§ (Mr. Willian Henry Smith, Mr. Arthur Balfour, Mr. Jackson.)
§ SECOND READING.
§ Order for Second Reading read.910
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
As the House is aware, this Bill has been already discussed on two separate occasions at considerable length, and with no inconsiderable vehemence—[Cries of "No!"]—Yes; and I do not rise to prolong the discussion. The House is well aware that, this being a Money Bill, it has to be brought in in Committee of the Whole House. There were two Resolutions, and on each of these Resolutions hon. Members were in Order in discussing the principle of the Bill; so that, in fact, the Bill has already had a stormy youth at a period when other measures are languishing in infantile obscurity. I rise at the present moment for the purpose of making something in the nature of a personal explanation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), in the earlier stages of the debate, accused the Government of having deceived the House in regard to this Bill, in having led the House to believe, as I understand the matter, that, in the first place, they did not propose to introduce a Bill in regard to the Office of Under Secretary, and that if they did introduce a Bill of that kind it would not provide for the payment of a salary. The right hon. Gentleman couched that accusation in somewhat vehement language. The debate was running rather hot, but I do not make any complaint of that. What I do complain of is the charge brought against the Government by the right hon. Gentleman of consciously keeping the House in the dark with regard to this Bill. Now, the Government are not aware of having done anything of the kind, but they took the House entirely into their confidence—[Cries of"Oh, oh!"] I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be as pleased as I am to find that the Government have not been in any way guilty of keeping the House in the dark, but that there is evidence that the House was completely in possession of the intention of the Government with regard to this matter. I find that my memory has not deceived me in the matter; but it is clear that the right hon. Gentleman was either not in the House when certain Questions were asked on this subject, or that his memory has deceived him. I find that, on May 20, the hon. and learned Mem- 911 ber for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) asked when it was intended to bring in the promised Bill to regulate the Office of Parliamentary Under Secretary, so that it was thoroughly understood at that time that the Office was about to be created. I replied that the Bill would be brought in as soon as practicable, and, consequently, I then clearly committed the Government to bring in a Bill. It remains to consider whether the Government are open to the second count in the indictment of the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that even if they intended to bring in a Bill it was not intended to provide a salary. On that point the evidence is equally clear. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), on May 20, asked the following Question:—Is the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred of such a nature as that it will have to be founded on a Resolution in Committee?"—(3 Hansard,  721.)It is quite obvious that what the hon. Member meant to ask by that Question was, whether the Bill involved payment from the Exchequer, and whether the new official was or was not to be paid out of public money? The answer I gave to that Question was that in all probability that would be the case. If the right hon. Gentleman will search Hansard, he will find evidence upon these points. It will be seen, from what I have stated, that not even unintentionally have the Government bept the House in the dark, but that, on the contrary, they have stated that they would bring in a Bill, and that when it was brought in it would provide for a salary. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with the answer I have now given, and that there will be an end to a controversy which is assuming a very unnecessarily bitter form. I will not reply to remarks which have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I hope hon. Gentlemen will recollect that they have had ample opportunities of discussing this Bill, and that they have fully availed themselves of them. I move the second reading of the Bill.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I will not plead guilty to 912 the charge of having used too vehement language on the earlier stage of this Bill. The strongest expression I used was that the answers of the right hon. Gentlemen (Mr. A. J. Balfour) and the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) amounted to an endeavour to hoodwink the House; and after hearing the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, and the reference he has made to certain answers given in the House on the 20th of May, I still think the attitude of the Government at the time I refer to was an attempt to hoodwink the House. It is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman gave the reply he has referred to in answer to a Question put by the hon. Member for East Donegal on the 20th of May; but on the 15th of April, in answering a Question put by me, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury stated distinctly that no salary would be asked for. That was pretty plain; but I will give another answer which bears more directly on the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) asked a Question on May 12 on the same subject, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury answered that an arrangement had been made to meet the pressing demands made upon the time of the Chief Secretary at that time in connection with the discharge of his duties, and that no inference must be drawn from that arrangement, either that it was intended to be permanent, or that it would affect any other Department of the Government.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
These answers referred to the Office of Under Secretary as it was constituted last Session, and as it remains at the present moment; but they do not refer to the new Office to be constituted by the Bill which hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite know had been promised.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
I am anxious to give the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of all he has said; but when I reflect on the pains which the right hon. Gentleman takes in political matters—when the House considers how broad is the phylactery worn by the right hon. Gentleman—I am afraid I must say that this appears to be one of the most equivocal, evasive, and pitiful of manœuvres. Sir, what is the necessity for the Office? The answer which I 913 have received from the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury shows the view taken by the Government of the necessity of this Office at the time when they had two important Bills—the Coercion Bill and the Land Bill—in hand, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary needed a Colleague to assist him owing to the pressing demands upon his time. The right hon. Gentleman has compared his position with that of his Predecessors in Office. It cannot, therefore, be invidious if I follow the right hon. Gentleman. He has spoken of, and he said that Mr. Forster, when Chief Secretary for Ireland, was not in charge of any great Bill. That was perfectly true. But Mr. Forster was in the Cabinet, and being in the Cabinet was adduced as one reason why there should be an Assistant Parliamentary Secretary. Secondly, in Mr. Forster's time the Questions put to the Chief Secretary were three or four times more numerous than the Questions now put to the right hon. Gentleman. In the third place, in the then condition of Parliament, Motions for Adjournment were most frequent and prolonged. And, fourthly, Mr. Forster was—whether wisely or unwisely I will not say—constantly travelling to and fro between England and Ireland. Mr. Forster felt it was a most important part of his duty to see his own officials on the spot, and to be in constant communication with them. Therefore, the comparison of advantage and of ease is wholly on the side of the right hon. Gentleman. Then, with reference to his immediate Predecessors, the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), the right hon. Gentleman stated that when they were filling the Office of Chief Secretary the administration of Ireland was actually carried on upon the spot by a Cabinet Minister, Lord Spencer, who was Lord Lieutenant. But have we not now a Cabinet Minister resident in Ireland? What is Lord Ashbourne doing? Does he take no action in the Executive Government of Ireland; does he bold no consultations with the Irish Attorney General, and take counsel with him upon points of administration? It may not be so; but if it be not so, all I can 914 say is that it is a most extraordinary thing. Moreover, in the Cabinet there is a third Minister charged with Irish affairs—Lord Cadogan, the Lord Privy Seal; and, therefore, the advantage in point of leisure and of the comparative ease of the Office is wholly on the side of the right hon. Gentleman. Now, Sir, what is to be the work of the new Minister in Parliament whom it is proposed by this Bill to create? He is to answer Questions, as the House has already found by experience, and it is apparently proposed to continue the practice. Now, I will venture to lay down two propositions in reference to practice. The practice of answering Questions by the Under Secretary is, in the first place, very bad, and very unsatisfactory to Irish Members, and to English Members who take an interest in Irish affairs; and, secondly, it is extremely bad for the Chief Secretary himself. On the first point, it needs no words to show how unsatisfactory it is that answers to Questions on administrative points put to the Chief Secretary for Ireland should come from an irresponsible Member sitting within a few feet of the Minister who is responsible. I hope the House will judge the importance of Irish Questions as they ought to be judged. The House has to remember that putting Questions to the Chief Secretary is the only means Irish Members have of effectually criticizing the Irish administration; and, therefore, for my part, I view with extreme jealousy any plan for releasing the Chief Secretary from all responsibility for answering those Questions. Secondly, it is bad for the Chief Secretary himself, because Questions put to the Chief Secretary, though they touch a great number of details and detached matters which, no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman—like his Predecessors before him—have found to be trivial and uninteresting—Questions touching the workhouses, evictions, and so forth—yet those Questions, although they may seem trivial and uninteresting, relate to matters which touch the feelings of the people whom the Chief Secretary has to govern; they go to the very core of the national life in Ireland. Therefore, I say it is no advantage, but a very grave and serious disadvantage, to the Chief Secretary, to be relieved from the necessity of having to look into these matters 915 with his own eyes. I am very much inclined to think that this Bill, when I examine it and try to find out what it is, must have been framed with the view, if the Government had a Parliamentary Under Secretary on their hands, of artificially finding something for the Under Secretary to do. It is one of the most absurd, and irrational Bills which I think I have ever heard of. The Parliamentary Under Secretary is to be a Member of the Local Government Board in Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in the course of the discussion said that it is desirable, because he is himself unable to attend. Then I want to know how is the Parliamentary Under Secretary any better placed for attending the meetings of the Local Government Board in Ireland?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think what I said was that I could not attend the meetings of the Board; but the Board never meets.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
