§ Bill, as amended, further considered.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
When I was addressing the House last night in support of the clause standing in my name, I intimated that I should not deem it necessary to deal with the subject at any length, because it is a very simple matter, exciting no Party feeling and no Party passion, and being put forward in the interest of no one section. The facility of enabling a Minister to pass from one branch of the Legislature has many advantages, and it 25 has been found to be extremely useful in other countries. Although the system is not in force in this country, it is not unknown in some of our colonies. It is practised at the Cape of Good Hope without any loss or disadvantage—on the contrary, with much practical gain. In this country the experience of hon. Members must have made them conscious that if this power existed in this country cases would often arise when it would be of great advantage if a Minister were enabled to accompany his Bill from one branch of the Legislature to another, this Minister, of course, being the most competent person in the advocacy of his Bill. Take, for example, the Bill which is now under discussion. Everyone is conscious of the advantage which would accrue to the advocacy of the Bill in the other House of Parliament if it could be accompanied by its author, the principal constructor of the measure. Without any disrespect to the noble Lords, I may say that if the Prime Minister were enabled to advocate the Bill in the Upper House he would, to use a popular phrase, make their Lordships "sit up." I think, also, that the House has enjoyed some experience occasionally in the past when it might have been useful to have had a Minister from another place. I do not refer to the present Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who has discharged his duties with remarkable ability; but I have known some inarticulate Under Secretaries for Foreign Affairs who have not given the House that complete advantage in expressing the views and the policy of the Government of the dav—information which might have been obtained if the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had himself been enabled to come to the Lower House to expound the Government policy himself. I admit, of course, that the business of the Government Departments is so great that it has been found necessary to double the political officers; but I would now impress on the Government the propriety of considering this question apart, and with reference to the circumstances of Ireland itself. If the Irish Government are to be required to have an officer in each branch of the Legislature to answer for the particular Department for which he is responsible it will be necessary to have more officers than would otherwise be required. 26 If this scheme were carried out there would be some officer responsible for the administration of law and justice in Ireland. How great would the advantage be to the conduct of affairs in Ireland if that officer could pass from one House to the other, and vindicate the conduct of his Department against any charge that might be brought against it! The responsible person would be able to reply to any attack that was made upon him in the discharge of his functions. It could not be the object of the Prime Minister to make an unnecessary number of officers of the Irish Government. He was at a loss to discover any argument against this proposal. It might be suggested that it would, perhaps, give too much authority to the Executive Government as against the Legislature. That might be true if the Executive Government occupied the position that they did in Germany, where the officers did not hold their offices simply at the pleasure of the Representative Body; but in the Parliamentary system initiated in this Bill, and which was proposed to be given to Ireland, the Members of the Executive Committee were to hold Office at the pleasure and according to the determination of the Legislature itself. The proposal would not make them subservient to the Executive Government. It seemed to him that his proposal was of a thoroughly practical character, and he submitted it to the Prime Minister with some hope that it would receive favourable consideration at his hands. Of course, things did not always appear the same to different observers; but he understood that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared even to stretch a point to accommodate critics. He (Mr. Courtney) submitted, as to his proposal, that it would be really valuable in the administration of the Government in Ireland; that it would largely assist that economy which the right hon. Gentleman had at heart in arranging for the Irish Government; and that it would make the conduct of affairs more easy, rapid, and satisfactory to all concerned than would be the case if it were rejected.
