HC Deb 14 March 1890 vol 342 cc882-960
*(4.45.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

When a Member rises to move a Resolution on Tuesday or Friday lie generally makes two promises, neither of which is usually fulfilled. The first is that the Resolution is not of a Party character, and the next that he will not make a long speech. In the present case, however, the Resolution is certainly not of a Party character. In former days Mr. Disraeli and Lord John Russell, to call them by their House of Commons' names, in dealing with a House of Commons question, took the same side in advocating a change in the time of the Session. I am certain from what has been said to mo that there are many Gentlemen opposite who are friends of this Motion, as I hope the Division will prove. On the other hand, I know that there are opponents of it on my own side of the House; and I think they sit in perhaps more than ordinary proportion on the Bench on which I have the honour to sit. On the point of brevity of speech I will say that a long speech on such a subject would be almost impertinent. Every Member has probably made up his mind, and the point is one on which he has long experience to guide him. No doubt, too, every Member is influenced to some extent by the arrangements of his domestic life, which are known only to himself. I earnestly hope that each man will vote according to his own convictions, and that there may be such a clear majority, on one side or the other, as will show what the wish of the House really is. The present arrangement of the Session is a survival from a distant time. At one time a violent but irresistible pressure was put upon Members to conclude business by the approach of the 12th of August. Let us take the long Parliament which sat from 1859 to 1865. In 1859 the House sat till August 13; in 1860, till August 28; in 1861, till August 6; in 1862, till August 7. In 1863 the House was prorogued as early as July 28; in 1864, on July 29; and in 1865, on July 6. That, however, was before a General Election. So that, taking the average, and leaving out 1865, during that famous and long period the House rose at the end of the first week in August. This system worked then, but it does not work now. Take the present Parliament. In 1886 the House sat from the 12th of January to the 25th of June, and from the 6th of August to the 25th of September, and in the interval the country had the refreshment of a General Election. In 1887 the House rose on the 16th of September; in 1888 it sat until the 13th of August, and then sat again from the 6th of November to the 24th of December; and in 1889, when the House fondly hoped for a short Session, we did not rise until the 30th of August. No man in this Parliament who does his full duty as a Member of Parliament has ever passed more than three days in the country during the summer since Parliament sat; and no man who intends to take up public life as his calling can look forward to any other prospect than that of not seeing one single day of summer till his time of work is passed. Is that a prospect which hon. Members are prepared to face? There is no one circumstance which so deleteriously affects the health and strength of Members as the manner in which Members are kept at work, which, as the Session advances gets harder and harder till summer is past and gone. Ministers may hear with sympathy the description of public life by one who knew the House of Commons very well, and who was a Minister himself— There is little reason, in our opinion, to envy any of those who are engaged in a pursuit from which at most they can only expect that by relinquishing liberal studies and social pleasures, by passing nights without sleep, and summers without one glimpse of nature, they may attain that laborious, that invidious, that closelywatched slavery which is mocked with the name of power. In recent days one of these grievances has been removed, and I earnestly hope that the same Government and the same Parliament which has had the good sense and the resolution to do away with sittings at unholy hours may likewise have the resolution to regulate the season at which Parliament shall sit; and then the life of a Member of Parliament, and even of a Minister, though it will be arduous, will be led under human conditions. In old days the proposal on this subject made by the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir C. Forster)—one of the many unpretentious and disinterested services which he has been in the habit of doing to the House—was killed by a speech from Lord Palmerston. That noble Lord, speaking in 1857, said that in winter the House was full of coughing; the Members were kept from town by bronchitis and influenza, and those who attended the House always complained of draughts. And so he ran through a number of arguments, some of which were droll enough, about the dangers of doing public work in winter. But how many who sit in the House now do not perform public work in the winter? What Member is there who will ever have a week day evening to himself from October to February if he accepts every invitation sent to him? If he is a county Member invitations come to him from 50 villages, each with a growing thirst for rhetoric; and if he is a man of eminence in his Party, there is hardly one of the 570 constituencies in the United Kingdom which is not always complaining that it is six months or even three months since they had a Cabinet Minister or an ex-Cabinet Minister to speak to them. A metropolitan Member opposite has reminded me how a supporter of the Government fags away from June to July and August, and how, at the end of September, as a great favour, he is allowed to go away before the last stage of the Appropriation Bill. The Member goes away, and his constituents come back from the seaside or the mountains brimming over with public spirit, all agog with public speaking. They write to him that they want him to come down and give an account of his stewardship, and tell them how often and how straight he has voted. He meanwhile, jaded and worn, feels fit for nothing less than for a course of public speaking. As regards Members who have gardens of their own in the country, it is the greatest sacrifice men can possibly pay to public life to forego the pleasures of the garden year after year. I think Cabinet Ministers and ex-Cabinet Ministers will feel the truth of some beautiful lines which I read the other day by the poet Marvell:— How vainly men themselves amaze To win the palm, the oak, the bays, And their incessant labours see Crowned from some single herb or tree, While all the flowers and trees do close To weave the garlands of repose. Those who love the woods can never enjoy what the same poet describes as the highest of pleasures— Annihilating all that's made, To a green thought in a green shade. But it is not only a question of those who have had beautiful gardens of their own. A much larger class of Members are affected—Members who have only one home, and that home in town. Speaking with an experience of twenty years of Parliamentary life, passed under those circumstances, I say there are only two ways in which Members so situated can get the country air—they either take a house in the country or go abroad. If they take a house in the country, they can only enjoy it like schoolboys playing truant. On the other hand, if they resort to foreign travel, health and fresh air such as can be obtained in the Tyrol and in Switzerland cannot be enjoyed after the time at which Parliament now rises, and the only prospect of foreign travel which most hon. Members enjoy towards the end of the Session is a visit for a course of German baths—a visit which they would never be under the necessity of paying if they had not spent the best months of the best years of their lives in a hot Parliamentary Lobby. I feel very much for two other classes of men. One the officers of the House, and the other a class of men to whom we owe so much—the staffs of the great newspapers, who are as much in the service of the House as if their salaries were on the Estimates, These men cannot get any holiday at all from arduous labours until the period for making holiday has passed. Their claim on the House is quite a recognisable claim, and I think their case is very much the same as that of hon. Members. I know very well what are the secret reasons which will prevent a great number of hon. Gentlemen from voting for this proposal. First comes the question of sport; but most of the sports which keep men strong and make them fit for work, and most of the manly and vigorous shooting, will be over by the time the period has elapsed which I propose to take for a holiday. Grouse shooting and partridge shooting are practically over, and the only thing that remains is a class of sport with which I have not much sympathy, namely, shooting in highly preserved pheasant covers. This is a class of shooting which, in many parts of the country, though I do not say in all, is highly demoralising and full of temptation to a life of crime. While I can admire skill in shooting, I do not think it is a good thing to encourage a class of semi-professional shots who go from country house to country house during the winter, taking a pride in killing their share of 3,000 or 4,000 birds a week during the season. Whatever we do we shall have the Christmas holidays, and I think the best sport a man can have is with the pheasants, and such woodcocks as Providence sends him then, which he can shoot in company with his boys and neighbours. Upon hunting I do not feel competent to speak, but it occurs to me that we have but few hard hunting-men amongst us. In the first place, there are a great many hunting-men who have the same feeling about the summer as those who are not hunting-men; and in the next place I think we exaggerate the number of hard hunting-men. A great many of these, I think, are men who used to hunt and would like to hunt again, but there are very few hardworking Members of Parliament who can find the time and means which are required, in order to lay claim to the title of hard hunting-men. There remains one thing that governs men's opinions very much, and with which I have no sympathy at all, though I have sympathy with all classes of real sport, I mean considerations of society. People say you must not wind up the Session because society continues its meetings until the beginning of August. My answer is simply this, that if a man likes to spend his summer holidays in going to four or five evening parties a-night, in the name of goodness let him do so, and he will do it with a clear conscience if Parliament has ceased to sit. But let him not interfere with us, who prefer to spend July in fishing and sailing—in driving over Alpine passes, and walking on Alpine pastures. The fact is that much of this talk about sport and about social arrangements is a thing of the past. Parliament is a business assembly, and ought not any longer to make its sittings subordinate to considerations of fashion. We know very well that a certain quantity of time is absolutely demanded by the business of the House. I put it at seven full months from year to year, not count- ing the Easter and Whitsuntide holidays. We have only a certain amount of holiday, and Parliament would do well to take that holiday at the most favourable time. If Parliament, by a majority, expresses its desire to take holiday in some part of the summer—and, after all, that is a very modest request—the arrangements may be left to the Government. If we rose at the beginning of July we should save the whole of the Whitsuntide holidays, because no one would dream that Parliament should separate in the beginning of June for a holiday if it was to separate finally in the beginning of July. I believe that that would be the wiser arrangement, and that in most cases the business of Parliament could be conducted between the beginning of January and the beginning of July. It may occasionally happen that we may have to return to the habits of our forefathers and meet about the 18th of November, and then rise for a month at Christmas; but if we do that we shall have time before the end of June to get through the business of Parliament. All this Resolution asks Parliament to do is to say that we should not sit the whole of the summer. But this is a vital point—we must fix a date. In 1888 there was a great deal of business before the House—the Local Government Bill had to be passed; Supply was terribly in arrear; and there were three great Bills, which, having gone through the Standing Committees upstairs, the Government were determined to pass in the course of the Session. Members, especially those who supported the Government, were exhausted by two long summer Sessions, and they were anxious to get away during the winter, but the Government took a course which did not fulfil the wishes of the House. Instead of naming a date, and saying that they would go on up to that date, and appealing to the honour and common sense of Members to get through the work by that time, the Government named a quantity of business which every one felt was more than they could get through, so the House worked sullenly and despairingly, and sat until the 15th of August, and we had a winter Session afterwards. It is not worth having a winter Session unless we are sure to get a good slice of the summer. Let us deal with this question with the same common sense which we should apply to our own business affairs. Surely Government and Parliament are capable of saying how many months should be given to the discharge of business and how many to rest or to political work in the country. Business was made for men, not men for business. It is not at all to the credit of Parliament that we cannot determine to do our work at a reasonable time, at a reasonable rate, and at a reasonable period of the year. I would not have brought forward this Motion if I thought its effect would be to sacrifice public efficiency to private comfort; but the reasons on the side of public efficiency are as strong as on the side of private convenience and health. On the 10th of July, 1888, the present leader of the House said he had witnessed in this House the weariness which accompanied prolonged sittings during the months of August and September, and he had come to the conclusion that the business had not always been conducted with the greatest possible effect or the best possible regard to the duties they had to discharge. Everyone knows that at the fag end of the Session the work is scamped; Bills are hurried through without proper discussion. There is no time at which the tempers of Members are so tried, or at which there is so much friction. The opinion of those who have been Chairmen of Committees would be worth hearing on that point. It is a mistake to suppose that good work is done in a thin House. It is when the force of the collective public opinion of the full House is brought to bear on it, that the work is best done. For instance, the Redistribution Bill of 1884 was through Committee in June, and the Corrupt Practices Bill in July, and those were Bills which were thoroughly and practically discussed. Let hon. Members compare the way those Bills were treated with the tumult which surrounded the discussions on the Tithe Bill of last year—and here I speak simply of the difficulty under which the discussions on that Bill were carried on owing to the late period of the Session. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite have said to me in the Lobbies that it would be a very bad thing for Ministers not to get their October and November free for preparing Bills and not to have a long interval before February. That shows how we are bound by conventional considerations. If we use our imaginations and put ourselves in the position of those who left off in the beginning of July we should see that Ministers would have had two months during which they might take holiday and come as fresh to the performance of their work as now in October and November. The objections would fall to pieces if only the thing I propose were done. It is the practice of no other Legislature to continue its sittings through the whole of the summer months. The Revue des deux Mondes, writing on the 15th August last year, says— It is no longer the season for Parliaments Except England, whore the Session still goes on, almost all countries have already seen their Assemblies and Ministers fly before a summer which is not propitious to Parliamentary strife and turmoil. I do not wish hon. Members to take example from foreign countries; but I hope they will use their own good sense and obey their own experience and inclinations. I beg hon. Members when they vote to-night to think, not how the vote will look upon the Notice Paper to-morrow, but how it will appear to them when they look back to it on a hot evening in the middle of July, and when they are going to sit certainly for six weeks, and probably for two months, longer. The only possible value of an abstract Resolution is to obtain the genuine and unbiased opinion of the House, and, indeed, I think the House ought to be oftener allowed to vote without Party pressure such Resolutions. If hon. Members vote tonight as they really think, I cannot but hope that there will be a very strong expression of opinion in favour of a change against which on personal grounds there is very little to be said, and against which on public grounds I believe there is nothing to be said whatsoever.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words— In the opinion of this House, Parliament ought to rise at the beginning of July, and that the time required for the due transaction of public business should be provided by Parliament sitting during a longer period of the winter than is customary at present,"—(Sir G. Trevelyan,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

(5.15.) SIR CHARLES FORSTER (Walsall)

I rise to second the Resolution, having myself brought the subject forward in the Sessions of 1859 and 1873. The Motion which I then moved differed somewhat in form from the present one. I invited the House to take the more direct course of an Address to the Crown in favour of reverting to the practice of the Georgian period, when the House, meeting in November, rose on the King's birthday, the 4th of June, whereas my right hon. Friend limits himself to the general proposition that the time necessary for the transaction of business should be provided for by a longer sitting in winter than is now customary; but both Motions are practically the same, and would, have the same result. If on meeting in November we could only shorten the debate on the Address, and proceed at once with the real business of the Session, there would be no reason against our rising at the date indicated in my right hon. Friend's Motion. The fact is that at the time of the first Reform Act Parliament got into a bad groove, from which it is difficult to extricate ourselves without a determined effort. I should be sorry to mar the enjoyments of any of my Colleagues, but the business of the country has the first claim on our attention, and hon. Members who take certain duties upon themselves must not complain of the small sacrifice which the proposed change might entail. Under the present system, before you, Mr. Speaker, are released from the Chair the glory of the summer has departed, and the "last rose" alone remains. It was in 1859 that I first introduced this subject, and now, in seconding my right hon. Friend's Motion, I feel brought back, as it were, to the early years of my Parliamentary career and to the days of youth and vigour. Lord Palmerston then succeeded in getting the Motion negatived, but in spite of that adverse decision the question continued to grow, and the Select Committee of 1871 on the Business of the House, of which I was a Member, reported in its favour. I may, perhaps, secure some support and favour for the present Motion if I remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that Lord Beacons- field was strongly in favour of the proposed change, which will not only promote the health and comfort of hon. Members, but will also insure a more satisfactory despatch of the work of the Session.