The Board never meets. Then it is quite obvious that the Under Secretary, who is appointed to relieve him, could not attend them. It is equally obvious that the Under Secretary, who has been invented for the purpose of aiding the right hon. Gentleman, cannot attend the meetings of the Local Government Board. Therefore, the Government would have no more acquaintance with the details of the work and views of the Local Government Board in Ireland than they have at this moment. The Under Secretary will simply have to give answers furnished to him by the Local Government Board, and will have no more power of supervision over the details than the Chief Secretary has now. With reference to Clause 3 of the Bill, I think it is equally open to objection with Clause 2. The Chief Secretary has at present to sign transfers of children to reformatory schools, and also to sign tickets-of-leave. That may or may not be a function the Chief Secretary ought to perform; but, whatever it is, it is a function that ought not to be performed by a Parliamentary Under Secretary, but by an important responsible officer. The re- 916 sponsible officer is there. Why should not the Lord Lieutenant undertake the duty? He, at all events, is not overburdened with work. When I was Chief Secretary myself, I found the transfers to reformatories shed a most interesting and instructive light upon the details of the conditions of Irish life, and I think it a great loss to the Chief Secretary not to have the advantage of acquaintance with those details. I am very unwilling to pass to the next point and to introduce the personal element, but it cannot be avoided. The Under Secretary is at present unfortunately absent—for a reason, as I understand, which the House must sincerely deplore. But it is impossible to criticize the Bill without considering that it has been brought in to create an Office for a Minister who has already been appointed; and, therefore, I have to consider how far in creating this Office Her Majesty's Ministers were furthering the purposes of good government in Ireland. I will not enter into the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's (Colonel King-Harman's) relations with his tenantry, but everybody knows that those relations are strained; and in view of that strain it was inevitable that, owing to this appointment, the Irish tenants should regard Dublin as taking sides in the new social war now being waged in Ireland. We are not left without evidence of that in the discussions which have arisen in this House. Not only the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) stated with great force the reasons why the Under Secretary is obnoxious to the great mass of the Irish population, but the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has told us distinctly what the opinion of the Party he represents is. He told us something of the antecedents of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and he asked what would be thought if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman were so placed as to have his hand upon the spring of the machinery in Dublin Castle? He went on to say it was his deliberate opinion that his constituents would regard the appointment as an open declaration of war. It is not immaterial that this view should be taken, but it is most material, because, from the peculiar position of the Local Government Board, in which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is to hold a 917 high place, it is most important that we should have a Minister whom the Irish people should regard as above suspicion. The Irish Local Goverment Board is concerned, for instance, in the administration of those important Acts, the Labourers Acts, and one part of their duty is to appoint arbitrators in the disputes between landlords and Boards of Guardians who wish to erect dwellings. As it is, there is a constant complaint that these arbitrators are not impartial; how much greater would be the complaints when the Minister who has been placed at the head of the Local Government Board, and who has the appointment of these arbitrators, is so biassed and so prejudiced on one side, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who now fills the Office of Parliamentary Under Secretary undoubtedly is? There is another point connected with the relations between the Local Government Board and the Boards of Guardians. As it is, as everybody knows who is acquainted with Ireland, there has been pretty constant friction between Boards of Guardians and the Local Government Board—questions of Auditors, Inspectors, the conduct of Chairmen, and so forth, are constantly arising. Now, it is a great evil that in all these matters the Local Government Board, even as it is, is out of sympathy with the bulk of the Irish population. When it is known that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet has the main voice in these matters, and directs the administrative policy of the Board, will the sympathy between the people and the Local Government Board become any closer or warmer? I do not want to press what may appear to be minor points; but although they may seem to be minute they are most valid objections to such an appointment as that which this Bill asks the House to sanction. I will push the matter one step further, and see how the appointment which is proposed to be made under this Bill affects the general attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards self-government in Ireland. Now, Sir, on September 15, 1886, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who was then Leader of the House, made a very important declaration, even more important, to my mind, than the declaration which the noble Lord made in August 918 when the Government was first formed, and to which the noble Lord drew attention the other afternoon in the very interesting, speech which he then delivered. On the 15th of September, 1886, the noble Lord, speaking in a discussion upon the Vote for the Local Government Board which had been going on for some time, and which he was endeavouring, if possible, to arrest, used these words—In regard to what has fallen from the hon. Member (Mr. Clancy) generally, as to the Board of Works and the Local Government Board, the functions of these Boards are matters which the Government consider call for from them the most practical consideration, with a view, if possible, of the development of the functions of those Boards in a manner in accordance, as far as may be, with the views of the Irish Representatives … It is the firm and decided intention of the Government to make a proposal to Parliament as early as may be, and we hope with a view of placing the control of all these questions of local government and public works more within the hands of the Irish people."—(3 Hansard,  560–1.)That was, and was felt to be, a most important declaration. If that declaration has not been adhered to, then it is clear that the Government have gone back from the pledges which they gave, not only upon the hustings, but also in this House, because it can scarcely be contended that the Government are going to develop the functions of the Local Government Board in accordance with the views of the Irish Representatives, when they were going to set over that Board a Gentleman against whom both groups of Irish Members—both the hon. Member for South Tyrone and the hon. and learned Member for North Longford—protested as being the most obnoxious Gentleman who could be placed in that position. Then, with what face can it be said that you are aiming at placing the Local Government of Ireland in the hands of the people, when you appoint a Minister who has committed himself absolutely against the improvement of local government? When I say that, what I mean is this—that in 1886, when the Poor Law Guardians (Ireland) Bill was before this House, not only did the right hon. and gallant Gentleman move the rejection of that Bill—as he had a perfect right to do—but he also declared that he was in favour of continuing the maintenance of the system of ex officio Guardians, and 919 that it was only in proportion as ex officio Guardians were maintained in power that local government could be expected to work peaceably and well. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary may tell them that he has no alternative; that he is obliged to choose some Member who, like the right hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet, has committed himself as a champion of the Grand Jury system. But what an extraordinary comment it is upon your whole system of government that when you want a Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland you cannot go to Ireland, but are obliged to go either to Thanet, or, possibly, to Cambridge Borough, or Huntingdon, or anywhere else in the world except to Ireland itself! The only men eligible for these posts are men who have every quality but one, and that is that they cannot find a seat in their own country. This Bill points in the same direction as the declaration made by the Government last Wednesday; this appointment is another sign of the indefinite postponement of the reform of Local Government in Ireland, which was the Unionists' pledge at the last Election, and which the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington has said was the foundation of the Unionist Party. I am sorry not to see the noble Lord in his place now, and I would also liked to have seen the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) in his place, so that we might have heard from him whether he considers this appointment in harmony with the views which he expressed in his speech at Bristol. For my own part, I have never felt that that speech committed the right hon. Baronet in any degree to the cause of Home Rule; but it did perplex me how the right hon. Baronet could remain in a Government which, by this Bill and this appointment, are taking a very serious stop away from the direction in which he professes his desire that we should go. I will not dwell further on the Bill, but will move the Motion which stands in my name. I believe the creation of this Office to be wholly unnecessary on the merits—it is not called for by any need of Irish administration; and, instead of being a stop towards that reform of Dublin Castle which is admitted to be desirable by every part of the House—instead of being a step 920 forward in the direction of reform, it is distinctly a step backwards. Instead of strengthening the confidence of the Irish people in the impartiality of your administration or in the excellence of your intentions and the sincerity of your pledges, it is a measure which destroys that confidence and plucks it up by the very root. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time on this day six months.