§ Clause (Attendance of Member of Executive in Legislature,)—(Mr. Courtney,)—brought up, and read the first time.27
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE, Edinburgh, Midlothian)
(who was very imperfectly heard) said, the right hon. Member understood him to be willing to give impartial consideration to reasonable proposals for the amendment of the Bill, implying that the present Amendment was a reasonable matter. Well, he (Mr. Gladstone) did not intend to discuss this proposal on its merits. He differed from his right hon. Friend in thinking that it was a very simple matter, for he considered it was a large question upon which much might be said on the one side and the other. Speaking for himself, he could only say that it would have taken a great deal to induce him at any period of his life to address that House in any other capacity than that of a Representative. The House should give attention to any strong feeling that might be entertained by the Irish Members on the subject. In his opinion, the question was one wholly and solely for the consideration of the Irish Legislature. This was not a question of the constitution of the Irish Legislature, or of its composition; and, even if it were, it would be within the power of that Legislature to deal with it after a short term of years. There was an example which proved distinctly that that was so. Nothing could be more rigid than the manner in which Congress was absolutely precluded by the Constitution of the United States from altering that Constitution. That was absolutely excluded from it, and yet it had been thought convenient to introduce a provision of this kind. His right hon. Friend was, of course, quite justified in deriving all the sanction that he could from foreign practice; but he was liable to be met by the objection that it was contrary to British practice. He (Mr. Gladstone) must repeat that this was a matter which, beyond all doubt or question, lay in the power of the Irish Legislature. If it did not, there might be some ground for obliging them to deal with it in the House. But were it so, he should be inclined to say that he would very much rather have the matter considered at large, and with reference to the exigencies of this country as well as 28 of Ireland, than make a random experiment in Ireland only. But his present ground was that there could be no doubt that this was a matter for the consideration of the Irish Legislature. It was a matter exclusively Irish, and therefore the doctrine of the Government was to leave it to the discretion of the Irish Legislature, and the Irish Legislature alone, subject, of course, to proper Constitutional safeguards. He could not consent to the introduction of the clause into the Bill.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
could not help regretting that the Prime Minister had not gone into the merits of this question, because he was quite sure that what he could have laid before the House would have been of extreme interest with reference to Constitutional practice and procedure. He could not, however, blame the right hon. Gentleman for the line he had taken under the circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman held that it would be in the power of the Irish Legislature to carry out this reform, and that it ought to be left to that Legislature to determine what course should be pursued. The British practice was not, in his opinion, really a proper analogy in the case of a new Constitution; and while he must concur in the observations that in our historic House of Commons and House of Lords any change which permitted Members of one House to go and speak in the other, to which they did not belong, would, indeed, be a great and doubtful innovation. He did not know what effect would be produced if the Prime Minister were permitted to give the benefit of his eloquence to the House of Lords. It might have far-reaching and startling consequences, and, for his part, he should be sorry to sanction so important an innovation. But when they were considering from the beginning a new system in which there was to be a Second Chamber, which, whether better or worse, at all events bore no resemblance to an Hereditary Chamber, the state of things had no resemblance to our historical Houses of Parliament; and he thought the right hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) had made out an overwhelming case, both on grounds of economy and administrative expedience', for permitting a Minister to defend in either House where his acts or the policy of the Cabinet of which he formed a part 29 might be attacked the Department for which he might be specially responsible. If, however, it were generally accepted by the Legal Authorities in the House that the Prime Minister was right in his interpretation of the Home Rule Bill, and that the Irish Legislature, if ever it was called into existence, would have power to carry out this reform on its own motion, he would not advise his right hon. Friend opposite to take the sense of the House upon his proposal. If, however, that was not the view of the Legal Authorities, and it was necessary to give these powers to carry out the object which had been explained, he hoped his right hon. Friend would press his Motion to a Division.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)
said, they were all agreed that this was a matter on which they should defer to the feelings of the Irish Members: but, in the absence of any expression of opinion on their part, he thought it was the duty of the House to consider what plan would work best on the whole, so far as the future government of Ireland was concerned. It was perfectly true that the Irish Parliament might adopt this plan if they liked, and it was equally true that if the House passed the clause it would be in their power to do away with it if they chose. But the Irish Parliament, when it first came into existence, would have an immense number of pressing matters before it, and it was unlikely that it would be able to find time for a considerable period to discuss matters of this kind. If, therefore, the House were of opinion that it would be for the advantage and bettor government of Ireland that this principle should exist, surely this was the time to adopt it. The Irish Legislature should be started under the most favourable conditions. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who objected to this Proviso, said that, although the experience of other countries could be quoted in its favour, on the other hand, our own experience was against it. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin had shown that that was not entirely the case. He had shown that, on the contrary, in some of our Colonies which approached most nearly to the constitution of the Irish Legislature, this plan was in operation, and was allowed to continue in operation. Therefore, they might reasonably con- 30 clude that it had been found to be of advantage. There was au additional reason why the proposed system might be of advantage in Ireland, although it was not of advantage in this country. Our House of Commons and House of Lords were large bodies, and it was, therefore, reasonable to conclude that gentlemen could be found within them fully qualified to represent all the great Departments. But where bodies were smaller, as in many of the Colonial Governing Bodies, it was often convenient to allow Ministers to go from one Chamber to the other. In the absence of expressed opinions on the part of the Irish Members, or from Ireland, surely they had to consider what was the best form for the future Government of Ireland. This was not a Party question, and the right hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment and many hon. Members felt that the right hon. Gentleman, in moving the Amendment, had only been anxious, not to advance the interests of any political Party, but to advance the interests of the Irish Legislature generally. He regretted that the Prime Minister did not see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
I do not rise for the purpose of saying anything as to the clause; but I rise to say something about the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill. There is no reason why we should not deal with that, and I do think that upon that subject, and also on the subject of vaccination, we should be enlightened from the Unionist Benches.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ (Boundary Commissioners.)
