§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [19th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *(4.14.) MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN (Monaghan, N.)
I rise to a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, when asked whether it was the intention of the Government to proceed with the Committee stage of the Local Government (Ireland) Bill, gave an answer which left no doubt in the minds of hon. Members that the Government do not propose to go into Committee on the Bill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I never said so.
§ *MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN
I wish to know whether it is in Order to continue the discussion upon the Motion for the Second Reading of a Bill which the responsible Minister of the Crown admits is not to be carried into Committee.
§ (4.16.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
In the discussion upon this Bill, the hon. Member for West Belfast said that he had been unable to discover what the County Councils in Ireland would do under its provisions. I am not surprised at his failure, because the hon. Member is lacking in the essential quality necessary to enable him to form an adequate judgment on 1470 the provisions of this Bill. He, no doubt, subjected the measure to a searching examination; but the whole tone of his remarks showed that he had no knowledge of the business which is transacted at the Baronial Sessions and before Grand Juries in Ireland. From the standpoint of the hon. Member, the business at the Baronial Sessions and before a Grand Jury is of a humdrum character. Necessarily so. The sittings do not provide the exciting scenes and mutual invective which make some meetings so interesting to the public. The hon. Member said that the people of Ireland would not accept this measure; but I entirely refuse to take the hon. Member as the mouthpiece of the Irish people in regard to this Bill. I am not aware that he is even entitled to speak for the smallest section of hon. Members opposite. We have heard this sort of declamation before. It is part of the stock-in-trade of hon. Members sitting on the other side of the House to say that the people of Ireland will refuse to accept any measure coming from this side of the House. I want to draw the attention of the House to the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite and to the character of the attack which they have made upon this Bill. Their arguments were not only conflicting in character, but they were absolutely self-destructive of each other. Now the hon. Member for Northampton charged the Government with having neglected their pledges, and the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. H. Gladstone) accused them first of all of delay, and then, abandoning that charge, he proceeded to assert that they had had no mandate for the production of this Bill. Then the hon. Member for Newcastle said this was a reactionary measure—more reactionary than that produced in 1879. The Bill of 1879 may have been of a more liberal and less reactionary character than the present Bill, according to the views of the young men who dream dreams and the old men who see visions on the opposite side of the House; but I should be sorry to see any Member on this side of the House introduce a Bill of the character of that which was introduced in 1879. The hon. Member for Carnarvon called the 1471 attention of the House to the proceedings of the Committee which sat in 1879; but I must remind hon. Members that that Committee was not appointed to consider the question of Local Government in the counties of Ireland, but that of the Local Government and the taxation of the towns of Ireland. Then, again, the hon. Member for the City of Waterford wrote an article in the Fortnightly Review in the month of May, in which he attacked this Bill from beginning to end, and most of his points were repeated yesterday by the hon. Member for West Belfast. The hon. Member for the City of Waterford said the Bill was based on a distrust of the Irish people, and that it was insulting and vicious in principle. I ask how far he can possibly maintain that criticism. What is there in the limits of this Bill that is insulting or vicious? So far as the question of the franchise is concerned, there is nothing in the Bill to warrant the charges brought by the Member for the City of Waterford against it. It is not an insult to the Irish people, and it is not vicious when compared with the measure relating to England and Scotland. Take the Baronial Councils and the County Councils. They are to have elected members. So far, therefore, as those Bodies are concerned, the Bill is far from being insulting to the Irish people or vicious in principle. So far, therefore, I am at issue with the hon. Member for the City of Water-fore and the hon. Member for West Belfast. I also say that the County Councils are not "cribbed, cabined, and confined," under this Bill I assert that the County Council exercises an absolutely free and unfettered control over the annual expenditure of the county, and that the only body in connection with this Local Government Bill that is fettered is the Joint Committee. In considering the question of Local Government in Ireland, it is necessary to recollect the position of Local Government at the present moment. Hon. Members have, inside and outside the House, dealt with the Grand Juries as if they were omnipotent. They are nothing of the kind, and anybody who knows anything of the Grand Jury system knows that the Grand Jury are not the initiating body; 1472 that they have no power to deal with county expenditure in Ireland except that which is sent to them from the lower body of the Baronial Sessions. And the Joint Committee has really conferred upon it much smaller powers than the Grand Juries have at the present moment. I desire to consider fully what are the powers of the Council. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) said the Bill preserved intact the powers of the Grand Jury, and he said it gave the control, particularly of finance, to the Joint Committee. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) said the Council would be the mere drudge of the Joint Committee, and that the Committee would be able to vote down the Council. I protest against that view being taken of the probable action of the Committee. It is not in accordance with the facts of Local Government in Ireland. In the first place, I will take the conduct of affairs at the Baronial Sessions, than which there could be no more popular assembly for the transaction of county business. The whole neighbourhood attend, and with little check from the presiding Magistrate state their opinions. And although the Sessions are carried on by Magistrates and cess payers selected by what I believe to be a cumbersome method, the decision arrived at by the Baronial Session is a popular conclusion, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred reflects popular opinion on the matter. There is no practice in Ireland which the hon. Member can allege in support of his statement that the representatives of the Grand Jury upon the Joint Committee would be likely or would necessarily or perpetually vote down the representatives of the cess payers; and I protest against that view being taken either by the House or by the country as a fair representation of what would occur upon these Committees. Then as to the question whether the Council is to be the drudge of the Committee, let me remind the House that, under this Bill, the Joint Committee is only given powers over capital expenditure. I will take the clause with the interpretation put upon it by the hon. Member himself, and will draw the attention of the House 1473 to the fact that the capital expenditure of the county, as interpreted by the hon. Gentleman, forms a very small percentage indeed of the whole expenditure, which, as I maintain, is under the free and unfettered control of the County Council. I have here a return dealing with the expenditure of the County of Antrim for the last five years, discriminating between capital expenditure as it will be under the provisions of this measure, and total expenditure under the total presentments of the county. In 1887 the capital expenditure was only 13 per cent. of the total expenditure; in 1888 it was only 12 per cent.; in 1889, 16½ per cent.; in 1890, 20½ per cent.; in 1891, 17½ per cent. of the total, making an average for the five years of 15¾ per cent. And it must be remembered that the County of Antrim shows a higher ratio than any other county in Ireland. I have also a return for the County Down for the same number of years, and in only one of the five years was the capital expenditure one per cent. of the total expenditure of the county. The average for the five years was .82 per cent., so that in County Down only an infinitesimal proportion of the capital expenditure would be drawn from the free and unfettered control of the County Council. I take next a county with which I am intimately connected—the county in which I live—Tyrone. That county is a fair example, and it is a county which has the two rate guarantees which are given under the clause, and one that meets in every respect the provisions of this clause withholding from the County Councils certain control. The proportion of the capital expenditure of the County of Tyrone during the last five years was only 3.04. I will just give one more instance to complete the argument which I want to draw from this. I will take the total sum of the presentments for the whole of Ireland for 1889, and I will take that year because it is the last year available in Thom's Almanac. I will ask the House to listen to the result which shows how infinitesimal is the point which the hon. Member for West Belfast is making against the Bill upon 1474 this clause. The gross presentment in Ireland for 1889 was £1,320,464. I will draw the attention of the House to two items—one is the item for new roads, new bridges, and the repair of roads and bridges about the county, which comes to £654,576, and the other deals with the buildings under the control of the Grand Jury, amounting to £8,060. These items make together £662,636. Now the proportion of that particular sum, taking the County Tyrone as an average county, that would be withdrawn from the absolutely free and unfettered control of the County Council would be £19,879. That is to say, that out of the whole sum under the control of the County Council by this Bill, £1,322,464, the control of only a sum of less than £20,000 would have to meet with the approval of the Joint Committees in the counties of Ireland.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
