaction of those under whom he served, and it was not unnatural to inquire what arrangements had been made with regard to his pension. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman at present knew what the amount of pension was that Captain Talbot was to receive. He (Mr. Lowther) had no reason to think that Captain Talbot was in any way inclined to make a grievance of this matter; and he certainly had no authority to make, on Captain Talbot's behalf, any demand on the public purse. Still less was it his (Mr. Lowther's) intention to raise any question as to the action of the Irish Government in making arrangements for the substitution of a new officer in the place of Captain Talbot. He had, however, formed his own opinion as to the career of that officer; and he had every reason to believe that he was thoroughly deserving of a substantial remuneration upon his retirement. Captain Talbot, in religion and politics, held views differing from his own; and he believed the Government had selected as his successor one of the most efficient officers engaged in the Public Service in Ireland, who, moreover, had not entered the Public Service under their auspices. He, therefore, made no Party attack or accusation in this case, but merely desired to express a hope that the Treasury would be induced to relax, not only in the interest of Captain Talbot, but in the interest of the Public Service, any regulation which might preclude an officer of long standing receiving adequate remuneration in his declining years. There was one other matter which he should like very briefly to refer to. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had described the condition in which he had found matters in Ireland when he took Office; but there was one point he had not dwelt upon, but which to his (Mr. Lowther's) mind was the most serious element in public affairs which had been known in the 87 time of any living man. They had been familiar with popular discontent in Ireland; everybody, except the Prime Minister, was fully aware that a large numerical majority of the people, if the ordinary safeguards of law and order were relaxed, would not be slow to avail themselves of that opportunity to break the law; but there was no one connected with the administration of Irish affairs who had the slightest idea until recently that the Constabulary or the Metropolitan police Force were in the slightest degree otherwise than thoroughly reliable and loyal in the service of the Crown. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to confirm what he hoped now was an opinion, rightly and generally entertained, that the elements of danger in regard to those Forces had disappeared. He thought the Committee would do well to mark the fact that for the first time in the history of Ireland they found that a most serious danger to the tranquillity of the country—far more serious, to his mind, than any amount of disaffection which might be found in any other section of the population—had recently exhibited itself in the disaffection of the Constabulary and Metropolitan Police Forces in Ireland. One word upon a matter upon which he did not wish to press the right hon. Gentleman for any answer, if he thought it in any shape or form contrary to the interests of the Public Service, and that was with regard to rumours which had obtained general currency within the last few days—namely, as to the gradual escape, one after another, of some of the persons who, rightly or wrongly, were believed to be concerned to a very serious extent with the perpetration of murderous outrages in Ireland. He had seen it stated that there had been a failure upon the part of the authorities to effect the arrest of one of the most important functionaries of an Organization which had been stigmatized from the Treasury Bench as the organizing force of outrage in Ireland. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give the Committee some information on that point, though if it was not convenient, he should not press for a reply. Speaking the other day of the Police Forces of Ireland, the Home Secretary made some observations which he (Mr. Lowther) was sorry to find had not unnaturally given great offence to those most distinguished bodies 88 of men. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of those Forces as having required thorough re-organization at the time Lord Spencer went over to Ireland. So far as he (Mr. Lowther) was aware, all that was required was the strengthening of the detective branches of those Forces. He believed the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had realized that any impression which prevailed as to the Head of the Detective Department being inefficient was entirely without foundation. The Head of the Detective Department, who had still been retained in his position, was a most efficient officer, and his character had been recognized by the present Administration. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take the opportunity of removing any false impression that had got abroad through a most unfortunate observation of one of his Colleagues, who had no moans of knowing anything at all about Ireland; and that he would also be able to assure the Committee that the utmost vigilance was being exercised with a view of preventing any person escaping whom it was desirable to arrest.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, that, connected as he was with the City of Dublin and its management, this was an appropriate occasion to enlighten the Committee as to the state of things existing between the police and the municipal authorities in that city. He had no desire to make the slightest complaint against the men of the Police Force; he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that, on the whole, the police of Dublin had discharged their duties satisfactorily, and appeared to be anxious to do their duty, not only well, but civilly. He had frequently been sorry, during his connection with the Corporation of Dublin, that the Police Force was not of the same nature as that which existed in all the cities and towns of the United Kingdom; because they would then have had this happy state of things—that the police, depending upon the Representatives of the people in times of difficulty and danger, would have had behind them that moral support, far more powerful than brute force—namely, the sympathy of the people in the administration of the law. In England and Scotland the Police Forces were municipal bodies; but, unfortunately, it was not so in Ireland. He 89 had, nevertheless, always paid a tribute to the police, and he was sorry that circumstances in many cases had not allowed him come down and stand by the police and co-operate with them in the discharge of their duties. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) had indirectly referred to the recent strike of the Dublin Police Force. He (Mr. Dawson) might say that the conclusion of that strike and the settlement of the difficulty then existing was entirely due to the action he took upon that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would remember that when the Government issued their Proclamation, in the first instance, concerning the strike of the police, he (Mr. Dawson) drew attention to its illegal character. The law provided that in such a case of emergency, the Government were empowered to enlist special constables, and the law also provided that those special constables should be natives of the parish, town, or residence within the immediate neighbourhood. The Proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant, however, invited every subject of the Queen, no matter whether he came from England, or Belfast, or elsewhere, to enlist as special constables. He immediately drew the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the illegality of the Proclamation, and in half-an-hour another Proclamation was issued. He (Mr. Dawson) was then asked by His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant to come to an interview with him, at which he was asked to swear in special constables. He refused to do so, because he knew that previously the Government had enlisted men who would be the cause and focus of disorder, instead of the preservers of the peace. The city was particularly tranquil during the absence of the police—a testimony to the good order of the people of Dublin which could never be effaced from the memory of those who were just enough to remember the circumstances. One of the most distinguished men in the House of Commons walked alone through the streets, and the next day he confessed he had never received the slightest insult. That state of things changed when the special constables of the right hon. Gentleman made their appearance. Young, fiery disputants came down to irritate the people by brandish- 90 ing their batons and the other implements supplied to them. He (Mr. Dawson) happened to come in on Sunday from his country residence to see whether the citizens were observing a Proclamation he had issued asking them to be calm. When he came into College Street lie found the young men he had spoken of were attacked by a great crowd, and he went down and told the people not to attack them. He could not be in other parts of the city at the same time, and in other places where his influence could not be felt, there were serious rows between those fomenters of disorder and the people. The next morning he informed His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant—whose courteous and gracious manner to him on all occasions he must recognize, so different from the ferocious manner which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had assumed towards the Conservative Lord Mayor who preceded him (Mr. Dawson)—he went to the Castle and told Lord Spencer that he had consulted his legal advisers, and lie himself, in pursuance of his rights, would swear in special constables, but would not swear in young students and men from nondescript places. He said he would swear 100 respectable citizens and tradesmen recommended to him by their parish priest or rector; that he would take one from each ward in Dublin; and that he would have 1,500 men at his disposal in the space of a few hours. His Excellenc3' the Lord Lieutenant and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary found that he was within his rights; they knew that he could do it, and that he would do it; that he could get, at any moment, 1,500 respectable men to keep the peace. That action he took, and immediately the difficulty was solved and the Gordian knot was cut, the special constables were dismissed and the old constables re-instated. That was the history of the matter, which had been so unfairly described by the correspondents of the English Press in Ireland, who lived on the bread of calumny; who fattened and prospered by the trade to which they were hired; who calumniated and villified the people of their country. They were in Dublin, as all Corporations were, a sanitary authority; but they could not have in the city those separate dwellings which Belfast and any cities 91 of recent creation possessed. He had started an Artizans' Dwellings Company, which he was glad to say had proved to be a financial and social success. He was engaged with the Corporation in clearing the congested districts—the districts of disease and crime—but what they particularly wanted in Dublin was an army of sanitary officers to enable them to vigorously carry out the powers which that House had given them under the Public Health Act. The Corporations of Glasgow and Edinburgh and other places had their own sanitary officers; in Dublin, the constables knew nothing about sanitary matters. He had witnessed violations of the sanitary law, and he had spoken to constables concerning them, and when he told them he was Lord Mayor, they said—"Oh, you can look after it yourself." The constables of Dublin were always scenting the air to find out some political crime, instead of performing those municipal duties which rightly devolved upon them. He and his hon. Friends must object to this Vote, because the police in Dublin were completely and essentially a military and political force. He did not blame the constables themselves; he did not blame them