§ SIR JOHN SIMON (Dewsbury)
said, he thought it desirable, after the important speech which had just been delivered by his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle - upon - Tyne (Mr. John Morley), that one of the rank and file of hon. Members above the Gangway should state his views on the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had referred the House to a series of Questions and Answers which were given some time in the month of May last; but the right hon. Gentleman had abstained from referring to what preceded those Questions and Answers. The appointment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Colonel King-Harman) to the post which he now held took place in the most extraordinary way, without any previous notice, and without any intimation from the Government of any such intention. The course pursued was a most unusual one, and altogether opposed to that which was generally taken in regard to appointments of that kind. The question of the Constitutional power of the Government to make the appointment at all without statutory authority had been raised more than once, long before the Questions to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. The matter was raised, no doubt, in the form of Questions, but still it was raised, and it was parried by evasive replies, and none of the Law Officers of the Crown had ventured to express a decided opinion as to the right of the Government to create the Office. It was unusual, at least in modern times, to create a new Office without the authority of Parliament. Yet that was what had been done in the present case. What was the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant? He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman had left 921 his place, but he would say what he intended to say, notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman's voluntary absence. What was it that the right hon. Gentleman had done? He parried the question of the right to create the Office without consulting Parliament. In the first instance, he told them that there was to be no pay attached to the Office; and he now told them that this Bill created a new Office to which pay was to be attached. He (Sir John Simon) did not know whether that was a Parliamentary proceeding, but he did not hesitate to say, if the usages of the House would permit him, that it was nothing else than a fraud upon the House. His right hon. Friend (Mr. John Morley) had called it trifling with the House, but he took it to be something worse. It was a course of deception practised upon the House. The Government had made the appointment without the usual statutory authority; they combated the question when the appointment had been made; and they said, by way of excuse, they were not going to attach a salary to the Office. Then a few months afterwards they come down to the House with a Bill cut and dried—in form making a new appointment, but in reality confirming the old one. He maintained that that was something more than trifling with Parliament, and that the Government had pursued a deliberate course of deception. He ventured to think that there must be hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House who, in their hearts and consciences, protested against this proceeding. Indeed, he would go further, and would say that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary himself would scout such conduct in private life. Then, with regard to the particular person selected for the Office, his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne had shown how invidious the appointment of the right hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet was. He had no personal acquaintance with the right hon. and gallant Member, but if he had he would be prepared to make the same statement that he made now—that a more ill - advised appointment could not possibly have been conceived. The right hon. and gallant Member was most obnoxious to the Irish people, who regarded him as as a political renegade, 922 as an oppressive landlord, and as a man who had committed himself as an antagonist to their wishes, and to everything they most cherished. Yet that was the man who, as his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne said, was to have his hands on the machinery of Dublin Castle. He (Sir John Simon) failed to see what object the Government had in pursuing the course they had adopted. They were told that the policy of Lord Salisbury was to rule Ireland firmly, but, at the same time, to treat her with justice and equity. Was this appointment a specimen of the equity with which the Irish people were to be treated? Was it calculated to bring about conciliation, or induce them to become loyal and contented? On every occasion when a chance was given, instead of consulting the wishes of the Irish people, instead of considering the direction in which their feelings went, they were treated with entire indifference. The Government said—"We will send whom we like to govern you, and appoint men who are obnoxious to you." And yet the Government complained that the Irish people were not loyal and contented. Such a course, he ventured to think, could only have one effect. He did not impute to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that that was their intention; but, if it were their intention, they could certainly do nothing more than they were now doing to exasperate the Irish people, and to drive them into extremes. They had already greatly exasperated them by nearly a century of Coercion Bills since the Union, and they had driven them further and further away from this country; and on that side of the House they had begun to think it was high time that a different policy should be pursued. Long before the question of Home Rule was raised in 1886, he had voted for Mr. Butt's Motion in reference to Ireland. For many years hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House had been anxious to avoid coercion, and to try and govern Ireland by the ordinary law. The best way to do that was to consider the wishes of her people, and if they would not give them the Home Rule they desired, at least to treat them with consideration and show some desire to consult their wishes, and not to insult them and show their complete antagonism to them in every way. He heartily concurred in the 923 Motion of his right hon. Friend, and begged to second the Amendment.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. John Morley.)
Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he wished, in the first instance, to reply to the observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) that the discussion upon the Bill had been exhausted on a previous occasion. The right hon. Gentleman know very well that on that occasion the Budget stood as the second Order of the Day, and that important speeches were expected. Therefore, after discussing the present Bill for about 20 minutes he got upon his legs, and said that in view of the important matters that were about to be brought before the House it was advisable not to discuss the Bill any further, but to reserve the discussion for a future stage of the measure. He would not say that in taking this course he was anxious to consult the convenience of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, but he had considered more the convenience of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith), and, having consulted that convenience, the result was that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary now came down with a statement "that the Bill had already been exhaustively discussed." He thought the House must have noticed the unusual anxiety evinced by the right hon. Gentleman that night to vindicate the character of the Government. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman intimated that he would not have spoken at all if it had not been from a desire to vindicate the Government from the charge of breach of faith. The anxiety of the right hon. Gentleman was not at all astonishing, seeing that the political morality of the Government had got a little out of credit. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had taken a curious way of vindicating the superior morality of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman referred arbitrarily to a particular date, but he told the House nothing of what preceded or followed the Questions that were put upon that day. It would have 924 been better if the right hon. Gentleman had made one or two references. He found that on the 19th of March last year the right hon. Gentleman said distinctly that no salary was attached to the Office of Under Secretary. On the 14th of April, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), he said—I believe the grounds are that it is not an Office of profit under the Crown."—(3 Hansard,  888.)He (Mr. T, P. O'Connor) could quite understand the dialectical distinction the right hon. Gentleman now made; but on the 15th of April the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, in reply to a Question put by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) as to the authority by which the Office of Parliamentary Under Secretary had been constituted, and whether documents could be produced showing the nature and duties of the Office, and also whether the Government had power to create Parliamentary Offices without limit, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury gave as the sole defence of the Government for establishing the Office that it was not a paid Office, and there fore implied that it was to remain an unpaid Office. The House was led to believe that the Government had had a right to create the Office, because there was no payment attached to it, and that certainly implied that there would be no right to attach a salary to it until authority was given by Parliament. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Then, why did not hon. Gentlemen say that last year? They first created the Office on the ground that it was unpaid—they created an Office which would be un-Constitutional if it were paid—and, after the Office had been created, they turned round and said they were going to transform it from an unpaid to a paid Office. Well, he contended that that was equivocation. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman opposite laughed at that. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would pardon him if he said that he did not consider him the highest moral authority, although, in another sense, an authority on the doctrine of equivocation.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I wish to point out to the hon. Member that his last expres- 925 sion exceeds the courtesies of debate, and should, therefore, be withdrawn.