HC Deb 05 August 1885 vol 300 cc1236-50

said, he wished to put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the recent appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the depression of trade and agriculture.


interposed, and, reminding the Speaker that the hon. Member was entering upon a new subject, asked whether it would not be for the convenience of the House that the discussion upon the last topic should be finished?


said, that the hon. Member for Salford was perfectly in Order.


, resuming, said, he desired to know what were the instructions which had been given to the Commission? There was considerable doubt as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government as regarded the great question of free importation as affecting the supply of cheap food for the people. Certain Members of the Government had taken part in a movement that would lead to dear bread, while others were in favour of restrictions upon the importation of live cattle from Germany, which would lead to dear moat. It was most unfortunate that the two Departments of Trade and Agriculture were in the hands of the two most reactionary Members of the Government—namely, the Duke of Richmond and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, though he did not say that since coming into Office the latter right hon. Gentleman had failed to carry out the Resolution of the House on this question. He was not surprised that the Party at present in place, but not in power, should seek to refer the investigation of these questions to Royal Commissions, who were not answerable to that House. Some years ago a Royal Commission was appointed by the Government of Lord Beaconsfield to inquire into the subject of agricultural depression, and that Commission cost the country £40,000. If it were intended to pursue the same course now, the investigation would cost an equal amount of money. Could anyone say that the Royal Commission on Agriculture had attained one of the main purposes for which it was appointed? It had utterly failed to promote the interests committed to its care; and from beginning to end of the Report there was not one word of reference to the use of the remarkable discovery of ensilage for the feeding of cattle. He had pressed for the names of the Gentlemen to whom this very important inquiry was to be entrusted, because, when it was known who were to be Members of the Commission, hon. Gentlemen would be able to form a judgment as to whether it was a body which was likely to command the confidence of the country. He was very much disposed to regard the issue of this Royal Commission as a quack remedy. Lately the newspapers had been full of announcements that persons, more or less distinguished, had positively declined to take seats on this Commission; and he assumed that the refusals must have arisen from a feeling in the minds of those persons that they had no adequate assurance of the policy which Her Majesty's Government intended to follow. He would like to remind Her Majesty's Government of what had been said by the two journals most capable of expressing an opinion on the subject of the Commission—namely, The Times and The Economist. The Times had given it the title of a Commission pourrire, while The Economist remarks—"We predicted that the Commission would be a failure; it is now a fiasco as well." Lord Iddesleigh had himself expressed, sympathy with the Free Trade policy of the country; but in one of his speeches he admitted that— It is perfectly true that there are men in the Conservative Party who, with very great energy. and, I must say, with very great ability and considerable courage, have argued the question from the Protectionist point of view, although his Lordship added that— I am not aware that anyone has put forward the doctrine of Protection otherwise than as a pious opinion. But whatever might be the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite, he was persuaded that the great majority of the people regarded free imports as the best security for the supply of cheap food; and the question now was whether cheap meat and cheap bread were to be treated with respect by the present Government? That question would have to be faced by the Conservative Party at the approaching General Election. Referring to the Copyhold Enfranchisement Bill, which contained nothing of a revolutionary character, the hon. Member regretted the action of the Peers with regard to it, and mentioned the circumstance that Mr. Nicholson, who was Clerk of the Peace for Middlesex, and also the Marquess of Salisbury's private solicitor, sent out a Circular to all stewards of manors throughout the Kingdom with the view of bringing about the rejection of that important measure by the House of Lords. It was impossible, he thought, that Mr. Nicholson could have issued this Circular unless he knew he was acting in a way which would give pleasure to the Prime Minister. He was very much shocked the other day to see evidence of an extraordinary internal dissension in the Conservative Party, especially with reference to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India. [Mr. WARTON: Oh, oh!] Not long ago the noble Lord, when addressing a meeting in Lancashire, suggested that a tax should be levied upon all foreign imports, and said that it would be an easy thing in that way to raise £20,000,000 sterling, which, he proposed, should be devoted to the relief of the agricultural burdens. Many people in Lancashire, when they read those words, were of opinion that the noble Lord had no idea worthy of a statesman, because they saw that if taxation were imposed to the extent of £20,000,000 cut foreign imports that large sum could not be raised except by enormous taxation on the food of the people. The hon. and learned Member opposite exclaimed "Oh!" when he proposed to allude in passing to the internal dissensions of the Conservative Party. He had observed those dissensions with astonishment, for the noble Lord appeared to be a Member of that House who was of a frank and disingenuous character. He remembered an expression used by the late Lord Beaconsfield that Conservative Government was organized hypocrisy There was, however, no Member on the other side of the House who was less open to a charge of hypocrisy than the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock. The noble Lord had given an explanation with reference to the Irish policy of the Government; but an explanation was really not required from him, but from the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and from the First Commissioner of Works. He should like to know how it was possible for them, without being guilty of the charge of hypocrisy, to join a Government which had come to a distinct resolution on an important point of Irish policy before they had had an opportunity of examining the official documents relating to the subject? Gentlemen opposite had profited by the political nimbleness of the noble Lord, and it showed the greatest ingratitude on them to turn round upon him. He saw the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland smile. The right hon. Gentleman recently assured the House that the Government were not going into a line of unbounded gambling.