at all; they were civil men; they were splendid men to look at; but they had no idea whatever of municipal or civil duties. The present unnatural, abnormal, and unjust state of things ought to no longer continue. Captain Talbot, to whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Lowther) had referred, he did not blame—he gave to him every credit for his courtesy and attention to them. They went the other day to him and asked him to give them aid, by means of the police, in improving the sanitary condition of the city, which was now in a most deplorable state; but Captain Talbot simply replied—"I cannot help you. I know there is rubbish thrown on the street; but some of the police are watching Judge Lawson, four or five are on duty at this man's house, and four or five are on duty at that man's house." The population of Edinburgh was about 230,000, and the Police Force for municipal and sanitary purposes numbered 401. The population of Dublin was 270,000; but the police there numbered 1,100, in addition to the Marines, who had been lately sent over there. In Dublin there were twice as many police 92 as would be necessary if the Force were placed in the hands of the municipal authorities; because then they would simply be called upon to discharge municipal duties, and not to foment political discontent, which, he contended, they did at the present time. For the Dublin Police Force the State paid £162,000, and the people were required to pay a police tax, for which they got no value whatever, of 8d. in the pound, and publicans' licences, pawn office licences, court fees, and hackney-carriage dues, all went to swell this already blatant Vote to something like £250,000 a-year. Why, in some countries, half the size of Ireland, either in extent or population, the whole War Vote did not amount to as much as the cost of the Metropolitan Police in Dublin. There was a general proposition in this country which had a grain of truth in it, but he would prefer to invert it. People, like the candid friend, said to Ireland—"Oh, be quiet, and we will settle everything." He, however, would invert that, and say—"Settle everything, and then we will be quiet." If this country was waiting for Ireland to be quiet before anything was done for her, England was acting as much in vain as the rustic who waited for the stream to dry up before he could pass over, forgetting that as long as the fruitful source was there the stream would continue to flow. If the English Government waited until discontent ceased before introducing any reform, they would be like that rustic, still waiting, while the bounteous and plenteous source of misery and crime was daily making the stream more violent and more voluminous, until it should carry the nation further and further every day upon its turbid waste to increased dishonour and increased disloyalty. The last act of this Government was worse than the first. The act of bringing Marines from England was a melancholy comment on the Police generally, and on the Government. They had been obliged to come to England, and, not content with the awful outlay and little result of the municipal arrangements in Dublin, to supplement the existing army with a still greater army. The Government could not take a wiser step than that of reforming this system in Ireland. Mayors and landlords, and the people generally, were calling out to be relieved of this enor- 93 mous army. In his early days the guardians of the peace had a municipal character and appearance; but now they were seen with helmets glittering in the sun, scoffing at everything, and basking like grenadiers in the sunshine to terrorize the people. What was found pari passu with this? In Limerick, for instance, Parliamentary and municipal life was steadily declining. In one ward in which there were 30 or 40 voters there were 100 policeman to every one found in an English town. Nothing was seen in Irish towns but soldiers and policemen bristling at every step. That was the outcome of English legislation, and its present extraordinary administration in Ireland. He wished he could reduce this Vote by £100,000; but he could only deal with this Supplementary Estimate, and he would move that it be reduced by the amount required for the Marines.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £19,520, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Commissioners of Police, the Police Courts, and the Metropolitan Police Establishment of Dublin."—(Mr. Dawson.)
said, he did not suppose there was much use in protesting against this Vote, or against any Vote which was objectionable to the Irish people, at this time; still, it was the duty of Irish Members to protest against this Vote, though for reasons different from those of the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther). On the previous day a Vote for £15,000 was asked for to bribe and debauch one class of Irishmen—the members of the Irish Bar. This sum of £33,000 was simply so much money spent on denationalizing another class of Irishmen—the police. What he would say to the Government was—"Give the Irish people the control of the police. Make them pay the whole cost if you like, and they would not have any the worse policemen; but we will not have policemen who break people's heads, where a London policeman would simply tell them to move on. We shall not have them bludgeoning people in the Phoenix Park, or organizing a riot in Sackville Street, and then putting it down with bloodshed, as they did when the 94 hon. Member for the City of Cork was arrested, and in regard to which the right hon. Member for Bradford said, 'Clearing the streets was no milk-and-water matter.'" The Corporation largely paid these men out of the money of the citizens, and that was the only satisfaction the citizens got. If the Government could not trust the Irish people with the control of their police, what was that but a confession that every policeman in their employment was, in his secret heart, opposed to the Government; and it was, therefore, necessary to keep the purse and promotion in their own hands, in order to get these Irishmen to do their work, and to stifle their natural feelings as Irishmen. Possibly, from the point of view of the right hon. Member for North Lincolnshire, the Government were right; but they would find that they could not go on ruling Ireland in that way for ever.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he was glad to have an opportunity of expressing his admiration for Captain Talbot, which feeling was also entertained by everybody who had had to do with him officially and socially. Captain Talbot had the honour of being one of the six survivors of the glorious Battle of Allahabad. He was one of the three Commissioners of Police in Dublin; and as his full term of service was on the eve of expiring, and in view of the changes which had taken place in the Detective Department, the Government thought that was a good opportunity for his retirement with that honour which Her Majesty had conferred upon him—a Companionship of the Bath, and the fullest consideration of his services which the Regulations would allow. [Mr. J. LOWTHER: What will his pension be?] He was informed by the Secretary to the Treasury that it would be two-thirds his salary. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to an observation made by the Home Secretary, which had been largely commented upon. The observation, however, as the Secretary of State for War had stated, had been misunderstood in the warm and interesting debate. The advantages which the present Government derived for the suppression of crime were not that the police were finer or more trustworthy men than those they found; but consisted in certain arrangements depending on the appointment of the As- 95 sistant Secretary for Crime, and on the union of the Detective and Constabulary Forces. There were also some arrangements with regard to the Resident Magistrates which he had already explained, and he was unwilling now to repeat that explanation. These were the heads of the increased and improved means of dealing with crime which the present Government enjoyed. With regard to the interesting and, in some degree, unexpected speech of the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Dawson), he always listened to him with a sense of entertainment, which came from hearing some really new point of view expressed in an agreeable and general manner, with certain references to the classical literature of our country, seldom heard in that House. Perhaps the Committee would forgive him if he did not follow the hon. Member in his history of the police strike in Dublin. If he had to write that history, he thought he could write something which, in matter, at all events, would be interesting; but it was one of those cases in which it was better to say as little as possible. The real fact was that the matter was now over; and what had happened had not decreased the confidence of the Government in the Dublin Police. For reasons which he could give as to the causes of this occurrence, he was satisfied that the Government were now as safe as ever they were in the loyalty and affection of the Dublin Police, and that they had even more confidence in the Force now. The statement of the hon. Member as to his relations with the Lord Lieutenant with regard to the swearing in of special constables was different in some respects from his own recollection of the matter, not so much on questions of fact, as with respect to the views of the different parties concerned as to the various interviews. He could only assure the hon. Member that the Lord Lieutenant and himself intended to pay a special mark of respect to him, as Lord Mayor of Dublin, when, at the outset of the proceedings, they asked him to call upon them at the Castle. He did not, however, take exception to the hon. Member's description of what followed; but he could not allow the special constables who were sworn in to be described as bad preservers of the peace. There was no use in shirking the fact that there 96 was serious danger to the peace of the city for two or three days; and in the opinion of the Government that danger was very much diminished by the manner in which the special constables were treated by the people of all classes. Then with regard to the Monday, he must say a word to remove the impression in the hon. Gentleman's mind. On the Monday, in the opinion of the Government, the danger was over. While it lasted the danger was very great; but on the Monday it was over. It was incumbent on the Government, at the earliest opportunity, to dismiss the special constables, and for the moment they were quite satisfied that the city was safe in the charge of the regular police; they wished to show that they had absolute confidence in that body—a confidence which had lasted to this day, and would, he hoped, last as long as the Dublin Police existed. That was the history of the matter, so far as the unwillingness of the Government to avail themselves of the offer made by the hon. Member on the Monday was concerned. He must own, however, that when the hon. Member asked the Government to transfer the charge of the Dublin Police to the Dublin Municipality, he did not feel encouraged to take that stop by the hon. Member's observations as to the appointment of those police for the protection of persons who were in danger, for he could not regard that as political service. He did not consider the protection of Judges and juries political service; and he could not allow that the police were engaged as political protectors. He regarded those persons upon whom the police were carrying on what hon. Members might, if they chose, call "espionage," as the enemies of public order—the enemies just as much of the hon. Member as of the Irish Government; and he thought it would be extremely hard to find any one part of their duties which could be described as political service. The Government had the strongest confidence in the attitude of both the Police and the Constabulary in Dublin. As to another question which the hon. Member put, saying lie doubted whether he would be able to give an answer, on the whole, he thought the hon. Member would acquiesce in his not doing so.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, he should be sorry, on account of the position he 97 wished to take in Irish politics—a position of prudence and practical common sense—to convey the impression that he thought the protection of persons, whose lives were in danger, was political and not Executive service; but the necessity for that protection had been brought about by political circumstances, and not by social disaffection.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