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that he would withdraw it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary gave last year as a reason for the creation of the Office that he had too much to do. Well, the Parliamentary Under Secretary was now away from his work, and yet the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary did not seem to be a terribly over-burdened Minister in that House. He thought the right hon. Gentleman ought to be a little more consistent. When he was banqueted by his friend, the right hon. Gentleman spoke in a light and airy strain of the Parliamentary contests in which it was his daily lot to engage; but they did not seem to disturb the roseate calm of the right hon. Gentleman. It was his (Mr. T. P. O'Connor's) daily lot to engage in Parliamentary contests, but they never seriously disturbed his spirit, and he thought that nothing could be lighter or more easy. According to the right hon. Gentleman, however, his duties in that House were so onerous that he required the help of a Parliamentary Under Secretary. He was almost afraid to say anything with regard to the late Mr. Forster, because he knew the class of argument the right hon. Gentleman was likely to use against him. He thought, however, that that argument had become somewhat played out. At one period the late Mr. Forster, when Chief Secretary, made 13 journeys from England to Ireland within three months. He should like to know how many journeys the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary had made to Ireland, because he believed that the right hon. Gentleman was somewhat remarkable for the unfrequency of his visits to that country. The reason assigned for this Bill was the number of Questions put in the House of Commons to the Chief Secretary, and the business he had to transact. But the right hon. Gentleman, compared with other Chief Secretaries, had far less business to do. Whenever a Tory Member went down to the country he called attention to the altered state of the House of Commons. There was a time, he told the people, when the House was disturbed by disorder, and by constant Irish debates; but, under the happier régime, they were now enabled to get through the Business 926 of Parliament, obstruction and disorder having ceased, and the Irish Business having been relegated to an Under Secretary. The Government were themselves responsible for the statement that Irish Business gave less trouble now than it did before. He concurred with his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne that it was a matter of regret that they should have to allude at all to the personal part of the question. In regard to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel King-Harman), he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had no feeling of personal hostility towards him. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman and many others were paying the penalty of their sins in the past. He hoped to see the right hon. and gallant Gentleman back again in his place in that House, and he hoped that when all the present troubles were over he would be able to take that share in the government of Ireland to which his position entitled him. He, therefore, disclaimed being animated by any feeling of personal hostility. But the Government who appointed the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to a political position might fairly be asked to look at his political record. He had no wish to refer to the past relations of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman with the Nationalist Party. He would deal with that subject in a very summary manner, and he would only call attention to the fact that the first political address of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to a constituency in Ireland was written, revised, and composed almost entirely by Mr. Patrick Egan, the late Secretary of the National League. He did not think that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was any the worse for that, but he thought that fact ought to be known when Members of the Government were always condemning Irish Members for their criminality in associating with him in America. What would they say of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under Secretary for associating with Mr. Patrick Egan, O'Donovan Rossa, and other patriots of that kind? As a matter of fact, the present Home Rule movement owed a great deal to the Under Secretary—quite as much as to any other man living. It also owed something to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews), who at one time went down 927 to Dungarvan to raise the glorious flag of Irish Nationality. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the awakening influence he had exercised on that occasion. The Home Rule movement owed a great deal to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under Secretary, but the fact that he was an Orangeman did not endear him to the Irish people. He was now in Office, and that, of course, made all the difference. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) would only say one word as to the relations of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman with his own tenantry. The reductions made on his estate had been among the largest in Ireland, having ranged from 35 to as much as 60 per cent, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was engaged in a constant war with his tenants. We sent to India officials who held the scales of justice evenly, and were absolutely impartial as between the warring races there; and his ideal of a Unionist Government was one which dealt with the Irish people in exactly the same way. He did not think a Government like that would, in the least degree, wean the Irish people from their Nationalist aspirations; but it would do much to restore law and order, and to put down angry passions. But what did Her Majesty's Government do? They appointed one of their most prominent and most obnoxious champions, and they took him from one class to help them to make war on another class. If they had taken a person from amongst those who formed the majority of the people, it might, perhaps, have been from their point of view wrong; but it would, at least, have been the lesser evil. They would not then have exasperated the majority, as they had now done, by selecting the right hon. and gallant Gentleman from the ranks of the minority. He could not imagine how an arrangement could be regarded as satisfactory when the Chief Secretary for Ireland, on the one hand, was a Scotch man, and his Parliamentary Under Secretary, on the other, a Representative of the landlords. Not only would it be impossible for the Under Secretary to get a seat in three-fifths of Ireland, but he could not get the representation of a constituency throughout the whole of the country. Let the right hon. and gallant Gentleman go down to Boyle, and he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) ven. 928 tured to say that he could not get elected as a Chairman of the Board of Guardians of the Union. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Gentleman cheered that observation; but he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) repeated that that was the case; and yet the Bill made the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the head of all the Boards of Guardians, for he was to be at the head of the Local Government Board. The whole statement of the case seemed like an extract from Gilbert's representations of topsy-turvyism. As Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland, he would be largely responsible for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) was not going to refer to some of the passages in the past of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; everyone was liable to err, and he maintained that too much importance ought not to be attached to matters of that kind. But he had been present at a meeting in Dungannon, at which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was present, and was a member, and when the party of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman drove the Nationalists out of the square in the town where they had. appointed to hold their meeting, and took possession of the platform on which they were going to speak. It was the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who on that occasion deprived them of their Constitutional right of addressing the people of Dungannon, and he could tell the House that there was scarcely a man in the crowd who accompanied him who was not armed. He would not call that the best way of giving an example of the preservation of law and order in Ireland. But, further, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman made speeches which were a direct incitement to the use of arms. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary think of that? Then, sentences of imprisonment were inflicted in Ireland for the most trivial offences against public order—if offences they could be called. If a policeman gave a howl for the Chief Secretary for Ireland it was thought nothing of; but if a man gave a howl for a Nationalist Member he received a sentence of three months' imprisonment, and while that was being done the Government placed over the heads of the Irish people a man who had incited to armed violence against his political opponents, He maintained that that was a 929 most evil example to set the people of Ireland, and that the Government ought to have adopted a different course. For these reasons, Irish Members would feel it their duty to fight out this matter with the Government to the end.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, he should not like that debate to terminate without expressing, for his own part, and on the part of the Party with which he acted, the views they held with regard to the appointment of his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel King-Harman). He (Colonel Saunderson) had one complaint to make with regard to the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). The speech of the hon. Member was characterized by humour, as was invariably the case; and he had raised one objection to the appointment of his hon. and gallant Friend—namely, that he was not in perfect sympathy with all classes of the Irish people. But he (Colonel Saunderson) asked, where a man could be found who would be in sympathy with all classes of the Irish people? He supposed, then, that they would have to get a man who had belonged to all Parties. Perhaps, if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) were sent over to Ireland, he might more completely fulfil all the conditions he referred to. But there was one very remarkable objection taken by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, who said that they were treating the Irish people in the wrong way, and that they ought to govern Ireland as they governed India; in fact, that they ought to treat Irishmen as if they were Hindoos.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he had stated nothing of the kind. What he had said was, that in the appointment of officials, the Government ought to proceed in the same way as they had in the case of India—that was to say, send out those who were absolutely impartial as between the warring classes there.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