§ "The following persons, that is to say, of whom not less than three shall be a quorum, shall be appointed Boundary Commissioners for Ireland, and they shall immediately after the passing of this Act proceed by themselves, or by Assistant Commissioners appointed by them, to inquire into the existing boundaries of every borough or division of a borough and county or division of a county in Ireland, and they shall with all practicable despatch report to one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State how those boundaries may be best re-adjusted, so that the total number of Members returned to Parliament from Ireland shall be 80, and so that the population in each group of boroughs, borough, or division of a borough, group of 31 counties, county, or division of a county, returning one Member to serve in Parliament shall be as far as possible equalised, and their report shall be laid before Parliament. It shall be the duty of the above-mentioned, one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, to draw up a scheme to give effect to the report of the said Boundary Commissioners, which shall be forthwith laid before both Houses of Parliament, if Parliament is then sitting, or, if Parliament be not then sitting, within three weeks after the beginning of the next Session of Parliament; and if such scheme has lain before Parliament for not less than two months during the same Session, then, unless an Address has been presented within such two months by one or other of the Houses of Parliament praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent from such scheme, or any part thereof, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty by Order in Council to declare Her approbation of such scheme, or any part thereof, to which such Address does not relate. Nothing in this section shall affect the boundaries of boroughs or counties returning Members to serve in the Irish Legislature."
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I would call attention to the fact that the question of the Boundary Commission has been considered, both with reference to single-Member constituencies and proportional representation—I understand that something has passed between the noble Lord, or another hon. Member, and the Government; and the Government have expressed their intention to bring up an Amendment later on. Perhaps the Government will now state what is their intention. In any case, I do not think the noble Lord can bring forward the question of Boundary Commissioners at this stage with reference either to single-Member constituencies or proportional representation.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am glad, Sir, that you have drawn the distinction between the two questions. I do not think, upon an examination of what it would involve in future proceedings, that the Government could accept the clause enacting a Boundary Commission in the present Act. When I spoke of a contingent willingness—I will not say desire—on the part of the Government to entertain the question of single-Member constituencies, I referred to the method of proceeding by Order in Council, subject to the power of intercepting the operation of the Order by Parliamentary intervention, as the mode by which the whole subject could be handled. No doubt, that proceeding would involve something in the nature of a Boundary Commission; but it would 32 have a very limited operation indeed. I think that the cases in the whole of Ireland in which the Commissioners would have to act is only 10, and if anything were done I think it ought to be by Order in Council checked by the power of Parliamentary intervention. As has been stated by you, Sir, the question of the Boundary Commission has been disposed of, and the Government are not disposed to revive it. The more important question is that of single-Member constituencies. I am anxious to be well understood upon this question, though I am conscious that it would be contrary to the spirit of the Orders of the House, even if I were permitted to do it by indulgence, to enter upon a vindication of the Schedule. Therefore, I will not do that further than to state what the intentions of the Government have been, and what their belief is. I at once admit that if it could be proved upon a discussion of the Schedule that it was unjust as between Nationalists and Unionists, not only would a very grave charge of indiscretion and neglect be made good against the Government, but likewise a very strong case would have been made out for a compulsory rectification, at whatever cost of time, of that error. We are under a very strong belief that there is no foundation whatever for that charge. We may be wrong, but our belief is that the distribution of the 80 Members under their Schedule with the constituencies voting in a lump would be a more favourable division to the Unionist Party, compared with their present proportion, than the single-Member system, with the single exception, I admit, of the provision made with regard to the University of Dublin. I am not referring to that, but am only speaking of the town and county divisions. That being so, we, from our point of view, entirely throw aside that consideration of unfairness. We have to consider that, while there are a multitude of questions upon which various constituencies in England are divided—in one constituency there is a strong Temperance Party, in another there is a strong opinion in favour of Parish Councils, and so on—that is not so in Ireland. There the one division at present is that between Nationalists and Unionists, and that is one upon which I frankly admit that the Government are under a primary obligation to do nothing 