§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [19th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ (2.48.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
The Chief Secretary in his speech last night devoted most of his time to showing why this Bill had not been introduced before; but he had to admit that after five years and nine months of office, and after having passed a Local Government Bill for England and a Local Government Bill for Scotland, the Government had still waited until Lord Salisbury had gone on the stump, and had been ably seconded in the country by the Leader of the House of Commons. They have thought the time good enough to bring in this Bill, when we are under the shadow of an immediate Dissolution. This is not merely the case with Local Government in Ireland; it is also the case with free education. Free Education Bills have been passed for England and Scotland, but we are in the same state of chaos. In fact, Irish Business is jostled and hustled and put off till the last moment till it becomes mixed up with the Dissolution. The Chief Secretary did not say much about the details of the measure, but seemed rather disposed to support himself by the speech of the Member for West 1675 Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). He said that speech was a complete defence of the Bill and of all the details, and he endorsed that speech. Therefore, he said that the Government had put a good Bill before the House, and we ought to accept it as a good Bill and a satisfactory solution of the question. I allow that the Irish Members have to show that this is a bad Bill, or a Bill not sufficiently good for us to accept, and I think the manner in which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) dealt with the Bill was the proper one, to go through it step by step, and detail by detail, and that that course should be followed. The right hon. Gentleman is a shrewd tactician, and he put his best leg forward in this matter. He started by challenging us on the franchise, and asked us if it was not good. I admit it to be a good franchise. He then expressed his own dislike to the cumulative vote, but pointed out that that was not sufficient reason for refusing to accept the Bill. I will give him that point also. It is a somewhat dangerous experiment for Ireland, but you have it in England and Scotland, and it is not a sufficient reason for throwing out the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman also said the Bill was excellent, as it made the illiterate voter vote the same as any other man. His contention was that he did not desire to disfranchise any man, but would compel every illiterate voter to avail himself of the cloak of secrecy. With that I am entirely content, and I do not think there are many Irishmen in this House who oppose it. On the committee on the Ballot Act, at the request of the Chairman, I moved a Motion that the illiterate voter should vote like everybody else. That was for Parliamentary purposes, but it should be extended to County Council elections. There are three ways of voting in Ireland. There is the open voting for Poor Law Guardians, and that is shocking, for the result is that people are set against each other for years, and their votes are objects of contention. Then there is the man who cannot read. Nobody in the booth can ask him if he can read, and, unless he 1676 says he cannot, he votes like any other man, and in ninety-five per cent of the cases he could vote as he wished to do. I have spoken to many men on the subject, and they desire that the illiterate voter should not have the privileges he now possesses, but should have the greater privilege that nobody should make him disclose his vote. The illiterate vote at present is practically secret, though the voter does not think so. He only tells his vote to three persons. The presiding officer forgets all about it, the agent is his friend, and the personating agent takes an oath of secrecy, which, if he broke would be raked up against him years afterwards, and if he appeared in a Court of Law it would be said that he had committed legal perjury, so that I think the voter is practically safe. I approve of this secret illiterate vote. But here I part company with the right hon. Gentleman and hardly agree with him in anything else. He declared that the control of the police is not a question of great importance in Ireland, and asked why the County Councils should want it in Clare or Galway, when they had not got it in London. The cases are not analogous. We should be compared with a county like Devonshire in England, or Pembrokeshire in Wales, and there, I believe, the police are under the control of the County Council or a Joint Committee. If this Bill put us on the same footing as England on the question, it would cease to be a grievance. The right hon. Gentleman said the County Councils would have control of all the business managed by the County Councils in England, and in addition the control of woods and forests, county infirmaries, the working of the Factory Acts, and sanitary legislation. Under the Bill the control of woods and forests is absolutely illusory, as any proposal for purchase will have to go before the Joint Committee of the Grand Jury and County Council. As far as the infirmaries are concerned, it will be a slight improvement to have them under the control of some County Authority. As to the control of the working of the Factory Acts, that would be useless in many counties; we have very few factories, but we want to create them, and we would rather 1677 watch how you control them in England, and then follow your example. I attach no importance to that part of the Bill. There is some use in sanitary legislation. The right hon. Gentleman said that was the most important part of Local Government. It may be so in a large town like Birmingham, where it affects the health of the whole of the inhabitants; but it is not so important where the people are scattered over a large extent of country. The right hon. Gentleman has a proposal to spend ten millions on sanitary matters in Birmingham, but such things do not occur in Ireland, and we have a fair system of sanitary administration at present by the Poor Law Guardians, who have done their work very satisfactorily. Water has been brought to some of the small towns, and the burial grounds have been walled in; but, on the other hand, there has been a deal of money spent or wasted. If you transfer those duties to the County Council they will have to compensate the old officers and pay new ones; and I do not see how the County Councils would work the sanitary legislation, except through the present Poor Law Boards. The area would be too large for the County Councils, and the Baronial Councils do not sit so often as the Poor Law Boards. I do not, therefore, attach much importance to the question of sanitary legislation for the county districts. The right hon. Gentleman then found fault with us for being angry with the amount of security taken from the the County Councils; he said we were wrong to call out and say that we were insulted by these securities, and that their effect was almost nil, and that under the Acts of 1882 and 1885 some similar securities were taken. Those securities exist now, and we do not much object to them. We do not object to the Councillors being sued if a legal action lies against them, but what we regard as an insult is the insertion of a certain clause providing for the trial of County Councillors; and it is not merely the clause, but the clause coupled with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. The First Lord of the Treasury is one of the most accomplished speakers and debaters in the House, but his speech 1678 on the introduction of the Bill was not a happy one. I do not know if he secretly dislikes the Bill. For an English Member to bring in a Bill containing a clause which is not in the English and Scotch Bills, and to state that if a County Council was found guilty they would be punished, was stating the case with a good deal of brutal frankness; and if we have used rather stronger words than necessary in speaking of the clause, the blame is due to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham tried to soften this down, and said it was quite certain the majority would change the wording of this portion of the Bill, and put another word in place of "oppression." There are a considerable number of Gentlemen who follow the right hon. Gentleman, and doubtless his promise would be effective; but I expect the new word would mean practically the same thing, and that if we proposed words with another meaning they would be rejected. It has been said that Poor Law Boards have been suspended, but they are not such important bodies as the County Councils would be. But, as a general rule, if a Board pays its way, and does not spend too much money, there is not much danger of its being suspended. We protest against the position of the County Council, for the Clerk to the Grand Jury acts as their Clerk, and they would have no control over him, could neither appoint nor dismiss him, and yet he would be there, constantly reminding them that they were acting illegally, and observing the whole of their actions. With this clause the Bill is absolutely useless, and the Councils will have nothing to do. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham declares that only three per cent. of the whole money administered would be out of the exclusive control of the County Council—that 97 per cent. would be in their hands. How on earth the right hon. Gentleman arrived at that conclusion I cannot possibly conceive. If he had reversed the proportions I think it would have been nearer the mark. My own impression is that about fifteen per cent. will be under the control of the County Councils. The right hon. Gentleman made 1679 the statement as an absolute fact, but gave no figures to prove it. I will take some of the figures and show that he is wrong. The right hon. Gentleman said—"You are going to appoint all the officers except two, the Secretary to the Grand Jury and the County Surveyor"—there are two Surveyors in some counties. There are only three classes of officers under the Bill. The Clerk is the legal adviser of the Council, keeps all the records, does all the writing, and has control of the general management of the Council. The County Surveyors manage the whole of the roads and bridges, and practically the Grand Jury, or their subordinate tribunals, the Presentment Sessions, control the Surveyors. The Baronial Council is a fine-sounding name, but the baronial constables do nothing except collect the rates; and, so far as I can make out the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, the County Councils are simply to be allowed the appointment of the officers who collect the rates. I am not even certain that they can appoint the baronial constables, because I do not find it in the Bill. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland will give me some information on this point. I believe they are appointed at present by the Presentment Sessions and the county at large, where all the magistrates are present, and the appointments are afterwards fiated by the Grand Jury. But if they can appoint them, that is all the power that is left to the County Councils; the whole management will be in the hands of an official. I have often presided at these Baronial Sessions, and assisted at them. A number of contracts are given out for the repair of roads. We always choose the cheapest tender, but the County Surveyor may object to the cheapest, and if we interfere he tells us he has the law on his side. Practically, we cannot interfere with his objection, and, so far as I can see, these Presentment Sessions have no power whatsoever. We can ask the County Surveyor, as a great favour, to make or repair the roads a little better, and he may say he would do so to oblige us. The Grand Jury have the power of dismissing him, but that 1680 power is not to be given to the new County Council, and therefore I say that the whole management of the roads and bridges is left in the hands of the Joint Committee. The County Councils will be entirely in the hands of the Surveyor for the ordinary repair of the roads and bridges. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) is generally very accurate in his facts and figures; but I think he made a mistake when he said that it did not appear to him that the representatives of the Grand Jury on the Joint Committee can fairly be described as landowners, and that they include a number of the largest cesspayers. Practically they are nothing else whatever but landowners. At the Baronial Sessions a number of the largest cesspayers are put on along with the magistrates, but on the Grand Jury there is nothing of the kind. I think the right hon. Gentleman mixed up the two things. The Sheriff has absolute control of the Grand Jury, and, to a great extent, he is limited by custom and precedent. What he practically does is to call the largest landowners. Where there is a titled Peer he calls his eldest son, and sometimes his agent, in his place. Sometimes he calls a Member of Parliament. But I think, on the whole, the Grand Jury is a fair working body. It is not a particularly dishonest body. I have heard that when certain appointments are to be made the Sheriff calls certain members of the Grand Jury who he thinks would be favourable to one side or another. I have heard that when large Railway Companies were likely to come into conflict with the Grand Jury they adopted the course of having some of the Directors belonging to the Grand Jury. I believe it to be true, though there is a difficulty in proving it, that a Grand Jury was actually called to give one company a preference over another. People are not called on the Grand Jury because they are cesspayers, a very large number of the largest cesspayers in the country are left out, and the Grand Jury is essentially composed of the landowners. As to the question of the odd man in the Joint Committee, who is still in dispute, 1681 impartial men are not easily got even in England. At any rate, the Grand Jury will have a large representation on this Joint Committee, and under this Bill the County Council will be bound at every step, and in every movement it makes it will find itself stopped by this Joint Committee, and it will be able to take no independent action whatever, except to a trifling extent watching the repair of roads and bridges, but even that only through an officer whom the Joint Committee can dismiss. They will be able to appoint the baronial constables who collect the rates; they will have the collecting of the money, and the Joint Committee will have the spending of it. It may be said that what is proposed by the Bill is better than the present state of affairs. Well, I do not say it is not. There is a certain sort of election, and I do not say that it is not better than the Grand Jury system; but we must remember that we shall have to pay a large amount of hard cash for it. It will take a good deal of money to start it for four or five years. Any Bill, however, will cost money; but why should we go to that expense for a bad Bill at the fag end, I will not say of a Session, but of a Parliament? This Bill is so bad that no change would improve it satisfactorily, unless it were remodelled lock, stock, and barrel. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) said he represented the strongest Irish Party in this House, and that they supported this Bill. I have counted them, and I cannot make more than eighteen, including the right hon. and learned Gentlemen the Members for the Universities, and I do not know exactly whether they are under the control of the hon. and gallant Gentleman or not. There are eighty-five Nationalist Members. He has pointed out that they are at present disunited. I am sorry to say that is so, but we are united in thinking that this is a perfectly bad Bill, and I believe that when a really good Bill is introduced we will be united again. This is such a very bad Bill that we could not possibly support it. The Members for Ireland were prepared to give this Bill a fair hearing, and if it had been 1682 acceptable to them they would have gone to their constituents and told them this was a good Bill they had got for them, and they would have supported it. But this Bill is so bad that it is quite out of the question. I do not think the Government could change the Bill so as to make it a good Bill. What I ask the Government to do is to make up their minds, when there are eighty-five Irish Members against and only eighteen Irish Members for this Local Government Bill, to pass the Irish Education Bill. Then they can do anything they like with this Local Government Bill. They can pass it or throw it up if they like, but I shall deny the manifestly unfair statement that it is a good measure, equal to those which were given to England or to Scotland.