, interposing, said, he had never used such an expression.


, while accepting the repudiation of the words, said, his ears must have deceived him if he did not recently hear the right hon. Gentleman apologize for gambling; but, however that might be, it was certain that political gambling was the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and the mass of the people had some fear of what might happen during the Recess, when there would be no control exercise able over the vagaries of Her Majesty's present Advisers.


said, he desired to express his regret that the House of Lords should not have found time to pass the Copyhold Enfranchisement Bill, which he considered, on the whole, a good, sound, working measure. With regard to Mr. Nicholson, whose name had been introduced in the discussion, he might remark that that gentleman had been almost the only official opponent of the measure during the four years it had been before the country.


I am rather surprised no Member of Her Majesty's late Government has got up to take part in the debate raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Mallow (Mr. O'Brien). They are the persons whose conduct is chiefly called into account. The hon. Member for Long ford (Sir George Errington) plays in this as insignificant a part as in the other affairs of political life. The real point at issue is the attitude of Her Majesty's late Government to the Court of Rome, and to the appointments in the Catholic Church in Ireland. The hon. Member for the County of Long ford was sent to Rome in order to bring the pressure of the Vatican to bear upon the priesthood of Ireland. The hon. Baronet had no official position, and yet he was the Representative of the late Government at the Vatican. I wish to know whether the late Government had a right to employ an agent, and, while so employing him, had a right to deny all responsibility for his actions, and to give misleading answers in that House in reply to Questions having reference to the connection that existed between him and them. Now, this Errington Mission dates from a period long anterior to that from which my hon. Friend the Member for Mallow has started. It dates from the Chief Secretary ship of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). As the House is aware, the right hon. Member for Bradford had a large number of men in prison without trial. He boasted himself that he had all the murderers in Ireland under lock and key at the very moment when a murderous conspiracy was under his very feet and seeking his own life. But he found that the more men were put in gaol the more crimes were committed; and then, with characteristic cleverness, he arrived at this idea—that it was the priesthood of Ireland who were responsible for the crime of Ireland. Now, he did not think he could venture to imprison many of the priests of Ireland—he had imprisoned one, and he shrank before the storm thus created. Unable to exercise influence over the priests himself, he conceived the idea that he would bring the pressure upon them of their ecclesiastical superiors, thus he came to send Mr. Errington to Rome. Now, Sir, I wish to make two observations on this Mission. First—I congratulate the hon. Member for Long ford on his acceptance of the theory of the man who sent him—that the priests of Ireland were the men who preached and incited to assassination; and, secondly, I want to ask what is the position of the British Government, that took the position of calling in the Pope to assist them in ruling a British Dependency? I do not desire to make any uncomplimentary allusion to the share of the late Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone) in this transaction, as he is absent.


He said he knew nothing about it.


