§ 1. £80,099, to complete the sum for Supreme Court of Judicature and other Legal Departments in Ireland.
§ (12.30.) MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £50,000. I feel very strongly that there are many other Members in this House who are better qualified to criticise this Vote than I am But I look upon the question as a large question of principle, and I think that while in almost every other Department of the expenditure of public money we have, after considerable efforts and prolonged struggles, attained something like purity in principle, we have arrived in the expenditure connected with the judicature of Ireland at a very large and gross misapplication of the public money. That is the reason why I venture to propose the reduction of the Vote. I do not propose to enter into the subject in great detail; but I would venture to hope that some Member of the House who is better acquainted with the legal business of Ireland will supplement the statement I desire to make. In the first place, I should like to compare the figures for this expenditure in Ireland with those for the same purpose in England and Scotland The Vote is one for £85,000, exclusive of £10,000 for the Court of Bankruptcy. In England the whole expenditure for the Supreme Court of Judicature amounts to £390,000, and I am not at all sure that I am not entitled to deduct from that the large sum of £42,000 applicable to the District Probate Registry in order to make a fair comparison. But, supposing that I do not make that reduction, the Supreme Court in England costs £390,000, while in Ireland, including the Court of Bankruptcy and a small sum for the Admiralty Court, 1842 we have a sum of £97,000. Consequently, the Supreme Court of Ireland costs one-fourth of what it does in England. The comparison with Scotland is even more instructive. The population of the two countries is much nearer—that of Scotland being 4,000,000, while the last estimate for Ireland was 4,700,000. In Scotland, making a somewhat liberal estimate as to what is to be included in this expenditure, I find that the Supreme Court, civil and criminal, costs £25,400, against £97,000 in Ireland, so that the cost in Ireland is one-fourth of what it is in England, and nearly four times as much as in Scotland. There is absolutely no justification for this difference, and it is not only a wasteful, but it is an improper expenditure of the public money. It is true that this is not the first time the subject has been brought before the House, although I do not think the issue has been raised for a considerable number of years, nor, as far as I am aware, has it been directly raised on the Estimates in the way in which I propose to raise it on the present occasion. There was, however, an important discussion upon the subject in 1877, when the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Bill was passing through the House, and no motive of false patriotism prevented the most representative men who were sent here by the Irish constituencies from being the foremost to denounce this improvident expenditure in Ireland. I need not say that, for my part, I do not grudge the money to Ireland. It is said that Ireland is too heavily taxed, and that we are not too liberal in dealing with her in regard to money questions. Upon that matter I express no opinion, although considerable countenance has been given by eminent authorities in this island and in this House to the contention of Irish Members on that point. It is not because we grudge the money, but because we say that it is wastefully, improperly, and mischievously spent. Referring to the Debate which occurred in 1877, I find that it is somewhat difficult to separate the expenditure upon the staff of the Court from the salaries of the Judges, although the salaries themselves do not come upon the Vote, but upon the Consolidated Fund. In the Debate of 1877 the two subjects were a great deal mixed up together, and I find that, on 1843 the 22nd of June, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) stated that it was true the salaries of the Irish Judges were 40 or 45 per cent. less than those paid to the English Judges; but, independently of that circumstance, regard should be had to the fact that the emoluments earned by the profession and by Irish barristers were very much less than those of the English Bar. Very few earned more than from £1,500 to £2,000 a year; whereas the salaries of the Irish Judges were nearly as high as those of the members of the English Bench. [Cries of "Order!"] If I am irregular the Chairman will call me to order.
It was perfectly in order to discuss the salaries of the Judges on the Second Reading of the Supreme Court of Judicature Bill, but it would be out of order to enter into that question now.
§ MR. D. CRAWFORD
Then I will not enter into it. I will confine myself to a quotation from the speech of Mr. Sullivan, in which the salaries of the Irish Judges are only incidentally alluded to. Mr. Sullivan pointed out that in Ireland the salaries of the Judges are nearly twice as large as the average emoluments of a barrister practising in his profession, and therefore the main object of a man who went to the Bar was to find his way to the Bench. He added that the Irish legal appointments, large and small, were so numerous that there was one for every three or four men who went to the Bar. Again and again, in the course of the Debate in 1877, Irish Members of the highest authority, such as the hon. Member for Cork, spoke of the corrupt influence of the expenditure upon the Legal Profession in Ireland. That is the real reason why I think it is the duty of Members on this side of the Irish Channel to take notice of this expenditure, which it would have been well if some previous Government long before now had had the courage to grapple with, because it is not a legitimate expenditure, or an expenditure that can be defended as being made for any legitimate purpose, or for the remuneration of actual work. When I point out that the establishment in Ireland costs one-fourth of that in England, and four times as much as that in Scotland, I think that I fairly put the right hon. Gentleman opposite upon his 1844 defence, in order to show why there should be this extravagant disproportion. I wish that I were at liberty to go into the question of the salaries of the Judges, and especially that of the Lord Chancellor, which is a most monstrous expenditure. Look at the wealth and the population of the three countries. The population of Ireland is 4,700,000; of Scotland 4,000,000; and of England 29,000,000. The amount of property assessed to the Income Tax in England is £542,000,000; in Scotland £57,000,000; and in Ireland only £36,000,000; and the number of legal appointments worth £1,000, without taking into account the salaries of the Judges are, in Ireland altogether out of proportion, as compared with England and Scotland, to its wealth and population. I submit that many of these appointments are altogether unnecessary and extravagant, and I maintain that they constitute a very serious public evil. It is well-known that the Government of this country is hostile to the feelings of the Irish people; but even supposing that it were not so, such a state of things, which places in the hands of the Government nearly £100,000 a year to distribute among the Legal Profession, and to place it under obligations, is an evil which calls for a remedy. At least one-half of the expenditure upon legal work in Ireland is, in my opinion, unnecessary, so that Parliament is giving to the Government £50,000 a year to be distributed in the shape of bribery. I entirely object to such a system, and I hope to hear what the defence of it is. Before I had the honour of a seat in this House it was once my business to apply to the Treasury for a sum of money for an important public purpose in Scotland, and I represented to the Secretary to the Treasury of that day, as one plea for getting the money, the extravagant expenditure on the judiciary and judicature in Ireland. The somewhat oracular reply I got was this: "In Ireland we purchase peace." I was there with my hat in my hand seeking money for my own country, and I did not venture to make a reply to that somewhat sententious delivery, but I felt at the time that if the money was expended in purchasing peace we had made a very bad bargain. I shall be very much astonished, however, if the right hon. Gentleman tells us now that 1845 it is for the sake of purchasing peace that we pay out of the purse of this country £100,000 a year, instead of £50,000, to provide for the legal establishments of Ireland. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £50,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Vote be reduced by £50,000."—(Mr. Donald Crawford.)
§ (12.50.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The hon. Member has complained of the excessive amount of the establishment charges for the administration of the law in Ireland, and he went on to say that it was a species of bribery employed by the English Government for the purpose of purchasing peace. Now, I take it that if the cost of the establishment is great in proportion to the population of the country it is due to the fact that the establishment and the number of Judges are in excess of what is required in England. I believe it is admitted that the Irish Judicature is over-manned; but the present Government take credit to themselves for having done something to improve that state of things, and a Bill was introduced into this House by myself with that object. I think that the proper way to reduce the amount of the establishment charges is to reduce the number of Courts, or the number of Judges, but to cut down the charges without economising the duties would be to put the cart before the horse. The hon. Gentleman says that the expenditure is maintained as a species of bribery on the part of the Government; but he must be aware that the legal system of Ireland is not administered by the Chief Secretary or by the Lord Lieutenant, but that it rests entirely in the hands of the Judges, and devolves upon the Executive Government. It, therefore, cannot be regarded in any shape as bribery in the hands of Her Majesty's Government. I am given to understand that since the Judicature Act was passed, in 1877, the total amount of this Vote has only been increased by something like £300. How far it may be possible to reduce the number of Judges I am unable to say. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details to be able to give any information to the 1846 House. I am satisfied, however, that the Lord Chancellor and the other Judges will do their best to comply with the wishes of the hon. Gentleman, and see that the work is carried on with duo regard to economy.