§ *(3.31.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I have been rather unfortunate so far as this Debate is concerned, having been from necessity absent almost throughout the entire discussion. I am sorry the hon. Member for North East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) is not in the House at this moment. He said some unkind things about me which were perfectly gratuitous, for I had taken no part in the Debate; and, inasmuch as I am going to speak very plainly about that hon. Gentleman, I should have been very glad if he had now been in his place. The hon. Member appeared yesterday, so far as this Bill is concerned, in a somewhat new rôle. He professed to speak for the whole of the Nationalist Members, and for the Ulster Protestant farmers. He said that this Bill was rejected by the entire Nationalist Party in Ireland, and that it was despised and contemned by the Ulster Protestant farmers. Now, I am not going to challenge the hon. Member's right to speak for the Irish Nationalists—that is their business and not mine—but when he speaks in the name of the Protestant farmers of Ulster I must ask him where he got his mandate and his instructions? The last time that the hon. Member appeared before these Ulster farmers he was ruthlessly driven from the country, and I will now make this challenge to him. We are not far from a General Election, and I am glad of it, and if the hon. Member for North-East 1683 Cork has any love for the Ulster Protestant farmers, and thinks that he is their true Representative, I invite him to go back to his old constituency of South Tyrone, and I will undertake to prove not only to himself, but to the country, that the hon. Member never had, and has not now, the slightest title to speak for or to represent that body. He will not, if he goes there, require the protection of the Royal Irish Constabulary—he requires that in Cork—he will not require any protection whatever; the Protestant farmers will deal with him with other weapons; he will be killed with ridicule and with the contempt which he has so richly earned. Any verdict upon the Bill now before the House must depend, I believe, entirely upon what individual Members expected the Bill to be. I can quite understand the disappointment of those Members who thought the Government were going to introduce a Home Rule Bill under the guise of Local Government; and also of those Members who expected that instead of the reform of county administration the Bill was to deal with the administration of Dublin Castle. Such Members have a right to be disappointed with the Bill. It is not a Home Rule measure, or a Bill for the reform of Dublin Castle, but it is precisely according to the pledge given by the Government, namely, that they would introduce a Bill on the lines of the English and Scotch measures. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) thought that it would be a possible Bill if it had proposed to buy up the grass farms in Ireland.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
At any rate, if that provision had been within the four corners of the Bill, it would have commended itself somewhat to the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Yes, but a Bill that proposed such powers would probably not have commended itself to this House, or to the taxpayers of the country; and I do not know what hon. Gentlemen sitting around me, who have almost sworn that they will never give another sixpence for such a purpose, 1684 would say to such a proposal as the buying up of the grass lands in Galway or all over Ireland. But what the Government undertook to do was to propose a reform in the county administration of Ireland, and the real question is whether the Bill redeems that pledge. I am bound to say that if the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) intended in his speech to burlesque the Bill then his speech was an exceedingly successful effort. But burlesque is hardly the thing for this House, and I prefer to look at the Bill and see what it really does. First of all, regarding the franchise, let me ask this question of any hon. Member. I do not care what part of the House he sits in. Has the Government redeemed its pledge so far as the franchise is concerned? I put it to this test. I will assume that this Bill passes into Committee. Would it be possible for any hon. Member on this side of the House to move an Amendment that would widen the franchise that is given by the Bill? That is a fair test. If this Bill passed into Committee hon. Members would not be able to propose an Amendment in Committee that would widen the franchise that the Government have given.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
If they did, they would take the franchise beyond the franchise that has been conferred either in England or in Scotland. This Bill gives a vote to every cesspayer. You cannot go deeper than that. The Bill gives every cesspayer, whether he lives in a cottage or in a castle, the same vote. I hold that, with such a franchise, it cannot reasonably or fairly be contended that the Bill is not "broad-based upon the people's will." Then, as to the functions of the new body. Let us see what the Government have done there—let us see if they have redeemed their pledge upon that point. In one respect the Bill is better than the English Act—I was going to say it was better than, but it is practically on the same lines as, the Scottish Act. It not only gives County Councils to administer county finance, but it creates District Councils, a thing which has been asked for 1685 almost every week by hon. Members sitting beside me. Therefore, upon that point, it is an improvement on the English Bill. As to the functions of the new bodies, I say unhesitatingly that all the fiscal business of the Grand Juries is handed over and transferred to these new bodies. In addition to that, they are at liberty to take over the sanitary work of the locality. They take over the powers relating to the Cattle Diseases Acts, and other Acts of that kind. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Nolan) made light of some of that work. He talked about factories, and asked what was the use of conferring powers regarding factories on a country that had no factories. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman fell into the mistake of thinking that Galway is Ireland. I quite admit that there are no factories in Galway, and it is an exceedingly interesting question how it comes that there are no factories there. But there are factories elsewhere. There are factories in my own constituency, and I do not think it of no importance that the body which has the administration of county affairs should have the control of the laws regulating those factories. I say, so far as the functions of those bodies are concerned, that, roughly speaking, the same powers that were transferred under the English Bill from the English Justices, and under the Scottish Bill from the Scotch Commissioners of Supply, have been transferred to the Irish County Councils, plus this: that there are District Councils in this Bill as well as County Councils. There are four complaints made on this head. The first is that the Bill does not give powers over the police to the County Councils. My first answer to that is that the police were not under the control of the Grand Juries. This Bill proposes to transfer certain functions from the Grand Jury to the County Council. The Grand Jury never had any control, any power, over the Police Force of Ireland. Therefore, what they had not could not be transferred. Then, in the second place, the police, as everybody knows, is a centralised force in Ireland. It is not, and has not been, amenable to local control, and it is certainly a large order to ask that that force, which you 1686 refused to hand over to a Home Rule Parliament, should be handed over to a County Council. I say that is a wonderful growth in six years; it is a wonderful piece of procedure, but I do not think that any reasonable man, looking at the state of Ireland during the last thirteen years, can complain that the Government have not proposed to hand over to these Local Bodies the power of the Irish police when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was not prepared, in 1886, to hand these policemen unreservedly over to an Irish Parliament. The London County Council has no power over the police. The English and Scotch County Councils have not complete control over their police. They have only the control of the police in conjunction with the Standing Joint Committee, and is it to be contended or argued that Ireland is to be the country where this first step is to be taken and where this tremendous experiment is to be made? Is it to be contended that Ireland offers precisely the field that is suitable for this great experiment. I think you cannot fairly ask that Ireland should be the theatre for the first experiment of the kind that you have withheld from the County Council in London, and that you have refused to do and have not done in any English county. The next point of objection is that the malicious injury presentments have not been transferred to the County Council. That is true, but the awarding of sums for malicious injury is not a matter of county administration. It is a judicial, or at least a quasi-judicial function. I do not think myself that the provision to leave that in the hands of the Grand Jury is a proper provision. I should like to see it changed. I should like it to be given to a judicial authority; but I say without the slightest hesitation that the worst possible authority you could give it to would be the County Council. If you handed this power over to the County Council every member of that body would be pecuniarily interested in throwing out every application. It would be to his own personal interest, apart from the interest of his constituents, to throw out every application. Another objection is that the Grand Jury is left at all. Hon. Members 1687 think that the Grand Jury ought to have been abolished. But Grand Juries have not been abolished in England; and if this Bill becomes law, the Grand Jury will practically be left only with judicial functions, and all the fiscal functions that they possessed will be transferred. Here, again, I repeat that we are not entitled to make such an experiment in Ireland first. The most important objection of all, however, is the objection dealing with the Standing Joint Committee. The hon. aud gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) said if that provision and one or two others were out of the Bill he thought he could reconsider his decision to vote against it. I would like to deal with this question of the Joint Committee seriously. The hon. Member for West Belfast, in what I call a speech which burlesqued the Bill—
§ MR. SEXTON
In reference to that observation, I beg to say that I categorically and most precisely specified to the House several particulars in which the Standing Joint Committee controls the County Council, and I am prepared to affirm, prove, and justify my contention in every particular here or anywhere else.
§ *MR. RUSSELL
I have no doubt of that. I am only giving my opinion of the gist of the hon. Member's speech. In the first place, I would like to say that whatever objection may be taken to the Standing Joint Committee it is distinctly within the pledge given by the Government. It is in the Scotch Bill, and the Government proposed to introduce a Bill on the lines of the English and Scotch measures. Unquestionably the County Council, apart altogether from the question of the Standing Joint Committee, would be able to control the ordinary expenditure, which the Grand Jury now control. That is a great amount of the total expenditure, and the capital expenditure is small in comparison with the ordinary or current expenditure. It was only on the point of capital expenditure, roughly speaking, that the control of the Standing Joint Committee came in. I would ask hon. Members this question. Do they think, does this House think, that there ought to be no control in this matter? Just let us look at who pays the cess 1688 in Ireland. Surely taxation and representation ought to go together. We have been deliberately warned, on more than one occasion, that we may create these County Councils if we like, but that they will be captured and held as Nationalist positions. But let me take one instance from the West of Ireland—that of the barony of Castlerea. The total valuation of this barony is £40,534, and the total number of cesspayers in it is 2,600. Now, nine men out of the 2,600 pay one-fourth of the total county cess, and thirty-five more than half of the entire amount. These are precisely the class of men who have very little chance of being elected on the County Councils. Why? Because the Councils are to be captured and held as Nationalist positions. What hon. Members say is that the people who pay the greatest amount of county cess shall have absolutely no representation or control at all, and yet that the large majority of cesspayers who pay the smallest moiety shall have control over the entire cess. Now, I do not see how we can yield to such a demand as that. These people have a right to some reasonable control over the expenditure, but not to the entire control. It has been said that the real reason why the Standing Committee was appointed for Scotland was that the landlords pay half the rate. That is absolutely true; but I have given the case of one barony in Ireland, and that one is only a sample of the whole country.
§ *MR. RUSSELL
The hon. Member for North Cork is simply drawing a bow at a venture, and making an assertion without any ground whatever. It is true that in Scotland the landlords pay half the rate, but the House will see that in this case the landowners are occupiers as well, and I hold that such men have some right to protection at the hands of the House. I now come to another difficulty connected with the franchise, and it is one to which I should be glad to call the attention of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton). When this Bill was read a first time I had some doubts as to the usefulness of the cumulative vote. My 1689 general idea at that time was that it would give a substantial representation to Catholic minorities in the North of Ireland, and a very unsubstantial representation to Protestant minorities in the South. I have since had reason to change my mind. Take the North of Ireland, for instance, and what do we find? In the County of Antrim, for example, out of a total population of 172,000, excluding Belfast, there are 36,000 Roman Catholics. If we take the County of Down we find that out of 173,000 inhabitants 73,000 are Catholics. There, again, the Catholics are in a great minority, and they would run the risk of not having a fair share of representation.
§ MR. SEXTON
In reply to the appeal of the hon. Member, I would say that, in my opinion, the Catholics in the Counties of Antrim and Down would have their share of representation.
§ *MR. RUSSELL
I am interested in the testimony of the hon. Member; but I think evidence has been given upstairs on this subject.