wished to ask the Chief Secretary what was the number of Marines actually employed in Dublin at present? The Returns mentioned 298 Marines on duty; but he had heard that more of them had recently been sent over. Then he would like to ask whether these Marines were of any use whatever in detective duty; for he was told by people in Dublin that their walk and demeanour and gestures were well-known to everyone. Even the dogs in the streets knew who they were. Under those conditions, how could they be of any possible use as detectives? Tie should suppose that their very accent would betray them, for he presumed they did not usually speak with a Dublin accent, and so their very speech would betray them. He believed they had been employed to make raids on public-houses in Dublin; but did anything ever come of those raids to help to the discovery of crimes? Had not the discovery of crimes been the work of the detectives themselves? Was any good accomplished by the introduction of strange and anomalous Marines into the Municipal Force of Dublin? He believed they were paid at a higher rate—at least, twice that of the regular force. How long did the Chief Secretary intend to pursue this system? How many were there of them; and how soon would the right hon. Gentleman get rid of them?
§ MR. TREVELYAN,
in reply, stated that there were 300 Marines and officers in Dublin. He was unable to say how long the Government intended to employ them. They had been of the greatest use in keeping order during the most serious matters of all—conflicts in the streets of a murderous character. It must be in the memory of the hon. Gentleman that, if he recollected rightly, on one and the same night there was a sort of battle royal fought in line of battle between the police and people, who were presumed to belong to a gang of "Invincibles," while another party 98 went out for the almost successful purpose of murdering Mr. Field.
§ MR. SEXTON
The Abbey Street occurrence was on the Saturday, and the attack on Mr. Field was on the Monday.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, there was evidence that that was not the only case which was planned for the same evening; but it was beyond doubt that in the streets and Parks of Dublin there were these occurrences, which he might call homicides, of a political nature, and which, if not suppressed, would have been a source of great danger. Since the Marines had been sent there the peace of the city at a great crisis—not a political crisis, but when it was threatened by a desperate gang of murderers—had been preserved; and the Government were quite confident that unless the law had been strengthened, and in that manner, the consequences would have been most serious.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
asked whether the Chief Secretary could give any idea of the number of men searched in public-houses in Dublin by police and Marines, and of the results of those searches? The Marines were chiefly associated with the searches in public-houses in Dublin; and he had read more than once, in the Dublin correspondence of The Times, that these searches in public-houses averaged about 100 per night; but he never read that any discoveries had followed from these searches. These were outrageous insults; and there was no man in Dublin who had been searched in a public-house in whose memory that search would not burn for all time, and whose friends would not in their hearts resent these atrocious proceedings. He hoped the Government would state how many persons had been searched, and what had been gained therefrom. The sympathy of people all over Ireland was roused when they found that their fellow-countrymen were outraged and insulted, not only by police who were at least Irishmen by name, but by men who were brought over from England, and sent to every public-house to search every person they found there. These searches were probably still going on; and he wanted to know how long they were to continue; how many searches had been made, and what had been gained by them?
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had left the House at a very inconvenient moment, inasmuch as two very important questions had just been asked. One of these related to the searching of public-houses in Dublin, which on one night took place to the number of 116 in the City of Dublin. The police on the occasion entered the houses, while a guard of Marines remained at the door. Not only was every man, but every woman, on the premises searched, and that not in the humane way prescribed in the case of prison discipline, but in a manner altogether offensive to humanity. He pointed out that the searching of men with brutality, and women with indecency, was likely to leave upon the minds of the people of Ireland an impression unfavourable to the preservation of order; and he said that when such things, contrary to the sense of the community, were done, Irish Members were entitled to ask whether they had produced any commensurate results? Was there any evidence to show that the result justified the means? Had the searches resulted in the discovery of arms or documents they might have been satisfied; but if they were nugatory, and without any such result, he thought they might claim some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that they would not be resorted to in future. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it was true that, in the case of the Marines brought from England for the maintenance of peace in Dublin, the sergeants received £2 and the men 35s. a week?—because the pay of a police sergeant in Dublin was not more than 30s. a week.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, the searches dated from the time when the police were fighting in the dark against a terrible and mysterious conspiracy. The method adopted was, undoubtedly, a most unusual one; but the nature of the crimes to be detected was so unusual that it was necessary to resort to these means. If no great discovery had been made it was no reason why the searches might not have been successful, and productive, perhaps, of some slight circumstance which would lead to important results. On the whole, he thought a Minister would be to blame to make the time when the Estimates were brought forward the occasion for giving a promise which otherwise he would not have 100 given; and, therefore, he hoped the hon. Member opposite would be contented with a general expression of views, which would probably be more satisfactory to him, and more honourable to the man who made it, than would be the case with a promise given under compulsion. With regard to the Marines, it was as the hon. Member had stated. The Marine, undoubtedly, got an addition to his home pay under the exceptional circumstances in which he was employed; but it must be recollected that if it were necessary to send men of the Dublin Police to any towns in England to act in the case of an emergency, there would be an addition to their pay which would bring it up to the amount which the Marines in Dublin were now receiving. Everyone knew that the Marines lived in barracks surrounded by their families; and if they were taken away for a special reason to a part of the country where a dangerous state of things existed, the extraordinary pay which he received was only natural under the circumstances.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he was very glad to observe that the right hon. Gentleman evidently considered that the action of the Marines and Police authorities in Dublin in making these wholesale searches, not only of the premises, but of individuals at night, was not a practice which he would like to see sanctioned or recommended for use again. But he wished to ask the Attorney General for Ireland under what Act of Parliament these searches of individuals were made in their own houses; and whether he would state the form of warrant which was granted by the Lord Lieutenant enabling the searches to be made? He found, under the 14th section of the Prevention of Crime Act, that it was lawful for the Lord Lieutenant, from time to time, by warrant in a prescribed form, to direct Inspectors or Sub-Inspectors to search for and seize in a proclaimed district, or any part thereof specified in the warrant, any of the following articles:—that was to say, arms, documents, and, so forth; and, under the 2nd sub-section of that Section, any Inspector or Sub-Inspector was authorized to enter at any time into any house, building, or place, for the purpose of executing such warrant. But it was not authorized, under any law that he was acquainted with, to search a person 101 without taking him or her to the police barracks; and it did not appear that the section of the Statute he had cited gave absolute power to the police to make these searches, without arresting and taking to the police barracks the person to be searched; otherwise it would be possible, under such an interpretation of the Statute, for a policeman to arrest a person in the street and to search him on the spot before the eyes of the public. He could not think it was the intention of the Legislature to give permission to search persons on the premises for the purposes specified in the Act. He would like the Attorney General for Ireland to read the formal warrant under which policemen or Marines in Dublin were authorized to search individuals on the premises in Dublin for the arms, documents, and instruments which were supposed to be concealed there. He would also like to know what had resulted from the searches—whether the police made any discovery whatever by resorting to the extraordinary means adopted on the occasion?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PORTER)
said, his impression was that the searches in question were not made under the Prevention of Crime Act, but under the Arms Act of the previous year, by which power was given to search for arms, and to arrest persons and take them before a magistrate. Under the ordinary law, if there was suspicion of felony to justify the arrest, there would be power to search. Although in most cases no arms were found, yet that was no measure of the utility of the search, because no doubt it prevented, in many cases, persons carrying arms. That was one advantage of the searches. However, he agreed that it was not a practice which should be resorted to, except under most pressing circumstances.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he was glad to receive the statement of the Attorney General for Ireland that the searches were made under the Prevention of Crime Act. If that were the case, however, it was a breach of the law, because the Act named by the right hon. and learned Gentleman provided that persons when arrested should be taken to the police barracks to be searched. That answer was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), in reply to Irish 102 Members, when the Bill was under discussion. But it was notorious that in the searches which took place the Marines did enter these public-houses and search people on the spot. The power which the right hon. and learned Gentleman alluded to, under the ordinary law, of arresting and searching a person suspected of being about to commit a felony did not extend to searching people on the spot, as was done on the occasion referred to. Every person arrested, under circumstances of suspicion that he was about to commit a felony, must be taken to the police barracks; that was the law as laid down in the discussions on the Arms Act, and he was not aware that it had been altered since.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PORTER)
said, that when there was reasonable suspicion of felony the police might arrest and search on the spot. He could not state the number of persons arrested and searched.