§ (12.55.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I raise no objection to the amount of this Vote. I never care a brass farthing what it costs England to govern Ireland. In my opinion the more the merrier; but I would support any proposition to cut down the expenditure incurred in the administration of law in Ireland, provided that the sum saved were appropriated to some useful Irish purpose. That is the position I take up in regard to all of these proposed retrenchments. Give us the money for education, and you may cut off as many Judges and their salaries in these bloated and inflated establishments as you please. But so far as effecting economy is concerned, I confess that it does not wring my heart to find that the cost of governing Ireland is three or four times what that of governing Scotland is. Perhaps I may be allowed to call attention to instances which have occurred in connection with this Vote of pure jobbery. The Act of 1877 abolished the office of Receiver Master, and thereby effected a saving of something like £1,200 or £1,500 a year. The office was abolished in express terms; but, nevertheless, I find in this Vote a sum of £200 for the travelling expenses of the Receiver Master, Mr. Edmund Murphy. This seems to have been done by collusion with the Treasury, or by some occult arrangement which I am unable to understand, and it also seems that a salary of £1,000 is paid by stamps. The Receiver Master is getting a round sum of £1,000, and if we ask what the effect, of the arrangement is we are told that there has been great economy, and that the entire sum is now paid by stamps. Mr. Edmund Murphy figures in the Vote, at page 275, for an additional sum of £200 for travelling expenses. Well, what does he travel for?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It always happens, Mr. Courtney, that you know more about these Votes than anybody else.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
The fact is that the items did not appear in the Vote last year.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Then Mr. Murphy's salary is in the Vote this year, and £200 in addition figures as his travelling expenses, yet we are told by Statute that the office has been abolished. Has it been created over again by the Judges by a rule?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
No; that is the trick. He is now "Chief Receiver." A job by any other name is quite as odious. This Chief Raceivership has been invented in the interests of the landlords. A large number of estates in Ireland are under the control of the Court of Chancery, and if you do not pay your rent to that Court you are immediately put in gaol. If you cut a piece of bog on an estate in Chancery that also is contempt of Court, involving imprisonment, and I believe that at this very moment there is a poor woman who has now been in gaol for two years, because of some little act of trespass for which she could not have been punished by imprisonment if the case had gone before Petty Sessions. This office had been invented for the purpose of prostituting the Irish judicial system, and I should advise landlords like Mr. Smith-Barry to file a bogus petition for sale, and thus get placed at their disposal all the resources of the Court of Chancery. Mr. Edmund Murphy is, in addition, employed as a perambulating auctioneer in the interests of landlords, and he gets £200 a year for that. This same gentleman was described by the Bishop of Limerick, when he was sent down to the Glensharrold Estate, where the Plan of Campaign was in operation, as "a man in the deepest sympathy with the Irish tenantry." It was suggested that he held even the scales of justice. He has, too, been employed by the Board of Works in connection with a light railway scheme in Donegal, and he was so employed in the interests of Messrs. Barton and Price. In fact, up springs Chief Receiver 1848 Murphy everywhere like a Jack in the box. While he is supposed to be sitting among the cobwebs in his office in, Dublin he is strangely enough found jumping up among the daisies in the country. He is in the habit of giving evidence before the Land Courts, and when we ask why he is not attending to his duties in Dublin we are told that he is only giving evidence in cases where he valued the farm prior to his appointment; that he condescends to go down to illuminate the Courts with his evidence. It is, I say, a prostitution of his position; the idea of a man in Government pay acting in this way as thy bottle washer of the landlords! The fact is, he has made himself so useful to the landlords that he has been rewarded with this Receivership, which has been invented for his benefit, and an old officer which was distinctly abolished by statute, has been revived in his behalf, This, I say, is a scandal, and if it can be done in the case of Mr. Murphy, why should it not be done in the case of every parish officer in Ireland? Then there is the job connected with the Supreme Court of Judicature. You put a tax on the subject in the shape of Stamp Duty, and with the proceeds revive an abolished office, and then, forsooth, you put forward the plea that the office costs the Exchequer nothing because the salary is paid for by stamps. Why, no end of jobbery could take place under those circumstances; it opens up endless avenues and vistas of corruption. It is proposed under the Land Purchase Bill of the Government to consolidate the office of the Land Judges with the office of the Land Commission. Will any retrenchment be achieved thereby? We shall hear, no doubt, of the reduction of staff and of clerkships; but Mr. Murphy will not go. The Land Judges Court was able to do without him for 12 or 13 years; indeed, since 1885 (I believe that is the date) the duties of Receiver Judge have been discharged by the Bankruptcy Judge, Judge Boyd Lord Ashbourne slipped into his Bill after it had left this House a proviso relieving the existing Land Judges of some of the Receiver's duties and providing for their discharge by the Bankruptcy Judge. Judge Boyd has ever since discharged these duties, but at last he began to kick, because he 1849 found that the salaries of the Bankruptcy Judges were the only Judges' salaries which appeared on these Votes, and not upon the Consolidated Fund. Will it be believed that it is proposed in the Land Purchase Bill of the Government to place the £3,000 a year salaries of the Land Commissioners on the Consolidated Fund? Will it be believed it is proposed to remove Ahem from this Vote while the salaries of the superior Judges are still to remain open to discussion every year? The whole thing savours of jobbery. The Government owe the House an explanation on this point. Mr. Edmund Murphy may be, from the point of view of the Bishop of Limerick, an excellent judge of land, and it may be right and proper that he should be sent down to the Glensharrold estate; but I say that as the Court of Chancery have managed to do without the office ever since the abolition of the Receivers Mastership, it is not right to invent a tax on the subject in the shape of Stamp Duty in order to give Mr. Murphy £1,000 a year. That is a little too strong. Now I come to the charges for Election Petitions. There have been very few Election Petitions in Ireland for the last 12 or 13 years, and since 1886 there have been none at all. In that year there were two—one in Derry, and the other in West Belfast. Yet will it be credited that on every years' Votes there have been charges under this head? I think that this is a great scandal. Last night we passed a Vote containing a charge of fees for Counsel and other Law Officers for conducting Election Petitions, and in to-day's Votes we find provision for two salaries for clerks and other officials in connection with the trial of Election Petitions. Is not this a scandal? Where is your Treasury spy, the Remembrancer, who is daily to be seen sniffing round the Four Courts seeking whom he may devour? You employ Mr. Holmes to see what offices can be curtailed, but he has most remarkable eyes, for he only sees it possible to curtail offices which are held by Nationalists or their sympathisers. Why, some of the most egregious jobs are committed in connection with his own office; yet he winks and connives at them. And this is done by the gentleman who has for the time being charge of the conscience of the 1850 Treasury. Although we Irishmen are looked upon as a miserable, wretched, selfish, priestridden people wanting education, I do sometimes think that we could run the Government of our own country in a better way than this, and if we started an Irish Government tomorrow we probably should do away with some of these salaries paid for Election Petitions, which are not heard. Of course, it must always be remembered that we Irishmen are enjoying the fruits and privileges of the British Constitution; that we live under the flag of the Army, the Navy, and the Volunteers; and that we ought to bow our heads accordingly. The only other point I wish to deal with is the Registry of Deeds Office. This is one of the best offices in Ireland, the men in it work like blacks, and perform some of the most useful functions known to any department, and the consequence is that because there are a few Nationalists on the staff the Treasury Remembrancer has taken it into his head to suggest a reduction of the staff. The men in the office have been slaving from morning till night trying to get off the arrears of work. The office is the most important one in the country, yet the Treasury Remembrancer wishes to starve it because a few Catholics are employed there. And does the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury denounce that action? Oh, no. He approves it. And what is the result? A word from the Treasury Bench against an official in Ireland is like a sirocco. It is read in the newspapers by every member of the Castle gang, and the official is at once spoken of as having a black mark against his name. I challenge the Attorney General for Ireland to say that he has any sympathy with this proposed retrenchment. He will not, because he knows a good deal more about the work of this office than any other man in the country. He would protest against the conduct of the Treasury, but he knows that the Government do not care about his opinions on this matter; they prefer to adopt the view of Mr. Holmes. Would it not be as well to increase the staff of this office and use the salaries now paid for Election Petitions for the benefit of the most deserving office in the entire administration of the 1851 country? I warn the Government that when the Land Purchase Bill comes under discussion next year we intend to raise the question of placing the salaries of the Land Commission Judges in the Consolidated Fund, and also the way in which the Banking Judges are being treated. We shall also discuss the appointment of Mr. Edmund Murphy.
§ *(12.6.) MR. MADDEN
I am bound to admit that the hon. and learned Gentleman has called attention to several matters which are deserving of the serious attention of the Government, inasmuch as they are so closely connected with branches of the Public Service in Ireland. There are two points in which I take especial interest, namely, those connected with the Registry of Deeds Office and the appointment of Mr. Edmund Murphy as Chief Receiver. The appointment of Mr. Murphy as Chief Receiver was assailed as a job on the part of the Treasury and of the Judge. I think I can satisfy the Committee, in a very few words, that there never was any appointment less open to such an imputation. There are two circumstances which are worthy of consideration. One is that the salary of that gentleman will not cost the taxpayers a single shilling, because it will fall upon the cost of administering the estates in Court, and will, therefore, come out of the pockets of the persons interested in the estates. But that is not all. The appointment of this gentleman will effect the saving of something like £10,000 a year in the administration of the estates. Considerable abuse existed prior to the coming into force of the new arrangement. The number of estates administered by the Court had risen from 565 in 1880 to 1,320 in 1887. It is not for me, on this occasion, to discuss the causes which led up to that circumstance, but what I do wish to point out is that the managemert of the estates under the old system was exceedingly expensive. It was necessary to make application to the Judge to sanction anything involving an expenditure of money, and, consequently, applications were made for power to paint walls or to repair roofs. The very able Judge who now presides over the Land Court, seeing the enormous waste of money which that involved, suggested to the Lord Chancellor and to the Treasury that it might be avoided if a gentleman 1852 of admittedly great experience in such matters were temporarily appointed, not to act as Judge or as Receiver Master, but rather to act as Chief Receiver. That gentleman's appointment has not cost the taxpayer a single sixpence. The salary is provided by the imposition of an additional charge of £1 when the Receiver's accounts are passed.
§ *MR. MADDEN
Under the Judicature Act and Landed Estates Act. I can satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman that the charge is perfectly legal, but my desire at this moment is to show that the appointment of Mr. Murphy has effected a great saving in the cost of administrating estates. It was, indeed, estimated originally that a saving of £10,000 a year would be effected if that salary of £1,000 a year were paid, and I think I am justified in saying that the actual saving has been considerably in excess of that amount.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Why does the item appear in the Estimates as only a temporary appointment if it is such a valuable one?