They do not come within the provisions of the clause, and I contest altogether the point which the hon. Member makes. The whole of the salaries of the officers only amount to £190,000, and the hon. Member will see that if worked out that will hardly be one per cent., and will not make it five per cent. of the calculation I have made. It will not affect the argument at all. The figures on this question are entirely against the view which he has presented to the House that this Bill mutilates the power of the County Councils by withdrawing control. I say, and I have shown, that the items which are withdrawn from the control of the County Councils, and which must come under the approval of the Joint Committee, form practically an insignificant proportion of the expenditure of any county in Ireland. I wish to say a word upon the constitution of the Joint Committee. I admit, as was admitted by my right hon. Friend in introducing the measure, that the provisions of the Bill with 1475 regard to the Chairman of this Joint Committee are not satisfactory. An attack has been made on the Sheriff as the Chairman by the hon. Member for the City of Waterford, who has clearly manifested thereby his entire lack of knowledge of the Grand Jury system. He objects to the Sheriff as being one of the hardened sinners on the Grand Jury. As a matter of fact the Sheriffs are generally the youngest members of the Grand Juries, the most inexperienced, and therefore from my point of view the least proper persons on the Grand Juries to be appointed Chairmen of these Joint Committees. But I understand it is not a provision to which the Government are absolutely pledged; because they themselves say they experienced difficulty in settling it. There are no officers in Ireland who correspond to the Sheriff in Scotland. I do not believe it will be possible to substitute the County Court Judges, for reasons which are apparent to anybody who knows Ireland. They are not connected with merely one county, and therefore they would not suit the convenience of the Joint Committee or of the public administration of business. Then there is the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and I discard him for other reasons which I need not discuss now. I have, however, a suggestion to make as to the Chairman—either let the senior member of the elected representatives of the Grand Jury be the Chairman, or let the foreman of the Grand Jury preside. If you took the foreman of the Grand Jury the interests of public business would be served; and in Ireland it is a question of the adequate transaction of public business. In the case of England and Scotland the Government recognised this by putting in the position men who were acquainted with the discharge of public business, that the County Councils might be informed of their duties. If that was required in the case of England and Scotland, it is certainly necessary in the case of Ireland. I do not attach any value to the charge of the hon. Member for West Belfast that the seven Grand Jurymen and the Sheriff would vote down the other seven representatives of the County Council. It is a charge that can be made in this 1476 House with great freedom; but it is a charge discredited in Ireland, and it is a charge devoid of weight or substance. I do not care to discuss whether the Joint Committee is to consist of fourteen, or of even or uneven proportions; but I do admit that there is weight in the objection to choosing the Sheriff as Chairman, and I believe that either the foreman of the Grand Jury or the senior member of the Grand Jury would be most useful. The hon. Member said that a great principle had been destroyed1 when the illiterate voters were not given the privileges of the Ballot Act.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
The hon. Member said it was a shabby expedient, and he went on to say that a man who contributes has a right to possess a voice in the expenditure of local taxation. Yes, the whole question at issue is whether the man who is an illiterate voter at the present moment would have any voice whatever. I say he would have no voice, and I make that statement deliberately. I have had a longer experience of elections in Ireland than any hon. Member sitting opposite. Before the hon. Member for West Belfast came into public life at all, I was, in 1873, personating agent, and in 1874 and 1881 I was head polling agent in one of the largest polling districts in South Tyrone. I saw every illiterate voter come there to record his, vote. I was there during the triangular election when Mr. Parnell ran a candidate against the recognised Liberal candidate. I do not believe that on that occasion two per cent. who gave their votes as illiterates gave them in the way they desired. They wished to give their votes in favour of Mr. Parnell's candidate, but the local organisation of the National League brought their pressure to bear in support of the Liberal candidate who is now sitting as hon. Member for the City of Dublin. In the minds of anybody who knows anything of the interior of an Irish polling booth, there cannot exist any doubt as to the fact that illiterate voters do not record their votes freely and openly. And if under this Act you allowed the illiterate voter to have the privileges of the Ballot Act he would 1477 still have no voice; his vote would have to be given according to the views of the political organisation which has him in tow. Therefore I say my right hon. Friend is quite right in excluding the illiterate voters from the privileges of the Ballot Act, and in so doing he is securing that the votes given under this Bill will be tendered in accordance with the ideas of the elector. I now come to the question of the police. The police of Ireland have always been on a different footing from the English police. The Irish counties have never contributed to the support of their own police, and the Governing Bodies of Irish counties have never had control of their police, and I should certainly view this Bill with the greatest apprehension if it placed the control of the police in the hands of the County Councils. I should view it with equal apprehension in my own City of Cork. It would be a dangerous matter to introduce into Irish politics, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend has deemed it right not to depart from the principles upon which this Bill was supposed to be framed—namely, that it should be a Bill for the transference to elected Councils in Ireland that business which has been carried on by non-elected bodies—and that he did not adopt the principle of conferring upon these newly-elected bodies powers which would be dangerous to themselves and certainly dangerous to the communities over which they were to have control. I now come to the clause upon which the strongest attack has been made. I allude to the clause which provides for the appeal of twenty cess payers against the action of the County Council, and gives them the remedy before two Judges at law. This clause has been introduced, as the Attorney General stated, for the purpose of providing adequate and efficient protection of the cess payers of Ireland; and I suppose that nobody will deny the presence of ample grounds for the introduction of protective provisions, in the interests of cess payers, against apprehended extravagance or misconduct on the part of the popularly-elected county bodies in Ireland. I think my right hon. Friend was 1478 amply justified in inserting in the Bill a provision of this sort. The Member for the City of Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) has said that it might be argued from our point of view that the clause might be left in the Bill, because if County Councils do not commit acts of oppression and are not guilty of misconduct it would be inoperative. But I go a step further than that, and say that if the County Councils are guilty of acts of oppression and of such misconduct as would bring them within the purview of the clause, it would be equally inoperative. Therefore, while I agree that the authors of this Bill had sufficient justification for introducing a clause to protect the cess payers in Ireland, I myself do not think this clause is a necessity, and I should not be at all sorry to see it disappear from the Bill, and, I believe, a great many hon. Members on this side concur in the views I am now stating. Now, Sir, I have to say one word of disagreement with certain expressions which have fallen from right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House with regard to this Bill. The Attorney General for Ireland said that in his opinion this is a comparatively unimportant Bill, and remarks of a similar character have been made by the Leader of the House. I do not agree at all with that view. Speaking as an Irishman, and representing cess payers of Ireland, I look upon this as one of the most important Bills the present Government have introduced, and I am delighted that the cess payers will receive from a Unionist Government that which they have long desired to have—complete and unfettered control of the annual expenditure of their counties. I believe this Bill will do as much as any Bill the Government have introduced to create good feeling between the different sections of the Irish people, and I am not so apprehensive as some are that these County Councils or Baronial Sessions will be turned into mere arenas of political discord. The views of the hon. Member for Belfast that the members of the Joint Committee who represent the Grand Juries will be found consistently voting down the representatives of the County Councils are, 1479 in my opinion, incorrect. I believe that in nine cases out of ten the gentlemen who compose these Committees will be experienced men of business, and that whatever their political differences may be, when they meet for county purposes they will impartially deal with the local matters that come before them. In conclusion let me say that I cordially support this Bill, believing it will be productive of the greatest possible good to every class and section of my country.