§ MR. LEAMY
asked if the right hon. and learned Gentleman meant to say that the police might enter a public building when a number of persons were collected and search them on the spot? Would he say that it was right for the police to surround a field where a meeting was being held and search everyone present, because some persons attending it might happen to have arms? Everyone knew that the search was made for arms, and that it was unsuccessful. He was surprised to hear this doctrine laid down by so able a lawyer as the right hon. and learned Gentleman. There was no reason why, on the same principle, the police should not enter a church, and search all the persons present on the suspicion that some of them were carrying arms. If such things were allowed, he could see no use in having any law at all, or any Acts of Parliament.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he could not understand how the Government could not state the number of persons who had been, arrested and searched in the public-houses in Dublin. He presumed the police and Marines were required to make some kind of Return to Dublin Castle of the persons arrested; and he might have to ask a question upon the subject at a future time, if the 103 number of arrests could not be given on the present occasion.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, if the hon. Member put the Question to him under Notice he would endeavour to satisfy him.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
asked the right hon. Gentleman to state whether any Return of these searches was made, showing the number of persons searched on each particular occasion?
§ MR. T.P. O'CONNOR
said, he wished to refer to the legal point raised by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). The Attorney General for Ireland had stated his impression to be that the searches took place under the Arms Act of 1881. He had since looked at the Act, and found that it was provided that any person carrying, or reasonably suspected of carrying, any arms in contravention of the Act might be arrested without warrant by a police officer, and, as soon as he reasonably could be, conveyed before a Justice of the Peace, in order to be dealt with according to law. It was important to observe that the people arrested on the occasion in question were not brought before a Justice of the Peace.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PORTER)
said, he had stated that it was his impression that some of the searches took place under the Arms Act, on the reasonable suspicion of arms being on the premises. He had also said that searches were made on the spot under the ordinary law when there was reasonable suspicion of felony.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
remarked that the Attorney General for Ireland had fallen back on the Common Law. He asked whether, by the Common Law, the police were authorized to search a person unless there was ground for supposing that such person, as an. individual and not as a member of a general gathering in a particular place, was about to commit a felony? Did the Common Law give the police or the Government the right to cause a number of persons, all and sundry, to be examined as if they were all about to commit felony, because there might be some individual amongst them who might be reasonably suspected of having 104 the intention to commit it? He denied that this principle was sanctioned by the Common Law. If the Common Law allowed any individual to be searched because he was reasonably suspected of being about to commit a felony, it did not allow the police to search all and sundry simply because there was a suspicion that some one individual was in the possession of arms.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he thought it would be more convenient to get this question raised in the Irish Court of Queen's Bench. What was the use of asking the Government whether a certain outrage was legalized under the Prevention of Crime Act? If it was not legalized under the Common Law it was legalized under something else. If a Statute of Victoria would not do, one of the Acts of Charles I. might. If a Statute of Charles I. was unfit for the Government purpose, why, then, the right hon. and learned Gentleman could go back to Edward III, and from that reign to the Heptarchy, for a justification of their action. The further the Government went back in search of an Act that would legalize the brutal system at work in Ireland, the more hearty would be the applause from the Liberal Benches. He thought the whole course of the discussion must have convinced Irish Members that there must be a new departure taken in Irish national affairs. The brutal apathy with which Irish protests were met by English public opinion must impress upon the Irish National Party the necessity of taking legitimate steps to promote a livelier attention on the part both of the British Government and the British public.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 12; Noes 63: Majority 51.—(Div. List, No. 28.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
(4.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £3,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, for the Expense of the Superintendence of Prisons, and of the Maintenance of Prisoners in Prisons in Ireland, and of the Registration of Habitual Criminals.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, there were some things in this Vote which he was anxious 105 to bring before the attention of the Committee. The subject of prison treatment was a subject which had engaged the attention of the Irish Members for many Sessions. In the Session of 1877, during the passage of the Prisons Act—an Act which placed the local prisons of the country, English, Irish, and Scotch, under the jurisdiction of the Central Government—the Home Office in England, and the Prisons Board in Ireland—the Irish Members directed the attention of the House of Commons to several matters of considerable importance; and he was glad to say they had succeeded in obtaining for untried prisoners special statutable guarantees—guarantees which were inserted in the Act, and became the law of the land—that, for the future, untried prisoners, and certain other classes of prisoners—namely, prisoners convicted of sedition and seditious libel, should receive a special and exceptional treatment. During the discussion of the Prevention of Crime Act, the Irish Members again brought the question of the prison treatment of different classes of prisoners before the House; and the right hon. Gentleman the then Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant was good enough to say that he would appoint a Royal Commission for the purpose of inquiring into every question affecting the prisons in Ireland, and the treatment of prisoners therein. That Commission had, he believed, been appointed; but, as yet, he had not heard that it had held any sitting, or had taken any steps whatever to carry out the objects of its appointment. The right hon. Gentleman also during last Session—not the Autumn Sitting, but the early part of last Session—promised that he would still further ameliorate the condition and treatment of prisoners awaiting trial, and that he would endeavour to make the food of these prisoners at least as good as that of those detained under the Coercion Act of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). Well, he was sorry to say that, so far from the treatment of untried prisoners having been ameliorated since the promise which the right hon. Gentleman had given, in the particular instances which had come under their notice it had been distinctly altered for the worse. Not only had the right hon. Gentleman not done anything to better the condition of untried prisoners while 106 in prison, but, as he (Mr. Parnell) thought he should be able to show, the statutory guarantees granted to untried prisoners had been distinctly violated in the treatment of prisoners awaiting trial on charges of murder and murder conspiracy in Dublin at the present moment. He trusted the Chief Secretary would excuse him for calling attention to this matter. It was a question in which he had always been very much interested, and which he had specially studied from the first moment of his entrance into Parliamentary life; and it was with the greatest possible disappointment that he found the guarantees they had fought for and won from the Conservative Party, when they were in Office, had been filched from untried prisoners in Ireland by the Imperial Government. It would be impossible for the Irish Members to allow this matter to pass by without drawing the attention of the House of Commons to it. He should always look back at the concessions they had obtained from the late Parliament in favour of the soldiers and sailors of Her Majesty with the greatest pride; and he should resist any attempt, such as that which had been recently made, to render nugatory the provisions of the law, and to set up an arbitrary standard of treatment and arbitrary rules for that treatment, from time to time, as the necessities of particular cases, or of a particular case, might seem to require, in entire forgetfulness of the provisions in the Statute Book, which were such an honour to the Prisons Act of 1877. He would give the Committee, shortly, the provisions of the Act of 1877, which he considered had been violated by the Lord Lieutenant in the treatment of the prisoners awaiting trial for the murder conspiracy in Dublin. The 13th section of the Prisons (Ireland) Act was introduced after very long discussion in the House—very heated and excited discussion—by the right hon. Gentleman the then Home Secretary of the Conservative Government (Mr. Cross). This section was a very remarkable one. It was almost in the nature of an Act in itself. It was, at the very least, the solemn declaration of the intention of Parliament at that time, and the intention of both Parties in the House, that a clear distinction should be made between the treatment of untried prisoners and convicted prisoners, 107 since the English law held that prisoners until they were found guilty should be looked upon as innocent. This section said, in effect, that whereas it was expedient that a clear difference should be made between the treatment of prisoners unconvicted of crime, and in law presumably innocent during the period of their detention in prison for safe custody only, and the treatment of prisoners who had been convicted of crime during their detention in prison for the purpose of punishment, and in order to secure such