*(5.23.) MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)

I am sorry to have to differ from a right hon. Colleague, still, there are occasions when you feel you may differ; and on the present occasion I differ most radically from my right hon. Friend, who rested his argument in favour of the change entirely on the personal convenience of Members, of the officers of the House, and of the reporters. The right hon. Gentleman did not adduce a single argument to prove that the business of the House and of the nation would be better or more expeditiously transacted than it is at present. My right hon. Friend said that the time at present available for Members to travel is very unsuitable, and that if they were free in July and August they would be able to visit the Alps and Norway, and the North Pole perhaps. But what about the British Empire? The first duty of a Member of Parliament is to know something about this great Empire, of which we are all so proud, and the months during which Parliament is not now in Session are those in which hon. Gentlemen can most conveniently visit our great colonies and dependencies. I do not suppose that anyone will suggest the summer is the best time to visit India for instance. My right hon. Friend used a rather infelicitous expression when he alluded to the "secret reasons" of Members for objecting to this proposal and to their proclivities towards sport. In regard to this question of the sittings of the House, I think we may leave sport altogether out of sight, because Members who delight in sport will get it whether the House is sitting or whether it is not. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks on battue cover shooting, I may observe that I am rather inclined to think that more birds are killed by a single gun in August than in any other month. I might say the same with regard to other birds and beasts of the field during the autumn months. I think we may leave the hunting question altogether out of this debate, and I therefore pass on to the society question. I will ask hon. Members whether, as a matter of fact, society in London is not practically over by the 12th July, and I should like to know what is going on between that date and the end of July. The society argument I hold to be a perfectly futile one. My right hon. Friend said that the proper length of time of a Parliamentary Session was seven months. In that I agree with him, and I would point out that the seven months can be obtained from January to July, and that, therefore, there is no necessity for an Autumn Session at all. The right hon. Gentleman also said it was necessary to fix a data for the termination of the Session. He could fix it on any day about the middle of July if the House met in January, although I venture to believe that if a date were fixed the Government would in the very first year find it absolutely necessary to prolong the Session at least a month after that date. A great point had been made of the fact that, under the existing Rules, the House has to rise every night at 12 o'clock, and that there are no late sittings; but only last week the House sat twice until past 1 o'clock, and since the Session opened we have made exception to the 12 o'clock Rule at least once a week on the average, and several important matters have been dealt with during the extended time. It should also be borne in mind that the House now meets an hour earlier than it used to do, and that fact should be taken into consideration. I maintain that it is of immense advantage, from both a public and a private point of view, that hon. Members should have their holidays, or their cessation from Parliamentary work, in a lump. The arrangement is convenient to private Members, and it must certainly be so to Ministers, not only that they may have a substantial release from the worry and anxiety of their duties in the House, and an opportunity to recruit their strength, but that they may have sufficient time to prepare work for the coming Session. In my humble opinion, both on public and private grounds it is expedient that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman should be rejected by the House.

(5.35.) MR. H. T. KNATCHBITLL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)

I should like to say a few words in support of the Resolution which has been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I am strongly in favour of it, because I believe that were it carried there would be a great saving of health and strength; for it appears to me that much more health is wasted during one hot summer's week than would be wasted were we kept here a much longer period in the winter. I do not know that I should have intruded on this debate—for I should have preferred to have left it to those who have more Parliamentary experience to decide this question—were it not that I believe there is a great deal of misconception as to the real nature of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion. That misconception is that the adoption of the Resolution would necessarily involve an Autumn Session, and I think the fear of that is likely to cause many of my hon. Friends to abstain from voting. But I am strongly of opinion that the carrying of the Resolution need not involve anything of the kind. Personally, I am not opposed to autumn sittings. I should prefer being here in the month of November to being detained here in the month of August. But I am also of opinion that a great saving of time could easily be effected at the beginning of the Session; and if we were to meet for the despatch, of business the second or third week in January instead of a month later, we should have a change which would give us at least three or four weeks more for business. But this would not be the only thing necessary to be done in order to secure the adjournment of the House in July. In the first place, as mentioned by the hon. Baronet the Member for Walsall, I think we ought to prevent the unnecessary and mischievous waste of time which occurs every year in the debate on the Address. We should save at least a fortnight for other business by that means. In the next place, an important saving of time could be effected by a change in the practice of putting and answering so many questions in the House. If these changes were taken in hand by the two Front Benches, I believe they could easily be carried into effect, and then, by adopting them, all necessity for an Autumn Session would be avoided, for the work of the House could be easily completed by July, and a great and beneficial change would be made in the conduct of business in the House. I hope that, under these circumstances, seeing that a great deal of time might be saved in the manner indicated, hon. Members will vote independently upon the Motion, and that it will be carried. If, however, we do not succeed, we shall, I hope, show such a large number of Members to be in favour of the change that we shall secure it at no distant time.

(5.40.) MR. WHITBREAD (Bedford)

I propose to vote for the Resolution of my right hon. Friend mainly as a protest against the present system rather than in any hope or expectation that the Resolution can be accepted in the form in which it now stands. There is, I think, a general desire amongst mankind to get a holiday in the summer. It is the natural time for holiday making, and there is a good deal of force to my mind in what the right hon. Gentleman said, to the effect that all our constituents take their holiday in the summer, whilst we are unable to get ours until the autumn. The House certainly ought to have its holiday in the summer if it can, and the great point is how best can that be achieved? I do not think it is possible to arbitrarily fix a day in July for the termination of the Session unless we are prepared to return to business in the autumn; because I do not see how the Government could possibly get a reasonable amount of business through if their opponents knew that on a certain day the House must rise. The very fact of such knowledge would cause what we call obstruction to enormously increase, and it would be almost impossible for the Government to carry on its business. On the other hand, I very strongly object to the existing arrangements, which give the Government a tremendous power of putting the screw on the House and on hon. Members towards the end of the summer. I would suggest whether we could not arrive at some solution of the difficulty by appointing a Committee to examine all the surrounding circumstances. Would it not be possible to shorten the Session, for instance, by doing away with the Whitsuntide holidays? If that were done, I think we could easily get through the business of the House between January 7 and July. Will the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury consider the desirability of appointing a Committee for this purpose, because I believe an arrangement could be easily come to which would be acceptable to the Government and to the House generally.

*(5.45.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I do not rise with any desire to put pressure on hon. Members behind me as to the course they should pursue in the Division which the right hon. Baronet has said he intends to take on his Motion. The matter was one of very great importance to the House itself, and I can well understand the interest with which the proposal for a summer holiday has been received. There is, doubtless, hardly one of us who would not desire to get a holiday as suggested if it were practicable; but hon. Members must be careful as to what they do in the matter, for there is a danger which they may run by adopting the course proposed by the right hon. Baronet. I am not at the present moment aware of any system or conditions under which we can insure that the House shall rise at a given date with due regard to the business of the country unless we also agree to meet again to conclude that business as best we may by prolonging the sitting to the end of the year. I would suggest to my hon. Friends on this side of the House that by adopting the Resolution they might extend rather than shorten the Session. They might, indeed, by so doing expose themselves to a greater amount of suffering than has now to be borne. The hon. Member for Bedford has suggested that a Committee might be appointed to consider the question. There have been many Committees to consider the course of procedure and the business of the House; and, speaking for myself, I should be exceedingly glad if a Committee could by any means suggest a method by which hon. Members can obtain a summer holiday and, at the same time, discharge their duties and responsibilities to the country. It has been suggested also that the House might meet in January and adjourn early in July without an Autumn Session. I am unable to follow the right hon. Gentleman who made the suggestion in the method by which we could get out of this dilemma. It seems to me that unless the House places restrictions on the liberty of speech which now prevails, and invents a system which does not now exist as to the business which the Government of the day must lay before the House, unless the House seriously shortens the liberties of discussion in Supply, I cannot conceive any system by which we could at present bring the moral pressure spoken of to bear so as to induce the House to discuss business, to pass the measures which are requisite, and to give that full consideration to Supply which is necessary and yet adjourn at an early date in July. The business of the country must be our first object, and the Government cannot enter into any arrangement which would hamper the House in the discharge of its duties and responsibilities. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that there might be two sittings—one to end in July, and a sitting in November. But would the House be able to end the Session in July? Can the right hon. Gentleman suggest any method by which it would be certain that the business of the country will be completed in the first or second week of July? If not, the House must sit till probably the end of July, and then it would be found necessary to meet again in November, in order to dispose of the business which remained unfinished in August. Then it is said that the House should begin the Session in November and end it in July; but here, again, the difficulty is that the Government would not be able to get the necessary business disposed of. Supply would not be concluded by the first week in July, and the House might sit until the middle or end of July, or even into August, and the practical result of the Resolution would be to add seven or eight weeks to the Session. The question of the appointment of a Committee to consider this matter is, however, one as to which, I shall, on the part of the Government, offer no objection whatever. I only desire to represent to the House that unless it can arrive at some hard-and-fast rule, or unless it is absolutely laid down by Statute that the House shall rise at a given date, the Session will certainly be extended beyond the period to which reference has been made, with the result that hon. Members will find that they have lost instead of gained by the change. I therefore strongly advise the House not to pass an abstract Resolution with reference to the business of the country without having considered beforehand how that business is to be conducted, and how Parliament is to get through the work imposed upon it. If the House is prepared to face the abolition of the debate on the Address, to place some restriction upon the length and the number of speeches and the repetition of arguments, then I shall look forward with a confident hope to a considerable diminution of the strain to which Members of Parliament are now subjected, and which, undoubtedly, seriously interferes with their ability to thoroughly perform the work of the country. But I should myself hesitate to propose any drastic measures to the House which would interfere with the liberty which hon. Members have hitherto enjoyed; but hon. Members, animated with a sense of duty and responsibility to the country and with a consideration for their Colleagues in the House, may ultimately place such a restriction on themselves as will conduce to the end we all desire to attain. If that end should be gained, then no Resolution is needed, because it would be gained by the good sense and the good feeling of the House itself; and this, I think, on the whole, is the best course which can be pursued in the circumstances of the case.

(5.55.) MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

I am sorry to feel myself compelled to oppose the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton. I do not oppose it because I object to holidays. On the contrary, I like my holidays to recur often and to last as long as possible. Indeed, an autumn Session would be a luxury, for it would afford me an opportunity for putting an additional number of questions to the right hon. Gentleman who has the misfortune to fill the seat of Chief Secretary. Certainly, I have no concern for what is described as society. The right hon. Gentleman has described in eloquent language the pleasures of the country and the desirableness of enjoying them when at their best, instead of sitting at Westminster. No one enjoys more than I do a walk in our beautiful parks; no one admires more than I do the tine horses in Rotten Row, or the splendid people who ride them. But I am sure that hon. Members will not judge of this subject either by the frivolity of society or the frivolity of sport. The men who compose the work- ing element of the House of Commons are those engaged in business. I have had some experience of business as well as of society, and my belief is that success in business depends on continuity. There are many hon. Members interested in business in Australia, in India, and other countries, and how is it possible for those business men engaged in affairs remote from this country to pay attention to their interests if they have to hurry back from their long journeys in order to take part in an Autumn Session? Both with regard to business and politics, therefore, a long and continuous holiday is necessary; and this essential element in our political life would be destroyed were the Motion of my right hon. friend carried. I think in this matter we should profit by the experience of America. There the Parliament must sit once a year, and matters are so arranged that by sitting at the end of one year and the beginning of the next it is possible to get a holiday of nearly two years. If this can be done there without detriment to the interest of the nation, why should we not follow the example? What are we going to do with the men who take long journeys for business, politics, or pleasure, if such a change as this is agreed to. Suppose a Member wishes to go to Egypt or Australia? When he goes from home he drags after him a lengthening chain that ties him to this House and brings him back in the autumn. An hon. Gentleman says, "Let him leave the House." If that were the case, you would immediately deprive: this country of some of its best?servants—of some of those business men who devote their energy and experience to the work of the country. If you put this restraint upon Members, if you tie to them a lengthening chain which hauls them back to this House from long journeys, it will be necessary to make another alteration of your system and pay your Members. I have one additional reason. There are 85 Irish Members. ["More."] If I may speak for hon. Members opposite, there is a larger number of Irish Members than 85, who suffer from English misrule. The tyrant Saxon has imposed laws upon Ireland that are not at all suited to the requirements and interests of her people. Is the tyrant Saxon going to impose another grievance upon Irishmen? We are asked to come here in the autumn, as well as in the spring and summer, and are you going to inflict upon them the terrible ordeal of mal de mer, crossing as they do in boats that have shallow keels, and that roll in the surf of the Channel? I consider that would be one of the greatest grievances from which Ireland suffers. I hope the House will take into serious consideration this last argument, and that they will continue to transact their business in one Session, leaving hon. Members a sufficient interval to attend to their own business.

*(6.5.) SIR JOHN MOWBRAY (Oxford University)

Sir, I am afraid my remarks will fall rather flat after the amusing speech of the hon. Member, who took us from Rome to Australia, the Legislature of the United States, and back again to the grievances of Ireland. This question which has been raised by my right hon. Friend is deserving the grave consideration of the House, affecting, as it does, the business of the House. I agree with the First Lord of the Treasury that the real question to consider is the efficient discharge of the business of the country, and it is on the ground that the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton, by altering our times of meeting, will enable us better to transact that business, that I give him my support. It is puerile to go back to the days of Lord Palmerston or earlier. It was easy enough in those days for Members to make their arrangements to leave on the 1st August, the House rising as before on the 12th, but that is no longer possible. In 1886 and 1887 we were sitting here late in September; in 1888 we were detained until the end of August, only to return again in November. The state of things has become intolerable. Members have no opportunity to properly go into the details of Bills; it is impossible to do it. I hope the House will pass this Resolution to-night, and affirm the principle that some change shall take place. I do not say that we can now fix the date in July when we are to rise; possibly that is a matter for the consideration of aresponsible Minister of the Crown. I do not approve of the proposal of a small Committee appointed to consider the subject. It would sit throughout the Session; it would report late, and its Report might go over to the next Session. If there is to be a change in the meetings of the House the best person to propose that change is a responsible Minister of the Crown. Let us strengthen the hands of the Government to-night by passing the Resolution. It can be decided afterwards that the House shall rise some time between the 10th and the 31st July. Whether an Autumn Session would be required under that arrangement would be a question remaining for decision from time to time. I hope, as a general rule, there would not be a Session in the Autumn. Some years an Autumn Session would be necessary, and some years it would not. I have no objection to a short autumn Session, beginning in the middle of November. The health and temper of the Members is affected by the present system; besides which the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, and the officers of the House, who cannot get away as we do, have a great strain put upon them. We ought to embrace the opportunity of affirming the desirability of a change, leaving details to the future.