§ *MR. MADDEN
The reason is that Mr. Murphy is not a member of the permanent Civil Service, and the existing arrangement may be terminated at any moment if it is found the results do not prove as beneficial as is expected. Mr. Murphy's services can be discontinued at any time, and he will not be entitled either to compensation for the termination of the engagement or to a superannuation allowance. With regard to the complaint made 'by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Longford as to the charges in the Estimates for Election Petitions, I may point out that it is necessary in the Estimates to provide for all contingencies, but that when the Appropriation Accounts are examined it will be found that where there had been no Election Petitions the money had not been expended. Finally, as to the complaints raised with regard to the treatment of the staff of the Registry of Deeds Office in Dublin, I desire to place on record my appreciation of the admirable manner in which the duties of that office have been performed. I have had the whole question long before me. Twenty-two years ago I published a book on the subject of the 1853 registry of deeds. I was also 12 years ago a member of the Commission which inquired into the subject, and as such member it was my duty to inquire into all the details of the office. I was greatly impressed with the admirable manner in which the duties were performed and the office administered. I may say that I have this year introduced a Bill consolidating and amending the laws relating to the office, and I hope that it will find favour with the House. With regard to the complaints of the hon. Member as to the position and treatment of the staff, this is not a matter within my province, but I feel quite sure that they are now quite safe in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, and are not likely in any way to receive other than fair treatment.
§ (1.10.) MR. P. M'DONALD (Sligo, N.)
I desire to say a few words with reference to another Department, and to point out where economies which might have been effected have not been carried out. I believe that in the whole range of the Judicial and Civil Services in Ireland there is no Department in which abuses in the shape of over-manning the staff are so rife as in the case of the Irish Bankruptcy Court. Long before the Act was passed, which gave special Courts to Belfast and Cork, the business in the Dublin Court had been gradually and continually decreasing, and now things have come to such a pass that there is now not sufficient business for one Judge, instead of the two which you have there, each with a separate staff. One would have thought that when the Local Bankruptcy Courts were established the Government would have transferred the redundant staff from Dublin to those Courts, and thus have secured those economies to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. But that was not done. I have moved for and obtained two Returns, which afford some valuable information on this matter, and they lead me to the conclusion that only one Judge is necessary, and that the offices of one Judge, one Registrar, one chief officer, one Deputy Registrar, and a first clerk might be abolished, and a saving of £5,000 a year effected. What is done under the present system? Why, the Receivers have to resort to expedients 1854 in order to make business, and one of these expedients is the continual adjournment of cases, a process which heaps costs upon costs on the poor debtor and his unfortunate creditors. I am told that the Judges scarcely ever refuse an application for adjournment, simply because it gives an excuse for an additional sitting. Since the establishment of Local Courts in Cork and Belfast one would have thought that the Dublin Court would not have dealt with cases coming from those districts, but, as a fact, whenever Petitions from those districts are filed in the Dublin Court, the Judges, instead of adopting a common-sense view, and remitting the cases to the Local Courts, they deal with them themselves. Bankrupts in the Cork and Belfast districts know that if they can get their cases taken to Dublin they can get through the Courts more easily, because creditors will not take the trouble and expense to go to Dublin and to have their affairs thoroughly investigated. Now, this can only lead to an increase in the number of fraudulent bankruptcies and of "runaway" bankrupts. I think Ireland should be divided into three districts, and that the Judges should confine themselves to cases belonging to their own districts. The Deeds of Arrangement Act, which will come into force next November, will still further tend to decrease the business. What do the Returns which I have obtained show? In 1879 the number of Petitions for arrangement was 915; in 1889 it was only 323. In the same years the numbers of cases tried were respectively 9,448 and 4,284. Thus the business has fallen off two-thirds in 10 years. Yet the same two Judges and the same staff, costing altogether £10,000 a year, are retained to do one-third of the work they did in 1879. The lists of cases at present are mainly swelled by the Judges assenting to almost every application made for adjournments. Ten years ago the Judges sat, on an average, five or six hours a day on three days a week: now the average sittings are two hours a day on two days a week; and half of that time they have little else to do than allow trivial talk and unnecessary argument to go on. In fact, they have no work to do. It is a monstrous thing that the country has to pay £10,000 a year, when at the 1855 utmost £5,000 is sufficient. I have put a notice on the Paper of an Amendment to reduce the vote by £5,000, but I will not move the Amendment, as a reduction has already been moved.
§ (1.50.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I desire to call the attention of the Committee to a matter arising out of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire. The Chief Secretary has practically admitted that the charges for the Supreme Court in Dublin are excessive, and that it is due to the fact that the Judges are more numerons, than they ought to be, and that if a reduction could be made in the staff of Judges there could be a corresponding reduction in the establishment charges. Now, last autumn an opportunity occurred for effecting an enormous economy in this respect. A vacancy occurred in the office of Chief Justice in Ireland in consequence of the appointment of Lord Chief Justice Morris to the post of Law Lord in the House of Lords. A chance was thus given of amalgamating the Court of Exchequer with the other Courts in accordance with the provisions of an Act of Parliament passed in the year 1887. In the year 1887 there was a vacancy in the post of Chief Justice of the High Court, and, at that time, the Court of Common Pleas and the Court of Exchequer existed as separate Courts, and advantage was taken of that vacancy to promote Lord Justice Morris of the Common Pleas, to the post of Lord Chief Justice in Ireland. In 1887 an Act was passed by the now President of the Board of Trade, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland, abolishing the post of Lord Justice of Common Pleas and amalgamating that Court with the Supreme Court. An immense economy resulted from the adoption of that course. The Act also provided that whenever a vacancy occurred in the post of Chief Baron the office should be abolished and the staff of the Court should be amalgamated with that of the Supreme Court. Now, last autumn an economy might have been effected by transferring the Chief Baron to the post of Chief Justice. There was an opportunity of effecting a very great economy. An economy had been effected by the amalgamation of the two judgeships of £6,000 a year, and another economy of £4,000 in the case 1856 of the Chief Baron—altogether an economy of £10,000. Although I cannot, according to your ruling, Sir, criticise the fact that the Chief Baron was not appointed to the post of Chief Justice, I cannot but express regret that this opportunity was not availed of by the Government of effecting a very great economy, which, in accordance with the general view of the Act of Parliament to which I have referred, was effected in 1889, on the vacancy of the post of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and very much to the benefit of the Public Service. And I say that the same economy could have been effected if a different course had been pursued on this occasion, although it is not open to me to criticise the appointment of the Chief Baron.
§ *(2.2.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I only wish to refer, on this Vote, to the question of the bankruptcy administration in Belfast, and I deprecate my right hon. and learned Friend giving me any answer until he has had opportunity for reflection in the recess. The mercantile community in Belfast and neighbourhood are at the present moment entirely dissatisfied with the administration of the Local Bankruptcy Act. The hon. Member for West Belfast introduced a Bill for the purpose of enlarging the scope of the Local Bankruptcy Jurisdiction of Belfast, and the Bill was backed by hon. Members sitting on this side of the House. The Government were unable to accede to a Bill promoted by private Members on this subject, but I trust Her Majesty's Government will consider this matter more carefully, and that they will see it is absolutely necessary in order to make the Local Bankruptcy administration effective in the most important mercantile and industrial community in Ireland, that the object of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Belfast should be acceded to. I know that there are several reasons which can be given against enlarging the bankruptcy jurisdiction in Belfast, though I cannot see any valid reasons except from the bankruptcy officials' point of view. If I had any connection with the Dublin Bankruptcy Court, if I were a practitioner before the Court in cither branch of the profession, I should certainly resist with the utmost strenuousuess any attempt to extend the bankruptcy jurisdiction in Belfast. I hope 1857 the Government will not consider suggestions made in the interests of these officials. I trust that my right hon. and learned Friend will take this question into consideration before the next meeting of Parliament, and I earnestly hope that, in the interests of the mercantile and industrial community, the Government will see fit themselves to introduce a Bill for the purpose of making the Local Bankruptcy Act effective both to Belfast and Cork. The only other observation I have to make on the Vote is this. I cannot help feeling that the Courts in Dublin are overweighted at the present moment. There are more Judges in Ireland than there is work for them to do. I do not go so far as hon. Members opposite, but I cannot help feeling that the Judicial Bench in Ireland is overmanned. If you compare it with the Judicial Bench in England, you cannot resist that conclusion. I hope that on the first convenient opportunity the Government will endeavour to effect a reduction of the expenditure on the High Courts of Judicature in Ireland. I know that all political parties in Ireland view such a reduction with favour, and they expect that the Government will undertake it. I trust when the favourable moment arrives that the Chief Secretary will accede to the general wish of the Irish community.
§ (2.10.) MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The hon. Member has said that all political Parties are in favour of this reduction. It is the first time we have heard any utterance from his Party.
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member, but lie has perhaps not read the speeches of my hon. Friends.
§ MR. DILLON
I confess I am not acquainted with that literature. I know that we on this side of the House have drawn attention, year after year, to these monstrous charges. No other word adequately describes them. I am glad to see that better councils are prevailing among the Party opposite. I rejoice to see that the Conservative Party in Ireland are at last awaking to the monstrous waste of money going on in this establishment. I shall await with considerable interest what the Government have to say on this matter. I noticed that the hon. Member for 1858 South Antrim said when a convenient opportunity arises. Will that be when the Irish people are reconciled to the Government, and do not need to be bribed?
§ MR. DILLON
I think we are entitled to know from the hon. Member and his friends when that convenient moment may be expected. I want to know on what ground reform is to be postponed. I say the Government were bound, after the declaration of the hon. Gentleman as to the gross waste of public money upon a bloated establishment, to put a stop to this waste. On what ground can the Government resist this unanimous desire of the people of Ireland for reform? They must adopt cither of two courses. They must either say they differ from the unanimous expression of opinion, or they are bound to bring forward the grounds on which they refuse to save the public money. They are bound before this Vote is passed to justify their conduct. Allow me for a few moments to direct the attention of the House to the nature of the abuse. I have travelled a very great deal in the English speaking world. I have seen Judges dealing with business infinitely more important in the colonies than ever comes before a Dublin Judge. I have seen Judges of the highest intellectual ability in New South Wales and Victoria, discharging their duties for a salary of £300 a year. When we remember the facts that the leaders of the Bar—
The hon. Gentleman is entering on a branch of the subject outside the Vote. The salaries of the Judges are charged on the Consolidated Account.
