§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [9th February.]—[See page 64.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
said, he had no desire to depart from the tone that had characterized all the speeches made up to that time in the course of the debate; and if it was true that the Chief Secretary for Ireland was to follow him, his object in moving the adjournment had been fully answered. He must be allowed to express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would respond as fully and promptly as possible to the appeal made to Her Majesty's Government last evening by his right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury fully admitted in reply to his right hon. Friend that it was only natural and proper that a debate should arise out of the paragraph of the Queen's Speech which dealt with the policy of the Government in Ireland; but, further than that, his right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian showed clearly that before that debate was entered upon the House should have in its possession all the specific information necessary to sustain that paragraph of the Speech. Instead of that the House had, up to the present time, had no assurance that the Government would furnish the information which his right hon. Friend had asked for. In the Speech from the Throne the Government claimed that the measures which were passed last year for the benefit of Ireland had been carefully carried into effect. There was naturally a difference of opinion as to whether they had been "carefully" carried into effect. But then the Government went on to claim, as a result of that legislation and of their adminis- 159 tration of it, so far as could be tested by a short experience, that agrarian crime had been diminished and the power of coercive conspiracies had sensibly abated. What those who sat with him wanted to know was how the Government had so worked the Crimes Act as to produce a diminution of agrarian crime, and whether the Government would give the House some plain facts and figures to sustain the contention that the working of the Act had proved satisfactory? He desired information showing to what extent "Boycotting" had abated, and how the Act had abated the power of coercive conspiracy; and also would the right hon. Gentleman give the House figures to show, for instance, the number of evicted farms for which, new tenants had been provided, or a Return of the preliminary inquiries that had taken place under Clause 1 of the Crimes Act? All those questions were of the utmost interest to the House as bearing upon the paragraph in the Queen's Speech, and throwing light on the administration of the Crimes Act by the Government during the autumn and winter. His right hon. Friend had felt it necessary to ask—"What was the agrarian crime for which so many people had been imprisoned under the Crimes Act, approximating, he believed, to 350?" Was it an agrarian crime to attend a public meeting to express sympathy with an oppressed tenantry? Was it also an agrarian crime to sell certain newspapers, or to report the speeches of certain persons in newspapers? The First Lord had admitted that the Government had not made a great advance in their efforts to reconcile the Irish people with the law; and while they would all rejoice to find that there had been the diminution of crime which was claimed by the Government, they were not disposed to consider that the diminution would be the result of the administration of the Crimes Act by the Government. They were rather of opinion that the diminution had been not in consequence, but in spite of, the Act, and of the way in which it had been administered. He was of opinion that that legislation, and the action which had followed it, had tended to alienate and exasperate the Irish people, and that the diminution in crime was due not only to the self-control of 160 the Irish people, but to the sympathy and encouragement received from the English people, and the patient reliance on Constitutional measures for the redress of their grievances and obtaining their just rights. They looked to the right hon. Gentleman to lay on the Table of the House the information asked for, and he trusted they would not be disappointed in that respect. Passing to the matters of domestic legislation promised in the Queen's Speech, he should say, if he were disposed to be critical, that most of them were old friends and acquaintances who had figured in Queen's Speeches for the last 10 or 15 years. We might almost say—Funeral baked meats coldly furnished forth the marriage tables.From the new alliance of Tories and Liberal Unionists something better was expected; but if the measures were useful, as he thought most of them were, Members on that (the Opposition) side would all be glad to co-operate with Her Majesty's Government in passing them as promptly as possible. But with regard to Local Government, of which we used to hear every year during Lord Beaconsfield's Administration, he believed the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ritchie) was too shrewd to take the advice of the Mover of the Address. Movers of Addresses were generally supposed to know something of the mind of the Government. [Mr. RITCHIE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head. Well, if not, they were at least told what to avoid. It was, however, a very extraordinary thing that the Mover of the Address should suggest that the Local Government Bill should provide government by Local Boards delegated by the Boards of Guardians. The country had suffered from lack of good local government in education, sanitation, and in a hundred directions. He would therefore recommend that his right hon. Friend, for his own credit as well as for the success of the measure, would do well to keep clear of such suggestions as had been made on this subject by the Mover of the Address. There were two subjects on which he, personally, and almost all on that (the Opposition) side of the House felt great interest; they were non-Party questions; they were questions of great importance; and if there was to be legislation with respect 161 to them it were well that it should be done quickly, and it would be the duty of his Friends on that side to help Her Majesty's Government. These two questions were before Parliament last Session. One of them was the Railway Rates Bill, a very large and important measure, and one which touched great interests. Much more was involved in it than appeared in the Queen's Speech. To prevent "undue preferences in the rates charged by Railway Companies on foreign and domestic produce" was only a single branch of the subject. It did not meddle with moving domestic produce inland, or heavy bulks to the sea. The carriage of fish, for instance, was a matter of the greatest importance, not only to the fishing industry, but to the food of the poor. The question of the control of the canal traffic ought also to be dealt with, if it was true that the hand of the Railway Companies, in the case of almost every important canal, suppressed, or injured, or delayed traffic. If he might make a suggestion to Her Majesty's Government, he would say that a Bill of this kind ought to be introduced in the House of Commons. It failed last year because it was introduced in the House of Lords, where it suffered serious mutilation. He was very much surprised that should have been the case, seeing that the Government commanded a majority in that House, and, he believed, on this question; but the way they surrendered the vital parts of the Bill was a matter of astonishment, not only to Members of the Opposition, but to their own Friends on the other side of the House. In 1886 the Government of the day managed, though in Office but a few months, to press the Bill through the second reading and to the stage of going into Committee. The country was in earnest in demanding the settlement of the question; but he did not believe it could be settled upstairs, where Gentlemen would be face to face with the railway interest. If the matter were to be satisfactorily dealt with this Session the Bill must be introduced in the House of Commons, and pressed through all its stages with all the force of the Government. There was another Bill which also failed last year, the Bill for Technical Education, with regard to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had misled his audience at Man- 162 chester. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Will you allow Irish obstruction to prevent your children from receiving a technical education?" But Irish obstruction had nothing to do with it; the obstruction of the Bill came exclusively from Members on the right hon. Gentleman's own side.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
My remarks were to the effect that we should make no progress with legislation at all while Ireland blocked the way.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that they did make progress. They passed a Technical Education Bill for Scotland last year, and they passed a Merchandise Marks Bill, for which the Government took great credit, and it never cost the Government one hour of its time, and it was passed by the aid of the Irish Members. No section of the Members of the House gave more useful assistance in the passing of the Merchandise Marks Bill than Irish Members who sat below the Gangway. It was not fair to appeal to a large audience in such a way as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done. There were three reasons for the failure of the Bill last year. In the first place, it was very inadequate; in the second place, it was hampered by provisions, which the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale implored the Government to abandon; and, in the third place, it was opposed by a number of Gentlemen on the Conservative side who, in the interest of the voluntary school system, as against that of board schools, obstructed the Bill at every stage. He sincerely trusted that they would pass an adequate measure this year, not merely for the purpose of equipping our artizans with the knowledge underlying industrial pursuits, but that every child in this country might be as well equipped for life as the children of other countries, where the State had been more prompt to do its duty. he trusted the Motion, of the hon. Member for the "Wells Division of Somersetshire (Sir Richard Paget) for agricultural education, and that the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) would be successful, and that the advantage of technical education would not be confined to only one class of Her Majesty's subjects. He made 163 this appeal on the ground taken up by the Seconder of the Address as to the sufferings of the unemployed. We should do as much as we could to meet the temporary demand of the unemployed; but let us take more care in future to develop the capacity of our children and give them the power of self-help. A circular had been sent to him by his hon. Friend the Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) showing the result of his inquiries in Berlin during the last autumn, and he trusted the House would take into consideration the statement it contained. He (Mr. Mundella) had himself preached the doctrines so long that it was time there were new preachers to impress on the country its duty to the children. In a country so wealthy it was a shame that there should be thousands of people wanting bread, because they had not the courage and resources to go to the finest and most magnificent Colonies possessed by any nation in the world. He should be very thankful if he had succeeded, in these two points, in inducing the Government to give the Returns asked for, and in impressing upon them the duty of doing what they could to improve the education of our people.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Mundella) began his speech with a very unnecessarily modest declaration that his object in rising would have been adequately satisfied if he could induce me to follow him; but I confess that even though that appeal —couched as it was in the most amiable language—might have been insufficient to induce me to prolong this stage of the debate on the Address had my noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the Marquess of Londonderry) been able, in the House of Lords, to give to the country some account from a Member of the Irish Executive of the effect in Ireland which we consider has resulted from the operation of the Crimes Act. I am not familiar with the proceedings of the other House, nor do I entirely understand why that debate so unexpectedly collapsed. Possibly some of the noble Lords who are so eager to criticize the action of the Government in Ireland on platforms find the House of Lords a less agreeable place in which to 164 air their views. They have an objection —not confined, I observe, to noble Lords —to speak in a place where they can be answered. However that may be, owing to the rapid collapse of the debate to which I have referred, my noble Friend was unable to give any statistics of facts to the House of Lords and the country which the country has a right to expect. Therefore, I will attempt to deal with that part of the subject. I shall not travel beyond the limits laid down in the speeches that were delivered from the Front Opposition Bench yesterday. I may remark that those limits appeared to be very much more restricted than I should have anticipated when I recollect the extent and the character of the criticisms that have been passed on the Government by right hon. Gentlemen during the Recess. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) treating in so new a spirit the Irish problem. Where is the impassioned orator, or, perhaps, I ought to say, the impassioned telegraphist, who sent the famous message, "Remember Michelstown?" [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear !] Where is the Gentleman who used all the resources of his admirable rhetoric to inflame the public mind against the action of policemen in the execution of their duty?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
There is not a syllable of foundation for the allegation of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Of course, I do not wish to contradict the right hon. Gentleman; but I leave it to those who have present in their minds the speech he made at Nottingham.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I leave it to them whether the interpretation I have put upon it is an unfair one. [Cries of "Quote!"] I am giving to the House the impression left on my mind by that speech, and I have a perfect right to do so. If the right hon. Gentleman is under the impression that I am afraid to bring that speech under the notice of the House, and to justify by quoting that speech the criticism I have made upon it, the right hon. Gentleman is very much mistaken. Where is this impassioned orator on the Irish Question? He has sunk, 165 I presume only for the moment, into a candid critic anxious only for statistical information which may justify the allegations put into the mouth of Her Gracious Majesty by the present Advisers of the Crown. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I will not complain of this change of tone which he has adopted. Far from it. I am, no doubt, the person who benefits most. But if the right hon. Gentleman were to deliver two speeches on the subject—one of the character of the speech which he delivered last night, and the other of the character of the speech delivered at Nottingham—I confess I should have wished the speech delivered last night had been the one which he delivered at Nottingham, and that the one which he delivered at Nottingham had been delivered in a place where the statements could have been met, and where, at all events, he would have spoken to an audience more capable of critically weighing the sentiments which proceeded from the right hon. Gentleman. Before I proceed to give to the House some statistics and facts with regard to the condition of Ireland, I should like to say a word about another speech delivered last night—a speech delivered in an empty House, but delivered from the Bench opposite—by the noble Earl (the Earl of Cavan), who was a Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman, who is an Irishman by birth, if not by interests, and who, I presume, speaks with the authority and sanction of his Colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was not in the House when that speech was delivered. I should like to call his attention to some of the doctrines laid down by the noble Earl. The noble Earl told us that six of the clauses of the Criminal Law Procedure Act of last Session had been criticized and amended in this House. He stated that 24 clauses had not been so criticized and amended in the House, and he drew this remarkable conclusion from that fact, that hon. Members were not bound to regard the 24 clauses as law in the same sense as they were bound to regard the six clauses as law. Is that doctrine promulgated from the Front Opposition Bench accepted by the late Colleagues of the noble Earl? Are these doctrines to be preached from that Bench to the Representatives of Ireland and the people of Ireland? Is that view to be taken not only by the noble Earl, but by those 166 who sit behind him, as to the binding character of Acts of Parliament passed by both Houses and receiving the Royal Assent? It appears, according to this new doctrine, that we have a right to look back and see how much a question was debated, who took part in it, and who voted on it. "When the result of that examination is to show that the measure is not canvassed, criticized, discussed, and amended to the exact amount that is pleasing to any special member of the community, thon, in the noble Earl's language, that Act of Parliament is not binding in the same sense in which other and more fortunate Acts of Parliament are binding. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian last night in his speech, in effect, wanted to know whether we were in a position to say that the Irish people had more affection and regard for the law—so I understood him—not merely whether there was more specific obedience to the law, but whether the law was regarded with more affection and respect by the Irish people. He truly said—and I agree with him—that the Irish problem can never be regarded as completely solved until Irishmen regard the law in Ireland with the same respect and affection as Englishmen regard the law in England and Scotchmen in Scotland. But I want to know how Irishmen can learn to respect the law when a doctrine such as that laid down by the noble Earl is promulgated. The noble Earl made another assertion upon which I should like to have some light from a Member of the Opposition who may speak in this debate. He said that there was now but one opinion both above and below the Gangway on the Opposition side as to crime prevailing in Ireland; and that the Irish Members and the English Members who support the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian were entirely in accord in their views of crime. Is that doctrine accepted by the right hon. Gentleman? Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have never made any secret that they regard it as legitimate to incite tenants to resist, by violence if necessary, the officers of the law. That is the doctrine which they have preached consistently for many years, and which they preach up to the present moment. If there be but one opinion above and below the Gangway as to crime—as the 167 noble Earl told us—that doctrine is also the doctrine above the Gangway. I should like to know whether this is so? I do not assume that it is necessarily so because the noble Earl said it; but I should like to have from some responsible speaker a distinct repudiation of tactics still pursued, still avowed, and never repudiated by their most faithful allies below the Gangway. There are two other points relating not to the speech of the noble Earl, but to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), on which I must touch before I come to the figures which I am going to give to the House. One refers to the observations which he made with regard to the Resident Magistrates. I heard those observations with very profound regret, and with no inconsiderable surprise. He criticized what he called the Coercion Act—the Criminal Law Amendment Act—as carrying jurisdiction to men of lower stamp than would otherwise have had it in a great number of cases, and said that in the great majority of cases the men who were appointed depended upon the Executive Government for the appointment to their places, and for the retention of their offices. It is perfectly true that the Resident Magistrates in Ireland are dependent upon the Executive for appointment to their places; but the Executive Government, to which the vast majority owe their places, is not the Executive Government now in power, but the Executive Government over which the right hon. Gentleman presided. About 60, I believe, out of the 73 Resident Magistrates were either appointed by Lord Spencer, or were kept in office by Lord Spencer in 1882, when he revised the list of Resident Magistrates with full powers from a kind Treasury to superannuate on full and easy terms or pensions anybody whom he thought unfit for the place. These are the men who administer the office—men appointed by the right hon. Gentleman, and not only appointed by him, but praised by Lord Spencer after a certain banquet given to Lord Spencer for administering the Grimes Act in the same manner as I am now told I deserve the scaffold for administering it. After that banquet Lord Spencer gave praise whore much of the praise was due, and said that if he had succeeded and in so far as he had succeeded in restoring 168 law and order in Ireland, it had been done, among others, by the very magistrates who are now subjected to hostile criticism by hon. Gentlemen opposite. But, after all, is it so shocking and unfamiliar a thing to English practice that the Criminal Law should be administered by men appointed by the Executive and who can be dismissed by the Executive? I am not speaking of a subject with which I am familiar; but am I wrong when I remind the House that, as I believe, the whole of the summary jurisdiction of London, containing a population larger than Ireland, is administered by magistrates who may be dismissed by the Government? If it is not inconsistent with Constitutional usage that the summary criminal jurisdiction of London should be so administered, I want to know why it is so shocking a thing to the right hon. Gentleman that we should carry on the same system in Ireland—in that, recollect, following only the example invariably set us by every preceding Government when they found it necessary to supplement the ordinary criminal procedure in that country by one more efficacious for carrying out the purposes for which criminal procedure exists? I come now to the second point of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, to which I must allude before going further. It relates to what he said on the subject of Boycotting, I think the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman on that subject show, I will not say a strange ignorance of the condition of Ireland, but a strange obliviousness of it; for the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly acquainted two or three years ago with exactly what Boycotting meant and how it affected society where it prevailed. He appears now to have forgotten his old doctrine on that subject, and with the old views he has given up the old name. What Used to figure as "Boycotting" now figures, I think, entirely as "exclusive dealing." We have trotted out before us our old friend the Dublin parson who quarrelled with his curate on the subject of Home Rule and dismissed him, and who is actually held up to us as a man who engaged in the same kind of conspiracy as the people whom we prosecute for Boycotting in Ireland. Can anything be more absurd or grotesque? Perhaps the House would like me to give them an example of the kind of 169 Boycotting we have prosecuted in Ireland. Here is a very recent case. It is a case that happened this present month. On the 4th of February an old woman named Connell, 80 years of age, and partly palsied, unfortunately for herself, was the mother of a man who took an evicted farm, and for this crime of maternity she had been rigidly "Boycotted." She was nearly starved. She lay three days on her bed at Christmastime dying of starvation, and she was only saved by a certain Mrs. Maroney— a name tolerably familiar in that part of the country—who came to her assistance. This woman—Hannah Connell—came to the police office herself—a thing I may say in passing which would hardly have happened 12 months ago—and swore in direct evidence that having been refused provisions she went to the barracks because—as she said—she was in dread of the people. Before going to the barracks she had herself entered the shop of one of the defendants and asked for bread, and she was refused bread. With the protection of two policemen she again went to four shops to try and purchase provisions; she was again refused in every case. She asked for six-pennyworth of bread, 1 lb. of sugar, and 1 oz. of tea; she was refused everything. She also stated that at one time one of the defendants, named Flannagan, who used to supply her with bread, said that now that the people said she was "Boycotted" she could get no more provisions there. There now, Sir, that is the kind of case to which the right hon. Gentleman finds a parallel in that of the Dublin parson who dismissed his curate. Nothing, I venture to say, can be more utterly absurd than to compare those sporadic manifestations of hatred and ill-feeling which may occasionally break out in this country, and may occasionally in Ireland produce the phenomenon which the right hon. Gentleman calls exclusive dealing, with the organized system of terrorism and intimidation which prevails under the came of "Boycotting" in Ireland. I quite admit that every case of "Boycotting" is a case of exclusive dealing; I absolutely deny that every case of exclusive dealing is a case of "Boycotting." "Boycotting" is an art—practically it has reached that stage in Ireland—it is an art with a specific technical meaning. You might as well say that if a man wounds another 170 in a drunken brawl, and thereby commits an assault, he is guilty of the same offence as if he were joining in an armed, drilled, and organized rebellion, and committed the same injury on some individual in the course of that rebellion. They are both cases of assault, but is the second a case of assault only? If the right hon. Gentleman will only inquire further into the condition of Ireland, or would only revive his recollections of what he must have been familiar with when he was responsible for the government, and the condition of things in that country, he will see that the very widest distinction exists, and must exist, between the casual acts of cruelty to which I have alluded and which he rightly condemned, and the organized system of intimidation used by an association which desires to rival the law, both in respect of the power of holding Courts, and the power of inflicting punishment. Now, Sir, I have completed all I have to say in criticism of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and of the noble Earl (the Earl of Cavan) who followed him shortly afterwards in debate, and I come to the statistics that were asked for by the right hon. Gentleman—a request which was repeated by the right hon. Gentleman who resumed the debate this evening (Mr. Mundella). I may say that I think the right hon. Gentleman is disposed to attach a very exaggerated value to statistics. I never concealed my opinion on that point. I gave it to the House last year when I was introducing the Coercion Act, and I am sorry if I have failed to impress it upon hon. Members, for the further acquaintance I have made with the subject only strengthens that opinion, and I confess that the short treatment which the right hon. Gentleman made of such statistics as he had yesterday went far to confirm my view that whoever, at all events, can deduce any trustworthy conclusions from statistics, the right hon. Gentleman is not necessarily to be counted among the number. He used this argument—and it was an argument which was repeated, rather unfortunately as I thought, by the right hon. Gentleman near him. He said—" How could we expect that agrarian crime, which did not stand very high last year, could have diminished, I when we learnt that 350 persons had been sentenced or tried under the recent 171 Coercion Act?" I may say that in Ireland sentencing and trying are the same thing; and that, apparently, is also the view that the right hon. Gentleman holds. Well, I do not know that statistics prove or disprove many things, but there is no doubt they can disprove that, because the number of persons proceeded against was 659, and the number of persons discharged or acquitted is no less than 229. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman cheers that, I think. So that it will be observed that when he said that 350 persons had been "tried or sentenced," that little word "or" makes a very great difference. But that is not the only curious conclusion that can be drawn from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. He seemed to think that because this comparatively large number of persons had been proceeded against, agrarian crimes, therefore, really must be as rife after the Criminal Law Amendment Act has been passed as it was before, But the most cursory examination of the statistics laid by the right hon. Gentleman upon the Table of the House in the time of Lord Spencer would have convinced him that that mode of argument is a most fallacious one—the most fallacious one in the world; because I notice that while the number of persons proceeded against in Lord Spencer's first year—1882—for agrarian offences was in the proportion of 3½ proceeded against to every case of agrarian crime, under this Government during the corresponding period the proportion is only 2¾ to 1; so that actually Lord Spencer proceeded against more persons—in comparison with the number of agrarian offences—than we have in our time. That is a fact which I thought would have led the right hon. Gentleman to see that his mode of argument was extremely fallacious. But there is another point in connection with his statistics, of which I am sorry again to have to remind the House, because, although I insisted upon it several times last Session, I have been unfortunate enough, apparently, not to impress the mind of the right hon. Gentleman with the importance of it. The method of collecting agrarian statistics in Ireland is, undoubtedly, arbitrary, and in my opinion highly absurd. As I have pointed out in a Memorandum which I formerly laid on the Table of the House, 172 there have been cases in which you would have to proceed against 82 persons in order to deal with two agrarian offences. Now, in order to impress that rather startling fact on the mind of the House, let me say that I believe if there was resistance to the law— say at Bodyke—on the same day in 20 houses, and if that resistance to the police was carried out by 20 persons in each case, then 400 persons might be, or perhaps ought to be, made amenable. Those 400 cases would count as one. Therefore, I think the House will agree that I was not going beyond the mark when I said that the right hon. Gentleman—especially from the manner in which he treats statistics—is about to attach a very exaggerated value to them. There is another point with respect to the collection of statistics. The right hon. Gentleman appears to think that whenever we proceeded under the Crimes Act it was against agrarian crime. That is a mistake. Boycotting is not an agrarian crime. Incitement to resistance is not an agrarian crime. Yet these are two of the worst offences against which it is our duty to proceed under the Crimes Act. If you tell me that these statistics are collected on a very absurd system, I do not propose to differ from you. But I did not invent it. I found it in operation, and the Gentlemen to whom we owe it are hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite. And if you ask me further why, holding the view that this method of collecting statistics is absurd, I have not done something to change it, I say that if I had done that, the very little value that these statistics now possess would have been entirely lost, because their sole value now consists in enabling you roughly to compare in certain respects one period with another. If you give that up the whole utility of the system would vanish. I propose to lay on the Table of the House statistics of exactly the same character as were presented by Lord Spencer in 1883, and I propose, in addition, to present certain statistics which deal with Boycotting. Let me give the House some results of these statistics, such as they are, to be taken with all the qualifications which I have suggested—qualifications which I think are extremely important—namely, that the amount of crime in Ireland does not depend necessarily upon the feeling of discontent or local causes in any par- 173 ticular part of the country. It is probable—it is undoubtedly true—that it is, or that it may be, the interest of the National League to encourage crime, or not discourage it. At another time it may be their interest—it is their interest —to diminish it as much as possible. Until you know the exact motive which weighed with those who control that all-powerful organization—until you can discount the exact action which they have had upon crime in Ireland— until you can do that with certainty, you can draw no conclusions from criminal statistics, agrarian or otherwise, which will enable you to judge the condition of the country. And if anybody thinks that accusation is rather hard upon either the National League or any other body of influence in Ireland, I think I may again remind you of the speech of the noble Earl (the Earl of Cavan), to which I have already alluded, in which he made this astonishing assertion. He said that the English Members who went over to Ireland had showed them that there was no necessity now for crime—mark that —and that such disgraceful transactions as the murders in the Phœnix Park could now no longer be justified on any ground whatever. The amount of non-agrarian crime in 1886 was 2,195; in 1887 it was 1,837. These figures included threatening letters, and, if you exclude threatening letters, the amount of crime in 1886 was 1,963, and in 1887 it was 1,663. Agrarian crime in 1886, including threatening letters, was 1,056; in 1887 it was 883. Excluding threatening letters, for 1886 it was 632, and for 1887 it was 591. I may say that, owing to one of the causes which I specified earlier in my remarks, crime was very low during one or two months last winter; and that remark applies to the next set of statistics I give, which are of agrarian offences for the six months ending 31st January, 1887, compared with the agrarian offences for the six months ending the 31st January, 1888. The total number of agrarian offences for the first of these periods was 455, and for the latter period 364, showing a decrease of 20 percent on all offences. The decrease is less if you exclude threatening letters. The agrarian offences, deducting threatening letters, for the six months ending with January, 1887, was 285; and for the six months ending 174 with January, 1888, was 248, being a decrease of 13 per cent. If you now take the six months succeeding the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and compare it with the six months preceding, the results come out as follows:—I count February to July, 1887, and August to January, 1888. For the first period the numbers are 495, and for the second period 364. If you exclude threatening letters the numbers are 323 and 248. This shows a decrease in the second period of 26 per cent on all offences, and of 23 per cent after deducting threatening letters. I think that the House will feel that that diminution is one which— though I should like it to be more considerable—is extremely material, and it is one which I am convinced hon. Members in almost every part of House will extremely rejoice to hear announced. Now I come to Boycotting. It will be recollected that when I had the honour to introduce the Criminal Law Amendment Bill to the House the subject on which I relied more than anything else to justify that measure was the condition of terrorism and intimidation chiefly consequent on and sustained by the practice of Boycotting which prevailed in a large part of Ireland; and therefore, as I can show that this Act has produced most striking effects with regard to Boycotting, I think everybody will feel—if no other justification were forthcoming—that justification is amply sufficient. The number of persons wholly Boycotted on the 31st of July last year was 870; the number of persons wholly Boycotted now is 208. The number of persons partially Boycotted on the 31st of July was 3,965—practically 4,000. The number of persons partially Boycotted on the 31st of January was 1,867—showing a decrease of 52½ per cent of persons partially Boycotted, and a decrease of 57 per cent of persons totally Boycotted. These figures show a decrease in the total number of persons Boycotted of 76 per cent. That is a result which, I think the House will agree with me, is of a most eminently satisfactory description, and especially satisfactory when we come to analyze the figures in the county of Clare and the county of Kerry. These two counties are the only two counties in Ireland over the whole of which we have suppressed the National League, and in 175 these two counties the decrease of Boycotting is greater than in the rest of Ireland. I shall lay on the Table of the House the statistics from which. I have drawn these figures. I think I have shown that I have no reason to be afraid of statistics; but I confess that it is not upon statistics that I found the conclusion at which I have most assuredly arrived— that an immense improvement has taken place in the condition of Ireland. I have testimony come to mo to the same effect from every part of the country, and from every class of the community. So far as I know, there is no man who has travelled in Ireland with some desire to acquaint himself with the condition of the country and with adequate knowledge of its condition a year ago who will not tell you that the condition of Ireland has in every respect greatly improved. I have before this quoted the charges of the Judges. Perhaps the House will allow me to quote one extract from the charge of a Judge delivered in one of the most disturbed counties in Ireland. This is what Judge Curran says—I have been informed by those entrusted with the peace of the county that there is a decided and marked improvement since last Session. Moonlighting, gentlemen, as you knew already some time since, is fast becoming a matter of history in the dark and blood-red history of Kerry, and Boycotting is becoming loss general and less effective, because people are beginning to see that the strong arm of the law will protect those who stand up firmly against any such system.There is a similar quotation from the address of Judge Murphy, who said, at Cork Winter Assizes, that he was glad to be able to say that a vast change had come over the state of things in Kerry, due, above all, to the knowledge, that came home to persons engaged in those organizations that they would be detected, tried, and punished for their offences in places where juries were not afraid to discharge their duties. What these two Judges said with a sense of official responsibility upon them, every man who has spoken to me upon the subject has repeated in different language, with different circumstances, and with different details—whatever his class may be, and from whatever part of Ireland he has come. I cannot help regarding this result as eminently satisfactory. I confess that I was one of those who did not hesitate to give some amount of credence to those prophets of 176 ill-omen who said that one of the first results of the so-called Coercion Act would be to cause a great outburst of crime all over Ireland. I thought it extremely possible that that result might happen. That result has not occurred. We have done something. We have succeeded more or less in the struggle in which we have been engaged. We are not the first who have been engaged in that struggle. In happier days the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan), and other right hon. Gentlemen who sit on that Bench, were engaged, with the support of the then Opposition, in carrying on the same struggle against crime in Ireland, But though the struggle is old, some of the difficulties that we have had to contend with are new. Never before has any Government engaged in this struggle had arrayed against it the whole force of the legitimate Opposition —of the so-called legitimate Opposition. We are accustomed to the spectacle of hon. Gentlemen who come to this House from certain parts of Ireland doing all they can to defeat the course of law and to bring the law into contempt. But we have not been accustomed until this year—[Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!]—we have not been accustomed to find them rank among their most valuable allies Gentlemen returned for English and Scottish constituencies. There is nothing new, unhappily, in Irish experience in finding the whole Press described as Nationalist indulging in mendacious vituperation against those who are responsible for the government of the country. It is new in the history of Irish administration that those attacks and this course of conduct should find an echo—a feeble, imitative echo—upon this side of St. George's Channel. But, Mr. Speaker, though upon those on this side of the House and upon the Unionist Party rests the whole burden of maintaining law and order in Ireland, we may, at all events, congratulate ourselves that we have not been unsuccessful, and that the laborious days and weary nights we spent last Session in amending the Criminal Procedure Acts and the Land Act have not been without their fruits in the history of Ireland during the last six months. We have done something to vindicate and restore the authority of the law. We 177 have done something to dimish the sufferings caused by the system of tyranny and oppression practised by the National League. We have done something to restore the confidence of the individual in the protection of the strong arm of the law, without which no country—not even Ireland under a Home Rule Bill—can possibly expect to enjoy any of the blessings, the fruits, and the privileges of civilization.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