(6.10.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland Division)

Sir, I rise in support of the Motion of my right hon. Friend. I am sure that the attitude of the First Lord of the Treasury towards the Motion is not inspired by any personal hostility, but by his sense of duty, for it will be admitted that none suffer more from the long hours than the right hon. Gentleman himself. I might be tempted to say, but I withstand temptation, that we on this side could show the right hon. Gentleman a very ready means by which to reduce the business of the House, as this is not a Party debate, but I will not dwell upon that subject. I believe there is one point on which my right hon. Friend did not touch. It is this: The present prolonged Vacation really places in the hands of the Executive of this country an amount of unrelieved and undisturbed authority which has its risks. I have no desire to weaken the Executive. In some respects it requires strengthening, and I think the present bloated and large Cabinet might be reduced so as to be able to work with steady, resolute action. It seems to me unfair that great issues have to be left for months without there being any control whatever over the Executive. I believe if a certain date for rising were fixed there would be an enormous temptation to obstruction. My hon. Friend has referred to America. Perhaps he will permit me to say that lie knows very little about America. He was there about a fortnight. I stayed there seven months, and was in Washington. I will say this—much as I admire American institutions, I should not like to see their rules of procedure transferred to this House. Probably they have more eloquence there than we have here, but it seems to me that the limitation of the time of a speaker—a proposal I grieve to have heard made in this House—[laughter]—hon. Members laugh—I do not know whether I am obnoxious to the exercise of that rule—to limit the time of a speaker, I say, tends to make the debate artificial. The system of moving the previous question in America is destructive of anything like reality of debate. The matter might be dealt with in this way. The November sitting might be made a part of the Session. It would be most unwise to begin the Session in November, because you would get no relief at all. Besides which you would avoid the effect of the obsolete and absurd rule by which a measure not passed in one Session is lost, together with all the labour expended upon it, and has to be re-introduced in the following Session. I think the proposal of the present Solicitor General, that a Bill unfinished in one Session should be continued in another, an admirable one. But if there were an autumn Session the Bills might go on from July to November and the time now lost might be saved. I would offer this suggestion as one means of meeting the difficulty. Beyond this, I would point out that a good many hon. Members have a great deal to do besides political work. We have a great many merchants in the House and a good many lawyers—perhaps I should be right in saying too many lawyers—and I think the strain of constant attendance here is becoming too severe for those who have other work outside. It is right, therefore, that we should seek a remedy, and it is clear that the shortening of the sittings, which has already taken place, ought to be carried to a much greater extent. As it is we waste every night two or three hours, which are occupied by speeches addressed to an almost empty House during dinner time; for I would ask the House what advantage is it to the debates and deliberations of this House that hon. Members should address you in the Chair when the rest of the House is conspicuous by its absence? We ought to meet earlier in the day.




The hon. Member for Northampton is one who loves late hours, and we all know that he would like to sit up till 4 or 5 o'clock every morning if he could; but we do not all possess the splendid constitution of the hon. Gentleman, and cannot all bear the toil which sits so lightly on his shoulders. It seems to me ridiculous that we should sit here till 12 or 1 o'clock every night keeping you and the officials of this House in attendance, when the hours might be very materially lessened by some reasonable arrangement. If we had a break in July important questions might be kept over until we meet again in November, when we should come back refreshed by the period of relaxation from work. As to what has been said with regard to hon. Members going to India and Australia, they are a very small minority in the House, and although we might desire to see that minority increased, so that more hon. Members should make themselves acquainted by personal inspection with the distant portions of this great Empire, still they might start in July instead of September, and would probably find that that would be the more convenient period for their journeys. I trust that the Resolution will receive the support of the majority of this House.


I think the House is agreed that we should rise earlier than we have done lately. The question is how we can best attain that object. I farther assume that the House does not wish to sit a greater aggregate number of months than at present. In our endeavour to shorten the aggregate Session, and so leave more time for non-Parliamentary life than we have at present, we must take care that we do not bring about exactly the opposite result. I ask the House to realise the danger there is of prolonging the Session. One hon. Gentleman, for example, who supported the Motion, said he did not like the Executive Government being untram melled for so long a time as at present. But I venture to think that two Sessions would always be worse than one, and that it would be bettor to have a longer Session than to have hon. Members coming "fresh" to Parliament twice in the year, which would, I think, rather have a tendency to prolong than to shorten Sessions. Is it desirable that the aggregate sittings should be prolonged? It appears to me that if the proposed change were to take place we should lose our Whitsuntide holidays in the hope of rising in July—a hope which hon. Members themselves say it might be impossible to realise. How are we to guarantee that we should rise in July? It is quite clear it can only be done by appealing to the honour and good feeling of the House to bring the Session to an earlier end. Unfortunately, a few Members have the power to prolong the Session indefinitely, and, if rumours are true, frequently declare their intention to do so. What I should advise is to have a Committee to examine the question, and see whether means cannot be devised which would bring about an earlier rising of the House. The Motion could only be carried out by somewhat stringent changes in the Rules of the House, as otherwise it would be quite impossible to accept the suggestion of a fixed date on which the House should rise. If the Rules are to be altered for that purpose it must be done by the House itself consenting to those changes. Those changes, if proposed by the Government, would be considered as curtailing the privileges of debate, and would be received with the greatest suspicion by private Members. In Committee on the Estimates it has at times been impossible to persuade some hon. Members to forego a single opportunity of discussion, even on the Report. For my part, I can see there is a general feeling in the House that these unduly prolonged Sessions are damaging to Parliament. Let us make one more effort to shorten them, and have a small Committee which will take into account the varying expression of opinion among hon. Members; otherwise, I venture to warn the House that we may, by setting up the precedent of an Autumn Session, find ourselves in a worse condition than ever. I think a continuous holiday in some part of the year almost indispensable. There must be some time devoted to administration and the consideration of fresh measures of legislation. If there is to be no continuous rest I fear that both administration and legislation will seriously suffer. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept a Committee, with a reference to the effect that they should inquire into the matter with a view to seeing whether measures cannot be taken to secure the earlier rising of the House in the summer. Such a reference would accept the principle of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion without committing ourselves absolutely to July.

(6.27.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I think it a very wise suggestion that a Committee of this House should inquire into the subject under debate; but, at the same time, I think it better that the House should express a clear and definite opinion upon the question before that Committee is appointed. For my part, I cannot see why the House should not meet somewhat near the beginning of January, and in that case a Session of six months would bring us to July, which would be quite long enough for any of as. I hope the House will assent to the Resolution in the first instance, and that then we may have a Committee appointed.

(6.28.) MR. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)

I desire to say a few words in favour of the Motion of the right hon. Baronet. From my point of view it would be better to go to our work in the country at an earlier period of the year than is the case at present. It appears to me that the terms of this Resolution distinctly point to an Autumn Session, because—[Several hon. MEMBERS: No, no.] It seems to me that the substantial part of the Resolution is that it does point to an Autumn Session. Let me read the words of the Resolution itself— That, in the opinion of this House, Parliament ought to rise at the beginning of July, and that the time required for the due transaction of Public Business should he provided by Parliament sitting during a longer period of the winter than is customary at present. The House will practically have two Sessions if it adopts this Resolution. It is inconvenient enough for Irish Members to cross the Channel once, and I do not think we ought to have to do it more than is necessary.


With the permission of the House, I wish to say a few words. I feel that the courteous manner in which the Government have met us requires an answer. That answer is not exactly that which for some reasons I should like to give, for I cannot accept their offer of a Committee. If the House wants a change, the Government, and the Government alone, can carry it out. The Resolution I have placed before the House appears to me to be very plain, and I do not think it is open to the criticism which has just been passed upon it. I should like the House to meet almost immediately after Christmas, and I think if we did away with the Whitsuntide holidays, we should be able to rise by July. I would remind the House that the Division which we are about to take is not a Party Division, but one in which hon. Gentlemen will show what they think. Of course, until a decided majority of the House is in favour of the change, it never will be adopted, and I know that the only way to secure its adoption is, in the first instance, to take a Division.


I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that one of the cardinal points he put before the House in his opening statement was, that the House should sit seven months in the year. If we are to meet shortly after Christmas, and go on until July, we certainly must have some holidays. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman really amounts to this, that we are invariably to have an Autumn Session. If hon. Members are desirous of having an Autumn Session every year, let them vote for the Motion; if, on the other hand, they are opposed to it, I hope they will go into the Lobby against it.

(6.33.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

I listened with considerable surprise to the speeches of both my hon. Friends who have spoken from these Benches. It does not appear to me that this is a matter of personal convenience at all, but a matter concerning the interests of those whom we represent. It is not a question of the convenience of Members who may wish to go abroad or those who may suffer from mal de mer. The question is how best we can transact the business of this House. I really should have expected a very different statement from the right hon. Gentleman who occupies the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen). He did not make a single remark in his speech about the business of the House; and I would impress upon him that when he rises in his high official position to address this House on a matter of procedure he should not trifle with the subject, but should deal with it in a serious manner. I sincerely hope that all my hon. Friends will vote in favour of the Motion.

(6.37.) MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)

I rise merely for the purpose of saying one word in support of the view just put forward by my hon. friend (Dr. Tanner.) I do not at all regard this as a matter concerning, in the first instance, the convenience of hon. Members. I think it is a question of very great public importance. I am in favour of this House sitting for as long a period of the year as possible, not because I like to bring hon. Members here; but because my experience teaches me it is when Parliament is not sitting that the Government behave in the most atrocious manner in Ireland. I am convinced that if we had the opportunity of, to some extent, controlling the Executive Government in Ireland by sitting at different periods of the year, it would be a great deal better for the people of our country. My hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. E. Harrington) commented upon the inconvenience Irish Members experienced in coming here from Ireland; but, unfortunately, we have to come backwards and forwards a great many times during the year, and it could make no practical difference if we crossed the Channel once more in the course of the year. I am strongly in favour of the Motion, and I believe it will be supported by a majority of the House.

(6.40.) The House divided:—Ayes 173; Noes 169.—(Div. List, No. 28.)

Main Question again proposed.

*(6.52.) CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N.)

On this question I hope we may have some assurance from the Government that until the Tithes Bill is passed the military will not be used for the purpose of extracting tithes. As the Govern- ment have brought in a Tithes Bill, I think everybody will acknowledge that there is just cause for discontent at the employment of troops for this purpose, certainly unless careful inquiry is first made as to whether or not, the services of troops are necessary. In the Island of Anglesey a County Council has been returned strictly charged that public money shall not be used in the employment of police for the collection of tithes. The feeling in that county is very strong on the matter, great irritation having been caused by the employment of troops on this unpleasant duty; and I trust that the Government, to whom the Principality already owes so much for the benefits they have conferred on it, will give me the assurance I ask.

(6.55.) MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)

I desire to call attention to the conduct of the Government in regard to the prosecution of certain newspaper editors in Ireland. Some time ago I had occasion to write to the Press on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary wrote a reply, and I then sent another communication to the newspapers, but no answer has been sent to that by the Chief Secretary or anyone else. In that communication I pointed out what I intend to point out to-night, namely, that the Chief Secretary has entered upon a system of prosecuting newspaper editors in Ireland for so-called offences which, in this country, would not be considered offences at all, and which would not be prosecuted. For instance, I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary yesterday why it was that the Lord Lieutenant had failed to make the Mayor of Wexford one of the Governors of the Asylum near Enniscorthy, in the County of Wexford, and he gave mo a reply to the effect that he had, for the first time, refused to nominate the Mayor of Wexford to this position because he had been sentenced to two months' imprisonment. I asked for what offence the Mayor of Wexford had been sentenced to two months' imprisonment, and sent to gaol like a common pick-pocket, and the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland informed me that the offence was publishing a resolution passed at a public meeting in the County of Wexford. Now, I ask any Member of the Government to point out a single instance in this country where a newspaper editor has been sent to prison and treated in every way as a common felon for the publication of an item of news without any comment whatever. The Chief Secretary, in the letter he wrote to the Press, pointed to a case where editorial comments had been made upon an item of news, and certain individuals had been mentioned by name. Those cases are altogether in the minority, and the great majority of newspaper editors who have been sent to gaol in Ireland have been prosecuted for publishing news pure and simple, without any comment whatever. The right hon. Gentleman may say that although there wore no editorial comments, these items of news in themselves were calculated to do harm by inciting to violence. But what has occurred in this country? Some time ago a man made a speech in Hyde Park, and recommended that another man should be murdered. He said that any man who murdered Mr. Livesey, who had been associated with the gas strike in London, would be a popular hero. This man was brought to trial, and let off altogether. The point is this, that newspapers in this country published the speech of this man, recommending in cold blood the murder of Mr. Livesey, and not one of them was proceeded against. How is it that the law is so unequal in the two countries; and that editors are sent to prison over and over again in Ireland for so-called offences which are infinitely less serious than similar offences which editors can commit in England with impunity? The Chief Secretary was asked a question last night as to Mr. M'Hugh, the proprietor of the Sligo Champion. Mr. M'Hugh was, until a short time ago, Mayor of Sligo, and was sent to prison for something which appealed in his paper at the time ho held the office. He is again in prison, and the sole crime the man can be said to be guilty of is that he published a resolution passed at a public meeting of the people of the County of Sligo. He made no editorial comment, and did not say whether the meeting was advisable or not, or whether the matter contained in the resolution was good matter or otherwise. He merely published news of what had occurred for the benefit of the public generally. He is now being treated in prison like the commonest felon. I ask any Mem- ber of the Government to get up and instance a single case in which an English newspaper editor has been treated as a common criminal, and has been forced to conform in every way to prison discipline, and to exercise with the vilest criminals. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) will remember the case of Mr. Edmund Yates, who was sent to prison for an offence of a very grave character, namely, the publication of a very serious libel reflecting on the honour of people in this country. For this disgraceful and infamous offence he was made a first-class misdemeanant. He was allowed to see his friends in prison, and I believe he was even permitted to edit his newspaper from prison. Newspaper editors in Ireland who have committed no crime of that character, and whoso only offence has been the publication of what is done openly in the country, are treated like common criminals. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to say whether this kind of thing is at all likely to extend respect for law and order in Ireland, or to make us feel satisfied with the way in which we are governed. Of course, as usual, there is nobody hero representing Ireland. This is a matter of very considerable importance—a matter regarding the arrest of no less than 14 or 15 newspaper editors in Ireland—and yet there is no Member of the Government connected with Ireland present. I ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether this is not a case in which an Irish Member may legitimately endeavour to obtain information from the Government? It is perfectly true that no notice was given of my intention to inquire into this matter, but the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary must know perfectly well that Irish Members are not likely to lose any opportunity of bringing forward such questions. Will the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) send for the Chief Secretary?

*(7.8.) MR. W. H. SMITH

If the hon. Gentleman had given us the slightest intimation of his intention to bring forward this matter, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) would have been in his place to answer him. He will, I think, admit that it is usual to give some intimation of the intention to refer to such questions. My right hon, and learned Friend, in discharge of his duty, has been, obliged to leave the House, and my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has left owing to the necessity of taking some little rest. I am not able to give the hon. Gentleman the information he desires. Questions have been addressed to my right hon. Friends on the subject, and answers have been given by them. Beyond those answers I have no information, and I can only regret that the usual notice was not given.