There is no opportunity of discussing the salaries of the Judges on the question of the expenses of the Establishment.
§ MR. DILLON
I do not propose to go into the question of the Establishment at present, because the point I wished to draw attention to was that of the salaries of the Judges. As that is ruled out of order I will not continue my observations.
§ (2.14.) MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
I desire to call attention once more to the Registry of Deeds Office, in regard to which I think the answer of the hon. and learned Gentleman is not at all satisfactory.
§ *MR. MADDEN
I made no answer so far as the staff of the Office of Registry is concerned. This is a matter for the Treasury. I said that I had no doubt that the Treasury would deal fairly with the office.
§ MR CLANCY
The history of the matter is this. This office, which was one of very great importance and rather popular with the Irish public, discharged very useful and necessary functions, which have become still more necessary. The office has been the subject of several public inquiries. In 1866 a Commission was appointed by the English Treasury to inquire into this Department, and it reported favourably upon it, recommending certain changes, which, when carried out, added to the efficiency of the Department. In 1874 another Commission was appointed, and it reported favourably on the manner in which the work was being done. It recommended certain changes increasing the value of the Department, and these were carried out. In 1881 the Commission, of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman was a member, presented their second Report, a copy of which I hold in my hand. I should like to draw attention to two or three of their recommendations. The first of these was with regard to the character of the clerks to be employed in the Office of the Registry, and the Commissioners say that it is necessary to employ a superior staff of clerks, and that they should have every possible inducement to remain permanently in the office, inasmuch as it takes many years of continued training to fit a clerk for the discharge of the higher duties of the office. They added that if the then rate of increase in the work of the office should continue, it would be necessary to add to the number of the clerks. Well, instead of a proportionate increase, such as the Commission recommended, although the business of the Department has doubled during the last 25 years, the number of the staff has been reduced from 66 down to 45, with the result that, so far as the promotion of the clerks is concerned, that has been 1860 stopped. The Commissioners stated on this point that, inasmuch as the Department requires a superior class of clerks, the question of promotion was one that deserved attention. But the promotion has stopped, and there is now no promotion, and, as a result of all this, the solicitors are loud in their complaints as to the block of business which has occurred in the office. Another recommendation made by the Commission was with regard to the searching room. That is the room in which the public are allowed to search for deeds, &c., and in reference to this the Commissioners say that they are of opinion that the accommodation afforded by the present building is wholly inadequate for the work that has to be done in connection with the office, and that the accommodation ought to be largely increased. I am informed that the business of this Department has so increased up to the present time that the room is inconveniently crowded, and yet nothing is done to carry out the recommendation of the Committee. Turning to another part of their Report the Commissioners stated that the office ought not to be a source of Imperial revenue at all; that it was clear from the language of the section relating to this matter that the fees were never intended to be applied to the Imperial Revenue, but to be used for the benefit of persons having business in connection with the office, and for the maintenance of an efficient office and staff. They also say that over £40,000 a year had been received by the Treasury on account of fees between 1832 and 1864, and that while that was accumulating the Revenue derived from the office Stamp Duties yielded a large profit, the exact amount of which cannot be ascertained. That is to say, if I understand the Report aright, this large sum of £40,000 has been abstracted illegally from the uses of the office in Dublin, and applied to the purposes of the English Treasury, to which it was never intended to be applied at all. I may be stupid, but that is the meaning I place on this statement, and if I am not correct I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman will set me right. The Committee added that the entire Revenue derived from duty stamps, as well as fee stamps, appeared from the evidence before them 1861 to have been at all times sufficient to balance the expenditure, and as they were of opinion that the Revenue derived from the duty stamps as well as the fee stamps should be exclusively expended on the maintenance of the office, they did not consider that it should be applied by the Treasury to Treasury purposes. I should advise the right hon. and learned Gentleman to carry out the recommendation to which he has put his signature, and yet if we were to ask for anything like £40,000 for improving the office in Dublin we should be told that we proposed to dip our hands into the pockets of the British taxpayers. That £40,000, as I have shown, was never intended for the use of the English Treasury, and I contend that it is due to us at the present moment for the purpose of carrying out the recommendations of the Committee. It is probable that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who signed that Report will shortly tell us the reasons he now sees for dissenting from it; but if he cannot do that I know what the Secretary to the Treasury will say. He will remind us that the English Treasury appointed another Committee of Inquiry, and a very curious body it was. All of our Commissions—Lord Percy's Commission and the Commission of 1878—were composed of independent gentlemen; but the last body appointed to inquire into matters relating to this office was composed of three Treasury clerks and a Mr. Williams, an English gentleman whom the Government thought it necessary to send over to Ireland, under the notion that they could not get on without they had an Englishman to assist them.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON,) Leeds, N.
That gentleman was sent over because of his special experience in connection with the Yorkshire Registry.
§ MR. CLANCY
I think it was a bad compliment to pay to his Colleagues to bring over from England a gentleman who was to instruct the Attorney General and several of the Judges as to what ought to be done in Ireland. This is how matters are managed in Ireland, and helps to explain why it is that things are so rotten there. I suppose Mr. Williams was appointed because the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jackson) comes from Yorkshire himself.
§ MR. CLANCY
My hon. Friend suggests that it was a case of "Yorkshire relish." But Mr. Williams, who is connected with the Registry of Tithes in Yorkshire, is sent over to instruct all these gentlemen. For my part, I regard this part of the business as an insult offered to the Royal Commission by the Government. At any rate, this body was sent over and did just what the Treasury wanted. They desired the Commission to report against all the recommendations of the Commission of 1881, and this they did. They said, for instance, that the staff should be brought down to 45, it has been brought down from 66 to that number, although the business of the office has doubled during the last 25 years. Again, they studiously avoided any allusion to the recommendation of the previous Commission that the £40,000 was illegally abstracted from the Office Returns, and1 they said the fees were not sufficient to support the office, which is an untruth, because the duty stamps, of which the Royal Commission have made much., amount to about £40,500 a year.
§ MR. CLANCY
When did they cease to amount to that sum? It will not do to put us off with a denial like that. I have got my information on very good authority, and I assert that if the fees have not amounted to that sum the falling off has been of very recent date indeed. I claim—and here I ask the sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury—that this office should be kept up even if it is not self-supporting. The matter is one, I will not say of Imperial concern, but in regard to Ireland is a matter of National concern. I hold that you are bound in the public interest to keep up an office of this sort, even if you never get a penny in fees from it. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will object to that statement. This worthy quartette—including the gentleman from Yorkshire—did carry out one recommendation of the Royal Commission, that is to say, they joined the third class clerks to the second class, and thereby improved the position of the juniors; but in doing that they abolished 1863 some of the higher positions, thereby seriously retarding promotion, in spite of the recommendations of the Royal Commission that the clerks in the office should be taught to look to promotion in the office as their only reward. Promotion was retarded, and the efficiency of the office was thereby damaged. It is nothing to me whether these clerks are promoted or not—I do not know any of them, and I am only interested in the efficiency of the Service. The matter is a comparatively small one; but I maintain that the reduction of the staff from 66 to 45 or 44, notwithstanding that the business has doubled within the last 25 years, has tended to a block in the Dublin office which is very injurious to the public interest. I have to complain of one thing more, and that is, that the head of the office made a reply to the last Commission I have referred to, and that that reply has never yet been published. I want to know why it has not been published. Is it a confidential document, and, if so, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether any such document has ever before been regarded as confidential? Is not the real reason for the non-publication of this document that the Registrar replied to the statement and recommendation of the last Commission, and gave the clearest reasons why they should not be adopted. If that is not the reason the right hon. Gentleman should say so; if it is I say that gross injustice has been done to the Registrar, and the sooner it is redressed the better.
§ No reply being given,
§ MR. CLANCY (rising again)
I think the right hon. Gentleman is bound to make some reply to the statement I have made.
§ (2.35.) MR. JACKSON
I trust the hon. Member will not allow himself to become excited on this matter. I, at the moment, did not observe that he had finished his observations. I have no desire to refrain from answering, shortly, the hon. Member's charges. In the first place, as to calling in the Yorksire Registrar to serve on the Commission, that was before my time, and I had nothing to do with it. I suppose that Mr. Williams was sent over because he was acquainted with the working of an office of a similar kind. With regard 1864 to the answer of the Registrar it is not usual to publish documents which are departmental. The hon. Member says that there were in former years fees on Stamp Duties levied in excess of the requirements of the office—
§ MR. CLANCY
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the reply of the Registrar confirmed or disputed the recommendations of the Commission?
§ MR. JACKSON
It would be extremely inconvenient for me to say what the Report contains, because that would be the same thing as presenting it to Parliament. I may say, however, what I think is much more to the point, that I have been endeavouring quite recently—as I have stated in reply to a question put to me in the House—to ascertain where the block of business exists, and what inconvenience has been occasioned, because I admit at once that in an office of the kind the interest of those who have business with it ought to be first considered, and I hope before the end of the year arrangements will be made by which, if all the arrears will not be quite overcome, matters will be greatly improved. I sent over to Dublin a person who has had experience in an office of this kind, and he has, in conjunction with the Registrar, come to a conclusion as to the course to be taken, which I believe will be found to remove all the block and pressure which now exists. I take it that the only object the hon. Member has in calling attention to the office is his natural desire that the business of the office should not suffer. In that I am heartily with him, and, as I say, arrangements have been made by which satisfactory progress will be made with the work. The accommodation in the office was rather insufficient, and I understand that it is proposed to remove to another office in Dublin some of the work which has to be performed. The seven hours' system is to be applied to the clerks in this office; and I hope the Committee will accept these statements in proof of the fact that this office is not being neglected. I say, as I have always said, that the office ought to be sufficient to meet the requirements of all those concerned, and that I shall not be satisfied until it is. I am assured that arrangements are being made whereby it is hoped that deeds lodged on a particular day will be entered on the 1865 same day, or the day following. I have much pleasure in assuring the Committee that the Registrar and the Treasury are thoroughly in accord, and are working together, with a view to the efficiency of the Department.