I shall certainly not imitate the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) in turning this important debate into channels for mere personal recrimination. I think the House will be able to judge from the temper of the opening remarks of the right hon. Gentleman of the tact and the temper with which he is administering the Coercion Act in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman implies by what he says that we are afraid to say in this House what we say on platforms in the country, and he has come to that conclusion because we did not last night spring to our feet and proceed with our indictment against the Government. But, Sir, the reason for that was perfectly plain. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had asked for information—for facts and figures, by which our statements might be tested, judged, and verified. The right hon. Gentleman—for reasons of which I do not complain—gave us no such statement last night; but until that statement was made it would have been futile for us to take part in the debate. There is another reason which surely the right hon. Gentleman must be aware of, and that is that it is perfectly understood in the House that the great questions connected with the administration of the Coercion Act should be debated at a later stage in connection with a Motion to be brought forward from below the Gangway. I will not attempt to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his criticism of the speech of the noble Earl the Member for South Somerset (the Earl of Cavan) because I had not myself the good fortune to hear my noble Friend's speech. But if the right hon. Gentleman's impression of that speech is not more accurate than his impression of the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) at Nottingham, I do 178 not think I need trouble the House nor myself with his criticisms. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland said that we hear nothing more in this House of the cry, "Remember Mitchelstown." Do not let the right hon. Gentleman be too sure of that. The right hon. Gentleman fell into a vein with which we were very familiar last Session, when he spoke of a number of the Resident Magistrates—60 out of 73—having been appointed by Lord Spencer. I should have thought that last year we had had enough of these recriminations. I should have thought, at any rate, that we had had enough of these attempts to test a new situation, a new departure in Irish policy, what you yourselves admit to be a new departure, though you lament it, by what happened in 1881, 1882, and 1883. I, at all events, had nothing to do with that. I shall proceed to examine the right hon. Gentleman's method of dealing with my right hon. Friend's assertion about Resident Magistrates; and I am really amazed that the right hon. Gentleman should boldly get up in this House and assure us—apparently with the approval of many hon. Gentlemen behind him —that the position of Resident Magistrate in Ireland is substantially analogous to that of a London Stipendiary Magistrate. There are notoriously important differences in the condition upon which these two sets of gentlemen hold their offices. But that is not the point on which I wish to insist at this moment. The point on which I wish to insist— because it is vital to a judgment of the Coercion Act and the way in which it has been administered—is that you entrust to the Resident Magistrates in Ireland jurisdiction over a class of cases of the utmost delicacy and nicety which you would on no account dream of trusting to a London Stipendiary Magistrate. I ask the right hon. Gentleman did he mean to convey to the House that the London Stipendiary has within his jurisdiction cases of conspiracy, cases of seditious libel, and that he has cases of this kind where the person charged has not the right of demanding a jury? Those make serious points of difference between the position of Resident Magistrates in Ireland acting under the Crimes Act and London Stipendiaries. Sir, one need not be a lawyer to understand that there is no class of cases so 179 delicate, so important, and requiring such nicety and precision of legal training, as cases turning upon the effect of words spoken and cases of acts turning upon intention as giving their character to those acts. Our position last year was, and at present is, that it is most detrimental to fair administration of the law to trust cases of that kind to gentlemen who are in a position practically and notoriously of dependence, and immediate dependence, upon the Executive Government. One of the conditions was that in these Crimes Courts one of the two magistrates sitting should be a person of whose legal competency the Lord Chancellor was satisfied. [An hon. MEMBER: The Lord Lieutenant.] I was under the impression that we moved an Amendment to transfer the decision about competency to the Lord Chancellor. But that makes no difference. Whether it is the Lord Lieutenant or the Lord Chancellor, there has been a remarkable difference in the procedure of the present Government and the procedure under the Government of Earl Spencer, because I understand that Earl Spencer made out a special list of magistrates of whose legal competency he was satisfied, and wherever a Crimes Court was constituted one of those gentlemen of necessity had a place on it.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
If I may interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, there is no difference between the Act of 1882 and the Act of 1887 in that particular. Of the 30 special magistrates specified as being legally qualified, 20 were so qualified by Earl Spencer, and three of the others are barristers.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
The right hon. Gentleman does not say that it has been essential that in every Court constituted under the Crimes Act one of the two magistrates sitting should come from this list.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
I find I am right. It is the Lord Chancellor who is to be satisfied of the legal competency. I will now make a few remarks on the right hon. Gentleman's demonstration of the paragraph in the Queen's Speech asserting that coercive conspiracies have abated, and that agrarian crime has 180 diminished in consequence of the legislative measures of last Session. I wish to examine how far he has made that good. The right hon. Gentleman has, no doubt, shown—and he will not suspect me of feeling anything but entire satisfaction—that there has been a diminution of agrarian offences in the six months from July, 1887—the six months since the Crimes Act was passed, There has been a sensible, though not a very enormous, diminution in agrarian offences. But I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that we ventured to predict—when the Land Act was before this House last Session —that one effect of certain provisions in that Act would be to give you a period of about six months of comparative calm— the period during which the notices would be running their course. Well, the facts quite bear out the prediction we then ventured upon. The right hon. Gentleman has shown—what is also extremely satisfactory—that there has been a decline in the number of Boycottings. The decline there, no doubt, is very much more considerable than the decline in agrarian offences. We have our own theory as to the reasons which will account for that decline in Boycotting. We do not attribute it—and the right hon. Gentleman has given us no reason for attributing it—to the operation of the Crimes Act. The present Prime Minister in 1885 made what I thought then, and what I always thought, a most judicious series of remarks on Boycotting. He said—It is one of those sets of acts in a community with which Acts of Parliament can do little, and which will die out of themselves owing to the operation of general causes if you give them sufficient time.Our explanation of the decrease in Boycotting—of which we are thoroughly glad—our explanation is that Lord Salisbury was right; that the causes which led. to Boycotting have been wearing themselves out; and that one of those causes is the very circumstance on which the right hon. Gentleman so strangely dwelt at the close of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman claimed for himself and his Friends that they alone are the Party of order. Our contention is that the decline in Boycotting and the decline in agrarian offences is due to the fact of there being an entirely changed state of feel- 181 ing in Ireland, and that that changed state of feeling, and that wider and deeper sense of responsibility, are due to the fact that Liberal Members of Parliament and others from England have gone over there. I have been in Ireland myself for a short time lately. I did not come into contact, no doubt, with the same classes of officials and others as those who furnished the right hon. Gentleman with his information; but I saw persons of different positions with different means of gathering information, and I was assured on every hand that the sense of alliance—of alliance, not of coalition— with an English Party has had the most remarkable effect in awakening responsibility all over the country. The right hon. Gentleman has left out the answers to important questions which were put to him by my right hon. Friend who opened the debate this evening (Mr. Mundella). He has not told us whether, and, if so, what amount of what is called derelict land has been rescued for the occupation of its owners in consequence of the Crimes Act. The number of these derelict farms was one of the greatest evils and one of the worst features in the social condition of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman has shirked that question. He has not attempted to show that coercive conspiracies, as he chooses to call them, or lawful combinations, as we choose to think them—he has not shown in any detail that these combinations have been weakened in their operation by any single proceeding taken under the Crimes Act. Those two points are all-important. The question before the House at this moment is—What has been the effect of the Crimes Act and the Land Act in restoring something like social order in Ireland? The payment of rent is, as everybody knows, one of the most important factors in the social condition of Ireland; but the right hon. Gentleman has not shown in the least degree that the orderly payment of rent has been furthered, either by the apprehension caused by the Crimes Act, or by any proceedings taken under that Act. The right hon. Gentleman has entirely failed to show—which he was bound to show—a connection between a certain very partial and very limited decline in the broader and coarser features of disorder—a connection between them and the Crimes Act or the way in which it 182 has been administered. I must fall back again on the very frank and manly admission of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House last night (Mr. W. H. Smith), who said plainly—"I admit that we have made no great advance." [Mr. W. H. SMITH dissented.] I see the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I thought I heard him say it, and I certainly wrote the words down.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
In reply to the observation of the right hon. Gentleman, what I said was that no great advance had been made in producing obedience to the law and sympathy with the law. I admitted that no great advance had been made in those respects.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
To admit that, after all, Sir, is to admit our whole case. We want, and we have the right to call upon you, and we shall continue at a later stage of the debate to call upon you, to give good justification for such a measure as the Crimes Act. Unless a measure of that extraordinary and exceptional kind is a very great success in attaining the objects which you set before yourselves in persuading the House to pass it, it has not justified its existence, and you have not justified your policy. I do not wish to diminish the importance of the two or three figures given to us by the right hon. Gentleman to-night; but you have set that small gain against the enormous loss, first of all, of the time of Parliament last Session, and, secondly, the loss of the chance of procuring a better state of things in Ireland. The Government have practically wasted last Session in forcing this costly and—as I maintain it still shows itself—this comparatively useless instrument. They have thrown Ireland into turmoil. [Laughter] Gentlemen laugh. I do not mean to say for a moment that it is the action of the Government alone that throws Ireland into turmoil. What I say is, that the way in which the Crimes Act has been administered has aggravated and made still more dangerous all that was already dangerous in the social condition of Ireland; and it has put further off than ever the day— which the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues, I believe, are as anxious to reach as we are—when the Irish people will extend to law that respect and 183 obedience which we are accustomed to pay to it in England. Your policy has increased the turmoil in Ireland, and has deepened and widened popular resentment in Ireland against the very-institutions and the very system of government which it is your professed ambition to cherish and preserve.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
said, he was unable to agree with some of the observations which had fallen from hon. Members on the other side of the House, that the legislation of last Session in regard to Ireland had been satisfactory. He thoroughly and entirely agreed in this—that the measure passed last Session at the cost of so much labour, and of, perhaps, intentional misrepresentation, had produced very serious result?. He did not believe for a moment that any benefit whatever had resulted to Ireland from that measure. No doubt, the state of things in Ireland had greatly improved, but that improvement was in no degree owing to the Crimes Act. To take a few months' Returns at a year ago, and compare them with similar Returns now, was altogether delusive, because it was just at that time that the Irish people had become alive to the fact that a large body of the people of this country were determined to do justice to Ireland. From that moment there had been a steady progress towards peace and friendship. He believed that that improvement would continue; and the only thing which had retarded, instead of accelerating it, and prevented it from becoming more rapid and certain, was the mischievous effects of the measure introduced by the Government last year. He did not quite understand upon what principle the House was told that the result of the legislation of last year had been satisfactory. There had been no good result whatever from the Coercion Act. What was the result? Her Majesty's Government said that it had been the gradual pacification of Ireland? That was a matter upon which there was a considerable difference of opinion. There were, however, some matters on which they might agree. It could not be denied that the result had been to put into prison some of Ireland's most trusted sons, and to stir up against one Party an amount of bitter feeling that did not previously exist. That which was previously tyranny had now become worse than 184 tyranny—a tyranny not only of a cruel, but of a most contemptible kind, It was bad enough to oppress a people; but in the 19th century the system of tyranny had degenerated into simple and petty spite—a system which condescended, for the purpose of gratifying itself, not merely to inflict the punishment of imprisonment, but to acts of personal annoyance and insult in reference to persons of position and character. He thought the 19th century was too late for a Nero, whose weapon was a slop-pail, and who revelled in the stealing of clothes. Her Majesty's Government had established a system entirely novel, and in the course of a short time it would be most unsatisfactory. The only point he desired to lay down with force and energy was this There was one object they were not seeking to attain-namely, good government and the pacification of Ireland; they were endeavouring to govern by force. Her Majesty's Government prided themselves on having established law and order to such an extent that they had driven beneath the surface those signs of lawlessness which they said existed still. They had compelled the people of Ireland to be orderly; but they had compelled them against their will. He maintained that that was not good government. It was impossible for Her Majesty's Ministers to do it; they had not done it yet, and if they did it it would not be good government. There was one great object which hon. Members on that side of the House would continue to fight for. They were convinced that no legislation for Ireland would be satisfactory until the country had been made quiet and happy, and until the law would be accepted not only without resistance, but with affection and sympathy. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government admitted that no progress had been made in winning the sympathy of the Irish people with the law and the Government under which they lived. The statistics of the Chief Secretary were good for nothing, and could prove nothing until it could be shown that the people of Ireland had been cemented in firmer bonds than before, and that the feeling of sympathy and affection between the two countries, which had been so long strained, had been re-established. No doubt, the sympathy of the Irish 185 people for this country was increasing; but it was in spite of the coercive legislation of last year. Their confidence in the justice of this country was increasing, not in consequence of anything Her Majesty's Government had done, but in spite of it.
§ MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, he earnestly protested against the assertion that coercive measures were more congenial to the Conservative Party than to their opponents; but the Government had been put into power for the purpose, first, of maintaining the Union, and, secondly, of restoring law and order, and those two purposes had, to a large extent, been fulfilled. No one had suffered from the Coercion Act except those who had wilfully transgressed the law, or the dupes of those who ought to have known better. His main reason for rising, however, was not to refer to the Irish Question, but to the question of agriculture, which was far more important to the large majority of people. Although the paragraph in the Queen's Speech on this subject was not so full as he could have wished, still he rejoiced at the notice taken of it; because, when taken up by the strongest Government the country had seen for years, there was a chance of something practical being done. Wheat, they might say, was no longer cultivable at a profit, and the same might be said of oats. And though barley was a trifle better as regarded price, the difference was very small. Then there was the meat supply of the country, in which the home producer was handicapped in many ways by foreign imports. But of that he did not complain. He hoped, however, as the Government were apparently so successful in their negotiations on the sugar question that they would approach the Argentine Republic, and get them to put an end to the system of bounties, amounting to about £100,000 a-year, which they had inaugurated to enable producers to send meat to this country. The condition of the agricultural interest could not be overlooked when they remembered that tens of thousands of men were driven from the agricultural districts to towns and villages in search of employment, and thus helped to swell the ranks of the unemployed. Only one interest connected with agriculture had made much improvement, and that 186 was the dairy interest. But even there they were handicapped by foreign competition, which he would not complain of if our people had the same advantages as foreigners to carry on the trade successfully. In his own part of the country they had actually had to go to America and Canada to obtain competent instructors to teach the people the art and science of dairying. Was it not rather hard and absurd that they had no training college, no school, where such instruction could be imparted to those willing to learn? They were told they had the Science and Art Department at South Kensington; but it must not be forgotten that only £5,000 was spent by that Department on agricultural instruction. He hoped something would be done to relieve the agricultural interest from the heavy burdens of local taxation. If some of these burdens could be thrown upon the Consolidated Fund, that would not only be justice to the agricultural interest, but a benefit to the nation at large. He hailed with satisfaction the assurance that the question of railway rates was to be dealt with. Unless facilities of the best description were afforded to the agricultural interest, they could not compete with the foreigner. Technical education he would not enter upon, further than to express the hope that attention would be given to it amongst other things. They ought to have a distinct Government Department to take surveillance of those matters, and which would bring to the front many things buried in Consular Reports. They did not want necessarily a large expenditure in their favour, but they did want what appeared to be absolutely necessary—assistance from the Government to enable them to help themselves. If given in that way, much good would follow, which would be of advantage to the ratepayers in the long run. For these reasons, he brought before the House the passages enumerated in the Queen's Speech, in the hope that they would not be lost sight of this Session, and that the great agricultural interests might not be neglected.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was fond of imputing mendacity to his opponents; but that evening the right hon. Gentleman had himself furnished 187 a good example of the flippant mendacity which usually characterized his statements.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! That remark is very improper, and altogether un-Parliamentary. I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw it.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
said, he had withdrawn it. As an Irish Member residing in one of the disturbed districts of the country, as far as he could see and judge, there was no change in the attitude of the people towards persons who were alleged to have been Boycotted. Certainly, no change had been brought about by the vicious action of the Police Authorities. What was the fact? In a notable case which recently came before a Law Court on appeal—the case of a blacksmith for refusing to shoe the horse of the widow Curtin—it was well known to the police, although they alleged that the widow was systematically Boycotted, that the smith used to go to her house at night and shoe the horse for her. Yet that very man was entrapped, brought before the Court, and illegally convicted. The prosecution was undertaken against the will of the Curtin family; but they themselves were threatened with proceedings if they hesitated to support the action of the police. Surely that was scarcely the way to make life easy for that unfortunate family. He would, mention another case—that of Justin M'Carthy, whose proceedings had attracted considerable notoriety, and who, in a description which he gave of the wonderful village of Inniscall, asserted that to his own knowledge there were 350 persons Boycotted. He (Mr. Harrington) believed that that was about the extent of the entire population. But what were the facts in regard to M'Carthy's own case and his allegation? Not long ago Justin M'Carthy wrote a letter to a local newspaper in the county of Kerry, stating that so far as he was personally concerned he had never been Boycotted at all. Therefore his case must be taken out of the 350, and probably, if all the rest were inquired into, they would prove 188 equally destitute of foundation, and in that way it would not be difficult to substantiate the figures of the Chief Secretary in reference to the diminution of Boycotting. If it suited the purpose of the Executive Government for the time being to say that crime and intimidation existed in Ireland, the figures were ready at hand to support their assertion. Judge Curran had been quoted in the course of the present debate. Now, on the very day that Judge Curran made an announcement of the peaceful state of Kerry—on that very day there was pending a trial which must have been within the learned Judge's cognizance—the trial of the murderers of an old man who was shot in the leg and bled to death; also the trial of a young man for taking rushes from his father's farm—there having been a dispute between his father and his uncle. There was another case in reference to an attack upon a very popular and estimable gentleman, which attack had been prompted by this very Justin M'Carthy, who at this moment avowed that, so far as he was personally concerned, he had never been Boycotted at all. He (Mr. Harrington) thought these facts would show how the figures to suit the purpose of the authorities were manipulated, in regard to the use which had been made of the Crimes Act and the results of the legislation of last year. The Act prescribed that the jurisdiction under the Act should be exercised by persons of whose legal knowledge the Lord Lieutenant was to satisfy himself. It would be in the recollection of hon. Members that in the notable Mitchelstown trial, Captain Sea-grave, when put on that table and asked whether he was one of the magistrates in regard to whose qualifications the Lord Lieutenant had satisfied himself, laughed at the idea and said that it was neither probable nor possible. As a matter of fact, whatever ordeal Captain Seagrave had been subjected to, he would have failed to pass. Indeed, he had failed in every examination he had undergone; but he, nevertheless, succeeded in getting an. appointment as Resident Magistrate. It suited Her Majesty's Government to get a tool so pliant to their will. The Government wanted partizans—violent partizans—who would rush any person into Court, effectually shut up his 189 mouth, and then commit him to gaol. This was the work that such magistrates as Captain Seagrave were well fitted to perform, and that gentleman was a good example of that sort of Judge which Her Majesty's Government wanted for the administration of the Crimes Act in Ireland. In some cases an appeal had been allowed after a conviction; and if, when the appeal was heard, the conviction was affirmed, the convicting magistrate could rush into Court there and then, take the prisoner by the collar, and rush him into gaol. He (Mr. Harrington) maintained that this was illegal, that the accused person was in the hands of the Judge who heard the appeal, and that until the Judge affirmed the original conviction, the Resident Magistrate who heard the original case had no right to be present, and had no legal power to arrest the defendant. It was contrary to every principle of justice and humanity that any man who was really a party to the appeal should have authority at once to lay his hand vindictively upon the shoulder of the defendant and carry him off to gaol. At the last Petty Sessions in the county of Kerry two young men were convicted of the extraordinary offence of uttering what was called a compromise between a "boo" and a laugh against the police, and they were sentenced to one month's imprisonment. The moment the sentence was pronounced, Sergeant Lock, of the Constabulary, laid hands upon these two young men and vindictively carried them off to gaol, although the conviction was appealed against. He (Mr. Harrington) had carefully watched the administration of the Crimes Act in Ireland, and he was able to assert, without much fear of contradiction, that the action of the Executive was prompted by a desire to give annoyance, and to create ill-feeling and irritation in the minds of those who happened to be accused, and to bring in conflict with them every individual who might be supposed to have a feeling of enmity against them. The Chief Secretary had read a number of figures in reference to Boycotting. Those figures would be found to be most elastic and altogether visionary. He (Mr. Harrington) believed that virtually there had been no change in what was known as Boycotting and exclusive dealing, although he was prepared to admit that the 190 action of the Executive, as in the case of Mrs. Maroney in Ennis, public feeling had been outraged and inflamed against those whom the Government pretended to protect. It was difficult to understand the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in regard to statistics. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman deprecated the use of all figures, and then he proceeded to make use of them, In the next place, he deprecated the use of all facts, manipulating both figures and facts with singular dexterity, and calling upon the Irish Members, who had neither figures nor facts before them, to reply at once to the deductions he had drawn. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in reference to the poor women, Connell and Mrs. Maroney, was most elastic. The allegation was that Connell was lying ill in bed for three days, reduced to a dangerous condition by starvation, because a system of Boycotting prevailed which prevented her from being supplied with food, and waiting until she was strong enough to go to the police and lay her grievance before them. Now, this poor woman, whose case was stated with so much pathos, turned out to be a servant of Mrs. Maroney, whose case was scouted out of Court only the other day. It turned out that this woman sent persons to rival shopkeepers, who did not get the police custom, for goods with the sole object of entrapping them and annoying them, because she considered that she herself was Boycotted. The statement that Connell had been starving for three days was not the fact, because it was proved that she was a servant of Mrs. Maroney, and had been employed for this vindictive purpose. After the passing of the Crimes Act, and before its immediate application to Ireland, the Resident Magistrates were called up to Dublin. Did they all go there? Certainly not. It was not necessary that some of them should go; and as to the rest, they went to Dublin, not to obtain information as to the Act, but to be schooled as to the duties they were expected to perform. One of these magistrates flippantly told him—he would not mention the name—"A month is now the nearest thing. That is the latest tip from the Castle." With regard to the point that Boycotting 191 and intimidation not coming under the head of agrarian crime, could the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary seriously maintain that with 659 cases of prosecution under the Act they were not to be taken into account as showing that the state of crime had not sensibly decreased? The right hon. Gentleman had manipulated his figures in an extraordinary way. Out of more than 600 cases, he said that 200 ought to be removed, because the accused were not convicted. Surely it was the prosecutions which showed the number of crimes in respect of which they were brought, and not the convictions. If there had been 600 crimes committed and no one had been prosecuted at all, there would have been 600 crimes all the same. This was the way in which the Chief Secretary had manipulated his figures in the course of his speech. He (Mr. Harrington) desired to refer incidentally to the Inniscall case. The facts of that case were as follows:—On a Sunday evening, about 7 o'clock, the house of Dr. O'Kane, living in the village of Inniscall, was attacked. Six or seven men entered it. They struggled with Dr. O'Kane at the door, and fired a revolver. The bullet missed Dr. O'Kane, but hit his son, who was left for dead by the attacking party, in the belief that they had killed the doctor. The whole family fought with a pertinacity which reflected the highest credit upon them. But there was not one word in the speech of the Chief Secretary in reference to that ease; not one word of praise for the courage and vigour with which the attacked persons defended themselves on that occasion. What was the result? A couple of local arrests had been made—the persons arrested being the servants of the Justin M'Carthy already referred to. The accused persons were admitted to bail, although fully identified, and charged with the serious crime of Moonlighting. It leaked out in Castle island that some cousins of M'Carthy had hired cars and conveyed the men who committed the outrage a distance of 30 miles. The facts were placed before the authorities; but they were very slow to move, and it was only after a lapse of three weeks that any steps were taken towards making an arrest. Instead of being sent to gaol and confronted with those who could identify them, the men 192 accused of Moonlighting and outrage were released upon a bail of about £25. The men themselves had been identified. The case was still dragging on from day to day, and he assorted with confidence that it was the intention of the authorities to burke it. If hon. Members really desired to secure peace and individual liberty in Ireland, he asked them to assist the Irish Members by their votes in forcing such a case as this upon the attention of the Government. He would refer to another case, that of a man named Callaghan, who was a witness on one occasion, and whom he had only had an opportunity of seeing once. He was brought into the county of Kerry, to Tralee Gaol, to see if he could identify a man accused of the murder of Mr. Herbert. He had already made a statement in regard to the case, and he made it on evidence supplied to him by the gaoler and other persons who wore present. The protest he had made was directed against the conduct of one of the magistrates, who, when the man was brought out for identification, walked along the line of prisoners, who had been brought out, and suddenly, on reaching a particular individual, stepped off the gravel path on to the grass, whereupon the informer immediately came up and put his hand on the shoulder of the man who had thus been pointed out with the remark— "That is the man." The prisoner was a man named Casey; but, unless the evidence of the informer was amply corroborated, it was highly improper to put him upon his trial on such evidence. Unfortunately—and it showed what the condition of the country was—this man Callaghan was still in the pay of Her Majesty's Government. He (Mr. Harrington) saw that the Solicitor General for Ireland was in his place, and was evidently paying attention to the debate. He claimed the attention of the hon. and learned Gentleman to this matter, because the hon. and learned Gentleman was new to Office. Was he aware that in the time of his Predecessor both the Attorney and Solicitor General fought the Crimes Bill throughout, and they were now being sent to the disturbed districts of Ireland to administer it? Only at the last Assizes at Cork a man named Harold, accused of murder, was discharged by proclama- 193 tion. He had been asked to account for certain marks on his person, and so unsatisfactory was the account he gave of them that he was kept in prison for a month, and in the end he was discharged by having recourse to a very unusual proceeding—namely, the issue of a Proclamation by the Lord Lieutenant, which rendered it impossible for the man to be tried for the same offence. The general belief in the country was that because he had employed as his solicitor a man who was first cousin to the Crown Prosecutor —a proceeding that would scarcely be tolerated in the administration of the Criminal Law in England, nor would it be sanctioned that two such men should work together, one prosecuting for the Crown and the other defending the prisoner. In such cases a prisoner, whatever his offence may have been, would escape, and he knew that he would escape. The Irish Members did not shirk the political consequences of their own acts. He did not think Her Majesty's Government, with any credit to themselves, could throw in the teeth of the Irish Representatives the fact that they had shirked any of the consequences which were likely to arise from a conflict with the law. At the time the Crimes Bill was introduced how many combinations for carrying out the Plan of Campaign existed in Ireland? Upon one estate of 700 tenants 500 adopted it, and the remaining 200, who stood aloof, were sot down in the Returns of the Chief Secretary as having been partially Boycotted. But the Plan of Campaign had been eminently successful, notwithstanding the Crimes Act, and the tenants who adopted it had carried on the fight, not only with advantage to themselves, but for those who refused to join them. He asserted with confidence that no reliance whatever was to be placed upon the figures of the Chief Secretary. The Chief Secretary had been challenged by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) to show that a single acre of land in Ireland had been taken or grabbed. If he could show that, the Crimes Act might be regarded to that extent as a success. So far the Act had only been put in force against illegal assemblies, against newspaper men, and against newspapers. Did hon. Members