And, as he said, he had nothing to do with it. But the muse of history must have smiled as he recorded the fact that the author of Vaticanism and the other pamphlets was the very man to appeal to the Vatican to help him in doing his own work of governing Ireland. What was the main thesis of these pamphlets. What was the principal argument of those brilliant writings against the Pope if it were not that he was a foreign potentate interfering in the internal affairs of other countries; and yet here is the author of these same pamphlets calling on that same potentate to intervene in the relations between England and Ireland. With regard to the hon. Member for Long ford, I join my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Mallow in congratulating him on the success with which he has got his part of the bargain. He has his Baronetcy. I confess, Mr. Speaker, that I am as unable to understand the type of man who yearns for a Baronetcy, as I am to understand the type of a man who wears stays; but as I have credible information that there are men who wear stays, I accept the fact that there are men who desire Baronetcies. The hon. Gentleman then has got his Baronetcy; but if he be as zealous a supporter of the Catholic Church as he professes to be, I think he ought to have some qualms of conscience as to the price he paid for it. What did he represent himself to be to the Pope? A Representative of Irish opinion. Why, Sir, if he so represented himself, did he take care to add that the last time that he visited his constituency he had to run away through the backdoor of his hotel? So exuberant and excessive was the enthusiasm of his constituents that he did not dare to trust himself to it lest he should be overwhelmed. Does he not know how that while he posed at Rome as a Representative of Irish opinion he could not give an account of his Mission on any platform in the County Long ford, with which I have some acquaintance, without requiring a large protective force? And what was his attitude to the vacant Archbishopric? One man was pointed out by the universal voice of Ireland for his great abilities, his spotless character, his profound learning, and, above all, by his known and undisguised sympathy with the national aspirations of his own country and his own people. Suppose the hon. Member for Long ford had succeeded in his purposes; suppose he had succeeded in getting some nominee of his and of the British Government appointed; and suppose, further, that this letter read by my hon. Friend the Member for Mallow had been published after the appointment, what would have been the result? Suppose, after the appointment of the nominee of England instead of the nominee of Ireland this letter had been published, showing that the Holy See had been cheated, cajoled, humoured, and subjected to pressure from a Protestant Government, what would have been the result among the Irish people? This, that they would be convinced that the foremost See in their Church and in their country was not the reward of eminent piety and learning and character; but was the price of as corrupt a bargain as the lowest ward politician was ever responsible for. I leave the hon. Member for Long ford to strike the nice balance between his Baronetcy and the injury he thus sought to inflict on a cause he professes to hold sacred. With regard to the late Administration, I challenge them to give some explanation of this proceeding. I am not foolish enough, howover, to suppose they will take up the challenge. The other night their reactionary Leader (the Marquess of Hartington) gave to the Liberal Party their cry for the coming appeal to the English and Scotch constituencies. That cry was hatred and injustice to Ireland and the Irish people. If the noble Lord were not a Whig, and thug accustomed to rapid and violent changes of opinion, and to the treacherous treatment of Ireland, he might have thought that the Liberal Party was going in 1885 to the country on the same anti-Irish cry as the Party of Lord Beaconsfield in 1880. I wonder the Liberal Party does not adopt a "No Popery" cry also. The reason must be that they feel conscious of the use they, representing a Ministry of eminent Protestants, had attempted to make of the Pope and the religious feelings of the Irish people.


said, he desired to call the attention of the House to the case of the widow of the late Sergeant Rance, who had been killed by the explosion of a live shell which was being tested with a peculiarly sensitive fuse at Shoeburyness in February last. The widow had been awarded a pension of only £10 12s. 6d. per annum, and a gratuity of £44 in respect of her six children. He was well aware that the Government were tied by hard and fast rules; but it was quite competent for them to unmake the rules and replace them by others. About 10 years ago, when a similar explosion occurred, the attention of the Government was called to the rules, and some relaxation was promised; but nothing had been done. He would remind Her Majesty's Government that by the Treasury Minute the widow of Sergeant Rance was entitled to ten-sixtieths of her husband's pay. His pay was 31s. a-week, and ten-sixtieths of that would be more than the amount which had been granted her. He hoped that the Government would relax these rules, and make special provision for the case of men who were engaged in exceptionally dangerous employment. It seemed absurd to award a sum of 3s. 10d. a-week to a widow whose husband was killed in the service of the State.


said, he wished to join in the appeal which had been already made to the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the present condition of intermediate education in this country. In his opinion the pledges which were given by a Liberal Ministry at the passing of the Education Act with regard to voluntary schools had not been kept. On several occasions the late Prime Minister had expressed his sense of the great value of voluntary schools, and had promised that increased support should be given to them. Not one of the pledges given on this subject by a Liberal Government had been kept, and board schools supported from the rates were now sharing in the grant given for the purpose of voluntary schools. He submitted that the present system of education in this country was most unfair and unjust. The board schools, he might be told, were open to all. That was true in one sense; but it must be remembered that children in entering those schools had to give up their religion, or, at any rate, had to give up combining secular education with religious education. Then he wished to point out that expenditure on education was increasing enormously. This was a matter which ought to receive immediate attention. With regard to the proposition of Miss Helen Taylor that school pence should be dispensed with, he might remark that it meant the pauperization of the whole system of public education in this country. Whether that was a good thing or not it was for Parliament to consider. In his opinion the proposal introduced a principle of a very dangerous character. Looking at the general position of public education in this country he thought he was perfectly justified in asking that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into it.