§ MR. JACKSON
I certainly do so if I have made any. I am sorry that anything I have said should be taken by him in that light.
§ MR. JACKSON
As to the £40,000, it is a long way to go back to 1864. Of course the money was paid into the Exchequer, and formed part of the income of the year.
§ (2.48.) MR. CLANCY
I must say that of the many ways in which Ireland has been robbed since the Union this is one of the meanest. Fees which should be applied to the use of the office have been diverted to the use of the Treasury. Every Secretary to the Treasury whom I know has either perpetrated, or joined in perpetrating, frauds of this kind. (2.50.)
§ (3.5.) MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
Many grievances connected with the Vote have been referred to by my hon. Friends, and I have no doubt that some good will accrue from the discussion. I have no doubt that some effort will be made in the dim and distant future to rectify the evils that at present prevail. One statement was made by an hon. Friend of mine which I wish to emphasise, and that is the statement with regard to the Bankruptcy Court. I find that, although two Bankruptcy Courts, with full staffs, have been set up in Ireland, there has only been a decrease between 1889–90 and 1890–91 of £93. There has only been this decrease, notwithstanding that the business of the Central Bankruptcy Court has, in the last 10 years, decreased by two-thirds. While the Attorney General for Ireland and the Chief Secretary referred to some of the more glaring anomalies under the present system, they have not referred in the slightest degree to the statement made by my hon. Friend regarding the Bankruptcy Court in Dublin. These 1866 anomalies form a scandalous state of things, which ought to be looked into; at all events, it deserves the notice of Ministers of the Crown. I trust that before the Debate closes we shall have some assurance that the salaries of the staff of the Court will be revised; that the cost of maintaining the Court will be brought to an amount reasonably proportionate to the amount of business done in the Court. I think we owe to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wick a debt of gratitude for having exposed the anomalies of the present system. The hon. Gentleman has pointed out the enormous cost of the Supreme Court in Ireland as compared with that of the Supreme Court in England and Scotland. This disproportion is all the more glaring when we know that although the Irish people may be-naturally litigious, as I believe they are supposed to be; they are, as a body, too poor to indulge in legal proceedings. We find, from the figures-of the hon. Member for Wick, that the cost of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Ireland is one-fourth of the cost of the Supreme Court in England. Ireland, a poor country, has legal establishments imposed upon it costing one-fourth as much as similar establishments in England, where there is 10 times the population, and where the people are sufficiently rich to indulge in the luxury of the law. That is an anomalous state of things. But it is not so anomalous as a comparison between Scotland and Ireland affords. The hon. Member for Wick pointed out that the cost under this head in Ireland is four times the cost under a like head in Scotland. There is not any great disparity between the populations of Scotland and Ireland. They are very nearly the same, or they are becoming more approximate to each other every day—the population of Scotland is becoming greater and that of Ireland is becoming less. Although this is so, we have this anomalous state of things: that the cost of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Ireland is four times greater than that in Scotland. Not only are the populations becoming approximate, but the population of Scotland is much wealthier than that of Ireland. Every day in Scotland there are large transactions of a commercial character; there are manufacturers and milling operations; 1867 there is a state of things existing in Scotland that calls for the interference of the law, that necessitates the pleading of cases before the Superior Courts in Scotland. There are not the same occasions for the interventions of the Courts in Ireland Why do I desire to emphasise these facts? Because I am convinced it is high time there should be retrenchment in this particular. It is a matter of great moment to us that this retrenchment should take place as soon as possible. I believe we are on the eve of great and important changes with regard to the Local Government of Ireland. Both sides of the House seem to foe agreed that a change in this respect must soon take place. One great Party in the State believes that a large measure of National Self-Government should be bestowed on the people; another of the great Parties say that a large measure of Local Self-Government should be given to Ireland. Whether the settlement will take place according to one system or the other, whatever Government is called into existence in Ireland, must necessarily place before itself the task of cutting down the legal expenses of Ireland. The moment we in Ireland apply ourselves to this great and important work, what will be one of the great necessities of the case? If we are to discharge a great number of those who are at present engaged in the overmanned legal establishments in Ireland, it will be necessary to place them upon the country as pensioners, or otherwise we should be charged with doing injustice to the Civil servants of the country. I have no doubt the Irish people will do the Civil servants justice for their own sake, but it is time that a beginning was made in the direction of retrenchment. We do not want to go back to Ireland and have saddled upon our shoulders all these bloated establishments the growth of years and years of bribery and corruption and unfair dealing towards the people of Ireland. Both the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General for Ireland have evaded the large and important issues raised by the hon. Member for Wick. It is the habit of the Government to evade great issues brought before them and to hinge their speeches upon comparatively small issues, raised with regard to individuals. I wish to emphasise what the hon. Member 1868 for Wick brought before the Committee There is a great burden on the people of Ireland with respect to the administration of the law, and I trust before this Vote is taken the Government will give some assurance that they will look into the great and important issues raised, and that before long an honest effort will be made to meet the demand of the poverty-stricken people of Ireland for justice and fair-play.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 2. 80,687, to complete the sum for the Irish Land Commission.
§ (3.22.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I think we may fairly argue that it would have been true economy on the part of the Treasury to have increased this Vote considerably, in order that the work of revising rents in Ireland might have been proceeded with at something like a satisfactory rate of progress. The last Land Act, passed presumably for the benefit of Irish tenants suffering under rack-rents, has now been three years in operation, and a large majority of tenants have been unable to take advantage of it owing to the fact that an insufficient number of Assistant Commissioners have been appointed. Owing to the under-manning of the Commission, a large number of tenants who sought relief under the Act of 1887 were debarred from getting any, because the landlord came down upon them, served them with notices under the 7th section of the Act, and thereby cut them off from all relief. They have lost all interest in their holdings, and many of them are now in the position of caretakers. On the general subject of the Land Commission, we have very great complaints to make. If the tenants of Ireland have not obtained the relief which the Land Acts were intended to give them, it has been owing to the manner in which from first to last the Land Commission has been juggled with. The manner in which the Commission is being gradually packed in the interest of the landlords by partisans of, and sympathisers with, the Land Courts, is a glaring scandal. What is the good of this House providing for the appointment of Commissioners for the purpose of settling fair rents in Ireland if those who are appointed are biased strongly on one side or the other? It has excited 1869 very great suspicion in Ireland that one of three Commissioners, just on the eve of the promulgation of the last revision of judicial rents, resigned his post. True, he was not a strong man; but the circumstances of the resignation were such as to cause the gravest suspicion in Ireland. It is a very remarkable fact in connection with the revision of judicial rents in 1887 and 1888, that Mr. Justice O'Hagan dissented altogether from the manner in which the Commission had endeavoured to revise judicial rents. He did not come boldly forward to state his reasons for differing; but everybody in Ireland knew what they were, namely, that he could not agree with Commissioner Litton and Mr. Wrench for the absurd manner in which they approached the revision of judicial rents. They obtained Returns from the various Poor Law Unions as to the price of produce, without taking into account the yield of the produce. In the case of butter, for instance, they have said that when its price is high, owing to the comparative scarcity of the make, they must fix the revision of the judicial rents upon the basis of the high price, although the yield is small. Taking it all round, therefore, it has come to this: that in a year of actual scarcity and famine, when prices are naturally highest, the revision of judicial rents may be altogether against the tenant. It is desirable for us to hear the reason why the Commissioners proceeded on this ridiculous basis. There is a consensus of opinion that Justice O'Hagan resigned his post rather than share in the responsibility of putting this revision before the public. The suspicion is strengthened by the curious fact that the revision was made in 1890, although, according to the Statute, it should have been made in 1889. It is still an open question whether this does not invalidate the whole list. We want to know from those responsible for these things in Ireland why it is that County Court Judge Fitzgerald has been appointed on this Commission in the room of Justice O'Hagan. What proof of his fitness has he given? He was remarkable as a County Court Judge for the very severe manner in which he dealt with the Coercion Act cases that came before him. That was a characteristic that recommended him to the mind of the right 1870 hon. Gentleman before he was appointed a Commissioner.