§ MR. SEXTON
No; the hon. Member must be aware that not a single witness has been called before the Committee.
§ *MR. RUSSELL
I will not contradict the hon. Gentleman in regard to evidence which has not yet been reported. My view is that, so far as the cumulative vote is concerned, it is one of the best features in the Bill. A right hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Front Bench seems to be very much amused in regard to that statement. I do not see why. I do not believe in the divine right of majority representation. It may commend itself to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), but I have parted company with it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
The hon. Member must be referring to a statement of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain).
§ *MR. RUSSELL
I am not bound to agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham in everything. I say that, under the special circumstances of Ireland, the cumulative vote is a fair plan to adopt in a measure like this, and that it is not a 1690 new plan. In all the School Board elections in England you have adopted it in precisely the same way. Now I come to the question of the illiterate voter. Why should he be placed in such a position that when he goes into the polling booth another person has the power to intimidate him under the excuse that the voter is ignorant and unable to read and write? I do not take refuge in the fact that only a fortnight ago this House passed a Resolution approving of the principle of withdrawing the privilege which the illiterate voters now possess. I only point out that there is no proposal in this Bill for the disfranchisement of the illiterate voter. To disfranchise any man you must disqualify him, and strike his name off the list of voters. Neither of these things is done by this Bill. The illiterate voter is in the same position as other voters. He will be free to go into the polling booth and do what he likes in it. We may be very anxious to court the smiles of the people, but we need not bow down to ignorance. There is only one thing more about which I wish to say a few words. This Bill has been largely discussed on the Second Reading as if it had been in the Committee stage. I do not profess to agree with all its details—I do not care, for example, for the clause giving the Grand Jury the power of dealing with the question of malicious injury, nor for the provisions which make the Sheriff the Chairman of the Standing Committee.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
He is suggested as the Chairman. As to the safeguards provided by the Bill, I repeat now what I said on the First Reading. I am not able—and if it comes to the vote I shall not be able—to vote in favour of the clause which enables the members of a County Council to be taken before a Judge. I have not changed my mind in the least in regard to that. I think that the present law is sufficient to deal with malversation and corruption, and I would not put the County Councils in such a position. But that is not of the essence of the Bill, and I set very small store indeed upon the declaration of hon. Members below the Gangway with regard to the hostility which they say exists to the 1691 measure. I heard such a declaration in the discussions on the Land Bill of 1890. The Leader of their Party then came down to the House and moved the rejection of that Bill, and the whole of the Party marched into the Lobby against it; but in the following year I saw them come back—all glad to get a worse Bill.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Well, I may put my own interpretation upon it. I saw what happened in that case, and I now say that I believe that this Bill is a substantially good Bill in principle. I do not commit myself to all its details, but I shall certainly vote for its Second Reading.
§ (4.3.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Midlothian)
It is with some reluctance that I enter into this Debate. It is far more agreeable and satisfactory to me to meet what I may call the imperfect measures of the Government such as we have had in former Sessions and in the present, and to lend my humble efforts towards the improvement of those measures, than to take up the ground of objecting to the whole basis of a Bill and to appear as an opponent to a measure which, in the view of the Government, is calculated to be for the good of Ireland. It is remarkable that we are now debating the Second Reading of a measure with regard to which we have no means of forming a judgment whether it is intended to make a serious effort to pass it into law. However, having the Second Reading before us, and viewing the very important position that this measure holds in respect to the professions of parties, and to the whole policy of the Government, I do not feel that I can avoid taking part in the discussion. It has been said that this is a Bill of a limited scope for the improvement of—the hon. Member behind me said with perfect truth that it makes no profession to do more than to improve—the Local Government of Ireland by means of County Councils, and that it may be discussed upon that basis alone. However, we have to consider of what professions made at a former critical period when the Members of this House received their commission from their constituents this 1692 Bill is the solitary and lingering representative. It was not then intimated to us that we were to deal with Irish Local Government upon a basis—as we think we find it here—distinctly inferior to that which has been adopted for England and Scotland. It was not then told us that Local Government was all that the Party which obtained a majority at the General Election was able to offer to the country. Local Government for Ireland, put upon full equality with the Local Government of England and Scotland, was the minimum of the promises that were made by the leaders of Parties, and especially by the leaders of that Party which has made the minority of the Government into a majority, and which has effectively carried on the Government and made possible its existence for the last six years, and which went far beyond the promises of merely local institutions. I speak of the Duke of Devonshire and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). These gentlemen were not content to say that they offered a good Local Government Bill for Ireland in lieu of the Home Rule Bill. They spoke of everything that was short of an independent Parliament; they spoke of provincial assemblies; they spoke of radically re-constituting the whole Irish administrative system. That was the promise of the new Government. They spoke of a large devolution even of national powers to an Irish Assembly. All these promises have dwindled away in the Bill which is now before us. Take their last—that is, their new—promise; because, by all that is known of it, we shall ultimately have to try this Bill. I take, as an instance as the minimum of what they offered to Ireland, the utterance of my right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said—Against a policy of separate and uncontrolled executive in Ireland the Unionists set up a policy—[At this point the right hon. Gentleman, being unable readily to decipher the manuscript from which he was quoting, turned to Mr. JOHN MORLEY, saying, "Will you kindly read it for me?" This Mr. MORLEY did, as follows:— 1693Against the policy of separate and uncontrolled executive in Ireland the Unionists set up a policy of the extension of the power of self-government in Ireland on lines applicable—subject to necessary modification—to the people of England and Scotland as well."]That was the declaration on the part of a right hon. Gentleman who certainly never has been distinguished by the liberality of his ideas with regard to Ireland. On the part of the Government of that day, we have the letter of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), in which much more was stated, because there the local institutions which were to be given to Ireland were to be not only equivalent, but contemporaneous, with the gift to England and to Scotland. And now, after six years, we are engaged in discussing as the entire result of those promises, and of the pledges made before the country in 1886, a Bill which, while undoubtedly it is confined to Local Government, starts from the very minimum of what the most parsimonious among those promisers offered to give, a Bill which in giving that minimum of Local Government, as we undertake to show, stamps Ireland all through with inequality and inferiority, and stamps the gift as less than that which has been awarded to counties in England and in Scotland, and falsifies even the last miserable and contracted relic of those engagements which were offered to the country, and which were taken by the country, as the condition on which the commission of 1886 was entrusted to the present majority in this House. Well, Sir, I must also consider not only what is the Bill offered, but who are those that offer it, and with what accompaniments. We were, at the period of 1886, much disposed to concur in opinions which had been delivered by Lord Salisbury as to the special dangers or difficulties that would attend the foundation of local institutions in a country like Ireland, apart from any source in a local Parliament which might be established in Ireland, and from the control which such a local Parliament could exercise. The people of Ireland have not been sighing and longing during these six arduous years for Local Government, but for something more than Local Government, and this Local Government with which 1694 they are now desired to be content—this Local Government is given them in lieu of that larger measure on which their hearts are set. And the very Minister, the head of this Government, who offers to them the Bill now before the House, warns them that if instead of accepting this Local Government Bill they prosecute the object dearest to their hearts, they prosecute it at the hazard, at the certain expense, of civil war, to which that Prime Minister holds the language of distinct encouragement. It is necessary, Sir, that this should be stated in this House, and that I should go so far, with your permission, as to give distinct and definite explanation of my meaning in order that we may know whether those opinions of Lord Salisbury are the opinions of the Ministry at large, or what defence is intended to be alleged or set up on behalf of the use of such language by persons holding such a position. It will be very easy to sustain at length the statement I have made, but I will only give the upshot of the declarations of Lord Salisbury on 6th May. I have with me now the speech reported in the Times on the 7th; and if the fairness of my statement is challenged, I will quote the words of Lord Salisbury and the actual passages of the report. The upshot of the statement was this—that to pass a Bill constituting a Parliament in Dublin, subject to the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, is to place the people of Ulster under Dr. Walsh and his political friends; and that to place the people of Ulster under Dr. Walsh and his political friends was one of those excesses of power, one of those violations of understood principle by which all Parliaments and Governments are limited, which would throw the people back upon the rights which they exercised, according to Lord Salisbury, in the reign of James II.; and, finally, that if to maintain the law against rebellion it were necessary in such a case, after the passing of such a law in the Imperial Parliament—if it were necessary to use the Forces of the Crown to maintain such a law against rebellious disobedience—that would be such an outrage as would rend society in two. That, Sir, is the declaration of the Prime Minister—not a prophecy alone—but a distinct en- 1695 couragement, if such a law should be passed, to the few misguided men who might be capable of imbibing the dangerous doctrines of the Prime Minister—a distinct encouragement to them to resort to the use of unlawful arms against the constituted Authority of this country and against its deliberate decision. What is the state of the law against which Lord Salisbury thinks such action might be adopted? What is the state of law which is now maintained? It is the state of law established by the Act of Union. What was the condition of Ireland before the Act of Union? It was that of a country governed by a Parliament as entirely separate and as entirely independent as is the Parliament sitting within these walls at the present day. The whole powers of that Parliament were given away; the national life and traditions were made over without even the previous process of a Dissolution—were made over by men who sat within its walls upon their own discretion to another land, to another body; and there indeed—if you can have an excess of power bringing into question the first principles of society—there is one of the most glaring instances of it to be found in the records of history. That offers no difficulty to Lord Salisbury; that was a perfectly regular proceeding, although the supreme power was given away. But should this House—this omnipotent Parliament—should this Institution think fit to exercise its discretion—in what sense?—not in the sense of giving back the supremacy to Ireland, not in the sense of altering the seat of the supreme power, but in the sense of investing Ireland with the control, and independent control of its own local affairs—then, indeed, the foundation of society will be broken in two! Sir, it is impossible to conceive a more perfect contempt for all history, for all political principle, or all practical wisdom or sagacity, than as it appears to me is contained in this declaration. And as I think we have a right to know from the Government whether, in case the Legislature should think fit to give back to Ireland a portion of what we took from it, that law will be a law which it will be the duty of the Government to support, and, in case of need, to enforce against disobedience and rebellion. 