§ 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.)1537
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ (4.32.) MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN (Cork Co., N.E.)
We must all be conscious that to a very large extent this Debate is already adjourned to another and a wider place. If the Government really desire to have this Bill, I confess that I am disposed to let them have it, because I have a pretty shrewd suspicion that before it gets into working order, this Bill, and possibly one or two other pieces of bungling and mischievous Tory legislation, will be made the subjects of a clean sweep by a new Parliament and a Government which have other views about Ireland than the present Government. If the First Lord of the Treasury only desires to complete his programme before going to the country, I should be disposed to let him have the Bill to the top of his bent, and let the country know that we have at last reached the limit of Tory concessions in regard to Ireland; that this brilliant Bill represents the last—the supreme—effort of Tory statesmanship to satisfy the aspirations of at least fifteen millions of the Irish race scattered all over the globe. I do not think we could possibly do better than go to the country with this Bill, and tell the people that this is the Tory alternative to what was promised in 1886. We can lay it before the people in all its minute and multitudinous absurdities, and ask them if there is a single man in England who believes—least of all the author of the Bill himself—that it will provide a substitute for the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). Does anyone believe that this Bill will to any extent abate the Irish difficulty? I doubt whether there is a single gentleman in the most reactionary corner of the Benches opposite who will stand up and say that a Bill of this kind, which contains an affront to Irish national sentiment in every clause, and proceeds on the assumption that you are dealing with an inferior and a subject race, is going to satisfy the national aspirations which have existed for ages in the Irish heart, aspirations for which thousands and hundreds of thousands of men have suffered and died, 1538 and for which to-day thousands are just as ready to suffer and die, even if it be on the Shankhill Road when Ulster charges with all its chivalry. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) does not even claim that this Bill is a substitute for Home Rule. But if it is not meant to satisfy the Irish people what is it meant to do? Who wants it? Not the Irish people. There is not a single Irish Nationalist Representative of any shade or any section who has not told you that he rejects this Bill, and not only that—he rejects it as a national insult and a wild practical joke. Do the Protestant farmers in Ulster want it? I challenge hon. and gallant and learned Members from Ulster opposite to deny that the Protestant farmers in Ireland detest the Irish Grand Jury system as cordially as we do. This is a Bill not to abolish the Grand Jury system, but to make it a permanent institution—a permanent estate of the realm. The effect of this Bill will be to constitute the Grand Juries a mannikin House of Lords in every county with absolute power and no responsibility. I hope hon. Gentlemen will submit this Bill to the forthcoming Convention of Ulstermen in Belfast, and I venture to say that nine out of every ten of these Protestant farmers would rather have one Irish National Parliament than have these thirty-two Standing Committees of local landlords. So far as I know, and so far as we have heard, no one in Ulster wants this Bill. Everybody rejects and despises it. We know that even Tory Members from Ulster have only been induced to swallow the Bill with a considerable number of grimaces. And why? Because they know that it simply agitates the Local Government Question without settling it. If by any possibility the Bill should pass, the County Councils would be simply thirty-two centres of perpetual agitation and discontent in Ireland, with a case so strong that they would probably succeed in dislocating County Government altogether, and in disestablishing the Standing Joint Committees and Grand Juries. During the Debate, at least one independent Tory Member from Ulster has been induced to toe the line, and we appreciated the gallantry with which the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) attempted to show a trace of a somewhat belated enthusiasm. But to get the Ulster 1539 landlords to approve of the Bill, you have been compelled to hand over to them the absolute control of the police, and to guarantee that all county officials in Ireland, Members of the "loyal minority," shall, be placed beyond the control and above the authority of the County Councils, and be insured full salaries and ample pensions at the expense of the cesspayers over whom this Bill will set them as masters. You can reconcile the loyal minority to almost anything if you will only put a new batch of Tory pensioners on the country. The House recollects that when you wanted to reconcile the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) to the Land Act of 1887 which he denounced so vehemently and so dramatically—
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
The House will remember the dramatic exclamation of the hon. Member, "God help the Irish tenantry!" and the an nouncement in the Tory papers that the hon. Member had cancelled his engagements to speak at Tory meetings.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The hon. Member is speaking of a different Act altogether and I do not choose it to go to the country, even from the hon. Member, that I opposed the Land Act of 1887. As a simple matter of fact, I laboured to make that Act better than it was, and succeeded in doing it, I think. The hon. Member is referring to the Arrears Bill.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
Not a bit of it. When the Bill came down from the House of Lords the hon. Gentleman denounced the Amendments made by the House of Lords, and exclaimed, "God help the tenantry of Ireland!" and cancelled his engagements to speak at Tory meetings. That Act involved a Land Commissionership for a gentleman who, in addition to all his other virtues, was a near relation of the hon. Gentleman The hon. Gentleman conquered his aversion to the Lords' Amendments with a patriotism and disinterestedness quite worthy of the loyal minority. What man or section of men nearer to Ireland than West Birmingham wants this Bill, or has any feeling for it except one of contempt and ridicule? I listened with attention to the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for 1540 Ireland (Mr. Madden) while he made what I may call, without disrespect to him, a feeble canter over the course. The feebleness was in the facts and not in the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman nailed the fifth clause, the "put-them-in-the-dock" clause, to the mast as the Government colours. The Government appears to have chosen that clause as their oriflamme of war. The First Lord of the Treasury was indignant with the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) for not dealing at length with that clause, as if any detailed argument were required to show that the criminal trial of County Councillors at the whim of any twenty cesspayers is about the grossest insult ever offered to a country under the guise of offering it liberty. We have reason to be grateful to the Government for having the courage of their convictions about this clause, and I would suggest that the only possible improvement they could make in it as a means of conciliating Nationalist sentiment and enlarging Irish liberties would be to substitute two Removable Magistrates for the two Judges of Assize, and to define the mysterious word "oppression" in as large and generous a sense as the term "intimidation" was interpreted by the Removable Magistrates under the Coercion Act, so as to include oppressing a member of the loyal minority with "a humbugging sort of a smile." The hon. and learned Member for Mid Armagh (Mr. Barton) made a speech of learned length, which went to show not that this is a Local Government Bill, but, if I may use the phrase, the worse it is the better; the argument was that the Irish, people are so incorrigible that they cannot be trusted with local self-government. I believe the hon. Member's ear is tuned to higher music than that Orange cry. The hon. and learned Gentleman is only an Ulster man by a geographical expression of speech, and we have always regarded him as one of those men who in an Irish Parliament would make the minority respectable and respected, and possibly convert it into a majority when the pledge to die in the last ditch fighting against the Queen's troops shall have disappeared from the qualifications for a seat in Parliament for loyal Ulster. The hon. Gentleman was very impressive on the subject of the term "oppression," and invited me to deal with the iniquities of Irish Boards of Guardians in giving 1541 relief to evicted tenants, and daring to plant a labourer's cottage on the sacred soil of the loyal minority. The hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends have never been able to forgive the Boards of Guardians since they were relieved of the domination of the ex officio members, the most effete and corrupt oligarchy that ever existed. I should be delighted to follow him into these matters; but I fear you, Sir, would think it wide of the mark. He also discussed the victims of our oppression in Ireland. The only victims of our oppression I am acquainted with are the rack-renters, whom we have forced to disgorge two millions a year of dishonest rack-rents; and in that form of oppression we had this Tory Parliament and the Government for our accomplices. Let me remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that while this Debate was proceeding an English Judge and jury were appraising the value of this talk about our victims. Did he ever hear of Mrs. Eliza O'Connor, of New Tipperary? She was one of the victims mourned over by the Times in large type, and for whom the Primrose dames appealed to the British public for subscriptions. The English jury having seen the lady apart from the glamour and the poetry of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, and having heard the hon. Member for South Tyrone, expressed their sense of the oppression practised upon this famous New Tipperary victim by awarding her one shilling damages, and the Lord Chief Justice of England expressed his sense of the situation by not granting her expenses. But all the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks as to oppression were utterly irrelevant to the case of the County Councils, for under the Bill they would have rather less power than an Irish Board of Guardians. They could not give sixpence to an evicted tenant, or build a labourer's cottage without the imprimatur of a Tory Standing Joint Committee. The masterly analysis of their powers under this Bill by the hon. Member for West Belfast remains unanswered and unanswerable; his contention remains untouched, that in substance and in fact the only power the County Councils would have would be to mend roads that were mended before them. For my part, I can conceive no opportunity for the County Councils to practise oppression unless it is supposed that they would use the stones they got to mend the roads to 1542 throw at the heads of the loyal minority. The only oppression in connection with the County Council would be that which the Councils themselves would suffer. In power they will be beneath the level of a parish vestry, while in all the acts of their lives they will be liable to be tripped up and cuffed by Official Boards. Boards of Guardians were dissolved for passing political resolutions, and these County Councils will be swept away by a Judge of Assize for passing a resolution protesting against their own sufferings. The Attorney General for Ireland briefly invited us to reform the Bill in Committee. Our answer is, "Reform it altogether." The thing is a mockery and imposture in every part. Nobody believes in it, and nobody wants it, except possibly the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who still preserves a fond ness for the castles in the air which he built in his more sanguine days, and has the same interest in his plans as a maiden lady crossed in love has in a faded love letter. We are told that it is not safe to give the majority in Ireland local self-government unless you keep cuffing and snubbing them, and that it is not safe to shake hands with an Irishman unless he is first handcuffed. That is a singular position to take up after six years of resolute Tory government. The First Lord of the Treasury led us to believe the other night at Manchester that he had brought us all to be as meek as mice in Ireland, and that he was in a position to bid defiance to agitation in future. Does the light hon. Gentleman disavow the sentiment I attribute to him?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I do not recognise the words.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
I cannot give the golden English eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman, but the view of the average Manchester man of the words of the right hon. Gentleman was that he was so far successful in Ireland that he could bid defiance to agitation in future. But with regard to local self-government for Ireland, in the words of Festus, "the opportune time has not yet arrived" for treating the Irish people as if they were other than ticket-of-leave men under the surveillance of the police. With a Tory Government the opportune time will never arrive; and those who are sitting here in the last years of the twentieth century—if Tory principles of government prevail 1543 in Ireland in the meantime—will have some brave Mr. Balfour of the future standing up in the House and assuring the Commons of England that he has made a clean sweep of Irish disaffection, and is just on the eve of treating them as real citizens of the Empire; but the opportune time has not yet arrived. If your theory is that we are a nation of thieves, rogues, and Hottentots, treat us as you would treat Hottentots—take away our votes and rule us from head-quarters by drum-head court-martial, and take away the pretence of conciliating Irish national sentiment, and you will be doing as well as you are doing by this Bill. Hon. Members opposite taunt us with our little differences on minor points. We have our little differences like other people; like the Orange Tory Party in Ulster. I ask hon. Members to look at home. It is the habit to talk of the loyal minority in Ireland as if it were a consolidated unity with interests and sympathies absolutely identical. There can be no more ridiculous mistake than that. The Grand Jurymen and Tory placemen, in whose interest this Bill is promoted, are only the minority of the loyal minority. I challenge contradiction when I say that so far as this Bill is concerned, and so far as every detail of the Irish Land Question is concerned, the interest and sympathies of the Protestant farmers, North as well as South, are with us; and if they were left alone by outsiders—Scotchmen who have left their country for their country's good, and English Prime Ministers who are one moment haunting the lobbies of the Vatican with petitions for help, and the next flinging their horrid war brands among the Orange rowdies of Belfast—they would be still more with us. The right hon. and learned Gentleman told us that Irishmen fight bitterly enough, but, when the fight is over their instinct is to shake hands and be friends. That is so, and will be so, in Ulster. Five-sixths of the loyal minority are with us to a man on the questions of Local Government and compulsory purchase in Ulster, and I invite anybody who denies that to make them test questions at the Belfast Convention and see if their army will not desert them in regiments, leaving them nothing but General Officers and Prime Ministers. If the Government dream of passing this Bill—and apparently they do not—they will be 1544 simply doing for the thousandth time that stupid thing—foisting oh Ireland what she does not want—instead of doing the one wise thing they have never done or attempted to do, giving her what she does want, and what would content her, leaving you no poorer, but making her far richer. You cannot go to the country with a better epitome, a more compendious short catechism of the theory and doctrine of Tory government in Ireland than this Bill, with all its insolence and absurdities. I would not argue with the man who believes that such Bills as these are going to rid you of the Irish question. At the end of this Tory Parliament, just as at the beginning of it, Irish nationality confronts you, not weaker, but stronger and more irresistible. There is, I verily believe, at this moment no living force in all the politics of the world more widespread, more passionate, more beyond your power to weaken or destroy. In attempting to get rid of the Irish nation from our small island you have created other Irelands in Canada, the United States, and Australia, and have raised at least fifteen millions of Irishmen with a love for Ireland and a passion for Irish nationality, which you can no more destroy than you can destroy the green of the Irish fields or the oxygen of the Irish air. These fifteen millions can be conciliated; they have already been conciliated to a most marvellous degree by the mere hope and promise of legislation of a different character from this Bill; and they are more ready, more eager, now than ever to take that conciliation completely, fully, and honestly to their heart's core the moment it is translated into action; but depend upon it you will never by coercion hurl from their hearts the instincts of Irish nationality, and still less when you think of befooling them by a policy of shabby, insolent, illusory half-measures, such as the Bill now before us. So far as the motion for the Second Reading is concerned, I, for one, am perfectly and absolutely indifferent, because I am fairly well assured that, whether this Bill be now read a second time or not, it will be kicked out with contempt by the constituencies before this day six months.
§ (5.1.) MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I propose, with the permission of the House, to enter upon a practical and business-like 1545 examination of the provisions of this measure. In doing so, I am afraid that I shall make some demand upon the patience of the House, and that I shall be much more dull than the speaker who has immediately preceded me. I am afraid it is not possible for me to rise to the exalted level of his eloquence. I suppose when it was known that he would take part in this Debate it was expected that he would at once enter into competition with those Irish Members who preceded him, in multiplying epithets of vituperation generally which have been heaped upon this unfortunate measure; and certainly he has been quite as successful in that respect as any speaker who has preceded him. In the course of little more than half-an-hour he has said that this Bill is a shabby, insolent, and illusory half-measure, a mockery, an imposture, and a piece of insolence, a contemptible, ridiculous, and absolutely monstrous absurdity; that it has been proved to be a practical joke, and that it is an affront and an insult, not merely to the Irish people, but to the Irish race to the extent of fifteen millions all over the world; and, finally, that it is abounding in mischief. I confess I should be inclined to pay more attention to these flowers of rhetoric if I did not know that it is "only Pretty Fanny's way"; if I did not know that they strew the path of every proposal for reform in Ireland which has been made, not by this Government only, but by every Government, and that similar language has been heard from the hon. Gentleman and from some of his colleagues in regard to every proposal for land reform, or for the reform of government in Ireland, which has been brought in either by my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) or by the right hon. Gentleman on the other side; and yet we have seen that after some, at any rate, of these Bills have been passed into law certain hon. Gentlemen claimed them as their charter of liberty for Ireland, after having abused them as being an insult and a mockery of the aspirations of the Irish people. But there is one thing, at all events, which I may say about the speech of the hon. Member. He has not given to the House, from first to last in his speech, one single piece of evidence, one single proof, that this Bill deserves all the vituperation which has 1546 been lavished upon it. He has indulged in general criticism, consisting of abuse of everybody, chiefly of the Prime Minister and of the hon. Member for South Tyrone; but the Bill he has left entirely alone. He has told us nothing about the reasons for the general description which he has given of it. Now, it is absolutely necessary that we should go a little more into detail; and let me say that it is the difficulty and the characteristic of all discussion upon questions of Local Government that it is extremely difficulty to distinguish what is detail from what is principle. Under these circumstances it is almost impossible to carry on the Second Reading discussion in the way in which Second Reading discussions are usually carried on. I will give one illustration, in passing, of this. In opening the Debate upon the Second Reading Motion the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast made a speech which I venture to say was one of conspicuous ability, and above all of conspicuous ingenuity. The hon. Member in the course of that speech was able to establish a case against the Bill unless it can be upset. Although the hon. Member criticised a great number of its provisions, he laid his chief indictment against that part of the Bill which provides, as he says, for the control of the proceedings of the County Council by the Standing Joint Committee, which would consist of a majority of landowners. Well, but the House knows that the Committee is to consist of seven representatives of the Grand Jury and seven representatives of the County Council. Everything depends upon who is to be Chairman. The Government propose a Chairman, who the hon. Member says would in every case take part with the Grand Jury, with the representatives of the Grand Jury; and therefore that was, so long as it was unanswered, a very strong point against the Bill. But the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland got up immediately afterwards, and said the Government were well aware that the proposal was open to an objection of that kind; but that their object was to obtain an absolutely impartial Chairman, and that they were thoroughly willing to consider any suggestion that might be made on that subject. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury reminds me that he made the same statement on the First Reading. The 1547 Attorney General for Ireland said they would be willing in Committee to accept any Amendment that would carry out this object. Coming back to the Standing Joint Committee, I want to point out that it makes all the difference in the world, in regard to the criticism of the Bill, whether this Standing Joint Committee, which it is alleged is to have control of the County Council, is really to consist of a majority of landowners, or whether it is provided that if there should happen to be any difference of opinion between the representatives of the County Council and the representatives of the Grand Jury, it will be settled by a perfectly impartial arbitrator. In the one case there would be a serious objection to the proposal; in the other it would be altogether a different matter. This particular point, therefore, shows how difficult it is, as I have said, to separate in a discussion on the Second Heading what is opposition to the principle of the Bill from what is really only a question of Amendment in Committee. I will try, and I hope I may be successful, to extract what seems to me the principles of the Bill, difference of opinion upon which would justify a vote against the Second Reading. I say the first principle is that it is desirable to extend to Ireland Local Government, by which, of course, I mean Municipal County Government, based generally on the principles of the Scottish and English Acts. "With regard to the question of principle, if any hon. Gentleman or right hon. Gentleman does not agree that it is desirable to do that, then of course he would be justified in voting against the Second Reading, and we shall be perfectly willing to take issue with him upon it. I do not think it is quite clear what is the position of right hon. Gentlemen in reference to this matter. In the First Reading discussion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne announced the reception which he and his Party were prepared to give this Bill, and said this—Our position is to welcome any measure which points in a liberal and conciliatory direction without compromising our opinion that reform of county bodies is hopelessly insufficient to meet the requirements of Ireland; but that this reform unless constructed on an almost unattainable scale would increase the difficulties of government in Ireland.1548 In other words, the right hon. Gentleman says they were prepared to welcome any measure which pointed in a liberal and conciliatory direction; but the spirit in which they were prepared to welcome it was the spirit of their belief that it would be hopelessly insufficient to meet the demands of Ireland, and that unless it was conceived on an impossible scale it would be absolutely mischievous, because it would increase the difficulty of government in Ireland. The other night my hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), speaking also on the subject of this Bill, said—The only reform that would ever succeed in Ireland, and which would bear the fruits of peace and contentment, would be a reform enacted freely by Irishmen themselves for the free government of their own country.If this expression of opinion represents the view of right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, then it is perfectly clear that they consider that any reform of Local Government in Ireland, unless it is accompanied by Home Rule, would be-positively mischievous; and, as I say, that is undoubtedly a question of principle which I, for one, should be very happy, indeed, to discuss with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, because the position which I understand the Unionist Party take on this matter is that reform of Local Government in Ireland is desirable on its own merits absolutely, without reference to the question of Home Rule. This proposal is not intended in any sense as a peculiar form of, or as a substitute for, Home Rule. It has nothing whatever to do with Home Rule. Whether we have Home Rule or whether we do not, still we shall require an efficient and satisfactory system of Local Government in Ireland; and I say we concede this to the people of Ireland, because we believe it to be good for Ireland, because Local Government is after all the most important concession which we can make to a people; it is even more important than Parliamentary Government. Local Government has more to do with the happiness, the health, the comfort, and the welfare of the population than the greater part, at all events, of the business which is carried on in this House. For the poor especially it is of the greatest importance, because the character of their lives largely depends upon what is done for 1549 them by the Local Government under whose control they live. Further, Local Government we believe has been proved to be in this country the best political education for the people; and certainly it appears to us that Ireland stands rather in need of further political education. And then, lastly, we say it is a fair demand which has been made on the part of Ireland, and one which we clearly concede, that there should be opened up for Irishmen in Ireland an opportunity of gratifying what I may call their local ambition. For all these reasons, which, as I have said, have nothing whatever to do with Home Rule, we are anxious to see this Bill passed, and we believe it will have very considerable beneficial effect in Ireland. The second question of principle, with regard to which I should be inclined to describe a difference of opinion as justifying the rejection of this Bill, is this, that the grant of these liberties in Ireland must be accompanied by securities that they will not be abused. Well, I should like to ask, is there a difference between the two sides upon that point? I want to know do right hon. Gentlemen on this side, who are going to vote against this Bill, say that no securities are necessary? If so, they are extremely inconsistent, because most undoubtedly their whole previous course of action shows that, in their opinion, securities would be necessary, if the concession were ever to be made. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) speaking at Newcastle said—The second thing about which I have never concealed my opinion is that I, for one, will never be a party to placing a minority and the property of a minority at the mercy of a majority, in case they should be inclined to deal lawlessly.That was said in 1886, and no Irish Member below the Gangway complained of that statement as an insult to the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle contemplated as a possibility what every sensible and reasonable man must contemplate, that if Local Government is given to the Irish people these powers might be abused; and he said he, for one, would be no party to placing the minority and the property of the minority in the hands of the majority. I do not want to multiply quotations; but again I say I take it for granted, until I hear to the 1550 contrary, that the right hon. Gentleman and those he ordinarily acts with have not changed their opinions—that they believe securities are necessary, and, consequently, upon this point, at all events, there need be no difference of principle.
§ MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I think you will find I was speaking on the subject of Home Rule.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman was speaking, on the occasion of the speech from which I have quoted, in reference to Home Rule; but it appears to me that the same principle applies exactly to Local Government. If the majority in a Home Rule Parliament would be likely to, or if it would be possible that they should, abuse their powers to the disadvantage of the minority, à fortiori the members of a Local Government Body or a County Council may most probably fall into the same errors. But here is a statement which makes it still more clear. In June, 1886, referring to a plan for the extension of municipal and provincial administration such as this, the right hon. Gentleman said—Such plans unite the greatest means of mischief with the smallest promise of blessing.That is consistent with the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman that no reform of Local Government is desirable unless it has been preceded or accompanied by Home Rule. Then he goes on to say—They" (that is the plans for Local Government) "open a wide power for injustice on the part of the many to the few; it will increase the opportunities for intolerance of class and of religion.Well, that is exactly what I say. There is no reason for thinking that it would be a necessary consequence, but a possible consequence; and I venture to think that if it would be admittedly a possible consequence, it will be admitted by the right hon. Gentleman himself that it ought to be provided against. The Government surely would be failing in its duty altogether if it did not take some security against this possible abuse. They have been warned by the representatives of the Nationalist Party that they will abuse any concession of the kind. United Ireland, at the time when it was the organ of a united Party, said— 1551We will unscrupulously use every position that we capture in Ireland as a Home Rule factor to drive the enemy unsparingly off the ground.I do not say whether this threat would be carried out; but I do say that there is the intention clearly expressed—the oppression which the hon. Member who preceded me said he could not understand is there clearly pointed out—the oppression of the minority, which should be absolutely driven off the ground. Now, I want to ask, is it agreed, or is it not agreed, that it is desirable to give Local Government—full, complete, and effective Local Government—to Ireland; whether we are willing to give Home Rule or not? And, secondly, is it agreed, or is it not agreed, that if we give full, complete, and effective Local Government, we should have some securities that the powers would not be abused? If it is so agreed, then, so far as I can see, there is no difference of principle; and there is no reason why hon. and right hon. Gentlemen should not agree to the Second Reading of this Bill. There is only one other reason which, I should say, would justify a vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. It may be said, it has been said by some speakers, that although they are in favour of the extension of Local Government to Ireland upon British lines, this Bill does not fulfil its promise, and is not on British lines; and although they consider safeguards are necessary, the particular safeguards which have been selected by the Government are so absolutely intolerable in their character that they are not even worthy of a moment's consideration or of amendment in Committee.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Then we regard that as being a question of principle which divides us. Under these circumstances I will consider as briefly as I can whether this Bill is on British lines, and whether the safeguards are intolerable and unreasonable. I must say that I shall do so with much greater pleasure because I hope to convince the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby; but I cannot help believing that like the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues, he is practically against the idea of Local Government at all, Without, as I have said, the previous 1552 concession of Home Rule. I can well understand what an outcry would have been raised if we had proposed bodily to transfer either the English or the Scotch Act to Ireland. It would have been, said—"Through your profound insolence and contempt for Irish opinion you have proposed to put in this Bill provisions which may be good enough for you, but which our intelligence absolutely rejects." But it was pretended, it was declared, that the Bill has been at all events based upon the lines of this legislation. As I am going to deal with the safeguards later, I shall consider first what I may call the enabling portions of the Bill, that is to say, those portions of the Bill which deal with the character of representation and with the transfer of functions. So far as the character of the franchise is concerned, practically every man paying rate, great or small in Ireland, will be entitled to an equal vote—one man one vote—in dealing with these local affairs. There is precisely the same provision in the English and Scotch Acts. It is true that there are two new provisions. ("Hear, hear!") Very well, they are the only things you object to. There is the provision as to the cumulative vote. I am not going to defend that. I am absolutely opposed to the cumulative vote. I believe it would only irritate the majority and offer no protection to the minority; and therefore if this Bill gets into Committee I will support any Amendment, whether moved by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, or any other hon. or right hon. Members, to cut out this cumulative vote provision. But nobody can pretend that the introduction of the cumulative vote into the Bill is a question of principle which would justify the language of the hon. Member who has just sat down or the rejection of the Bill on the Second Reading. Then as to the question of the illiterate vote. Now I speak I hope with modesty, and I ask Irish Members below the Gangway is this a matter of great importance? How many illiterate voters are there in Ireland? I know there are a great number of people who claim to be illiterate voters, but nothing will make me believe that the illiterate voters can be so very numerous amongst a people so intelligent. You will say that their education is not so good as ours; but they had a good system of education before we had ours, 1553 and therefore I do not believe that the proportion of illiterate voters can really be so much greater than it is in England—and remember this is not a question of reading and writing, but that they are so illiterate that they cannot mark the ballot paper; and I say that the number of illiterate voters cannot be a matter of consequence as regards the question of franchise. This Bill does not propose to disfranchise anyone. That is not its object. The Bill proposes to protect the voter from intimidation and to maintain the secrecy of the Ballot. Well, I repeat as regards the question of franchise that this is not, as I have shown, a serious matter. The franchise is as democratic, as complete, and as full as anything we have in England or Scotland. I now come to the transfer of functions. As regards the transfer of functions, will it be believed that with one exception, which I shall deal with directly, the transfer of functions is wider than it is either in England or Scotland? In the first place—I do not lay stress upon this, but it is a very important fact, that this Bill will give to the Irish people control not merely over the County Councils, but over District or Baronial Councils—a thing which we have been promised, but which England and Scotland have still to continue to wait for.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
What can they do? Well, they can do what District Councils can do. I am not dealing now with the question of what they can do, but with the comparison between this Bill and the English and Scotch Acts; and I say that in this respect—though I do not lay very much stress upon it—the scheme is comparatively wider and more liberal than that of the English and Scotch Acts. But that is not all. The County Councils in Ireland, in the first place, can deal absolutely—with a slight exception which I shall refer to later—with the whole of the annual expenditure of the county. That is precisely the same power as exists in the English and Scotch Acts. The whole of the ordinary annual expenditure will be placed under the control of the majority of the ratepayers. Not only so, but these bodies are to be given certain powers which are not possessed by either the English or Scotch County Councils, such as the care of woods and forests, 1554 the administration of the Factory Acts, and what is of the very greatest importance, the control of the sanitary legislation. It is alleged that an exception has been made in the case of the control of the police, because it is said the County Councils will not have control over the police; but the County Councils in England cannot control the police. The control over the police is given to the Joint Committee.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Yes; practically the control and responsibility of the police is given to the Joint Committee. In London, where there is a great Local Body, we know that the control over the police is retained by the Imperial Government. Well, what happened in the Home Rule Bill? Even in the Home Rule Bill of 1886 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian thought it necessary to reserve the control of the police, at all events for a time. If he thought it necessary in a Bill of that kind to withhold the control of the police from such an important body as the Irish Parliament, à fortiori, there is some ground for withholding it at the present time, at all events, from the County Conncil. But my point is that, contrasted with English and Scotch Local Government, there is not so much difference. In neither is the control of the police given to the popular authority. But it would be a monstrous absurdity to reject a Bill which transfers fully and completely every function which is at present performed by a selected local body to a popular Democratic representative body, because the Act which makes this great concession and change does not at the same time transfer to the popular body a power which never has been enjoyed by any selected body in Ireland up to the present time. It would be to make an entirely new departure, and whatever there may be to say for it, clearly this is not the time, and clearly a fact which is not germane to the immediate question which we have under consideration, should not be imported into the Debate, in order to constitute a case of objection to the Second Reading of the Bill. I say, then, that, so far as the transfer of functions go, they are sufficiently complete, and they may even be described as being fuller than those which are 1555 enjoyed by England and Scotland. I come, however, to the safeguards which have been proposed. Now, I have said I assume that it will be admitted in all parts of the House that it is reasonable and right that some kind of securities should be provided. All we have to consider is whether these securities are entirely unreasonable—so unreasonable that it is not worth while, it is not even right and proper to consider them in Committee. Now the first remark I have to make is that all these securities are potential securities. The actual effect of them will, in practice, I believe, be almost nil, and almost insignificant. They are not conditions which guard the use of these powers, but they are precautions which are only to come into play if the powers are abused. If the Irish County Councils elected under this Bill will carry out their duties, as I hope and believe the vast majority of them will, with the spirit with which similar duties are carried out in County Councils and Town Councils in England and Scotland, these precautions, will hardly ever come into play at all. Now, what are the precautions? In the first place there is the clause to which so much objection has been taken for the arraignment of a Council in case it is guilty of corruption, of malversation, or of oppression. That is a clause which has been described again and again as an insult to the Irish people. Where does the insult lie? Does it lie in supposing that possibly one of these bodies at some time or another may be guilty of malversation, of corruption, or of oppression? Such things have been known before with popular representative bodies in England and in Scotland. They have been known in Ireland. During the administration of Lord Spencer and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Sir G. Trevelyan) ten Boards of Guardians were suppressed. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton will not say they were wrongly suppressed; I suppose he had good reason for suppressing them. I suppose he suppressed them either because they were corrupt or because they were oppressive. I ask him to say, if he did not suppress them because they were corrupt and oppressive, why did he suppress them? Does he think now they ought not to have been suppressed? I have no doubt whatever 1556 that they were rightly suppressed. If Boards of Guardians have been rightly suppressed, why may not a case arise in which—
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. and learned Gentleman is in too great a hurry. I hope he will let me pursue my argument, and in due course I will tell him what we have in England. Where is the insult, where would there be any greater insult, in suppressing County Councils than in suppressing Boards of Guardians? As far as I have heard up to the present time, it has never been considered an insulting or an offensive act to the Irish people that in these exceptional cases some of these Boards of Guardians have been suppressed. If it is admitted that an abuse of this kind against which the clause is intended to be a safeguard might take place then there is no question of principle, and the only question is as to the method. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) said the other night that his objection, as I understood him, was not to some safeguard, but it was to the safeguard adopted. He said, "Why do not you remain content with the general law of the land; why do you introduce a novel and exceptional mode of procedure?" I think that is a question fairly open to argument. But what is the general law of the land? The hon. and learned Gentleman asked, me what happens in England. In England every Local Authority—Town Council and County Council—is amenable to a Court of Law for its acts. I will take as an instance the Municipal Act of 1882—only passed ten years ago. There is a clause in that Act which is quoted from a similar clause in the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835—Every Order of the Council for the payment of money out of the Borough Fund may be removed into the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice by writ of certiorari, and may be wholly or partially disallowed or confirmed, with or without costs, according to the judgment and discretion of the Committee.In England there is a provision which gives a Court of Law the right to have arraigned before it any act of a Town Council involving the payment of money, and to decide, absolutely at its own judgment and discretion, whether that 1557 payment shall be disallowed or confirmed partially or in whole. Now, I go a step further. Supposing that the Court having done that—and there are cases in which this clause has been resorted to—supposing the Court decide that the action of the Town Council has been improper, that the expenditure has been illegal and corrupt, and thereupon asks that the resolution shall be rescinded; and suppose then that the Council is recalcitrant and refuses to obey, what happens then? The Council goes to gaol. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) prefer that method? Does he prefer that the Irish County Council, when it performs an act of corruption or oppression, shall go to gaol? Does he think this a less insulting provision than the provision of this Bill which merely says that the services of the Council shall politely be dispensed with? All I can say is, if that is the only difference between us, I do not see why we should not come to an agreement. I confess I am not so much enamoured of this clause, which brings in the two Judges, as not to be perfectly willing to substitute a clause which would, in the circumstances named, send the Irish County Councils to gaol, if they prefer that, for the clause that would make them give up their position as Councillors. The objection really seems to be a very curious one, because it is an objection to the intervention of a judicial tribunal. I have shown that so far as the intervention of a judicial tribunal is concerned the same thing is done, although, perhaps, by a rather different method, in England and Scotland as is proposed for Ireland; and if the method adopted in England is preferred I really do not see there is any sufficient importance attached, either on the Government Bench or anywhere else in this House, to this clause to prevent the objection being met as hon. Members may desire. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) left this clause alone, and I think he was very wise. He said he would not deal with it because it was too absurd. I have never known anything so absurd that the hon. Member has not been perfectly willing to deal with it in this House if he saw his opportunity. I am perfectly satisfied that, if his objection were so strong as he wished the House to suppose, his speech would have been 1558 lengthened by at least an hour by an exhaustive examination of this clause and a most complete exposition of its entire folly.
§ MR. SEXTON
I did say that this clause put into the hands of two Judges the power to deal with matters not of crime, but of prejudice and of opinion, and the power to disfranchise electors.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I admit I do not follow the hon. Member, because the offences to be brought before the Court are offences of corruption.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Yes, I know; but let us deal with them separately. There is no difficulty about corruption. Then there is the offence of malversation. Again, I say, there is no difficulty. Oppression, the hon. Member says, there also is; and the whole objection is to that word. It is for a lawyer to define that, if it is not defined; but if the difficulty of the hon. Member is that oppression is not defined, nothing can be easier than to put a definition in the Bill. (Cheers.) Is the fact that hon. Members below the Gangway, and apparently hon. Members above the Gangway, do not understand what the legal view of oppression is, a justification for voting against the Second Reading of this Bill, when, as I have said, they may be perfectly certain that a majority of the House would be perfectly willing to insert any satisfactory definition which may be proposed from this side? My point with regard to this clause is, that some security of the kind is absolutely necessary; that this is a provision which is less stringent than the practice in Ireland and in Scotland, and that if the practice of England and of Scotland is preferred, there is no earthly reason why it should not be substituted. Now I come to what the hon. Member for West Belfast attaches the greatest importance to—I mean the functions of the Standing Joint Committee. The hon. Member described his conclusions in a sentence when he said that the County Council would be "the drudge, the scullion, and the serf" of the Standing Joint Committee, which would be a Committee, so far as its majority was concerned, of landowers, and that consequently the County Council would in almost every act of its existence, except 1559 in breaking stones or the destruction of dangerous insects, be at the mercy of a Committee of landlords. I was very much surprised, I admit, by his speech. I have since examined the Bill most carefully. I have taken pains, by inquiry of those with knowledge of municipal practices and law, to ascertain what will be the effect of the Bill; and I say, without hesitation, that the statement of the hon. Member is a gross caricature. Let us see. In the first place the Government have already told us that they will accept an impartial Chairman.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Who is he? No, that kind of interjection is really not argument. Surely it must be possible—I do not know—to find an impartial man in Ireland; but if the wit and intelligence of hon. Members below the Gangway can find an impartial man who would be fitted to be the chairman of a body like this, we know that, in principle at all events, there would be no objection on the part of the Government. We have that assurance from them. Therefore, in dealing with this thing, it is nonsense to argue as if it were a majority of landlords we have to do. Supposing the members of the Committee were divided and their interests were divided; we are dealing with a body in which the balance will be held by someone who. ex hypothesi, is to be impartial. But in the second place it does not appear to me that the representatives of the Grand Jury can fairly be described as landowners. They may be, but they may not; as a matter of fact, as I understand it, they are intended to represent, not landowners as such, but the largest payers of cess. They may be occupiers, and I believe, in a great number of cases, are. ("No!") At all events, the hon. Member for West Belfast, in piling up his objections to this clause, told us that the landowners did not pay the cess, and therefore this control of landowners who did not pay cess would be exercised over the conclusions of the representatives of the ratepayers who did pay. But if the landowners do not pay, then they will not be the representatives of the Grand Jury in this case, because they would not be the largest cesspayers or the representatives of the largest cesspayers.