33 less than justice to the minority. Then, I proceed upon the assumption that the real question before us is not that of justice between party and party, which I understand to be provided for, but is a question of the merits of single-Member constituencies. That is not an important question at. all. How do we stand with regard to business? We stand laden with difficulties of every kind, and it is as much as we can possibly hope for that, during the time that remains to us, we shall be able to deal with the Bill as it stands, and to deal with the Bill effectively in our legislative capacity is what the Government consider to be their primary and absolute duty. Very well, on I arrive at this point—that we are not in a position to accept the introduction of any subject which will seriously or appreciably add to the amount of debateable ground which still, unfortunately, remains to be traversed. We could not declare ourselves prepared to deal with the question of single-Member constituencies, even if we agreed to the clause the noble Lord has put down.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I do not think it, would be in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to discuss the question of the Schedule now, but it is in his power to say that there would be a period of the Bill when he would introduce an Amendment to carry out the principle of single-Member constituencies. Then that would be the time to consider the matter as against the Schedule as it stands at present. Everything beyond that would be out of Order.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I have stated what I could not do, and I have just arrived at the point when I would state what I would do. The Government cannot bind themselves to introduce a provision for single-Membered constituencies; but we consider it a matter on which we might be able to agree through friendly communications. I do not wish to bind anyone on any other subject, or to say—"Because we have entered into friendly communications on single-Member constituencies, we therefore expect you to abate your hostility to the 34 Bill." Hon. and right hon. Members might come into these communications on this one separate and limited subject, and, at the same time, remain free to pursue the course they have taken on the Bill as a whole. The real question is whether the advantage of single-Member constituencies is such as to induce hon. Members to enter into these communications? We have had examples of the value of these communications on a larger scale in former years. I know we cannot hope to return to those happy times; but if hon. Gentlemen opposite think they can do this, and if we do enter into such communication, it will be a matter of honour to see that gentlemen are not placed in difficulty at a subsequent stage, but the Government will make such provision that there shall be no technical obstacle to prevent the insertion of the plan. That is the only way in which the Government can see an opening for possible dealing with the question of single-Member constituencies.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It would be quite out of Order if I were to deal with that part of the interesting and useful statement of the right hon. Gentleman which touches upon the Schedules. I would only say that what he has stated as to the importance which attaches to the fairness of this Schedule conclusively shows that we shall have an opportunity of discussing these matters in detail. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government, though they do not pledge themselves to any such policy, are prepared to consider and discuss a scheme whereby single-Member constituencies will be substituted for the plan in the Schedule, and in which Boundary Commissioners will have to be appointed—not in the manner proposed in the clause of my noble Friend, but by Order in Council. I believe there are precedents for such appointments, and for their being subject to Parliamentary supervision. That being the proposal, it appears to me there is little difference between the scheme the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to discuss in a friendly spirit and that of my noble Friend; and I would therefore ask you, Sir, on what part of the Bill can the scheme which may result from such friendly discussion be introduced, and if my noble Friend is out of Order how can the clause em- 35 bodying such a scheme be introduced at any later stage of the Bill?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
That difficulty occurred to me whilst the right hon. Gentleman was speaking. Of course, if I rule the noble Lord out of Order in now-discussing the question of a Boundary Commission to carry out single-Member constituencies, I shall have to give the same ruling in regard to the Boundary Commission which the Government now indicate that they may possibly propose to the House. Of course, any difficulty may be got over by recommitting the Bill for the purpose of dealing with Boundary Commissioners. That would be a complete answer to the question of Order; but unless it is shown to me that the possible scheme of the Government would differ from the boundary scheme in the clause of the noble Lord, if I rule the latter out of Order I should be bound so to rule the former.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I have considered the circumstances so as to avoid running any risk of betraying hon. Gentlemen opposite into a false position. We have already decided that there shall be no Boundary Commission by enactment; but we have in view a possible re-committal of the Bill for a limited purpose by general consent, when I say it would be an absolute obligation on the part of the Government to take care that hon. Gentlemen are not tripped up by any difficulty of form.