1696 Those are the conditions on which Irish Members, and on which this. House have offered to them, the stinted gift that is supposed to be contained in the Bill now before the House. But surely, Sir, after such a reduction of promises, after the re-constitution of the administrative system has vanished into thin air, after the exhibition of Dublin Castle as an object suited to call out the horrors of mankind has been entirely forgotten, after even Provincial Councils in Ireland are no more within the scope of the political horizon, at least we ought to expect that this County Government Bill would emulate the Bills for Scotland and for England in generosity and efficiency, and to that last test we have now to subject the provisions of the Bill. I will not go through all the points of controversy in a large and complicated Bill; but what I see in endeavouring to analyse it is this: that Her Majesty's Government have been hampered by the recollection that there was to be some relation or other between the Irish Local Government Bill and the Bills for England and for Scotland. Consequently, they had gone searching here, there, and everywhere for something in the nature of a precedent that might abet their aim in restricting the already dwarfed measure that they were about to produce to the House. Well, Sir, in these Local Government Bills for England and Scotland, and here and there in our legislation, there are of course a number of doubtful enactments, and there are some, in my opinion, of unquestionable unwisdom. Wherever that is the case it has been carefully adopted. Not only has it been made to do duty as a precedent; but in carrying it over to Ireland it has been magnified, it has been exaggerated, it has been applied to new subject-matter, it has been stripped of every limitation and safeguard that qualifies the mischief it might do in this country, and then it is offered to the Sister Island as the final boon of a generous Government, and as a fulfilment of the promise of 1886. Let us look at these cases and see how they stand, because it is better not to dwell upon a great number of instances. And the first case I take is the case of that 1697 provision of our law which has fixed the boundaries of electoral divisions by an authority extraneous to Parliament. So far as I recollect, in our various Reform Bills that has always been found necessary. Parliament has not absolutely fixed, in the first instance—but it has been done by subsequent Act—the actual outlines of the several electoral divisions. There is a principle taken from English and Scotch law, from the Parliamentary law of the country, which enables us to say that we may give some discretion outside Parliament in fixing the divisions of the counties that are to exercise the franchise under the present Bill. Here I will make one reference to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. T. W. Russell). He says, with perfect fairness, that the franchise is a very wide franchise; but let me say that the width of the franchise most essential to a good popular Constitution, where it is accompanied with other provisions, is worthless unless those other provisions are supplied to make sure that the franchise, when it has been exercised, shall lead to a well-organised system of proper and adequate results. You will find no more extended franchise, I believe, than the franchise which determined that Louis Napoleon should be Emperor; but upon that aye or no the whole virtue of the Franchise was exhausted; and though there can be no objection to it in point of width, there are great objections to it in point of efficacy. The efficacy of this franchise depends, first of all, upon the manner in which it is to be given, and the very first of all, upon the mode in which the counties are to be marshalled and to be divided for the purpose of electing County Councils. And what does the Bill say upon that subject? And how does it stand in connection with the English precedent? In the English precedent every electoral division is fixed by Parliament. Then for the determination of the boundaries strict rules are laid down, and, finally, the applying of those strict rules to the facts of the case is a task entrusted to an impartial and a non-political authority. How stands that function in the present Bill? It is handed over bodily to the absolutely unlimited 1698 and arbitrary discretion of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He is to divide up the counties—the Bill does not say into how many divisions, nor does it say that they are to be made relative to the population. He is under no restraint whatever as to the size of these divisions, as to the number of people they shall contain, or finally as to the number of representatives in a County Council, which it is in his power to commit to them. He may go through the five counties of Ulster where there is a Roman Catholic majority, and he may in any one of those counties so manipulate the divisions that a large number of the County Councils must be returned, I will not say hostile, but, at all events, opposed to that Roman Catholic majority. There is no limit to his discretion. He may make a division here of 50,000, with two representatives, and a division there of 5,000, with five representatives. The whole of this Bill, by that one provision as it now stands, absolutely places at the command of the Lord Lieutenant—for the purpose of enabling him, if pleases, to destroy the whole effect the Bill as a Bill enfranchising for the purposes of Local Government—the population of the counties of Ireland. So much for the case of the boundaries. It will be observed, then, that there is a precedent for calling in the aid of an extraneous authority; and while we invoke so far its countenance, we studiously cast aside and throw overboard all the limitations which make the exercise of that authority safe and convenient, and we constitute an absolutely unlimited power in a manner which cuts at the very root of this Bill, by enabling the Lord Lieutenant to defeat the whole purpose of the Legislature. Then, Sir, I take the next of the three precedents which I intended to touch upon—that is, the dissolution of an elected body by a non-elected authority. And here I must give myself the satisfaction of paying a just compliment to the speech of the hon. Member behind me (Mr. T. W. Russell), who has just sat down. He has shown by that speech and he has shown, I think, on other occasions, if he will forgive me for saying so, that he can stand a good deal, but there are 1699 some things which he cannot stand; and it does him honour, as it gives me satisfaction to record that this provision for the dissolution of the County Councils upon the dictum of two Judges is more than he can endure, and he intends to offer to it a stout resistance. That provision, however, is a vital part of the Bill. In the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Irish Attorney General (Mr. Madden) I observed that the epithet "vital" was introduced, and, I think, repeated at the particular portion of his speech which immediately preceded the provisions about the Joint Committee and the provisions about the dissolution of the Councils, and I think the hon. Member will have to look out in order to see that he can with safety exercise the liberty which he has promised to himself to put in use, or he may find he is in the condition of disturbing the foundations of this great Administration and endangering the unity of the Empire. And how do we stand with regard to this principle of dissolving an elected body? It appears to me that this is a very serious affair indeed, and the precedents which exist are, in my opinion, open to some questioning in themselves. As far as I know there are two precedents—one of them in Ireland with regard to the Boards of Guardians, and the other in England with regard to the School Boards—where provisions are undoubtedly embodied in a law for the dissolution by an authority that is non-elective of a body which is elective. Well, Sir, how do these stand? In England a School Board may be dissolved at the discretion of the Education Department for certain offences, and likewise for failures of duty, which I must say are described in rather large and loose words, which I have difficulty in justifying. But when a dissolution of a School Board has been effected, what takes place? A re-election. But there is to be no re-election of a County Council in Ireland by the same constituency after it has been dissolved. The Government have before them the precedent of the School Board where the large and loose words of power to dissolve are accompanied by a stringent provision for re-election by the same popular constituency, yet here, as in every other case, they cast aside the 1700 good part of the enactment, and adopt the bad. They make the large and loose words far larger and looser still; but they abandon the safe and salutary provisions of the Education Act of 1870, which requires the re-election of another School Board by the same constituency. Then take the case of the Boards of Guardians. Precedents in Ireland are not entitled, perhaps, to very great veneration in themselves. But what is the case of the Boards of Guardians in Ireland? They can be dissolved by the Local Government Board. I admit the Local Government Board cannot be considered as an impartial civil authority. It partakes of a political colour, because it is, I believe, under the control and discretion of the Chief Secretary. But that is not all. That power of dissolution, even of Boards of Guardians, must be exercised upon conditions that are rather strictly defined. They can only be dissolved either for not holding meetings which are recognised by the proper authority, or for default of the purposes contemplated by the Act. So that the meaning of that is that the Guardians are dissolved by summary process for not having conformed to the conditions of the Act of Parliament, instead of being subjected to the more cumbrous process of being dissolved by the Courts of Law. But what I want to point out is that in the case of the School Boards, where the words are large and loose, but are covered by the provision for re-election, the re-election is cut out and the large and loose words are retained. In the case of the Boards of Guardians where there is no re-election, where the Executive Authority steps in and appoints paid officers to discharge the business of the Poor Law, they perform exactly the same process in principle, with a complete inversion in form—that is to say, they retain the portion with regard to reelection, but they part with the loose words that confine within limits the exercise of the prerogative of the central authority. That, Sir, I affirm is the manner which all through, so far as I have been able to examine, the precedent is not used but abused. It is transformed, transplanted, misapplied, it is given to new subject-matter, and 1701 everything that keeps it within safe bounds and limits is dispensed with in order that provisions, really quite new, may be presented for the acceptance of the people of Ireland. I must say another word, apart from the question of precedent, on this dissolution of an elected body. In the first place, it appears to me as if these provisions had been devised by men who, strangely enough—I cannot account for it, I cannot and do not impute it—intended, and who have acted in such a way—a way that this must be the result—to deter every man with a grain of self-respect from entering the County Council. I should like to know how many gentlemen in this House, be they Irish, English, Scotch, or Welsh, would consent to enter into County Councils liable to be hauled up before two Judges, possibly two ex-Attorney Generals, who never said one word in all their political career except in antipathy to the interests and feelings of the people of Ireland. But apart from that, and granting that they were the best Attorney Generals, how many men would consent to sit on a body liable to be hauled up before such a tribunal? Would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) or the hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings) sit upon such a body? Why, Sir, I think too well of them both to believe they would for a moment entertain such a proposal—a proposal which has never found its way within the precincts of this country, and which never in the whole vicissitudes of political affairs will be heard of in connection with the Government of Great Britain. Is it to be laid down as a general principle that the Judges outside the law are the persons best qualified to weigh the propriety or impropriety of the discharge of administrative offices. How did they acquire that capacity? Whence does it come to them? I heartily admire those efficient provisions of our system which are given to the Judges to compel every civil and administrative officer, however high his position, to conform to the requirements of the law; and therefore, with regard to the punishment of corruption on the part of a Council Council, my one observation is that I cannot conceive why a new provision 1702 is requisite. With regard to malversation, I am not quite sure what it means, but putting on it the most favourable construction, it means, of course, a departure from the fixed intentions of Acts of Parliament, and, if so, why is a new provision requisite? The whole pith of this new provision lies not in corruption and not in malversation, but in that undefined word "oppression," which may be inflated, twisted, magnified, or tortured into anything and everything that prejudice may suggest. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) said in my hearing last night that it would be quite easy to provide a definition of oppression. Why has he not tried his hand at it?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It would have been a great consolation if the right hon. Gentleman had shown us in what way he would define oppression, inasmuch as this is no Committee matter, but it goes to the root and heart of the Bill. I observed that the right hon. Gentleman come out yesterday as a man equipped with a large store of legal learning, because although he did not profess to give a legal opinion on his own part concerning the Bill, yet he told us what the lawyers would say, and he was able to do that because he is a better lawyer than they are, or at least quite as good. But I was astounded to hear him say he could define oppression quite easily. Why has no one done it? Is it not the first requisite of all conditions of freedom that the law shall be defined? Why are we to have a new form of Brehon Law introduced into the Bill, and why is not this most necessary definition of oppression to be supplied? The Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Madden), a very competent Gentleman, I need not say, was ready to supply a legal definition.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I was not. I was answering a speech addressed to the House by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), whose only observation on this provision was that he declined to argue the point. Therefore, I had 1703 nothing to answer in connection with this matter.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That is perfectly true. But the Attorney General's duty, as the organ of the Government explaining this Bill to the House, ought not to have been limited to a mere reply to particular points mentioned by an hon. Member. Besides, the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot avail himself of that shelter, because he complained of the Member for West Belfast for having declined to impeach this provision, and he said that, although it was not impeached, he would proceed to define it. Why did he not do so with that which most of all wants defence—namely, the audacity—I hope that is not too violent a word—which has led to the introduction into an Act of Parliament in a country where, as we are told by the Government itself, excited feelings prevail, of a new word absolutely undefined, and capable of being applied, unless defined, to suit purposes of prejudice, passion, and malignant animosity in any and all the shapes which, in a distracted country, from time to time they may assume. So much on the subject of the dissolution of the Councils. Now, I come to the question of the Joint Committee, and here the old rule holds. Everything in the nature of a precedent, or what could be made to seem so in England or Scotland, has been adopted as far as it was bad, and has been set aside so far as it was good. I am not now going to enter a debate on the larger principles to be fought out on future occasions between the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan). But it may be interesting for the right hon. Gentleman to know that in his absence to-day his computation respecting ninety-seven per cent. of the county expenditure being subject to control of the County Councils, and three per cent. being exempt from that control, has been by the hon. and gallant Member, with some detail and care, nearly turned inside out, and, as he contends, it will be far nearer the truth to say that three per cent. will be subject to the control of the County Councils, and ninety-seven per cent. not subject to their 1704 control. But I will not enter into that, because I wish to come to the illustration of what I think is the main proposition in this Debate—namely, the manner in which the promise to apply equality of principles to Ireland as compared with England and Scotland, has been, as I say, entirely disregarded and abandoned. The Government were determined to introduce into this measure the question of a Joint Committee. The hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Timothy Healy) did not understand why there should have been a Joint Committee at all, and I certainly have not heard any adequate argument in favour of it. But still there are Joint Committees in England and Scotland. Let us see whether they afford any precedent or supply any real guidance for the constitution of Joint Committees in Ireland. I take the English Joint Committee, and I begin by complaining on the part of a very large minority of this House that in our view the Joint Committee in England is altogether bad. It was objected to and was resisted by us to the best of our ability, and I firmly hope and firmly believe that the time is removed from us by a very few months when there will be a House of Commons disposed to make very short work indeed of these Joint Committees. I have no right to complain that the Government should have passed their Bill in that form, because they made