§ An hon. MEMBER: They are now.1560
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
No; the representatives of the Grand Jury will act on this Committee as the representatives of the largest cesspayers. Does this House consider, I should like to know, no special protection is due in Ireland to the largest cesspayers? The state of things in Ireland is altogether exceptional, and, as far as I know, has no parallel in this country. Speaking generally, all over Ireland five per cent. of the cesspayers pay fifty per cent. of the cess. Now that is a most extraordinary state of things.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Never mind where I got it. I assert it, and if the hon. Member would like particulars for any county or barony in Ireland I will give them.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. and learned Gentleman is so extremely moderate that I must gratify him. I will take a case at haphazard from any page of this Return. Shall it be the second or the third, or which will he choose? I will take one on chance. Here it is: Province of Leinster, Queen's County, Barony Clanmallagh, five per cent. of the ratepayers pay 57.3 of the cess. Barony of Clandonagh, 5.6 of the ratepayers pay 49.7 of the cess, and so on. I believe, with one exception, in the County of Meath, where the circumstances are peculiar owing to the largeness and the fewness of cesspayers, the same result will be founds all over Ireland—in many cases much more extraordinary than I have given. In one case two per cent. of the ratepayers pay 50 per cent. of the cess. This is my point—as reasonable men do we think that no special consideration whatever is due to persons who, being very few in number, pay so large a proportion of the total rates? Is there no danger that, unless some protection is given to them, there may be an inclination on the part of the majority to spend money which is to a large extent not theirs but that of the minority for purposes which really are hardly justifiable? If any consideration whatever is to be shown to those large cesspayers it is almost impossible to give it in a form less considerable or more insignificant than that which is contained in this Bill. Now I take issue directly with the hon. Member for West 1561 Belfast. Here is one point to which the hon. Member who sat down last has not made the slightest reply, although it cuts almost the whole ground from under the feet of the hon. Member for West Belfast. The County Councils have control over the whole annual expenditure in a county, and that amounts to 97 per cent. of the whole. They are absolutely uncontrolled by the Standing Joint Committee with regard to 97 per cent. of their expenditure; and the only expenditure over which the Standing Joint Committee—of which we are told that the County Council is to be "the drudge and the scullion and the serf"—is to have any control is three per cent. Was ever such an extraordinary argument based upon such a slender foundation? But that is not all. In its main features there is something similar in our English and Scotch legislation. What is the fact in England and Scotland, where the case is not nearly so strong? In Scotland I believe there is a Joint Committee, with functions almost identical with those of the Irish Committee. As regards England, every loan, or every application for a loan for capital expenditure, has to receive the assent of a Government Department, the Local Government Board, and that assent is only given after the holding of a local inquiry. Therefore, as between Scotland and Ireland, there is identity in the two systems; and as between England and Ireland the object is the same, although the method is different. For my part, I am bound to say that I think I should prefer the system of the Joint Committee to the present English system, which forces us to have recourse to the Local Government Board, or, in the case of a Town Council, occasionally to the Home Office or to the Treasury. But the main point is that some protection is afforded to large ratepayers that their interests, and, above all, their future interests, shall not be pledged and mortgaged without some chance of appeal from the County or Town Council. The same remark applies to the provision which requires the consent of the Joint Committee to the opposition directed against Parliamentary Bills. I do not know how this is in Scotland. I suppose that there it is controlled by the Standing Joint Committee. But in England a Town or County Council has to get the authority of the Local Government 1562 Board. The hon. Member for West Belfast made on this point an extraordinary statement which struck me at the time. I was almost aghast at the idea that the Bill should contain such provisions as he represented. He said that the control of all litigation was given to the Standing Committee, so that even a County Council could not even prosecute a man for a nuisance without asking the consent of this body. Of course a state of things of that kind would be perfectly ridiculous, and would make the Bill so cumbrous as to be unworkable. But nothing of the kind is contained in the Bill. This provision does not apply to what may be called ordinary prosecutions or litigation. The County Council will have those general powers under which they will be able to take all steps necessary to enforce the Public Health Act, the Artizans' Dwellings Act, and all the other Acts under which it has control; and the only object of this section—which the Government, I would suggest, may cut out if there is no objection—is enabling; that is to give power to the County Council, if they get the assent of the Standing Joint Committee, to promote exceptional and extraordinary litigation.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
No; but I have taken the best possible advice on this subject—I have gone to the highest authority on Municipal Law—and I am assured that as that clause stands there is no doubt whatever that the County Council have full powers for all ordinary litigation connected with the carrying out of the Acts entrusted to their charge. There is another point taken by the hon. Member. He said—and the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) repeated the statement—that the County Council would be unable to appoint or to remove the smallest officer without the consent of the Standing Joint Committee. Why, what is the real state of the case? Clause 52 deals with this subject, and says—if the hon. Member does not understand it, any lawyer will tell him this is its construction—that at the outset the County Council shall prepare a scheme showing the number of officers they want to employ, their functions, and their salaries, but not their persons. 1563 When that scheme has been approved, then the County Council has absolute power over the patronage. No one can say one word as to the choice of the persons; and the list of patronage is wide enough to gladden the soul even of an Irish Member. And then the hon. Member says that the County Council cannot dismiss these officers after they are once appointed. With the exception of two officers, for whom there is much to be said for the protection of their offices and the safeguarding of their positions—the county secretary and the county surveyor—Sub-section 8 of Clause 52 says they may appoint, dismiss, and I think reduce, any single one of their officers. They have as absolute power as any County Council in England, and the whole case of the hon. Member for West Belfast is based upon an entire misconception and an entire misreading of the effect of this clause. Under these circumstances the power of this Standing Joint Committee is so extremely limited and so extremely insignificant that I do not very much wonder that the hon. Member for South Antrim said that if the Bill got into Committee he should wish to extend it. I beg to impress this upon my hon. Friends, that the power of the Standing Joint Committee is confined to a power over three per cent. of the actual expenditure, and that the whole object of this clause, the whole advantage of this precaution, is not to give control over what I have called the ordinary work of County Council, but to prevent the possibility, which everyone must admit to be a possibility, of a County Council either through folly or perhaps deliberate intention, engaging in large capital expenditure in which the interests of future ratepayers would be mortgaged and seriously interfered with. I must apologise to the House for having detained it so long. My examination has been necessarily one somewhat of detail, but I have been obliged to go into detail in order to follow the arguments, as I have endeavoured to do, of hon. Members from Ireland. Now I assert it is impossible any reasonable man can maintain that, if the statement which I have made as to the effect of this provision is correct, it constitutes anything offensive or insulting to the people of Ireland. No, Sir, the real objection to this provision is that hon. Members below the 1564 Gangway think that it will be effective. United Ireland two or three years ago said that the grant of Local Government to Ireland by the British Government would "sell the pass" as effectually as a Home Rule Parliament. Now this Bill does not sell the pass, and that is the great fault of it in the eyes of the Irish Members. I feel that the opposition to this measure is an electioneering opposition. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to come here and say that they regard Home Rule as the only remedy for the grievances of Ireland. It is all very well for them to object to the removal of any one of these grievances by any means whatever. The fewer grievances there are the less will be the demand for Home Rule. I doubt whether the people of Ireland share the well-simulated indignation of certain of their representatives with regard to the Bill. I am certain that the people of Ulster do not, and they deserve some consideration. They say indeed that they would welcome the Bill.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
A section of them.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Well, a section which represents the majority of the people of Ulster. The representatives of that section come here and say that their constituents would welcome it, and I do not think that the constituents of the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are so indignant as they are represented to be. I believe that if this Bill were passed they would make a good use of it—that they would rejoice in the new liberty that would be conferred upon them; that in the great majority of instances, at any rate, the same results would follow which have followed the granting of a similar measure for England and Scotland; and that the whole of the people of Ireland would take a far greater interest in their local affairs. It may be impossible to carry this Bill through Committee in a Session like the present, but it would not be at all impossible if hon. Members would imitate the spirit of the hon. Member for North East Cork, who said he would like it to be passed even without discussion.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I am not in a position to answer that question, but I say this: I think it is a most liberal offer, and I call the express attention of Her Majesty's Government to it. If I were sitting on those Benches and in a position of authority, I should say without hesitation, "I will close with the hon. Member. Give us this Bill without discussion or with such discussion as is reasonable and fair, and we will give you a Dissolution immediately." I am sure the Government would like to know how far the views of the hon. Member are shared by other hon. Members below the Gangway. In the meantime I say that the production of this Bill is a fulfilment of the pledges of the Unionist Government, and that it enables us to point out to the people of this country that the greatest obstacles against progress in Ireland are the Home Rule policy and the Home Rule Party.
§ (6.5.) MR. TIMOTHY HEALY (Longford, N.)
I think I have heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down a hundred times before. I have never heard him make any but that speech on any capital measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government with respect to Ireland. What happens is this. The Government bring in a Bill. Its proposals are attacked, and the Government get into distress, and then of course "a friend in need is a friend indeed." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham gets up and makes his speech. I heard him make a speech on the Coercion Bill of 1887 in almost identical terms, and also on the Parnell Commission Bill of 1888. This is his stock speech, and whenever the Government want such a speech I think I could make it for them. The right hon. Gentleman first says, of course, that there are one or two points on which he is bound to differ from the Government, and then he proceeds to develop the Bill. He trots out the horse and shows you his beauties. "It is true," he says, "that the horse has certain vices," and this, that and the other; "but are you going to refuse to purchase the animal because of such small vices, which can be taken out of him by a little exercise?" He afterwards says that if hon. Members will bring forward a temperate Amendment he will support 1566 it in Committee, but when the time comes for the Amendment to be brought forward, where is the right hon. Gentleman? I remember on the Parnell Commission Bill there was some proposal to define the charges and allegations. Where was the right hon. Gentleman? I think he was at Washington on that occasion. It invariably happens that he has sufficient Radicalism left in him to condemn some obnoxious points in the measure, and he says that he will vote for their removal, but they are not removed, and the Bill ultimately passes into law with the benediction of the light hon. Gentleman. Then, again, he is always modest with regard to his knowledge of the subject. He has always some Hurlbert to whom he refers as his authority. You remember that Hurlbert was his great authority five years ago with regard to the Constitution of West Virginia when he recommended its adoption for Ireland. He has gone to the highest authority on this occasion, the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney). The right hon. Gentleman said, with respect to the "put-them-in-the-dock" clause, "If you will accept for Ireland what already exists in England I shall be glad to support as an alternative that the power of certiorari be given in the case of Ireland." But will the House believe it?—the power of certiorari already exists in that country with regard to the Grand Jury system, and it is continued in this Bill. Therefore, he would give us what we have already. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman always resorts to the enemies of the Irish people for his information. He goes to his Hurlberts and his Macartneys to back him up, instead of to those who are most intimately acquainted with the subject. The accuracy of almost every proposition in his speech traversing the arguments of the hon. Member for West Belfast I deny. In the first place I would ask—why should there be a Standing Committee at all for Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said it was necessary, because five per cent. of the ratepayers in Ireland pay fifty-seven per cent. of the rates. He assumes that it is the landlord who pays the rates, but it is not; and it is not the five per cent. of the ratepayers who would be represented on that Committee. Land farming in Ireland is such a profitable business 1567 that the landlords hold no land of their own—they let it out amongst their tenants. They pay no cess except for the land in their own hands, and, speaking generally, I say that the Standing Committee would no more represent the ratepayers of Ireland than would the Council of the Mikado of Japan. Now, I have never taken a strong view with regard to minority representation in Ireland. So far from being opposed to it, I have always been anxious for such representation; but it is not fair representation they want—it is absolute power, and unless they get it they take no interest in the working of local affairs. I should be delighted, in fact, if a scheme could be provided whereby the minority could be properly represented. But we have to deal with the Government plan, which is one to perpetuate the Grand Jury system; and I say that no plan will be satisfactory that does not give some elective body the power of dealing with the question of malicious injury. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman deal with it? I contend that the Tory Party were more liberal in this respect in 1878 and 1879, when they were an undiluted Party, than they are now, when they have the support of the Unionists and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. It is true that in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet there was no distinct principle of election, but he allowed in it half the Grand Jury to be drawn from the elected representatives of the Boards of Guardians, and it gave to these elected bodies, among many other powers, that of dealing with the question of malicious injury. Since then, it is true, the Grand Jury have had additional powers given to them. But now the Government propose to allow only the Joint Committee to deal with capital expenditure. Therefore I say that I infinitely prefer the Bill of 1878 to this Bill. I would now ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham why has the subject of malicious injuries, which is connected with the reform of the Grand Jury system, been omitted from this Bill? Does he not know that at every Assize that which creates most gall in the public mind is the mode in which the Grand Jury deal with the question of malicious injury? Yet, the right hon. Gentleman has 1568 ignored this point altogether. No Local Government Bill will be of any value for Ireland unless this question is fully and adequately dealt with. None but the Tory Party would propose to continue such an anachronism as that of the Grand Jury system in Ireland. It is a system which is rotten from top to bottom. I say abolish the Grand Jury system for all purposes. There is no need now for the finding of true bills. The Attorney General well knows that no prisoner will be in the least injured by the abolition of such a system of indictment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has said that the Grand Jury represent the higher ratepayers. I say they represent no one. He takes the point that in Scotland the Commissioners of Supply are analogous to the Grand Jury in this case. Yes, but in Scotland the landlord pays nearly the whole of the cess, so that in Scotland it is right that the Commissioners of Supply should continue to have the chief representation and control. There is practically no way of impeaching the Grand Jury in Ireland. There is no satisfactory way of challenging it so far as I know. It consists of twenty-three men whom the Sheriff may choose to put upon it. He may select twenty-three men from the butler's hall; twenty-three coalheavers from the quay; or even twenty-three paupers from the workhouse or twenty-three lunatics from the nearest asylum. I say therefore that they represent nobody but the Sheriff. These twenty-three men are put upon the jury for the purpose of counterpoising the elected representatives of the people. Is that the case in Scotland? There the Commissioners of Supply have an historic reason for their existence, and they represent the people who pay most of the rates. The landlord there pays half—I am told that he pays nearly the whole. But in Ireland the Grand Jury neither represent the higher ratepayers nor the minority—only the Sheriff. Suppose that to-morrow the Liberal Party come into power and appoint a succession of Attorney Generals as Judges. Supposing they do not take the view of the loyalist minority, but appoint popular Sheriffs. These Sheriffs might appoint twenty-three members of the Local League or Federation, and where would then be the protection of the loyal minority? If you want to protect the higher ratepayers 1569 or the loyal minority you should give them some independent mode of election. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham said that Local Government was more important to the Irish people than Home Rule. He said it affected the condition of the poor, and enabled the poor man to get some kind of decent government, and also enabled local politicians to obtain reasonable training in politics that would, I suppose, enable them to compete with the grant intellects sent here from Birmingham. We have not found that we were not a match for those on the Treasury Bench with whom we have had to deal, though we have not had the advantage of being Mayors or Aldermen of Birmingham. No doubt it is desirable that the Irish people should have more training in local affairs than they have hitherto had, but does this Bill give it to them? I anticipated that the right hon. Gentleman would, in recommending this nostrum to the Irish people, have told us how it would benefit the poor man. The main things that are wanted in Ireland are the very matters this Bill does not touch. We want some system for the improvement of agriculture, some system of forestry, some system to improve the breeds of cattle and poultry, some system for draining and improving the land, and some system dealing with the subject of labourers' dwellings. Does this Bill deal with those matters? Does it sweeten the life of the poor man in Ireland? Nothing of the kind. It is a purely artificial Bill, and its operation in this connection is confined to the breaking of stones, which my hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton) referred to. Those grievances which go to men's hearts, you are wholly unable to deal with in this Bill, so far as the elective principle is concerned. An impartial man has to be found who will hold the scales as between the Grand Jury and the representations of the people. It is not, however, only one impartial man that you will have to find. Diogenes will have to look for thirty-two of them. No doubt we might find one impartial man. I could find one in this House; he is sent here from Birmingham. Men of his calibre are exactly what we want in Ireland, if we could only get them. But unfortunately the country does not breed them. Our country—whether in the Orange districts or in 1570 the Nationalist districts—Providence seems to have sterilised in the matter of producing impartial men of this kind. But we want thirty-two of them. We have eighty Resident Magistrates, and we know that they are all impartial men. We know the first Lord of the Treasury has fought many a sturdy battle in this House for their impartiality. It would give the House an idea of the way the Government propose to get impartial men if I tell the House a story. The Government have got one official in Ireland whom everybody respects, Sir Thomas Brady, the Fishery Commissioner. His whole life has been devoted to the interests of the poor, and of the poorest class of the poor—the seafaring class—and to trying to improve their lives and trying to procure for them better boats.