difference there should be certain rules prepared to render the detention of untried prisoners as little as possible oppressive, due regard only being had to their safe custody, to the necessity of conformity to general rules for the purpose of maintaining order and good government in the place in which they were confined, and to the physical and moral well-being of the prisoners; therefore it should be enacted that the General Prisons Board should make, subject to the approval of the Lord Lieutenant and the Privy Council of Ireland, certain Rules and regulations. Then followed three sub-sections, which gave in more detail the particular direction the Rules in question were to take, and the purposes they were supposed to cover. Now, in pursuance of that section, the Irish Prisons Board—for the Lord Lieutenant had no power to make or alter Prison Rules—had prepared certain Rules. The function was given to this body by the Statute to which he had referred in regard to Irish prisoners. In pursuance of the provisions of the Statute, on the 22nd of March, 1878, the Duke of Marlborough, then Lord Lieutenant, sanctioned a set of Prison Rules for the treatment of untried prisoners. To some of these Rules he (Mr. Parnell) would draw the attention of the Committee, and he would then proceed to show how they had been broken in the particular case of the treatment of these prisoners in Dublin. The prisoners were to have, on the payment of a small sum fixed by the Prisons Board, the assistance of some person appointed by the Governor, relieving him from the performance of any unaccustomed task or offices—The Visiting Committee must permit persons awaiting trial to have supplied to them at their own expense such books, newspapers, or other means of occupation, other than those furnished by the prison, as are not in their opinion, or, in their absence, pending their approval, in 108 the opinion of the Governor, of an objectionable kind.The Visiting Committee were also to be permitted to prolong the period of visits to prisoners—Each prisoner awaiting trial will be permitted to be visited by one person, or, if circumstances permit, by two persons at the same time, for a quarter of an hour during any week day, during such hour as may, from time to time, be appointed.Then there was the Rule he had referred to out of its order—All untried prisoners shall, at their request, be allowed to see their legal advisers, by which is to be understood a certificated solicitor or his clerk, if such clerk is furnished by his principal with a written authority, on any week day at any resonable hour, and, if required, in private, hut, if necessary, in view of an officer in the prison.The object of that was, of course, to prevent any improper communication taking place between the prisoner and his legal adviser; and at Kilmainham, to his (Mr. Parnell's) knowledge, there was a cell specially fitted up for the purpose of interviews between prisoners and their legal advisers. It had a glass door, so that a warder could stand there to see that nothing that was prohibited by the Prison Rules was passed to the prisoner by his adviser, while the warder could hear anything that passed between the two—Paper and all other writing materials shall be furnished. Any confidential written communication prepared as instructions to a solicitor may be delivered personally to him or his clerk, without being examined by the officer of the prison; but all other written communications are to be considered as letters, and are not to be sent out of the prison without having been previously inspected by the Governor.The points in which he alleged that the Prison Rules thus framed, with the sanction of the Duke of Marlborough, had been broken—he supposed under the direction of the Duke—were the following:—The prisoners had not been allowed to see any of their relatives or any of their friends. They had been kept in solitary confinement since their arrest. They had been refused permission to see their legal advisers, except in the presence of a warder, who had been placed—as he had been informed by the public reports he had seen in the newspapers—in such a position as to hear everything that passed between the 109 two. He (Mr. Parnell) need not say that he should be very glad to be corrected by the Chief Secretary as regarded any of these matters if he were wrong; but statements to that effect had appeared in the newspapers, and he had no reason to suppose that the information was incorrect. It would seem, if the information was correct, that the defence of the prisoners had been disclosed to the warders, and possibly also to the Crown authorities. The prisoners had not been permitted to read any newspapers since their arrest. They had not been permitted to write to any of their relatives, or to write upon anything whatever in relation to their businesses. The deprivation of visitors, the detention of these prisoners in solitary confinement, the presence of a warder during interviews between the prisoners and their legal advisers, and the refusal to allow the prisoners to read any newspapers, were the points to which he had to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, with the exception of this—that the prisoners had been, for a certain time, compelled to clean out their own cells. They had not been allowed the services of convicted persons, or persons especially set aside for the purpose under the provisions of the Rules. In fact, the whole spirit of their treatment had been this—it would seem as if it was sought to convey the impression that these persons were guilty, absolutely before they had been tried, or convicted of any offence. The whole spirit of the treatment of these men had been entirely opposed to the spirit of the Act of 1877 and the Rules that had been framed in accordance with that Act. He would now go on to another branch of the subject. When the Prevention of Crime Act was passing through Committee, the Irish Members had drawn attention to the treatment of the agrarian and political prisoners who might be convicted under the Summary Jurisdiction Clause. They urged the Government that it would be most desirable that some separate treatment should be adopted in the case of these prisoners—that they should not be kept in association with prisoners convicted of ordinary offences, and that so much relaxation of the ordinary Prison Rules should be granted them during their period of imprisonment as might be possible under the circumstances. In 110 fact, they would have wished that some separate clause specially governing the treatment of this class of prisoners had been inserted in the Act—that power had been given to the Lord Lieutenant especially governing the treatment of this class of prisoners. The justice of the position the Irish Members took up had been rendered manifest by occurrences which had recently taken place at Spike Island, where, in consequence of the association of agrarian prisoners with other prisoners, riots had broken out, which might have resulted in serious loss of life, and which the authorities had found it necessary to rigorously quell. He did not know that these riots had been occasioned by agrarian prisoners; but the disturbances—according to what he had seen in the newspapers—were in some way due to the mixing up of agrarian prisoners with prisoners who had been convicted of other crimes. Sir Walter Crofton, late Director of Prisons in Ireland, gave as his experience of agrarian prisoners that it was most desirable they should be kept separate from other classes of prisoners. Such persons were convicted of offences more or less of a political character. In nine cases out of 10—in 99 out of 100—the offence was committed for the purpose of forwarding the political ideas of the person committing the offence, and not for the purpose of obtaining any advantage for himself or his particular friends. That was the distinction he drew between an offence of a political character and an ordinary offence. A man might rob a house, or he might commit a highway robbery, and that would be an ordinary offence, because it was committed by a man for his own benefit. In like manner, a man might kick his wife to death, being under some idea that the result would be of personal advantage to himself; but the youth who went out in the West of Ireland and committed a Whiteboy offence could not be said to have been actuated by considerations of his own personal gain or profit. However misguided the youth might be in the particular act, still it was an act which he committed for the sake of the public benefit, as he supposed. The journalist indicted under the Intimidation Clauses of the Prevention of Crime Act, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment and a plank bed, committed a political offence, 111 because he committed that offence for the public good, as he supposed—for his motives might be mistaken—and not for his own individual good. Lot them take the ease of Mr. Harrington, or Mr. M'Philpin. Could it be said that these gentlemen had made the speeches for which they had been prosecuted and imprisoned with the idea of gaining benefit for themselves by injuring other people? Certainly not; therefore their offences were of a political character, and, according to his (Mr. Parnell's) contention, called for separate treatment. He wished to ask what the treatment was which was given to persons convicted of these political, or semi-political, or politico-agrarian offences? The Prevention of Crime Act permitted the magistrates to give sentences not exceeding six months' imprisonment with hard labour. First of all he came to the food. A person sent to gaol with hard labour in Ireland would receive to eat, on an average, during his term of imprisonment, per day 16 ounces of bread, and about 8 ounces of potatoes; he would be required to lie on a plank bed during the first month of his imprisonment every night, and during the second month he would be required to lie on that plank bed every alternate night. He would be required to pick oakum, or break stones, or undergo some other form of labour for which, by his previous training, he was altogether unfitted. Take Mr. M'Philpin, Mr. Harrington, Mr.O'Brien, Town Councillor of Cork, Mr. Hodnett, Mr. Healy, and others—no; not Mr. Healy, for he was not imprisoned under the Act, but he might just as well be—these gentlemen were not fit for such work. The cells in which these prisoners were confined were hardly ever warmed in winter. When he (Mr. Parnell) was at Kilmainham, he had to pass through the criminal portion of the prison every day in going