a fair declaration of principle. But what is the English Joint Committee in England? It is limited to the single function of taking care of the police. That is not at all what we believe in, but it would have been a great deal too much to expect that the Government should offer us anything in the nature of a substantial attempt at decentralisation in Ireland. There is nothing in the nature of an attempt to invest the people with the control of their own local affairs in their own local centres, and I admit that would have been too much to expect of the Government. It would have shown that we do not at all understand the spirit of the majority with which we have to deal. But I observe that the Joint Committee is extended from one function to a vast range of functions 1705 of the most vital consequences. The Joint Committee in England has one good point, and that is that it is fairly constituted. Its balance is good. There are seven County Councillors and seven Magistrates, and there you have an example of a fair balance. They meet and fight it out and come to some arrangement or accommodation. Why do you not allow the Irish to do the same? No, the one feature in the English Joint Committee—namely, that of a fair balance of parties—is studiously thrown over, and the English precedent is upset before it is transplanted into Ireland. Then we have a Scotch precedent, and there the function is more extended. In Scotland the Joint Committee exercises a control not only over patronage, but over capital expenditure, which is a control nearly as extended, I suppose, as is proposed to be given to this Irish Joint Committee. Yes; but why? Because in Scotland the landlord has paid his rates as the occupier on the land that he has occupied, and has paid half the rates on the land that he does not occupy. And, therefore, he has a very large and direct interest and is recognised as a separate authority, and is entitled to separate representation. In Ireland he pays nothing, except in cases comparatively trifling. With the exception of a very small portion which is occupied by the landlord, the land is let and the landlord does not pay the county cess. In Scotland there is a preservative and a safeguard, for a judicial officer sits and holds the balance between the representatives of the landlords and the representatives of the County Council. That is a good provision, a safe and conservative provision, and as a matter of course it is thrown overboard in constructing the Bill of the present Government. So that as you go along from point to point whatever provision is against the people is adopted, and whatever secures the exercise of power in their favour, and the due and equal representation of the people is entirely cast aside. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and the Attorney General for Ireland, with the gracious assent of the First Lord of the Treasury, say that if we can find an 1706 impartial man the Government will be prepared to accept him. But it is not our business to amend the vital faults in the proposals of the Government. We must estimate the Bill by the provisions it contains, and not from appeals made by them to independent Members of this House to do what they ought to have done themselves. It is all very well, but what is the promise that has been made? What if we can find an impartial man, they will let him in. But are they bound to take as an impartial man the one whom we propose? No; objection will be taken to our impartial man by the majority, and no doubt the objection will be allowed to stand. And what is the arrangement as it stands? By dint of adopting what is bad, and excluding what is good in the Scotch and English precedents, you constitute a Joint Committee in Ireland, and that Joint Committee is provided with a standing majority to support the separate interests and class views of the landlords against the representative body that you are engaged in constituting. But there is one provision still more extraordinary in this Bill, touching on the business of the Joint Committee, as to which I can entertain no doubt as to the meaning of the words. Of course my construction as to the legal position may be wrong, because I have not the legal attainments of my right hon. Friend. What are the powers of this Joint Committee in respect to the overtures or proposals that it receives from the County Councils? Are they powers of simple assent or dissent? No, Sir. They may not merely assent or dissent; they may assent in whole or in part, and they may assent absolutely or conditionally. That is to say, the County Council may prepare provisional bye-laws or plans for the government of county affairs.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That is merely a question of name; call them what you will. What do you call them? Give me the right name. The plans or proposals—call them what you like—go from the County Council to the Joint Committee for their approval. What are the Joint Committee to do? Not merely to assent or dissent, 1707 but to amend them as they please, to cut out what they please, to put in what they please. They may alter the whole financial conditions, and when they have done it what happens? As I read the Bill, the plan or scheme so altered takes effect and becomes law. (Mr. JACKSON expressed dissent.) It is very well to shake the head, but the words you will find are these—That without the assent of the Joint Committee the plan of the County Council shall not take effect.
§ MR. JACKSON
(reading):The capital expenditure of the County Council, if not assented to, shall be invalid.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I beg pardon. Those are not the words at all; they are not near the words. The assent of the Joint Committee is necessary in the sense that the proposals shall be invalid without it. But if they are invalid without it, I presume they are valid with it. Is not that so? They are valid when they have got that assent, and what is that assent? It is not an assent simply affirming the plan or simply rejecting it. It is an assent which may alter the plan, which may take one part of the plan and throw aside another, which may insert in the plan what conditions the Joint Committee please, and then, forsooth, the plan becomes valid. And this is the splendid and munificent gift of a liberal, popular, and local institution which is to give the Irish people control over their own affairs. Then it is said there ought to be protection for the minorities in Ireland. The Attorney General has read some words from a speech of mine in 1886. I adhere to those words, but their whole relevancy depends upon the provisions in reference to which they are spoken. What is the meaning of a Government when they say that minorities ought to be protected? The meaning of the Government is that minorities ought to be protected by having the majorities delivered into their hands. By providing for that minority you set up a standing majority in behalf of that minority to put down the majority, to whom you profess to be giving this emancipating Bill. That is not what we mean by protecting the minority. Then it is said it is necessary to protect 1708 the large cess payers. If you want to protect the large cess payers, then why do you not say so? Are they not the grazing farmers? What common interests have they with the landlords? Though we have no such provision in this country, if you think there is a necessity to protect the large cess payers, protect them, but protect them by putting power into their hands, and not by enabling the Sheriff of the county to nominate a group of landlords who are to look after their own interests and the interests of their own class, under the pretence of being the representatives of the large cess payers. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken must have felt that there was a vital flaw in his argument when he referred to the great cess payers. It might, perhaps, be equitable to make a special provision on their behalf, but this is not that provision. This is not a provision for large tenants, but for landlords, and the position of the landlords is just as distinct from that of the large tenants as their traditions, their class, are distinct from the case of the smaller tenants. Then, Sir, the most plausible argument, I think, that has been made on this part of the Bill is that the control of the Joint Committee only applies to new expenditure. Well, Sir, what I am afraid is that in Ireland almost the only expenditure that we care about is new expenditure. The essence of the Irish complaint is that the legitimate wants of the country have been systematically neglected by Grand Juries, and if that is so it is vital to a good plan of Local Government that popular influence should have fair scope, even in regard to new expenditure. No; you establish a standing majority of landlords against the whole popular influences. You have no such provision in England. In England the whole of the property of the landlord is dealt with by the County Councils, freely, without limitation. You introduce not only limitation, but a nullifying limitation into Ireland, and then you say you are giving Ireland the same institutions as to England, subject to necessary modifications in detail. It is not difficult to make intelligible the nature of my general objections to the Bill, and I shall spare the House further 1709 discussion of details, though I must confess I am very much tempted to enter upon one of those particulars, namely, that of compensation for malicious injuries. It was a singularly infelicitous reference by the right hon. Gentleman to a very distinguished man—he meant Lord Melbourne—when he said that the quotation was the remark of a serious statesman. Lord Melbourne was a man of very great weight, and, in my opinion, in some important and vital respects, was a model of what a Prime Minister ought to be. But, considered as a practical reformer, the right hon. Gentleman ought to know Lord Melbourne had been educated under another system, and had grown up and acquired the habits of his mind before there had found its way into representative institutions any fit sense at all of the needs, wishes, or rights of the people of the country. Considered from that point of view, Lord Melbourne was one of the worst instances the right hon. Gentleman could have quoted. He said Lord Melbourne made use of that unhappy expression in regard to one of the greatest measures of the century, in which the interests of humanity and justice were more than almost ever before concerned, and the right hon. Gentleman quotes that as his reason and authority for leaving alone the present established arbitrary provision for compensation for malicious injuries which has been, in my opinion, most grossly misapplied. Well, Sir, this is my complaint. This Bill purports to be the redemption of a pledge for giving to Ireland local institutions substantially equivalent to those of England and Scotland. Professing to redeem that pledge, it has a number of points in which there is an apparent or avowed reference to English and Scotch precedents. I think I have shown in each of those cases which I have quoted, and they are all vital cases, that what is good in the precedent is left out, and what is bad in the precedent is maintained, aggravated, and misapplied. And this refuse of legislation is a great boon, to signify the generosity of Parliament, its adequate sense of Irish wants, and its disposition to outbid Nationalism and Home Rule by professing to give Ireland something 1710 more acceptable and beneficial! With regard to the use made of these precedents the Government might as well do this. A man who is to give an entertainment might send round to every house in the neighbourhood and ask for the bones, the waste, the refuse, and the washings, and put them altogether and serve them up to his guests as the banquet on which they were to feed. That is a jest in this country, but according to this Bill it is no jest in Ireland. It is the reality of the case that is before us. What I feel is that this Bill has conferred on the Liberal Party in this country one obligation—a great obligation—it tends to clear the issue. It gives the people the power of measuring and determining exactly what was the value of the great and splendid promises of 1887. If they are misled with evidence like this before them, it is their own fault; but they will not be misled. They have arrived, and have shown that they have arrived, at a tolerably fair estimate of these proceedings, and if anything is needed to complete the process this Bill undoubtedly will supply it. What I find, Sir, is that this measure in all its provisions is everywhere marked from one end to the other with the stamp of inequalities—inequalities adverse to Ireland, whether it is a large question or a small one, an old question or a new one. Go back with me to the period of the Union and to the arguments then used. The opponents of the Union entreated the ruling party not to do away with the ancient historical institutions of Ireland, not to sacrifice its national life, but to give some scope to the action of freedom within the limits of the country; and what was the answer made? The answer made by the more candid supporters of the Union was: It is true you are losing much, you are sacrificing your Parliament; you are surrendering your traditions; you are losing much of that which you cherish in your heart's core; but look at the enormous advantage that you are going to attain. You are going to attain a position in which you will have, and have for ever, and have irrevocably, under the seal and stamp of the greatest and the most upright country in the world, absolute equality of laws with Great Britain. 1711 It entered into the famous quotation of Mr. Pitt—Paribus se legibus ambæInvictæ gentes æterna in fœdera mittant.The equality of laws was the soul and essence of the speech of Mr. Pitt. It was the one, and as he thought the only, adequate compensation that he tendered to Ireland for the sacrifices she was called upon to make. Where is that equality of laws now? How is it represented by the present Bill? Are we to say that Ireland is wrong in rejecting this Bill? No, Sir, the stamp of inequality for the people is the brand of degradation, and if Ireland were capable of accepting as a redemption of pledges made to her a measure bearing that stamp, she would be unworthy of the high hopes and aspirations she so long has cherished; she would be unworthy of the great men who have led her in times of adversity, and she would be unworthy of the happier and better destiny which, as we trust, believe, and, so far as the future is open to us, are convinced and know, she is about to accomplish.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down excels those who have spoken on the same side of this question in this Debate in authority, in vigour, and in eloquence, but he excels them also in one other peculiarity, which is, that he has thought fit to drag into a controversy that should by right have been confined to the discussion of a particular measure of Local Government for Ireland, considerations wholly alien to that measure. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman began his speech by offering a challenge, in form, to the Members of the Government by asking them whether they did or did not agree with Lord Salisbury in certain observations the Prime Minister made in a recent speech in regard to Ulster. The right hon. Gentleman himself was pleased to denounce those observations; he described them as incitements to rebellion, and as observations, not only that no Member of the Crown should give utterance to, but as unworthy even of a law-abiding citizen. I have a good deal to say about the Bill, and shall 1712 not long detain the House on this point, but I will briefly respond to the challenge the right hon. Gentleman has thrown down. I have sent for the extract of the speech of the Prime Minister to which reference has been made. I find that Lord Salisbury advanced three propositions. The first proposition was that it would be a gross act of public immorality to place Ulster under the heel of the rest of Ireland. With that proposition I beg to associate myself in the fullest manner. The second proposition advanced by Lord Salisbury was that if an attempt was made to put Ulster under the heel of the rest of Ireland, Ulster might not improbably resist by force. Sir, that is a question of what is likely to occur. Lord Salisbury thought it likely to occur; I think it likely to occur. But he offered it, and I offer it, merely as our own forecast of what might probably happen. The third proposition of Lord Salisbury was that if Ulster did resist, and that if an attempt was made to put down the resistance of Ulster by the British standing Army, then, in Lord Salisbury's own words, "an outrage would be perpetrated which would rend society in two." With that proposition also I associate myself. I note that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who conceive that they are shortly to be sent back to power for the purpose of passing a Home Rule Bill which would put Ulster under the heel of the rest of Ireland, contemplate as a probability that has to be faced that Ulster will have to be coerced by the British Army. It is no abstract or academic question in their minds. It is a question of practical politics. It is a question of what will probably occur, and I note that in the opinion of right hon. Gentlemen the result will—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman says that that is my opinion. I have not said one syllable to that effect. I deny it. The words that I used were that I believed the very few foolish people whom Lord Salisbury might act upon would not resort to force.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the right hon. Gentleman was of opinion that under no circumstances would the British Army be required to put down 1713 Ulster, I cannot conceive why he got into such a fury of righteous indignation on a purely abstract question. It is easy enough to see through the protestations of right hon. Gentlemen opposite the uneasiness which possesses their souls. They know well enough that this question of Ulster cannot be lightly set aside, and their vehement expression of indignation is merely the external sign of that interior disquietude which naturally assails them whenever they contemplate face to face the problem with which the Prime Minister was dealing in the speech to which reference has been made. I pass from this question—which I frankly admit appears to me, if connected at all, to be connected only by the remotest links with the Local Government Bill—to the criticism which the right hon. Gentleman was pleased to pass upon that Bill. Now his first attack upon us—and, in fact, the special attack of all those who have spoken against the Bill—was this, that we have not carried out the pledges that we gave with regard to Local Government in Ireland. I entirely deny that statement. I maintain that this Bill fully carries out every pledge that has ever been given on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman quoted—and quoted perfectly accurately—various utterances which had for their object to show that when we dealt with the question of Local Government in Ireland we should deal with it on the same general principles which had been adopted in England and in Scotland; but I say that we never—that no Minister that I ever heard of pretended for a moment that the Bill to be applied to Ireland should be identical with either the Bill applied to England or to Scotland. Identical with both it could not be. But surely every statement upon a broad question of that kind must be qualified by the view that the Bill must be suited to the particular circumstances of the people with whom it has to deal; and you cannot transfer bodily from one condition of things to a wholly different condition of things a long and elaborate statute. I have already touched on this policy of the Government more than once since I have been Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I believe that on every single 1714 occasion on which I had to deal with it, I foreshadowed the fact of the difference that there must be between the two Bills, which undoubtedly arises from the condition of Irish society when compared with the condition of society in England and Scotland. Perhaps the House will pardon me, and I may be permitted to read from a speech which I made on 5th June, 1889, at Portsmouth. I then said:I am in favour of extending Local Government to Ireland. I hope to bring in a Bill to extend Local Government to Ireland; and I say you must follow with regard to Ireland the same course of action as must be followed when you are dealing with other countries. You must fit your Local Government to the needs and necessities of the country with which you are dealing.My noble Friend the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) has been quoted over and over again in this Debate as having announced that Ireland was to be dealt with on the principles of similarity and simultaneity. He did announce that, and he announced it with the authority of the Cabinet, of which I was not then a Member.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes, equality. But my noble Friend could not have intended to represent by that that we were to be tied down to the dead level of a uniform enactment when dealing with a condition of things so absolutely different in the two countries. I believe I have listened to every speech, or almost every speech, delivered in the course of this Debate against the Bill; and upon my word I do not believe a single statement was made by any speaker, a single hint was given by any controversialist, that the condition of Connaught and of Munster was not as the condition of Midlothian or Kent. I do not believe that one single word was dropped from any hon. Gentlemen opposite to show that Ireland has been rent in twain by controversies, the bitterness of which cannot be comprehended in this country, and that one of the favourite weapons of the parties on one side of the controversies was especially directed against the social and material destruction of a class.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Gentleman who has been good enough to interrupt said yesterday in his speech, "We are as good as you are, and we are as bad as you are." I do not in the least desire to enter upon a minute examination as to on which side the scale of virtue falls; and if the moral merits of Ireland be compared with the moral merits of England, I do not say Ireland is worse. What I do say is that Ireland is different; and I do not see how that proposition can be denied. We all live a Party life. Party feeling is the breath of our nostrils. We are all Party politicians. We belong to Party. We are all accustomed to Party controversies; and that which is a mild attack in this country is a virulent and fatal disease in Ireland. It attacks the Irish constitution with a violence of which you have no conception. Even friends in Ireland, when they do fall out, use language to each other which would quite stagger the more steady-going politicians on this side of the Channel; and when that occurs with people who yesterday were friends, and who will be friends to-morrow, how much more must it occur in these perennial, or, at all events, long-standing differences which have divided creeds, races, and strata of society in that country? The right hon. Gentleman did not hear at question time the question asked by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) dealing with a case, of the merits of which I know nothing, but a case in which the hon. Member for West Belfast stated that gross tyranny and outrage were practised by Protestants in Belfast against a Catholic boy in that town.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have made no speech which would in any way justify anything of the sort, but even if it were true, would not that prove my case? I have never had it attributed to me that my oratory had such an effect in any other part of the United Kingdom; and if it has produced a result of that kind it must have fallen on a curiously 1716 prepared soil. I say if you listen to Irish gentlemen sitting on that side of the House when they explain the kind of outrages to which Catholics are subjected in Belfast, just as when you listen to Irish gentlemen sitting on this side of the House when they are explaining the outrages to which the small minority in the South and West are subjected, you will then have brought practically home to you that there are divisions in Ireland, and modes of political warfare unknown in this country, capable of the grossest abuse in Ireland; and if a statesman ignored their existence in any Bill of this kind he would show himself utterly incapable of government. It is not merely that Irish society is divided in the way I have described which required us to make special provisions in our Bill, but it is that in large parts of Ireland the economic condition of the people is wholly different from what it is in other parts of the United Kingdom. I am glad to say, except perhaps in a corner of the North West of Scotland, you get nothing at all resembling the condition of things which meets you face to face in the South and West of Ireland. There you have an enormous number of small occupiers, small cottiers, paying annual rates of threepence, fourpence, sixpence, or tenpence, who have unfortunately had from time to time to be aided by the establishment of relief works out of public funds, and who are therefore accustomed to look for employment on such works as roads and bridges for obtaining the means of satisfying their needs. These men, if it was not for the provision of the Joint Committee, which I shall refer to more particularly presently, would be absolutely able themselves to vote for the relief works on which they were going to be employed. The minimum wages paid on the relief works would be ten shillings a week. The head of a family would thus earn in one week seven times, fourteen times, twenty times that which he would pay for the whole year in county cess. And then you say these people pay the rates, and surely you must trust them. I pass from these general considerations, which never seem to have occurred to the minds of the right hon. Gentleman or any of the other critics of the Bill. 1717 But before considering the particular provisions by which we have endeavoured to meet the exceptional state of society in Ireland, let me say one word about the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of the boundaries. He began his attack on the Bill by saying in substance, "You have so arranged matters that the Lord Lieutenant will be able to jerrymander." He did not use so vulgar a word—"to manipulate for Party purposes the districts, and arrange the areas within your counties—proceedings which you never attempted with regard to England or to Scotland." What we have actually done is this. As was stated by my right hon. Friend yesterday when we were framing the Bill, we instructed the Registrar General, the head of the Ordnance Survey in Ireland, and the head of the Irish Local Government Board, to draw out a map of Ireland divided into districts, mainly with these two directions—that the area should be convenient in size, and that under no circumstances was the boundary of a barony to be cut; and the scheme so prepared will be submitted to Members at a later stage of the Bill. If—which I do not in the least contemplate—the arrangement is objected to, of course some other plan can easily be devised by a Commission or otherwise. But there is no use in settling this until we have settled what scheme of representation we should have. We have framed the Bill on the plan of the representation of minorities by the cumulative vote. That requires Ireland to be divided into areas returning fifteen members each, about the size of a School Board. If you are going to have the single Member constituencies which the hon. Member for West Belfast desires, you must have a different system; and it is premature (though we have our plan ready, and will submit it to the House later on before passing the Bill), to propose it as an effective scheme until we see how the clause establishing minority representation has been dealt with in Committee. I pass, however, from that small point to the more important issues raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and I will take them in the order in which he dealt with them. The first clause which he dealt with was that empowering two 1718 Judges to dissolve a County Council; and here the right hon. Gentleman applied a method of criticism which he applied in turn to all those special purposes, in which he says, "You found an English precedent and yon have taken what was bad in it and have left what is good." This particular English precedent which he seems to have conceived as illustrative of his proposition is the English School Board. He said—"It is true the Education Board has power to dissolve a School Board; but then it has to elect another. You have left that precedent behind in dealing with Ireland, and in Ireland practically no second election is required." The right hon. Gentleman has been ill-coached in this matter. He has made two mistakes. He has made a mistake, as I understand it, about the Irish question, and he has made another mistake about the English precedent. It is not accurate to say that the locality can be permanently disfranchised by two Judges.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, the force of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments seemed to carry that conclusion, but I am far from desiring to attribute to him words which he did not use. I would, however, remind the House that under the Bill the maximum time that a County Council which is guilty of corruption, malversation, and oppression can be dissolved for is three years. What is the case with an English School Board? The right hon. Gentleman appears to be under the impression that as soon as an English School Board is dissolved a new election is to take place. That is not the fact. It is precisely the reverse of the facts, and so far from it being necessary to have a re-election at once there is absolutely no date stated in the Act of Parliament at which there need be an election at all, and it is actually in the power of a Department—a creature of the Party opposite—in England to dissolve a School Board, say in London, representing, by an absolutely democratic vote, five millions of population—it is actually in the power of a Parliamentary Education Department to dissolve that Board, and there is no power of compelling them to have a 1719 new election at all. And this is the precedent that entitles the right hon. Gentleman, after a critical examination of the Bill and of the precedents from which the Bill may have been derived—that entitles him, in his opinion, to say that we have taken from the English precedents all that was against the people and left all that was in favour of the people. But I should like, on this point, to ask the right hon. Gentleman another question. He turned to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), and to his hon. Friend the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings), and said: "Would you serve upon a Board which could be dissolved in this kind of way? Would your self-respect permit you in any circumstances to put yourself in a position in which you might be brought up before two Judges, and would you belong to a body which might suffer dissolution at their hands." It appears to me that no man's self-respect hitherto in England has been thought to be interfered with by his serving on a School Board. And why are Irishmen supposed to be gifted with so much sensitiveness of character that what Englishmen can stand at the hands of a Department they cannot stand at the hands of two Judges of the High Court? Then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman attacked the particular machinery by which this dissolution is to be effected. He told us that these Judges are not competent, and that even if they were competent, we have given them a law to interpret so vague and so general that nobody can interpret it. I am not wedded to that tribunal, though I believe it to be the best tribunal. But to say that the Judges are not specially competent to deal with matters of fact in these cases appears to me to ignore the whole value of judicial training.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman interjects the word "oppression." He seems to think—I do not know who has given him the information, probably the same person who gave him the information about the School Boards—that the word "oppression" has never been the subject of legal disquisition or definition before. 