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The distinction in my mind is very fine between appointing Boundary Commissioners under the Bill and proceeding by Order in Council, because I imagine the Commissioners would be named by Order in Council in any case. The point is one on which I should not like to commit myself to a final opinion without further consideration. But, as I have said, any difficulty would be got over by re-committing the Bill, supposing any difficulty arose.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The best course, perhaps, would be for my noble Friend to re-cast his clause, substituting appointment by Order in Council by Her Majesty for the proposal in the Bill. It would then be open for you, Sir, to determine whether that is or is not in Order, and give time to consider the proposal the Government have made.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
said that on the point of Order, 36 supposing the House on the 9th clause were to resolve that each constituency named in the Schedule should return one Member to represent Ireland in Parliament, would is not be in Order afterwards to amend the Schedule by stating, for example, that the County of Cork should contain three divisions such as Her Majesty should hereafter by Order in Council appoint, if necessary inserting a provision to the effect that the Order in Council should be on the Table of the House like an Education Order?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
That would take the Boundary Commissioners out of appointment by this House. I think that course might be adopted.
§ *VISCOUNT WOLMER
asked whether it would be in Order if he omitted that part of his clause which dealt with the Boundary Commissioners and proceeded with that which required the Secretary of State to prepare a scheme for one Member constituencies (leaving the Government to appoint the Boundary Commissioners in their own way), and provided the machinery for carrying the scheme out?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I should not object to the re-casting of the clause, but not until notice has been given.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I do not think the noble Lord could do what he suggests now, because it would amount to the introduction of a now clause, and that would require notice.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
asked at what stage of the Bill would the Government plan be placed before Members?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The mode of proceeding I should propose ought to be made intelligible by the reference I made to the year 1885. When I spoke of general consent I meant general consent of the same kind as that arrived at in 1885. That would depend upon communications, and upon the possibility of arriving at a satisfactory conclusion.
§ SIR H. JAMES
What I wished to know was whether we should have any outlines of the plan before we arrived at Clause 9, or whether the plan was to be outside this Bill as the Redistribution Bill of 1885 was outside the Franchise Bill of 1884?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
No. My opinion is that we might very easily 37 ascertain whether we agreed or differed before we passed Clause 9.
§ MR. COURTNEY
I do not wish to enter into any discussion now. I am manifestly in a very peculiar position, as the conversation which has been exchanged between the two Benches is technically of a slightly irregular character. I only wish to guard myself against being a party in any way to an agreement. We were taken very much by surprise in 1884–5, and certainly we claim to retain full liberty of action on the present occasion.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
It is most desirable that there should be no misunderstanding, and I should, therefore, like it to be distinctly understood what the general consent the Prime Minister asks for is to have reference to. Is there to be a preliminary agreement with regard to the geographical constitution of a single-Member district, or is there to be no agreement before the matter is threshed out in this House? I should think it would be very difficult to agree beforehand to any kind of plan in detail. The right hon. Gentleman will himself be as anxious as I am that the matter should be made so clear that there should be no misunderstanding either on one side or the other when it comes up for discussion.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I think I have made myself as clear as the case admitted by saying that we are unable to adopt any scheme which would make an appreciable addition to the amount of debatable work done in this House. I said, however, that the door was not wholly shut. If there were a disposition to consider the question we might by conference ascertain outside these Debates whether there was a substantial agreement, but pray let it be understood that we are not at this moment seeking to do more than ascertain whether there could be any agreement. As to any liberty of action of any Member being affected, no such tiling was contemplated by me.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The discussion which the hon. Member for the Bodmin Division said was slightly irregular will, before long, become of the highest irregularity. I thought it my duty to permit it for the sake of convenience, but there will be plenty of time to put down Amendments upon the clause, and before that time arrives the Government can 38 say what they will do. I do not think the subject ought to be discussed any longer.