said, that the hon. Member had supported an appeal which had been made on the Ministerial side of the House to the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Education Act. He could not disguise from himself the fact that this question was regarded with great interest in the country; and he might say that the Government had the greatest possible sympathy with the hon. Member, and with the object he had at heart. Although he could not say that the Government saw the necessity of appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into that question, yet the subject in all its aspects would receive their most careful and fairest attention; and if they found that their information in regard to it was insufficient, they would not scruple to take the ordinary course which ought to be taken in those cases, and to ask for the assistance of a Commission.


said, he rose to complain of the manner in which the Attorney General for Ireland and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had answered Questions which he had recently put in the House in regard to the non-execution of a warrant to enforce payment of the fine of £500 inflicted by the Irish Court of Queen's Bench upon the hon. Member for Mallow (Mr. O'Brien)


rose to Order, and observed that the hon. Member for Wicklow had already spoken in that debate.


pointed out that the hon. Member for Wicklow's previous speech was made on the Amendment.


, continuing, remarked that while he quite recognized the fact that if a Minister of the Crown thought that to answer a particular Question put to him would prejudice the public interests he might, in the exercise of his discretion, refuse to reply to it, yet he held that it was due both to the whole House and to any independent Member of it who asked a Question that he should be treated with some respect. He was not there to whitewash the Members of the late Government; but if the ex-Attorney General for Ireland or the ex-Chief Secretary had failed to do their duty in respect to the execution of that warrant, that was no reason why their successors should also neglect theirs. He absolutely disclaimed all personal animus in this matter; but he held that the editor of an influential Nationalist journal ought not to have been suffered to snap his fingers at the law, either by the late or the present Government, and that such warrants as that against the hon. Member for Mallow should be executed without favour or affection, or regard to Party considerations of any kind. Instead, however, of receiving a civil answer to his Questions on the subject, the Chief Secretary had presumed to reply with a snub, which, however, being undeserved, recoiled on the head of the Minister who had so far forgotten his duty to the House.


said, he desired to express his gratitude to Her Majesty's Government for appointing a Commission to inquire into the depres- sion of trade and agriculture. It was a long series of years since an impartial inquiry had been made into the condition of the trade and agriculture of the country; and the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) seemed to have pointed him (Mr. Newdegate) out as one who desired an inquiry into the state of agriculture, and not that of trade. Now, seeing that he had not taken part in the debate on the subject, that seemed to be rather an unfair attack. He was under a deep impression that the system of free imports, to which this country had so strictly adhered, had placed her in such a position that other countries found that we had nothing to exchange for any advantages which they might offer. That was the case alike with Germany, France, and the United States of America. Well, he humbly conceived that that was a foolish position for any great commercial country to occupy. We were incapable of dealing with other nations, because we had nothing to offer them. We were precluded from doing so by our own action; and he trusted that the Commission would be composed of unprejudiced and impartial men, who would look upon this great national question in a spirit of perfect impartiality. He confessed that he was surprised at the hon. Member for Salford overlooking the question of the state of trade entirely. The hon. Member was the Representative of a large manufacturing town; and he (Mr. Newdegate) represented a large and populous manufacturing and agricultural county, where, during the last seven or eight years, the depression was almost unexampled. He held, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government were right in using the power of the Crown to inquire into the circumstances which had characterized that depression. That opinion he had long entertained; and he could not forget that, throughout the whole agitation in favour of establishing the system of free imports, its advocates had maintained that our example would lead to reciprocity on the part of foreign nations. That prediction had not been fulfilled; and he thought it time that the Government of this country should now take measures to inquire why the trade and agriculture of the country should have been for so long a period in a state of depression.