§ (4.55.) MR. THOMAS HEALY) Wexford, N.
I have to congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down on the remarkable clearness with which he has dealt with a measure which we believe to be a perfect sham, and which we are aware the Government have not the smallest intention of proceeding with. What they hope to gain by bringing it in is one of those things I am unable to understand. When the Bill was introduced the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) did everything in his power by speech and manner to show that he was performing an uncongenial task. The only explanation I can give for the introduction of this measure is that the near approach of the General Election has stirred the Unionist conscience and has induced them to put pressure on the Government to fulfil one, at least, of the many promises by which they got into power. Well, Sir, I have carefully studied this Bill, and I maintain that every section and every line of it is based on suspicion, dread, and hostility, and is a rooted insult to the Irish people. To my mind it is a curious commentary on the Unionist speeches we have been listening to for the past four or five years. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite have been going about the country telling audiences that under the beneficent influence of the Unionist Government Ireland is now in a state of absolute peace and quiet, that law-abiding citizens are now able to go about their duties without fear of being molested by anybody, and that the people of Ireland are only too anxious to obey the law. If these speeches are true, why is this. Bill framed in the manner it is? If the people of Ireland 1480 are simply yearning to obey the law, how is it this Bill is framed to take away from them some of the few privileges they possess at the present time? One clause of it will deprive the Irish people of a right they have enjoyed since the reign of William IV.—the right to deal with cases of malicious injury. Now, we were told about a month ago, in this House, by the Chief Secretary for Ireland that there was now no person in Ireland who was either partially or wholly boycotted. If that is the truth, where is the necessity for introducing this clause, when the very persons it is apparently intended to benefit do not exist? Clause 6 of this Bill not only takes away that right from the Irish people which they have enjoyed for so long, but it provides that they are to have no power dealing with criminal matters in Ireland, and the County Councils to be formed under this Bill will not be allowed to administer the oath. I maintain that Section 6 of this Bill gives the lie to every Unionist speech that has been made during the past six years. The provisions of this Bill have been so completely riddled and blown out of the water by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) that I do not intend to go through them in detail, but there is one matter to which I should like to allude. I refer to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macartney), as to what goes on at Presentment Sessions in Ireland. Now, I have had some experience in connection with these sessions, and I have never seen anything but a fair and impartial hearing given by the men from whom this Bill proposes to take away the right of dealing with cases of malicious injury. Every case that comes before them is decided on its merits. It will not do for any man to come before them and merely say he is boycotted or objectionable to his neighbour; that will not ensure his application being entertained. If I want to look for corruption in the Boards of Ireland, I should not look to these Presentment Sessions, but rather to the immaculate Grand Juries. I have seen over and over again that no case coming before these men is too 1481 weak. No matter how flimsy a man's case might be, or how bad his character, if he could get up and swear that he was boycotted, or in any way obnoxious, he was certain to have his application considered favourably, and every penny he might ask for given him. It is not very long ago since the wife of a Grand Juryman in County Cork got twelve months with hard labour for setting fire to her house. On two or three previous occasions her husband had obtained compensation for the burning down of his premises, and I have not the slightest doubt that if the woman had not been caught at last in the very act, her husband would have again gone before the Grand Jury, and received compensation for the destruction of his property. This is one of the bodies that it is proposed should be allowed to deal with the question of malicious injuries; and the inferior body, which in one case that came under my own knowledge took a view that was subsequently taken by a learned Judge, are not to be trusted. I have no hesitation in voting against this Bill as I should against any Bill which is based on hostility to the Irish people, and which gives to a Judge of Assize the power to disfranchise a county and to place the elected representatives of the people in the dock; and, further than that, allows an unrepresentative and unsympathetic body like that which exists at Dublin Castle to override an election, and place other people in the position of the representatives of the ratepayers. We want a Home Rule Bill, but this is a cross between a Coercion Bill and a Bill for the glorification of Boards of Guardians. One other remark I make with reluctance, and that has reference to the speech of the Member for South Armagh (Mr. Blane). He said—and I was glad to hear him as a patriotic Irishman make the remark—that the Protestant majority had nothing to fear from the oppression of the Catholic majority, and he, for one, would protest with all his power against any such oppression wherever he met with it. The Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) got up in his place and said that when he spoke of the oppression of the Protestant minority he made 1482 no allusion to the section of the Nationalist Party to which my hon. Friend (Mr. Blane) belongs. I suppose, therefore, he pointed at the section to which I belong. A man's nature is best shown by his spontaneous actions. I do not happen to be a large employer of labour, but I employ three men; and it may relieve the mind of the hon. Member for South Belfast to know that, although I am a Catholic, and my family are Catholics, and nineteen - twentieths of my friends are Catholics, yet of those three men two are Protestants. I think that will show hon. Gentlemen opposite that they have as little to fear from the section to which I belong as from the section to which the hon. Member for South Armagh belongs. I am sorry this question was brought up, because I do not believe there is the smallest fear that anybody in Ireland will be persecuted on account of his religion. No Irish Catholic will be any party to persecuting anyone because of a difference of religious opinion; and it was well said by a great Englishman, the late Cardinal Manning, that he had no fear that the Irish Catholics would ever persecute any religious creed, because, he added touchingly, "the children of the martyrs are never persecutors." I can assure hon. Gentlemen that they have nothing to fear from the Irish Catholics; and my constant hope and fervent prayer is that the day may be close at hand when every section of the Irish people will be found sitting side by side in a Parliament in College Green working in harmony for the common good of their country.