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Johnston) was his colleague, and unfortunately in an evil hour I got him removed from his post, which I have infinitely regretted from that hour to this moment. Sir Thomas Brady had the misfortune to be over sixty-five years of age, and because he was a popular man with the people, hardworking, devoting his days and his nights to the service of the poor men, he was not exempted from the sixty-five years' rule, as were a number of old Tory fogies whom the people hated and despised. Why was he not exempted? Because the Government wanted to give away the job. And remember this fishery question will be one of the questions we shall like the Maritime County Council to deal with. To whom was it proposed to give this position? To the most odious man within the four seas of Ireland, Mr. Cecil Roche. These are the impartial men for whom the jobs of presiding over the County Councils are to be found under this Act. Why does not our Birmingham Diogenes give us some idea of where the thirty-two impartial men are to be found? From what sect, from what class of the community are they to be drawn? I believe we did have one Resident Magistrate in Ireland from Birmingham. He was appointed by the late Mr. Forster, and I believe he was a Police Commissioner who had been dismissed, or some dismissed official from 1571 Birmingham. At any rate, will anybody tell me where these thirty - two men are to be found? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Chamberlain) tells us that he will support us if we find them. It is not our business to find them. What we say is this. The choice should be with the impartial people at large, and it is the duty of the people to have their likes and dislikes. The people of Birmingham like the right hon. Gentleman; the people of Connaught do not. Let the people make their own choice. Let the people of Birmingham choose the right hon. Gentleman, and let the unenlightened people of Longford choose men like myself; and therein I maintain you have the only safety for working human institutions. Why do not Englishmen find out the necessity of these provisions for themselves? The right, hon. Gentleman was very proud of his one ewe lamb, the power of certiorari; but I ask him why do not Englishmen need some system of Joint Committee, with one impartial man to preside, appointed by the Government? Why do not you feel the need, in your Anglo-Saxon souls, of impartial men? I should think, say in the town of Liverpool, at this moment you would be very glad of having an impartial man. I heard much bad language used between Liverpool men on Wednesday week about gerrymandering and about the oppression of the Tory Party for the last forty years. Why Sir, that reminded me of an Irish Board of Guardians. But nobody proposed—not even anybody from Birmingham—to nominate an impartial man to preside over these warring clans in Liverpool. It never entered the Anglo-Saxon mind. What they say is, "No, we prefer instead of having billeted upon us some official with the trade-mark of the lion and the unicorn, that he should have the brand of popular approval at the polls." That is your own plan, not only in this country, but also in your colonies. It is only the sister island that requires to be wedded to impartial men. Sir, I denounce this whole system as a hypocrisy. We are as good as you are; we are as bad as you are, and we are no better and no worse. That is exactly the state of the case; and it is this system of erecting yourselves in a kind of hierarchical position and talking to us in a Cockney accent, that is so offensive. The right 1572 hon. Gentleman tells us that this is a good Bill. What is it good for? What improvement does it make in the lives of the people? What withdrawal does it make of the powers of the oligarchy? I challenge the Chief Secretary (Mr. Jackson) to deny this—that every proposal for reform in Ireland has hitherto been objected to by resolution after resolution of the Irish Grand Jury Bodies, and that every proposal of coercion has been supported by resolution after resolution of the Irish Grand Jury Bodies. Well now, at the last Assizes of March the thirty-two Irish Grand Juries had before them this Bill, and from not one Grand Jury, from Antrim to Cape Clear, did a protest against this Bill go forth. Why? Because every one of them is satisfied with it; because it leaves them in garrison where they are. It does not touch a single one of their powers, and they know it and are satisfied with it; and because the Irish Grand Juries are satisfied with it I am not. I will take that as the test of the merits and value of this Bill. It is a Bill which has the hall-mark on it of these Grand Jury Bodies which it proposes to abolish, and tested by that test alone this Bill stands condemned and judged. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that there are securities in this Bill and that there were securities under the Home Rule Bill, and that while we object to the securities under this Bill, we did not object to those under the Home Rule Bill. But the Home Rule Bill was worth paying for. If we had to give securities, we got something worth taking. We were willing, and are willing, to give every reasonable security for the purpose of setting up in Ireland a decent and respectable system of Government, but we are not going to give securities for the purpose of having an odious sham and humbug set up in our midst. We wanted Home Rule, and we were willing to pay for it in securities. But we do not want this Bill we reject it, we are not prepared to give securities for it, and that is the answer to the whole question. What were the securities in the Home Rule Bill? We were not to be allowed to set up Catholic ascendancy, and we were prohibited from legislation thereon. We say, Sir, now we give you that as security. We did not want control over the Army and 1573 Navy; the Bill said so, and we said Amen. Under the Home Rule Bill we had not power over garrison, or fortress, or arsenal, and we said, "All right, keep them, much good may they do you." And so on, dealing with a number of questions of that kind. We said it was right and proper, in dealing with an island which had been a subject of contention for 700 years, and which had excited statesmen and warriors during these seven centuries, that this House—especially in regard to a Bill that had to pass the House of Lords—should take some reasonable security such as those proposed in that Bill, and we are still of the same opinion. But what is the security wanted in this Bill for? Security against what? Who can these bodies oppress? Is it for breaking a few extra stones, as my hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton) pointed out? That is all they can do; and is a body to be solemnly indicted before two Judges if they break a hundredweight of stones more than are thought sufficient for the roads? That is practically the whole power of the whole business. Then what about the oppression of the minority under the rates? The misfortune is that the minority do not pay the rates; I only wish they did. If there is any excess of rates struck, it is the majority who will have to pay them. It is astonishing to find that any catch-cry is good enough for English Tory audiences when they are dealing with Ireland. You say you want to protect the rates of the minority, thereby assuming that the minority pays the rates; but it is not the landlord but the common people, the tenant farmers, who pay the rates and who are the majority. What then becomes of your minority bogey? Is it to be propounded that the majority will mis-spend the rates which they themselves have to pay? I can understand the argument that the majority of the ratepayers do not pay the majority of the rates. Very well, adopt some provisions whereby those who pay the rates will have the control of them. We know the landlords do not pay the rates in the country. If you can invent any scheme whereby you will give the highest ratepayers, who are not a minority in the sense of a loyal minority or a Protestant minority, but in the sense of being a rate paying minority—if you can invent a scheme for giving joint control 1574 in this matter, I for my part am not in favour of challenging or denying the prudence of such a provision. But that is not your provision. You have started the minority bogey in relation to Home Rule, you have carried it into your Local Government Bill, which has nothing to do with it, and you blandly assume, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, that the minority in both cases is co-terminous. It is not so. The Bill is as a whole a worse Bill than the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). The Tory Party have, like the crab, gone backwards. The provision about the two Judges did not exist in that Bill. The provision is an absurd and unworkable provision—it is not worth while spending time discussing it; and really I think my hon. Friend might be spared the taunt of not discussing a Bill which the Government themselves do not profess is going to pass. The House of Commons has for once fallen to the level of the Kensington Parliament. This is a mere debating society, and this is a debating society Bill presented in dummy by the Government for debate, not only here but at the polls. It is by means of an academic discussion of this kind that the Government means to carry out the promises made in 1886 by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). Perhaps I may be allowed to remind the House, not of the words he then used, but of the language he used in 1888 when he was challenged with having used these words. The point I make is this: the Government have been promising us for six years a Local Government Bill. They had not been promising the English people a Local Government Bill for six years, and they had not been promising the Scotch people a Local Government Bill, but England and Scotland each got a Local Government Bill. The Irish were promised a Local Government Bill from 1887 downwards, and it was the first measure promised in the Queen's Speech in 1887; but you have no more intention of keeping your word on this subject than King William had when he made the Treaty of Limerick. When in 1886 the noble Lord the Member for Paddington stated that Ireland could be governed without coercion and by the Local Government scheme which the 1575 Government intended to pass, he meant every word he uttered; consequently he is no longer in the Cabinet. He promised a Bill with "Similarity, simultaneity, and equality"—and when challenged two years later he not only nailed his colours to the mast, but he nailed the Tory Party to it also. What did the noble Lord say. In vol. 391, page 586, 25th April, 1888, I find he is reported in Hansard as follows:—It has been supposed—and this supposition I have never before noticed, although it has been rather widely alluded to in the Press—that in the declaration which it was my duty to make at that Table in August, 1886, I was stating that which was much more my own opinion than the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. Sir, I think it right to say that that was not so in any degree whatever. The declaration which I made at that Table at that time was, as far as it related to Ireland, a written declaration. Every sentence of it—I might almost go as far as to say every word of it—represented the opinions of the Government, and had been submitted to, and assented to, by the Prime Minister himself, and by the Chief Secretary for Ireland of that day. More than that, that declaration I made with regard to Ireland—I recollect it as well as if I had made it yesterday—I made without one dissentient voice, and without one dissentient murmur being raised among the hon. Gentlemen who belonged to the Tory Party. More than that, I was given to understand, in the plainest way, that the declaration of the Government thus made received the full and entire approval of the Leaders of the Unionist Party.What then was the pledge in 1886? It was a pledge that in the following year a Local Government Bill for Ireland would be introduced and passed into law. We have had a Coercion Bill instead. You passed Local Government Bills for England and for Scotland, and now three years later, at the close of a moribund Parliament, which you your selves have stated you are going to dissolve next month—[Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: No.] You have not said so in so many words but you have hinted it by way of Votes on Account, by circumlocution and by messages to Press Associations, and by speeches at Hastings about Free Trade, and by incitement to civil war. You have shown it by providing money for a bogus convention in Belfast next month. Money for that purpose has been obtained from this country just in the same way as you allege our agitation is conducted by American dollars. It is 1576 altogether of London and Birmingham manufacture. And then, Sir, the Government bring in this belated Bill six years after it was promised, and after they have kept their word to England and Scotland. I ask the House whether it is decent to bring in a Bill of this kind without intending to pass it into law? The First Lord says we are not to have a Dissolution next month. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham back that promissory—or rather non-promissory—note?
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
Then we are going to have it next month? Let me meet you either way. Therefore, a Bill is brought in which you yourself cannot pretend is to be passed. It is brought in just before a Dissolution in order that it may serve as the skin of the Tory drum to be beaten in front of the ballot box. There is no honesty, not only in the Bill itself, but in the mode of its introduction; and it is by these means, Mr. Speaker, it is hoped to make the Irish people respect British faith. Is it any wonder that British faith is a bye-word in Ireland, and that pledges given by Ministers in this House are regarded as dicers' oaths across the Channel? One of the ablest men in the Tory Party, the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), declared in 1886 that by the following year Ireland shall have a Bill satisfying the requirements for Local Government in Ireland. He makes that statement from a written paper drawn up at a Cabinet meeting, and it is accentuated by cheers from the Tory Party fresh from their baptism at the hustings. The Government are now going back to the country which they have bamboozled by their pledges, not having carried out the scheme of Local Government for Ireland, which they declare to be pacified. After all, coercion is but a means to an end. It is valueless except in so far as it brings about the pacification and appeasement of the country. Either Ireland is contented or she is not; either she is a good subject for Local Government and the blessings of freedom or she is not. If she is, why do we not get it? This Bill has no life. It is not pretended that it is intended to be passed, and I venture 1577 to say that you cannot even gull your own electorate in England by telling them that this Bill is any fulfilment of the pledge made by the noble Lord on behalf of the Government in 1886. This Bill, and the way in which it was introduced, furnish one more lesson to the Irish people of the fact that so long as a Government is powerful enough to defy its pledges it has not even a blush for breaking them, and that the only thing which passes through this House with celerity is a Coercion Bill. Such a Bill runs down an incline plane in the House of Commons and with railway speed through the House of Lords. An ameliorative Bill, like the rolling stone of Sisyphus, has to be pushed up a hill; and the task, like the promises of five years ago, is never carried out, although the approach of a Dissolution may give a little stimulus to it. I venture to say that the pretence of the Government on this point no longer deceives the humblest elector in this country, and certainly so far as Ireland is concerned I do not think in any Nationalist constituency there would be even one voice lifted up to raise the cry of "More power to Balfour's elbow."
§ *(7.8.) SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
I desire to say a few words upon this Bill, because I have had some experience of Local Government. And certainly I have never, in the course of my life, shared the doubt and distrust expressed by the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Ambrose) in reference to the extension of Local Government either in London or the country. I may also say that since 1885 I have consistently advocated Local Government for Ireland, and I maintain still that the extension to that portion of the United Kingdom of what has been found so beneficial in this country is eminently desirable. Experience in England and Scotland has justified this, and Ireland will also justify it. And I have still a strong feeling in favour of the views expressed a few years ago by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), that the principles upon which Local Government should be extended to Ireland and England and Scotland should be those of similarity, and the treatment of the United Kingdom, as far as possible, as a whole. I also think that the tendency of its own friends to minimise the 1578 importance of this measure is a mistake, both of fact and of policy. It is the last, and not the least, link in a practical programme of Irish remedial legislation, much of which has been accomplished, as I have myself seen in Ireland, and the rest of which could be secured by a wise and wide Bill for Local Government, ridding us of any reproach of inequality in our dealing with the sister country. Now, Sir, I confess that my first impression of this Bill was not one of perfect satisfaction. I know that there are hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who shared my opinion, and I am bound to say that even now I cannot feel myself completely at one—at any rate on important points of detail—with those who have introduced this Bill. At the same time I have studied the Bill carefully, and I have endeavoured to come to an impartial conclusion with reference to its provisions, with the result that my first conclusions have been modified, and that I am at least clearly of opinion that it may be made into a good Bill, and that only some half-dozen Amendments will make it conform to the principles I have stated. The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. T. Healy) doubts the discovery of an impartial man. Well, Local Government may produce one, for I remember it once did so in a Mayor who, on first taking his seat as Chairman of the Magistrates, said that during his year of office he would do his best to be neither partial nor impartial. Now, Sir, I will first point out to the House that the basis, the backbone of the Bill—which is contained in the first three clauses—is absolutely identical with the principles upon which the English and Scotch Bills are framed. The first clause covers Ireland with County Councils in just the same way as these Councils have been established in England and Scotland. In the second clause the franchise applicable to County Councils in Ireland is practically the same as on this side of the Channel, an inhabitant occupier plus a rating franchise, including both owners and tenants as occupiers, and, of course, women. So far, I think, no exception can be taken to the Bill. In the next place there are none of those so-called safeguarding provisions which I think were at first, and wrongly, suggested in the case of the 1579 English Local Government Bill—I refer to ex officio members and the property qualification, which were also comprised in the Bill of 1888. The only one point in which it differs—for the elections are to be, equally triennial—is in the filling up of casual vacancies. In this Bill it is provided that these vacancies shall be filled up by the Council itself. That is a difference concerning which there may be room for difference of opinion, and it may be an improvement, though I doubt it. Then, Sir, there is another point in which Ireland has a distinct advantage. The scheme of Local Government for England and Scotland has not yet been completed, but provision is made in this Bill for the creation of Baronial Councils or District Councils for Ireland, and so far the scheme has a comprehensiveness which the English one does not possess. This scheme, too, has another advantage over the English—and it is an advantage which I have claimed and again claim for this country—and that is, that the county and municipal boroughs are all treated as County Councils. There has been great friction in England with regard to the powers which the boroughs once had, and which are now absorbed by the County Councils, but in Ireland the boroughs have a separate County Council existence, which I think will be found advantageous, and to which I shall some time refer as a preference in favour of Ireland and a precedent. Well, now, I should like to say a word with reference to the powers conferred by this Bill. So far as I can judge, speaking generally, the powers possessed by English Corporations are extended to Ireland. The fiscal administration of the county—I will speak of the checks and safeguards later—is placed in the hands of the Council, as is also the administrative business of the county, and I would expressly point out that what is the bulk of the work in our English County Councils and which affects the health of the people and touches the home—I refer to sanitary administration—is properly confined to the County Councils under this Bill. Then the cesspayer has the control over the county expenditure, and some new powers which we are trying by Bill to get for England—e.g., to contribute to charities and be represented through County Councils on 1580 the Governing Bodies. When I heard the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Timothy Healy) speaking of the want of powers, I thought to myself that this Bill conferred; a list of powers which would afford a large scope for activity and demand a great sacrifice of time. The application of the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act is placed in the hands of the County Councils, and this would lead up to dealing with the fisheries, and no one can feel more than I do the paramount importance of developing that industry in Ireland. I do not think that anyone can visit the fishery school at Baltimore—the best fishery school in the British Empire—without feeling that Ireland has set an example to other nations in this direction, and that she deserves all the encouragement that can be given her. Then I think the hon. Member must have overlooked Clause 19 and other clauses which enable the County Councils to deal with woods and plantations and with forestry and agriculture. The question of agriculture is an especially important one to Ireland. I was in Denmark the other day, and there I fell into conversation about Irish interests with the largest exporter of agricultural products from that Kingdom, and he said to me that the great rival of Denmark in the future will be Ireland. Well, I believe that under the Bill the County Councils could provide for both practical and theoretical teaching on the subjects referred to; but if that is not so, I would urge that it should be done by the insertion of clauses in Committee; and I would remind the House that education is being improved by a separate Bill, and that the Government have done very much for the Irish teachers, as one of them reminded me at Rathmore. Yes, if we want education great, we must first make the education great. I could go on speaking of other powers conferred by this Bill, because they are undoubtedly numerous. If, however, it were pointed out that certain useful powers were lacking or inadequate, no one would more cordially support any Amendments towards supplying them than I. But, the machinery of County Government for Ireland being thus provided on the main lines of England and Scotland, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Armagh (Mr. Barton) that the enfranchising powers 1581 of this Bill should be considered apart from the safeguards, which I confess I should deal with differently from him. Limit, if you like, or destroy in some cases, the proposed safeguards, but do not let us destroy the whole Bill for the simple reason that there are points of detail on which we do not agree. These are matters which, if important, and even essential, are still capable of amendment in Committee. Well, Sir, I am very glad to find the disposition which has been evinced by the Government. They must know that there are differences of opinion among their own supporters on this matter. I do not forget Birmingham; and I believe that a considerable minority agree with me when I say that I approve most heartily the intimation of the Government that they are prepared to reconsider, and I hope concede, many points in the direction of greater similarity and equality, and so improve and strengthen the Bill. I trust, therefore, that we shall carry this Bill into Committee and discuss its details with an independent spirit, so that we may at such a time cease to do all for Party and unite in doing something more for the State. Now, with regard to the safeguards, though the necessity for some protection for minorities has been conceded by every speaker, including the Members for West Belfast and Longford, and in every Bill for the Government of Ireland, I think anyone who has had experience of municipal government will agree with me that restraints are always undesirable unless there is a supreme necessity for them. Safeguards have two disadvantages: In the first place, they may create friction; they may even be incitements to discontent; and so far from facilitating they may impede the transaction of public business. Another disadvantage of safeguards is that they are apt to prove artificial, and being so they are illusory and ineffective. Better rely on trust and a sense of public responsibility, on an improving public opinion, and so give Local Government a full and fair trial. I can conceive nothing more unfortunate for Ireland than that Irish country gentlemen—many of whom still live on their Irish estates and are respected—should rely on these safeguards, instead of being stimulated to take part in the government of their counties, as was done, 1582 and done successfully, by the English Act. Then own public activity will be their best safeguard. Now, Sir, there are one or two of these safeguards with which I will deal briefly. I take, first, that relating to the trial and dissolution of County Councils by petition of appeal. That is dissimilar from anything in the English Bill, and my wish is to proceed on the principle of similarity as far as possible. It is a new, and at the most a doubtful expedient, and I think the resources of the ordinary law—an armoury of mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, with the ultimate sanctions of fine and imprisonment—are not so limited as to make the introduction of a provision of that sort supremely necessary. Besides, I hope there is in Ireland an improving public opinion, which I believe will be furthered and educated by the transaction of local government, and result in putting an end to a great deal of that distrust which had been a source of great injury to that country in her industrial pursuits in an age of organised and collective trade. It has been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. Chamberlain) that as an alternative to this safeguard there is in England that of the imprisonment of the members of the County Councils under certiorari. Well, after all, it seems to me that the suppression of a Governing Body is a more serious matter than the imprisonment of an individual—it means the loss of an institution. And, Sir, I doubt the expediency of this safeguard because of the substitute provided in the Bill, which is that the Lord Lieutenant shall nominate a new Council. In that case you have absence of direct power in the Lord Lieutenant, coupled with full responsibility for the actions of the nominees, which is obviously undesirable and worse even than personal government, which at least combines power and responsibility; and such a nominated Council would not be even as representative as the present Presentment and Grand Jury system. I hope, therefore, that this clause will disappear from the Bill. I have now a word to say about the cumulative vote, which again is dissimilar from any thing in the English and Scotch Bills, and here again I am glad to observe that a disposition has been shown to consider some alternative proposal. It has been conceded by 1583 hon. Members opposite that some protection for minorities is desirable, and I think some better proposal than this for carrying out the object in view could be devised. I doubt very much whether the proposal now in the Bill would be effective, because I am inclined to think, from my observation in Ireland, that in many cases the minorities are so small that they would not be able to make themselves felt. It may be that some other scheme would, therefore, be desirable, and the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. Timothy Healy) points to a possible conclusion. At any rate, the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) and the First Lord of the Treasury have expressed their readiness to consider other proposals, and if the principle of some protection for minorities is approved, it ought not to be impossible to carry it out in a satisfactory manner. Then I cannot think that this is an opportune moment for dealing with the question of illiteracy or for disfranchising any persons in Ireland. And this matter of illiteracy leads me to suggest whether such a complex franchise as the cumulative vote is suitable to the circumstances of Ireland, especially as the Bill does not apply to the boroughs, which will add to the confusion. The time is, indeed, not one in which to detract from household suffrage, but to make it as inclusive as possible, if the claim to adult voting is to be resisted. With respect to the Standing Joint Committees, there is a precedent in Scotland but not in England, and I cannot help feeling that the tendency is to unnecessarily restrict the powers of the Councils. I do not under-estimate the dangers of excessive local expenditure, but I should be the last to object to productive expenditure on public works; still the growth of local indebtedness is a serious matter, to which attention was called by Mr. Fawcett in his Political Economy. I think the powers of these Standing Committees are too restrictive, except on capital expenditure, and I believe their scope does give some ground for the remarks that have been made about the limitation of the powers of the Bill. The Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Jackson) challenges what I say as to limitation, but there is no doubt of it, through the Standing 1584 Committee. The Bill contains-frequent words of limitation, and of those words I do not see the necessity in some cases. In one or two instances there is even a double check—the check of the Standing Committees and the check of the Local Government Board. That is the case with respect to borrowing powers. In this country we have no check except the Local Government Board, and we find that check very stringent and ample for the purpose. Then there is the standing check of a public audit and the possibility of surcharge. All this is surely sufficient without limitations of powers which may prevent the best men undertaking such duties—a danger even in England. With respect to the Chairmanship of these Standing Committees, I find there is an impression that the Sheriff is to be the Chairman; that is not the case. He is an ex officio member of the Committee, but the Committee may appoint their own Chairman. The same provision exists in the Scotch Bill, but I admit that the two cases are not identical. The Scotch Sheriff is a really independent official, whereas the Irish Sheriff is supposed to be more a man of an order or class, and if he were necessarily the Chairman of the Standing Committee, it might undoubtedly cause friction and accentuate class differences, and destroy that unanimity of purpose which is so eminently desirable. But even the Bill gives a better alternative, and I hope that some further improvement will be made in this direction, as has been intimated by the Attorney General. With respect to compensation for malicious injuries, though I am thoroughly in sympathy with some of the remarks that have been made, and am prepared to vote for a Bill to transfer to a judicial and independent tribunal what is a judicial and not an administration matter, still I must say that I think that subject is beyond the purview of this Bill, and is calculated to distract us from the business of Local Government. The matter of county and divisional boundaries should, in my opinion, be entrusted, as in England, to a Commission, and not to the Lord Lieutenant, since in such questions it is, important not only to be fair, but to seem fair, and we must allow even for prejudice and distrust, and do our best 1585 to reduce or remove them. On the subject of disqualification by absence, I think the same rule should apply to the Chairman and Vice Chairman as to the other members of the Committee, for absences have been the ruin of Ireland socially; and I do not see why the Chairmen of the Baronial Councils should not be on the Commission of the Peace. I sympathise with the desire of working men to have representatives of their own body on the Bench, and I have done what I can to assist in this matter in Hull and elsewhere. The Chairman of one of these Committees does not necessarily belong to one class, and I do not see why this office should not qualify him for a seat on the Bench, and so act as an incentive to the performance of public duty. I have made a critical examination of this Bill, and, taking it on the whole, I believe it has a foundation which is broad and wide. Its principle, as embodied in three clauses, does for Ireland all that was done for County Government in England, and in some respects even more. It is a Bill that is eminently capable of amendment, and Amendments will be required; they are also in some measure conceded; and if those Amendments are framed on wise and safe lines, by open minds, this Bill will be most valuable as extending the principle of local administration, as uniting not only the hearts, but the interests of both countries, and as conducing to both contentment and good government.