I think I am entitled to say a word or two upon the Errington Mission, on the ground that since any relative of mine has been known in Ireland they were either Pagan or Catholic. During the present debate we have heard several Gentlemen who ought to be in white sheets, with candles before them, repenting their past life, instead of teaching men of their persuasion the lives they ought to pursue. I speak of my hon. Friend the Member for Long ford, because, coming Election or no Election, the man is not worth his salt that does not stand up for his friend when his friend is subjected to bitter criticism. May I, as an older Member than he, offer my hon. Friend the Member for Long ford my opinion that he would have done better if, instead of making as he had a neat speech, he had contented himself with saying two things—"If this letter is a forgery, cœdet questio. If it is a robbery, in the House of Commons I decline to notice it." Hon. Gentlemen have made statements here as to what they owe to the Whigs, and what they have lost for them, and what they owe to hon. Gentlemen to whom they are at present allied. Should I be out of Order in asking whether two of the persons that supported, at the Court of Rome, the appointment of the learned, able, honest, and pious ecclesiastic, revered by the Irish people, were not the right hon. Members for Chelsea and Birmingham? Were I born in the days years ago, when the great question of veto was presented to the Irish people, I would be here, like O'Connell of that day, the antagonist of that veto. But what are hon. Gentlemen of the Irish Party to do with their new faith newly created, which was created from Protestantism or from Agnosticism, and the newspapers connected with it, making it necessary here, as a political arrangement, to drag through the mud a great faith, that will live when they are dead, and when, God knows, they will be forgotten. Sir, I see a noble Lord here to-day (Lord Randolph Churchill), and before this debate closes it may be well that one who properly is looked upon as the Leader of a great Party, because he has asserted himself, and sat upon those who are nominally believed to be the Conservative Party—this thorough Democrat—it may be well for him to add to the many things he has done in England to render himself distinguished by speaking. I forget the exact time—it was, I think, some 30 or 40 years ago—that Lord Eglinton prevented a diplomatic arrangement with the Holy See when the question was presented to the Legislature, although it occurred to me at the time that such an arrangement would conduce to the interests of peace—a course I was surprised at, seeing that Independents, Baptists, and other Nonconformists outnumbered Roman Catholics in the House—and knowing the High Church tendencies of the Conservative Party I did not expect such a proceeding from Lord Eglinton, who was one of their number. But at the present time we may hope that the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) may reverse the action pursued by Lord Eglinton. He, a member of a ducal family who, in former days, were rather doubtful in their politics! To-day they were followers of William, the day before they were followers of James. They have pursued their way not alone by means of the men of their families. They had a man who could conquer on the Continent, and whose name was a song to frighten children in the arms of their nursemaids; but then there was in England a woman who was of service. The Sarah of former days has passed away; but may there not be in the present time a great feminine descendant of the great dukedom of Marlborough, competent to occupy Sarah's vacant Throne? I am speaking in this way of one who is endeared to his friends. Why, I can see the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary with an affectionate look upon his face such as I have never seen upon it before. There is not a man who has an eye in his head who does not know that the hon. Gentleman who represents United Ireland and the town of Mallow in this House has been caught hold of by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, and kissed upon both cheeks, and asked to assault those damned Whigs. [Cries of "Order!" and "Withdraw!"] Very well, I will withhold that observation in consideration of the feelings of hon. Gentlemen.


, interrupting, said, that the hon. Member was transgressing the latitude of speech allowed even on the Appropriation Bill. He must ask him to confine his observations to the Question before the House.


In deference to the ruling of the Chair, I will content myself with saying that I think the hon. Baronet the Member for Longford would be warranted in saying that, before he answered any attack made upon him with reference to documents which have appeared in the Press, the way in which those papers got into the hands of those who have used them should be explained.


said, he wished to call attention to the necessity of advancing more public money for harbour purposes, and to the sources from which £60,000 or £70,000 could be obtained. He would suggest that the £8,000 a-year given to Irish harbours, which was discontinued since the passing of the Piers and Harbours Act, should be again given for that purpose.


said, he wished to emphasize what had been said by the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Molloy) in his interesting speech upon the condition of the voluntary schools of the country. He rejoiced at the encouragement already given to the supporters of those schools by his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council. But he hoped he would go a little further. Voluntary schools carried on their work without expense to the ratepayers, and he thought that there was excellent ground for the suggested inquiry. The School Board had been reckless in its expenditure; there was more than a suspicion of over-pressure upon teachers and scholars; and he would, therefore, once more urge upon the Government the necessity of considering the whole question, and, if need be, appointing a Royal Commission. He was sure that if his right hon. Friend could see his way to appoint a Royal Commission, much good would come of it.


wished to tell the Vice President of the Council, as he had introduced that question, that it would not be wise for the friends of the denominational system to re-open the compromise. If they did re-open the matter, he could promise the right hon. Gentleman that they were in danger of losing the support of the friends of sectarian education which they now en- joyed, and further demands would be made in the direction of popular and elective control. It was not fit that an avowedly stop-gap Government should go to the expense of appointing a Royal Commission, when they would have to go hat in hand all over the country to got decent men to compose it, or that they should prejudge great and important questions of this kind as they had done—questions which would have to be decided by the great masses now enfranchised.


said, he hoped that before Parliament was prorogued the Government would say what they intended to do with regard to Aberystwith College.


said, that he had intended to refer at some length to a matter of considerable importance; but he thought that at that hour (5.35 P.M.) it would better suit the convenience of the House if he postponed his remarks until another occasion, as he had no desire to prevent the Appropriation Bill being read a third time.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.