HC Deb 05 December 1888 vol 331 cc1216-21

Resolution [4th December] reported. That a sum, not exceeding £12,707, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1889, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin and London, and Subordinate Departments.

MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

said, he rose to move the rejection of the Vote. He did so because of a statement by the Lord Lieutenant which appeared in The Times of to-day, to the effect that 160 derelict farms had been taken, but that it would be unwise to specify the names of the occupants, the districts, or other particulars concerning them. Now, he would ask first, why did not the Lord Lieutenant give these particulars? They must be well known in the particular districts and to everybody who could do the occupants any harm. No doubt there were differences of opinion between the Government and those with whom he usually acted. The Government claimed that their policy had been successful, that they had diminished outrage and Boycotting, and now that they were enabling derelict farms to be re-let. He, however, believed their policy to have been an utter failure, and that any diminution of outrage was due to far other causes, such as the influence of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. But these evicted farms would furnish a good test, and he would give the House some statistics which bore upon the subject. He had received particulars of 268 farms in 16 counties of Ireland. These were farms from which applications had come to the National League during the six months ending October last. The number of these farms which had been re-let was 12 only, and five more were partially re-let. Forty out of the 268 had had judicial rents fixed, and the rentals varied from £4 to £400. The evictions were, on the average, for two years' arrears. Ninety of these farms were in occupation of Emergency men, the Landlords' Association, or the police. He could furnish the Government with all particulars of place and persons in each of these cases. He had received further particulars of 687 other evicted farms from 166 districts and 30 different counties, embracing an area of one-eighth of the whole of Ireland. But of the 687 only 32 had been re-let and five partially re-let; and 230 were in the occupation of police, Emergency men, or representatives of the landlord. He contended, therefore, that the policy of the Government was wholly unsuc- cessful, and moved the rejection of the Vote.


said, the House would not expect another long and elaborate speech from him. He would, however, remark first that the hon. Member had not broken down any statement of the Lord Lieutenant. But what was the hon. Member's argument? It was that crime had diminished, intimidation had diminished, Boycotting had diminished, but that this result was not due to the policy of the Government but to the influence of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. He could, if he had time, cast a good deal of not undeserved ridicule upon that astonishing assertion. The inference he drew from the hon. Member's argument was that while the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian's great influence was used successfully to diminish outrage, it was not used to obtain tenants for evicted farms. This he took from the hon. Gentleman who was the chief source of information to the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. He inferred from the hon. Member's speech that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and his friends were not in favour of the re-letting of evicted farms. They were in favour of keeping farms derelict—that was, of intimidation and boycotting. They were in favour of reducing to the condition of an unproductive desert a not inconsiderable portion of the best land in Ireland; and, finally, that they were in favour of a system which deprived the evicted tenant of the value of his tenant-right and of the value of his improvements and of all the privileges which were conferred upon him by the Act of 1881, which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had made it his proudest boast that he had passed. He could not conceive a speech more damaging than that of the hon. Member—damaging, not to the Government, but to the hon. Member's own Party. But if the hon. Member was in favour of farms being kept derelict, why should he make this Motion to take away the Chief Secretary's salary? The hon. Member had not only done his Party a great disservice, but from his own point of view he ought not to have made this Motion on the ground he alleged—namely, that the Government had failed to do that which the hon. Member thought ought not to be done.


said, that his hon. Friend had thrown down a plain challenge which the Government were unable to take up. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had perverted the question by charging the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian with not using his influence to get evicted farms taken. But it was the force of public opinion which kept these farms vacant. The right hon. Gentleman said that his hon. Friend had not broken down the Lord Lieutenant's statistics. But how could those statistics be examined when no particulars of persons, time, or place were furnished. His hon. Friends came from every county in Ireland [Cries of "No!" from the Ministerial Benches]—yes, there was not one county in Ireland without at least one Home Rule Member, and 25 counties had nothing but Home Rule Members—his hon. Friends came from every county, and after conference with them he distinctly impugned the accuracy of the Lord Lieutenant's figures and the veracity of those who had supplied him with these statistics. The hon. Member—not an Irish Member, but an English Member, eminent in scholarship and politics—had laid certain figures before the House and had stated that of 268 evicted farms only 12 were now taken. Further inquiry would probably show that even these 12 were cases of bogus tenants put in for the purpose of enabling the landlords to sell under the Ashbourne Act. That was a distinct challenge thrown down to the Government, and if it was not taken up the country would know what to think. The right hon. Gentleman had made no attempt to dispute the figures given by his hon. Friend, but had most unwarrantably endeavoured by innuendo to attribute motives to him. If the figures quoted by the hon. Member were accurate they showed that all the elaborate machinery of the Coercion Act had ended in utter failure. This was full justification for moving to reduce the right hon. Gentleman's salary, for the figures quoted by the hon. Member showed that the Chief Secretary had proved to be useless for the only political reason of his appointment. In conclusion, he desired to ask what course Her Majesty's Government intended to pursue with regard to the case of a constable named Edward Swindell, against whom a coroner's jury had returned a verdict of wilful murder of a man named Ahearn. The Chief Baron, in addressing the Grand Jury on Monday last, referred to the fact that the Crown had not sent up a Bill, and intimated that if the Crown did not do so he would consider the application of the next-of-kin to send up a Bill. He hoped that some definite information would be given to the House on this point.

MR. LANE (Cork Co., E.)

said, he had just received a telegram stating that Crown counsel had to-day entered a nolle prosequi on the inquisition of the Coroner against Swindell. Did the Government approve of this?


said, the latest information he received was this morning, when the Attorney General for Ireland telegraphed that the matter was under consideration. He did not impugn the accuracy of the telegram received by the hon. Member for East Cork, but he had no information on the point. This was a matter for which the Chief Secretary was in no way responsible. It rested entirely with the Attorney General as chief Law Officer, upon the evidence before him, to decide whether he would proceed to trial or not.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

said, that the House had a right to get a more satisfactory answer to these questions. He thought they should know whether the Government were going to back up their Attorney General in the course he had taken, or whether they would take such other steps as would allay public feeling in the matter?

MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)

said, he wished to draw the attention of the House to the severity of the impost put upon the ratepayers of the Dublin Unions by reason of the order under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act for the compulsory slaughter of cattle affected with disease. Dublin was a sort of conduit pipe for cattle from all parts of Ireland intended for exportation, and the annual cost to the ratepayers of the Dublin Unions in compensation for the slaughtered animals was between £18,000 and £20,000. He impressed upon the Government the equity of placing the cost of carrying out this order upon the general Cattle Disease Fund. In this he was fortified by an Answer given by the late Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman), who said that the Government were at that time considering a scheme by which the districts affected by the order might be relieved.


explained that the results of the orders relating to diseased cattle which had been complained of were inevitable under the law as it existed, and, even if legislation were desirable, it was at the present moment impracticable. Whatever decision might be come to, it was impossible without legislation to carry out the suggestion of the hon. Member and throw the burden upon a fund spread over the whole country.

Resolution agreed to.

House adjourned at half after Six o'clock.