*(7.9.) MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)

With reference to the appeal which has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bucks (Captain Verney) to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury on the subject of the employment of the military at tithe distraints in Wales, I wish to give an earnest support to the views he expressed. I am quite sure that the magistrates of the localities would think most seriously and earnestly before they took such an extreme step again as that of summoning the military, and I think their past experience of the use of the military cannot have been very encouraging to them. At the same time, I hope the House will remember that some 18 months, or, at any rate, some 12 months, hive passed since soldiers were employed at all. Since that time the conduct of the people has not been such as to render it conceivable that any military force would be required

*(7.11.) MR. MATTHEWS

I regret that I was not aware that this subject would be mentioned. I have not the papers with me; but, so far as my memory serves me, I believe that the military were only called out twice and at a considerable interval of time. I have done all I could to discourage and prevent appeals to the military, and have two or three times expressed a strong view against their employment. But the Government cannot interpose authoritatively in this matter. If the magistrates of a county think it necessary to apply for the use of soldiers the Government have no option, and cannot refuse military a d. As the hon. Member is aware, no subject of the Queen can refuse to render his aid if called upon by the magistrates.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

I think the Welsh Members ought to be gratified with the right hon. Gentleman's statement, because it shows that some pressure was brought to bear on the magistrates to prevent the employment of the military. The right hon. Gentleman has laid down a proposition of law which, as an abstract proposition, no one will be prepared to contest; but I imagine that the question does rest entirely with the Government for decision, because unless they leave the troops at the disposition of the magistrates, the latter cannot avail themselves of them. In Ireland it is constantly arranged beforehand to have the troops on the spot; and I imagine that what the Welsh Members are complaining of is that the soldiers are placed at the disposition of the magistrates. The magistrates cannot, any more than anyone else, call spirits from the vasty deep, and they cannot call upon the soldiers for help if the soldiers are not there. In Ireland I would rather see troops than police in operation, because my experience is that troops are popular in Ireland, whilst the Royal Irish Constabulary are detested. When you have the Royal Irish Constabulary bayoneting and smashing heads, you find that the men whose business it is to do real fighting behave with moderation. Therefore, I make no complaint on this point with regard to Ireland as at present advised, further than to object to the use of troops on the ground that it shows you are backing up the landlords. But if you are going to back up the landlords I prefer Tommy Atkins, as far as my experience goes, to the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. As to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond), the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) is an exhibition to us of the manner in which Irish affairs are conducted. It has absolutely come to this, that you can imprison 15 editors in Ireland, you can gag the entire Irish Press, and there is not a single Member of the Cabinet, except the Chief Secretary, who is even aware of the fact. If these things had been done in any other portion of the Queen's dominions is there a single Member of the Cabinet who would not have been able to make some defence for it? The right hon. Gentleman's admissions are an appalling instance of the boycotting of Irish affairs. The House deems it a sufficient justification for ignorance of Irish affairs for a Member of the Cabinet to say, "I have nothing to do with Irish affairs." Suppose some English editor were prosecuted for sedition in the Transvaal, there is not a man on the Treasury Bench who would not be ashamed to confess he knew nothing about it. The fact is that Ireland is not treated, except for fiscal purposes, as part of the Empire. The question of Mr. Welsh's imprisonment is one on which we have some reason to complain. A man has just been prosecuted for inciting to the assassination of Mr. Livesey, of the South Metropolitan Gas Company. From the Times downwards, every English newspaper yesterday printed the incitement to assassination, and yet they all get off scot-free. And we are told there is the same law for the two countries. Mr. Henry Welsh is the Mayor of the Borough of Wexford—a borough probably as old as any of your English boroughs—and you put him into gaol for inserting a report of a branch meeting of the League in an obscure corner of his paper. The Lord Lieutenant has for the first time exercised his prerogative of depriving Mr. Welsh of his position as Governor of the local lunatic asylum. I say this is a mere piece of malignity, as is also the sentence of two months' hard labour passed upon a man who is tolerably advanced in years as he is. He had already undergone sentences of two months' hard labour and five weeks' hard labour, and he was released yesterday from gaol after serving two months' hard labour for printing a report of a branch meeting. By depriving him of his ex officio position as Governor of the asylum you insult the whole of the burgesses of the borough. And because all this takes place, not in the Transvaal or in Matabeleland, but in Ireland, you know nothing about it. The Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) has admitted that Mr. Welsh's only offence was the publication without note or comment of a resolution of the National League. If anyone was to be prosecuted for the publication of the recommendation of the assassination of Mr. Livesey the first person to be proceeded against would be the First Lord of the Treasury, who circulated the newspapers. The First Lord of the Treasury is as guilty of incitement as Mr. Welsh was. I am very sorry that the illness of the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) prevents him being in his place to answer us. I do not believe that if you took the entire Orange Party in this House, and put into the veins of one man all the Orange virus you could extract from them, they would treat representative; men to the humiliations which the Chief Secretary has treated them to in Ireland. No Irishman, however bitter he might be, would do so. The Chief Secretary is not content with degrading men; he makes misstatements about them afterwards. He denied in a published letter that these gentlemen were put in prison for publishing news, although he did not attempt to get up in this House and repeat the statement. There is the case of Mr. McInery. That gentleman being now in prison and his mouth closed, the Chief Secretary holds him up to reprobation in the public Press of the country, so that the County Court Judge may not be deceived as to the opinion of one of the parties in the case. There are 14 or 15 other editors whose cases were cited in the Press by my hon. Friend the Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond), and yet the Chief Secretary did not contradict him. What I say is this: coerce us as much as you like, but tell the truth about us. If it is necessary to put us down as a gang of pirates, robbers, and assassins, come out boldly with the arms in your hands, but when you have done it, do not deny it, but own up to it. The Chief Secretary cannot defend his proceedings, and so he has to invent statements about them which are not borne out by the facts. You say that these men have committed an offence. Is it a worse offence than the cowardly and blackguard libel of which Mr. Edmund Yates was convicted? He attacked a lady, and then surrendered the name of the real author of the libel, in order that he might shelter himself behind her petticoats. He was sent to gaol, but he was allowed to conduct his newspaper and to maintain himself as a first-class misdemeanant. In Ireland, now that your prisoners refuse to associate with criminals, or to wear prison clothes, or to clean their cells, you isolate them. At the present moment there are in Tullamore Gaol some half a dozen men who are allowed to wear their own clothes. You do not give them even the satisfaction of seeing each other's faces, and you do not even allow them to take their exercise by walking in a ring three or four yards apart. They have to take their exorcise by themselves, as if they were some kind of wild animal. This is how you treat men as honourable and as good as yourselves, and who have certainly never descended to any act of personal dishonour. Why is it that you take these Crimes Act prisoners to Tullamore Gaol? Because you believe you have in the Governor of Tullamore Gaol, Mr. Featherstonhaugh, a man you can rely on, the man who brought poor John Mandeville to his grave, and so sorely ill-treated my hon. friend Mr. W. O'Brien. You have a large number of these prisoners, but you will not give them the benefit of a special class for themselves; you will not let them communicate among themselves. I marvel at the inhumanity of your conduct. I am prepared to absolve the Chief Secretary; I have made my condemnation of him upon other matters, but in this matter of prison discipline I believe the responsibility rests on Mr. Bourke—that lie is mainly and entirely responsible. The callousness, hard-heartedness, and vindictiveness of that gentleman's character make him a fitting tool of the Administration. He could fawn upon a prisoner like my hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. E. Harrington) to induce him to forego his intention of appearing as a witness in prison garb before the Commission. He feared the result of this object lesson to the English people, and begged and beseeched my hon. Friend to wear his ordinary dress, but my hon. Friend was brought through the streets of Dublin in his prison garb. I absolve the Chief Secretary of a good deal of the malignity of conduct towards these prisoners, and believe that these matters are directed by the political malice of Mr. Bourke, whose conduct was several times before the Commission. Ho seems to take a pleasure in torturing his prisoners. These prisoners were brought from other gaols to Tullamore because there was an instrument ready fitted to the petty malignity of Mr. Bourke. I am sure if it were realised in England how these prisoners for Press offences are treated an indignant protest would go up from the Press of the entire country. It is torture enough that you have been in prison at all; it is bad enough to be imprisoned in a palace, let alone Tullamore Gaol. The extent of our claim is that these men, whose exceptional position you have recognised by allowing them to be exempt from the rule for wearing the prison garb, should be allowed to exercise together; and the fact that we do not claim that they should communicate with each other shows the moderation of our position. Of course, we claim that they ought not to be there at all, but if the law and Constitution cannot stand this slight privilege, the sooner law and Constitution disappear the better. Another matter that I have to refer to is the recourse that is had to the Statute of Edward III. after prosecutions have been instituted under the Crimes Act. I am glad to see the Attorney General for England in his place, for on a question of abstract law he will give a candid opinion. I believe that what is going on in Ireland is contrary to the settled practice in England since the days of the Stuarts. In Ireland you prosecute under the Crimes Act, yon oust the jurisdiction of the coram, you convict under the Crimes Act, and then you inflict no penalty. Now, an English Court would set such a conviction aside. Is there not an old phrase, which at the moment I cannot recall, founded upon repeated judgments, that conviction without forfeiture is bad? Why, we could find authorities stacks high on the subject. But in Ireland you convict a man under the Crimes Act, you inflict no penalty, but you order him under the Statute of Edward III. to give bail for good behaviour. I am not contesting that whether a man is convicted or acquitted he may be bound to keep the peace. I do not contest that as a mere point of law, but you have ousted the jurisdiction of the coram of the county, you inflict no sentence, but under a charge for which he has not been cited you inflict this punishment. I say it is a monstrous perversion of legal procedure. I take the case of Mr. John Slattery, and I say it is the greatest prostitution of process of law ever committed. This, I believe, is for statistical purposes. You want to show the country that you are not using the Crimes Act, that convictions are few, and dwindling daily. But you use the Crimes Act to prevent the ordinary magistrates from adjudicating. You have your two tools on the Bench, who will take care the case shall not appear in the statistical indictment against the Chief Secretary, showing the number of convictions. But what is the effect? If Mr. Slattery had been sentenced to six months' imprisonment under the Crimes Act he would have had an appeal, but it has now been formally decided that as Mr. Slattery's case stands ho has no right of appeal. Is that not a monstrous state of affairs? Conviction without penalty would be quashed in any English Court. I could give you authorities six feet high on the point. The demand of the Irish people since the days of the Irish chiefs has been—"Give us English law.' This was the old prayer of the Irish chieftains, and still at the end of the nineteenth century we say the same, give us the law as administered in England, and still it is a phantom that eludes our pursuit. Can you find a parallel in England for such action as has been taken in Ireland? It is held in England, and a recent decision of Judge Hawkins is clear on the point, that holding a man to bail is a punishment. The Attorney General assents to that, that Judge Hawkins holds that holding to bail is a. punishment that might be pleaded in bar. But in Ireland you will not hold that; you play fast and loose with the English Law; you will not allow us the benefit of it in our favour, but you give us the lash of its thong when it is against us. I say we ought to have the same application of the law as it is known and administered in England. If in England you can plead in bar the sentence of admission to bail in cases when otherwise punishment would be inflicted, then we ought to have the same application of the law in Ireland. This is apart from my indictment of the procedure adopted against Mr. Slattery. He was summoned to show cause why he should not give bail, and under the "Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879" he would be entitled to be heard in his self defence; but no—you charge him under the section of an Act that does not entitle him to be so heard, and deprive him of that chance. The whole proceeding is a series of traps and legal chicanery; it is not law. Then, again, take the case of Mr. Kelly. He was indicted for conspiracy, and he was entitled to know the particulars of the conspiracy with which he was charged, and this was so held in the case of the hon. Member for Cork in the State trials. Mr. Kelly wrote a letter to that pattern of legal chivalry, Mr. George Bolton, requesting to be informed of the particulars of the charge he was to meet, and to expect a man living in Dublin to be haled down to Cashel in Tipperary to meet a charge without knowing what the charge is to be is to expect an impossibility. Mr. George Bolton sent him a copy of the charge without giving him any particulars. The Attorney General for Ireland is driven by the exigencies of his position to support a proceeding of this kind. I challenge any English lawyer to say that a man is not entitled to know the particulars of a charge of this kind. The Attorney General for England, whose authority I will admit, will allow that a person under a charge of conspiracy is entitled to know the particulars of the indictment. The Attorney General nods assent; why does not the Attorney General for Ireland nod assent? Why does he defend the chicanery of Mr. George Bolton? When Mr. Kelly went to Cashel he found there was not a scrap of evidence against him. He was not given particulars because there were none to give. They adjourned the case for a month, and then our good old stalwart friend Edward III. was lugged in, and the defendant gets three months. We have had much fuss made by the Times and other organs of public opinion about the action of the Russian Government in sending men to gaol or to Siberia on suspicion, but what is there worse in the Russian procedure? Indeed, in Ireland you have the element of hypocrisy added. The Russian Government do not use the form of law they simply send a man to prison on an Imperial ukase. The Russian Government do not insult their victims with the sealing wax and waste paper of summons, without particulars, with references to some Statute of the Czar Paul, or the Empress Catherine, or any other departed potentate like Edward III.; they simply clap you into prison, and there you are. There is no red tape and sealing wax about the business; no added insult with hypocritical reference to forms of law. From a legal point of view, cur position is impregnable judged from authoritative decisions on English Law and Procedure. We ask for the guarantees of English Law, and the Irish Law Officer gives a general reply that means nothing. I do not see how the Government can expect any loyalty towards your institutions in Ireland, under a system that revolts and repels every right-thinking man of common sense. No Constitutionalist who studies the system can defend it. Say you put us down as a matter of State expediency, and we understand it as a straightforward and, to some extent, an honourable mode of dealing with political opponents. But that is not your mode of proceeding, and it is a lamentable thing that while the Government here can make no defence, they expect us to be stalled off with the Constitution according to George Bolton. In no other part of the British Dominions, from Jamaica to Hong Kong, would such a state of things be tolerated, and yet we in this House are blamed because we raise our protest against those acts of flagrant illegality. On mere suspicion you keep a man in prison for months, and will not even allow him to write a letter in recommendation of a particular line of railway affecting one of the most important branches of rural industry in Ireland in which he is interested, and which turns over hundreds of thousands of pounds in a day—the pig-buying trade. Look at the pettiness of the tyranny, and how can you defend it? By legal trick you deprive a man of his rights under the Crimes Act. I protest against a continuance of the system. The right hon Gentleman may not have to defend this for long, and I am sure we shall be glad to see him get the position he has a right to expect; but he ought to have regard to English precedents, and to give us the law as administered in England. Out of this we are now tricked and chicaned. I submit that we are entitled to a plain answer from the Government on the limited number of points on which I have touched. This debate sprung up suddenly, and, consequently, we have by no means brought forward the worst cases. Why, a man was arrested the other day because he refused to buy some pigs of another man, but the Court found the charge to be so hollow that he was immediately discharged. Is it not humiliating that you should have to employ a whole army of Government policeman in plain clothes, as was done in this case, to enable rack-renters to sell their pigs? We have, in fact, no law in Ireland. A policeman smashes a man's skull, as was done in the case of the hon. Member for North Monaghan, but we have no remedy. A state of affairs is prevailing in Ireland which, only that the people are looking forward to a General Election, would never be tolerated. The Government says that the peaceable state of the country is due to other causes. They say, "Look to the investments in the savings banks." The investments of the Irish people are in the English democracy, to which they look to put an end to a state of things which, to my mind, is unexampled in its meannesss and malignity.

(8.38) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


Mr. Speaker, the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the the House commenced his observations, I understand, by remarking on the absence from the Treasury Bench of the Chief Secretary and myself. Of all the charges brought against those connected with the administration of Ireland, I do not think the most plausible is that any disposition is shown on our part to avoid meeting the accusations brought against us. I do not think that even the most captious critics will accuse those responsible in this House for the administration in Ireland of not being ready to attend to meet, to the best of their abilities, charges brought against them. But to-night there was not the slightest indication that an Irish debate was to be brought on. The Chief Secretary, who, I regret to say, is suffering from an indisposition which I am glad to think is but slight, is taking a short and well-earned holiday; and the moment I myself heard the always welcome voice of a fellow countryman, I entered the House and took my place on the Treasury Bench. If, however, hon. Members spring a debate on the House at a moment's notice, they can hardly expect the responsible Members of the Government to be prepared in detail to meet the accusations brought against the Administration.