out to exercise, and out of curiosity he used to put his hand on the hot water pipes to see if they were heated as he went along. On an average, throughout the winter, these pipes were only heated twice a week; consequently, the cells in which the convicted prisoners were confined were both damp and cold, adding to the aggravation of the semi-starvation which a diet of 16 ounces of bread, and 8 ounces of bad and watery potatoes 112 inflicted upon a prisoner's constitution. The windows of the cells in many cases were broken, so as to let in the cold air. The clothing of the prisoners was entirely insufficient in the winter; and he could see from the appearance of the convicted prisoners in Kilmainham that they were starved by both cold and hunger. Now, what he would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to consider was this—whether some classification of prisoners convicted of offences manifestly of a political character under this exceptional Prevention of Crime Act might not be attempted; and whether, at least, there might not be some better system of treatment for persons who did not come from the ordinary criminal classes—whether they might not be kept separate from the ordinary criminals convicted under the ordinary law of the land, receive a lighter description of work, and a some-what better quality of food, and have some attempt made to warm their cells during the winter time? He had no means of knowing how many persons were at present in prison under the summary jurisdiction powers of the magistrates in Ireland; but he could well understand the large amount of irritation and vindictive feeling which was harboured by the man who had come out of prison if, while in that prison for a political offence, he had been half-starved by cold and hunger, and made to associate with, and do the work of, criminals. He (Mr. Parnell) had thought this would be a good opportunity for directing the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant to these matters. It had always been one of the special stains on the English prison treatment that no distinction was drawn between the political offender and the person who had committed ordinary crime. The laws of France, Germany, and even of Russia, drew this distinction; but until the Act of 1877 was passed, in which the Irish Members had obtained the insertion of special powers for the treatment of prisoners convicted of sedition and seditious libel, there never had been any attempt made in the Statute Book of England to give exceptional treatment by law to political prisoners, although exceptional treatment was often extended to them by the special interference of the authorities. 113 It was useless to say that these offences were not political. Many of them were political in the highest sense, and the Government did not degrade them, or the people who committed them, in the eyes of the Irish people, or in the view of the public opinion of the world, by throwing the offender into prison, and treating him in the horrible and abominable fashion that had been described. He therefore trusted that the right hon. Gentleman might be able to give consideration to the whole matter, and that he would also be able to give him some assurance with regard to the extraordinary treatment of the untried prisoners in Dublin.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had been called upon so often to address the Committee that he had asked him to say a few words in answer to what had fallen from the hon. Member for the City of Cork. He might be permitted to offer a few remarks upon this subject; first of all, because he had some knowledge of the question; and with reference to prisoners generally he had even, perhaps, more experience than his right hon. Friend. The hon. Member for the City of Cork had referred to two subjects—the one was the treatment of untried prisoners, and the other was the treatment of prisoners who had been tried and convicted. He would say a word upon both subjects separately. It was perfectly true that a distinction had been drawn, and properly drawn, between the position and treatment of men who were in prison awaiting trial, and those who were in prison after conviction. It was quite proper and just that it should be so. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the Rules made on the subject, and he had said that those Rules had not been strictly observed in respect to the prisoners who were at present in Kilmainham on the charge of murder. Now, he would begin by saying that the statement of the hon. Member for the City of Cork was, in some particulars, accurate, and in some particulars, according to the information he possessed, inaccurate. In the first place, the prisoners now confined in Kilmainham were allowed, under the Rules, to see their solicitor. That was very proper. Whether warders watched the interview between solicitor and prisoner through 114 glass doors or not, he was unable to inform the hon. Member.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he was sorry neither he nor his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary could speak positively on that subject. The information they had was that the prisoners were allowed to see their solicitor; that they were allowed to correspond with the managers of their business in order to prevent their pecuniary interests suffering. They were allowed also to see the newspapers.
§ MR. PARNELL
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman know since when that privilege has been allowed to them?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that was all the information they possessed. Now, there were two things which the prisoners were not allowed to do. They were not allowed to receive visits from their friends, or to communicate with one another.
§ MR. PARNELL
admitted that, according to the law and the rules in such cases, it was quite right that they should be kept from communicating with each other; but he found fault that they were not allowed to see their friends, even through gratings.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he was answering the complaints made by the hon. Member when he used the words "solitary confinement," and as to their not seeing their friends. He (Sir William Harcourt) must leave it to the judgment of the Committee whether, considering the character of the offences they were charged with, considering the formidable and malignant character of the secret society with which it was alleged they were connected, it would not entirely defeat the whole objects of justice if these prisoners were allowed freely to communicate with their private friends in Dublin? He took as much responsibility upon himself as rested upon Lord Spencer in this matter; and he maintained that no Government would be justified in allowing such a state of things; circumstances must govern these matters. Though it might be a rule, and a proper rule, in cases of ordinary offences, that prisoners should be allowed communication with their friends, he thought every reasonable man would admit that the present was a case in which an exception was absolutely ne- 115 cessary. That really was the answer he had to make to the hon. Member for the City of Cork upon that head. The second exception really followed that which he had alluded to. The hon. Gentleman complained that the prisoners were not allowed to receive or send letters on private matters. Now, they were allowed to see their solicitors for the purposes of their defence; they were allowed to communicate with their men of business for the protection of their pecuniary interests; but they were not allowed communication on private matters; and his contention was that to have allowed such a state of things would have been to defeat the ends of justice altogether. So much for the question of the untried prisoners in the particular case of the Phoenix Park murders, and the attempted murder of the juror, Mr. Field. He would now pass to the other point stated by the hon. Member, which had reference to the prisoners who had been convicted under the Prevention of Crime Act. The hon. Member contended that agrarian offences under that Act should be placed upon a different footing to other crimes. If he (Sir William Harcourt) remembered rightly, that argument was used, and fully discussed, when that Act was passing through the House. He opposed that view, because he did not think that a distinction ought to be made between the motives that led to crime. If they allowed motives to determine the punishment of a crime, the whole system of the suppression of crime would crumble in their hands; and, therefore, he could not, for one moment, admit that the motive of a crime ought to determine its character or its punishment. If he thought it necessary to enter at any length into the subject he should not agree with the hon. Member that these particular agrarian crimes proceeded from the highest motives. On the contrary, it seemed to him that there lay at the bottom of them motives of greed and cupidity. Agrarian crimes were methods by which "no rent" manifestoes were carried out, and he could not regard that as belonging to the highest order of moral virtue. He declined altogether to judge of a crime by its motive. A man committed a crime, and he was punished for it, without any speculation upon the motive in his mind. When a man had 116 cut off the legs of a beast he was surely not to be better fed and bettter treated than any other man, simply because he had acted with a high political motive? In cases of crimes of that character there was no possible reason why any distinction whatever should be made in the punishment of the men. The hon. Member spoke of the Whiteboy offences; but those offences comprehended amongst them the most heinous crimes it was possible to commit. Were they to be covered by the pretext of political virtue? He must say that it would be the most dangerous of all lessons that they could read to the Irish people as a nation, that crime became venial because it was covered by political pretext.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he had no fault to find with the tone of the reply of the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but the substance of the reply was far from satisfactory; in fact, it was no answer whatever to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork. When he saw the right hon. and learned Gentleman rise he did not regard the reply with anything like hope; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman had actually made the case of his hon. Friend somewhat better than it appeared after the speech of his hon. Friend. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had made it appear that at present, at any rate, the prisoners confined upon the tremendous charge of murder were allowed to have intercourse and converse with their legal representatives; but he did not say whether they were allowed to have conference in such a way that it should be private, so far as the officers of the prison were concerned. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not able to say whether a warder was present during the conferences, or whether he merely watched the interview through glass doors. It must be apparent to the Committee that it was in the highest degree important that interviews between solicitor and client must be strictly private; and therefore the whole point of the case was whether or not the warder was allowed to hear what passed? If he was so allowed, the right of defence of the prisoner was absolutely taken away. He did not see what justification the right hon. and learned Gentleman considered there was for preventing these men from communicating with their friends by letter, not- 117 withstanding the character of the crimes with which they were charged. Why should not the Governor of the prison read the letters going out and the letters coming in, and thus be able to satisfy himself that there was nothing contained in those letters detrimental to the cause of justice? In like manner, he could not understand why the prisoners should not be allowed to be visited by their families and friends. He had heard through the public Press that in some of the cases of the men now confined in Kilmainham, the family circumstances were of the most sorrowful description; and that it would be a great consolation to the relatives of the men, as well as to the unfortunate men themselves, if communication between them were permitted. Under Forster's Act the regulation was that visitors should be allowed to see the prisoners across two partitions, the visitor standing on one side, the prisoner on the other, and the warder between them. The warder, therefore, could hear every word spoken, and nothing possibly could pass without his knowledge. That was allowed, no matter how serious, and tremendous, and grave were the interests of justice involved; and he (Mr. Sexton) maintained that it was wanton and unreasonable, and, in fact, a breach of the law, to forbid the men now imprisoned in Kilmainham having a reasonable right of access from their families and relatives. If the Home Secretary was able to show the Committee that the reasonable claims of justice would be endangered by permitting the interviews between prisoners and friends, he would not say a single word in favour of such interviews; because he recognized that the Government, having a number of men in prison on a serious charge, was entitled to protect itself, was entitled to sustain the charge by every fair and legitimate means. But it would be perfectly easy for the Government to allow three things—to allow restrained intercourse between solicitor and client, to allow the prisoners to receive visits from their wives, families, and friends under the same restrictions as were enforced under Forster's Coercion Act. These three privileges might be allowed, without in any way interfering with the cause of justice. Now, as to the second class of prisoners—namely, those who were convicted of offences under the Prevention of Crime Act. The Home Secre- 118 tary, as he (Mr. Sexton) expected, refused to recognize the political character of any crime whatever in Ireland; but whatever the Home Secretary might refuse to do, a difference was embedded in the hearts and consciences, and common sense of man; every nation recognized, every code of law recognized, that there was a clear and wide difference between a criminal who committed a crime through jealousy or love, or to rid himself of an inconvenience, or to gain for himself some advantage, or for some other personal motive—there was a gulf of a difference between that criminal and the man—he did not say a man who houghed or maimed cattle—who by any act done, or by any words spoken, endeavoured, however mistaken he might be, to advance the public interest. All mankind recognized that difference. He asked, what was the object of torturing the Mayor of Wexford, whose only crime was that, being the proprietor of a newspaper, he had allowed the insertion in his newspaper—he (Mr. Sexton) believed quite inadvertently—of a resolution passed by a Land League branch? Of course, the Home Secretary would say that the effect of that paragraph would be to lead to disorder; but, at any rate, it was evident that the Mayor of Wexford had no such purpose in his mind when he permitted the resolution to appear in his paper. The gentleman was thrown into gaol, and he (Mr. Sexton) went to see him the other day, and at that time he was wearing a grey jacket, living on the most miserable food, living on food, in fact, only sufficient to sustain life; in short, the man was left in a state of most unimaginable misery. He was lying on a plank bed, and was ordered to pick oakum; and he (Mr. Sexton) learned from the prison chaplain that because the Mayor of Wexford had failed to complete his task of picking oakum he was subjected to the treatment ordinarily applied to criminals in such cases. When he (Mr. Sexton) presented himself at the prison he asked that the fact of his having done so should be conveyed to the prisoner; but he was told that the fact would be only made known to the Mayor of Wexford when he was leaving the gaol. What good purpose, he asked again, could be served by torturing the Mayor of Wexford in this manner? When the gentleman left the prison he was 119 met by the citizens of the town. The man who had worn the ordinary grey prison jacket, who had been required to eat the worst food, was, when be was released, met by his fellow-citizens, and led in procession round the town. He contended that when the Government tortured a man like the Mayor of Wexford, they had only planted in his mind the seeds of permanent hatred, and made the whole community enemies of the system of government under which they lived. He would revert, for a few moments, to the case of M'Philpin and the Loughrea reporters, who were guilty of the hideous crime of remaining in a field after a meeting convened to be held there had been proclaimed. These reporters were remaining in the exercise of their professional duty; they did not leave the field as rapidly as the magistrate thought they ought; and, therefore, they were sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. Mr. M'Philpin, who was the editor of The Tuam News, and his fellow-prisoners were removed from one prison to another, clothed in the ordinary convict dress. The memory of such atrocities would not leave the minds of the people of the West of Ireland for many years to come; and if the Home Secretary could show that any good purpose whatever could be served by treating men in that way it would greatly surprise him. Again, what was the crime Mr. Harrington, the Member for County Westmeath, had committed? It was that he had made a speech in which he told the farmers that unless they did certain things the whole force of the labourers' agitation would be turned against them. It certainly required a great deal of reading between the lines to find anything wrong in that. Mr. Harrington had been thrown into gaol, ordered to wear the customary grey jacket, and was subjected to the ordinary prison treatment. On the day he was elected Member for Westmeath, he (Mr. Sexton) desired to see him, and he addressed a note to the Director of Prisons, informing him of his desire to see Mr. Harrington, and requesting him to obtain the necessary permission. Next morning the Governor of the gaol was told that if he (Mr. Sexton) called he was to be allowed to see Mr. Harrington personally; but an hour or two afterwards there came another telegram instructing the Governor that if he (Mr. 120 Sexton) presented himself he was on no account to be allowed inside the prison. It appeared that the Prison Rule was not only ferocious, but cowardly. So long as they had Mr. Harrington in gaol, shut away from the public and the scrutiny of the public, they were satisfied. That Gentleman, however, would presently be in the House of Commons to answer for himself. He hoped the Prime Minister had paid attention to the few observations that he had made, and that greater latitude would be allowed to the men in Kilmainham. He would also appeal to the Home Secretary to reconsider his decision, that there ought to be no difference of treatment in the case of political and other offences.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
begged to propose a reduction of the Vote by £1,000, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would take advantage of the Amendment to answer some of the points raised by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). What possible harm or danger could there be in allowing the prisoners to have interviews with their wives and families, subject, of course, to all the safeguards that the Prison Rules provided? He quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) that the Committee had no right to scrutinize too narrowly the action of the Government in regard to the prosecutions they thought necessary to take respecting a conspiracy of the character of the one which they were now dealing with; but he could not imagine that if interviews between the prisoners and their relatives were permitted that conspiracy would be aided in any respect. A warder would, of course, listen to all they had to say, and, if necessary, he would be able to put a stop to any portion of the conversation that might appear to him dangerous. The men were in a very terrible position; and that very fact, in his mind, ought to induce the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to see that no unnecessary torture was imposed upon them. He wished also to ask why it was that these men should not be able to see their legal advisers under the restrictions provided by law, and under those restrictions only; and whether the Lord Lieutenant was or was not justified, under any circumstances, in breaking the law, which was made for him as well as for 121 other people? Was he not breaking, not only the letter, but the spirit of the law, in refusing to let these men see their counsel under the legal restrictions and in the presence of the warders? The hon. Member for Sligo had alluded to some tragical occurrences in the families of these men during their