§ (7.37.) MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I rise with some reluctance to take part in this Debate, because it seems to me like beating the air for Members to discuss a Bill which it is perfectly well known will never go beyond the stage of the Second Reading. It seems to me a waste of time to discuss the details of the measure which the Government do not intend to press through this Session. If the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. A. J. Balfour) would give a straightforward opinion about this Bill, there might be some use in discussing it, but I think he must listen with some amusement to hon. Members discussing the details of the Bill, when he knows very well that it will never go into Committee at all. If he would only tell us whether he intended to pass the Bill or not, he would save a considerable 1586 amount of time, and Members would know how to deal with the Bill. The hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) has spoken on this Bill. He represents a certain portion of the Irish people, though he does not represent the whole of the Irish people. But it is nevertheless a fact, that on whatever else the Irish people are divided, there is no division amongst them as to the way in which they regard this Bill. They regard it as an absolute insult to the Irish people; and I, therefore, refuse to discuss it seriously, or to go into its provisions at all. If there were no other reason for opposing the Bill, I think the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) was a sufficient justification. From beginning to end his speech was a cynical, cool, studied insult to Ireland. He sneered at the Irish people and the Irish representatives in every possible way, and he did not advance one single solid reason why this Bill should be accepted by the Irish people. A great many reasons have been urged why it should not be accepted, and I think they may be summed up in the words, "The Irish people do not want it." The great mistake that successive Governments have made in this House in legislating for Ireland is to imagine that English Ministers know so much better than the Irish people what is good for Ireland, and acting on that assumption measure after measure has been passed through this House, and naturally no beneficial effect has been seen. This Bill will not settle the question of Local Government. It will not settle the question of National Government; it will simply cause irritation and harm. Can anything be more absurd than the course taken by the Government in this Debate? In spite of the protests of the Irish representatives and the Irish people the Government are wasting the time of the House in passing a Bill that the Irish people do not want and are protesting against as an insult. If a distinguished foreigner were sitting in that gallery during this Debate, and heard the protests of the Irish people through their representatives, he would carry away an extraordinary idea of government in this country. Suppose the same thing had occurred with relation to the English or Scotch Local 1587 Government Bills. Suppose the Scotch Members had protested against the Scotch Bill in the way that we protest against this, the Government would have dropped it instead of insisting on passing it in the teeth of a national protest. I think there is nothing more absurd, ridiculous and grotesque than the position of the Government in relation to this Bill. The hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Timothy Healy) spoke of the feeling of the Irish people with regard to what he called British faith, but I do not think the Irish people have any fault to find with the Government because of this Bill. They did not desire Local Government for Ireland from this Government or from previous Governments, and they will not require it from the next Government. They want National Government, which will enable them to settle the question of Local Government for themselves. It is like putting the cart before the horse to treat the question of Local Government and withhold the power of National Government. It is a question which you do not understand, and I venture to say that nine-tenths of the Gentlemen who sit on the opposite side could not pass the simplest possible examination in the most elementary features of Local Government in Ireland. You know very few of the circumstances in connection with Local Government in Ireland. For you Englishmen—many of whom have never been in Ireland—whose information is extremely limited, to sit there and waste the time of your country—simply because you think yourselves superior to Irishmen, and better able to judge what is good for them locally than they are themselves—in passing a Local Government Bill instead of letting the Irish people do it for themselves is to make yourselves the laughing stock of the whole world. We shall not be satisfied with this Local Government Bill or any other; we desire a full and free measure of national self-government, and we will then settle the details of local self-government ourselves. I put a question the other day to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the Irish Education Bill, which is desired by every class and section of the Irish people. That is a Bill which would be welcome, and which, if it were properly amended, we would do our best 1588 to help the Government to pass into law. But we are not allowed to discuss that, and instead we have forced on us this Local Government Bill, which scarcely a single person in Ireland desires. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to bring the sham and mockery of this Debate to a close, and if we must have a Division on the Bill—which is to be buried as soon as it is read a second time—let us take it at once, and devote the time which would be wasted on it to the Irish Education Bill. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) told us that the objection to the Bill was a merely electioneering objection. That is a strange remark to come from him, for everybody knows that the Bill itself is an electioneering measure of the most transparent kind. If you had five years of healthy life before you, we should not have had this Bill introduced. But after six years of coercion Government you are afraid to go to the constituencies at the General Election on coercion alone, and so in the last weeks of your existence you bring in an Irish Local Government Bill in order to pretend that if you have coerced the Irish people you have also offered them a fair and broad measure of liberty as well. Is it not absurd, on the face of it, that with the 86 Irish representatives absolutely united in opposition to this Bill we are having it forced down our throats by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham? I do not know much about Birmingham, but I have no doubt there is much to be done there and many reforms to be made, and I say that the right hon. Gentleman might look after his own constituency and leave us in Ireland alone. If anybody imagines that any section of the Irish people are content to be "bull-dozed" from Birmingham they are very much mistaken; we do not want legislation forced down our throats by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. I want to say one word more about guarantees. I am disgusted whenever I hear the subject mentioned. The hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Timothy Healy) said he was willing to give guarantees for this, that, and the other; but the Irish people are doubly insulted when they are asked to give guarantees. The request means that you do not think 1589 they are sufficiently civilised and intelligent to govern themselves and mind their own business—unless you introduce a sort of inquisition in the country—and to abstain from driving from the country those of their fellow-countrymen who do not agree with them. It is impossible for any Protestant Member for Ireland to get up and say with truth that he believes that I and men like me in this House would think of interfering with the liberties or rights of any section of our countrymen, whatever their religion may be. We never introduced the religious element into the discussion, and nothing is more hateful to the Irish people and their representatives than that a question of religion should be introduced into that of national or local self-government for Ireland. I have never thought of giving any guarantee for my countrymen; I think too well of both my Roman Catholic and Protestant fellow-countrymen to believe that guarantees are needed. When we hear of these elaborate systems of guarantees and checks, it only shows us that the men who are proposing the Bill have not their heart in the work; it does not show that they believe them to be necessary, but it does show that they are obliged to do something to satisfy the bigotry and intolerance which exist in the minds of a certain section of their supporters in a certain part of Ireland. The Government know very well that the minority would not be oppressed in any County Council in Ireland, for we are far more tolerant in Ireland than you are in England. We hear of cases of intolerance at Eastbourne and other places, where the minority were brutally ill-treated; in Ireland no such scenes as that would ever occur. I represent a constituency in which there are Catholics as well as Protestants, and if they are allowed to live alone and are not interfered with by outsiders there will be no civil war and no interference with each other. This talk of guarantees is insulting to the Irish people to the last degree, and if guarantees are to be given at all they should be given by the Government to the effect that they will prevent their responsible Ministers making speeches in this country of the most inflammatory character and calculated to revive in the North of Ireland those scenes of riot and bloodshed which have disgraced its past history. If I 1590 were to make a speech in Ireland against the Orangemen of the same character as that of the Prime Minister against the Nationalists I should be tried for treason-felony, and probably sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. The Prime Minister is allowed to suggest, with perfect impunity, that it is the duty of Orangemen to take up arms against the authority of this House, and against an Act signed by the Queen, and to excite them to rebellion against the British Government and the Parliament which will sit in Ireland to manage Irish affairs. That speech is one of the most disgraceful incidents in the connection of the present Government with Ireland. Representing an Orange constituency—for my majority was small and the election was fought in July, when the Orangemen are most excited—and knowing that scenes of turmoil and bloodshed have occurred in the North of Ireland, for I have seen them; and knowing the feelings of the people, I say that if at the next General Election on the July celebration there should be turmoil and bloodshed it will be attributable to the conduct of the Prime Minister of this country and nothing else. It was outrageous and scandalous, and not enough has been made of the speech in this country. The English people do not understand the effect it will have on the minds of the Irish people. It will probably be reprinted and placarded in every Orange lodge, and every Orangeman will know it by heart, and it will be the war cry of the bigots in Ulster at the General Election and at their celebrations. We, however, will not refrain from trying to make the English people understand that whatever turmoil may occur will be the result of that speech of the Prime Minister which incited the people to rise in rebellion against the Queen. I am sorry to have spoken at such length on this point; but it is one in which I am deeply interested, as an Ulster Member, and knowing what I shall have to face at the General Election. Such a speech is calculated to make this talk of guarantees have some weight. If the Prime Minister did not make such speeches, if the Catholics and Protestants were allowed to live quietly without having these memories raked up, there would be no need to talk of guarantees 1591 in reference to the County Councils or any other Public Bodies in Ireland. The best guarantee that any man can have that under a Nationalist Government in Ireland or under the County Councils the minority will not be interfered with is to be found in the action of certain men in Ireland lately, who have shown that whether men are Protestants, or Catholics, or Presbyterians, or whatever their religion may be, so long as they are good Irishmen, they will not tolerate their being interfered with by ministers of any religion in the exercise of their political rights. If this Bill is passed it can do no good whatever, because it is a mockery, a sham, and a delusion. The Irish people have seen through it—they know it is only an electioneering dodge—it is thoroughly despised by them, and the sooner it is swept out of sight the better, so that the people of this country may see that nothing but National Self-Government, in every particular, will ever satisfy the Irish people and put an end to their agitation.
§ *(8.45.) MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
The attitude assumed by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House with reference to this Bill is rather peculiar; because, although it moves on the main lines of the English and Scotch Bills—which are at the present time said to be working very well—their attitude to it is one of uncompromising hostility. But it is to be remarked that through all their speeches they never kept to the Bill at all. They wandered away perpetually to the Home Rule question, and on that and that alone they spoke. The right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland distinctly stated that this Bill was no substitute for Home Rule for Ireland—that he had not that question in his mind at all. It was simply a Bill for Local Government which left the Home Rule question entirely untouched, and yet in spite of that declaration hon. Gentlemen hark back perpetually to the Home Rule question. Why is this? Simply, to my mind, because they know that this Bill will materially affect the Home Rule question. If the Bill does not pass, the reason will be owing to the hostility and obstruction of hon. Gentlemen opposite; and if the Bill is stopped by their obstruction and hostility it is very clear it 1592 will benefit the Unionist cause in this country, and will damage the Home Rule-cause with the electorate of England. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well that the battle of Home Rule is to be fought in the constituencies of England. In Ireland, Scotland, and Wales the mind of the electorate is very largely decided on this question, but the English electorate are still very open, and are very willing to be taught in a sensible and fair manner. That being so, hon. Gentlemen feel that if their obstruction is the cause of this Bill not passing, it will be a very strong point made against them with the electors of England. On the other hand, let us suppose that the Bill passes. Then it will either work well or it will work badly. If the County Councils work well, that will be an argument in favour of the Unionist Government that has passed a Bill which is working well. But if the County Councils work badly it will be proof to the electors of this country that the Irish people are not fit for the small measure of local self-government which this Bill gives them, and that, à fortiori, they are not fit for the wide and almost boundless powers which they are claiming under an Irish Parliament. Therefore hon. Members opposite thoroughly recognise that this Bill does affect the question of Home Rule. The indignation that has been poured out on this Bill is something very remarkable. If the Bill took anything whatever from those whom hon. Members are pleased to call the Irish people, then I could understand some measure of indignation. But the Bill does touch those whom hon. Members have ignored in all their speeches—namely, the Unionist minority, whose privileges will be taken away by this Bill, because we know that the Grand Jurors of Ireland are at the present moment nearly all Unionists. And why are the Grand Jurors Unionists? Because the Unionists are the people who possess property, and who are fit to be Grand Jurors. It has been said again and again in the course of this Debate that even the Unionists of Ireland are against this Bill. There never was a greater misstatement of fact than that. During the last twelve months I have travelled through the whole country; I have interviewed Grand Jurors in every 1593 county; and I think I can claim, owing to my last year's tour, to have met a larger number of Grand Jurors than any other Member of this House. I found that those who were to be disestablished by this measure were strongly in favour of passing a Local Government Bill. One of those with whom I spoke was a prominent Grand Juror in the County of Tipperary, who told me that by no possible qualification or franchise could any of the members of the Grand Jury of that county be returned to the County Councils. They fully expected that the powers they had exercised, and splendidly exercised, would pass away from them into other hands, and yet they supported the Bill. It has been said by hon. Members that the Bill is a bad Bill. Why, then, do they not help the Government to make it a good Bill? The Government do not claim to be infallible; but they do claim that the Bill is on the same lines as the English and Scotch Bills. How, then, can it be an insult to Ireland? We should like to know what hon. Members opposite really want. The selection of the hon. Member for West Belfast to move the rejection of the Bill was what I may call a bad cast, because it was necessary that the man who did that should be a man of great powers of vituperation and great willingness to use them. To the credit of the hon. Member, I say I do not think that his powers lie in that direction. He tried to grapple with the provisions of the Bill, but he failed to touch or shake any one of them. The gentlemanly instincts of the hon. Member prevented him from being a success at vituperation. His own success prevents him from posing as a martyr. His honesty prevents him from simulating what he does not in the least feel—namely, that he is a martyr, and his good nature prevents him from being indignant at nothing. I did not expect him to bless the Bill; but he ended by cursing it very mildly. The hon. Member said that the Government do not now attempt coercion, because they are afraid of the electors. The real reason is that there is no crime in Ireland to coerce. There have been fifty Coercion Acts in the present century, and thirty eight of them have been passed by Liberal Governments. In Grattan's Parliament fifty-four were passed in eighteen years, or at the rate 1594 of three a year. But how this Bill raises the question of coercion I fail to see. We have been told that if the present Government are retained there will be more shooting down of men in the streets, and taking men to prison. But what would happen if a Liberal Government came into power? Reference has been made to Mitchelstown, where only one man was shot down.
§ *MR. RENTOUL
Very well, three were shot down under a Conservative Government, but eighteen were shot dead in the streets of Belfast under the last Liberal Government. Then, again, I would point out, in reply to the hon. Member, that the awarding of compensation for malicious injury is not a fiscal business, and therefore it is left to the Grand Jury. It is certainly not a duty I should have cared to discharge when I was a member of the County Council. If the duty ought not to be left with the Grand Jury, a Bill could be brought in to provide another tribunal. This Bill simply takes fiscal business away from the Grand Jury, and leaves to them business which is not fiscal. It is uncharitable to say that. Grand Jurymen are saturated with prejudices. It is an undeserved imputation, on thousands of men, few of whom can be known to the hon. Member who made it. Nor is it rational to say that because 70,000 Roman Catholics in Belfast are unrepresented in the City Council, that they are, therefore, treated as civil outlaws, any more than it would be to say the same of Protestants living in counties to the South and West of Ireland, where all the representation is in the hands of Catholics.