§ *VISCOUNT WOLMER
proposed, after Clause 20, to insert the following clause:—(Procedure in cases of doubt as to powers of Irish Legislature.)(1) If any question arises as to the powers conferred on the Legislature of Ireland under this Act in connection with any Bill introduced or passed by the two Houses of the Irish Legislature, the Lord Lieutenant may refer such question to Her Majesty in Council, and thereupon the said question shall be forthwith heard and determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council constituted as if hearing an appeal from a Court in Ireland.(2) The decision of Her Majesty in Council on any question referred under this section shall be final, and a Bill which may be so decided to be, or contain a provision, in excess of the, powers of the Irish Legislature, shall not be assented to by the Lord Lieutenant, and until such decision all proceedings on such Bill shall be postponed.He said, that by Clause 20 of the Bill it was provided that any Act of the Irish Legislature might be submitted to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on the question whether it was invalid as being beyond the powers of that Legislature. The present clause would simply enable the Lord Lieutenant or the Secretary of State to submit a Bill to the Privy Council before it actually became an Irish Act. He submitted that this provision was necessary and good in itself, and that it would tend to avoid friction. It seemed to him better that a Bill, which, if it became an Act, would be invalid and ultra vires, should be stopped before it became an Act. Otherwise an Act might be declared invalid by the Privy Council even possibly many years after it had been passed, and the result would be that all that had transpired under it in the interval would be null and void. It was difficult to contemplate with equanimity the amount of friction which might be caused if such a state of things occurred. On the 6th of July the Solicitor General opposed an Amendment of an analogous character, arguing that it was quite without precedent and quite irregular and objectionable that any speculative question should be submitted to the Privy Council. But Clause 20 of the Bill as it stood empowered the Viceroy to make what the Solicitor General would call a speculative re- 39 ference to the Privy Council. As to its being novel, he would point out that the clause was taken almost verbatim from the Bill of 1886. It was, therefore, for the Government to explain why a provision which they thought useful in 1886 was now in their eyes objectionable. He would refer the Solicitor General to a remarkably analogous provision in the Act of 1885 for establishing a Federal Council for Australasia. Section 17 of that Act empowered the Governor of the Colony to reserve his assent to a Bill, and to state what he would be prepared to assent to, subject to certain Amendments specified by him. He thought the present proposal was much better, and would cause far less friction than the scheme of the Government.
§ Clause (Procedure in cases of doubt as to powers of Irish Legislature,)—(Viscount Wolmer,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
The noble Lord represents the new clause as analogous with the provision which was inserted in the Bill of 1886.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
But I would point out to my noble Friend that there is an immense difference between the new clause he has undertaken and the clause of the Bill of 1886. The noble Lord is mistaken in his recollection of that Bill. The 25th clause of the Bill of 1886 referred exclusively to Bills passed by the Irish Legislature. The noble Lord's clause goes very much further than that, because he proposes that if any question arises in connection with any Bill introduced into the Irish Legislature, it may be referred to the Privy Council. This is not an idle distinction on my part. The effect of this clause would be to put it in the power of any Member of the Irish Legislature to introduce a Bill for the mere purpose of raising a specific question, and obtaining the decision of the Privy Council upon it. I do not wish to press the noble Lord too hard, but he has inadvertently misrepresented the clause of the Bill of 1886. There is 40 a much more serious objection than the one I have already indicated. The clause would introduce a legal tribunal into legislative operations whilst those operations were in progress.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I have nothing to do with that. I am arguing the question on the facts of the case we are now discussing. The clause would introduce a general tribunal with authority to advise the Legislature upon legislative proposals then under discussion. I think the noble Lord will see that this, from a Constitutional point of view, is a very grave objection. On these and other grounds, which I will not trouble the House with, I cannot assent to the proposal.