incarceration; and, however heinous their crime might be, they should not be deprived of the miserable consolation of communicating with their friends and relatives under such circumstances. He would not go over the controversy which the Home Secretary had raised as between political and ordinary crime; but he thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view was not that of his Colleagues. If ordinary and political crime were the same, why was it that in Extradition Treaties political crime was specially distinguished from all other crime? Mr. Byrne was accused of being an accessory to murder; murder was an ordinary crime; but the French Government had refused to extradite him, because, in their opinion, he had a political motive. He believed he was correct in saying that a great many offences which would otherwise be ordinary crimes, if they could be shown to have political motives, would not come under Extradition Treaties. Could an intimidating paragraph or speech be treated as a political crime? When the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Harrington) took his seat in that House, could it be said that hon. Members in any part of the House would have the same feeling towards him as if he had been imprisoned for stealing, or maiming cattle, or murder? Did anyone believe there was any moral guilt or opprobrium to be visited upon his head, because, in the course of a political speech, he had used some words which, in the opinion of his political opponents, might be of an intimidating character? Would anybody refuse to make the acquaintance of a man imprisoned for a political speech, as they would of a man imprisoned for stealing? If that was so, was it right or proper that the hon. Member should be subjected to all the degrading circumstances of prison life? Mr. Harrington was dragged through the streets of Cork with his own clothes behind him, and wearing a prison jacket. What would be the feeling of the people when they saw a respected journalist of that city dragged through the 122 streets in handcuffs, as though he were a felon? That scene would not pass from the memory of the people for a long time to come. The Chief Secretary ought never to forget that he had to deal with something more than a mere temporary problem in Ireland. England had to carry on the government of that country; but the present Ministry were making wider every day the chasm of hatred between the two countries by these atrocious acts in regard to respectable men like Mr. Harrington. He begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,000, he granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, for the Expense of the Superintendence of Prisons, and of the Maintenance of Prisoners in Prisons in Ireland, and of the Registration of Habitual Criminals."—[Mr, T. P. O'Connor.)
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he had hoped the Chief Secretary would have promised, at least, to consider the various points that had been brought before him.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, it was through no disrespect to the hon. Members for Cork and Galway that he did not rise sooner; but he had not considered that the questions were put interrogatively with reference to some details on the Estimate. He had rather taken it for granted that the hon. Members had chosen this very proper occasion to impress certain views on the Government, and especially upon himself. Those views he knew they held, and, to a certain extent, he held them himself; but not to such an extent as to lead him to assent to a serious change being made in the policy pursued by the Irish Government. With regard to the difference between political and ordinary crime, acting, as it seemed to him, on the lines of the Prevention of Crime Act of last year, and thinking that Parliament was, on the whole, right in the details of that Statute, Lord Spencer and himself, advising, when necessary, with the Home Secretary, had sought to carry out the will of Parliament by arresting people who had brought themselves within that Act, and treating them as they had been treated. They had certainly not strained the Prevention of Crime Act against any 123 prisoner. In the case of Mr. Harrington, he thought it would be recognized that the utmost that could be done had been done by the Executive; and what had been done showed that the Executive admitted that it was, perhaps, a little unfortunate that Mr. Harrington was in the position in which he found himself during the first two or three days. But when he came to the case of the Loughrea "suspects" and the Ballina meetings, he must join issue with the hon. Member, for he thought the circumstances under which those persons found themselves within the scope of the law were such as to very much resemble what was criminal and also political. The distinction between political and ordinary crime which the hon. Member for the City of Cork drew was one which he could never allow, and in Ireland least of all countries. The hon. Member had alluded to the mixture of agrarian and ordinary criminals in prison. Well, some of the agrarian prisoners were in prison for the most dreadful crimes—beating men within an inch of their lives and other offences, which were caused by some personal or family quarrel about laud; and he thought that whore a Whiteboy offence was committed under circumstances of that kind, he could not allow it to be named a political crime. However, the Government would always consider whether the character of an offence was such as to justly allow a distinction to be made between an ordinary criminal and a person suffering under the Prevention of Crime Act; but in nothing they did would they depart from the principles which Parliament evidently meant to lay down in that Act—namely, that the punishment should not only be preventive, by shutting people up in prison, but should also be deterrent, by sending men to prison under that Act, under such conditions as would deter other persona from imitating his example. With respect to the treatment of the Dublin prisoners, he had nothing to add to what had been said by his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. What had been done was done after long deliberation, and very unwillingly, from the highest motives of public safety. Hon. Members must recollect that during the first eight months of last year four people were done to death under circumstances which 124 rendered it almost certain that they were killed for having broken the laws or violated the policy of a secret society. Under those circumstances, the Government knew as well as possible that the lives of recognized informers, and the lives of possible informers, were in danger. The Government knew that if they were right as to the men arrested belonging to secret societies, those men were quite capable of communicating with their friends, even in the presence of a warder, by words and tones which would convey quite a sufficient meaning. [Mr. PARNELL: No, no!] That, at all events, was the motive with which these strict Rules were passed—to protect the lives of people outside the prison, and prevent evidence being obtained by intimidation, or oven got ready by more serious means. That this view was not cruel was proved by the fact that there was grave suspicion that these men belonged to secret societies, which would not stop at anything to gain their end; and after long consideration it was thought necessary to pass these Rules. He would certainly, however, communicate with the Lord Lieutenant on the first opportunity, and ask him whether there were any circumstances which would enable him to allow this or that Rule to be relaxed, as some of them had been, although he admitted that they were harsh enough now. This was one of the painful results of the extraordinary condition of Dublin City; but the object of the Government was to put down crime, which was as much to the interest of hon. Members from Ireland as to the interest of the Government.
§ MR. PARNELL
inquired if there had been any Rules framed to regulate the treatment of the particular prisoners under the Act of 1877; and, if so, whether they could be laid upon the Table? If there were any such Rules, were they framed by the Lord Lieutenant, or by the Prison Board?
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the right hon. Gentleman excused himself on the ground that the necessities of the case justified him in breaking the Statute; but even if that were so, when these men were arrested, surely now, when matters had progressed so far as they had, there was no possible or imaginary 125 necessity for depriving the wives and children of these men of the privilege of seeing them through two sets of bars. He did not admit—and, from his own experience of prison life, did not believe—it was possible to communicate anything which the authorities did not desire to have communicated, when a warder of sufficient character was present. The fears of the Government were entirely imaginary when they supposed that there was any probability that such interviews could be abused and utilized to carry out the objects the right hon. Gentleman had alluded to. But, if that had been possible, it was impossible now.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
admitted that the feeling of the hon. Member was justified to a certain extent; and, although the question was one of extreme gravity, he would further consider these points.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, it was the unanimous wish of that House that people who were arrested under the Prevention of Crime Act should not be subject to the same discipline as ordinary criminals and murderers; and whatever official interests might require, he was sure that the feeling of Englishmen and Irishmen would always be opposed to that form of discipline that had been applied to the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Harrington). He thought the Chief Secretary might mitigate some of these Rules; and if he did so, he could assure him that, at all events, English working men would in no way consider that he was relaxing any efforts to put down crime.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was very well satisfied with the course the discussion had taken, and thanked the hon. Member opposite (Mr. M'Laren) for his interference. He felt that the Chief Secretary had gone as far as he could reasonably be expected to go; and, being confident that the right hon. Gentleman would carry out the kind intention he had expressed, he would withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.