1720 He is wholly misinformed on that matter. I can assure him that "oppression" has been the subject—as my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland did state the other day—has been the subject of legal discussion and definition; and it appears, so far as I understand the matter, to be precisely the sort of oppression that was contemplated by the writers of those legal text-books that we have to think of now. It is perfectly true that, in society as it has been constituted up to this time, oppression was most likely to occur—if it occurred at all—at the hands of magistrates and other non-elected persons endowed with great power. You have substituted for them really elected bodies and government by majorities. Henceforth, oppression, if it occurs, will be oppression by those majorities. And why I am not to apply to them the same legal acumen which has not found it impossible to deal with the question of oppression, not by elected bodies but by magistrates and other high authorities, I do not know.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am correct in my statement with regard to the legal text-books, but the hon. Member must not press me too far with these legal points. I think he will find that I have not in any way misled the House. Then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say "these vague powers you hand over are capable of indefinite extension, and may be malignantly used." There were other strong epithets which escaped me, but "malignantly" I preserved. I confess I am wholly unable to place myself in the frame of mind of the gentleman who thinks it natural and probable to expect that a Judge will use the powers entrusted to him with malignity, and who thinks it incredible that a majority of an Irish County Council should ever do the same thing. The only people who can err in Ireland are the Judges of the High Court; the only people who may be attacked without hurting the susceptibilities of the Irish Representatives are the Irish Judges. I confess it seems to me the plan we have adopted—by which, instead of giving the powers 1721 of dissolution to the Local Government Board, as is given in the case of Board of Guardians, or to the Education Department, as is given in the case of School Boards in England, we propose to hand them over to two Judges—who, if they do not fulfil all the qualifications which hon. Gentlemen would like to see in them, are, at all events, the most impartial authority which, even they will admit, exists in Ireland—it seems to me this plan is far better and far safer, and far more in the interests of impartial administration. The special justification of this clause is what I have before adverted to. It is the undoubted fact that one Party in Ireland, and largely represented in this House, have steadily announced their intention of waging social warfare against a class, as a means of obtaining their political objects. They do not deny that. They do not deny that they have professed that doctrine; they will not deny that they have done their best to carry it out, and it is lunacy to ignore the intention which they have expressed, and to give over the class which they publicly announce their intention of ruining absolutely unprotected. I pass to the Joint Committee. Here the right hon. Gentleman applied the same old argument that he had already used with regard to the Judges and the School Board. He says—"You have taken the English and the Scotch precedent; you have magnified in it all that is obnoxious, and you have removed all that is beneficial." I deny that. I observe the right hon. Gentleman carefully abstained from touching on the case of the Scotch parallel, but he dealt at great length with the case of the English parallel.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman says he mentioned fully the Scotch parallel. If it was on the Scotch parallel he based his facts, he must be as ignorant of the Scotch Act as he is of the Education Act. The parallel between our clause and the Scotch clause is absolutely complete in every substantial particular, with the single exception that the Sheriff of the county is taken as one of the ex-officio members, while in Scotland there is a judicial officer.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will come to the payment of rates presently. With regard to the Sheriff, I have really nothing to add to what I stated on the introduction of the Bill. I then, in the most open manner, told the House that this was a part of the provision I was not fully content with; and I said that if another and a better plan could be suggested I should be glad. How has the right hon. Gentleman replied to that? The right hon. Gentleman says—It is not our business to help you in this Bill. It is your business to make a good Bill of it.Then what is the use of the Committee stage in this House? What is the use of all those offers of assistance which the right hon. Gentleman has given us when he likes a Bill, and which he refuses us when there seems to be some political reason for rejecting a Bill? Was there ever such a reason given as that for rejecting a Bill on the Second Reading—that we have not been able to find in the organisation of the Irish County Councils any person qualified to take the place of the Sheriff? I think it is a blot on the clause, but that surely is no reason for departing from the whole practice of Parliament, and rejecting the Second Reading of the Bill. I think it will require something much stronger than a mere colourable excuse to lead the House to reject the Bill. It is perfectly true, as has been admitted, that in Scotland half the rates are paid by the landlord, and that in Ireland the landlord does not pay the cess. But the right hon. Gentleman glided very lightly over what was said by the hon. Member for Tyrone, who referred to the case of nine landlords—was it not?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There are many cases where the landlords as occupiers pay the largest—an enormous portion—of the whole county cess. But we base our contention on something 1723 much more fundamental than the fact that here and there the landlord is the biggest cesspayer; and here I may express my regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has left the House. He is fond of dilating upon this topic. I do not propose to argue the point with the right hon. Gentleman, for the facts of the case are simple enough. If you impose a rate in an agricultural county the occupier will pay that rate until the terms of his occupancy are revised, and he will not have the same permanent interest that the landlord has. In England it is different, because, as the House knows, a tenancy will go on for generations without any modification of the rent. We all know what happens. The tenant continues to pay. In Ireland the rents are revisable every fifteen years, and not only is it the practice of the Fair Rent Courts to take account of the amount of the rate, but, by a decision of the Queen's Bench, they are compelled to take it into account, so that every tenant who at the end of his judicial term goes into the Court may have the whole of the rate thrown upon the owner. No human being will deny that it is fair to give the persons who bear the permanent charges some voice in the determining of what those charges shall be. Is it not possible that, where there is an enormous mass of small ratepayers who may desire public works not generally required by the wants of the community, an attempt might be made to throw very heavy burdens on the landlords which they would be unable to bear? That is not a new argument. It has been advanced by every speaker on this side of the House, but no answer has been attempted on the other side. It was used by the right hon. Gentleman by my side, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian never touched it. It never occurred to him that such an argument existed. I believe that the case of the Joint Committee is absolutely unassailable, and that the same considerations which induced the House to establish it in Scotland will justify its establishment in Ireland. I have detained the House at great length, but I think I have gone through all the objections which have been raised against the Bill. I want 1724 to know what they come to after all? The Member for West Leeds, who spoke on Thursday night, examined this Bill with a microscopic eye, and he found that every clause bears trace of the desire of the First Lord of the Treasury or of the Attorney General to limit the powers of the County Councils, and to heap insults on the Irish people. As a matter of fact, the greater part of the Bill is identical with the English and the Scotch Acts. Certainly, nine out of every ten clauses, sentence by sentence, will be found to be taken verbatim from the Acts already passed for England and Scotland. It is also a fact that this Bill confers powers on Ireland which never have been given to England and Scotland, but which I hope will be given. It gives absolute control over every county officer but two, and if it were worth while I would explain why they are excepted. Thus most of the officers and the whole of the work done by the Grand Juries—far more of the work than was transferred by the English and Sctoch Acts—are transferred bodily to the Irish County Councils. Why, then, has this Bill been opposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite? Are we to place any faith in the thin and futile pretence that this Bill is an insult to the Irish people? Are we to suppose that practical men will reject this measure, will refuse to give it further consideration, on this flimsy pretext founded on two or three clauses of the Bill? A much better reason must be found, and I think a much better reason exists. The vacant laughter and inarticulate indignation with which this measure was met at its first introduction have now been slowly translated into something of the nature of argument, and to what does the argument amount? It amounts to this—that here and there, in a Bill of seventy-three clauses, there may be found provisions which hon. Gentlemen think might be modified with advantage. My belief is that it is not because they think the Bill is an insult that they reject it. It is because they believe that the Bill will not serve the purpose which they hope to effect. They have made the most explicit statements, the most frank statements—because frankness is one of their chief merits—as to the way in which they intend 1725 to treat a Local Government Bill. They are not going to treat it as a Bill for establishing Local Government. They are going to treat it as a ladder by which to climb to Home Rule, and possibly through Home Rule to separation. If they have been frank as to the object they desire to attain, they have been equally frank as to the methods they desire to adopt. They have never made it a secret for the last ten years that the methods by which they intend to wring from reluctant Radicals the granting of Home Rule were by disorder and the oppression of a particular class in Ireland which they have the power to afflict—the ruin of the landlords, the expulsion of the landlords, the destruction of the landlords—these are the familiar topics of their eloquence when in Ireland—these are the avowed methods by which they hope to succeed. The reason why they have changed their views on that subject and are now anxious to reject this Bill on the Second Reading and to prevent its discussion in Committee is that they clearly see, whatever else it will do, it will do nothing for them in the direction of Home Rule. The difference between us on this side of the House and those who are on the other side of the House is two-fold. We do not desire their objects, and they do not desire our objects. Their object is Home Rule; our object is Local Government. We sincerely believe that Local Government may be made a great boon and a great blessing to the population which knows how to use it. We desire earnestly and sincerely to confer this boon upon Ireland. They are perfectly indifferent whether it is conferred or not—they do not value it because it helps to Local Government and confers a very great boon on the population. They do not value it a pin for these reasons, and they reject it without scruple. They value it, or they did value it, before they saw the provisions of the Bill. They did not set the least store on what the Government were going to do for Local Government, but they thought it might be made an instrument of torture for further extracting Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian said that one benefit, at all events, that this Bill conferred 1726 upon his Party was that it cleared the issue. It has cleared the issue. As far as in us lies, at all events we have made it clear in the last six years what the whole policy is of which this is but a fragment, though an important fragment. We have endeavoured in the clearest manner to show how we thought the true interests of the Irish people were to be attained, and how all the benefits, and more than all the benefits, we have been able to confer upon England or Scotland could be conferred by the Imperial Parliament upon Ireland. So far we have endeavoured to clear the issues. So far we have shown of what our broad policy, of which this is an element, really consists. It rests with the right hon. Gentleman to clear the issues on his side. The country knows by acts, by deeds, by legislation which have been accomplished, by legislation which has been most sincerely and earnestly attempted, what it is we desire to do. What the right hon. Gentleman desires to do no human being knows. And if we have done our part, as we have done, to clear the issues, all we can ask him is to do his part; to lay before the electorate of the country in the same plain, unmistakeable outline, the policy which he desires to see adopted.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I rise to explain. The right hon. Gentleman has made a great point against me of being totally ignorant of the Education Act; and, in his own elegant expression, he said I had been badly "coached" in it. The question is, who has been badly coached in the Education Act? I quoted Section 66 of the Education Act of 1870, and I believe that section is still in force. I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman has been deluded by some too rapid informant who has examined some other enactment which did not deal with the School Board at all. The enactments about the School Board in this 66th section are precisely as I quoted, and the House will judge as to the correctness of the right hon. Gentleman's statement when I read, to save the time of the House, only the middle part of the section, which I think is sufficient—And after the date fixed by any such order the then members of the Board shall be deemed to have vacated their seats, and a new election 1727 shall be held in the same manner, and the Education Department shall take the same proceedings for the purposes of such election as if it were the first election.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
(reading):Where the Education Department are, after such inquiry as they think sufficient, satisfied that a School Board is in default as mentioned in this Act, they may by order declare such Board to be in default, and by the same or any other order appoint any persons, not less than five or more than fifteen, to be members of such School Board, and may from time to time remove any member so appointed… After the date of the order of appointment the persons (if any) who were previously members of the School Board shall be deemed to have vacated their office as if they were dead… The members appointed by the Education Department shall hold office during the pleasure of the Education Department.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The right hon. Gentleman was not called upon by me. Before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian rose to make a personal explanation I had called upon the hon. Member for East Mayo.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