§ *(5.12.) MR. BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
I desire to congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Thomas Healy) on what I believe was his maiden speech. He dealt with the question from a practical point of view, and I propose to follow his example. He must not suppose that we entertain any fears that he would personally display any intolerance towards his fellow-subjects in Ireland; but if he asks me to go further, and to say that the loyal majority are in no danger of oppression at the hands of the majority, I regret to say that I am unable to 1483 agree with him, and I propose to offer some reasons for my opinion before I sit down. The hon. Gentleman seems to think that this Bill with its safeguards is an insult to Irish sentiment. I think the Bill without its safeguards would have been an insult to British common sense. An hon. Member, yesterday, said that there is something unreal about this Debate. What is the unreality?
§ MR. BARTON
No; the Bill is real enough. It is here in substantial form. It is the opposition to the Bill which is unreal. The indignation is feigned; the fury is simulated; the opposition was preconcerted before the Bill was introduced. The provisions of this Bill were prejudged before they were printed. The night before the Bill was introduced the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), speaking in the congenial atmosphere of White-chapel, said of this Bill that it was a sham and a futile measure. The people of Whitechapel were evidently astonished at that statement; and, seeing their astonishment, he proceeded—You may say I ought not to judge it before I have seen it; but I have a taste for gardening, and I know you cannot get grapes from thorns or figs from thistles.It is plain that the right hon. Gentleman had made up his mind beforehand to oppose this Bill, and I say this Bill has not had a fair hearing or a fair trial in this House. We are told, amongst other things, that the Government ought to have introduced this Bill before; but I will ask hon. Members to carry their minds back ten years, and in 1882, when the Liberals were in power, the Member for Longford placed on the Paper a Motion in these words:—That this House regrets that the promises Several times made of amendment of the Grand Jury system in Ireland have not been carried out.It had been promised by right hon. Gentlemen opposite in the Queen's Speech in 1881, and in 1882 we find the Nationalist Party complaining that the promise had not been acted upon; and now, when this Government attempts to carry out the reform of the Grand Jury system, both sections opposite 1484 unite to defeat their intention. It will be found, if you look at this Bill, that it will be convenient to distinguish between two separate portions of the Bill—the enfranchising portion and the safeguarding portion. It is by an ingenious confusion of these two portions that a plausible case is made on the other side. The enfranchising portion of the Bill follows the lines of the English and Scotch Bills, and can hardly be criticised; but objection is taken to the safeguarding portions. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) described ten points in the Bill as ten insults to Ireland. I represent a constituency in which there is a Unionist majority, and where there would be a Unionist majority in a County Council. If these points in the Bill are insults, they must be insults to my supporters. But I find that these insults melt away on examination and on comparison with a very interesting document—a County Government Bill for Ireland, which was brought forward by the Irish Party in 1888. That Bill contained almost all of these ten insults—some of them in a worse shape than in the Bill before the House. What were these ten alleged insults? The first was the withdrawing of a privilege in the case of the illiterate voter which had been abused. How can they call it an insult to withdraw in the case of Ireland a privilege which the House of Commons has lately declared by a large majority should be withdrawn throughout the whole of the United Kingdom? What hon. Gentlemen opposite ask for is not equality, but ascendency. The second insult is the cumulative vote. In my constituency it is for the protection of the Nationalist minority, and I cannot look upon it as an insult to support a Bill which contains a provision for giving representation to my Nationalist opponents. The next supposed insult to Ireland refers to the fixing of boundaries, which is left to the Lord Lieutenant. It was suggested that they should be dealt with as in England, where it was said that in the cities it is left to the Corporations and in counties to Quarter Sessions. If that suggestion were 1485 adopted in Belfast, it would be left to the Tory Corporation, and in the counties to the Grand Juries, which correspond to English Quarter Sessions, and yet the hon. Member complains that the Lord Lieutenant is selected in the Bill. Whatever the Lord Lieutenant does can be criticised in this House, and he can be held responsible. In the Bill of the hon. Members opposite in 1888, will the House believe, the fixing of the areas of the baronies was to be left to the Lord Lieutenant and the Privy Council, and yet they ask the House to say that the same provision in this Bill is an insult to Ireland. The next alleged insult to Ireland is that Belfast and Dublin are not treated like other cities. The hon. Member in his adroit way pointed out that these cities had not been dealt with specially in the Bill, but he did not point out that by this Bill all the other municipal boroughs have been enfranchised, and instead of a £10 rating franchise, householders have been given the Parliamentary franchise for municipal purposes. He did not refer to that, but he did refer to the fact that, for particular reasons which I can well understand, Belfast and Dublin are not dealt with in this Bill. They have different machinery for municipal and registration purposes, and they are dealt with by different Acts which have recently been passed by this House extending their franchise; and if you were to deal with those cities in the Bill, it would take two or three pages to deal with their special requirements. I can well understand why that should be left to be dealt with afterwards. But I would remind the House that the Bill enfranchises all the other municipal boroughs, and meets the claim they have made for so many years. Under these circumstances, I think I am en-entitled to say that the treatment of these cities is no insult to Ireland. The next of these insults to Ireland is that the Grand Juries are left in possession of jurisdiction in claims for malicious injuries. The Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) admitted that that was a matter on which the Government were willing to meet the views of the House. I venture 1486 to say that the Grand Juries do not wish to keep the settlement of these cases; we all want to find an independent tribunal to settle them. The question did not arise on the English and Scotch Bills. Mrs. Lewis's case is always trotted out when Grand Juries are under discussion. Frauds in cases of this kind may occur before any tribunal. There have been many cases of fraud on Insurance Companies, and there was recently in England a case of conspiracy to defraud Insurance Companies. The Grand Jury system in Ireland, however, guards as carefully as possible the interests of the ratepayers from fraud. The hon. Member who just spoke said there was a case of great injustice before a Grand Jury. But I would point out that that case went before the Judge, who heard it, and decided against the Grand Jury. The Judge removed the grievance, and in such cases always will do so. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) in his article in the Fortnightly Review complains that Grand Juries can still file indictments, and the same complaint has been made in this Debate. But the House ought to be informed that the very same provision was in the Nationalist County Council Bill of 1888. The next insult is that the police are not put under the control of the County Council. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) in his article does not suggest that the police should be under the control of the County Councils, and the Nationalist County Government Bill did not suggest it. I am surprised that they should now suggest it after their experience of the last few years. In view of contemporary facts it is idle to suggest that the police should be under the control of the County Councils. The next insult to Ireland is that it is said there is a control vested by the Bill in the Joint Committee over the litigation of the County Councils. I do not know how that is; but I hope it is so. When the Borough Fund Act was passed in the House of Lords, Lord Fitzgerald pointed out the necessity of preventing small Municipalities in Ireland yielding to temptation in the direction of excessive and unnecessary litigation. To illustrate the necessity 1487 of control over litigation I will refer to a case in the Land Judge's Court in Dublin in 1888. The Guardians refused to sue the tenants who were liable for the rates and able to pay them; and they sued the landlord. What did the Judge do? He referred to the facts, and said—This was an instance of what might be expected from the Guardians, and what they would do in the same direction if their privileges and powers were extended.He made a conditional order of attachment against them for contempt of Court. There we have a Board of Guardians actually under judgment for contempt of Court for bringing an action which they had no right to bring under the law. I desire, next, to deal with the objections which have been so strongly urged against the controlling power given to the Joint Committee. I find that all the protests of hon. Gentlemen opposite are only the faint echoes of the protests of the Scottish Members when the Local Government Bill for Scotland was before the House. The hon. Member for Caithness said the Joint Committee wasAn absolute majority composed of the Sheriff of the county and a member of the Commissioners of Supply.