In raising this discussion, I commented upon the fact that neither of the Gentlemen representing the Irish Government were here. I admit freely that I brought the discussion up without notice. I said their absence was strange in this respect, that they might have thought hon. Members would, in all probability, take the opportunity of bringing forward matters of this sort.


I quite admit that it might have been assumed that every possible opportunity would be taken of bringing up matters which had been already threshed out over and over again. But it is somewhat unreasonable to expect Members of the Cabinet to be prepared, without notice, to go into detail into the various newspaper prosecutions which have taken place in Ireland during the last two or three years. I can only take the matter up from the time I came into the House, and I will now refer to the case of Mr. Walsh, of Wexford. When I entered the House the hon. and learned Member for North Long ford (Mr. Healy) was calling attention to the fact that Mr. Walsh, who, in the ordinary course of his office as Mayor of Wexford, would have been appointed one of the Governors of the District Lunatic Asylum, had not been nominated to that office by the Lord Lieutenant. The reason Mr. Walsh was not appointed was that at the time he was undergoing two months' imprisonment for an offence against the law of the land.


Does the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to convey that the reason Mr. Walsh was not appointed was because he was not available by reason of his being in prison, or does he mean that the fact of Mr. Walsh's imprisonment carried with it discredit or dishonour?


The matter rests entirely with the Lord Lieutenant, and no doubt the Lord Lieutenant, in the exercise of his discretion, was of opinion that a gentleman who thought fit to break the laws of the land, and was undergoing punishment for so doing, was not a person who ought to be appointed. If the hon. Member had given me notice I would have brought the Papers down, but I know sufficient of the facts of Mr. Walsh's case to state that the offence for which Mr. Walsh was convicted was that of intimidation. The hon. and learned Member has spoken of prosecutions against newspapers, and I will accept his statement that there were 15 of such cases. Had notice been given me I would have come prepared with the details of the prosecutions. When the Amendment to the Address which raised the question of the administration of the law in Ireland was under discussion, I was prepared with the details of the several cases; and on that occasion I challenged hon. Members opposite to produce one single case in which a newspaper editor had, during the year which was under discussion, been convicted merely for publishing resolutions of suppressed branches of the National League.


You challenged that?


I distinctly threw out that challenge, and I repeat that a newspaper editor cannot do, through the pages of his newspaper, what an ordinary person cannot do by other means. A newspaper editor cannot indulge in intimidation any more than other persons; and if he uses the pages of his newspaper for the purpose of intimidation, he cannot protect himself by saying, "I merely published resolutions of suppressed branches of the National League." The hon. Member opposite said, in reply to my challenge, that there were heaps of such cases.


Mr. Speaker, may I explain the matter to the hon. and learned Gentleman? If the Attorney General for Ireland is going into all these questions, I may not be able to enter upon the particulars; but I say, with regard to my own case, that I was never charged with anything other than publishing a resolution of a branch of the League. When, in 1878, I was for the first time convicted and sent to gaol it was for publishing a report of what was really directed to the diminution of crime, and in that case there was no charge proved against me but that of publishing. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will accept this and other answers to the challenge he has thrown out.


If I were to give way now and allow hon. Gentlemen on the other side to reply to what I have just been saying I should have exhausted my right to speak. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that newspaper proprietors have been imprisoned for publishing reports of speeches made at suppressed branches of the League, and there can be no doubt that that was an offence against the Act. What I stated was that if the House will review the proceedings of the past year, I challenge anyone to produce a case in which the conviction was for publishing a report of resolutions passed at a meeting of a suppressed branch, which were not of an intimidating character; and when I said this, hon. Members will remember that I then had before me all the cases in which proceedings have been taken, which could have been stated to the House either by myself, or by some other speaker in the debate. The challenge I thus threw down was taken up. Not having, however, received notice of this discussion, I was not prepared this evening with all the details; but I would refer to one case, and I think it may be taken as a typical instance of cases of this class. It was the case of Mr. M'Hugh, which came before County Court Judge Morris, and if hon. Members will read the Judgment given by the learned Judge in that case they will find there was ample justification for the course the Government take in relation to similar offences committed by proprietors of newspapers. In my opinion, there is no greater misconception on the part of hon. Members than to call this class of cases Press prosecutions, and to contend that those connected with newspapers may do what it is equally illegal to do by any other method of intimidation. A man cannot be allowed to do, by means of the Press, that which would be illegal if done in any other way. That is the specific principle on which these prosecutions have proceeded; they have not proceeded upon the mere publication of speeches made at a suppressed branch of the League. The hon. Gentleman opposite has said there are a considerable number of Crimes Act prisoners, and has suggested that if those prisoners object to exercise with the other prisoners they should be formed into a separate class by themselves in the prisons in which they are confined. I think the hon. Gentleman ought to have waited before bringing it up as an accusation against the Government, because he might have known that to-day, when a question was put to me on the point, I replied that the matter was one on which I would transmit a communication for the consideration of the Prisons Board in order that they might decide whether the request made is in accordance with the Prison Rules. But hon. Members are now assuming an unfavourable decision on the part of the Prisons Board in regard to a suggestion only made five hours ago.


The suggestion is one that has frequently been brought under the notice of the authorities. I have personally complained to Mr. Joyce, the Inspector of Prisons, on the subject.


I do not doubt the statement of the hon. Gentleman. But the suggestion to which I referred was made to-day, and was founded on the number of prisoners in Tullamore Gaol at the present time. Then, on another point. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite suggested that proceedings under the Crimes Act were taken for the purpose of ousting the jurisdiction of the ordinary magistrates, and stated that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland had acted illegally in removing Mr. Byrne, as was shown by the recent decision to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred.


I never said the Lord Chancellor had acted illegally. I was called upon for an explanation, and I said the action taken was most invidious and contrary to the English practice. What I pointed out was that in England it has been decided that every magistrate can act where he likes in his own county, while the Lord Chancellor struck Mr. Byrne off the Commission of the Peace for going outside his own Petty Sessions.


I accept the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman that he did not mean to imply that the Lord Chancellor had acted illegally; but when he referred to the recent English decision I concluded that he thought there was some inconsistency between what was done by the Lord Chancellor and the decision of the English Court. I am aware of the decision to which the hon. and learned Gentleman refers, and it amounted to this—that the action of a magistrate in any portion of his own county is perfectly legal, but that does not touch the question with which the Lord Chancellor had to deal, and which was this: Mr. Byrne, in the opinion of the Lord Chancellor, who had all the facts before him, was in the habit of going outside the Petty Sessions District for which ho was originally appointed, to other Petty Sessional Districts in cases of a peculiar and special character. Everybody knowing anything of such matters in Ireland is aware that in that country the magistrates are appointed to certain definite Petty Sessional Districts, and it is a recognised custom that they shall confine themselves to the districts to which they are assigned. The case that came before the Lord Chancellor is not analogous to the case that came before the English Law Courts. It was a question of the propriety of a gentleman appointed to a certain Petty Sessional District going outside that district.


He only did it once.


I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is in error. The case was one in which it appeared that Mr. Byrne habitually went outside his district for the purpose of entertaining cases of a certain character.


Why are the Resident Magistrates allowed to do it?


They are not appointed for Petty Sessions Districts at all. No Resident Magistrate confines himself to a single Petty Sessional District. What is the meaning of the interruption? The Resident Magistrate is paid by the State, the reason for his appointment being that he shall be available for five, six, eight, or ten districts, and be able to assist the local magistrates as a trained expert. The hon. and learned Member referred to the casa of Mr. Slattery. I do not know whether he was counsel in the case; but the legality of the sentence was brought before one of the Superior Courts—the Court of Exchequer I think. —and a decision was given in favour of legality. The hon. and learned Gentleman's imagination is very fertile in the suggestion of motives. His first suggestion was that the motive of the proceeding in this case was to oust the jurisdiction of the local Justices, and a second suggestion is, that it was to diminish the number of cases appearing as convictions. Well, I have not the slightest doubt that this case will appear as a conviction under the Crimes Act, so that this argument of the hon. and learned Member will fall to the ground. He said it was an illegal conviction, because it was not followed by punishment; and he appealed to me and my learned Colleague, the English Attorney General, who happened to be sitting by my side, whether such a sentence was or was not punishable. The conviction was followed up by the imposition of a sentence which, though not necessarily punitive, may involve punishment, and there is no difference of opinion bet ween me and my learned Colleagues on the point—not the slightest. The Courts have held that it is not punitive, but that is another question, because punishment need not follow. If the person ordered to find security to be of good behaviour gives that security, no punishment need follow; but it is a sentence which may, and will, involve punishment if the necessary security is not given. I have the authority of my hon. and learned Friend for saying that it is a very customary addition to a conviction in this country to require a person to give bail. The point raised in the "Queen v. Harkin" was whether the full amount of sentence having been inflicted under the Crimes Act it was possible, in addition, to order the defendant to find sureties for good behaviour, and it was decided to be legal so to do. Both in England and in Ireland where there is no term of punishment inflicted it is not only legal, but not at all contrary to usage to order security to be found for good behaviour. He referred to an answer I gave him, and to the best of my recollection that answer referred to the existence of an appeal in cases where orders are made to find sureties to be of good behaviour under the Act of Edward III. He referred me to a case which at the time I had not read, and what answer I gave I do not know. I may have said my knowledge of that particular case was defective; but I said that if, under the Act of Edward III., there was an excess of jurisdiction, a writ of habeas corpus, or of certiorari, would, lie. I stated then that an order of the kind is not within he Appeal Sections of the Petty Sessions Act. I received no notice of the case of Kelly, and I have not the papers to refer to; but when the case was brought before me I looked carefully into the matter, and satisfied myself that Kelly had been furnished by the Crown Solicitor with all the particulars to which he was by law entitled; and if the hon. Gentleman brings up this case on the Vote for the Irish Attorney General's salary I think I shall be able to satisfy hon. Members that the particulars which were furnished to Kelly were the full particulars which a man in similar circumstances would be furnished with in England. A specific charge was made in reference to a man named Leahy. I do not know if the hon. and learned Member was present at question time, when I said that the man was not arrested for the offence which the hon. Gentleman mentioned. He appears to have been asked to give his name before the Resident Magistrate; he did so, and was discharged. Although, perhaps, I have not been able to give a perfectly detailed answer to charges sprung upon me at a moment's notice, it is probable that I have been able to deal with most of the cases, because they are old friends, and have been brought forward over and over again for the reason that hon. Members find them to be the only topics ready to their hands.


The cases only occurred this year.


With reference to the more important prosecutions, all I can say is that when I had the facts before me and was in a position to give a reply in detail, I threw out a challenge to hon. Members, which was never taken up.

(9.12.) MR. GILL (Louth, S.)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman complains of our having sprung these charges upon him without notice. Surely, as Attorney General for Ireland, it is his business quite as much as it is ours to be familiar with the law as it is administered in Ireland. He has no right to complain that we take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself for bringing these cases before the House, this House being the Supreme Court of Appeal in regard to matters affecting Irish Administration. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in spite of his protest, has shown himself familiar with these cases, and he says they are all old friends which have been threshed out over and over again. As to that I may say that almost every case mentioned here to-night has occurred either during the present year or within the past few months. Take the case of Mr. Slattery. At this very moment—a quarter past 9—that gentleman is locked in a cell against his will, and is enduring all the disabilities and discomforts of imprisonment. Is that a stale case? To call such a case of flagrant mal-administration in Ireland an "old friend" is to assume that the House has grown so case hardened at mal-administration and tyranny, that a thing must present startling and novel features before it can receive attention. Though I do not profess to be able to deal with the case of Mr. Slattery from a legal point of view, I can understand the comparison instituted between this case in Ireland and similar cases which are alleged to have taken place in England. I know that whatever has taken place of this kind in England has had statutable authority, whereas no such authority has existed in Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman tells us that Mr. Slattery is not undergoing punishment.


I did not say that.


He said, at any rate, that the verdict was not punitive. Not punitive when the only way a defendant can escape from imprisonment is by inflicting on himself an intolerable stigma—by writing himself down a blackguard and man of bad character? It would seem, from the right hon. Gentleman's statement, as though Mr. Slattery remains in gaol through some perverse inclination for practical joking on his part. Mr Slattery is deprived of his liberty, though as much, entitled to it as any subject of Her Majesty's, and it is, therefore, nonsense to talk about the verdict not being punitive. The right hon. Gentleman has answered the very formidable indictment that was brought against the Irish Administration in regard to prosecutions by saying that we have made misleading statements with regard to the cases. Well, I submit that the first fact we have to consider in regard to these Press prosecutions in Ireland is that for exercising a right which is free to every editor and publisher of a newspaper in England, editors and publishers in Ireland have, ever since the present Chief Secretary came into power, been under a growing and atrocious persecution. Take the case of Mr. Walsh, the Mayor of Wexford, who has only been out of prison a few days. What was his offence? The right hon. and learned Gentleman said it was not for publishing a report of the meeting of the National League. Put the answer to that is plainly and simply that it was. The right hon. and learned Gentleman justifies his answer by saying that the resolution of the League which was published was of an intimidatory character. What are the facts? An Irish tenant—a poor widow—is evicted from a farm, unjustly evicted, as the public opinion of the whole locality declared. She leaves the farm, which remains idle. After she has been out a certain time, she enters into negotiations for the sale of her tenant right to some friendly person—and if anything is certain in Ireland, it is that by the law passed 10 years ago the interest of a tenant in a holding is greater than that of the landlord. Whilst she is carrying on this negotiation, a land grabber—that is to say a mean, plundering, pestilential wretch—comes and seeks to underbid her with the landlord—seeks to rob her of her tenant-right. Very well, the poor widow goes to the local branch of the National League and says— My farm is being stolen from me—I am being robbed of my tenant-right; will you lend me your protection? The League pass a resolution declaring that they regard the farm as one from which the tenant has been unjustly evicted, and will so regard it until a tenant is in occupation who has the good will of the evicted tenant, and for publishing that resolution in his paper the Mayor of Wexford, the editor of The Wexford People, has undergone imprisonment. What nonsense and absurdity and humbug it is to come down hero and tell us that it is not for publishing a resolution of the League, but for gross intimidation of the worthiest citizens of the Empire, that this man was put into gaol, and to tell us that this is not interference with the liberty of the Press. Is there a newspaper in England which would not publish such a resolution as that to which I have referred? Take the case of Henry O'Connor. The right hon. and learned Gentleman threw out a challenge. He asked us to name a case in which, within the past year an editor has been put into gaol for publishing a resolution of the National League. There was a quibble behind that. When his Chief entered upon what he has found to be the hopeless task of suppressing the National League he made it an offence to publish a resolution of what he was pleased to call "a suppressed branch" of the League. He held such publication an act of contumacy, and prosecuted the editors and publishers—though he has since given up that method of persecution, finding it utterly impossible to effect his purpose, all the newspapers publishing columns and columns of the reports of branches of the League. That kind of prosecution has ceased, and I make the Chief Secretary a present of any consolation he may have derived from it. Mr. O'Connor's offence was this: It appears that a tenant of the Duke of Leinster was evicted and was in negotiation for the sale of his tenant-right to a friendly successor, when a land grabber came in and endeavoured to steal the tenant-right. The Leinster Leader was instrumental in giving expression to the healthy public opinion of the county upon that most nefarious transaction, so dangerous to the public peace and social order of the locality. Mr. O'Connor having published a resolution on the matter, was prosecuted by the Chief Secretary—and here I must mention a circumstance which speaks volumes. The agent of the Duke of Leinster attended in Court, was openly sworn, and declared that he had nothing whatever to do with the prosecution, and desired to wash his hands of it altogether, having no sympathy with it, and that there was no crime in the district where the prosecutions took place. Whatever disturbance there was was due to the mischievous interference of the minions of the Chief Secretary, who entered into league with the land grabbers and emergency men and came between the landlord and his tenants without the slightest desire on their part. Mr. O'Connor was prosecuted for publishing certain matter in the Leinster Leader, but there was no evidence whatever to connect him with the paper. The magistrates refused to state a case when the counsel for Mr. O'Connor applied. The matter was brought before the Superior Courts and the magistrates were compelled to state a case, and then, when the facts were considered by the higher tribunal, the case against Mr. O'Connor was held to be bad, and that gentleman was discharged from prison. But Mr. O'Connor had to spend four days in goal, during which time he was not only treated as a common criminal, but put on punishment diet because he refused to put on the prison clothes and exercise with criminals. In what way do the Government propose to compensate this gentleman for the atrocious punishment they have inflicted on him and the immense expense they have compelled him to incur? These two cases are quite sufficient to answer the allegations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. As to the treatment of prisoners, the right hon. Gentleman gave it curious answer to the allegations made. He said he could do nothing in the matter, but that he has forwarded the complaints made in the House to the Prisons Board, who will, no doubt, give them their attention. That is the justification for our conduct in the House. Granted for a moment that these men are ill-treated. The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not deny it.