In the speech of the right hon. Gentleman we have had a most instructive example of the bias which affects the mind of his Party in dealing with the Irish people. Right hon. Gentlemen have been appealed to as to whether there might not be brought about so great a crisis as to rend society in twain, and to render it necessary to employ coercion and the Forces of the Crown against the people of Ulster. For my part, I have not the slightest fear that it will become necessary to employ either coercion or the Forces of the Crown against the people of Ulster, except in the streets of Belfast, on the 1st July next. What was the great horror which the right hon. Gentleman conjured up? He said that in his judgment, as well as in that of his illustrious relative, it was perfectly possible that the people of Ulster might resist by force the will of this Parliament. But are not 1728 the people of Ulster as much bound to recognise the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament as we are, and if it be no crime for Ulster to deny the supremacy of this Parliament and this Crown, why are we denounced for a crime of which we have not been guilty? But there is this further consideration. The right hon. Gentleman, pursuing the path marked out for him by the Prime Minister, denounced in most unmeasured language the horror of placing the people of Ulster under the feet of their fellow-countrymen; but is there no compunction on that side of the House at the keeping of the whole population of Ireland under the heel of the small and corrupt minority in Ireland? When we are told with wild alarm of the consequences which might result if the minority of the people of Ireland were placed under the control of their own countrymen, we are prompted to ask why hon. Members see no illiberality, no wrong, in placing the vast majority of the people of a country under the heel, not of the people of Ulster, but of a corrupt and exceedingly small minority who grasp at that Government for no other reason than their own financial advancement. What there is to be afraid of is that on the 1st and 12th of July the streets of Belfast will be reddened with the blood of the people of Ulster and of Her Majesty's soldiers who, in spite of what is said in this House, will be obliged to turn out and shoot them down on those days as they have done before, in 1886. The Leader of the House went on to declare, with that audacity which is all his own, that the Government had redeemed every one of the pledges that had been given. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman was present in the House in 1886, when in the course of a Debate on the Estimates—I think it was the Vote for the Board of Works in Ireland—the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) interrupted me in the course of a speech and requested us to abbreviate the Debate, on the ground that before that day next year we should ourselves have the control over those matters in Ireland. We do not seem to be any nearer having that control than we were six years ago. In alluding to the social war which 1729 had distracted Ireland for so many years, did not the cause enter into the mind of the right hon. Gentleman? Is it from the exercise of legal liberties that class has been divided against class, and that all those troubles have arisen? Is it not from that system of placing the majority under the heel of the minority? He points to the system of the Government against which we are struggling as a reason why this misgovernment should not be changed; but I say that if weight were to be given to arguments of that character, no reform could ever be carried out in Ireland. It is impossible to get rid of these social disturbances and symptoms of social disorder, until you remove the disease that gave birth to them. There is one more point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; he repeated an extraordinary statement which on a former occasion I challenged him to prove. He brought forward, as another reason for the difference between this Bill and the English Bill, the inferior economic condition of the Irish people. He made the statement that in the South and West of Ireland there is an enormous number of small occupiers paying annual county cess amounting to fourpence, fivepence, and sixpence only. Now, the county cess in Ireland varies from one shilling to two shillings in the pound, and so, even incases where the rental is only £2, £3, or £4, the county cess amounts to half a crown and up to five or six shillings. While it is perfectly true that in some districts a large portion of the cesspayers would pay a very small sum—but something very different from what the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned; I should think it would always exceed two shillings—I may inform him that to these poor people a penny is more than £10 or £20 would be to him. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to give force to his argument in this way: He said the County Councils would be called upon by these poor people to start relief works, and that they would thereby be able to earn seven shillings a week by paying a few pence in cess. The fact is, it would be impossible to place any considerable proportion of people on relief works, because, if any attempt were made to 1730 start relief works on a liberal scale, the small cesspayers would be the first to raise an outcry against it. Now, I should like to say a few words on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who sought to give us a great deal of instruction on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman on this occasion laid aside his usual offensive and aggressive manner and adopted an entirely business tone. He told us he approached this subject with a large experience of municipal matters, and that he was, therefore, entitled to indicate the proper way in which to govern Irish counties. Well, I have not been Mayor of Birmingham, nor a Town Councillor, and therefore I would not for a moment enter into a controversy with the right hon. Gentleman as to the best way to conduct the affairs of that great Municipality; but I think it is a singular illustration of the frame of mind of men like the right hon. Gentleman that because he has had experience in conducting the municipal affairs of Birmingham he thinks he is entitled to lay down the law with regard to the way of governing Mayo and Kerry. Although I have not had experience of municipal affairs in England, I think I know something more as to what are the burning questions of the Irish rural districts than the right hon. Gentleman. One illustration that occurs to me in connection with his speech is this: He spoke of the Sanitary Acts, and he said that in his judgment one of the most important duties for Local Governing Bodies to perform is the administration of the Sanitary Law. I have no doubt that in great Municipalities like Birmingham, and Glasgow, and Manchester that is a burning and most important question. But in Mayo and Kerry, and similar districts, the administration of that law is not a burning question; and although good might be done, no doubt, in certain districts in this direction, it is absurd, and characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman, to put it in the forefront of a Bill like this. Take the case of the rural districts in Ireland. The only proper course to take in administering the Sanitary Laws there would be to knock down every single house 1731 and re-build them. How can you administer the Sanitary Laws where there is only one room with a thatched roof? I should like the right hon. Gentleman to go and try to administer the Sanitary Laws in my constituency. If he did make that attempt I think he would come back a sadder and a wiser man. Well, Sir, there is a sadder aspect of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman than these smaller questions I have alluded to. He reached the last stage in the long record of his broken promises to the people of Ireland in the speech he delivered in this House yesterday. One would have supposed, to have listened to him yesterday, that his hands were free from pledges and promises. But what has been his record? He has pledged himself to the hilt to give a system of Local Government to Ireland only short of what was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). In 1885 he sketched out a scheme of the most advanced character, and published it with the full authority of his name. In 1886 he solemnly repeated again and again, as one of the leaders of the Liberal Unionists, that while he was not willing to go the whole length proposed by the right hon. Member for Midlothian, yet if the Home Rule Bill were rejected he would give a measure of Local Government far in advance of anything England was prepared for, and in speech after speech he declared he fully recognised the fact that the peculiar circumstances of Ireland demanded from this House a far wider and more extensive system of Local Government than anything the English people cared for. Not content with all these speeches he brought forward that well-known proposal, published in 1888, by which the proposed Council for each province of Ireland would have very nearly all the powers that would have been conferred on the Central Parliament by the Home Rule Bill. In spite of all these pledges and promises, the right hon. Gentleman was not ashamed to come down to this House yesterday and make a speech in support of a Bill which not only denies to Ireland all those wide privileges which he had promised to extend to it, but which, 1732 furthermore, seeks to place the Irish people in a position of great inferiority to the people of England. Then we listened to a long story from the Chief Secretary for Ireland stating what legislation this Government have carried out for Ireland, and expressing his conviction that it had redeemed every single pledge given to the Irish people. Well, Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to place a limit on the audacity of Ministers in this respect, but how it is possible for the Chief Secretary to affirm that the Government have redeemed their pledges on this question of Local Government in the face of the events of the last six years, surpasses my comprehension. The Chief Secretary told us that Bills had been passed to make light railways and for land purchase in Ireland, and other admirable things. But that is not what the Government undertook to do for us in 1886. The pledge they gave to us was that they would introduce a Local Government Bill which should be a substitute for the Home Rule Bill. It does not matter whether the legislation passed by the right hon. Gentleman has been good or bad, the fact remains that the pledges given by the Government have been shamefully broken. Once more I must affirm our position. It is not true that we have opposed, obstructed, or sneered at any good measure proposed for Ireland. The policy I have always advocated, and shall continue to advocate so long as we cannot get and until we get full right to deal with our own affairs, is that we should take every bit of good legislation we can worry out of this Parliament. What we have done and what we shall continue to do—and experience has taught us it is the only way to get any good out of this House—is this, that when measures of a faulty and deficient character are brought before the House, then we criticise them and endeavour to amend them. I say and I maintain that the criticisms we have offered to measures introduced by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors in office, every blot or weakness we have indicated, every amendment we have proposed has been justified by subsequent experience of the working of the measure in Ireland. It is untrue to say that we have sought to 1733 defeat measures which contained even the germ of good for the people of Ireland. We have done what we could, and sometimes with considerable effect, to criticise in the most strenuous way evils we have found, and we have exposed unsparingly all the weaknesses we have discovered in legislative proposals. I do not propose to go into details of this Bill: it is now too late to do so. Here I have in this pamphlet what may be called the "Bible," the sacred scripture of those who promote this Bill, and from this pamphlet hon. Members opposite draw their quotations. Here I find the boiled-down opinions of the ascendancy party in Ireland, and here I find set down by the Loyal and Patriotic Union the dangers of Local Government against which the Government are warned. First we are told that in the giving of contracts undue favour will be shown to the personal friends of members of the Councils. Here is a case if ever there was one of Satan reproving sin. What has been the past history of Local Government in Ireland? It is one mass of jobbery from beginning to end, under the appointments made by Grand Juries. Then it is alleged a danger will be that the County Councils will appoint incompetent men to offices under the Council. Could absurdity reach a higher point? Is it not perfectly notorious that, except in the case of County Surveyors, the competency of a man has been the last consideration in the appointments made by Grand Juries? Is it not notorious in the past history of Poor Law Boards and Grand Juries that the one thing which brings Magistrates from any distance—even from England—to attend a meeting is the scent of a job of any kind? Is it not grotesque to have such warnings now, knowing as we do that the past history of county administration is a record of the most scandalous and outrageous jobbery? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) quoted the cases of certain Poor Law Boards suppressed under a Liberal Government; but I repudiate the idea that the cases in these Poor Law Unions can be taken as fair samples of local popular administration in Ireland, because these suppressions arose for the most part 1734 not from causes of corruption; they had their origin in the disturbed and distracted condition of the country. I affirm, without fear of contradiction, that in direct proportion to the increase of popular control over Local Boards has been the decline of corruption and jobbery. I might illustrate this by a reference to local administration in Dublin, contrasting the administration at the present day with the time when control was in the hands of the "loyal minority." But it would be idle for me to attempt to go into details with the impatience of the House for the impending Division. I object to this Bill because it is an imposture upon the people of this country; because I do not wish to see the Government going to the constituencies with a lie in their mouth. I do not wish to see them doing as they did the last time, when they carried the verdict of the country on a false and misleading issue—when they appealed to the electors to give them power to grant equal laws to Ireland and to govern without coercion, and when they were returned they broke all their pledges and destroyed our liberties. I object to the Bill because it is a gross falsification of the pledges given to the people of Ireland, pledges confirmed and endorsed by the leaders of the Unionist Party. I object to the Bill, because if it should pass into law it would be one more object lesson to the people of Ireland to put no trust in British faith. I object to the Bill because it is an illustration of the way in which when we ask for bread, you give us something worse than a stone; because, when we ask for some institution which would serve as an organ by which we could give expression to our national life as a nation, which, though small, is as distinct from your own as that of one nation can possibly be from that of another; when we ask for some institution to give expression to our national life, and to restore contentment to our distracted country, we are told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) we may clear out the cesspools of some country villages. I object to the Bill, because it is an attempt to take advantage of the present dissensions and 1735 distractions in our Party, to put the Irish people off with a miserable imposture, and because it will leave a legacy of evils to those who come after us.
§ Question put.
§ (6.45.) The House divided:—Ayes 339; Noes 247.—(Div. List, No. 139.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.
§ It being after Seven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER suspended the Sitting till Nine of the clock.