They had it now from the hon. Gentleman that they were to deal with Irishmen as they dealt with the inhabitants of Hindostan. The hon. Gentleman then went on to point out, as a blot in the history of the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland, that he could not get elected as a Poor Law Guardian for the town in 930 which he resided. But the hon. Gentleman might just as well blame him (Colonel Saunderson), because he was not elected for the County of Cavan, in which he lived. He denied that any man who was not a Home Ruler could be elected Chairman of any Board of Guardians in Ireland, in any town in which the National League was supreme; and he maintained that the statement of the hon. Gentleman, that it was impossible for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to be elected Chairman of the Board of Guardians in the town of Boyle, was one of the very strongest arguments which could be urged against granting local self-government to Ireland. He could give many quotations to show, year after year, that the elections of Boards of Guardians were carried out strictly on the grounds laid down by the National League, and upon no other. Men had been boycotted, because they had voted for Guardians who were not supported by that organization. The hon. Gentleman asked how they could have confidence in a man who had been so objected to. There was no man that he (Colonel Saunderson) know in Ireland who had spent more money on his estate than his right hon. and gallant Friend, and no man that he was acquainted with in Ireland had borrowed larger sums of money and made use of that money to give labour and employment to the people amongst whom he resided. He thought the House was the authority to decide whether an Under Secretary for Ireland should be appointed. The mode of procedure on the part of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite and the Gentlemen below the Gangway was to make a personal attack on the character of his right hon. and gallant Friend. They said his record would not bear inspection. He (Colonel Saunderson) was willing to admit that there was one flaw in his record. His right hon. and gallant Friend was once a Home Ruler; but in the course of years he had ceased to belong to that Party, and no one could deny that Home Rule in former times was a very different thing from what it is now. It was because his right hon. and gallant Friend had ceased to be a Home Ruler and bad become a Unionist that he was called a traitor. But what did they call those who, during their whole lives, had been Unionists, and who; in advancing years, had become Home Rulers? He could 931 not frame a Parliamentary phrase to answer that question, and he would leave it to hon. Gentlemen opposite. For his part, he looked upon it as a good sign when a man advanced in years took up a loyal and just policy. If his right hon. and gallant Friend had, on the contrary, abandoned the Unionist principles and become a Home Ruler later in life, it would have been said that, instead of learning wisdom, he had entered upon his second childhood. He thought it a great proof of his right hon. and gallant Friend having with advancing years also advanced in wisdom, that he had departed from the mistaken policy of his earlier days and adopted the policy which he held now, and which was adopted by men of sound common sense and patriotic principle. With regard to the other attacks made on his right hon. and gallant Friend of a direct personal nature, he should say nothing. He thought, as a rule, that that House was generally intolerant of personal attacks which had no connection with the political questions on which they might be made, and he thought his right hon. and gallant Friend might pass by those insults without notice. In his (Colonel Saunderson's) opinion, insults were governed by the law which affected falling bodies—that was to say, that the amount of injury which they inflicted depended upon the height from which they fell, and, therefore, upon that ground he did not think that his right hon. and gallant Friend would be injured. With regard to the statement made by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. W. Russell), that the appointment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was very unpopular, even in Ulster, he might remark that nothing had astonished him more in all his life than to hear from the hon. Member for South Tyrone, that the appointment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would be looked upon as a menace and insult to the farmers in the North of Ireland. Would the hon. Member get up now—[Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: Yes.]—and deliberately state that the Ulster Unionists were outraged by this appointment? He (Colonel Saunderson) absolutely denied it, and he thought he had just as good right to speak in the name of the Ulster Unionist Party as the hon. Member for South Tyrone. He was sure that his hon. Friend spoke in all sincerity; but he 932 was, unfortunately, a Gentleman of very vivid imagination, and he had no doubt that was the reason why he was so successful as a speaker. He was quite sure that his hon. Friend believed in his heart that this would be an unpopular appointment; but the appointment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had, at least in Ulster, met with almost universal acceptance, and he most distinctly stated that on behalf of those whom he represented in that Province. He believed that his right hon. and gallant Friend had shown himself thoroughly diligent in the discharge of the duties of his Office, that he had carried out his work to the satisfaction of the House, and that there would be unqualified satisfaction at the manner in which he discharged it in future. With regard to the payment of the Office, he would only observe that the labourer was worthy of his hire. He had understood when the Bill was brought in, that, although the Government did not propose then that it would be a paid Office, it would be so in future. That he believed to be the intention of the Government, and he considered that they had fulfilled their pledges in asking for the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. P. M'DONALD (Sligo, N.)
said, he believed that the Government had made this appointment because the Chief Secretary for Ireland wished to avoid meeting Irish Members face to face in that House on the subject of Questions. There was nothing which showed whether or not a man in Office know anything of Ireland more than the way in which he answered Questions in that House—not only those Questions which appeared on the Paper, but others by which they were supplemented. He thought the House would bear him up when he said that was one of the most difficult and trying Offices which had been performed by previous Chief Secretaries. He could quite fancy that when Lord Salisbury asked the Chief Secretary to undertake that work, the right hon Gentleman might have expressed his unwillingness to undertake the whole of it, and that he was then informed that he would be provided with a Parliamentary Under Secretary to relieve him of a portion of his duties. The appointment could not be justified on the ground of the immense amount of 933 work which the Chief Secretary had to discharge. He recollected that the right hon. Gentleman had told the House last year that he had been engaged on two very important Bilis; but it had been declared over and over again that this Session was to be devoted to English legislation, and that there would be no legislation for Ireland. If, therefore, there was a reason last year for having an Under Secretary, the necessity no longer existed. The Chief Secretary wanted to combine two things absolutely incompatible; he wanted to have comfort and rest and indolence on the one side, and the hard Parliamentary work of a Cabinet Minister on the other. He could quite understand Lord Salisbury wishing to see the Chief Secretary assisted in his work; but he did not think the House should facilitate the work of the Department in that manner, seeing that all former Chief Secretaries had done their own work. There was no need of assistance in the present case, and, therefore, it was that the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) had not for a moment alleged that it was necessary to make this appointment; he simply went on the personal question, and tried to show that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet Division of the County of Kent was suited for the post. He (Mr. M'Donald) was not present at the last discussion; but he had read the speech of the Chief Secretary in The Standard, and he found that the right hon. Gentleman gave as his reason for the appointment, that the Local Government Board in Ireland wanted looking after, and seemed to think that the Under Secretary would be able to do the work which he was unable to do, owing to his appointment as Chief Secretary. Did anyone believe that that was the motive of this appointment? Did anyone believe that the Chief Secretary was so very anxious about Local Government in Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman had shown his anxiety for it by procuring the rejection of the Bill for County Government, which was brought forward by the hon. Member for North Kildare (Mr. Carew). Those were nothing else than flimsy pretexts, and they did not represent the grounds on which the appointment was made, and 934 hon. Members on those Benches wanted to know what those grounds were. As to the personal qualifications of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman he (Mr. M'Donald) quite agreed with the remark made by his hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) that a private passage in the life of the Under Secretary ought not to be alleged against him, and he did not want to allege it. Whenever he heard such an allegation, the words always rose to his lips, "He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone." But looking at the public acts of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, he defied anyone to disprove that he was a convicted rack-renter, and that he was regarded by the great mass of the people of Ireland as a renegade. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman was once in favour of Home Rule in Ireland, but now that he was a Member of the Government and wished to have his official position recognised as such, he was working against the class for which he once acted. He believed that the people of Ireland scorned such a character as that, and he maintained that the Government had no right to govern Ireland in absolute defiance of the wishes of the people. They know it had been the fashion to insult the people of Ireland, they know that they had been taunted with their brogue, and that it was said that a single Member on the Front Bench opposite was worth the whole of the 86 Irish Representatives, but he mistook the character of the English nation if they allowed that state of things to go on, which, to a people like the Irish, must be extremely distasteful. If they were fighting only for the interests of their Party and the cause of Home Rule in future, he was not so sure that they would have any great reason to object to this appointment, for he was convinced that the Under Secretary would lead the Government into serious blunders and mistakes which would far more than counterbalance any temporary advantage which the Chief Secretary might get from the appointment. He (Mr. M'Donald) was surprised at the use which the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh made of the argument of his hon. Friend (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) when he said that he had suggested that Irishmen should be treated like Hindoos. He objected 935 to the burlesquing of his hon. Friend's argument. His hon. Friend had simply said that there were opposing races and creeds in India, some being Hindoos and some Mussulmen, and that the Government sent out to India officials who would hold the scales of justice evenly between those opposing classes, and that the same thing ought to be done with regard to Ireland. As he had said, if they thought only of the permanent interests of the Home Rule Party, they might welcome this appointment; but when they thought of the good of the Irish people, and the general principles on which the country ought to be governed, they said it was no less than a shame to appoint a man who was a declared partizan, and who was regarded as hostile to their interests by the great mass of the Irish people—a man who was once in favour of the principles of the majority of his countrymen, but was now against them. Further, when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tried to answer Questions in that House, he spoke in such low tones that it was extremely difficult for Members on those Benches to hear what he said. It was very necessary that Questions put in that House should be answered in such a manner that they could be distinctly heard. Circumstances had made it necessary that he should use his hearing a good deal, and he could state most positively that when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman got up to answer his Questions it was with the greatest difficulty that he could catch his replies, owing to the low tone of voice which he adopted, and for that reason, if there were no others, he should object to his appointment.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, after the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), the House would, perhaps, allow him to state what he felt with regard to the appointment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman as Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland, and notwithstanding the remark of the hon. and gallant Member, he should do that in no imaginative way whatever. He would not deny that his hon. and gallant Friend had as good right as anyone in that House to represent the 936 tenant farmers in Ulster. He had no doubt that the appointment was approved by the landlords and by a large number of the Orange leaders, and by many of the Orange rank and file, and for those the hon. and gallant Gentleman was entitled to speak; but he (Mr. T. W. Russell) claimed to have a tolerable knowledge of the Ulster tenant farmers, both Liberals and Orangemen, and he adhered most emphatically to the statement he had made on the first night of the debate—namely, that these men looked on this appointment as practically a declaration of war against the tenantry of Ireland. What was the actual state of affairs? They found that his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was a great Irish landowner, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was a great Scotch landowner, and now they found in the Parliamentary Under Secretary another great landowner. That being the case, the tenant farmers of Ireland would have been more than human if they could look on those in Dublin Castle and expect to be fairly dealt with. He looked upon the appointment absolutely and entirely from a tenant farmer's point of view. He was not going back on the record of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, either in regard to politics or in regard to his private life; and he would declare that he had no other feeling towards the right hon. and gallant Gentleman except that of personal friendship—he viewed his appointment solely in the light of the effect it would have upon tenant farmers, and in that respect he felt that it was not good for Ireland. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh was more entitled to speak for the people of the towns in the district which he ably represented than he was for the tenant farmers of Ulster. He (Mr. T. W. Russell) did not know that he had any right to make an appeal to those Liberal Unionists who sat around him, because they did not look for advice to the Irish Unionist Members who opposed this Bill; but if he might make such an appeal, it would be that they should leave the entire responsibility for this appointment to Her Majesty's Government. He thought the matter had now been sufficiently debated, and that they ought to go to a Division; but before doing so, he wished to state his belief that the ap- 937 pointment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would prove a disastrous one in every way, and as such he (Mr. T. W. Russell) should not lose a single opportunity of recording his vote against it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he rose to conclude the debate so far as the Government were concerned. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. T. W. Russell) had said that his objection to the Bill consisted in the fact that the Government of Ireland was handed over to three great landlords, the Lord Lieutenant, his (Mr. Balfour's) right hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary, and himself. No doubt it was the misfortune and not the fault of all three of them to be owners of land. No doubt they would rather be owners of something else if they could. But he would ask the House, ought that fact to be visited upon them too severely? Was it not an offence that brought its own penalty, and did they not suffer sufficiently from being landlords without having visited on their own persons every description of political unfairness and injustice?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he certainly did not impute injustice to the right hon. Gentleman. What he said, was, that the tenants of Ireland would be more than human if they could regard Dublin Castle without some suspicion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he wanted to ask the House this question. If an Under Secretary was to be appointed to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ought he to be an Irishman, or ought he not? [An IRISH MEMBER: No, no!] He ought not to be an Irishman? Well, he certainly thought he ought, and he wanted to know whether human ingenuity could find anywhere an Irishman who was not the object of darkest suspicion to a very large number of his countrymen. It was suggested that a Member of that House should be chosen who was not a strong Party man, and who was unconnected with organizations in Ireland on one side or the other. But where was such a man to be found? The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, said the Irish Under Secretary ought to be selected as the Governors of India were chosen—foreigners who stood outside the different Parties in the country. But that was just what it was impossible to 938 do with regard to Ireland. The men sent out to govern India were not Hindoos or Mussulmen.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he endorsed those cheers; no doubt they were often Irishmen, but never Hindoos or Mussulmen. If they were to carry out the principles the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool advocated for Ireland, Irishmen must be for ever excluded from the government of Ireland. If they were to have an Under Secretary, the alternatives were, either that Under Secretary was not to be an Irishman, or, if he was to be an Irishman, he was to be selected on the same principles and to be open to just the same objections as had been brought against the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet Division of Kent. But he passed from the speech of his hon. Friend who had just sat down, and from the speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, to the only other speech in this debate delivered against the Bill which he thought required any notice from the Government, and that was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley). He confessed he listened to the opening part of that speech with considerable pain. He had been divided from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne by very sharp differences of opinion through the whole of their common political lives. He had, nevertheless, up till that night, felt that he had in the right hon. Gentleman an opponent who, however severe he might be in his criticisms, however harsh his language might have been in the heat of debate, would not willingly and deliberately pervert, after repeated and clear explanations, any action or word of a political opponent in order to hold him up to public opprobrium. He had not hitherto classed him with some of those controversialists who were to be found among those with whom he acted, and he had never supposed the right hon. Gentleman would sink to the arts of which some among his followers were not ashamed. ["Oh, oh!" and Cheers.] That illusion he was sorry to say, and he could assure the House that he felt it deeply, had now for 939 ever been dispelled. He came down to the House that day and gave, in as conciliatory a spirit as he could, what he then thought, and still thought, were conclusive evidence of the undoubted intentions held by his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury and by every one of his Colleagues, intentions to which they—all being honourable men—were prepared to give testimony, and he had showed that not only were those their intentions, but that there was clear Parliamentary proof that those intentions had been made known to the House. Those who were present and heard his few opening remarks would admit that he made that statement—a statement that he, foolishly it might be, but fondly believed the right hon. Gentleman would accept—in the most conciliatory manner possible, He said nothing that should have aroused irritation or would justify an embittered reply. But the right hon. Gentleman, apparently unwilling to waste the prepared sarcasms with which he had come down to the House, brushed that all on one side, and, in a manner that reflected very little credit on his candour, deliberately repeated an accusation that had been a thousand times refuted in that House. [Cries of "No, no!"] However, he would now pass from the personal part of this controversy, which was very painful to him. ["Hear, hear!" from the Nationalist Members.] Yes; much as it might astonish Members from Ireland, he could assure the House that it was with a great deal of pain that he thus spoke of a person for whom he had hitherto entertained so great a respect as the right hon. Gentleman. He could not complain of the controversial part of the speech, except that it put him in a difficult position, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman had brought forward arguments which rendered it necessary for him, in replying to them, to be more egotistical than he should desire. He was far from comparing himself with any of the eminent men who had been his Predecessors. He did not put himself upon an equality with them; but he thought that everyone of them since 1881, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who, for reasons well known to the House, had a very quiet and easy time of it, would have done his work better and been a more effi- 940 cient administrator, if he had had the advantage of some such assistance as that of an Under Secretary. The work, however, that fell to his (Mr Balfour's) lot was, in some important respects, different to that which fell to the lot of his Predecessors. Under the present arrangement every Irish legislative measure, large or small, was in the hands of the Chief Secretary. But that was not the system adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. The Land Bill of 1881 was not in the charge of Mr. Forster. He was not even the second in charge of it, though possibly he was consulted about it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was himself in charge of the Bill, and his right-hand man was the Irish Law Officer of the time. Then, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) was Chief Secretary, the Crimes Bill was introduced and passed during the Session of 1882. But that Bill was not in his charge, but in the charge of the then Home Secretary the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). That might have been a good or bad arrangement; but it, at any rate, relieved the Chief Secretary of a good deal of work. Even during the easy administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne the two great Irish measures introduced were not in his hands. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian took charge of the Home Rule Bill and the Land Purchase Bill. He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) did not complain of that arrangement. Having regard to the importance of those measures, it might have been right that they should be introduced by the Prime Minister himself. But that was not the present arrangement. All the Irish measures, whether big or small, brought forward by the Government since he (Mr. Balfour) became Chief Secretary were prepared, brought in, and worked through the House by himself. He thought that was the best arrangement; but, however that might be, it distinctly marked off his position from that of some of his Predecessors. There was also this difference between his position and that of two or three of his Predecessors—that they were not in the Cabinet. Mr. Forster was, and so was the right hon. Gentleman the Mem- 941 ber for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. But the result of Mr. Forster having no assistance was that he suffered in health, and, besides, found himself unable to attend to anything whatever except Irish Business. That was not a proper position for a Member of the Cabinet to be placed in. A Member of the Cabinet was supposed to be able to pay attention to other matters which were outside the purview of his special office. Was it desirable that the Chief Secretary should be the one Member of the Cabinet who could not attend to other Business besides that of his own Department? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, when Home Secretary, took charge of the Crimes Bill, though it was outside his Department, and he was enabled to do so because he had the assistance of an Under Secretary, and, he (Mr. Balfour) believed, an Under Secretary at the time in the House of Commons. At all events, it was not uncommon for a Home Secretary to have an Under Secretary in the House; and if the House were to treat the Secretary for Ireland as it treated every other important Minister in the Cabinet, it was bound to give him an Under Secretary, who might relieve him of some of the less important part of his work. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. John Morley) spoke of the Bill as having been brought in for the purpose of finding something for the Under Secretary to do. Did the right hon. Gentleman suppose there was no work for such an official, or did he forget the enormous amount of detail that had to be got through in connection with the Local Government Board and other matters relating to Irish administration? The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) had attacked the Bill probably with more bitterness than anyone else; but he admitted that his objection was not an objection to the appointment of an Under Secretary, but a personal objection. He was glad to find, however, that the personal element which was so painfully prominent in the earlier stage of the Bill had somewhat sunk out of sight; and he especially congratulated the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool in having abstained from attacking a man who was not present to defend himself. Everyone knew what was the real ob- 942 jection to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the part of the Irish Members opposite—namely, that some 20 years ago he had changed his opinion with regard to Home Rule, that change having been conscientiously made, and at a time when Home Rule bore a different complexion from that which it bore at the present day, and when it was advocated by a Party having very different Leaders. Nobody pretended that he was not a man of ability, industry, and capacity, or that he was incapable of carrying on Parliamentary work efficiently; but hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway could not forget that he was once a Home Ruler. They had never forgiven him for being what, in their language, they described as a renegade and a traitor. After all, in their own opinion, it could not be a criminal offence to change one's opinion on Home Rule. It must be remembered that they were acquainted with statesmen and politicians of high honour who had very recently seen sufficient reason for changing their own opinions on this subject; and if that were so—he did not say it to embitter debate—surely they ought to forgive a change of opinion on the part of his right hon. and gallant Friend, which, as everyone who knew him must admit, was absolutely conscientious. He would not detain the House any longer; but he hoped they would consider the question as sufficiently debated, and allow the House to come at once to a final decision.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
said, he was surprised that no comment had as yet been made on the position given to this Bill on the Order Book. Two Parliamentary nights ago they were engaged in discussing the Budget Bill in Committee, and on that occasion the Government made a piteous appeal to proceed to a later hour on the ground of the immense damage that would be done to the public interest if the taxes with which the Bill dealt were allowed to hang in mid air and not brought into operation. Acting on that intimation, after a little remonstrance, a Morning Sitting on Friday was agreed to, which entailed the sacrifice of half the time the House would otherwise have given to the consideration of a great educational question. But, when they opened the Order Book on Saturday morning, hon. Members found to their 943 surprise the Budget Bill placed in the second rank in order that this Bill might take precedence of it. He thought there were only two explanations of this—the first, that the protestations on Thursday were insincere; and the second, that the Government wished to place this Bill in front of a Bill of the high importance of the Budget Bill in order to compress within a narrower limit than would otherwise be possible the power of debating this Bill. That was a manœuvre that might or might not succeed, but his experience was that even though a few days or hours were gained by a manœuvre of this kind, the result was never, in the long run, very satisfactory. He would rather have expected that the Government would have endeavoured to hide away this measure in the darkest corner of the Notice Paper than to give it a prominent position, for he should be much surprised if the great majority of hon. Members on the Conservative side were not heartily sick of it; and he would go further, and, although this involved a great stretch of imagination, express the conviction that even the Allies of the Government on the Liberal side of the House, who were less elastic in their opinions, and much less open to the influence of argument or circumstance, were somewhat lukewarm in its support. The Government must, he thought, have put the question seriously to themselves whether, after all, the game was worth the candle—whether from the creation of the Office any good that might come would atone for the waste of time and irritation that the Bill produced. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had alluded to the misunderstanding on the point whether this was to be a paid Office or not. With regard to that he would not say there had been deliberate equivocation, but an impression was created in the minds of hon. Members on his side of the House, and no steps were taken to remove it. On the 14th of April in last Session they were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that a salary was not attached to the Office—[Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Was not.]—Quite so; but why did not the right hon. Gentleman say it was the intention of the Government to attach a salary to the Office? Then, on the 15th of April, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord 944 of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) was even more emphatic, and said—It is right to state distinctly that no salary or profit is attached to the Office."