§ MR. FLYNN
Well, it is not necessary to follow this matter up, but there is a strong suspicion in Ireland that the Land Commission has been rigged, more or less, in the interests of the landlords, and that the Sub-Commissioners appointed from time to time are biased in exactly the same way. The dissatisfaction with the revised rents is more apparent in Ulster than in any other part of Ireland. Ulster is the only part of the country where meetings have been held and resolutions passed condemning the revised rents. There was a very important meeting of Ulster tenant farmers a short time ago to consider the recent order of the Land Commission. It was presided over by Mr. William Stewart, J.P. The resolutions were proposed by Mr. John M'Ilderry, J.P., and Mr. John Browne, who pointed out that the Land Commission had proceeded on an entirely improper basis in the revision of judicial rents. The meeting resolved that "we hereby indignantly protest against this Schedule for the following reasons." The first of these reasons was that—The agricultural interest was being destroyed by the exaction of impossible rents, and the equitable clauses of the Act of 1887, as well as other similar clauses, were intended to arrest a crisis which threatened ruin and turmoil to the country.The second was—That there has been no imprisonment in agricultural matters to justify such a wide difference between the Schedules of 1887 and 1888, and the Schedule of this year displays not only defective knowledge, but gross abuse of the powers conferred by the Act of 1887.The third was, that it would have been well to have fixed the averages at about the same rate as those of last year. The fourth was—That while the reductions are unjust, inadequate, and reprehensible, we view with even more extreme dissatisfaction the increases in judicial rents, and are constrained to regard these increases as legalised robbery of the tenants' property, and utterly devoid of those moral sanctions which constitute the basis of satisfactory, social, and public contracts.The fifth was—The repeal of the fair-rent section of the Act of 1881, in relation to the rents of 1885, is a violent and unwarrantable reversal of the policy of that Act, and calculated to re-kindle 1871 those popular passions which were coming under the sway of happier influences; and hence we cannot contemplate the repeal of the most salutary section of the Act, otherwise than as an actual blunder and a crime.Now, these resolutions were passed by cool-headed farmers in the North of Ireland, and who would not denounce anything connected with the present Government for any consideration whatever. They have, however, been moved by the facts to pass a series of resolutions stronger than anything that has come from other parts of Ireland. In some parts of the country so deep is the dissatisfaction with the judicial rents fixed by some of the Sub-Commissioners that large numbers of tenants have withdrawn their cases from the Courts in a body. This is notably the case in Cork and Waterford, where the cases would be tried by Mr. Doyle. Mr. Doyle took part in the decisions on the Mitchelstown Estate. At one of those trials the tenants applauded their advocate's speech, and Mr. Doyle ordered the Court to be cleared, calling the tenants who had applauded a parcel of savages. I contend that if a man can show himself to be possessed of such a savage temper, and of a mind of so unjudicial a character as did Mr. Doyle on that occasion, he will carry some of his political bias into the cases he tries. The people prefer to rely upon such reductions as they can extort from the landlords rather than go into the Land Court and have their cases decided by such men as Mr. Doyle. I repeat that it is useless to pass Land Acts for the benefit of the cultivators of the soil if the persons who are set up to act as arbitrators between landlord and tenant are as hopelessly biased as this Land Commissioner undoubtedly is. On the estates in Cork, where judicial rents were fixed in 1882, 1883, and 1884 by another Commissioner, Mr. Walpole, hardly any of the tenants have since been able to pay the full amount. The landlords have been obliged, nolens volens, to give reductions of 20, 25, and 30 per cent. on the judicial rents in places where Mr. Walpole has adjudicated. I myself have seen lands on which Mr. Walpole has put £2 an acre, marshy lands which were almost wet enough in rainy seasons to float one of Her Majesty's ironclads. That has occurred on the Bog 1872 of Allan where, although the tenant has had to pay £2 per acre, the hay has been sold for 10s. an acre. All over the Counties of Cork and Waterford, wherever this Commission has roved, it has been found necessary for the landlords and tenants to go through the judicial rents again and strike 10 and 20 per cent, off them. In regard to the Court Valuers there are, no doubt, hon. Members from other parts of Ireland who will be able to bring forward many cases of Court Valuers who up to the time of their appointment had been employed solely in the landlords' interest, and who, of course, could not be expected to bring an unbiased mind to operate in the matter. But even if they should report rightly, is it sound policy that you should have Court Valuers whose appointment is viewed with distrust by the people whose holdings they are about to value? I will give an illustration of what I mean. There has recently been appointed on one of the Commissions connected with the County of Cork a Mr. Robert Martin, of Littleisland. I put a question in the House a few weeks ago in regard to this gentleman. I asked whether he had not acted in many cases as valuer for the landlord, and I was told by the Attorney General for Ireland that I had been misinformed, and that the gentleman had not been appointed Court Valuer but only as Sub-Commissioner. Will the Committee mark that. Here is a gentleman who had been a valuer for the landlords, appointed regularly to fix their estimate of the value of the land, and having been for a long time in the employment of one side he is appointed a Sub-Commissioner to decide for both sides. Such a thing is repugnant to every sense of fair-play, and if there is a want of confidence in the administration of the Land Acts the Government have only themselves to blame. I will give the Committee an example of the manner in which the valuers do their duty. In the case of Kenmare, a few months ago, a Commission, consisting of a Mr. Green, Mr. John Houston, and Mr. James Rice, were sitting. A tenant named Sullivan had applied for a reduction of his rent, and a Court Valuer was brought forward. He valued the land at a figure much higher than the tenant; but when this gentleman—Mr. F. R. 1873 Baker—was cross-examined he said, "I consider £24 to be a fair rent for the farm." In reply to the tenant's solicitor he admitted that he had only gone over corners of the farm, here and there, and had not examined every part of it. I submit that that perfunctory valuation is a system adopted by the majority of these valuers, who are sent out by the Sub-Commissioners to discharge the most responsible duty of properly estimating the value of the land. Many of those gentlemen are persons who, up to the time of their appointment, had no particular knowledge of the land. They have either been civil engineers or connected in some way or other with the innumerable land offices and agencies throughout the country, but having had no acquaintance with or knowledge of land valuing. In conversation with a tenant a few months ago, on whose holding a Court Valuer had gone, I was told that this gentleman had driven up to the place, alighted from his ear, and simply looked over the fence and examined the cottage garden—which everyone knows is usually the best part of the holding, neatly laid out and even adorned. The tenant asked him to go and see the wet and marshy part of the land, but he refused, saying he could see enough of it from the step of the car, and he drove off after that cursory examination of the land. I say that men who take such a perfunctory view of their duties ought not to be appointed. We want-to know, from whoever is responsible for the administration of the Acts, on what system the Government or the Commissioners proceed in appointing the Sub-Commissioners and the Court Valuers? Are the appointments made in a haphazard sort of way, or, as the people suspect, and have strong reason to believe, has the influence of the landlords and land agents with the authorities of the Land Commission anything to do with the selection of the Court Valuers? We believe it has. If our belief is ill founded it would be wise for the Government to give some explanation on this Vote of the system on which they proceed. If explanation of that kind cannot be forthcoming I contend that our case is made out, and that the suspicion and distrust entertained by a vast body of tenantry in Ireland towards the administration of this Act is 1874 only too well founded. This is a very serious matter. The land business in the Courts is in a congested state, and appeal after appeal has been made to the right hon. Gentleman to increase the number of Sub-Commissioners. Complaints are constantly being made that the Sub-Commissioners do not go to such and such a district, or that the intervals between the visits are too long. All this shows the anxiety of the tenantry in Ireland to take advantage of the rent-fixing clauses of the Land Act, but if, in the appointment of the men who are to administer the Act, the selection is made on the recommendation of landlords and agents in order that they may minister to the greed of a territorial oligarchy, the Government will have made a mistake from every point of view. They will have made the people distrustful of the intention of the Government, and have one far to destroy for ever the benefits that would otherwise have accrued from the beneficent legislation of 1881 and 1887.
§ (3.58.) MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
Reference has been made to the Ulster farmers and the meeting at Ballymoney, where resolutions of the strongest character were passed expressing dissatisfaction with the way in which the Protestant and Loyalist farmers have been treated by the Land Commission. But my hon. Friend need not have confined himself to the Ballymoney meeting. All over Ulster meetings of that kind have taken place, though the Conservative Ulster Members have always been absent, and resolutions have been passed calling on the Irish Land Reform Party to bring their grievances under the notice of Parliament. I happen to represent an Ulster constituency which has been considerably affected by the action of the Land Commission, and I should like, as an Ulster Nationalist Member, to give expression to the dissatisfaction which is felt generally throughout Ulster, although the farmers are not represented here. I can imagine nothing more calculated to open the eyes of the Ulster people to the futility of relying on their present line of action than the absence from the House of almost every Ulster Member when these subjects come on. What could be of greater advantage to 1875 the tenant farmers of Ulster than a declaration upon the making of the Land Commission? But in spite of the importance of the matter to their constituents, there are but two representatives of the Ulster Tory Party present. I am sure the Protestant farmers of Ulster, and the so-called loyal minority, will take note of the absence of their Members, and at the next General Election many of them will record their votes in favour of Members who, whatever their faults may be, are always at their posts on occasions of this kind. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, who is supposed to represent the farmers of Ulster as a Liberal Unionist, is absent. Perhaps his interest in the Land Commission was directed to getting his brother-in law appointed thereto, and, having achieved his object, he cares little more about the matter. At any rate, the Vote is under discussion, and he is absent. I do not propose to enter into the various matters upon which dissatisfaction is felt with the Land Commission, but there is one point I desire to mention, and which I have made the subject of a question for to-morrow, and that is why the Land Commission have fixed the meeting of the Sub-Commission to be held at Enniskillen, to the great inconvenience of tenants, who will have to travel some 18 miles to have their cases heard. It is the cause of great dissatisfaction in my constituency, and possibly the Chief Secretary may be able to give me some reply now. It is an instance, among several, of how in small matters the Land Commissioners do not pay regard to the interest and convenience of the people who seek to have fair rents fixed. I will only add that, in making my protest, I feel that I am not only speaking for those who vote for myself, but for those farmers who support the Conservative Party and whose Representatives are now absent.