realize the disgraceful working of the Act in the case of Mr. O'Rooke, of Tralee? He was a poor man, although 194 he occupied the position of Town Commissioner in Tralee. His wife was recently dead; he had a large family, and he was prosecuted for selling a copy of United Ireland and exhibiting a placard of that paper outside his shop. He had been told by the police that he was not to sell that paper. His reply was— "Why not? It is published under the walls of Dublin Castle; and if it is lawful to print it, why should it be unlawful to sell it?" He did remove the placard, but he sold copies of United Ireland, and this unfortunate man was sent for a month to gaol in consequence, on evidence which has now been proved to be altogether inadequate to sustain a conviction. In the case of the Lord Mayor, the Lord Chief Baron said the mere fact that a paragraph having appeared in a paper, announcing a meeting of the National League had been held, was sufficient proof of the meeting having been held; but that ruling was on an appeal quashed in another place, and a man who had been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment was released one week before the original sentence of a month had expired. But in the case of O'Rooke, he was not released, but he was sent to prison, with his helpless family unprotected and unprovided for. Would any man who had witnessed the callousness with which the Government had proceeded against O'Rooke, think one whit the more or one whit the less of them for their action in the matter? As a matter of fact, the public had flocked to his shop since his conviction, and the sale of the papers he was selling had been doubled. This was the reward he was receiving for having infringed the law; and it would to some extent be a compensation to him for the suffering he had had to undergo. He (Mr. Harrington) did not think that one moment ought, if possible, to elapse between the extraordinary statements the Chief Secretary had made to the House, and the contradiction that could be given to them. The Chief Secretary had already had some experience of the danger of making these bold statements. He had come down to the House armed, as he said, with facts, but they turned out to be fables, and the right hon. Gentleman had to eat humble pie. The right hon. Gentleman had caused amusement by describing the tactics by which some 195 hon. Members had sought to escape arrest. He (Mr. Harrington) was prepared to speak in that House in the same spirit he had manifested elsewhere; and he was prepared to say that if his Colleagues were willing to allow him to do it, so strongly did he feel upon this question that an editor ought to be privileged to publish what he considered necessary of public news, that he would at once resign his seat in that House and go back to Kerry prepared to take his seat in the office of his little paper with the intention of fighting the matter out with Her Majesty's Government. They believed, and he spoke with some little experience of the feeling in this country, that, as the continual dropping of water wears away the stone, they would work their way through the prejudice which undoubtedly surrounded the Irish Question in England, and that the immediate settlement of that question would be ere long demanded by the English people.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, that he should not be doing his duty to the agricultural labourers and farmers in South Essex and other parts of the country, if he did not refer to the passage in Her Majesty's Speech in which the agricultural interest was mentioned. He knew that it was expected by them that the Government now in power, and which represented the country Party, would do something for them. They did not expect any special legislation, or any thing like reversal of the equinoxes, but they did expect that the Government would take into consideration three things, and he trusted that no inducement would cause them to swerve in dealing with them effectually. The first was the question of railway rates, by which the home producer was paralyzed, and a bonus given the foreigner; the second was the question of tithe rent-charge, and in this case a revision was hoped for; and the third was that of local taxation and the equalization of taxation on real and personal property, as by the present system the interest of the farmers and labourers was being crushed out of existence. He did not wish to detain the House by saying more upon these subjects at that moment; but he hoped the House would not suppose that because hon. Members, representing the agricultural interest, did not push the matter, that they 196 would not do so hereafter to the very end.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
said, there was one part of the Queen's Speech to which no allusion had yet been made—that referring to legislation for Scotland. As he read those words, he could not help asking himself what would happen if a Scottish Minister, responsible to a Scottish Legislative Assembly, had brought forward this beggarly bill of fare as sufficient legislative work for one year of that Assembly. In the first place, he could not conceive the possibility of any Scottish Ministry responsible to a Scottish Assembly bringing forward such paltry and jejune measures, while questions of the utmost importance and urgency were neglected; and if they were capable of such an act, they would, speedily suffer the penalty in immediate exclusion from Office. The questions they were promised legislation upon were the Scottish Universities, the consolidation of the police burgh laws, and some allusion of an unintelligible character to the reduction of the cost of Private Bill legislation. But what were the questions which were grievous and urgent to Scotland at the present moment? First and foremost was the most deplorable condition of the crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. In some portions of Scotland extreme destitution prevailed, and in some parts even famine seemed to be threatened. That destitution and that famine were due to the policy which that House and Parliament had adopted in enabling the landlords in Scotland to deprive the people of the land which was necessary for the purpose of sustaining themselves and their families, and devoting it to the purposes of sport and the cultivation of deer. The disastrous results of that policy were now painfully felt throughout the whole of Scotland, and not only so, but the desperation to which those unhappy people had been reduced by the neglect of the Imperial Parliament had resulted in some breaches of the law, followed by trials in Edinburgh, and by sentences of which he would say nothing more than that they had sent a thrill of horror throughout the people of Scotland. When the law was broken it must be vindicated, but what a deplorable commentary on the work of that House. There were no people in any part of the 197 British Islands who were more willing to obey the law than the people in the Highlands of Scotland. If they had a fault, it was that their deference and obedience to lawful authority amounted to a superstition. But although it was melancholy, it was an undoubted fact that if the crofters did not break the law, no attention whatever would be paid, to their grievances, and they would be left to starve and perish without any assistance from Parliament. Looking at the past conduct of that House with reference to the crofters, he observed that not a single step had ever been taken, either in the way of inquiry into their condition, or of introducing remedies for their relief, unless it had been forced upon the House by the continuance of illegal acts in the Highlands, and by the necessity of sending troops and ships away to that part of the country. This was a matter affecting the lives, he might say, of a very large number of their fellow-subjects in Scotland; and throughout the length and breadth of that country there was no topic that excited more profound interest, no people who drew more sympathy, and no conduct which excited more indignation, than the way in which the crofters had been treated, and remedies denied to their most urgent necessities. But of this pressing and clamant case there was not a word in the Speech from the Throne. Another class of Scotsmen who were at present suffering most severely were the tenant farmers They were in the unhappy position, which farmers in England were not, of being mostly bound by leases for a considerable term of years, which they could not break without the consent of their landlords. Their capital was melting away, and this most important class was gradually being squeezed out of existence. What had Her Majesty's Government to say to the farmers? Not a word—not a notice. In another part of Scotland great suffering existed at present in consequence of the enormous sums which were exacted by landowners in the name of mining royalties for the right of working the mines. The serious pressure of those royalties on the mining industry of Scotland was at present driving the miners there more and more in the direction of Socialism. The districts which were inhabited by 198 miners were the only parts of Scotland where at present what was commonly known as Socialism could be said to have any real existence. All these were matters of urgent necessity, and no Scotsman could for a moment look to the impotent and helpless position of the representation of Scotland in that Parliament without arriving at the conclusion that, however necessary Home Rule might be for Ireland, it was equally necessary for Scotland. If the Government must touch education in Scotland at all, what could have induced them to introduce a Universities Bill? That was the part of Scottish education that was least pressing and urgent. Their elementary education was not so good as it was. It had improved in quantity, but it had fallen off in quality, in consequence of an English Parliament insisting upon applying to Scotland the Code —that principle of payment by what they were pleased to call results, which he considered no results at all. The application of the Code to Scotland was deteriorating and injuring Scottish education; but the grievous hiatus in Scottish education at present was in their secondary education, and especially in their technical education. The Government certainly last year gave them a Technical Education Act, and if they were thankful for that Bill, they should be thankful for small mercies indeed. Technical education required money. In Scotland it required nothing but money, but that was an Act which gave them no money. It said to the people of Scotland—"Be ye clothed and be ye fed;" but it took good care not to provide either the food or the clothing. Therefore, from that Bill nothing could be expected, nor, indeed, could they have an adequate or proper treatment of secondary education, unless they were prepared to deal with those ecclesiastical endowments which were now applied for the support of a single religious denomination. All those questions hung together, and for legislation upon them the people of Scotland were ripe. The harvest was ready, but the harvestman was not there. The Imperial Parliament was too much engrossed with a multiplicity of affairs to be able to attend to such a small part of the United Kingdom as Scotland. He had just returned from a visit to his constituents, whore he had had an opportunity of seeing some- 199 thing of those who had for many years taken a deep interest in educational reform, and he had found everywhere among them the gravest alarm at the suggestion that the present Government was to undertake to deal with the Scottish Universities, because, if they might judge from their experience of the past, what that House would be invited to do was not to legislate on the subject, but to draw a blank Bill, signed by the Imperial Parliament, and. endorsed by a certain number of Gentlemen called Royal Commissioners, who were to insert in the Bill substantially whatever they thought fit. He had too deep a regard for the welfare of the Scottish Universities to desire to see any experiments of that kind made at their expense. For his own part, he had no confidence in the Government as educational reformers, and he could only look forward with misgiving to any Royal Commission appointed by them. He thought that the greatest blessing they could confer upon the Scottish Universities was to let them alone, and leave them to be dealt with by some other Government that had enjoyed the confidence of the people of Scotland, and who would be able to deal with the subject in a satisfactory manner to the people. With regard to the other subjects in the speech, he thought that the chief sin of the Government was more that of omission; and they would be utterly and entirely mistaken if they imagined that the miserable and meagre bill of fare they had put forward would satisfy the people of Scotland, or would win for them any credit. He considered that last year they had great reason to complain of the manner in which the Government treated Scottish Members. They were fortunate in securing several Wednesdays at the Ballot. All these Wednesdays the Government took away from them. It might be said that this was an evil which they shared in common with England. But there was this profound difference— that the English Members were engaged in a task which, to the majority of them, seemed agreeable; while the Scottish Members were forced to stand and see a measure passed which was abhorrent to their feelings. But that was not the worst of it. The Government, having taken away all their Wednesdays, proceeded to block their Bills. It would be interesting to know whether they were 200 that Session also going to play the part of the dog in the manger and refuse to legislate for Scotland, and at the same time prevent Scottish Members from doing so. With regard to the delimitation of the Afghan Frontier, if that delimitation had been accomplished by an arrangement between the Ameer of Afghanistan and Russia, the circumstance would have deserved unqualified satisfaction; but the delimitation had been accomplished between Russia on the one side and England on the other. If Russia should violate that frontier, one of two things must happen: either we must submit to a very grave and serious loss of prestige—he might almost say of honour—which could not fail to have disastrous consequences throughout the East, or else we should have to engage in war whenever Russia wished it. The result, therefore, of this delimitation was that we should not be able to choose where we should meet the attack, for we had placed it in the power of Russia to compel us to go to war, with a base of operations not on this, but on the other side of Afghanistan. In short, he held that we had laid a trap for ourselves.
§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said, he could assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that the question of royalties was one of enormous interest to the mining community. He could take any Member of that House to scores and hundreds of miners in his own constituency who were getting out coal at a less price per ton than was being paid to the landowners in the shape of royalty, and those men would find but cold comfort in the hope held out to them in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech of brighter prospects. He had listened with attention to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Address (Colonel Duncan), and had been exceedingly pleased to hear him say that we were to have a turn of the tide in our commercial affairs. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had referred to a visit he had made to the North of England, and told the House of the value which the miners placed on the legislation of the last Session; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman might, in his opinion, also have told the House that there were miners in the North of England now earning 8s. to 10s. a week, out of which they had to maintain themselves and their families, and who pro- 201 bably, on the average, throughout the year did not earn more than 16s. a week. He feared the hon. and gallant Gentleman had not seen in the parts he was referring to any signs of the turn of the tide; and he would ask if there was any evidence of the tide turning in the deputation which waited on the Prime Minister the other day, and which was headed by Lord Herschell. And, again, was it shown that any improvement had taken place by the last Returns of Pauperism in England and Wales? They had been told that the number of Paupers in the month of November who were receiving relief was greater than at any former period during the last 12 years of our history; and in the Metropolis there were 100,000 paupers receiving outdoor relief. He thought these people also would find small comfort in the passage of Her Majesty's (Speech which said that the prospect of the future was more hopeful. Those prospects he could assure that House would not satisfy hungry men, and unless the Government were prepared to take some steps to hasten reform and improve the condition of the working classes, they would find the latter going over almost in a body to Socialism. That calamity could only be avoided by the Government taking time by the forelock, and acting upon the suggestions of men who were thoroughly in touch with the people; for then, and then only, could they hope to keep the agitation of the unemployed in this country within anything like Constitutional limits. This might be done by the Government accepting the suggestions of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down with reference to mining royalties. It might also be done by their giving their support to the agitation in the country against granting a renewal of the coal and wine duties. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had earned considerable favour by the manly answer which he gave to the deputation which waited upon him when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he (Mr. Fenwick) was sure that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would assist the miners by preventing the renewal of the coal and wine duties, he would earn the gratitude of the mining community. That community consisted of more than 500,000 202 persons who were engaged in one of the staple industries of the country, and he strongly supported the appeal of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) that the Government should give their serious attention to the question of royalties, and also to the enormous charge levied for carrying coal to the docks for shipment to London and elsewhere. In some cases, coal owners were compelled to pay for way-leaves something like the rate of £30 per acre, which was much more than the value of the fee simple of the land, and they were also burdened with the condition that they must put the land again into the same state as they found it. It was because he believed that these were reforms which would tend considerably to brighten the prospects of the present year that he urged on the Government the desirability of giving attention to them. He believed that, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) gave Notice of his intention to raise the question of Royalty Rents by direct Resolution last Session, so it was his intention to bring it forward again; and he (Mr. Fenwick) trusted the Government would afford the hon. Member all facilities for the discussion of the question, and would aid him all they could in bringing about a satisfactory solution.
§ MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
said, he thought the debate on the Address this Session, with the single exception of the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), had been characterized by great monotony, and by a somewhat sombre and subdued tone. Whether that was in consequence of anticipation of more lively matters to come later on he was unable to say; but he was afraid the few observations he had to intrude upon the House would not tend, to enliven the debate, for the subject he was about to refer to was one of intense gloom, and might have the effect of making the discussion even more lugubrious than it had hitherto been. He desired to express his satisfaction that in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech it had been found compatible to make some candid reference to the present condition of agriculture; because, whatever allegations hon. Members representing agricultural constituencies had hitherto felt it to be their duty to make, they had 203 been usually met with the same official coldness, and with the general implication that their assertions were not borne out by facts. But now they had in this very important official document the distinct assertion that no improvement corresponding to the alleged improvement in commerce was observable in the condition of agriculture. That would be, he hoped, noted by the country at large, especially by those who were struggling against great odds in connection with this much depressed and neglected industry. But, while glad to find that the condition of agriculture was recognized as being bad in official quarters, when he turned to the suggestion of remedies he could not say that he was equally satisfied. Her Majesty's gracious words said—"I commend the interests of this great industry to your attentive care," which seemed to him very like the old formula, in which the Spanish Inquisition used to hand over obstinate heretics to the custody of the temporal power. He did not think that much hope was held out—certainly not by the measures which the Speech went on to foreshadow. With regard to the cheapening of the transfer of land, he thought the measure in contemplation would confer a substantial boon on the unfortunate landlords, who were most anxious at this moment to get rid of their land as fast as possible; but he believed it would be most cruel and impolitic to try to give the impression throughout the country that there was anything desirable in, at this moment, becoming a landed proprietor. In many cases the land at this moment would not pay the necessary expenses of rates and taxes. It was impossible to pay the tithes on a great deal of the land that existed, and many thousands of acres lay absolutely uncultivated. He did not know what economic system —whether it was called "Free Trade" or "Protection" or what—could justify the fact that at this moment there were upwards of 25,000 acres of arable farm land in the country lying absolutely uncultivated, and not yielding a penny to anyone. To that very large proportion of uncultivated land, the county he represented contributed upwards of 1,700 acres. The county of Essex contributed upwards of 3,000 acres, and so on; and he did not think that the public at large 204 —certainly not many hon. Gentlemen in that House who represented urban constituencies—realized the amount of distress which was inflicted on the rural communities by the fact of this land being absolutely uncultivated. Again, he was sorry to say that the nature of the cultivation had been changing in a manner very injurious to home industries. They found, in the first place, that a great deal of arable land was being converted into pasture; and he believed that many hon. Members were not aware of what a diminution of employment that single process involved. They would allow him to remind them that for every 100 acres of arable land employment could be found for about four men. For the same number of acres of land laid down to grass, employment was not furnished for even one man. Now, they had often been told to try other crops, and to try exceptional methods of farming, and the part of the world he represented, and the adjoining county of Kent, had been exceptionally fortunate in such experiments. By cultivating hops in Kent and the Weald of Sussex, they had not only enabled farmers and landowners to meet their engagements, but had also given more employment in proportion than any other branch of agricultural industry. It was not generally known what a vast amount of employment this hop industry furnished, not only to the immediate localities, but to the country at large. He was saying a moment ago that while 100 acres of arable land furnished employment to four men, 100 acres of land laid down to grass did not furnish employment for one. Well, but the same quantity—100 acres—of land cultivated in hops found employment for from 35 to 50 men, and also healthy recreation for vast numbers of miserable Irish peasants and poor from the East End of London, who looked to this as one of their most substantial means of subsistence. In the county of Kent alone 4,000 acres of this hop land had been thrown out of cultivation. In the several counties in which the hop industry had been followed, a total of over 6,400 acres, which had been devoted to the hop industry, had been allowed to go out of cultivation. The enormous loss which that entailed could hardly be estimated. It entailed loss, not only to those actually 205 engaged in the cultivation—the pickers, the labourers, and so on—but it entailed indirect loss on every man in the community. It entailed loss to the provision merchants, the wood dealers, the manure merchants, the implement makers, the bankers, and indeed almost everybody; and it was becoming a most lamentable and serious thing that while Representatives of those hop constituencies pointed out that this evil was increasing, no adequate remedy was suggested by any Government that happened to be in power. The suggestions which were made in the Gracious Speech—the proposal for cheapening the transfer of land, for modifying the tithe rent-charge, for the promotion of technical education—were, no doubt, excellent proposals in their way; but they were not final, and did not go to the root of the question which they ought to deal with. There was another suggestion made in the Gracious Speech—another foreshadowing of a measure which, he thought, did involve something of more importance. The speech said—Proposals are being considered for preventing undue preference in the rates charged by Railway Companies on foreign and domestic produce.Well, it was notorious that for many years past the agricultural interest had suffered very severely from the undue preference given by the Railway Companies to the foreigner; but he should just like to ask Her Majesty's Government—who, he was sorry to see, were not represented on this important occasion—to consider whether the introduction of a measure for actually benefiting British farmers by preventing Railway Companies from charging them and the foreign producers what they liked was not an actual concession to those principles of protection to British industry which he had been sent there to advocate? He trusted that that would be found to be the case, because if the measure which proposed to deal with railway rates was a measure which left the foreigner unattacked in the position he at present occupied, and only added fresh difficulty and imposed fresh obligations on the Railway Companies without hitting the foreigner at all, he could only say that the measure would have no effect whatever in mitigating the distress from which the agricultural industry was at present suffering, or 206 silencing the clamour which was steadily coming up from those engaged in that industry. He thought it was the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland (Mr. Fenwick) who said that all that was required in connection with a question of this sort— and the hon. Member was speaking more particularly with regard to the mining industry—was for the Government to take the opinion of men thoroughly acquainted with the subject. His (Mr. Brookfield's) experience was that when an hon. Member said that, he usually referred to his own opinion, and expected the Government to take that. No doubt there were many honourable Members who would be glad to see their individual views accepted as being conclusive. But what he wished the Government would do, and that the Prime Minister would do, was to actually recognize the change which was coming over the public feeling with regard to fiscal policy—the great change which had taken place, within so short a space of time as the last few months. Why, he believed that the Government suffered more certainly in these democratic days by not realizing the actual changes that were going on around them, than from almost any other cause. Of course, it was a part of the duty of the Government to distinguish between self-interested clamour and the designs of personal ambition and actual grievances which had their basis in solid fact. But he believed that men in the position of Lord Salisbury and others were greatly handicapped in this respect —living in an artificial atmosphere, and not being really in touch with public opinion as it changed from time to time; and if that were the case with the noble Marquess, who had occasionally to ask, when he was going to a particular district, what was the state of public feeling in that neighbourhood, and then made a speech more or less in accordance with the answer he received, it was still more the case with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who was not even allowed by his family and friends to see a newspaper unless it expressed the most unqualified approval of his actions. It was attributed to the late Lord Palmerston that when he wanted to know the actual state of public feeling on this or that question, he did not ask 207 his private secretaries or his friends, or people of that sort, but used to consult "the man in the white hat on the top of the omnibus;" and that was the kind of individual, or his modern equivalent in the underground railway, who ought to be consulted on the question to which he (Mr. Brookfield) was referring. Now, this kind of person—the average everyday elector, who did not concern himself much with Party intrigues or foreign policy or other questions of that sort, but really desired to make a reasonable living and do his duty more or less to the state of life to which he was called—was very apt to consider some of the facts which they were endeavouring to lay before the public at the present moment from a standpoint of his own. He was coming to the conclusion that the root of our distress was not to be found in the mere fact that we went in, more or less, for a Tree Trade policy, but in the fact that the Government of the day continually turned a deaf ear to all suggestions for any modification or improvement whatever in that system; and he (Mr. Brookfield) believed that that could not long continue. Had he known that he would have had the honour of addressing the House that evening, he should have brought with him some statistics which he had been preparing on this subject. He was well aware that it was very easy to prove absolutely anything by statistic; but he did not think it was easy to disprove some of the broad facts that they were able to urge at this moment. There was the broad fact that in our foreign transactions there was a hostile balance against us every year of about £100,000,000. When they asked the Free Trader how he accounted for that balance, he at once annihilated them with theories, but did not account for the actual loss. They were supposed to be consoled for the fact that their exports were so infinitely lower than their imports by the argument that these things were always adjusted by some natural scientific principle. But he failed to see—and he believed the public at large were beginning to fail to see—how it could be for the benefit of this country—whether the process were thoroughly scientific or not—that so much money should go out of the country annually, and that our trading transactions were not conducted on equal 208 terms. If we imported so much of one kind of commodity, and sent abroad so much money in return, it might be perfectly true that the entire community was no loser by the transaction; but it did appear to him that if the whole transaction took place at home, this country would benefit by it; for, while the commodity would remain at home, the money would at the same time remain for home circulation. He never knew any Free Trader who could get rid of that difficulty without spluttering into now ones. He complained that the aims of all "earnest and thinking men"—as they called themselves—and all the aims of the Legislature seemed to be directed to the advantage and maintenance of the foreign producer, and entirely against the interest of the home producer. He believed that the most alarming feature at the present moment, side by side with the steady diminution of employment which was furnished by the land going out of cultivation so rapidly, was the undeniable fact that the population was increasing at a most abnormal rate, and that the consumption was increasing in a proportionate degree. He supposed that it would be in vain to expect in a debate of this kind —which he believed they were most of them agreed it was desirable to make a short debate—any important exposition of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government with regard to British industry and the question which he and his Friends were endeavouring to raise. But he and his Friends had accepted the invitation which the Prime Minister had given them, and were about to formulate their views and wishes in the shape of a Bill which would, no doubt, duly be laid upon the Table. He believed it was a great deal easier to criticize novel proposals of this kind in general terms than actually to upset the theories which they might advance. All the theories which those who advocated Protection put forward were, after all, those which, as Lord Salisbury once said, were adopted by the rest of the civilized world, with the exception of ourselves. They were theories which, in other countries, were gaining ground every day. He (Mr. Brookfield) considered that, as regarded this House, Her Majesty's Government had no cause to fear the action of the little knot of hon. Members who corresponded in im- 209 portance, perhaps, to the Quaker community outside the House, and they had the advantage of the recent defection of the right hon. Gentleman who represented the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who, for some reason of his own, had recently turned his coat completely inside out on this subject. But they might reasonably fear the great growth of public opinion outside Parliament. He trusted very largely to the broad political fact that the democracy at large, as a democracy, invariably gravitated towards Protection; and he thought they were more likely to see and to appreciate the argument that England must be for the English, and that money should be spent at home—that Englishmen should be employed at home instead of foreigners— than to fall in with the theories, how-over plausible, of those who were perpetually posing as the friends of the consumers, ignoring the fact that they were generally producers at the same time. He would not go into the matter as it bore upon the Irish Question, though no doubt the two subjects were closely connected. As he had said before, a Bill was to be introduced on the question, and they would in due course make their position and proposals known; and he did not think that the Government would find that there was anything unreasonable in the views that they were taking of those matters, and that when all other means had been tried to resuscitate agriculture from the condition referred to in the Gracious Speech, some advisers, either in this Parliament or in some future Parliament, would be glad to have recourse to that simple remedy—protection for home industries.