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) said—Why not trust the County Council? Will the Lord Advocate, or any Scotchman sitting beside him say they cannot trust their countrymen in these matters?The hon. Member for Aberdeen said the clause was—An unfounded imputation on their country.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir G. Trevelyan) described it as a "practical insult to the rest of Scotland." I, for one, as an Ulster Member, do not regard as an insult that which was thought good enough for England and Scotland. The hon. Members opposite set up a superior right over Englishmen and Scotchmen. The next alleged insult is with regard to the appointment of officers; and I think this is the weakest of all the objections to the Bill. I venture to 1488 say that the provision of this Bill with regard to officers gives just as wide powers as are exercised by County Councils in England, and it actually gives wider powers than the Nationalist Bill of 1888. If this is an insult to Irishmen, there was a worse insult in their own Bill in 1888. The Secretary to the County Council in Ireland is to be appointed and removed by the Joint Committee. The Clerk to the Council—the corresponding officer in England—is in precisely the same position. Then, the County Surveyor by this Bill is to be appointed by the County Council, but he cannot be removed without the sanction of the Joint Committee. The County Councils are by this provision to have stronger powers with reference to the County Surveyor than the Grand Jury ever had, for the Lord Lieutenant has the power of appointing and dismissing the County Surveyor at present. I say that the Government would be neglecting their duty if they did not provide this control with regard to the County Surveyor. There is a reported case in which the late Chief Baron Pigott pointed out the importance of safeguarding the power of dismissing the County Surveyor. Why is it of vital importance? Because the County Surveyor has to deal with the contractors; and it is essential that his position should be one of independence. Then this Bill gives the County Councils the appointment of all the other officers without any control. Will the House believe it, that in the Nationalist Bill of 1888, in Section 14, they did not give the County Councils the power of appointing a single officer without the approval of the Local Government Board? How can these provisions be represented as insulting? With reference to the Secretary of the County Council, the powers of the Council are to be the same as in England; with reference to their County Surveyor, their powers are to be greater than those of the Grand Jury; and with regard to the other officers they are given absolute powers, while in their own Bill they proposed that the appointments should be all subjected to the sanction of the Local Government 1489 Board. I regret that there is no control over the making of these appointments, and I shall move in Committee to have a control established in these cases.
§ MR. BARTON
We shall see about that. I shall just give one illustration of the reason which exists for some such control. The elected Guardians of the Ennis Union held a meeting with reference to the appointment of a relieving officer, when a resolution was passed to the following effect:—That in every future election to any office under the Board no candidate shall be supported by the Nationalist Guardians unless he be a member of the National League for at least six months previous to the date of the election, and produces his certificate signed by the chairman and secretary of the branch; and further that when selecting a candidate to be put forward for election, the minority of the Nationalist Guardians should be bound to act and vote with the majority present and voting.That is the Ennis test. Surely some control ought to be exercisable over such tactics. Then, we come to what has been called the "Put-them-m-the-dock" clause. But why that name? There is not a single feature of criminal law in the clause. There is no dock, no indictment on a criminal charge, no punishment, no fine, no imprisonment. It is not a criminal clause; the nickname is a misnomer. Is it an insult to Ireland that corruption should be dealt with by the Courts? In 1889 this House passed the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act, which makes corruption on the part of a member of a Public Body a misdemeanour punishable by two years' imprisonment with hard labour or £500 fine or both. That Act was passed in consequence of some corruption on the part of a Public Body in London; and that is the law of the land. Clause 21 of the Nationalist Local Government Bill made a similar offence punishable by a fine of £100, recoverable by one ratepayer. That is more worthy of the name of a "Put-them-in-the-dock" clause. I was surprised to hear an hon. Member opposite say that he could not see the analogy of an Election 1490 Petition, because an Election Petition could only set aside an election, while this Bill proposes that the Lord Lieutenant should nominate a new Council. But an Election Petition can not only set aside an election, but it can seat a new Member, and the very Member who was rejected by the constituency. Is it the power of removal which is an insult? That power has been in force in Ireland for something like forty years. The Poor Law Guardians are capable of being removed by the Local Government Board; and that power has been frequently exercised in Ireland during the last ten or eleven years, and it has not been suggested that the power of removal was a special insult to Ireland. Hon. Members opposite proposed in their own County Government Bill that the District Councils should be removable by the Local Government Board. I will go further. When the Cork Board of Guardians was suspended I read an article in the Pall Mall Gazette which contained this sentence:—We express our satisfaction with the action taken by the Local Government Board in Ireland in suspending the Cork Board of Guardians.If it is the law of the land that the members of Public Bodies may be made amenable to the law for corruption, I do not think it can be said that this clause goes too far in including malversation and oppression. What is malversation and oppression? I will give four instances of malversation. In 1884, during one of the Coercion Acts; of the hon. Members opposite, the Roscommon Board of Guardians gave outdoor relief of £1 a week to the families of the suspects. The nominal relief rate at the time was 1s. 6d. to 3s. At the time they received this pay most of families were in possession of horses, sheep and cattle, as well as land. This was stopped, however, by a sealed Order from the Local Government Board. What was the second example of malversation? When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), in 1886, was Chief Secretary for Ireland he obtained from Parliament £20,000 for the relief of certain Unions in the West of Ireland. In six weeks the number 1491 of people in receipt of out-door relief rose from one thousand to one hundred thousand, and £36,000 was spent on the security of the £20,000. Men with large herds of cattle and sheep were relieved; a gombeen money-lender was relieved; a contractor to the Board Was relieved; a farmer holding over one thousand acres of land was treated as a pauper, and in some districts there were more persons on the relief list than were living in the district. If that is not malversation of public money, I do not know what is; and if hon. Members opposite suggest that the place in which that occurred within the last five or six years is fit to be trusted with Local Government powers without some control, I do not fancy that it is the opinion of the general body of Members. When the Seed Supply Act was passed, men who had been absent ten or twelve years in America, and were not in Ireland at all, were returned as having been supplied with seed; others who had been dead many years, and women who did not own, and who had never owned land were also On the list I will give one more example of malversation—I think it is the worst—which approaches to oppression. Boards of Guardians, under the power of the Local Government Board, were dissolved for applying the funds of the ratepayers to illegal objects such as the relief of Plan of Campaign tenants.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN (Cork Co., N.E.)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman mention to us any one case in which a victim of the Plan of Campaign has received out-door relief from any Union in Ireland, because I declare to this House that it is an absolute misstatement.