(4.5.) MR. T. M. HEALT
It is a remarkable fact that this is the farewell Vote for the Land Commission. This is the last time we shall have an opportunity of discussing the policy of the Commission, inasmuch as the Chief Secretary proposes by his Land Purchase Bill that the salaries of the Commissioners shall be henceforth placed on the Consolidated Fund. For nine years the salaries of the Commissioners have appeared on the 1876 Annual Estimates, but the discussions have been so inconvenient to the Government and the Commissioners that the Land Purchase Bill will carry out the change I mention. Two of Her Majesty's Judges, members of the Superior Court in Dublin, two Bankruptcy Judges have had their salaries on the Estimates year by year, ever since the Bankruptcy Law was created, and no one dreamed of placing the charge on the Consolidated Fund, for bankruptcy is not an exciting political topic, but the right hon. Gentleman proposes in his Land Purchase Bill, if we meet in November to re-discuss it, to deprive us of this annual discussion of one of the main and leading grievances of Irish agrarian life, namely, the fixing of fair rents by the Land Commission, The Government, therefore, will not be surprised if we take a farewell glance at the conduct of the Land Commission, and, in the first instance, at the resignation of Mr. Judge O'Hagan, and the appointment of Mr. Commissioner Fitzgerald, who we may remember as one of the County Court Judges who, we were told, were not removable; but we find after a course of decisions under the Coercion Act in which he has upheld the findings of Resident Magistrates, Mr. Fitzgerald is promoted from a salary of £1,000 to £3,000 a year.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
He is not yet Judicial Commissioner; he takes the place of Mr. Litton, who takes the position of Mr. O'Hagan. I intend my remarks to be favourable to Mr. Fitzgerald, for I am bound to say that while he has acted in the strongest manner as coercion Judge, he has acted fairly as an agrarian Judge, and given excellent reductions of rents, while the last act of Mr. O'Hagan was to raise rents. The Land Commission is certainly not worse for the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald. I think the Land Commission has been improved rather than injured by the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald and the departure of Judge O'Hagan, under the constitution of the Court as it now exists. Judge O'Hagan is a poet and a very nice gentleman, but he has not a mind of his own, and anybody could work him round his finger. It will be better for the tenants to have 1877 as Judge a man who, though he does not sympathise with them, has a mind of his own, as the present Commissioner, Mr. Fitzgerald, has. At the same time, I do not think Mr. Fitzgerald can be acquitted of a remarkably unfortunate procedure on the initiation of his appointment. I regret to think he should have accepted his appointment under circumstances that compelled him to put his name to a document such as that for the revision of rents—in other words, the raising of rents all over the country—when he could have known nothing of it, and when Mr. O'Hagan, as the last decent thing he did in his position, refused to sign the Schedule. It was a most extraordinary document that the Chief Secretary procured from the Land Commission, I presume, through the intervention of his favourite and ally, Mr. Wrench, when Parliament was deliberating on the Act of 1887. It was the most flagitious document ever emanating from a Judicial Body. They had the impudence to declare that the Bill was not consistent with the state of the law as it left the House of Commons, and they asked would the House of Commons be good enough to say what was meant. It was the most impudent document ever addressed to a Legislature. The Bill had not passed the House of Lords, and they called attention to the enormous responsibility thrown upon the Court, and expressed their opinion that more precise guidance should be given in an Act of Parliament—meanwhile, it was not an Act at all, but merely a Bill—as to the nature of the provisions to be applied to the reduction of judicial rents. That is the way the section presented itself to the Land Commissioners as a rent reduction Schedule. More precise guidance should be given as to the way in which judicial rents should be reduced—reduced, be it observed. The Chief Secretary has commended the document, and I really think he must have assisted in its compilation. As the Bill left the Commons, the Commissioners were to have regard to prices and produce. The House of Lords knocked out "produce," and confined the section to "prices" alone, and the Chief Secretary justified this on the ground that the Land Commissioners had called for it. What I said on September 7, 1887, I adhere to, that there was no worse instance of the decomposition of 1878 public life in Ireland than that a Judge of a Supreme Court should have put his name to such an unfortunate document. But this was the way it presented itself to the minds of the Commissioners at that time, a reduction of judicial rents. The moment the Bill came down to this House, with the clause altered, we stated at once it was a clause for raising judicial rents, and, will it be believed, that while the clause was intended to operate for three years, in two years out of the three the Commissioners have raised judicial rents, and Mr. O'Hagan, to his credit be it said, and certainly he is entitled to any small credit he can get from me, each time refused to append his name to a document raising judicial rents, and in December last resigned rather than give his name. Now, the Act says the Schedule must take effect within the years 1887–9, but the actual resignation of Mr. O'Hagan, and the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald, did not take effect until January, 1890. I am not going to chop logic on the point; it is hardly worth discussing. My point is that whether the Schedule be legal or not—and that can only be tried by the House of Lords—at an expense, I suppose, of between £500 and,£1,000 to test a question of a few pounds; in no case more than £8 or £9. Mr. Commissioner Fitzgerald took office on the resignation of Mr. Justice O'Hagan, and on the very day of his appointment put his name to a document assessing increases of rent in scores of Unions all over Ireland, the examination into which would occupy many weeks. Is that not a lamentable, a deplorable record to start with? I defy any hon. Gentleman opposite to say it was a reasonable thing for the Commissioner to put his name to a rent-increasing Schedule which Mr. O'Hagan refused to sign, a Schedule which should have necessitated the examination of thousands, I might say tens of thousands, of valuations and price lists. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that when rents are raised by a process of that kind, under a clause which the Land Commissioners described as a rent-reducing clause, it will bring satisfaction to Irish tenant farmers? The Chief Secretary in answering me will glide over the entire thing, but as life is short and everything must come to an end, the matter will 1879 pass over, there will be another inch of dust over the grave of these discussions of grievances, and the whole thing will go on for another year. While I say this of Mr. Fitzgerald, I in no sense complain of his appointment. I think on the whole the appointment is a fair one, and, so far as I am able to judge, he will make an excellent Land Commissioner. But I do protest against his conduct in doing what I have described, and I have not the slightest doubt that, through Mr. Wrench, the signature to this document was the price of Mr. Fitzgerald's appointment. I really think that when they are so anxious to make law and order respected in Ireland it was a bad start for the Government to make with a new Commissioner, and they might have induced Mr. O'Hogan to carry on a little longer. There are hundreds of things of which we may be certain, though we cannot prove them, and we know well that the right hon. Gentleman was not willing that Mr. Litton should be appointed to Mr. O'Hagan's place. We know that he had other arrangements in contemplation, and but for the fact that Mr. Litton would have resigned his appointment as non-judicial Commssioner if he had not been appointed the Chief Secretary would never have appointed him. I think it is creditable to Mr. Litton that he is not in the favour of the Chief Secretary. So much in reference to that matter. With regard to the leaseholding section of the Act of 1887, renewed last year under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, I would appeal to the Government, in the interests of landlord and tenant alike, to renew the section for another year. Suppose a tenant goes into Court under a lease, and imagines himself to be a tenant, as for all rent-paying purposes he is, and ejectment proceedings may be taken against him, he, by reason of a technical point, the appeal being heard outside the time in which the lease may be broken, will have no remedy whatever. The Government are very slow in getting the judicial rents fixed, and it is very hard for tenants to be shut out for all time from their fair rent, because of the sluggishness of the Commission. I hope we shall have a statement that the leaseholders' clause will be continued for another year, and I do not anticipate there will be any objection to 1880 that being done in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. There are one or two other matters to refer to. There is the insufficient appointment of Sub-Commissions and the manner in which appointments are made. There are cases have come under my notice in which tenants have been waiting three years as leaseholders to have fair rents fixed, and there are instances in which landlords' solicitors have threatened proceedings to recover rent, and it has turned out, when finally the fair rent application was heard, that the tenant had overpaid half-a-year's rent, the new rent dating from the date of the originating notice. I know another case in which, when matters came to be settled by the Commission, the tenant found the landlord was his debtor for two and a-half years rent, yet, all that time while hearing was delayed the tenant was liable to eviction. Scores of evictions have taken place merely in consequence of the inability of the Land Commission to grapple with its arrears of work, and we know that tens of thousands of tenants under lease may be prevented from re-habitating their position from this cause, and the section expiring at the end of the present year. I do trust the Government will do something in this matter. It is true the Government do something, and they do it in a very remarkable and inconsistent way. There is unsteadiness in the way in which they act. One of the most recent things that have come under the notice of those who watch the progress of affairs in Ireland is the unfair and entirely landlord character of all these appointments. Some people allude to the appointment of the brother-in-law of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). I do not complain of this. I am glad the hon. Member has a brother-in-law able to get something out of the great landlord party. In fact, it is a most reasonable appointment, for if a man works and slaves for the landlord party, it is a very hard thing if he cannot get a miserable £700 or £800 a year out of that party. I think there is no stronger proof of the kind of appointment made by the Government than the appointment of Colonel Bailey on Mr. Doyle's Commission. Colonel Bailey is a gentleman of landlord proclivities: he is an agent, but he is an honest man. He was appointed in 1881, 1881 and if yon turn to the Sub-Commission on which he sits in County Wicklow with two other gentlemen from the County of Cork, it will be seen that landlord as he is he is, nevertheless, obliged to differ from his brother Commissioners, and say that the rents are abominably high. The consequence is that Colonel Bailey is a marked man; his days will not be long in the land from a Sub-Commission point of view. We have heard of the "last sigh of the Moor," and if this Sub-Commission goes on in the way it is intended it should do, this may be the last sigh of the Irish peasant with regard to the fixing of fair rents in Ireland. Why is Mr. Doyle allowed to act in this way? Why do the Government keep him in Cork? Why not send him to Ulster? I should like to see him engaged in fixing rents in loyal Fermanagh or Down, where I think he would be tarred and feathered if he fixed in those places the rents he is fixing in County Cork. I have had under my notice a statement in reference to the father of Mr. Doyle, that he had on the mere word of Lord Portsmouth in the County of Wexford sold steadings and houses twice the value of the fee-simple of the soil without a tittle of legal protection, and that the son came down upon those who had acquired this property. That he, the son of a tenant farmer himself, should, for the sake of a few hundred pounds from the Government, desert his own kith and kin, shows the corrupting effect of the dog collar of Dublin Castle when once it is slipped over a man's head. We are told by the Chief Secretary that one complaint is that Catholics are not appointed, and that the major portion of these gentlemen are Protestants. We say, however, at any rate you might act honestly, and see that you get honest men to do your work. Instead of this you pick out the worst rack renters of the country from the landlords and agents, and these are the men you put on your Sub-Commissions. With regard to Mr. Wrench, I have no personal charge to make, but his position is a remarkable one. I remember reading about a stable boy who became Prime Minister, and one can understand how this happened; but how Mr. Wrench became a Land Commissioner at a salary of £3,000 a year is a strange illustration 1882 of the kind of flotsam and jetsom met with on the coast of Dublin Castle. A few years ago he had never been in Ireland. He wanted an agent for Sir Thomas Bray's estate. He advertised for a good man and took him down to his hut at Aldershot, on the principle, I suppose, that if you want to know what a man is you must see what he would do in a hut at Aldershot. He got Mr. Sub-Commissioner Crane, after a decision he had given, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal, removed from the district and sent to a new appointment, and now we find that whenever we get an honest man like Colonel Bailey he is to be Botanysed, or sent to a sort of Irish Botany Bay. The fixing of rents under circumstances like these can hardly command the confidence of the Irish tenants. The Government are well aware of all the circumstances, they know that rents are unpaid, and that the people are unable to pay them, and yet knowing what we do of Mr. Wrench he is to be placed at the head of the Land Commission. Up to the present moment, in spite of all his efforts, the Land Commissioners have held themselves independent, but they have not given satisfaction, and Mr. Wrench is to be appointed by the Government as the saviour of Ireland. I denounce these appointments, and every attempt that is made to screw up the rents. Of course the Sub-Commissioners are beginning to tremble in their boots, for they know that they are more removable than the Removable Magistrates. They may be dismissed at a day's notice. All I say is that the system of hunting Sub-Commissioners from pillar to post, discouraging them from honest administration of the Act, will do more to prevent a settlement of this question in Ireland than any other action of the Government. It is oppressive and irritating to rack-rent a man for 15 years, and then if he does not pay he is driven to the road side. You place a fine on him, and if he does not pay it involves, practically, sentence of death. So long as the present Government remain in Office these men do not expect any improvement. The right hon. Gentleman himself does not desire that these men should do anything more than practically leave things as they are. I must say he has set a very bad example to 1883 his successors. He boasts that his successors will do just as they think fit. But the Conservatives will not always be in power, and the right hon. Gentleman's successors might appoint extreme men, not landlords, but tenant farmers and agitators, and members of the local branches of the National League. It must be remembered that 9 out of the 15 years have expired. In six years I can conceive a Liberal Government being in power. That is not a very strong assumption, and I say that if the bad example of the present Government in making unfair appointments is followed by their successors it will be disastrous to the landlords.