§ MR. W. BOWEN ROWLANDS (Cardiganshire)
said, he did not propose to interpose for any length of time in this debate, nor to quarrel with the destructive criticism which had been applied to the Speech from the Throne by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Brookfield); but he did not think that it would be consistent with his duty, regarding his position towards the constituency he represented, if he did not venture to offer one or two observations as to an omission from Her Majesty's Speech which appeared to him to be deserving of notice. This omission became more startling and apparent when 210 placed in contrast with some of the promises of legislation which were contained in the Gracious Speech. He might say, first of all, that he strongly complained that there was no reference in the Speech to the country the largest constituency in which he had the honour to represent in that House. It could not be unknown to Her Majesty that there were claims put forward by Wales for the recognition of the wants which she had in various directions. Some of those wants could not be of such a nature as to provoke the hostility of any Government that was really desirous of securing the wellbeing of every part of Her Majesty's Dominions. For instance, he might specify in that regard the subject of intermediate education. He did not now desire to say anything with regard to the attitude the Conservative Party had taken up in times past in regard to the education of the great mass of the people of this country. He wished to give them credit for the best possible intentions for the furtherance of education now that they saw resistance was hopeless; but he was at a loss to account for the fact that amongst the measures they had promised to introduce they had not included a measure for intermediate education in Wales. So far as he knew, there could be no conflict as to the reasonableness of the desire of the country to advance in education. So far as he knew, there had been no demands put forward by Wales as to which any arguments had been adduced which could properly cause it to be described as unfair, unreasonable, or too exacting; and he, therefore, did complain here that Her Majesty's Government, whilst moving in matters useful in themselves, but of vastly inferior importance, had not risen to the height of acknowledging the demand put forward for such a measure by that nationality to be just and reasonable. Was it because they wished to keep up a suggestion that Wales had no nationality of its own, and that Wales had no right to any legislation which did not take in England as well? The speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rye (Mr. Brookfield) seemed to contain the germ of that Home Rule sentiment which had been enunciated on the Liberal side; for after advocating Protection, which must lead to taxing the food of the people, he 211 claimed "England for the English." He (Mr. W. Bowen Rowlands) did not desire to restrict the claim of Wales for consideration within its own limits entirely; but he maintained that the elements of nationality belonged in a pre-eminent degree to Wales, and that it was idle and mischievous, therefore, with these vital forces at work, proving her claim to individual nationality, to attempt to ignore Wales as Governments had endeavoured to do in days gone by. In the Speech from the Throne, there was no special reference to Welsh agricultural interests; but that might be because, in one paragraph, Her Majesty expressed regret that there was no improvement in the condition of agriculture generally. He regretted to find that neither in reference to Wales nor any other part of the United Kingdom was there a hint that the Government were prepared to bring in any measure in the direction, of remedial legislation concerning agriculture. One grievance which was as intolerable in Wales as it was in Ireland was that the rents payable were much too high for the farmers to pay in the present condition, of the agricultural industry. He should have thought that some scheme such as that of a Land Court, which had met with great success in Ireland, might not unfairly have been included in the sketch of prospective measures with which the Gracious Speech from the Throne had favoured them. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rye (Mr. Brookfield) that while the expression of regret for the depressed condition of agriculture did credit to the humane feelings of Her Majesty's Government, it would have assumed a more practical form if it had been accompanied by a suggestion for a remedy. The only suggestion that had been made in the debate from the opposite side was a return to the discredited system of Protection—a system which he thought the good feeling and political good sense of the country would never allow any Government, however retrograde it might be, to have recourse to again. But there were many other subjects which called for notice with regard to the country which he complained had been so ignored in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech. There was, for instance, the burning question of the relation between Church and 212 State; as well as that phase of it which more particularly affected the method of collection and the mode of application of the tithe rent-charge. He observed that the Speech promised a legislative proposal for modifying the procedure by which the tithe rent-charge was collected, putting it altogether, as it seemed to him, on a false issue. What the Government proposed to do was to deaden the public appreciation of the evils of tithe by rendering its collection more easy—by charging it upon the landlord in the first instance. They evidently thought that by that means public feeling would not be so readily excited, and public observation would not be so much stimulated towards the real grievance, which in Wales, was not so much the method of collection as the mode of application— namely, its devotion, as the majority of the people thought unfairly, to the support of one religious institution, and that not by any means an institution to which the majority belonged. The part of the country which he represented would have been extremely glad if, instead of the measure, or if, together with a measure for preventing undue preference in the rates charged by railway companies, there had been something to abolish any undue preference in the matter of religious establishments and religious institutions generally. Apart from those questions affecting his own country in particular, there were omissions in the Speech which he regretted to find. He had no doubt that on some of the points many hon. Members sitting on the opposite Benches would agree with him. It might be truly said that it was impossible to mention in the Speech from the Throne every desirable object, much less every possible object, of prospective legislation; but there were some matters as to which public opinion appeared to be ripe, and the evils of which appeared to be such as to demand attention from the Legislature. He thought that some means ought to be found of altering our procedure, so as to afford the right of criminal appeal. He did not propose to occupy the time of the House by referring to the state of public feeling in regard to the question of criminal appeal; but he should have been glad to have found some indication in the Speech from the Throne that the anomalies in the Criminal 213 Law were soon about to occupy the attention of the Government and of the country. There were other matters alluded to in the Speech which, no doubt, were matters of great satisfaction. He rejoiced, he supposed with all Members of the House, that measures tending to develop the resources of Ireland, and to facilitate an increase in the number of the proprietors of the soil, were likely to occupy the attention of the Government. But he thought that in order to carry such proposals out, there should be some departure from the old policy of Coercion, because the result of appealing under successive Administrations to Coercion Acts had not been to increase the number of the proprietors of the soil, but to sensibly diminish the number of inhabitants of the country—to the extent of one-third of the total number. He should have hoped to see some indication in the method of treating Ireland had it not been ostentatiously proclaimed in the preceding paragraph of the Speech that the measures passed last Session had proved beneficial to Ireland. His object, however, in rising was not so much to make any general observations upon the policy of the Government, or upon the measures alluded to in the Speech from the Throne, as to perform what he conceived to be his duty—namely, to complain that, although matters which legitimately should excite the attention of any responsible Government had arisen in the country of which he was a native and which he had the honour to represent, the Government had not recognized the situation, or thought fit to mention those matters in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech.
§ MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
said, he was very glad to find that in the Speech of Her Gracious Majesty the question of agriculture occupied a prominent position. The position of agriculture was a most important subject for the House to pay attention to; and he hoped that before the Session was over considerable attention would be given to it. The points touched upon in the Speech—tithes, railway rates, and so on—were all matters which he hoped would be thoroughly gone into. The tithe question was one that demanded earnest and immediate attention. The matter had long been a vexed and grievous one as between the tithepayer and 214 the tithe receiver; and he wanted to see all the present friction laid aside once for all. He desired to see the tithe-owners' property respected; but, at the same time, he did not want the land to be unduly taxed in regard to tithe. His own idea was that it was always intended that tithe should represent some relative proportion to the capability of the soil to pay a smaller or a larger amount. At the present moment there were large tracts of land where the tithe was considerably in excess of the rent. He could not think it was ever the intention of the donors of tithe, however good their intentions might have been, that such an anomaly as that should be established. He feared it would be a very difficult question to straighten out; but he trusted the Government would not be afraid of thoroughly going into it just because it was a difficult one. The more difficult the question the more zest he hoped the Government would throw into it. There were many other difficult questions connected with agriculture that would want a great deal of courage to tackle in an efficient and thorough manner. Take, for instance, the railway question. There were a great many people who were very much interested as shareholders in the profits of railways; but agriculturists thought it was very hard that foreign produce should be carried long distances, past their very farms, at a cheaper rate than the produce they grow was conveyed comparatively short distances—say from Essex to London. His hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Brookfield) had referred to the advisability of opening up that great question which was known to-day under the name of fiscal reform. Although he (Mr. C. W. Gray) might not go so far as his hon. Friend, he unhesitatingly said that if no remedy could be found for the present agricultural depression without a recourse to fiscal reform, then, by all means, let us have fiscal reform. He did not know that there was any reason why we should be afraid of fiscal reform. At the same time, he hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite would understand that if they could produce any remedy for what he could not help describing as the present agricultural ruin—any remedy which would be efficient to reinstate agriculture in the position which it ought to occupy without touching upon fiscal reform.—he 215 should be only too delighted, as an agriculturist, to support them in their efforts. But he was afraid that the remedies which they would suggest would be more in the nature of the suggestion which was thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), when he advised farmers to grow black currants and to produce jam. That was a remedy which would certainly never be found to be sufficient to get agriculture out of the rut into which it had fallen. Agriculturists had been told again and again by their advisers—and the number of advisers farmers had was astonishing— that the troubles in which they found themselves were owing to their own want of practical knowledge of their business. He knew there were farmers who were lazy, and farmers who had insufficient capital; there were others who never thoroughly understood their business; but he asserted that it was unfair to suggest that the general agricultural depression was owing to deficiency on the part of the agriculturists. British farmers knew their business as well as any other class of the community knew theirs; but British farmers did not know how to get a profit out of an article which cost more to produce than it could be sold for in the market. If any hon. Gentleman could tell them how they were to get a profit out of growing wheat at 30s. a-quarter, they would be glad to hear all he had to say upon the subject. Perhaps he might be allowed to say a word or two about the terrible question of fiscal reform. He should like to know why it was that when the time arrived for discussing that question they should not do so. If they really had Free Trade to-day, it would be almost impossible to re-open a question of this sort; but he maintained that they had not got Free Trade. As a farmer, he knew that if he had a quantity of barley lying in his barn intended for brewing purposes, that barley, before it was made into beer, would be subjected to a duty of about 80 per cent on its original value. He could hardly think he was living in a free country when such was the case. He could run through a list of articles that were also subjected to a similar tariff; but it would take up too much of the time of the House for him to do so. [Cries 216 of "Name them!"] There was tea, for instance. Tea paid a duty of 6d. a-pound. He maintained that tea had become almost a necessity on the poor man's table; and he could not understand why an article of that sort should be subjected to a taxation of 6d. a-pound at our ports, and why, if he suggested placing a small duty upon some article of luxury—lace, silk, or something of that sort—he should be told that he might as well try to resuscitate Queen Anne. Hon. Members might depend upon it that, although it was an undoubted fact that Queen Anne was dead, they would hear a great deal more about the fiscal reform movement. They would hear most about it from the working classes themselves; and he was convinced that if the working classes came forward in their thousands, and were to say they would rather that the 6d. which was now levied on a pound of tea should be levied on some other article, no Government would turn a deaf ear to the wish. The change he should like to see accomplished in connection with the duty which was now levied upon beer would be something in this nature—the 6s. 3d. a-barrel which was now levied on beer might well be reduced, and then something might be placed on the foreign barley at our ports. As his hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Brookfield) could tell them, there was no class of agricultural industry which was more beneficial to the working classes than the hop cultivation. £20 an acre might be spent in cultivating hops. That £20 was circulated amongst the poor people from the time hops first came up to the time they were picked. It used to be a great boon to the poor people of our large cities to go down to the hop districts in the hop season and earn a few pounds to help them through the coming winter. Why should not the beer duty be reduced, and a duty placed on the foreign hops, so as to give a stimulus to hop cultivation in England? Hop cultivation was going out very speedily now, and they would find many other branches of agriculture would soon go out of existence unless something was done to prevent their extinction. Could there be a more serious question than the disappearance of arable cultivation? He hoped no hon. Member would think that it did not make any difference whether the land was 217 under the plough or whether it was laid down to grass. He assured hon. Members that directly they laid down the poorer descriptions of arable land to grass, they took a great deal of capital and labour away from the agricultural business. The poor clay lands which had been growing wheat, and which were now constantly laid down to grass, were so unsuitable to grass, that when laid down in that way they did not produce nearly so much for the people as they used to produce when they were under arable cultivation. He found that everyone professed to take great interest in the question of the food supply of the people. So did he. He thought it was one of the greatest political subjects that anyone could turn his attention to; and it was because he thought the food supply of the people was such an important question that he asked hon. Members to look the matter fairly in the face. He asked them not to approach it with more Party political bias than was absolutely necessary. He prayed them never to be so wrapped up in their affection for the miscalled Free Trade as not to be able to pay attention to this subject, if something in the way of fiscal reform was suggested as a remedy. He wanted thorough light to be thrown on every corner and side of this question, and that thorough light he hoped would be the light of truth. The English taxpayers would, without a grunt, contribute £500,000 or so for an iron-clad. We contribute £30,000,000 sterling every year for our Army and Navy— perhaps we might not like it, but still we did it without much grumbling. He maintained that it was just as important, in order that we might hold our position an a country, that we should attend to the Home Commissariat Department, as that we should attend to the Army and Navy of which we were so proud. What would be the position of a citadel the walls of which had been strengthened, where large guns had been mounted, and where the guns were manned with such soldiers as Old England could produce, if, when the enemy was surrounding it, it was found that someone had forgotten all about the Commissariat? Such would be our position if this question were not looked fairly in. the face. Then they would know what a dear loaf was. Men like his hon. Friend the Mem- 218 ber for Rye (Mr. Brookfield) and himself were often twitted with trying to raise the price of the poor man's loaf. He (Mr. C. W. Gray) was quite sure that that was neither his wish, nor the wish of his hon. Friend; but he maintained that if the arable land of England continued to go out of arable cultivation at the rate it was now going out, when there came a rumour of war, the poor man would know what a dear loaf was, and that was just what he and those who thought with him wanted to avoid. It would be much better that we should produce as much as possible of the food supply of our people here at home, and then by all means make up the deficiency from abroad; but we could not produce the greatest amount of home food if we continued to show that neglect of agricultural ruin that had been shown in the past. We might produce schemes of peasant proprietary and allotments, and wish them all "God speed;" but they would never make the wealthy farmer with £10,000 at his back, or the poor farmer with £10, undertake the cultivation of the soil, when they knew that the only result would be that in course of time their capital would be gone. They must show to the men whom they wanted to place on the soil some chance of their being able to get a business profit for their labour and their capital. In order to do that, something in the nature of a drastic remedy must be forthcoming. He sincerely trusted that every hon. Member who had ever stood upon a public platform and appealed to the feelings of the working classes by talking about cheap food, or employment for the working classes, would do all he could to suggest any reasonable remedy for the present ruinous state of things. In case of England being at war with any large Continental Power, she ought, at any rate, to be in a position to supply herself with food for as long a time as possible from her own fields.