§ *MR. BARTON
I would greatly like to hear the hon. Member upon this subject. These four examples of malversation justify the provision of the Bill dealing with malversation. Now I come to deal with "oppression." I believe there is danger of oppression. Is there in the South and West of Ireland a spirit prevalent which tends to beget oppression? I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the 1492 Member for Bridge ton is present. On the 30th June, 1886, the right hon. Member said—Nothing but the fact that the police and Resident Magistrates were in the hands of astrong Central Government preserved certain districts in the South and West of Ireland from wholesale massacre.I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman what has happened since 1886 to alter that opinion? But some may say that, although this spirit of oppression exists, it never has been shown in the operations of any Board of Guardians. I will give a clear example to prove that this spirit has been manifested during the last two or three years by a Board of Guardians. In September, 1890, the Tipperary Board of Guardians unanimously passed a resolution expressing unqualified approval of boycotting and the Plan of Campaign, which was quite a usual proceeding, and the Guardian who proposed the resolution, in describing these two things said:—They were poor weapons in place of what Tipperary held in past times, when we met the tyrants at Ballycoby and Ballydavid, and at Tipperary here in the hotel.What happened at these three places? At Ballycoby two bailiffs and a constable were killed, and a landlord and two constables were wounded. At Ballydavid in 1870 Mr. Cole Baker, a landlord, was shot while taking his morning walk, and at the Tipperary hotel Mr. Bredall, while collecting his rents, was shot, and died afterwards.
§ *MR. BARTON
I am glad to hear the hon. Member interrupt, for he must do one of two things. He must either deny these things or defend them. All I ask him as a Member of this House and a Representative of Ireland to answer is, whether, if such things exist, this House is justified in passing a Local Government Bill without strict and strenuous safeguards? The right hon. Member for Bridgeton was right in 1886, and I regret to say that in the South and West of Ireland there still remains the spirit of those days. Then I ask this further question: Have there been cases of oppression with regard 1493 to Boards of Guardians? What do Poor Law Guardians do under the Labourers Act? That was an Act which gave the Board of Guardians power to erect labourers' cottages upon land and to take land for the purpose. Luckily for the unfortunate owners of land and farmers, there was provided an appeal to the Privy Council. There were 227 appeals, of which 196 were successful. The grounds of these successful appeals were that the selection of the land was vexatious, not bonâ fide, for purposes of annoyance, punishment, or revenge. Cottages were put on the land of boycotted men and landgrabbers, and other unpopular persons. Will hon. Members justify Boards of Guardians in so selecting lands, or disapprove the Privy Council for preventing them doing so? And will they disapprove this Bill for trying to put some check on practices of this kind? Let me give a case, that of Mrs. Bolton—I believe a relative of Mr. Bolton, whose name has often been attacked by hon. Members opposite. Five cottages were proposed to be put upon one farm of forty acres, on which there were already two cottages. Would the House be surprised that the Privy Council upset that scheme? Then would the Government be discharging its duty if it did not deal with such a subject as this? The only fault I have to find is, I would like to see a more effective provision to deal with it. A word more about this oppression. We are told that it is a new crime. I challenge any lawyer in the House—I see the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) in his place—to say it is a new crime. It is a crime as old as the law of this land. You can find precedents of indictments for oppression in Chitty's Criminal Law. In the State trials you will find a Chief Justice impeached for oppression in this House. You will find a definition of it in every law book from Blackstone down to Stephen's Digest of the Criminal Law. If you apply it to this particular form of oppression you can define it thus:—"A public officer under colour of his public office doing injury to another from an improper motive, which may be inferred from the nature of the act 1494 or the circumstances of the case." It has been urged that we ought to trust the Irish people, but right hon. Gentlemen opposite only trust them when it is a question of the abandonment of the rights and the liberties of Irish Loyalists. We have been taunted that the Government came into power on a policy of no coercion; but now hon. Gentlemen opposite are approaching the General Election with a cry for the coercion of Ulster. In this Bill I am supporting safeguards which will protect my opponents and not my supporters in my constituency. How, then, can it be said that Ulster men want ascendency. What they want is to remove ascendency, and to live with equal laws under an Imperial Parliament. The hon. Member for Waterford wrote in his recent article that the Grand Jury system is the last remnant of the old power and ascendency of the landlord class. Well, we are asking hon. Gentlemen opposite to remove it. It is they who wish to keep up that ascendancy in order that they may have an excuse for Home Rule. The alternative which they would set up to this Bill and to the whole policy of the Unionist Party is by establishing Home Rule to set up in Ireland a permanent ascendency, so cruel and tyrannous that no British subject has ever yet consented to endure it.