§ *MR. RENTOUL
I mean Parliamentary representation. Then, again, as to the illiterate vote, if I were a Home Ruler I would gladly see the illiterate vote abolished. I know the wonderful intelligence of the Irish peasantry, and I am sure they could readily be taught how to mark a ballot paper. It is an insult to them to say that it is necessary for someone to go into the ballot box with them. In South Donegal there were more illiterate voters at the last election than in the whole of Scotland. Now, I know that county very well, and 1595 no one could make me believe that anything like a fraction of those who said they were illiterate were really so. I think it would be as well, therefore, to remove the suspicion attaching to the practice, for we believe—and everyone believes—that in Ireland thousands of men are forced to declare themselves illiterate—are made to do so—in order that it may be known how they vote. If a man is suspected of intending to vote for the Unionist, he is ordered to declare himself illiterate, so that thousands of men are forced to tell absolute falsehoods and to say they are illiterate, when they can both read and write perfectly well. The hon. Member for West Belfast does not object to any rational scheme of minority representation; what he objects to is the Tory Lord Lieutenant. But the Lord Lieutenant is not always a Tory, and hon. Members opposite themselves hope that there will not be another Tory Lord Lieutenant for some considerable time; and that the next Lord Lieutenant will be a Liberal; and if that be so, and if the Bill passes, he will probably be the one to apply it to the constituencies. Therefore the objection to the Tory official is not one of much weight. I am sure the hon. Member himself would not assume that a gentleman in the position of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, even if he be a Tory, would manipulate and tinker with the divisions for the County Councils in order to score a point for his Party. Then the hon. Member for West Belfast objects to the Standing Joint Committee, and says, "Why do not you trust us?" My answer is, "Why do not you trust us? How is it you invariably express the extremest distrust with regard to our Grand Juries and Sheriff's?" There is on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite a continual assumption that all Unionists in Ireland are Orangemen. There are only about fifty thousand of them in Ireland, and yet, in the face of that fact, you speak as if all Irish Unionists were Orangemen, and then allude to Orangemen as if they were the most rascally set of men that ever trod the earth. Why do you not trust the Orangemen? The hon. Member next proceeded to speak of the trial by two Judges, and he condemned that procedure. There has been condemnation of that method from both sides of the 1596 House. I am somewhat surprised at that, and, indeed, I am entirely unable to follow it. The only objection I have to to the trial by two Judges is the fear that it might be inoperative altogether—the fear that no twenty men can be got who will petition a Judge for leave to begin these legal proceedings against the County Council, seeing that they would have to give security for the costs. That is a great difficulty in the way of the full operation of this provision. Surely there is not much danger in a tribunal of that kind. In connection with this Bill we have had a speech from the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. Timothy Healy), who commenced with the statement that he had heard the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) a hundred times. I would venture to suggest that there is some element of exaggeration in that statement, for I never heard a speech that kept more closely to the subject. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the Bill almost page by page, and surely, under those circumstances, the estimate of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford is rather strange. I take the hon. and learned Member's assertion as indicating the nature of the whole of the other statement he made. But while that statement carried its absurdity on its own face, there were many other statements made by the same hon. Member which did not show on their faces their own absurdity and incorrectness, because they had reference to a state of facts in Ireland not known to many Members of this House. He said, for example, that the landlord does not himself hold any land. Speaking from my own acquaintance, I say that of all the landlords I know there is not one who does not farm more land than the biggest tenant he has. Therefore the statement of the hon. and learned Member is not true so far as my experience goes. Then the hon. and learned Member said it would be reasonable to abolish Grand Juries altogether. But Grand Juries still exist in England, and, therefore, why should it be an objection to this Bill that it does not remove in Ireland a system which still exists in England? It is perfectly true that Grand Juries are, perhaps, not of much practical value as regards their criminal 1597 functions, and that there would be no material loss if they were abolished. Still, the summoning of the Grand Juries is a nice and pleasant ceremony, and such duties as Grand Jurors have to perform could not be performed better by any other body of men. The hon. and learned Member said that what was wanted in Ireland was a system to improve the land and the breeding of cattle. That is perfectly true, but one might just as well suggest that those matters should be brought within the scope of an Education Bill. They are subjects for distinct legislation. The hon. Member says it is the majority who pay the rates; but it is perfectly well known that in many cases the large proportion of the rates is paid by a few people. I was recently examining one barony in which there were 2,600 electors, and more than half of the rates were paid by thirty-five. In the case of the vast number of electors their rates were only something like fourpence or sixpence in the pound. And if the minority pay the rates they are, therefore, in need of protection against expenditure which would have no appreciable effect on the small ratepayers, but would be a considerable burden on the others. The hon. and learned Member finished his speech by saying that if Ireland is to be pacified we must give her a decent Bill without restrictions. Ireland is pacified, and there would remain no need for restrictions if this Government were to always remain in power. But if a Liberal Government were to come into power there might again be turbulence, and hence the necessity for restriction. The hon. Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond) said that the Irish people did not want this Bill; but I know that in the main the whole Unionist population of Ireland are more anxious about this Bill than about any other legislation for the past ten years, and in all the counties of Ireland I have only met one Grand Juror who was not in favour of it. The hon. Member said it was not wanted in his constituency; but it is a curious fact that that was the one constituency to which I was asked to go and speak in favour of Local Government last September, as most of the people were in favour of it. The one word that stood prominent in all the Opposition speeches was the word "insult"; but it has 1598 been used without in any case showing wherein the insult existed. The insults are the restrictions placed upon the full and complete liberty of the County Councils. Now, are there not the same kind of insults being shown to Members of this House, and are not these the result of certain actions of the Irish Nationalists? Is it not a fact that we cannot now bring a friend into the Member's Lobby without obtaining an order? That is an insult, and what has caused it? Dynamite in this House. Again, a gentleman comes to see me at the Law Courts, and he has a bag in his hands. He is stopped at the door, and a policeman examines it. That is a deep insult to my friend. What brought it about? Again I have to say—dynamite. These insults are being, offered to people in this country because of scenes that have taken place in the past. Now, have not scenes taken place in Ireland in the past? Gentlemen opposite have been challenged to say they want a Bill without any restrictions or safeguards, but not one of them has done so. But they say, "We want you 10 show that you trust us." Personally, I do trust them and the Roman Catholics of Ireland, because I have never been a Gladstonian, and it is those who followed Mr. Gladstone who have never trusted the Roman Catholics. They have been taught not to trust them by two pamphlets called Vaticanism and The Vatican Decrees. I have never believed in those pamphlets, and I have only read small portions of them. If there is any distrust of Ireland at all, it is on the part of those who have been trained along the lines of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). The hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) said the other night that he trusted the Parnellites. Now, when he has got so far, it is possible, though difficult to conceive, that at some very remote date he might trust the Anti-Parnellites. But there is now a growing tendency among all sections in Ireland to trust one another, although sometimes things happen which make people a little distrustful for the time being. When I was in Sligo a short time ago I was told a story which no doubt some hon. Members opposite are familiar with. One night the pillars of the priest's house in Sligo were injured and his gate 1599 broken, and immediately the windows of all the Protestants in the town were broken, as well as those of a Roman Catholic doctor who was known to sympathise with the Protestants. The Catholics seemed to have jumped to the conclusion that it must have been a Protestant who did the injury; but the fact was, it was done by a Roman Catholic who was drunk, and he afterwards confessed that that was the case. When, however, the Catholics found that they were in the wrong, a contribution was levied among their own party to pay for the broken windows, and they made the Roman Catholic doctor, whose windows had also been smashed, contribute to the fund, but they did not repair his windows. As a Catholic he was obliged to subscribe, but not being a Protestant he could not have his windows repaired. This illustration will show how rapidly Roman Catholics jump to the conclusion that if anything bad is done a Protestant is the guilty party. You see they do not trust us in the manner they should do. Now, in the last place, I wish to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce). He condemned the Bill because it did not square with five tests that he applied to it. His first test is that it should be similar to the English and Scotch Bills. Now, I will venture to say that this Bill is as like to the Scotch Bill as the English Bill is. It cannot be similar to both the English and the Scotch, as they are different from each other. Therefore, his first test is an absurdity. The second test is that the Bill ought to satisfy Ireland. Well, if the hon. Member could produce a measure dealing with Local Government, or any other question in Ireland, which would satisfy anything more than a section of the Irish people, he would deserve a statue in brass to be erected to his memory in the Lobby of this House. The third test is that it should pacify Ireland. But you do not know whether it will or not until it is tried. His fourth test is that it should cause the Local Authorities to work in harmony with the Central Authorities. Well, we believe it will have that result if it becomes law. The hon. Member's last test is that it should be so framed as to teach the people to govern themselves. I think 1600 it is so framed, and that it is very likely, having local self-government, the Irish people would learn to govern themselves, not in a Parliament in Dublin, which they will never get, but in County Councils all over the country. I have the greatest possible desire to see this Bill passed into law, and I earnestly hope there is nothing whatever in the jokes made across the floor of this House that the Bill is going to be dropped. Speaking on behalf of a great number of Unionists in Ireland, I can safely say that they are more anxious for this Bill to be passed than they were for the Land Act of last year, and I think the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) was quite right when he said that the First Lord of the Treasury made too little of the Bill. I hope that hon. Members opposite will allow the Second Reading of this Bill to be speedily passed, and then set themselves seriously to work to make it a good Bill, and one that will be a benefit to Ireland.
§ (9.39.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
The hon. Member considers, no doubt, that he has sufficient evidence to support the statement he has made with reference to the feeling of the Unionists in Ireland on this Bill. It may be the case that there are Unionists in Ireland who are in favour of the Bill, but all I can say is that they take great pains to conceal that feeling. Can hon. Members opposite produce one single resolution of any Public Body which, by the most liberal interpretation, could be said to give a welcome to the measure? The only resolutions I have seen passed by Ulster bodies about it seemed to condemn it. When hon. Members say that Ulster is in favour of this Bill, we must assume that, to some extent, their judgment is coloured by the interests of their Party in England, and by the feeling that, if this great crowning measure of Unionist administration is openly flouted by every Party in Ireland, the Unionist administration is not likely to be renewed. Nationalist Members who address the House on this Bill are open to the disadvantage of being sneered at by a handful of Members opposite, representing a section of Ulster, for their want of knowledge of the Grand Jury system. The hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) has sneered at the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), 1601 and has alleged that he has no sufficient knowledge of Local Government in Ireland to enable him to address this House on that subject. I ask the House If there could be a more sweeping and severe condemnation of the whole system of Local County Government in Ireland—as it has hitherto existed—than that allegation, if it were true? But instead of it being the case that the hon. Member for West Belfast has no knowledge of local administration in Ireland, he has great knowledge, because for several years in succession he practically managed the affairs of the Municipality of Dublin, which collects in rates every year as much as any six of the largest counties in Ireland, and my hon. Friend has also carried through—as head of the Corporation of Dublin—a large scheme for the consolidation of the debt of the city in a way that even Unionists in Dublin admit did him great credit. I think it is going too far when the hon. Member for South Antrim—because, owing to certain hereditary privileges, he has had the honour of sitting on a certain number of Grand Juries—comes here and discounts the statements of the Member for West Belfast. Now, we say that this Bill does not propose to establish a system of Local Government in Ireland which can by any possibility be made to work. What is the first necessity for a workable system of County Government? I apprehend that hon. Members on both sides of the House will acknowledge that any system to work satisfactorily must be simple. The areas must be simple and the bodies elected must not be too numerous. It would be idle to deny that there are great difficulties in the way of carrying out a system of popular County Government in Ireland. The leisured class are, for the most part, in opposition to the people. Distances also are great; and in spite of what we have heard about the light railways, I am sure the Chief Secretary would be the last man to deny that the difficulty of getting to many county towns in Ireland is considerable. Yet the Government appear to have deliberately designed a Bill which will give the greatest possible amount of trouble to all concerned. We have at the present time several local divisions in Ireland. The county is sub-divided into Baronies, and the Poor Law Unions are 1602 sub-divided into electoral divisions, and already there is a considerable amount of confusion. Yet the Government have proposed to set up electoral divisions, which may be carried out by the Lord Lieutenant without regard to the existing areas, and merely to suit the existing exigencies of the Unionist Party. Hon. Members opposite say we should not attribute these mean motives to high officials. But these mean things are done. As a case in point, I need only refer to County Cavan. For the election of a matron of one of the Unions in that county there was a tie, and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland deliberately appointed several non-resident Justices as ex officio members in order to turn that election, and the result was that they put in a matron of their own way of thinking. We therefore know perfectly well that unless this House gives strict directions to the Lord Lieutenant he will divide up these divisions with regard to the electoral views of the agents of the Unionist Party. Fresh sanitary areas are also to be formed, for which I cannot see there is any necessity, and these may also be quite distinct from the Baronies and Unions. When all this is done we shall have several conflicting units of administration in Ireland, and there will also be a vast number of authorities. The Grand Jury, too, is still to exist as the fiscal authority for some purposes; it is still to deal with malicious injuries, and such matters as that. Then there is to be the County Council, and also the Standing Joint Committee, where representatives of the County Council and of the Grand Jury are to meet under the headship of that impartial man for whom we are all looking, and whom nobody has yet suggested—to fight out the questions about which the County Council and the Grand Jury differ. Fourthly, there are to be Baronial Councils; fifthly, Boards of Guardians; and, sixthly, Sanitary Committees, which are to be entirely distinct from the Boards of Guardians. Imagine the position of an unfortunate rural voter in Ireland Here is a man whose illiteracy, if we may believe hon. Gentlemen opposite, is perfectly terrible, and who is so miserably poor that he ought not to be allowed any determining control over the affairs of the county, and yet 1603 he is expected to keep his eye on all these bodies who manage his affairs for him, and who may very possibly meet in different towns. If the Government had deliberately endeavoured to design a machinery which was most likely to produce jobbery, they could not have produced a measure more likely to secure that end. We know the difficulty of working any system of Local Government, and the Government seem to have set themselves deliberately to increase the difficulties of the situation. Take for instance the matter of building a bridge. If it falls down or is carried away it must be rebuilt, but before it can be rebuilt there has to be a tortuous procedure which commences with an application to the Baronial Council—a body which meets eight times in the year—by two cess-payers. The application must be considered and approved by the Baronial Council, and the County Surveyor is directed to prepare plans. After this the Council, have to meet and accept tenders. The fourth step is that the Finance Committee of the County Council has to consider the proposal. The fifth is the County Council has to consider the application, and the Standing Joint Committee come in for the sixth step. The whole proceedings so far can be traversed in the High Court in Dublin, as a Judge of Assize is not good enough to give a decision under the new system. The last step, number eight, is that the Local Government Board in London has to give its consent to the loan. I venture to say that that is not a simple and workable system. Next we have to discuss what are the powers which the various bodies will exercise and what are the safeguards. With respect to the safeguards which are imposed on the Standing Joint Committees, the Member for West Birmingham said, on the authority of a person whom he did not name, but who, I believe, was the Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney), that ninety-seven per cent. of the expenditure of the County Councils would be beyond the control of the Standing Joint Committees. That statement was absolutely preposterous, and one which ought not to have been made without an inquiry into the facts; and made as it was by the Member for West Birmingham, it was calculated to mislead the House. I think I can give the genesis of this 1604 peculiar fallacy. The Member for South Antrim, when he addressed the House, took the figures for the County of Tyrone, and stated—I dare say correctly—what was the amount spent on new roads and bridges in that county, and from that county he took an average for the whole of Ireland, and so arrived at the conclusion that the total amount spent was £19,000. Anyone who knows anything of Local Government anywhere must have seen that the statement was preposterous and absurd on the face of it, and one would not have supposed that the Member for West Birmingham would have been so easily gulled. Indeed, I do not suppose he would have been gulled if he had desired to inquire very accurately into the facts. But there was no difficulty in getting at the actual figures, which have been published in a Parliamentary Return. I may say that the amount spent on roads and bridges has been less in recent years owing to the fact that the landlords have ceased to take an interest in the improvement in their property, even at the expense of some one else; but last year the amount spent, according to the Parliamentary Return, on roads and bridges was £50,000. These figures were accessible to the Members for South Antrim and West Birmingham, but instead of taking them they preferred to mislead the House by striking an average from a single county. The amount levied in the form of county cess is £1,172,000 a year, and of that £284,000 is absolutely peremptory, including the payments for prisons and lunatic asylums and repayments of debt. That leaves a balance of something like £888,000. Of that £50,000 is expenditure on roads and bridges, and that is not all capital expenditure, because it may include amounts for altering and widening as well as for building. Further, there is a sum of £99,000 a year spent in salaries, and this I contend is clearly beyond the control of the County Council, because that body will not have the power to raise the salary of a single official. Then it is difficult to trace all the expenditure of the Grand Juries, but I think at the very lowest estimate, after giving every doubtful point to the friends of this Bill, there will be about thirty per cent. of the expenditure over which the County Council will have no control, and which 1605 will be entirely in the hands of the Standing Joint Committee, and it is perhaps needless to add that that thirty per cent. includes all the expenditure with reference to which there would be any difference of opinion. When any new work is proposed with reference to which there can be any discretion, the control of the Standing Joint Committee comes in. The hon. Member for Islington (Sir A. Rollit) has seen the absurdity of the proposal, and if he had been on the Treasury Bench, and had drawn up this Bill, I daresay we should have been found voting in favour of it. Can you imagine a more fruitful source of friction than this question of the control of capital expenditure? If I were a member of the Irish Bar I should be strongly tempted to support this Bill, and if this Bill passes I congratulate my brethren of the Irish Bar on the prospect of a large harvest of fees which will undoubtedly come to them as the result of litigation on this subject. At the same time that the Standing Joint Committees have these enormous powers the Grand Juries keep the powers with respect to malicious injuries. At Presentment Sessions they are discussed in the presence of the associated cesspayers, and though a Grand Jury does sometimes pass a presentment for malicious injury in spite of it not having been approved by the Baronial Session, that is an unusual course. The Government have entirely removed this preliminary inquiry from the control of the cesspayers, and the only inquiry is that before the Grand Jury, and that is beyond the power of question except by traverse. You have a certain amount of popular control in the Presentment Session, but so objectionable is popular control to the right hon. Gentleman that he has entirely abolished it. I think it would have been better to abolish presentment for malicious injury altogether. The Government has been careful to preserve the power to the wealthy and intelligent of getting large sums for the cesspayers by fraud and perjury by reserving the power of compensation for malicious injury mainly in the hands of the landed gentry. As to the cumulative vote, I do not object to it from its Party effect, but because I believe it will introduce bad government in Ireland. The rural ratepayer will have to go in and 1606 choose ten, or, in the case of Baronial Council, fifteen members at a time, many of whom will be unknown to him even by name, and to distribute his ten or fifteen votes among them. The right hon. Gentleman could not have devised a better system by which rural affairs could be put into the hands of a clique wire-pullers. Twenty years' experience of School Board elections show that very careful management is required to prevent the majority being outvoted by a better organised minority, and the same careful management will be required in Ireland. Under the ordinary law in Ireland there would be all the safeguards that exist in England—certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, the control of the Local Government Board, and of the auditors. There would also be the safeguards which exist in the Irish law—the right of traverse, and the peculiar Irish law as to valuation, which puts it out of the power of any Local Authority to change the valuation at all. But, with all these, the Government has deliberately designed other unnecessary safeguards in order to render the scheme unworkable, to render it abortive as a Bill for the good government of Ireland, to introduce friction into every county, and to set class against class. If the Bill were amended by the acceptance of all the Amendments which have been suggested by the hon. Member for Islington (Sir A. Rollit) and others of more liberal thought on either side of the House it might make a fairly good measure; but though the hope of amendment may be held out on the Second Reading, that hope would be disappointed if ever the Bill came to Committee. It never will get into Committee. We object to the Bill because it is bad, it is unworkable, and because it is an attempt to delude the voters of England and Ireland into thinking that the promises of the Government have been carried into effect; while as a matter of fact, if the Bill were passed, it would only increase the difficulties of government in Ireland, and do no manner of good to any single human being from North to South or East to West.