§ (4.50.) MR. DILLON
I wish to impress upon the Government the terrible evils which arise from the delay in settling fair rents under the Act. I have a letter from the County Clare from a tenant farmer. It says—Our case has been in Court for three years, and we have not been able to get a hearing.The letter further states that the Sub-Commissioners had been in the neighbourhood, but had not called at Ennis, where the writer of the letter resides. That is a most extraordinary condition of things, and one which the Government are bound to explain. These men are suffering under a rack-rent, notwithstanding that their case was legislated for in 1887. If these men are evicted because of their inability to pay the rents, no doubt gross injustice will be done, and you will, no doubt, have agitation and boycotted farmers, all due to the mal-administration of Dublin Castle. Now, there is another matter. We have been accustomed, during the past year, to hear the boastings and felicitations of the right hon. Gentleman on the peaceful condition of Ireland. I admit that in considerable portions of Ireland peace has settled down upon the people. But the cause is that we have had, comparatively speaking, two good harvests. The Irish are a long-suffering people, despite all that is said to the contrary. When the small tenants are able to pay their rents, all the agitators that ever were born will not induce them to refuse. The fact is, there has been a sudden and phenomenal rise in prices; but, according to the best information I have been able to obtain, I believe the 1884 prosperity is only temporary. If we have a bad harvest, I venture to say that the Government will be plunged into a sea of trouble as great as ever they have experienced. It is undeniable that, during the last three years, the Government have promised a policy with regard to the appointment of Sub-Commissioners of a most factious and dangerous character. The result is, that there has been a marked increase in the standard of the judicial rents fixed. A more dangerous proceeding could not possibly be conceived. I say this, that if advantage is taken of the temporary prosperity of agriculture in Ireland to raise the rents, the Government will prepare for themselves a tremendous sea of trouble. The agitations of the future, like the agitations of the past, will result in bringing the rents down to a lower standard than before. The course has ever been in Ireland to resist reasonable demands peacefully made, and then, in the alarm caused by agitation, to yield more than was asked for in the first instance. The Government cannot manipulate the Commissioners, and prevent them doing justice between landlord and tenant, without expecting to have Nemesis upon them. Past history should have taught that prices were too high, and we have warned you that this may prove disastrous to the landlord class. What else can be expected? If the policy of the Chief Secretary is to be pursued to the end, we may not be able, with our utmost influence, to secure the carrying out of that policy of moderation and fair play we wish to see maintained. Let me draw attention to a remarkable fact in connection with the administration of the Sub-Commissioners. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. M. Healy) mentioned the name of Colonel Bailey as a Sub-Commissioner who has the confidence of the Irish people. He is not a class representative, he is not in that sense a friend of the farmers; he is a Protestant gentleman, a landowner in County Wicklow, and I understand, though I have no personal acquaintance with him, a Conservative in politics. From the time of his appointment, in the early days of the Commission, he has continued to enjoy the confidence of the people of Ireland. There is another name to be mentioned with honour whenever the work of the Land Commission is dis- 1885 cussed, that of the lamented Mr. Reeves. He died a short time ago, and the Irish people were deprived of one of the most upright honourable Judges connected with the Land Court. Mr. Reeves was a Conservative gentleman, a landlord owning property in County Clare, and he was appointed by the Liberal Government in pursuance of their policy in mixing their Commission by appointments from either political Party. From the day he took his seat on the Bench down to the time of his lamented death Mr. Reeves was respected, beloved, by Irish tenant farmers. Now, what do I argue from this? That there is truth in that often quoted saying of that famous Attorney General, Sir John Davis uttered 200 years ago, that in his experience there was not a nation under the sun appreciated even-handed justice more than the Irish people. Here are instances of two Protestant Irish landlords, honourable men, doing justice in their position, revered and respected by the people, who never quarrelled with their decisions. I say deliberately that there would have been no objection if the Government had appointed half-a-dozen such Sub-Commissioners. There would have been no protest from tenant representatives. But the Government did nothing of the sort. They selected men whose records were not clean, men who were rack-renters, or the friends of rack-renters, and we had the discreditable spectacle in Ireland of men sitting on a so-called Bench of Justice, fixing fair rents for farmers, while their own rents were being reduced 30 or 40 per cent. in another county. So long as the power of manipulating Sub-Commissions is in the hands of men such as Mr. Wrench, so long will you have agitation continue, and the rents fixed will not be regarded as judicial rents, but as rents settled under form of law to suit the wishes of the landlord class. My hon. and learned Friend has alluded to the well-known fact that Mr. Wrench deliberately broke up two Sub-Commissions, which had been in operation for three or four years, and was composed of men who had worked harmoniously together and given the greatest satisfaction. That was what he was brought into office to do. Everybody knows of the indignation, the rage of the Irish landlords, at the deci- 1886 sions of Colonel Bailey's Sub-Commission, and hence it was that by Mr. Wrench this and another similar Sub-Commission was dissolved, and its members distributed among other Sub-Commissions, where their impartiality will have less influence. I will say no more on this point—this fair-rent fixing part of the Commission. I will leave that subject, merely saying that at enormous expense, frightful expense, you are carrying out this system of fixing fair rents in such a way as to prepare a certain ground for future violent agitation, such as from time to time has occurred in the past history of Ireland. I now turn to the Land Purchase Department; and, willing as I am that this Vote should be taken to-night, I regret that there is not more time to bring on questions now at issue in reference to this Department. I regret it the more because this question has enormous importance in view of the intention of the Government to bring on a Land Purchase scheme of gigantic proportions, a scheme which, if passed, will make land purchase by far the most important part of the work of the Commission. A struggle is now going on whether the Treasury of this country shall be grossly swindled or not. First of all let me refer to the judgment of Commissioner J. G. McCarthy, delivered a fortnight ago, as to the sale of farms of substituted tenants. In this judgment, Mr. McCarthy lays down a most important principle—a principle which, I think, is absolutely essential to the due administration of a Purchase Act, if any regard is to be had at all to the safety of the Treasury. But, Sir, I find that to enter upon this must needs be a long discussion, and it is a vital question. I do not wish to prevent the Vote being taken this evening, and so I will defer the question to the Report stage, which I will ask the Government to take at a time to allow of discussion.
(4.12.) MR. A. J.BALFOUR
The Report, no doubt, will be taken at a time to allow the opportunity for discussing a single question of that kind. Speeches have been made on points of detail, but I do not think hon. Members will desire that I should now traverse the whole ground, but I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that I have done my best to secure that such 1887 appointments should be made as would ensure the Act being justly and impartially administered. I fear that in regard to the fixing of rents it would be difficult, under any circumstances, to obtain a general agreement as to the justice of the tribunal.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
In reference to my inquiry as to the leaseholders' clause being excluded in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill?
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 3. £66,117, to complete the sum for the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
§ 4. £56,250, to complete the sum for Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Ireland.
§ 5. £4,540, to complete the sum for the Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Ireland.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again to-morrow.