I said nothing of the kind. What I said was, that there were a certain number of Crimes Act prisoners in Tullamore Gaol. It was suggested that they might be treated as a separate class, but that is a suggestion which is made for the first time today. I added that it was a little premature to conclude that an inquiry had been refused by the Prisons Board.


The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not deny that our complaint may be justified. My contention is that those who are directly responsible for the management of prisons in Ireland should not wait until we make complaints upon such chance opportunities as we get in the House, but should so administer the system as to remove any cause of complaint. What will be the state of the prisons in Ireland when Parliament is not sitting if all these things are allowed to take place within the gaols, when the attention of the Chief Secretary and his Colleagues can be gagged on the subject? Luckily the House was sitting at such time as enabled Members to bring forward the case of the convict Daly, who is now in Chatham Prison. When the question had been sufficiently agitated in the House we elicited the truth, that Daly had actually been brought to the jaws of death by an overdose of belladonna, which the unfortunate man believed was maliciously administered to him. It is admitted by the Government that the man was within an ace of being poisoned. The charge was denied when first made, but now the Home Secretary has seen fit to institute an investigation. I asked a question the other evening with regard to the case of a man named McDermott, a tenant on the Clanricarde Estate, who is at present in gaol. Mr. McDermott has for the past nine weeks been in prison. What for? He was brought before a Secret Inquiry Court, held under the Explosives Act, and asked certain questions. Mr. McDermott has replied that he will answer any question put to him in open Court; and because he declines to be cross-examined in camera by a Secret Court and without having the aid of a solicitor, he has been sent back to gaol week after week for the past eight weeks. Every week he has been brought from Galway, a distance of 40 miles, under a strong escort of police, a little expedition which must cost the British taxpayer a pretty penny. I hold that this is an atrocious proceeding. When I tell the House the circumstances under which it arises, its wickedness and wantonness will appear greater still. Mr. McDermott has the misfortune of being a tenant of Lord Clanricarde, a person of somewhat discreditable memory. He is a gentleman of considerable substance in the locality—a large mill-owner and a large farmer—and he was evicted because he stood in with the poorer tenants on the estate. On the day of his eviction some sub-tenants of his were evicted. Several empty houses had to be entered to complete the formality of eviction, and the police reported that in one of these places they found what they have been pleased to describe as an infernal machine. The people of the locality believe that this is a bogus transaction from beginning to end; that the story of the finding of the machine is a lie got up in the interest of Lord Clanricarde, his agent, and the police, who get extra pay for their jaunts from Galway, and in the interest of the Removable Magistrates of the locality, who flourish upon this state of bogus crime, and in the interest, finally, of the Chief Secretary, who wants some excuse for the tyranny which ho is carrying out in Ireland. In order to give the thing an air of reality, it was necessary to make a victim of somebody in the locality. Mr. McDermott is brought up, and because he will not answer questions in secret he is kept in Galway Gaol, and brought before the Removables week after week. I might, if I chose, give numerous cases of this kind, cases in which, at the present moment, men are suffering punishment for no reason whatsoever except that the law in Ireland is administered in a most tyrannical spirit by the minions of the right hon. Gentleman. There is only one other matter I will make special reference to, and I refer to it because it exemplifies the spirit in which the law is administered—I mean the manner in which the law is placed at the disposal of emergency men whenever these ruffians chose to break it. In Tipperary, in Cork, in Kildare, and in numerous parts of Ireland, these emergency men live a life of debauchery and drunkenness. They go about drunk in the day and night-time with fire-arms, which they fire in the air. They assault respectable people as they pass, and when they happen to be brought into Court on a summons by one of the persons they have assaulted, the Removable Magistrate who, without compunction, commits a Member of Parliament to prison for three months, with hard labour, will display the greatest possible tenderness towards these gentlemen, and let them off even without a fine. I might cite dozens of such cases, but I will only refer to one. That is the case in which a number of emergency men, accompanied by a body of police, deliberately entered a chapel in County Cork simply and solely for the purpose of creating a disturbance and breaking the peace of the district. I may be answered that emergency men have as much right to go into a chapel as anyone else. I will answer that in the words of the Recorder of Cork, who, when the subject was brought under his notice, declared that he was shocked to learn that a number of emergency men and police, who were Protestants, deliberately entered, in a most swaggering manner, a Catholic church during the most solemn part of the Catholic service, and sat down in the centre of the place, shaking their heels against the ground, and making every possible demonstration they could to aggravate the people. Such is the state of things upon every one of the estates upon which the right hon. Gentleman, by his method of administering the law in the interest of the landlord, keeps up a state of war. It is a state of things which brings us back to the days of barbarism. That such a state of things can exist in this, the last quarter of the 19th century, and under the enlightened British Constitution, is, perhaps, the most terrible condemnation of the Government which is entrusted with the guardianship of that Constitution, and under whose ægis such a condition of corruption, mal-administration, and tyranny has been allowed to flourish.

*(9.45.) MR. H. J. WILSON (Yorkshire, Holmfirth)

The case of Mr. Slattery has been several times referred to, and no doubt it presents features of considerable importance, but with which I do not propose to deal. A few weeks ago a question was addressed to the Chief Secretary with reference to the matter. One of the complaints conveyed in the question was that Mr. Slattery was continually followed about by the police, even when he attended divine worship. I do not undertake to quote the exact words of the Chief Secretary; but it appeared to me the right hon. Gentleman intended to convey to the House and the country the impression that Mr. Slattery was not followed by the police to chapel; that if the police went there they went for the purpose of attending worship themselves, and not for the purpose of following Mr. Slattery. The Chief Secretary would really have us believe that the police would not do such a thing, and that he would not think of sanctioning it. I want to mention in this connection what happened to myself just about this time last year in Donegal. I was at the little hamlet of Middleton, in the parish of Gweedore, and the hotel at which I stayed was opposite the barracks. In those barracks there had been collected together during the Saturday night 50 or 60 of the police, because they thought, I suppose, that I was going to do something dangerous on the Sunday. The people passed down to mass in the morning. The police were in the barracks. When the time came I moved off to the Protestant Church, and, whereas, not a single one of the Catholic policemen was allowed to go to Mass that day, three men were sent after me to the Protestant Church at Bunbeg. I want to know whether any reasonable person will believe the statement calmly thrown out to us by the Chief Secretary that the police would never think of following Mr. Slattery, when in my case 40 or 50 policemen were kept in the barracks and not, allowed to go to Mass, whereas three men—all the Protestants I suppose they oould muster—were told off to walk behind me to the little Protestant Church. This is only one of the cases which are constantly coming forward, and some of which have come under my own notice. These are cases as to which I scarcely know what language I could use that would be Parliamentary, but these are cases in which absolutely false representations are conveyed by the Chief Secretary. Without hesitation and without inquiry the right hon. Gentleman retails to us statements about Ireland which are gross and palpable misrepresentations of what is going on.

(9.50.) MR J. O'CONNOR

I do not like to be personal, but more than once to-night I have thought of the possibility of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General being elevated from the Government Bench to the vacant seat on the Irish Judicial Bench. I have very great respect for the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I trust that if he does leave the House he will leave with the good character he has established, because if he continues to act as he has acted since he has been obliged to represent the Irish Government in this House I tremble for that character. The Attorney General's challenge has been taken up, and he has been severely worsted. I do not think he will care to refer to Press prosecutions again. I will not dwell upon the cases already cited, but I will turn to the case of Mr. O'Mahoney, a newspaper editor. I desire to call attention to the treatment to which Mr. O'Mahoney has been subjected since he was sent to Clonmel Prison. He has been removed from Clonmel, although he was consulting a local solicitor in the matter of a libel action he was bringing against a resident magistrate. It is difficult enough for any man engaged in litigation where the authorities are concerned, to carry it on successfully under the most favourable circumstances; but in this case Mr. O'Mahoney was actually separated from his solicitor by a distance of 100 miles. That was a piece of meanness which only the Government of Dublin Castle and the Prisons Board could be capable of, and which, I am sure, the Attorney General will not seek to justify. Why was Mr. O'Mahoney removed from Clonmel? Was he not perfectly safe there? Are the officials not to be trusted? I have been three times in Clonmel Gaol, and I can guarantee it is a very secure prison. Were the Government anxious for the health of Mr. O'Mahoney? The situation of Clonmel Gaol is as calculated to ensure the health of the prisoners as that of any other gaol or the dozen of gaols that I have experience of. Are the officials at Clonmel less honest than those elsewhere? Was it not at Clonmel that Mr. William O'Brien was subjected to the barbarous treatment of having his hair cut and being held down by half-a-dozen warders by the order of the Governor, whom I have known for the past 10 or 12 years, and who has never been known to be anything but a faithful and diligent servant of the Crown? In every respect Clonmel Gaol is perfectly safe, and the officials are quite reliable, and therefore I say there could be no object in removing Mr. O'Mahoney to Tullamore except to put an obstacle in the way of his bringing a libel action against the resident magistrate. As to Mr. O'Mahoney's treatment in Tullamore we asked questions yesterday and to-day. In my question to-day I used the phrase "silent system." The Attorney General evaded the question by saying there was no such system. It was an evasion merely; the phrase I should have used was the solitary system. Men imprisoned in Ireland under the Coercion Act are reduced to this solitary system. Why is this? I know it from more than one governor of a prison in Ireland that the solitary system is the system to which the most incorrigible convicts are subjected. The men who are not amenable to prison discipline, even in such convict prisons as Spike Island, are brought up to Cork prison and elsewhere where they can be put into solitary confinement, and I have been assured by Governors of prisons that they never knew a case in which the solitary system failed to reduce the most incorrigible ruffian to discipline. And this is the system to which respectable men in Ireland are being reduced. I know all about it, because it was first introduced with regard to myself, and my hon. friend and colleague the Mayor of Clonmel, and others. We were in Clonmel prison last year, and for the first week we were allowed to take exercise for two hours every day in company, marching five or six yards apart. For a week this state of things prevailed and then we were removed to famous Tullamore, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork being sent to Galway. For the first day at Tullamore I and the Mayor of Clonmel were allowed to take exercise together, holding no intercourse, and with us were associated the other men in the prison who were of exactly the same class as ourselves; but the next day came an order from the Prisons Board and we were separated. We were shown into a yard at different hours and allowed to walk about or beat our heads against the wall, as we liked, and so we took our exercise, and we saw no human being but Governor or warders for the rest of the time. I communicated with the Prisons Board and I complained to the inspector, but I got no satisfaction. A question put in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast obtained only an evasive and equivocal answer. Why was this? A short time before I had had the honour of introducing a Bill in this House with the object of altering the law as to the treatment of prisoners in Ireland incarcerated under the Coercion Act. During the debate the Chief Secretary said no doubt the treatment of prisoners in Ireland had affected the minds of the English people; he admitted the fact and stated he would issue a Commission of Inquiry; he did not wait for the Report, he communicated with the Prisons Board, and they altered the rules to meet our cases, altered the rules, under which the Governor deemed he was compelled to shave our heads, to make us wear prison dress, associate with criminals, and do menial offices. These rules were given up reluctantly because the opinion of this country was against them. But with the meanness that distinguishes his rule the right hon. Gentleman turned these concessions against us by mal-administration, and by straining of the law reduced us to a worse position, and to a level with incorrigible ruffians subjected to solitary confinement. That is the state of things at present existing in Tullamore. Notwithstanding the assertion of the Attorney General for Ireland, this is not the first time the question has been raised. It was raised in the House last year. Questions were addressed to the Prisons Board, and from my solitary cell I made a report to the Prison Inspector. The Government of Dublin Castle do this wrong, are backed by the Treasury Bench, and supported by their followers here. The rules and regulations are strained against prisoners of our class. You say we are not a class, but I maintain the alterations in the rules made in our regard constituted us a class, and no amount of evasion can get over that. I have said the rules are strained, and will give an instance on my own account. Last year the Judges of the Special Commission made an order that I should be supplied with a newspaper containing a report of the proceedings before the Commission, and at my expense the paper was supplied. But the Governor cut out every particle of the newspaper that did not deal with the Commission. There is not an Englishman to whom I have mentioned this circumstance who has not expressed indignation at the mean and contemptible proceeding. Not only did the Governor of Tullamore Prison do this, but where other matter appeared on the back of the sheet containing the Report he pastedover it a sheet of brown paper. One day he paid me a visit, accompanied by Dr. Moore head, the well known Visiting Justice, without whose humane visits to that prison many more wrongs and much more suffering would be inflicted on the unfortunate prisoners, the knowledge of which would never reach the outer world. I exhibited this specimen of malignant spite, and the Governor said he was acting under orders from the Prisons Board. I said I had had experience of 15 Governors of prisons, and I said I did not know another man who, of his own volition, would do such a shabby, mean, contemptible thing, and he threatened me with punishment for insulting words used to himself. Prisoners are treated in Ireland as tigers are treated in the Zoological Gardens. They are turned out of their cells at different hours into a yard under the eyes of warders. But I contend the Prisons Board must have some mean and contemptible motive in this, for obviously there would be an advantage in prisoners taking exercise together. Walking five or six yards apart it is impossible to hold conversation, and one set of warders could watch 20 prisoners as well as they could watch one. The object is persecution of a mean and malignant character, and it is instigated and maintained by the Chief Secretary, who is not in his place to night. I have another matter to refer to, and upon which I addressed a question to the Attorney General for Ireland yesterday. I stated at the beginning of my observations that it would be well for the Attorney General to escape from this House with his character for honesty and straightforwardness, and I say the answer he gave me yesterday was not straightforward. He is obliged to have filtered through him information that is not true and that comes from an untrue source. I asked the right hon. Gentleman as to an assault committed by the police upon a constituent of mine. This man was in the town of Tipperary, and had been only a few moments out of his house and was walking down the street with two friends to whom he was beginning to speak on a matter of business. He had scarcely spoken when two or three policemen crossed the road and ordered the friends to move on. They did move on, and while moving my constituent says— I happened to be nearest the constables and suddenly I received from behind a violent blow from a fist in the neck. I was knocked down in the street, and on rising I was also kicked. I told the police they were after committing an assault upon me. In my question I asked the Attorney General for Ireland whether my constituent went to one police barrack and then to another, but in each the Police Authorities declined to give the names of the men who committed the assault; that he then went to the District Inspector, who declined to give the names, but at the same time offered to parade the men; and this being done, my constituent (Mr. O'Brien) identified the men who assaulted him, and applied to the Resident Magistrate for a summons. Now, what was the answer of the Attorney General for Ireland? He said the facts in my question were not accurately represented, but he did nor deny the man had been assaulted. Why did the right hon. Gentleman evade my question; why did he not say whether there had been an assault or not? He simply said the facts were not as stated. Is that honest, is it fair, is it worthy of the right hon. Gentleman, is it the way in which he would act as between man and man? I say it is not. I say that he was the medium of giving false information from Dublin Castle to the House. He also said that the Resident Magistrate, Mr. Meldon, referred the applicant to another Resident Magistrate, Colonel Cadell, who, said the Attorney General, is a resident in the town, and probably would be conversant with the facts of the case. Now, that was not the question at all. Was it not Mr. Meldon's duty to consider the application for a summons; and if he did not give it, why did he refuse it? I say the whole answer to my question respecting Mr. O'Brien, the painter, my constituent in Tipperary, was an evasion, and not an honest way of treating a Member of this House. I telegraphed the right hon. Gentleman's answer to Mr. O'Brien, and a few hours ago I received a reply in which Mr. O'Brien says the account of the matter he gave is perfectly correct, and he is prepared to prove it on oath if necessary, and he further says that Mr. Meldon distinctly refused to grant the summons. The whole incident shows that the whole machinery of the law in Ireland is directed to the purpose of denying justice to the people, and in that course of conduct the Government are backed up by their learned and other defenders in this House. This question in regard to Mr. O'Brien will not be allowed to drop until I get satisfaction. These men shall be prosecuted, and Mr. Meldon shall give a summons if it is right he should do so; and if the Attorney General wishes to distinguish himself in an exceptional manner, let him compel Mr. Meldon to do his duty—that my constituent may obtain justice. There is another matter I have to refer to in regard to Tipperary. I put a question to the Attorney General as to the occupation of certain houses in Tipperary by the police, and I was able to furnish him with some information. He said there are two houses in the town occupied by the police; but I am able to tell him there are five houses so tenanted, and the Bridewell and the late Town Hall are also so occupied. What is the object of this? The barrack is a very large house capable of containing double the number of police required for maintaining the peace of Tipperary. Why are these houses of evicted tenants occupied by the police at a rent of £70 a year, and under what conditions? We have good reason for the suspicion that these houses have been taken by the authorities in order to assist the hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry) in carrying to success his project for evicting the whole town of Tipperary. I trust at some future time the Attorney General will give me some more specific information on this subject. These are the only matters upon which I intend to trouble the House. I must say that the Government are behaving in a manner in Tipperary and elsewhere that it is very hard for honest men to defend in this House. If the Secretary for War had been present I had intended to advert to the use of soldiers at evictions; but, in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, I will not dwell upon that. I conclude my observations by an appeal to the Attorney General for Ireland that he will in future, in giving an answer, not give information that, without his intending it, perhaps, is misleading, and affords an opening for bringing a charge against him in the discharge of his duty. I hope he will not yield his judgment to the Chief Secretary, whose bitter hostility to our country has been shown in the administration of the Coercion Act, and who has written a page in the annals of our country by which his name will be transmitted in horror to posterity.