§ (10.12.) COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
There is one thing I am glad to have noticed during the course of the Debate—that no attempt 1607 has been made to prove that during the past Irish Grand Juries have in any sense misappropriated public money. Allegations have been made that they have recklessly expended public money by the hon. Member who has just sat down, but he took care not to offer any proof of the statement. Having acted as foreman of the Grand Jury of my county for many years, I most distinctly state that the allegations are absolutely devoid of any shadow of foundation.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I was struck during the Debate by the number of different points of view from which Irishmen view the same question. The speeches of the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) and of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) may be taken as specimen speeches of those delivered on the opposite side of the House. I regret that my absence prevented me hearing the speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast; I am sorry that my presence in the House enabled me to hear that of the hon. Member for North-East Cork, whom I cannot congratulate on his attack on the Government Bill. He, however, made one remarkable statement. Among the many accusations he brought against the Bill he said—This Bill was an unhappy effort on the part of the Government to satisfy fifteen million Irishmen in all parts of the world.I am at a loss to know when it became a habit of Governments in this country to try to satisfy those who are not subjects of the Crown. I know that speeches have been made by distinguished Members opposite pointing out the grave effects of offending Irishmen on the other side of the Atlantic, but I do not believe that line of argument—which is the argument of a craven—will ever be popular with any political party in Great Britain, whether Radical or Tory. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Government should have considered the feelings of gentlemen on the other side of the Atlantic, at which I do not wonder. These Irishmen have ceased to be subjects of the Crown, or never were subjects of the Crown, and have openly avowed their, hostility to this country, and have been the main source of the sinews of war to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but the source is now 1608 dried up. Therefore, no doubt, in considering a Bill of this kind, brought in by the Government with a view to doing justice, to the Irish people, it is the duty of hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider what effect the acceptance of such a Bill would have on their supporters in America and elsewhere. But I do not see that it is an objection to the Bill that in the mind of the hon. Member for North-East Cork it fails in that, direction. I should say it is rather one of the beauties of the Bill that it utterly ignores everybody except those whom it is intended to benefit by it. It has been asserted that this Bill is a substitute for a Home Rule Bill. It is no more a substitute for a Home Rule Bill than is the Bann Drainage Bill. The Bill is brought in by the Government, and I hope will be passed by the Government—it may not be this Session, but that depends on the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite—but no doubt the Leader of the House will consider the statement of the hon. Member for North East Cork that he would let the Bill pass if the Government would give a Dissolution. I hope the Government will take take him at his word, pass the Bill, and then go to the country, and I have no doubt the Government would then return to carry on the government of this country in the future. It is dangerous to be certain on this point. Hon. Gentlemen opposite believe the tide has turned, but it has not yet set in with such alarming velocity as they would have us believe. But if the Bill does not pass—and I earnestly hope it will—it will indicate to the country the kind of Bill the next Unionist Government will bring in and pass for the benefit of Ireland. I read the speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast carefully, for I knew, from his ability and eloquence, he would place before the House very clearly what he thought to be the main weaknesses of the Bill and why it should be rejected. But when I read the speech of the hon. Member I thought he must have been dreaming. He made this remarkable statement—The state of Ireland was on all fundamental points exactly the same as it was when the Coercion Act was passed.If I thought that was true I should join with hon. Gentlemen opposite in opposing the Bill, for I believe, Sir, that 1609 one point we should take into consideration—quite apart from the details of the Bill—is: Is Ireland in a fit state to benefit by the Bill? If Ireland is in the same state as it was five or six years ago, I should say Ireland is the most unfit country in Europe for the Bill. I may say I thought the hon. Gentleman must have been dreaming. He must have thought that the Land League was in full force. Where is the Land League, I should like to know; this organisation which was to destroy all before it, and smash down all opposition? It is gone; it has become a thing of the past, and no longer exists. He must have thought that the Plan of Campaign was in existence. What has happened to the Plan of Campaign? What has happened to the O'Brien Arcade? All these things have vanished and disappeared. The O'Brien Arcade at present belongs to my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Smith Barry). I believe also the hon. Member for West Belfast must have thought that he was still speaking for a united Party? Where is the union of that Party? Buried in the grave of Mr. Parnell. The hon. Member must have believed that the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)—I do not know whether he is on speaking terms with the hon. Member for East Mayo—but, at any rate, he must have thought that the hon. Member for East Mayo is still going about the country inciting the Irish people to deeds of violence, as he did on former occasions. Well, perhaps that may be thought a strong statement for me to make, that the hon. Member for East Mayo incited the Irish people to deeds of violence; and if I am corrected for saying so, I can only justify myself by saying that I am using the exact language that the hon. Member for East Mayo used the other day in speaking of an hon. Gentleman who used to be his friend, the Member for Waterford. He accused the hon. Member for Waterford of "inciting to deeds of violence," because, as a leader, he had failed to condemn those deeds of violence; and, therefore, he was guilty of every one of them. Now, that is exactly what we always said of the hon. Member for East Mayo. And if the hon. Member for East Mayo could go about the country, just as he did, inciting the Irish 1610 people to deeds of violence and intimidation, I should join with hon. Members opposite in opposing this Bill. I should say that a Bill of this kind, which was brought in under those conditions, would be an unmitigated curse to Ireland. I consider that a Local Government Bill in my mind would be far more dangerous under those circumstances than a Home Rule Bill. And I think so for this reason: It would be harder to destroy a Local Government Bill, no matter how bad it might be; and the very points which the hon. Member for West Belfast singled out as defects, and which caused him to condemn the Bill, are the very points which cause me to defend and accept it. I think it was the hon. Member for North Longford, or perhaps it was the hon. Member for North East Cork—yes, it was the hon. Member for North East Cork—who challenged any Ulster Member to get up and say that he really supported this Bill. And he went on to say after that that the Ulster minority differed very much on many of these grave points. That is true. I quite admit that there is the same amount of difference between the Ulster Loyalists as there is between the Tories in this country. They differ very often on the land question; they differ on other points; but there is one good thing, at any rate, that hon. Gentlemen opposite have involuntarily done for our country, and it is this: that they have welded into one solid whole the Ulster Loyalists. Although we may differ on some grave political points, we are absolutely at one upon the great point, and that is that we should never permit hon. Gentlemen opposite to rule over us. We are quite at one in favour of this Bill. My constituents have spoken to me often on this subject, and they areas much in favour of a County Government Bill as British electors have been in favour of it in England and Scotland; but what they impressed upon me is this, that however much they desired a County Government for the sake of themselves and the administration of their county affairs, they never would consent voluntarily to accept a County Government Bill which would injure their brethren in the South and West of Ireland. There is one thing which they are determined on, at any rate in Ulster, 1611 and that is to stand by every Loyalist between Cape Clear and the Giant's Causeway. I support this Bill because I think the Government in framing this measure have successfully fulfilled a very difficult task. The task they had to perform, and that they have fulfilled, was this: they had to give popular control over county affairs without giving Ireland a Bill which might be used as an engine by the majority to oppress the Unionist minority. One reason why the hon. Member for West Belfast opposes this Bill is that it takes away the power of presentment for malicious injuries from the County Councils, and gives it to the Grand Jury.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Well, perhaps I dropped an inaccurate phrase. I mean to say that the hon. Member complains that the Bill does not propose to give that power to the County Councils.
§ MR. SEXTON
I do not complain that it does not give that power to the County Councils, but that it has been left to the Grand Jury.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I venture to point out that if the power of presentment for malicious injuries was left to the County Councils in Ireland the position or the minority in the South and West would be absolutely untenable. We know perfectly well what was meant, when the Land League was in full force, by making a man uncomfortable, as the hon. Member for East Mayo phrased it. One of the ways employed was to maim and destroy his cattle; that was the ordinary way by which the Land League enforced its laws. The only safeguard they had in the South and West was that they could recover for malicious injuries before the Grand Jury; and undoubtedly that had a great effect in preventing the recurrence of these crimes, and rendering them at any rate less common. If the power of presentment for malicious injuries were granted to popular bodies in Ireland, especially if hon. Gentlemen opposite had the misfortune to have that power, with the "village ruffian" again upon the scene, when the Land League had again been put in force, and if the County Councils were under popular government 1612 and under the control of the Nationalist Party, there might be at any moment a general massacre of all the cattle in the South and West of Ireland. (Laughter.) It is not a laughing matter, but it may be a laughing matter to hon. Members opposite because they do not possess any cattle. I venture to say it would place the Irish Loyalists, the Irish minority, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant—for we make no difference in point of religion—it would place them absolutely at the mercy of the majority; and I say that this is one of the best things about this Bill. One of the good things about it is that it takes away, or will take away when it is passed, the power of presentment for malicious injuries from the County Councils. That is one of the reasons why the hon. Member for West Belfast objected to this Bill. There was another reason, and perhaps this was his greatest reason, because this Bill takes away the control of the police from the County Councils. It does not propose to confer on the County Councils the control of the police. The control of the police will remain as it is at present. I venture to point out to hon. Gentlemen opposite that if the County Councils in Ireland had got control of the police, the people who would suffer most would be the hon. Gentlemen themselves. I venture to ask the hon. Member for Mid Cork who visited Cork the other day, what would have happened in that city if the police in Cork had been under the control of the Local Authority. The hon. Members never would have escaped with their lives out of the City of Cork, and they only did escape with their lives under the protection of the police and the soldiers.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I would ask the House to remember the election in Waterford. If the police had been under the control of the hon. Member for Waterford, what would have happened to the hon. Member for North-East Cork, the hon. Member for East Mayo, and their friend Mr. Davitt? If the Bill were so framed that the police were to be under the control of the County Councils, I venture to say that there is not a constituency in Ireland in which the hon. Member for North Longford could make 1613 a speech without danger to his life. I do not think the hon. Member for North Longford would be safe anywhere except on the English side of the Kish Light. Therefore, I think that one of the reasons why the hon. Member for West Belfast condemns the Bill is one of the virtues of the Bill, and one of those parts of the Bill that in their own interest, I believe, hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to think twice before they rejected. Each of the leaders of the Party would want to get command of the police; but how would it be with the others? In supporting this Bill, I say that the defects which the hon. Member has discovered in this Bill are, to my mind, its chief virtues. I speak, I think, in the name—in fact, I do speak in the name of the most powerful section of the Irish people. I have the right, without arrogance, to say that at the present moment there is no Irishman in this House who speaks in the name of as powerful a section of the Irish people as I do myself. I will test it. I venture to say there is no hon. Member below the Gangway who dare get up—who has the audacity to get up—and say that he speaks in the name of the Irish people, because he would at once run the certain danger of being contradicted by the Gentleman who sits beside him. I speak in the name of a minority, but at any rate it is an absolutely united minority. We do not spend our time in fighting for the plunder of journals in Dublin. When my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham expressed the hope that they might be able to find a Chairman of a dispassionate mind, he was at once received by signs of amazement from hon. Gentlemen from Ireland below the Gangway. Why, Sir, they have spent a week in Ireland trying to get a Chairman, and the Member for East Mayo, when a Chairman was proposed, said, "Fair play from a man who is under the direct influence of Mr. Healy!" The idea of fair play from a Chairman who is a sympathiser with the Member for Longford was a thing that the hon. Member for East Mayo absolutely derided. No wonder hon. Gentlemen opposite treated with derision the idea of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, that it was possible in Ireland to obtain a dispassionate Chairman. 1614 I support this Bill because I do not despair at all of the future of Ireland. I believe that without Home Rule, which I believe in our time we shall never see, there are all the elements of future prosperity in Ireland. I think the most sanguine Unionist six years ago never could have imagined in his wildest dreams that Ireland would be as peaceful, as prosperous, and as contented as she is now. The hon. Member for West Belfast in his speech said if the Government were returned we would have a repetition of all the horrors of the past—of Mitchelstown and Tullamore. There are no signs of it now. There is not a single patriot in gaol.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
We hear nothing of coercion, with which hon. Gentlemen tried to arouse the feelings and sympathies of the English people.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I do not know whether you have or not; the next Election will test that. We hear no more about coercion now. If it existed then it exists still; but it rests with so light a hand upon the Irish people that there is at the present moment under the Act not one single subject of Her Majesty in prison. In view of the condition of Ireland under the present resolute government of the Unionist Party, I say we have every confidence that the Irish people are not incorrigibly hostile to British rule, and that they will be able to appreciate the effort which Her Majesty's Government are now making in this Bill to give them the same measure of justice which they have given to England and to Scotland. And I earnestly hope that at the next Election the British people will reply by sending back a Unionist majority; and having learned from six years of resolute government how Ireland has been made a peaceful and happy country will enable Lord Salisbury and his colleagues to finish the other fourteen.
§ *(10.40.) SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I do not know whether the Government attach very much value to the defence of their Bill made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh. The hon. and gallant Member on this occasion has made very much the same speech as he has made 1615 upon every Irish question that has been before the House during the last six years. The taunts which he has directed at hon. Gentlemen who are immediately opposite him are precisely those which have been his sermon on whatever text was before the House at the time. But when I pass from what he said about the state of Ireland to what he said about the Bill, I doubt whether the Government could have been very well satisfied with the defence he made. I took down very carefully the substance of all that he said with regard to the Bill; and what were the arguments he used? In the first place, he began with a panegyric on Grand Juries as they are at present constituted, very much as we remember some county Members in the Debate on the English County Government Bill began by praising Quarter Sessions; and then, after a prolonged interval that was taken up entirely by attacks upon hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite him, he again referred to the Bill, and praised it for two reasons, and two reasons only. One was that the Bill did not give the power of dealing with malicious injuries to the new County Councils; the other, that the Bill did not give the control of the police to these new bodies. I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether it would not have been a cheaper and a shorter way if the Government, in order to earn his panegyrics, had brought in no Bill at all, because then the control of the police would equally have rested outside the County Councils, and malicious injuries would still have been dealt with by Grand Juries. The hon. and gallant Member, even, could not give any animation to this Debate. It is a Debate on a foregone conclusion. I suppose there is no Member in this House, on either side, who believes that the first clause of this Bill will ever pass through Committee. Now, during this Session the Government have largely taken the time of Private Members. ("No!") Well, I think they have; at any rate, they have taken it tolerably freely. The consequence is, that Private Members are obliged to allow their abstract Resolutions to give way to Public Business; but here we have a Bill which is nothing more or less than an abstract Resolution, with this difference: that whereas an abstract Resolution brought forward by a Private Member takes a night or half 1616 a night, this Bill must in decency take four nights, because it is the great measure of the Session, and whereas at the worst Private Members waste a night here or a night there, the Government have wasted a Session. But we are bound to take this Bill of the Government just as seriously as if it was a serious measure. Towards this the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has brought a very valuable contribution. Nobody can deny, who listened to his speech, that it was a speech of very great power; and when I say that it did everything bur, raise the debating reputation of the right hon. Gentleman, I think I am paying the greatest compliment in my power. But in the whole course of that speech there was nothing that surprised me more than that he was able to keep his countenance so very well. There is one reason for discussing this measure as a reality. This is not a Debate for the House of Commons, but for the country at the General Election. The object is to enable the Government to say that, having carried through their Irish policy, having given us the Criminal Law Amendment Act, the Irish Purchase Bill, the Light Railways Bill, and the Drainage Bills, they are now putting the crown on their policy by giving a broad and generous measure of self-government to Ireland. On the other hand, it will be said that those whom the measure was intended to benefit have captiously, and fractiously, and ungratefully thrown it back in the teeth of the Government, and that they have been supported by the Liberal Party. As regards those whom the measure was intended to benefit—that is to say, the Irish Members—they have, I think, been able to hold their own in this Debate. No one who listened to the speech in which the hon. Member for West Belfast battered and pulverised the position that this was a real concession to Ireland will need anything more to explain to him why Irishmen vote as they are going to vote. But it is necessary that something should be said by Liberals on this side of the Channel likewise in order to prove—which I think it will be very easy to prove—that we look on this Bill as a measure of a fatal and most dangerous sort, a measure which professes to make a final and complete settlement of a great ques- 1617 tion; but which really leaves it in such an unsatisfactory state, and deals with it in such a partial manner, as only to offer us disappointment in the present, and, if it is passed, disturbance and disorder in the future. I go at once to the contested question of Clause 5. It is very curious, indeed, to see how the Member for West Birmingham would treat this clause, and it was with a certain amount of surprise that I found that he went in heartily to defend it. I want to say a few words on the speech made two days ago by the hon. and learned Gentleman whom I see opposite. The Attorney General, if he will remember his speech, endeavoured to enlist all of us who sat upon this Bench in support of this clause by quoting certain passages from our previous speeches. I will only deal with the passage which he quoted from mine, and if he will allow me I will read it again. It is quite true that in April, 1886, I used the words which the Attorney General quoted, and I used other words as well. This was on the subject of the Local Government Bill which I shadowed forth as what ought to be given to Ireland—In the interests both of Ireland and of the British taxpayer," I said, "I would make freely-elected Irish Local Bodies responsible for education—higher, middle, and lower; for the superintendence of Local Government; for poor relief, and for what is called the development of the resources of Ireland in every respect.That, I think, is a pretty large allowance of Local Government. Then I went on to say—To all these bodies I would allot with a generous hand, once for all, their share of the produce of taxation, so as to make them responsible for the local finances of Ireland; and what is required over and above should be raised by local taxation. To these bodies should be given full power over local taxation, but they should have no executive power over the incidence of local taxation, or over valuation or assessment, in order that injustice should not be done indirectly between class and class.Well, Sir, on this ground the right hon. and learned Gentleman claimed my support in favour of Clause 5; but how can he claim any such thing? In the first place, there is no fear whatever of County Councils doing any injustice with regard to valuation, because they have no power over it. The valuation in Ireland is not under this Bill, nor in 1618 any previous Act, committed, as it is in England, to Assessment Committees and to Boards of Justices. It is managed entirely by the Government Office in Dublin. The valuation of a county, as everyone knows, is entirely the business of the Central Government; and as for assessment, the new County Councils will be surrounded by the most ample safeguards, which will give the cesspayers full power of appeal to the Quarter Sessions, and eventually to the High Court in case of injustice being done. But by Clause 5 of this Bill on the top of these safeguards a new provision is superinduced, and the County Councils may be brought before a tribunal in case they are charged with corruption, malversation, or oppression. I am not speaking as a lawyer, but as a layman; but I am satisfied that what I am now saying is just. Where penalties are to be inflicted, the law does not deal in generalities; it requires certain definite charges to be made against the accused parties. No man in this country is sent to prison on a general charge of dishonesty, but because he has obtained goods or money on fraudulent pretences. No man is sent to prison for cruelty, but for assaulting with intent to injure. But under Clause 5 a man, representing the views of the majority of the people of Ireland, may be brought before a tribunal composed of Judges, not a single one of whom holds the opinion of that majority, on a general charge of malversation, of dishonesty or oppression, which may be brought against him for political reasons. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham has spoken of the oppression and the personal injustice that have been charged against various Local Bodies in Ireland, and he has asserted that no fewer than ten Boards of Guardians were dissolved in Ireland during the time I held the office of Chief Secretary. I have not inquired into the matter, but I think that the right hon. Gentleman has considerably exaggerated the number. But, at any rate, the Boards of Guardians referred to were dissolved on quite different charges. They were dissolved because they did not carry out duties that were imposed upon them by Statute, which says that if the regular meetings of Boards of Guardians are not held at the times fixed, and the duties of such 1619 Boards are not effectually discharged as required, the Local Government may have power to dissolve them. They cannot be dissolved for any other reason. It is the same with School Boards in this country, to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer. If such Boards refuse to levy a rate, and refuse to build schools, then they can be pronounced to be in default, and may be dissolved. It is a very different matter, however, when you come to these vague political charges against the County Councils in the future. Some hon. Members have said that we ought at once to dismiss the Bill because it is not accepted by the majority of the Irish Representatives. That may be so or not, but it is rather high doctrine. I prefer to say that I should like to see what the Irish people ask for from a Local Government Bill. I think that they ask for two things: first, free and full management of their local affairs; and, secondly, that they should be able to get rid of every shred of the old system of ascendancy in local affairs. But this Bill is an ascendancy Bill in almost every line. It does not give free admission to all people—irrespective of class, of creed, or of politics—to the management of their local affairs. In proof of that I may mention the cumulative vote, which has been introduced into this Bill for the very purpose of protecting minorities.