—(3 Hansard,  1,003.)Then his hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) the other day asked the Government when they changed their mind, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said, they never changed their mind. All he (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) could say was that in that case their language was most unfortunate. The impression created on any man's mind in looking into this series of quotations would be, that it would take a very clever man to find out under which thimble the pea happened to be at a particular moment. He agreed that it would be not only unreasonable, but also improper and unconstitutional that any such arrangement should continue as that a public Parliamentary official should discharge functions without receiving a salary, because in that case he would be withdrawn from direct Parliamentary responsibility, which was the keystone of representative government. He was, therefore, glad that the Government had introduced this Bill to regularize the situation, but would not it have been much better if the Government had cancelled the appointment and dropped the proposal altogether? As to the personal aspect of the case, as had been pointed out by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), the Irish Executive had already too much the appearance of being dominated by landlord influence, and it was deplorable that any steps should have been taken to aggravate it. In many cases it was as mischievous to seem to do a thing as to do it. It was most unfortunate that the Government should do anything to strengthen the impression of Irishmen that the administration of their country was dominated by landlords—an impression they could not help entertaining when they saw it contained not only three landlords, but three active, militant, and aggressive landlords. With regard to the political career of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Colonel King-Harman) it had been admitted by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) that he was unpopular in his own district and 945 would not be elected to the Board of Guardians in the neighbouring town. The explanation which the hon. and gallant Member gave, was that no one could be expected to be elected to Boards of Guardians in opposition to the National League. Why, he thought that the National League was extinct, that it was in a moribund state, with its back broken by the Chief Secretary! But whatever force might be attached to these personal considerations, how much greater did it become when it was found that this Office was demanded by no public interest. He (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) would commend that consideration to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) and his followers, who had been going about the Public Service seeking what Offices they might devour and what Establishments they might reduce. It was not always easy to abolish an existing Office; but it was comparatively easy to refuse to support a Government which you ordinarily followed when it proposed to create an Office which was superfluous. The case for this new Office was that the Chief Secretary was overworked, and they had to go back to Mr. Forster to find an analogous case—a case, that is, in which the Chief Secretary was the Cabinet Minister responsible for the Government of Ireland. But the case of Mr. Forster was not entirely parallel, because the business Mr. Forster had to do was much more difficult. The condition of Ireland was then very critical; murder and outrage stalked abroad, and secret societies were spreading everywhere; so that it was not merely with public meetings which were a little too demonstrative Mr. Forster had to deal; and it was not necessary for him, in order to put men in prison, to give the dignity of crime to acts which elsewhere would be held to be innocent and even praiseworthy. Mr. Forster had plenty of natural crime to deal with, and did not require to invent artificial crime. Yet, although he had constantly to be going to and fro between Loudon and Dublin, he conducted the Parliamentary Business with the help of his Law Officer. His Colleagues assisted him, no doubt, with the heavier Bills. But what was the case at present? Besides the Chief Secretary, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland is a Member of the Cabinet—an arrangement, by the 946 way, open to great objection, for the less the Head of the Judiciary had to do with Executive work, the better. And yet another Cabinet Minister, the Lord Privy Seal, answers for the Irish Government in the House of Lords. So that in this economical Government it took five men to do the work formerly overtaken by two. In the discussions last year he ventured to raise a protest on this subject, and was immediately overwhelmed by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, who, in a tone of indignation and dignified rebuke, practically told him that he knew nothing about it; he said that "the circumstances and conditions were absolutely abnormal;" and the right hon. Gentleman added that—Some assistance must be given to the Chief Secretary to enable him to give due consideration to the preparation and submission to Parliament of measures which the Government deem to be of the utmost importance to the peace, prosperity, and happiness of Ireland.But where were those measures now? The Coercion Bill of last year—which was deemed necessary to the peace, prosperity, and happiness of Ireland—and the Land Bill were, no doubt, large measures. Reverting to Mr. Forster's time, it must be remarked that if he thought it his duty to carry a stringent measure of coercion, he did not stop there; he took a broad view of the Irish Question; he was a man of warm, sympathetic feelings, and lie always applied a remedy as well as imposed a restraint. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had no remedial measures, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had told them that remedial measures should be put off until the Irish people should acquire such a frame of mind as the right hon. Gentleman thought proper.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that he had already stated to the House that ho would introduce certain Bills dealing with Public Works in Ireland before Whitsuntide.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, it was quite possible some Bill of that kind might be brought in towards the end of the Session; but if so, it was very unlikely that it would pass.
§ MR. A, J. BALFOUR
said, that there were two very large and important Irish Bills on the Table that night—one relating to the Laud Commission and the 947 other to the Supreme Court of Judicature.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, that he had been speaking of the past and the present, and not of the future. So far as the Session had gone, the only Irish legislative difficulty had been the measure now before them, and as no one that he ever heard of desired this measure except the right hon. Gentleman, the difficulty was of his own creation. He had, of course, other Parliamentary difficulties to contend with, arising from his administration in Ireland; but he (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) would make bold to say that half of them would have been avoided had his administration been marked by greater care. He was quite ready to admit that if the effect of this Bill would be to disengage the Chief Secretary from his Parliamentary duties, and to enable him to give his personal attention to the details of the administration of the law, on the spot, in Ireland—and especially of the Coercion Act—it would be some—though he did not say it would be a complete—justification for this proposed new Office. It was most essential that, in such a state of things as existed in Ireland, everyone, down to the humblest official, should feel the hand of the Government directly guiding and regulating. It was only too apparent that that was not the condition of things which now existed in Ireland. But this plea could not be urged by the Government in the face of our experience of the last 12 months. The right hon. Gentleman had had this auxiliary assistance for a year. Had he availed himself of it, to go over and direct affairs? No; he had remained in the House, exhibiting to their most genuine admiration his great dialectical skill and employing the subtlety of his mind in discovering excuses for the blunders of his subordinates. The abnormal circumstances which existed last year, and which might have been an excuse for the creation of this Office, had passed away, and now there was no Parliamentary, legislative, or administrative necessity for the formation of such a post. He hoped that the Government would find some decent pretext—he was sure it would be a welcome pretext—for dropping this Bill. It created an Office which was entirely superfluous, and for 948 which no reason could be urged. The proposal was extravagant and wasteful, and if any further condemnation was necessary, they had it in the fact that the present holder, from whom it could not be dissociated, was the object of such distrust and dislike to the people of Ireland as could not fail to be a source of irritation and mischief.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, he wished, in the remarks he was about to make with regard to the question before the House, to dissociate himself from all personal and political considerations. He should give his vote on this Motion on the grounds on which he should have to defend it before his constituents. In his opinion this Office of Parliamentary Under Secretary was absolutely unnecessary, and that being so, he regarded it as both inexpedient and unwise. He did not think it was so much the duty of anyone opposing the measure to state the ground on which he founded his opposition, as it was the duty of the Government to justify the creation of the Office. As one who had always opposed the Office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and who had placed on the Paper Motions for its abolition, he could not now assist in propping up a system to which he objected. If the Lord Lieutenant was not equal to the work which he had to perform, then it was for him to pay for the assistance he required by a reduction of his salary; if, on the other hand, he did perform his duties, the Chief Secretary should be able to do his work without further assistance. Another objection he had was that the Bill had been put forward by the Government in the first rank for discussion, and he wished to know what was the use of curtailing discussion on other Bills if this was always to be in the way? He believed that the Bill would be the greatest engine of obstruction throughout the Session, and on that ground he should, for one, be very glad to get rid of it.
§ MR. T. P. GILL (Louth, S.)
said, he protested altogether against the notion that the Bill had been adequately discussed. The object of the measure was the creation of a new Office, and it was, in his opinion, not the kind of Bill that the Government ought to have brought in that Session in connection with the Government of Ireland. They were told that a Bill of the deepest in- 949 terest to the Irish people, and one touching upon a Constitutional question first and foremost, must be considered to have been adequately discussed in a couple of hours. The right hon. Gentleman at a previous stage had induced the House to be satisfied with a small discussion, on the understanding that another opportunity would be afforded for full consideration of the Bill; and he had that night began his speech by expressing a hope that the debate would close immediately. He (Mr. Gill) did not wonder that he was anxious for that, because the measure was one of which the Government had every reason to be ashamed; but he thought that the development which the House had just witnessed in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) was one that it had been worth while to wait for. They had a Liberal Unionist denouncing in strong terms the action of the Government, and preparing to vote against the Bill, and that was the first time such a thing had been witnessed since the Liberal Unionist Party had been formed. When a Member in such a position as the right hon. Gentleman got up and made such a confession, he (Mr. Gill) thought it was a proof that the Bill was one which no section of the House ought to support. He should not feel that he had done his duty, unless he entered his emphatic protest against the Bill, and the measures by which it had been sought to have it scrambled through the House.
The House divided:—Ayes 226; Noes 177: Majority 49.—(Div. List, No. 84.)
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.