*(10.20.) MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)

We have been accused of, more or less, trotting out subjects for the sake of occupying time, but indeed that is not the case. For myself, I feel the duty that is cast upon me of referring to subjects such as this, when opportunity offers. It is a hateful task to be brought here from Ireland; and I know it is not pleasant to many here. It would be much easier to fall in with the desire of the majority, but we put personal considerations aside and discharge our duty to our constitutents. Remember the position in which we find ourselves. Some 90 years ago, against our desire you took on yourselves the government of our country, and the duty of securing liberty and peaceful living in Ireland; but you cannot say you have been successful when we see the confusion and disorder in which Ireland now is. This debate has mainly arisen out of the imprisonment of Mr. Walsh, the Mayor of Wexford. Consider what would be the position of things if the Mayor of an English town were committed to prison against the opinion of 99 in every 100 of its inhabitants. Our towns are not so large as yours; but, relatively, Wexford is an important centre in Ireland, and the indignity inflicted upon the Mayor is an insult to the whole country. We would not have the spirit of men if we did not take every opportunity the forms of the House allow to protest against this. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says the matter is very simple—that the Mayor has broken the law of the land, and, therefore, he has been committed to prison; and I presume we are not to pity him. But an Irishman cannot think that the breaking of the law of the land is a sufficient reason for thinking badly of a man. Why, if we had not broken the law of the land, we would have been swept from our Island long ago. It was the law of the land once that we should not be educated. One of my earliest recollections as a lad arose out of my father's refusal to obey the law —I saw his furniture seized and sold because he refused to pay tithe. At the present moment, some of the most important Institutions in Ireland, and which are doing the most good there—Catholic Institutions—are established in direct violation of the law of the land made at the time of Catholic emancipation. It is no slur upon the character of the Mayor of Wexford that he has broken the law of the land. It has been further advanced that, after all, it was not a Press conviction, but that this gentleman entered upon a course of intimidation; but there is something of special pleading in that. He published matter which a few years ago it was quite right and proper for any journal to publish, and there was no thought of prosecution for it. More than that, the Mayor of Wexford has been singled out for punishment; but there are plenty of newspapers publishing the same news and are not prosecuted. The truth is, that this Coercion Act is so monstrous that if carried out in its entirety it would break down of its own weight, and it is only by prosecuting a man here and there that a semblance of enforcing the Act can be kept up. I have been honoured with the friendship of the Mayor of Wexford for many years, he is one of the most inoffensive but quietly determined men I have ever known. His only desire is to be a good citizen, and to fulfil the duties of his station, and I cannot too much admire the spirit of this determined quiet man, shown in the course he has taken. Quite undeterred in the path of duty, he asserted what he considered his right. That is the character of the man, and when men of this character are prosecuted and imprisoned over and over again, I ask you what do you suppose to be the effect on the country at large? When the people of Wexford see the police dragging away their Mayor to prison, I marvel that society in the town hangs together at all. How can you expect the poor uneducated people to distinguish between right and wrong when they see the Mayor whom they all respect dragged off to prison; they sympathise with him, and how should they refuse their sympathy to a, criminal carried off in like circumstances. That is at the bottom of what we deplore so much—the rooted dislike of law that exists all over the country. What we desire is to bring the law and the feeling of the people into accord. We desire to see the people peaceable and law abiding, and not engaged in an interminable struggle bad for us and bad for you.

(10.30.) MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)

The reason for my rising is to call attention to a very aggravated case of assault by the police to which I have before referred, at Loughrea, County Armagh. A sergeant and two men of the Royal Irish Constabulary came down with breechloaders, called on the fishermen to come and land, and because they could not do so immediately one of the policemen fired on them and endangered their lives. Bat the constabulary were not satisfied with that, for they took away from these Armagh fishermen the fish which were found in the boat. Their only remedy was to go before a magistrate and complain. An order was issued for the arrest of the policemen. How was it executed? Had it been a warrant against a Member of Parliament charged not with felony but with an offence under the Coercion Act, he would have been subjected to every indignity; but these constables were simply formally touched upon the shoulder and allowed to go about their business. I was not arrested in that way. I was arrested with the aid of the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 8th King's Rifles, and three companies of Engineers. But then I was charged with misdemeanour and not with felony. To return, however, to the case of these poor fishermen. After it came to our knowledge I urged on the Government and on this House the duty of prosecuting the constables. But the Sessional Crown Solicitor for County Armagh did not attend to prosecute; the fishermen were left to prosecute themselves, while the Crown appointed a solicitor to defend the police. Conse- quently, the charge was not upheld. Then a prosecution for perjury was brought against the fishermen, and it was conducted by the Crown Solicitor, but the prosecution broke down although the venue was changed. This shows bad faith on the part of the Government. Would they have dared to act in that way if three or four Thames policemen had fired on a boat? No, they would have been dismissed the force. In this ease a hole was found in the boat, and it was admitted that two cartridges were missing from the pouch of the constable. If a policeman in England had acted in such a manner he would have been liable to very severe punishment. The poor fishermen will receive no recompense for the tremendous trouble and expense to which they have been put. I say that this was a blackguardly and scandalous proceeding, and it shows that if any of the Irish people complain of the action of the constabulary the first thing the authorities do is to institute a prosecution against them. There is another matter to which I have to refer. I desire to call attention to the wanton dismissal of the Rev. John Dogherty from his office of chaplain to Londonderry Prison. At the time the hon. Member for Camborne was confined in the prison, the Government suspected that the rev. gentleman had some knowledge of certain communications which found their way outside the prison and appeared in the newspapers, although there was nothing to prove that he had any concern in the matter. The rev. gentleman was not accused of breaking any rules or of any misconduct, but he was dismissed merely because he would not promise generally to answer the questions of Inspector Joyce. As a priest he could not have made the promise, because he enjoyed the confidence of his flock and could not betray it. We do not forget that the hon. Member for Camborne was put in prison for giving a loaf of bread to a starving family in Donegal, and this, was the action of a humane Government, which will support a public subscription for the relief of sufferers by a famine in China. I have brought these questions forward simply sis a matter of duty. I have long since despaired of getting any redress from the Treasury Bench, who seem to be anxious for the maintenance of every abuse and resistance to every reform.

(10.47.) DR. TANNER

I think that some responsible Members of Her Majesty's Government, who are attached to the Irish Office, might have remained in their places and at least have made a show of decency by listening to the complaints we are making from these Benches. They might have made some endeavour to refute the aspersions which are being thrown upon their system of administration. In their absence we might have expected some attention from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, whose sponsors in the political arena were members of the Fenian Organisation. But the truth is, that right hon. Gentlemen opposite know that the country will give them their quietus at the next election, for every bye election is going against them. I think we have reason to be proud of the manner in which the Irish people are behaving under your scandalous and aggravating system of Government. Their patience is due to the fact that they have confidence in the future—more confidence than have right hon. Gentlemen opposite. If any other Government had received such repeated slaps in the face as this one has, it would have consulted its honour and dignity by appealing to the constituencies. But they do not dare to do that. We have attacked the Irish Administration on every point. I have personally frequently complimented the Attorney General for Ireland on the nice way in which he answers questions; and if other members of the Government acted in a like manner the business of the House would go on much more smoothly and calmly. Now, since last Session the Government have appointed to one of the highest positions on the Irish Bench Serjeant Peter O'Brien, a gentleman whose sole distinction is that, being a Catholic, he went about the country and deliberately packed juries with Protestants—and hostile Protestants—in order to carry a verdict. I protest against the way in which the Irish Judicial Bench is packed from time to time, no matter what Government happens to be in power, with men who are in this way rewarded for their political services, not because they are lawyers of erudition and learning. I hope the Attorney General for Ireland will reply to what I am saying on this matter before the Irish Bench gets another addition in the person of the right hon. Gentleman. I shall never forget that on one occasion Mr. Peter O'Brien came into the Cork County Club, of which I myself was then a member, with a jury list in his hand, and asked me whether certain people were Catholics or Protestants, and whether they could be relied upon to give a verdict. I know that Mr. Peter O'Brien acted in that manner again and again; I could give the names of gentlemen whom he thus addressed. I cannot help deploring the appointment to the Judicial Bench of people of this description; I say it is a disgraceful page in the history of our country. I hope the House will excuse my entering into this matter. There is yet another subject which I will try to bring under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. We have for some time been hearing of the dissolution of various Boards of Guardians, and I am afraid that the method pursued in the dissolution of the Dungarvan and Ballinasloe Boards can hardly be justified even by the right hon. Gentleman. The Attorney General for Ireland has asked us to speak, not of matters of ancient history, but of more recent occurrences; therefore, I wish to make the House acquainted with the mode adopted in the dissolution of the Cork Board of Guardians. Hon. Gentlemen on both sides are acquainted with the fact that the Boards of Guardians in Ireland are composed of two classes, namely, elected members and ex officio members. The ex officio Guardians, as a matter of fact, never attend the Board meetings unless it is to perpetrate some job, after which they invariably disap- pear, and do not return until another job has to be accomplished. I was elected on the Cork Board some weeks ago—I must say to my considerable chagrin—because being a Member of Parliament it is impossible for me to fulfil adequately any other position the people of my country impose upon me. Although I happen to be an Irish Protestant the ratepayers have elected me on several occasions. Being so elected, I have endeavoured to attend every meeting of the Board at which I could possibly be present. I find on reading the history of the Cork Board that not many years ago, when the Conservatives had it all their own way, they, from time to time, passed resolutions of confidence or the reverse in relation to political matters that were prominently brought before them. About a year and a half ago, I think, the present Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is reported to have said that the country gentlemen in Ireland were not doing their duty. He stirred them up with a long pole, desiring to stir them into greater activity. That was perfectly fair and square; and speaking, as I believe, the opinion of the whole of the Irish Party, I may say that we take no exception to antagonists taking an honourable method of defending what they conceive to be their own rights. But what happened in this case? We defeated our opponents time after time. We were always present. They had too many amusements to attend to—very much in the same way as hon. Members who have preferred their hunting engagements to voting for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Trevelyan) to-night. Well, we were enabled to carry resolutions which we proposed time after time. There was amongst us a tenant farmer's representative who was highly esteemed by the Board, and who was one of the most intelligent and respectable gentlemen in the County of Cork, Mr. Hearne. He was Chairman of the Board and received the resolutions which we proposed; but our opponents managed eventually to pass a resolution removing that gentleman from the chair and putting in some member of their own party, who would not permit the Irish Nationalists to carry out the wishes of the people. This was only done after a great deal of whipping and assembling of their forces. The gentleman whom they put in the place of our chairman was only carried by a majority of 3; but at the very next meeting after this had been accomplished, his supporters being scattered all over the country, the Chairman was not supported. In saying this, I only wish to press upon the House the fact that those gentlemen were determined not to do the work themselves, but to throw the whole onus and responsibility on the elected Guardians, except in cases where for party purposes it suited their own convenience to attend the Board meetings. When Mr. Young came to be appointed to the chair he was recognised as a gentleman of some popularity, and the reductions which he made in the rents of his tenants, consequent on the demands under the Plan of Campaign on the Ponson by Estate, showed that he was a fairly good landlord. Therefore when he took the position of Chairman nothing was attempted to be done except the real business of the Board; but when I was put in gaol on the 2nd May last year—I being then a member of the Board—the majority of the members then present thought they might be allowed to pass a vote of condolence with me in consequence of the methods which had been pursued against me, but Mr. Young refused to accept the proposal. Upon this the Home Rule and Liberal Members at once set about doing what the Tory Members had done in times past, and by one means or another succeeded in passing the vote. At the end of two months another resolution was proposed and agreed to. In fact, three resolutions were carried, and on the third occasion we had a strong whip made by the Conservatives; every method of jeering and insult being brought to bear against us by our opponents on the other side of the table. The Irish Nationalists were not made of the kind of stuff which would enable them to submit to gratuitous insults, be it from whom it might, and we endeavoured to pay them back in their own coin. I myself made use of very strong expressions—personal expressions—but, at the same time, there was no expression I then used which was not strictly the truth. What was the result? The Government, or their Irish advisers, who had been hanging fire for a considerable period, all at once woke up and determined to make an example of the Cork Board. This they did in a manner which I then stigmatised strongly enough; but of which I will say that it was moan, cowardly, and low. They determined to do away with the Cork Board of Guardians and to raise a turmoil in the County of Cork by oppressing the poor of that district to the very uttermost. During the past few weeks a number of questions have been put upon this subject in this House, and hon. Members are enabled to understand the method which was then pursued by the Government. Well, when the Vice Guardians were appointed in the place of the regular Board, one of the first things they did was to apply for increased salaries—a very reasonable thing, of course, for Tory Guardians to do. We know that there are large numbers of these salaried gentlemen holding similar positions, and that all they care for is not the fulfilment of their duty as trustees on behalf of the public but the advancement of their own pecuniary interests. They attempted to cut down the relief of the poor, and when they could not do it in a big way, they did it in a small way by oppressing sundry of these unfortunate people. They were too respectable to go into the Union, and they cut them down 6d. or 1s. a week; and they put pressure enough upon them to make these poor people say: "Oh! what has been done in Cork!" It is the policy of the Government to throw the odium of their conduct upon the shoulders of others, if they can. Mr. Speaker, the way those gentlemen have behaved in Cork carries with it the condemnation of all right thinking people. Meeting after meeting, presided over by the Mayor, has been held in the City of Cork, and the High Sheriff, and other gentlemen of high position, have brought accusations forward; and we, as representatives, bring the matters up in the House of Commons, only, however, to meet with a mute display on the part of Her Majesty's advisers. This treatment of the poor in Ireland is a subject of major importance. There are other topics on which I could inform the House, if I were not diffident about detaining it—notably the conduct of the police and the behaviour of the magistrates. I could place before the House the criminal behaviour of another magistrate who was employed in the County of Cork and who was kicked out of the house in consequence of his criminal behaviour in that house. But as I have not all the facts of the case, I shall defer it until I have every point established. Then, as I did in the case of Mr. O'Neill Segrave, I shall bring it before the House. I know when I brought that case forward that I was refused attention again and again, until at the end of the Autumn Session I pressed the matter home and received a definite response from the Chief Secretary. The case of the gentleman, who was once a friend of mine, and a Deputy Lieutenant in the County Cork, is this: he thought he might act as he chose, forthwith, because of the attitude taken by the Chief Secretary to the poor people of Ireland. The gentleman to whom I refer, literally fired twice at an unfortunate tenant who was taking a short cut across one of his fields. He first used a villainous expression to him, and said—"What are you doing here? I will shoot you." He then raised his gun, and the man said—"For goodness sake don't fire, Captain Rhys." He took deliberate aim and fired twice, hitting the unfortunate man twice. This is the system which is obtaining in Ireland. There is to be no law for the poor. Consideration is to be given to the rich. Mr. Speaker, that method of governing our country is deserving just condemnation on every side. I know it is useless to address Her Majesty's Government here, but outside, the nation, with its countless toilers and workers, is listening and thinking, and there will be returned to this House, rest assured, Members who will remove from Ireland the load of oppression under which she has suffered, and will sweep away the indignities and injustices which have been heaped upon her.