§ *SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
The cumulative vote, however, is applied to the counties, not to boroughs. Why is it not applied to the boroughs? Not on account of the Protestant minority. The Protestant minorities want no protection in the towns of Ireland, for in those towns in which there is a majority of Roman Catholics the Protestants have their fair share of representation on the Town Councils and of posts in the borough administration. This is, however, not the case in one or two places where there is a Protestant majority, and notably in Belfast, where the system of religious ascendancy is continued, and where the Roman Catholics, though forming a large proportion of the population, are excluded from all local representation and control. Then there is the question of the municipal vote; for while the 1620 broadest franchise has been generously extended to the boroughs of Ireland, one-great exception has been made in the case of the City of Dublin, where the old ascendancy is still maintained in the municipal vote in the interests of one class. What reason has been given for this exception? It is that Dublin has a special Act of its own. That is a lawyer's reason; it is not a House of Commons' reason. It is not a political reason, and it is not a reason, which the people can understand for the purpose of retaining the state of things under which, in the Municipality of Dublin, a few thousands vote at the municipal elections, whereas some 40,000 voters take part in the Parliamentary election. Then we have the question of the illiterate votes. The abolition of the illiterate vote is made quite confessedly. I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Mid Armagh (Mr. Barton), and on this subject he was very full and frank. It is unquestionably meant to injure one party only, and that party is not the party of ascendancy. I am not here to defend or attack the illiterate vote on its own merits. I have read the old Debates in this House on the subject. I was present during the Debates to which I refer. To whom does the illiterate vote owe its origin? To the late Leader in this House of the Conservative Party, who brought forward the question of the illiterate vote on 29th April, 1872, and if he did not carry it that very day, yet the next time the House met to consider the Ballot Act, it was carried by the Conservative Party and the Irish Members. Now that Party, which justly reveres its late Leader, will have to say why they supported him on that occasion and why they go against his views now. I myself say nothing about the illiterate vote except this—that when the question comes on it must be considered as a whole, and that I am not going to vote for a special Bill abolishing the illiterate vote in a country which values it, and which was always in favour of it. ("No!") Well, the great majority of the Irish Members were always in favour of it. The illiterate vote must be considered on its merits, and not merely as a question of inflicting on Ireland something which you have spared to England. The question of ascendancy 1621 is not only involved in what the Bill enacts, you also see it in its omissions; and I consider a very serious omission in this Bill is the failure to deal with the question of the Justices of the Peace in Ireland. I cannot understand how a Local Government Bill that can really be supposed to satisfy the Irish people can be complete when you leave untouched the state of things at present existing. Talk of ascendancy! Why, in the County of Tyrone according to the last census more than half of the population is Catholic, and out of the one hundred and thirty-eight Justices of the Peace only nine are Catholics. In Wicklow five-sixths of the population are Catholics, and out of one hundred and four Justices of the Peace only five are Catholics. In Fermanagh more than half the population is Catholic, and out of one hundred and seventy-four Justices of the Peace only one is Catholic. We Scotch Members and the great majority of the English Members on this side have voted in favour of a measure for the purpose of improving our Local Government, by giving to the County and Municipal Councils a voice in the choice of Justices. Perhaps the best governed towns in the island are the Scotch towns, and there the Justices are elected. I say it is indeed very meagre fare to the Irish people to offer a Local Government Bill which does not do something towards bringing the Justices of the Peace in some degree in accordance with the opinions and religion of the people. Of course the strongest point of all is the Joint Committee. It is quite idle to refer Irish Members to Scotland. Scotch Members protested most vigorously against the appointment of the Joint Committee, but they protested in vain, and the same occurred in the case of the English measure. But the case of Scotland and the case of Ireland are entirely different, because in Scotland the Joint Committee is kept solely for the purpose of capital expenditure, and that capital expenditure in the old days was entirely defrayed by the landlord and half of the county rates also by the landlord. But in Ireland almost the whole of the county cess is paid not by the landlord but by the occupier, and yet this Joint Committee is being composed of landlords—it is idle to talk about great cesspayers—and of men 1622 interested in the landlord class. This body will have the County Council in leading strings, for the County Council without the consent of the Joint Committee is unable to make any capital expenditure—to construct any roads, bridges, water supply, or to acquire land. They cannot do anything towards supplying houses for the working classes, towards carrying out the Labourers Act all of which cost money. They cannot even borrow money for the purpose of consolidating the debt, so that the splendid operations of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) as Mayor of Dublin could not have been carried out if he had been the Chairman of the County Council. The majority of gentlemen were so little in sympathy with these elected bodies that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has been obliged to create a number of protective clauses. Again, the principal officers of the County Council are not chosen by the County Council. The two principal officers are chosen by the Joint Committee. I suppose there is no one thing for which Irishmen more desire Local Government than as a means of stopping what some of them call jobbery, and which all of them call patronage. And yet the most important posts in the hierarchy of the County Council officers are retained in the hands of a close body. In Scotland, where there is a Joint Committee, the appointment of the Clerk of the Peace and of the County Surveyor is given, over absolutely to the County Council, and the result is increased satisfaction. In Scotland, too, the servants of the County Council are its servants, whereas in England these servants were appointed by the Joint Committee, and often prove the masters. One more point. The Joint Committee has the power of hindering the County Council from discharging any officer whom they find in existence at the time of their creation. A high scale of compensation practically debarred the County Council from dismissing its own officers, and yet in Clause 73, sub-section 4, there is absolutely put forward an invitation to appoint baronial constables and other officers up to the Assize before the passing of the Act, in order that when, the new County Council comes in it may find a complete set of these officials provided. The hon. Member for Mid 1623 Armagh said this Bill included safeguards which would protect his opponents, and not his supporters. He said that Ulster-men wanted to remove the ascendancy. How does this Joint Committee protect the opponents of the hon. Member? It surely is almost a farce to say that the seven Grand Jurymen and the Sheriff, whom we were told by the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) is the youngest and probably the most dependent member of the band of country gentlemen, will be a protection for the minority of Catholics and Nationalists in Ulster against the majority of the County Council, which is elected by those who agree with the hon. Member. This provision is retained simply for the purpose of preserving as much of the ascendancy as can be preserved in those counties where the people opposed to ascendancy are quite sure of getting a majority. Before I sit down I just want to say one word about the comparison of this Bill to that of Scotland. We have been asked to-day in very pointed words whether we want anything broader than the Scotch and English Bills. In the first place, this Bill is not so broad as the Scotch Bill; I doubt if it is as broad as the English Bill. The Scotch Bill was large and broad enough for this Parliament, but if that Bill had come—I will not say from a Scotch Parliament—from a Select Committee entirely composed of Scotch Members it would have been more an example and precedent for Ireland. But large or small, it is idle to offer to Ireland a scheme of government founded upon the lines of countries with whose political history, with whose social and economical condition Ireland has nothing in common. The scheme of Local Government for Ireland should, therefore, instead of being smaller, be larger and broader, in order that it may make amends for the past; and in order that it may work well for the future it ought to be full, bold, fearless, comprehensive, and, above all, it ought to please Irishmen and satisfy them. But, as far as I can see, this scheme of the Government has nothing Irish about it except certain provisions dictated by the bad old central spirit of Irish Government, and which have been put in for the purpose of thwarting Irish aspirations; and the blots of this Bill are not Irish merely. 1624 The Statute-books have been ransacked to find in Education Bills, Poor Law Bills, and Local Government Bills, precedents which can be brought to bear against the will of the majority of the Irish people. Sir, the Government might have done one of two things. They might have said that they would not stir in the question as long as it was necessary to govern Ireland under exceptional criminal laws, and in that case I venture to say they would have been supported by the whole of their Party on both sides of the House. On the other hand, they might have brought in a thorough, comprehensive, generous Local Government Bill; and in that case that Bill would by this time have been well on its way to the House of Lords. But they have done neither the one nor the other. They have brought in a Bill which cannot pass, which is not meant to pass, and which, if it is passed, cannot possibly set up a scheme of government which would endure. Ireland will lose nothing, and the sincerity of the deliberations in this House will gain a great deal if this Bill, which has been five years in the pigeon-hole and three months lately on the shelf, is now consigned to the waste-paper basket by the most summary process that Parliament can devise.
§ MR. JACKSON
The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Trevelyan) has travelled over a good deal of ground, and he has, at all events, accomplished one object—that is, he has completely answered two of the speeches which have been made from the Benches opposite, complaining that the Bill now before the House was a bad Bill, because it did not follow on similar lines to the English and Scotch measures. The right hon. Gentleman has laboured the point for some time to prove to his own satisfaction and the satisfaction of others that no Bill based on the lines of the measures for England and Scotland could possibly satisfy the Irish people. Sir, my right hon. Friend has had some experience of Ireland, and he lays down the proposition that a Bill, to be satisfactory to the House, ought to satisfy everything Irishmen may desire. I do not know whether his experience in endeavouring to satisfy Irishmen on Irish questions has led him to be sanguine that, even if he occupied the position I have the honour to fill to-day, 1625 he would be able to achieve success in that direction. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has referred in some detail to the Bill, and I propose to deal with one or two of the points as they arise in their order. Before, however, coming to the merits of the Bill itself, I should like to say one or two words upon the more general questions that have been referred to by hon. Members. The hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Sexton) has given a very amusing, and I may perhaps say a very imaginative, description of the Bill. I think anyone who has read the Bill would fail to recognise in his criticisms any portion of it. The hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. Herbert Gladstone), whose intervention in the Debate I gladly welcomed, practically followed the criticisms of the hon. Member for West Belfast; but my hon Colleague went a little further and devoted a large portion of his speech to a criticism of the action of the Government, and made charges, which have since been echoed, of broken pledges on the part of the Government. I desire to make some reference to that point. Well, Sir, it is true, as has been said, that the Government, in a speech from the Throne, promised Local Government for Ireland on the same lines, and practically at the same time, as the measures for England and Scotland. But it should be remembered that it is not in the power of a Government to dispose entirely of the time of the House in the manner they may desire. I should like to remind the House of what has been done during the period in which it is said we should have kept our promise. In 1888 the Government dealt with Local Government for England, and In 1889 with Local Government for Scotland. Therefore it may be said the Government might have dealt in 1890 with Local Government for Ireland. Well, the House is very well aware that during that time Ireland was not neglected by the Government. A large portion of the time of the House was devoted to legislation for Ireland, and I should be surprised if any hon. Member were to get up and charge the Government with having passed legislation during that period of less importance than a Local Government Bill. In the years 1890 and 1891 the Government were busily engaged in passing the important 1626 and beneficial Land Act for Ireland and the measure dealing with light railways, which I believe will confer upon Ireland enormous advantages. They passed measures dealing with the relief of distress in Ireland, and also an important measure dealing with the congested districts of Ireland. The hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Timothy Healy) has spoken to-night with some force, and with some apparent sincerity, as to his desire to see certain powers extended to the Irish representative authorities which this Bill does not provide for. He spoke of improving the breed of poultry, horses, and cattle, of improving agriculture, and of several other matters affecting the welfare and prosperity of Ireland. But the hon. Member did not remind the House that, by the measures passed during the period I have already referred to, every one of these subjects is now being dealt with by the Congested Districts Board.
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
I do not wish to say anything disrespectful of the Congested Districts Board, but I believe it to be a humbug, pure and simple.
§ MR. JACKSON
Of course the hon. Member is entitled to hold his own opinion as to the Congested Districts Board, but I hope that when the result of the work done by that Board is put before the House he will have the opportunity of convincing himself that the efforts of that Board to remedy defects and to benefit the people in the congested districts in Ireland is not a sham at all but a reality.
§ MR. JACKSON
Although the Government might have brought in a Local Government Bill in 1890, yet it cannot be said that the time was not devoted to Ireland and to measures which will confer upon that country benefits no less than those conferred by any Local Government Bill. While I contend that the Government have fulfilled their pledges, given both at the Election and in the Queen's Speeches, I would point out that there have been previous occasions when Governments, even with the best intentions, have not been able to fulfil their hearts' desire as regards legislation for Ireland. In 1880 there was a Queen's 1627 Speech in which the House was told there was to be no more coercion. In 1881 a promise of a Local Government Bill for Ireland was made, and in 1882 the Queen's Speech promised a County Government Bill for London, and Ireland was to be reserved. But instead of the Local Government Bill promised in the previous year there was substituted what I think I may describe as the most severe coercion measure that was ever passed in this House. In 1883 there was again another promise of Local Government for the Metropolis, which was repeated in 1884, but not a single one of these measures was passed into law. I do not blame the Government of that day, but I mention these facts to show that perhaps a Queen's Speech is sometimes rather the measure of the hopes of the Government as regards legislation than of any certainty that the promised legislation will be passed. However, I deny that the Government have broken their pledges; on the contrary, I assert that the Government have fulfilled their pledges as regards legislation for Ireland, and are now endeavouring to fulfil the last in this Bill for Local Government in Ireland. There has been a good deal of criticism of the Bill, and I will deal with two or three of these criticisms only, because I feel that, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), my task is made much easier. I think anyone who listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), and who had not read the Bill, would hardly have realised the enormous exaggeration the hon. Member has given to the restrictions contained in the Bill. These exaggerations have been exposed, and, I think, most effectually disposed of in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to-night. But there are one or two charges made by the hon. Member (Mr. Sexton) to which I desire to refer. The Bill, he said, is founded on mistrust of the people; and in order to test that question, it is desirable that we should consider—first, the form of the measure itself and the basis on which it is founded, and then the peculiar circumstances of the country to which it refers. I venture to submit to the House that, so far is the Bill from evidencing any distrust of the people on 1628 the part of the Government, it shows that the Government are willing to trust the people to the largest extent, and I submit that the Bill in this respect is much more far-reaching than the English or the Scotch Bill. I have heard it stated that, speaking broadly, England may be described as three-fourths urban and one-fourth rural; and practically in the urban districts of England Local Government existed already, when the Bill was introduced, throughout the length and breadth of the land. But the conditions in Ireland are practically the reverse of those in England. I shall not be very wide of the fact in stating broadly that the urban population of Ireland is one-fourth and the rural population three-fourths of the whole. Therefore, while the English Bill brought Local Government by popularly-elected bodies to a fourth of the population, the Irish Government Bill applies to three-fourths of the Irish population. In other words, it gives for the first time to three and half millions of the people of Ireland, out of 4,700,000, local self-government. There is another view of the question I should like to present to the House. There are some remarkable figures contained in a Return which tell us how great a change this Bill will introduce. It must be borne in mind that county government in Ireland has hitherto been in the hands of the Grand Juries. It is now proposed to transfer the whole administration of county government not only as regards County Councils but as regards Baronial or District Councils entirely to popularly-elected bodies. ("No!") I assert it as a fact, and the Bill bears out my statement. In the Return of Ratings in Ireland the figures come out showing that out of a total of 1,184,234 ratings in Ireland 46 per cent. are under £4 a year, and the ratings under £10 are 72 per cent. of the whole. Speaking generally, I say these figures show that the majority of those who will be called upon to elect the Councils will be ratepayers rated at £5 and under.
§ MR. JACKSON
Yes; but I think the hon. and learned Gentleman quite overlooks the fact that this makes my case still stronger, inasmuch as urban 1629 ratings, which are included in the average, are much higher than rural ratings.
§ MR. MATTHEW KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
No, it might be a single room in a house in Dublin separately rated.
§ MR. JACKSON
I think it strengthens my case because, so far as I can see, urban ratings are generally much higher than rural ratings. There are further figures showing that, out of 760,000 inhabited houses in Ireland, 435,000 are rated at £1 per annum or under, and 226,000 rated at between £1 and £4. Therefore, you have nearly nine-tenths of the inhabited houses in Ireland rated under £4 per annum. I mention these figures to show the enormous change which will be made by the Bill in placing the power of managing the whole of the affairs connected with County Government in the hands of bodies elected by these ratepayers. ("No!") These figures go to show that the measure is well described as a broad and generous measure, and that it shows no distrust of the people. I wish I could think there is no distrust of the people on the part of hon. Members opposite. There is another Bill before the House at this time—the Irish Education Bill—and this Bill proposes to entrust to Committees to be appointed by popularly-elected bodies the important work of ensuring attendance of children at school. I hope I have mistaken indications; I hope I may be wrong in anticipating opposition from certain quarters; but unless I am much mistaken, the only Members who have shown mistrust of the people in regard to this important duty, which is certainly not less in importance for the welfare and prosperity of Ireland than these duties of Local Government, are the hon. Member for West Belfast and his political friends. However, I may be wrong in my anticipations, and it may be that hon. Members will not show that mistrust of popularly-elected bodies in regard to the Education Bill. Now a word on the protection of minorities. Reference was made by the hon. Member for West Belfast, and repeated by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, to the Government not having dealt with this Local Government Bill with the franchise connected with Dublin and Belfast. I can assure hon. Gentlemen they never were under a greater mistake than in 1630 supposing there is any intention on the part of the Government of leaving out Dublin and Belfast from this Bill to obtain some political advantage. There are no such cities as Dublin and Belfast dealt with in the English and Scotch Acts. ("How about London?") They are entirely outside the scope of the Bill.
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
Did the right hon. Gentleman omit Dublin and Belfast from his rating figures just now?
§ MR. JACKSON
They do not affect the average in reference to my point. I say that it never was intended for these. The Bill is intended to transfer the powers hitherto exercised by the Grand Juries in the administration of fiscal affairs of counties to these County Councils and Baronial Councils just as the Act for England has transferred to County Councils the powers heretofore exercised by Quarter Sessions. Now, as regards protection to minorities, I think I may take it that the principle is practically admitted. It has been recommended strongly by the hon. Member for West Belfast and by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox), in the case of the Belfast Corporation Bill. When the Belfast Corporation Bill was before the House, the hon. Member denounced the Protestant majority for their treatment of Roman Catholics in Belfast, and contended for protection for the minority.
§ MR. JACKSON
I was speaking of the principle, and I said the hon. Member contended strongly for the principle when the Belfast Corporation Bill was before the House. The hon. Member said he objected to the BillBecause it sets up a religious tyranny over the Catholic electors in the City of Belfast.'The hon. Member went on to say—As a Protestant I deplore with sincere regret that the Corporation of Belfast cannot be persuaded to give fair play to the members of the Catholic religion.
§ MR. JACKSON
The hon. Member cheers that statement, and, therefore, he contends for the principle of protection to minorities. I maintain it was his 1631 intention and desire to secure for the minority a protection the Bill did not give.
§ MR. JACKSON
Does the hon. Member, speaking, as he said, as a Protestant, only desire it in Belfast? Has he no sympathy for a minority in any other part of Ireland than Belfast?
§ MR. JACKSON
I think that statement hardly requires refutation. The hon. Member stands up here and says that in his opinion the only people likely to exercise oppression or undue influence are the people of Belfast. He is of opinion that in every other part of Ireland Protestant minorities will suffer no inconvenience. He carries his criticism still further, for he states that in Belfast it would be a political advantage to the minority, and he would give representation to the minority in Belfast but not elsewhere. Now, something has been said about the proposal to leave the fixing of boundaries to the Lord Lieutenant. I should have thought the hon. Member for West Belfast would have taken no objection to this, because in a Bill which bears his name on the back the very same provision was made only so short a time ago as 1888. What we have endeavoured is to find some plan, believing it to be the general wish of Members on both sides of the House, for the representation of minorities insuring some representation however small for a minority. There are only two ways by which this can be done, so far as I know—by single Member constituencies or by the cumulative vote. It is not possible to find single Member constituencies in Ireland that would give minority representation in certain counties to every minority that exists. What has been done is this: We have had maps prepared by the Ordnance Survey Department, which I need hardly say is a Department altogether apart from any Party influences, the instructions given being that they should not cut any baronial boundaries, and should divide constituencies into the most convenient form both for working and for representation. It is the intention of the Government to put these maps in the Library 1632 during the Committee stage of the Bill; and if hon. Members should desire it, thinking the arrangement is not the best that can be adopted, we shall have no objection to the appointment of a Commission to report and devise some better plan. There is no idea of jerrymandering constituencies or making arrangement with a view to political advantage. Now, I have not time to deal with other questions which are certainly of some importance; but I would venture to point out that, as regards the question of safeguards and of Joint Committees, there has been, I think, a great deal of exaggeration. Full effect has been given to the question of Joint Committees by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. He has clearly shown that the Joint Committee will have no power or voice in control of or interference with the ordinary administration of the county. I go further, and say as regards administration, the Joint Committee has no power or authority as regards current income, or even as regards capital expenditure. The Joint Committee has no power of interference, and is never brought into contact with the County Council in its administration, and I, for one, rather regret this is so, because I do not agree with those who would seek to continue the separation of class from class. I would like to see them working together for the good of the whole. The bodies to be elected for localities may be entirely inexperienced, and, in my opinion, it would be an enormous advantage if it were possible to bring to bear the accumulated experience of Grand Juries in county administration in combination with the energy of the bodies to be elected under the Bill.
§ MR. JACKSON
The question was dealt with, and there was found no necessity in the English Bill. It is justified for Scotland on the ground that landlords pay a portion of the rates, and it can easily be justified for Ireland by the fact that landlords pay a large portion of the cess directly and a larger portion indirectly. It is perfectly well-known that in fixing fair rents the amount of the cess paid by landlord and tenant is taken into account. My time is exhausted, and I am sorry I cannot 1633 deal at greater length with the subject. All I need say, in conclusion, is, the Government have introduced a Bill which they believe to be wider in its application as regards Ireland than the Acts passed for England and Scotland. They believe that if the Bill is passed it will confer great benefit on Ireland, and will instruct the people in the art of self-government, and will tend to break down the divisions between classes. The Bill has been honestly introduced with the intention to benefit Ireland, and if Ireland has to wait for the Bill it will not be the fault of the Government, the responsibility must be with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Colonel Nolan.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ (11.59.) Debate further adjourned till to-morrow at Two of the clock.