§ MR. COGHILL (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
said, he must congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the firmness they had shown in resisting those who, under very plausible names, sought to re-introduce the principle of Protection, into this country. An hon. Gentleman, opposite had spoken of the agricultural interest being on the brink of ruin; but in spite of all they heard on that subject 219 he (Mr. Coghill) ventured to think that that was not the case. If they took the case of the counties of Devonshire, Cheshire, and Staffordshire, amongst others, he did not think that anything like agricultural ruin would be found there. He regretted that no allusion was made to the unemployed in the country. There was in England a large number of men out of employment, or only earning very small wages, and that was a subject which he thought might have attracted the attention of Her Majesty's Government. He was of opinion, also, that the scale of treatment in the workhouses ought to be improved; they did not want them to be made too comfortable and become an inducement to people to go into them; but if a man received a night's lodging in the casual ward he ought not to be made to do labour before he went out in the morning, because that was often the cause of his being too late to get work on the day. With regard to the workhouses of the Metropolis, he thought the system was defective. For instance, a poor woman looking out for a night's lodging might be sent from one workhouse to another, and after that be told that she was chargeable on another part of London; she would probably be worn out before she got a lodging; and it was under these circumstances that many persons actually died in the streets. He considered, therefore, that it would be a great advantage to have officers to point out to persons needing relief places where they could obtain it; we should not have those sights which he had mentioned recurring in the streets of London. There was an allusion in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech to a Bill dealing with railways; but he would point out that that Bill was only to deal with preferential rates, though he hoped it would also apply to all the enormous rates now being charged by the Railway Companies on goods which were the cause of trade being driven away from many places throughout the country. It was the same in the case of agricultural produce, a great deal of which was prevented from coming to market solely owing to the excessive cost of railway carriage. He also thought that the Railway Companies required to be overhauled for the way in which they treated passengers; they were tricky in their conditions and arbitrary and high-handed 220 with regard to their passengers. Take the case of return tickets alone — one Company issued them for a day, another for seven days, and another, say, for a month; then another Company would put it on the ticket that it was only available from one station named to another station named, and not for intermediate stations—a statement that was absolutely wrong, because the contrary had been decided in the Courts of Law, and the system was only carried on to impose upon those who were ignorant of the fact. He objected to the large number of appeals which were permitted under our legal system. Suitors were taken from Court to Court, and there was no termination to their suits; they began in Judge's Chambers; they went afterwards to the Divisional Court, then to the Court of Appeal, and then to the House of Lords. It certainly seemed to him strange that they should, have a Supreme Court of Judicature, and that there should also be a Court superior to it. It was difficult to understand the meaning of the term "supreme," if it was not thought it had nothing superior to it; and he was of opinion that it would be to the interest of the suitors if that Superior Court could be removed—that was to say, that the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords should come to an end—an arrangement which would not result, as some supposed, in any loss of judicial ability, inasmuch as the Judges now sitting in the House of Lords would then sit in the Court of Appeal. Under the present system it was quite possible that a suitor might get a decision in his favour in one of the Divisions of the Supreme Court, which might be reversed on appeal, and again given in his favour by the House of Lords. It seemed to him that suitors should be treated with equal favour; whereas, under our judicial system, if a man were rich enough he could go on wearing out his antagonist until he got him up to the House of Lords. With regard to the subject of transferring the Irish Government from Dublin Castle, he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would see their way to removing the form of centralized government which now existed; and he thought there was no doubt that much of the dissatisfaction in Ireland sprang from the abuses of the present system. He should be glad to see, as had been suggested by 221 an hon. Member the other day, the substitution of more Irish Secretaries to do the business of Ireland. It seemed hard to expect the Irish people to be loyal to their Sovereigns, while, instead of allowing them to pay their allegiance to the Sovereign, they had set before them a miserable dummy. He knew that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway congratulated themselves a good deal on the adherence to their cause of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan); but he (Mr. Coghill) thought they should not congratulate themselves too much, because the right hon. Baronet had now held his present opinions for nearly six months, and it was now getting time for him to change them. He wished briefly to refer to one or two expressions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), who said the other day in Dublin that nothing had been done under the Crimes Act which could not have been done under previously existing Statutes. Surely that was an acquittal of the Government on the course they had pursued. They had here the confession of the right hon. Gentleman that the Government had done nothing but what they could have done without the Crimes Act; and if that was so, where was the great hardship of that Act? They had been told that the Crimes Act might be used for the collection of rent; but the confession of the right hon. Gentleman made it quite clear that the Act had not been used for that or any of the purposes suggested during the last Session. The right hon. Gentleman also said, at a meeting at Templecombe in the autumn, that he had a full, absolute, and plenary right to dash his head against a wall if he chose to do so; but that remark showed the right hon. Gentleman's ignorance of the law, because if he did that he would be tried for attempting to commit suicide. Then they had been told by the right hon. Gentleman that they were "to put their trust in the old pilot;" but when, on a stormy night, they were asked to cross a sea that happened to be the Irish Sea, with an old pilot who had already suffered shipwreck on that sea, he had no hesitation in saying that if the request were made to him he should at once refuse. Finally, he 222 must congratulate the Government on the way in which they had carried out the Crimes Act, and the improvement which had taken place in Ireland. They had brought home law to the lawless; the programme sketched out in Her Majesty's Speech was full of promise; and his hope was that in August they might find that the blossom of promise had been turned into the rich and ripe fruit of much-needed and useful legislation.
§ MR. HOARE (Norwich)
said, he should like, as one representing the capital of a very large agricultural district, to express his great appreciation of the measures which it had been announced would come before the House during the present Session, many of which, he believed, would be of the greatest advantage to the agricultural interest. He regretted very much that at the present time the agricultural interest was in a very depressed condition; but, as he had said, he looked for some relief to the promised measures, particularly the Tithe Bill, the Local Government Bill, the Transfer of Land Bill, and the Railway Rates Bill. Some hon. Gentlemen had thought it necessary to speak at some length with regard to changes which they wished to see made in their fiscal system; but, for his part, he thought that if they waited for those fiscal changes they would have to wait a very long time indeed; and he was one of those who considered, it boat to confine themselves to legislation which could be concluded rather than lean upon hopes which might not be fulfilled. He thought now that they had the promise of an education measure, they might express a hope that the education of those in the country districts would be more thought of in the future than in the past. They had lately read a Report with reference to education in dairy matters, and there could be no doubt that it was necessary now for them to do all they could for the education of children and young persons in the country districts. He, therefore, trusted that the House would be willing to give support to the necessary educational proposals, especially in the matter of dairy produce; for every Englishman must feel that something more could be done in that direction. His own county was not a dairy county; but he thought that if there was more education there 223 of the kind mentioned, and the Government would give some assistance, it would be greatly to the advantage of Norfolk; for that reason he hoped it would be in the power of the Government to further experiments in agriculture. He had the honour for two years of being President of the Agricultural Chamber for Norfolk, and he was proud to think that his Chamber had endeavoured to meet this difficulty, and had made some experiments which, he believed, would be of the greatest advantage to the country at large. They had had the advantage of the assistance of a gentleman well known in that House, and whose absence at the present time they could not but regret—Mr. Clare Sewell Read; and he believed that their humble experiments, when they became more widely known, would prove of value to agriculturists in other districts than Norfolk. Having regard to the measures that had occupied the time of Parliament, the farmers, he thought, might well have felt hopeless and regret that the House had not had time to realize the true position of an interest which was of the greatest importance to the country. Last year the House had been able to do a great deal of good by passing the Labourers' Allotments Bill, of which considerable use had been made in the country; and it was no wonder that the tenant farmers should complain and express a hope that the time of this House would be devoted to the consideration of their needs. They hoped the time was not far distant when there would be a distinct Agricultural Department presided over by a Minister of Agriculture. When such an Office was established they might hope that greater facilities would be afforded for bringing agricultural questions and grievances before that House for discussion. Speaking not as a tenant farmer, but as one who regarded agriculture as the most important trade of the country, he wished to do all in his power to further the interests of that trade; and he hoped the tenant farmers of this country would before long be in a position to say that Parliament had, in response to Her Majesty's wishes, done what was necessary to meet their wants and interests.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, he had heard with interest the speech of the hon. and gallant Gen- 224 tleman who seconded the Motion for the Address (Colonel Duncan). That speech was a remarkable one, not that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had anything new to tell the House, but because it contained sentiments which sounded strangely as coming from his side of the House. The hon. and gallant Member had urged them to do all in their power to make the world a little happier and brighter; he had said also—"Let us bow our heads before the majesty of uncomplaining poverty." Those words were almost the language of Victor Hugo —but it was Victor Hugo in very strange company. The parallel would be complete if they could imagine him sitting side by side with the authors of the French political proscription of 1852, aiding and abetting them, and seconding a Vote of Confidence in their policy. Having followed the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman with the closest interest and attention, he thought he was right in saying that there was not, throughout the whole of it, a single reference to Ireland. The speech was more remarkable for what was omitted than what it contained; and he could have wished that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had illustrated the principles which he expounded by a reference to the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Seeing that the actions of the Administration must have been present to the minds of all who listened to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, it appeared to him that his speech was a scathing satire, whether deliberate or intentional he (Mr. Pickersgill) knew not, upon the Government of which he was a nominal supporter. the hon. and gallant Gentleman distinguished between sympathy and emotion; and he (Mr. Pickersgill) thanked him for a definition so well-founded and so accurately expressed. It was not yet too late. The hon. and gallant Member told them yesterday that they ought to set up the Second Table of the Law. There were many Irish Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House who felt it a duty to recognize the obligation. They would help the hon. and gallant Member to set up the Second Table of the Law; but would he help them to take the initial step at taking down the Coercion Bill for which he was partly responsible? The hon. and gallant Member had expressed the 225 desire to make the world a little brighter and a little happier than he found it. Was the hon. and gallant Member aware of how much misery the Government which he supported was the cause? Was he aware that to-day in England and in Ireland there was many a bread-winner in a felon's cell, and that the wives and children of such bread-winners were either relegated to the tender mercies of the poor-house, or, at the best, meagrely supported by charity? Why, these bread-winners were in prison either for purely artificial offences, or, at the most—and this applied particularly to the Metropolis —for offences which would never have been committed if the Government had acted with ordinary tact and ordinary judgment. He (Mr. Pickersgill) had shown that there was an irreconcilable difference between the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Finsbury and a Government whom he nominally supported. He could not hope that the hon. and gallant Member, with all his power, would leaven the stolid mass of the Conservative Party; but he was glad that the voice which had been so often raised from the Opposition side of the House had found an echo on the opposite Benches, even though the voice might be the voice of one crying in the wilderness. He (Mr. Pickersgill) believed the great problem of our time— and the hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to agree with him—was how to deal with the growing mass of poverty and misery in our midst. Unless they could solve that problem with reasonable satisfaction, he believed that it would destroy this Empire, even as it had destroyed great nations before us.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, he would not attempt to follow the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Pickersgill). He was only one of the solid mass. [Several hon. MEMBERS: He said a "stolid" mass !] He (Mr. Bartley) thought the hon. Member meant "solid," as the Unionist Party certainly was. From the hon. Member's point of view, he thought the case was hopeless, because the leaven would not reach them, in the hon. Member's sense. It seemed, according to the hon. Member, that the only possible way of their reforming was that they should agree that the hon. Member and his Friends were the sole agents of every- 226 thing that was right, and of those who had considered the welfare of the masses in times gone by. He thought there were Members on that—the Conservative—side of the House who had in the past, and he was sure they would in the future, do their utmost to promote that great step which was so urgently needed in the direction of alleviating the sufferings of the masses. He had had a good deal to do with the poor, and he knew very well the district the hon. Gentleman represented; and he had no doubt whatever that, with wise legislation, a good deal might be done, The real thing they had to teach the people was that they must not depend upon legislation, but must depend chiefly upon their own exertions. He was extremely glad that the debate that evening had not been entirely Irish, because he regarded the Gracious Speech from the Throne this year as really an English Speech. They had had Ireland long enough. [Loud ironical cheers from the Opposition.] Yes; they had had Ireland long enough. They believed that there were such places as England and Scotland as well; and when they considered that even London, insignificant as that might be, contained a larger population than Ireland, he did say that the time had come, as Her Majesty's Government had recognized, for considering the great questions of these two great countries. He was sorry that some of the discussion that evening had gone upon the various questions of agriculture, bearing on its relations to so-called fiscal policy. He was not one of those who believed that it was possible to relieve agriculture in the way that had been suggested by one or two hon. Gentlemen. To his mind it seemed, from one of the speeches that evening, that all that would happen, if we were to do what was proposed in order to make England supply herself with food—whether it be called Protection or Free Trade—would be that the masses of the people would always have to live in a state of semi-starvation from the high price of bread, in order to protect them from the possible danger of a more complete starvation on some occasion that might never arise. We must depend for our great supply of wheat from abroad. The only remedy, it seemed to him, for agriculture at the present moment would be that referred 227 to by the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Hoare)—namely, increasing the education of the agricultural population, and making them understand better than they did the real way to bring about the development of agriculture. There should be improved technical training among the agriculturists and the proper development of district markets. They saw in the Gracious Speech from the Throne that they were to have a County Government Bill. Now, he believed that that was an absolutely necessary step. He trusted Her Majesty's Government intended to base the reform of Local Government on the solid basis of popular representation. He was sure of this—that no other representation would form a satisfactory or permanent solution. He did not know whether in practice this reform of Local Government would be more economical than the present system; but nobody could see how affairs were going, and what the tendency of modern opinion was, without realizing clearly that the only possible solution would be to put the Local Bodies in counties in a popular position, as was done in the case of Municipal Authorities. He believed it would be found that Her Majesty's Government had framed their Bill upon that idea. There was also in the Speech a reference to Local and Imperial finance. Now, he believed that there was a great deal to be done in connection with local finance. He had drawn attention to this matter last Session; and he was sure of this—that no question was more considered in the Provinces than the enormous growth of our local indebtedness. He was sure that local burdens bore very heavily indeed upon our agricultural population; but while that was so, he hoped sincerely that the Government did not propose to relieve local taxation simply by giving grants from the Imperial taxation. He was sure that that system would not be likely to tend to a more economical arrangement of County Government; and he was convinced that every shilling which was taken out of the Imperial Exchequer in aid of local rates was one of the most costly means of relieving those rates, and would lead ultimately to greater expense and less efficiency in the administration of the funds. He believed that any scheme for promoting the welfare of a district should not be 228 paid for out of Imperial taxation, but should be paid for chiefly out of the local revenue, which at the present moment was very large. No doubt, the burdens would grow; but it would not be so perceptible under a judicious system. He knew there were several other questions dealt with in the Graciouis Speech from the Throne on which to would be desirable to dilate; but it was not his intention at the present moment to refer to them. He would not now refer to the Irish Question, simply because they were to have another debate upon that on the Amendments. He believed that the Speech from the Throne was intended to be the beginning of a Session of useful legislation to promote the well-being of the people, and that not upon Party lines, but upon lasting lines, which would tend to make England and Scotland, as well as Ireland, more prosperous in every way.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Parnell,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.