said, he would suggest, after the remarks of the Chief Secretary, that it would be well to omit the words "introduced or" from the new clause, and to accept the proposal that the Lord Lieutenant might obtain the judicial decision of the Privy Council, as to whether a measure exceeded the powers of the Irish Legislature or not, after the Bill was passed. He thought there could be no doubt that some practical difficulty would be found to exist in the way of a Parliament with limited powers. The difficulty would not be of the Parliament, but of the people. The people of Ireland would be subject to the laws that were passed by the Irish Parliament, and in their interests and for their protection it was of the utmost importance that the validity of every Act passed should be safely established. He would remind the House that an effort was made in Committee to allow the Lord Lieutenant to give a qualifying approval of a Bill—that if he had a doubt as to whether a particular part of it exceeded the powers of the Legislature he might suspend his action on that portion, but give assent to the other portion. That proposal was not accepted. By the Bill the Lord Lieutenant would be bound, in any case, to give a total veto or a total acceptance. Unless some provision of the kind proposed was adopted the subject might be placed in a very great difficulty with regard to any Act passed by the Legislature, for he would have no opportunity, before acting under it, of ascertaining whether the 41 measure was ultra vires or not. It might be said that anyone having doubt of the validity of an Act might test it by a legal suit; but was it right or just that they should throw such a burden on the subject? It was certainly the duty of a Government and Legislature to see that, when a Statute was passed, the burden and cost of contesting it should not be thrown on the subject. Why should not the Lord Lieutenant, who was primarily liable and responsible, be entitled to take the judicial advice of the Privy Council as to whether a Bill was ultra vires or not, before he gave his assent to it, instead of giving his assent and leaving the subject to contest the matter? Clause 20 was insufficient to meet the difficulty, because before a judicial decision could be obtained under that arrangement many acts might have been done under the Statute, and these might possibly turn out to have been illegal. All difficulty and injustice, how-ever, would be avoided if the Lord Lieutenant were permitted to take the judicial advice of the Council before a Statute was finally passed. He would hope no undue burden would be placed upon Irish subjects by the Irish Legislature legislating on Irish questions; but his suggestion was, he thought, well advised, and perhaps it would be considered whether it could be adopted.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
said, it was quite evident that the new clause as it stood on the Paper would not bear discussion for a moment. If the Lord Lieutenant had the power cast upon him of considering whether any Bill introduced was beyond the powers of the Legislature or not, he would have to become the critic of all the proceedings of the Irish Parliament, and it was evident that if, in virtue of this function, he were to interrupt the proceedings of either Chamber in order to obtain a judicial decision on Bills introduced, a state of affairs would be brought about which existed in no other country. It would certainly produce great difficulty and disorder if the Legislature were to be interrupted in that way. That part of the new clause, however, seemed to have been abandoned, and now the proposal was that after a Bill had been passed the Lord Lieutenant, instead of proceeding to give the Royal Assent to it, should first have the power to refer it, if he 42 desired, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He submitted that if any Act was passed by the Irish Legislature which was ultra vires, and which materially affected any interest, the question could speedily be tested—
§ MR. SEXTON
said, it could be done by some person who was affected by the Act testing it in the Courts. He did not think it was a very great misfortune to add one more to the many questions in which an individual had to maintain his rights at law, as to testing whether a Statute was valid, or repelling unjust infraction by the Act. It did not add to the burdens of the subject to so look after his rights. He presumed that in the case of any Act passed the question would be speedily raised whether it was ultra vires; and when once the question was raised, operations under the Act would be suspended until the validity of the Statute was determined. On the other hand, if the new clause were adopted, it would effect a very unfortunate change in the functions and position of the Lord Lieutenant, because by the structure of the Bill he was bound, unless he received instructions from the Imperial Government, to take the advice of the Irish Executive Council in regard to withholding or giving the Royal Assent. If the Lord Lieutenant, instead of acting on that plain rule and confining himself to his Ministerial functions, were called upon to form a preliminary or tentative judgment of his own as to whether a, Bill just passed was beyond the powers of the Legislature or not, and in virtue of that referred the Bill to the Privy Council instead of giving his assent to it, he did not think it would be possible to preserve harmonious action between the Lord Lieutenant and the Executive Committee of the Irish Privy Council. It would draw him away from his proper functions to bring him into conflict with those officers who were appointed to assist him and advise him. After a Bill was passed, which was not considered, perhaps, a proper Bill, the Lord Lieutenant should be left simply to confirm the will of the Privy Council in regard to assent or withholding assent, unless, of course, he received instructions from the Imperial Cabinet. Otherwise, it was 43 obvious, he thought, that there was an impossibility of a speedy settlement.