*(11.23.) MR. W. H. SMITH

Sir, I ask, with the permission of the House, that we may now go to business. I wish to remind the House that we, for three or four hours this evening, discussed the arrangements for so conducting our busi- ness that we might despatch it in time to secure an adjournment, which would be most advantageous to the country and to hon. Members. Sir, we put down Supply in the hope that we might make some progress with it this evening. No notice of any kind was put upon the Paper that we were to have this discussion, and it has been brought on under circumstances and conditions which render it impossible for any one, after the Attorney General's reply, to answer the observations which have been made. I do not say that course is not within the right of hon. Members, but it is certainly most unusual that charges should be made without notice and under circumstances which do not permit of Ministers preparing and making their reply. I wish to ask the House to consider whether conversations of this character are wise, and are to be encouraged, and whether they are likely to lead to conclusions satisfactory to the House and to the interests of this great Empire? We have lost a day by the discussion of this evening. There are circumstances and conditions which I hope the House will take to heart, that we may be able during the next half hour to redeem a portion of the time which has been so largely wasted in the discussion of this evening. It is in the interests of justice, and in the interests of the House, that notice should be given of these charges and statements, and I venture to think that the whole House and the country will feel that we are justified in protesting against the waste of time, which, is injurious to the reputation of this House, injurious to the country at large, and which, I trust, will not be repeated. I hope, Sir, you will now be permitted to leave the Chair.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.

MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (College Green, Dublin)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to protest against the views put forward in the speech, and the observations which have just been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He protests against what he is pleased to call the waste of time of the House. [Cheers.] Yes, we shall have cheers from the Government Benches of this House, but we deny that this is a waste of time. We claim that we are occupying the time of the House with matters of the greatest importance to the Irish people, and of considerable interest to the English people also. The right hon. Gentleman wants to proceed with what ho is pleased to call the business of the House. He is anxious to preserve what he calls "the dignity of the House." Sir, I maintain that it accords with the dignity of the House to hear questions of this importance, and to have them fully and fairly discussed, and I say that the contention of the right hon. Gentleman is in restraint of freedom of debate, and of the rights of Members in this House. We are within our right to draw attention to the questions which we have been discussing here to-night. The right hon. Gentleman may think lightly of these matters, but we do not share his views, neither do the constituencies we represent. I stand up for the rights of the Members of this assembly to discuss questions of importance to them, to their constituences, and to the country which sends them here. I protest against the assumption that we are wasting time. What we are now doing is part of our business, part of the business of the British Parliament, and we stand on our rights and privileges And now I will proceed to speak upon the subject which has been under discussion here this evening. This important question of prison treatment in Ireland does not concern right hon. Gentlemen opposite or the Tory Party. It concerns Irish Members and the Irish people, and we shall maintain our right in this matter to protest against what we consider our wrongs and grievances, and to expose the hypocrisy and meanness and injustice which is practised on the Irish people and on the Irish Members in the abused and desecrated name of law and order. I desire to speak on this subject of prison treatment from personal experience—although I do not stand before the House in the character of a person who has suffered very grievously from his prison treatment. I was not subjected to ordinary prison discipline. I was not compelled to lie on a plank bed; I was not fed on bread and water, and confined in a dark cell, but for these things I give the Government no thanks whatever—either the Chief Secretary or the head of the Prisons Board. I was tried for a Press offence, not before a removable magistrate, but before an irremovable magistrate, a respectable, honourable, learned, independent-minded gentle man. It was because I was so tried before such a man, that I was not subjected to the hardships and indignities that I have just referred to. But the head of the Prisons Board and the Chief Secretary did their best to render my treatment as disagreeable as possible. I was, in the first instance, committed to Dublin, where I could have availed myself of the prison rule applicable to first-class misdemeanants, and where I could have supervised the management of my newspapers. In four days' time, however, I was removed to Tullamore, 60 miles away, the object being to deprive me of the privileges and rights to which I was entitled. Being responsible to the Government and to society for the contents of my newspapers, I applied when in Tullamore to be allowed to see copies, but was refused on the ground that the papers contained reports of the meetings of suppressed branches of the League. I then asked the Prisons Board and the Visiting Justices to permit me to have copies from which the reports considered to be offensive, should have been cut out, but even that request was refused. This I stigmatise as unfair, unjust, and dishonourable, for advantage was taken of my helplessness to deprive me of what was really my legal right. I was cheated on of my right by the tricks, and stratagems, and meanness, of Her Majesty's rulers in Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen may think that Tullamore Prison is peculiarly fitted for the reception of political prisoners, seeing that they are sent there from all parts of Ireland. But it is nothing of the sort. I was committed as a first-class misdemeanant, but when I went there, there was no room or cell fitted up for the reception of such a prisoner. I was told so by the prison authorities. I was put in an ordinary cell, and told that after a little time endeavours would be made to prepare a better habitation. There had not been a first class misdemeanant there, I was told, within the memory of any one there. I do not want to complain of having been put in one of the ordinary cells as far as personal suffering or mere inconvenience goes, but I want to point out the unfairness and meanness of the authorities who treated me in that fashion. Alter the lapse of about six days, a room in a disused infirmary was prepared for me. My Friend and Colleague the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), was in the gaol at the same time that I was there—so was John Mandeville. I did not know my hon. Friend was there until afterwards, for we were never allowed to see each other, to say nothing of speaking to each other. On Sundays we went into a little room used as a Catholic chapel, and heard mass there, but still we were so separated that we could not see each other. We were penned up in places like horse-boxes. I knew he was there simply because I heard his cough, which I recognised immediately. He is not a man of robust health, but is subject to affections of the lungs and throat, and I heard his barking cough not far away from me. He was, however, so placed that he could not catch a glimpse of me or I of him. These are some of the glories of the administration of British law in Ireland. This is our great, our powerful British Government in Ireland. To these shameful and shabby meannesses do they descend in their misrule of that country. We have had no more cruel enemies than we have in Ireland to-day. We never had so mean, so shabby, and paltry a lot ruling the destinies of the country as now. But the English people are coming to know something of the facts. They are a brave people, an honest people, a people who love justice, liberty, and right, and they revolt at the cruelties, meannesses, and atrocities. They have revolted. Election after election proves it; incident after incident, down to the very latest. The conscience of the British people is shocked by these cruelties, injustices, and indignities, and they will know how to pass their judgment, and inflict their sentence by and bye upon the men who are responsible for the miserable and shameful condition of affairs in Ireland —a condition of affairs which is doing the English nation no good, conferring on the English nation no glory or honour, and bringing to the English nation no profit, but is doing injury to, and bringing disgrace—as far as the present rulers of the land can do it—on the name and fame of Great Britain. But, Sir, we shall soon have an end of it all, and I can tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that for any cruelties they cm inflict on us during the brief remaining term of their power we are fully prepared. We are buoyed up with confidence that when the time comes that the verdict of the British people on this system of Irish Government shall be declared, their condemnation will be pronounced and their policy will come to an end.

(11.50.) MR. W. REDMOND

I wish to make a personal explanation. The First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) stated that no notice had been given of this discussion. Yesterday I asked a question with reference to the treatment of Mr. Welsh, Mayor of Wexford. I did not consider the answer satisfactory, and therefore it might well have been expected that I would take the first opportunity of raising the question again. My hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Gill) also asked a question yesterday with reference to the treatment of Mr. MacDermot in the County of Gal way, and the answer was so unsatisfactory that he said he would take this opportunity of bringing it forward. Notice has, therefore, been given of the discussion.

(11.51.) MR. O'KFEFFE (Limerick)

I am glad, as one who has been a Visiting Justice in an Irish gaol for three years, to be able to confirm what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Dublin (Mr. T. D Sullivan) about the inhuman barbarities to which Trish prisoners have been subjected under it the operation of the Coercion Act, which is being so brutally and so fruitlessly administered. I can also, speaking for a constituency in the extreme South of Ireland—the City of Limerick—re-echo the sentiments and confirm the experiences of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond), who speaks for a constituency in the extreme North, in reference to Press prosecutions. I have lately had to put some questions in this House respecting the prosecution of Mr. John McInery, editor of the Limerick Leader. Some months past he was summoned under the Coercion Act for an editorial article commenting on the action of an individual named Ryan. That man, contrary to the public opinion of the district, and against the advice of his parish priest, and the Members of Parliament for the County of Limerick, thought fit without the least necessity or cause to take a farm from which another had been unjustly evicted. His conduct was the subject of editorial comment, which may have been strong but which certainly was not unprovoked. My hon. Friends will be surprised to hear that, for the mere issuing of that article, Mr. McInery has been sentenced to an inhuman imprisonment of nine calendar months with hard labour. He has appealed against that sentence, and the appeal will come on at the next Quarter Sessions. Another prosecution has been directed against this same gentleman, merely for the purpose, as I will prove, of putting him in goal for the time inter- vening between the pronouncement of sentence in the Crimes Court and the hearing of the appeal. Mr. McInery published a report of the meeting at which I was present, of the Limerick branch of the League, of which I have the honour of being President. He did not comment on it in any way. For publishing the report he was summoned under the Coercion Act. When the case came before the Crimes Court, recognising the decision which I suppose up to the present must be considered law, of the County Court Judge of Waterford, the Hon. Judge Waters, who decided that it was perfectly legal to publish a report, the Crown Counsel withdrew for the moment the charge under the Crimes Act, and gave this gentleman a month's imprisonment under the Statute of Edward III. I say, Sir, that the proceeding under that Statute is a virtual repeal of the decision of County Court Judge Waters and gives the Government an irresponsible and unappealable power to get rid of an obnoxious individual to suit their own paltry purposes. There is another matter to which I wish to draw attention—I refer to the constitution of Grand Juries in Ireland. In the County of Clare, almost 85 per cent, of the population of which is Catholic, and in which there are numerous large farmers and merchants and shopkeepers, only six out of 48 Grand Jurymen summoned at the recent Assizes were Catholics. I say this is a perfect disgrace to the administration of justice in Ireland. Gentlemen opposite condemn boycotting; but I ask what is this but the boycotting of those whose merits and whose worth entitle them to the highest positions in the confidence of the people? By some unhappy knack the Government are arousing universal dissatisfaction. My hon. Friend the Member for Long ford informed the House that the Mayor of Wexford had been removed from his ex officio position as Governor of the local lunatic asylum. I can say the same for the Mayor of Cork, the Mayor of Clonmel, and the Mayor of Waterford. Your conduct of the Fishery Board in Ireland is not a success. You held an inquiry about twelve months past into the state of the fisheries, but it was not until a question was asked in this House that the information obtained was placed at the disposal of public bodies in Ireland. I also find that you have given universal dissatisfaction with regard to the post office and telegraph office system in Ireland. Day after day complaints are made in this House of men of long experience being passed over when promotion takes place.

It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.

SUPPLY.—Committee upon Monday next.

Back to