§ (6.9.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I quite agree with one remark of the hon. Member who has just sat down that there is a great deal of unreality in this Debate. Even the warmth of the hon. Member has failed to impart any reality into it. Yet I think that neither the Bill nor the Debate will be altogether useless, because in the Bill there is a declaration of policy by Her Majesty's Government, and its real importance consists in this—that it is a statement of the view they take of the remedial measures which they would like to apply to Ireland. I have a great deal of doubt as to the policy of the Government in some respects. We do not know whether bi-metallism is part of their policy, but we have reason to believe that Protection is, judging by the 1495 speech of the Prime Minister the other day. As regards Ireland, however, there is no doubt that their policy, which began with coercion in 1886, is to receive its crown and confirmation in this Local Government Bill of 1892. Therefore, we ought not to confine ourselves to minute details of the Bill, but to take it in its wide sense and ask ourselves whether it holds out any prospect that, if passed, it would do good to Ireland. There are five tests which may be applied to a measure of this kind. In the first place, to be successful the Bill ought to be similar in its provisions to those which have been passed for England and Scotland. In the next place, it ought to be a Bill which would satisfy Ireland; in the third place, it ought to tend to pacify Ireland; in the fourth place, it should cause the Local Authority to work in harmony with the Central Authority; and fifthly, it should, if possible, be so framed as to teach the Irish people the mode of self-government, and to fit them for exercising such powers as may be conferred upon them by any larger measure of self-government that Parliament may think fit to pass. Now, I do not think that the tests I propose are unfair ones. Take the first test. No one will deny that this measure is entirely dissimilar to the Acts that have been passed for the Local Government of England and Scotland. There are six points of difference between this measure and the English and Scotch Acts. In the first place, the Joint Committee that is proposed by this Bill, and which would have the effect of checking the Irish County Councils, has no place in the English and Scotch Acts. In the second place, the Sheriff who is to be appointed the Chairman under this Bill will be a totally different person from the English Chairman or the Scotch Sheriff. Then there is the question of the control of the police, which in England and Scotland is left in the hands of the Local Authority, but which is dealt with on an entirely different principle in this measure. There is, again, nothing like the cumulative voting in this Bill to be found in the English and Scotch Acts. The illiterate voter is also dealt with upon an entirely 1496 different principle in this Bill from the others. The sixth point of difference is the power which this Bill proposes to give to remove members of the County Council, and which is not to be found in the English and Scotch Acts. The existence of these important differences between this measure and the English and Scotch Acts prevents the Bill from being in the least degree a fulfilment of the pledge which has been given by the Government that the legislation on this subject should be on the same lines for the three Kingdoms. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General for Ireland has said that the object of the Government is to legislate for each part of the United Kingdom by means of measures adapted to each of the three countries. That is an elastic phrase, and will cover every Coercion Act that has ever been passed. Therefore, as far as equal legislation for the three countries is concerned, this Bill has not advanced a single step in the right direction. Then I ask whether it can be satisfactory to the Irish people. A sufficient answer to that question was given on the night of the First Reading of the Bill, when, out of 101 Irish Members, only fifteen went into the Division Lobby in support of it. As the Irish Members have, therefore, rejected it, I would point out to the House the absurdity of forcing the Bill upon them. The Irish Members say:—"We prefer to go on with our Grand Juries rather than have this machinery imposed upon us, which we think will work worse—will gall and annoy us." In that respect how unlike the position we in Scotland took when English and Scotch Local Government Bills were brought in! We did not regard them as perfect, but we endeavoured to amend them; and I think I may say with safety that there was a general desire in the House to take them as the basis of the system, and to put forward honest and sincere endeavours to make the very best of them so that they would work well for the country. Can it be supposed that anything of the kind will happen in this case? And the absurdity goes further. In the case of the English Bill we had a profitable discussion, because we knew what we were talking about. A 1497 large number of English Members had practical experience of the working of English County Government, and the rest of us knew the outline of it. In the case of Scotland, the discussion was similarly profitable. What would be the case if we were sure of getting into Committee on this Bill? The Irish members would no doubt know a good deal about it; but the Irish Members would be outvoted. They would conduct the discussions in the House, which would present very much the same appearance as at present. The Treasury Bench would be occupied by the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General, who would give more or less perfunctory answers to the objections of the Irish Members. The Division bell would ring, and the English majority would vote down the Irish Members without even having heard their arguments and the answers given. We know perfectly well from past experience how Irish matters are dealt with. We English and Scotch Members are not in a position to help Irish Members, because we are ignorant of the facts. How many English and Scotch Members can explain what is the incidence and function of baronial cess? This Bill requires interpretation and explanation on the part of somebody who understands Local Government in Ireland to enable us to properly value its effects. Therefore, I say that the Irish Members are in a worse position than even the Scotch Members were, because they could appeal to and count on a certain amount of knowledge on the part of Englishmen which does not exist in this case. The fact is, that what we shall have will be a repetition of the old duel between Dublin Castle and the Representatives of the Irish nation. The latter will be over-ruled, and those whose cause will prevail are those who do not know anything of the facts. We might almost as well give a commission to the Government to employ the assistance of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for all the effect which the opinions and views of Irish Members are likely to have. We might as well assent to the Local Government of Ireland being controlled by a code of rules to be drawn up by the Lord 1498 Lieutenant without the intervention of Parliament at all. If that does not strike the House as absurd, I am afraid that no words will make it appear absurd; and the only fact that prevents it from being so ridiculous is that we have done it so often before. And here I am obliged to fall back on the dictum of the First Lord of the Treasury when he brought in this Bill, and to say that not only is the particular section to which he referred, but that the Bill as a whole, is an instance of the tendency of Legislative Bodies to do a stupid thing only because it has been done before. Then I come to ask whether the Bill will tend to pacify Ireland? We have all been accustomed to agree that the difficulty in Ireland is largely of a social order, arising from the alienation of the people from the law, from suspicion and distrust felt towards the agents of the law, and felt particularly towards the Central Authorities of the Government. Will this Bill tend to remove these evils? So far as I can follow it, it will tend to accentuate and exasperate them. And I can tell you why: It will divide every Local Body into hostile parts. We shall have the representatives of the people looking upon the County Council as their authority, and the County Council anxious to pose on every occasion as the representatives of the majority of the people. We shall have, on the other hand, the representatives of the Grand Jury on the Joint Committee resisting what the County Council proposes, regarding themselves as called upon to resist, and receiving their functions as a sort of fortress or entrenchment from which the landlord class can defend itself. And I apprehend the facts that the two bodies are not left to face each other in equal proportions, and that the Sheriff is forced upon them as a Chairman, are indications of the intention of the Government to let the scales incline in favour of the landlord class and in favour of the non-representative body. Then I pass over the other safeguards and come to the question of the Judges trying the County Councils, as I view this as the most important. Surely, remembering 1499 the past history of Ireland, there is no body of persons in that country whose position it is more desirable to safeguard and to remove from suspicion of political partisanship than the Irish Judges. The House knows there have been some instances in which the Irish Judges have shown political partisanship. I have no doubt everyone will remember the case of Chief Justice May and the charge which he delivered in the beginning of 1880, or the end of 1879, and which was of so strong a partisan nature that public opinion, even in Dublin, insisted upon his withdrawal from further conduct of the case. However much Judges desire to avoid imputation of this kind, it is one to which they are often exposed, and therefore the Government ought to take every means of removing them from suspicion. Can anyone imagine a cause more likely to renew that suspicion and to aggravate the distrust felt towards the administrators of the law than their introduction into political cases of this kind? The Attorney General made an ingenious comparison between the trial of the County Councils and the trial of Election Petitions by the Judges, and the hon. Member for Mid Armagh (Mr. Barton) recurred to that analogy with a view of defending the proposals. But there are several large distinctions. In the first place, an Election Petition is a trial between parties, between diverse opinions, and therefore it is in the nature of an ordinary civil suit. In the next place, it is to be tried upon definite law. Our election law is now well set; we know what the law is, and therefore the Judges have a definite base on which to go. They are not left merely to their own discretion in creating law for themselves, because the law in regard to one case immediately becomes applicable to another, and to both Political Parties. But in this case we have a law which is evidently to be applied to one class—the County Councils, the representatives of the people, and in favour of those who allege malversation or oppression. Why is this? Here I fall back upon the instances which were given by the hon. Member for Mid Armagh to show 1500 what he considered cases of malversation and oppression. I ask whether his cases of malversation and oppression were not rather cases of political partisanship. Every one of the cases which the hon. Member cited was a case in which a Political Party was involved; they were not cases in which people had tried to enrich themselves—not cases of corruption like the cases alleged against the officers of the Metropolitan Board of Works. They were only political disputes, in which a Local Body was charged with using its Local Authority in order to take sides in a political contention. These, however, are not cases to which the ordinary law is to be applied, but are cases of a purely political nature, in which the Judges will generally become involved as political partisans. The hon. Member for Mid Armagh gave another illustration with regard to corruption. He said that was already punishable by law. Why, then, is it not left to the law? Why introduce provisions into the law of Ireland which do not exist in the law of England if you have in the latter law a provision which is employed to cover the case of Ireland? Hon. Members have complained that we have talked of this as if it were a criminal prosecution, but it will be remembered that when the First Lord of the Treasury introduced the Bill he spoke of County Councils being "found guilty," and whether it was intended or not, this marked the animus of the intention with which the provision was inserted. Now I come to the question, "What is oppression?" The hon. Member for Mid. Armagh has endeavoured to deal with that. He has told us the effect of the law, but the instances he gave did not seem to me to have much relevance to the proceedings of a County Council. The House will have observed that the hon. Member implied some criminal act done, some bodily harm inflicted.
§ MR. BARTON
I said that an act of oppression meant injury done. I admit that in the majority of cases it was bodily harm.
§ MR. BRYCE
Well, I should have liked to have heard other instances. I am bound to say that there was 1501 nothing in the cases cited, and I heard nothing in the Debate on the First Reading tending to throw light on the vague and general term "oppression," though much has been said about safeguards against the possible action of Local Bodies in Ireland. The cases which would probably arise in Ireland would be those in which some political issue would be involved, some Party difference arising, attempts at boycotting or favourable contracts given for political reasons, or someone chosen for an appointment because he belonged to a particular political Party, or the use of the power of the Council in one instance and not in another to the advantage of one person and disadvantage of another. So far as I can see, and looking at what happens, they are cases of this kind which are contemplated as within the purview of the Bill, and it appears to me that the words in the Bill leave open the widest possible margin to the Judges to act according to their discretion—permitting, in fact, a Judge to take a political view in the creation of a new class of offences, and to enforce the law against those offences. I cannot conceive a more odious, a more dangerous duty to impose upon a Judge, and I earnestly hope that the Judges themselves will refuse to undertake such duty. In any case, I think it is a part of the Bill which we are bound to resist to the last. Now I come to my fourth question, "What are the relations which will be established between the Central Authority and the Local Authorities?" It has been asked, "Is there any friction in the relations in Scotland under the Local Government Act?" No, there is not, because in Scotland we have not got that severance of classes which unhappily exists in Ireland; there is no animosity between classes. There are men on the County Councils in Scotland belonging to both the landlord and occupying classes, and there is no disposition to oppose anyone because he does not belong to a particular Party. But is that so in Ireland? Will not Party animosities be strengthened 1502 by the Bill? The whole tenour of the speech of the hon. Member for Mid Armagh shows how different is the condition of things in Ireland, and his whole argument was to show the necessity of safeguards to protect one class from the attacks of the other. That is why we feel the danger of the conflict between the Local and the Central Authority under this Bill. It is well known in Ireland—it is a tradition—that the Central Authority sympathises with the class from which it springs, and supports that class—the landlord class—represented by the Grand Juries. Therefore County Councils will not expect to have justice from the Central Authority in Dublin; they will not look to this as an impartial authority in the sense that we in Scotland look to our Central Authority as impartial between two sections or parties. It is, unfortunately, the fact that in Ireland the division of classes is such that the one is suspicious of the other, and this constitutes the great difficulty of local administration in Ireland, for actions naturally take a tinge of colour from these local circumstances. ("Hear, hear!") The Chief Secretary cheers that statement, and I am reminded of the speech of the hon. Member for Mid Armagh, who carried his argument in favour of safeguards so far as to show that if these were so much wanted then you ought not to have this Bill at all. The way in which I would like to put it is this. I believe that to have this Bill without popular representation on the Central Authority with a strength that can only come from the will of the people will be to aggravate the conflict of classes in Ireland, will make government from a Central Authority more difficult, and provoke more dissension than there has existed in the past. The conclusion I draw is this: in forming a scheme of Local Government we should form a Central Authority also, a Central Body strong and trusted by the people to exercise that control which Local Bodies no doubt do sometimes require. We do not deny that control is required. I might take an illustration from the United States and show that in every State of the Union a great many safeguards are imposed upon the Local Authority. They are 1503 imposed by the people of the State with the desire to mark out precisely the path for their own Local Authority, and to subject them to the general law. They can trust the application of the general law when the action of their Local Authority has to be controlled. So will it be in Ireland when there is a strong Central Authority in which the people have confidence. I will not dwell on the last of the points I intended to refer to that the Bill will not in any way promote the fitness of the people of Ireland for self-government. A scheme of Local Government like this, "cribbed, cabined, and confined," will afford the people no training, no teaching towards that self - government they desire, for the Local Bodies, in the exercise of the circumscribed powers allotted to them, will be threatened on every side with the power of appeal against them to control and dissolve them. If they exercise the powers which are left to them they will have the temptation held out to them to take rash and ill-considered steps, knowing that these steps can be checked and stopped, knowing that they have comparatively little responsibility for their own actions. Responsibility should accompany power; it is a safeguard to power, and when you narrow power and destroy responsibility you can have no efficient self-government. I agree with the First Lord of the Treasury that the Bill has little value. I am not surprised that he has put it lower in importance than the Land Purchase scheme, though, judging from the state of things in Ulster, that Act needs much amendment if it is to have any great result. Who is this Bill intended to please? I do not think it very much pleases the loyal minority, though one or two Members of that Party have screwed themselves up to the point of giving the Bill a qualified approval. We know it does not please the bulk of the Tory Party, if we may judge from what passed at the Birmingham meeting of Conservative Associations. I do not suppose it gives much pleasure to Members on this side of the House who retain the name of Liberals and are opposed to Home Rule, for they can hardly think it is a 1504 satisfactory redemption of the pledges they have given that Ireland shall have equality of treatment to England. A Bill like this "keeps the word of promise to the ear and breaks it to the hope." The Bill reminds me of the proposals for Constitutional Government for Japan, full of declarations of popular rights and recognition of the principle of representative government, with the right of elected representatives to pass legislation and vote supplies, and then at the end a clause giving to the Mikado the right in urgent cases, he being sole judge of urgency, to supersede the action of the Legislature, make his own laws, and raise his own supplies. As I look at the Bill I recall the sentiment in regard to the revolutionary Government of France, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la mêmechose." The more Bills you pass against the wishes of the people, the more appears the folly of the mistaken policy. It is time, after all our experience, that we should see this. This Bill, if passed, will only add one more to a long list of measures forced upon reluctant Ireland by an English Government, sometimes in honest ignorance, sometimes in conscious craft and insincerity; and if ever this Bill comes into operation, it will supply another proof that the only reform that will ever succeed in Ireland and bear the fruit of success in the peace and contentment of Ireland will be a reform enacted by Irishmen themselves for the better government of their own country.
§ (6.48.) Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. William O'Brien.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.