*MR. T. H.BOLTON
said, it was provided by Clause 20 that the Lord Lieutenant or the Secretary of State should be the only person who, in the public interest, should take steps to speedily determine whether any Act passed by the Irish Legislature was beyond its power, or had been improperly passed. The initiative lay with them and not with the private individual, as the hon. Member for North Kerry supposed.
§ *MR. T. H. BOLTON
said, the hon. Member referred him to Sub-section 3; but he would like to ask what remedy a private individual would have if an Act were passed that might deprive him of liberty or property without due process of law? Of course, an individual might petition the Queen, or write to the newspapers on the subject, but that was not a judicial proceeding; and he would have no power to raise the question judicially in a direct manner so that it could be tried by the Exchequer Judges in the first instance and remitted on appeal to the Privy Council. He would have no power in that respect at all. In that particular this provision differed from the provisions of the American Constitution and judicial system, which allowed the individual to raise such questions. What was the law in the United States? Why that Statutes enacted by States, or passed by Congress, might be subjected to judicial scrutiny at the suit of an individual, and set aside if found to be at variance with the higher organic law. There was no such provision in this Bill. He would press upon the Solicitor General (Sir J. Rigby) that he should tell them whether, in his opinion as a lawyer, Sub-section 3 of Clause 20 would enable and authorise an individual who was dissatisfied with an Act of the Irish Legislature on the ground of its alleged invalidity to bring the question promptly and directly, as opposed to incidentally—it could, of course, be raised incidentally—before the Privy Council? There were other learned Gentlemen in the House whose opinions they would like to hear upon the subject. If the sub-section would give no remedy to the individual, even in an informal way, to question the validity of an Act of the 44 Irish Legislature, it was all the more necessary that this Amendment should be made to give a wider power in relation to the question of considering Bills. The hon. Member (Mr. Sexton) said it would be in the power of the individual to call attention to a Bill, and that it could then be referred to the Privy Council for determination on the question of validity. He (Mr. Bolton) denied that. He would most strongly appeal to the Solicitor General to explain the bearing of the sub-section., if he agreed with the hon. Member for Kerry. It was to be remembered, that when an Act passed people proceeded under it; but under the new Irish Constitution, suddenly, in some lawsuit between private individuals, it might be decided that the Act was invalid, and all the transactions under it would then be more or less affected. Very great risk' therefore, was incurred, and he thought there was great necessity for some such provision as this now proposed to enable Bills to be fully considered, and considered judicially, before they became Acts.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, so far as Clause 20 was concerned, a good deal might be said against the concession of an abstract right to test the validity of an Act judicially. To raise the question of the validity of an Act in an abstract manner would be a course which the Judges themselves would not greatly favour. It was a matter of great delicacy, and they did not care to decide such questions. But the Government proposed to enable a private person who was engaged in legal proceedings under an Act of the Irish Legislature to call upon the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to pronounce upon the validity of the measure. The hon. Member for St. Pancras (Mr. Bolton) might be right in the view he had taken; he (Mr. Courtney) did not know. But the Government had gone a certain length to enable private persons to take proceedings, and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council were to pronounce upon the validity of the Act. It would, however, take some time before this decision could be given, and, in the interval; many things might have been done, and many obligations entered into under the Act, so that if it were declared invalid great difficulties and complications would be caused. The whole question now in dis- 45 pute was this: whether the process of giving the Royal Assent to a measure should be gone through before its validity could possibly be tested, or whether means should be given to test its validity before that assent was declared? It had been argued that if the second course were determined upon it would breed difficulties between the Lord Lieutenant and his Executive Ministers. Those who so argued did not quite appreciate what the position of the Lord Lieutenant would be. Whilst it might be said generally that the Lord Lieutenant would assent to measures on the advice of the responsible Irish Ministers, he would also, like a Colonial Governor, have directions of a general or specific character from the Imperial Government as to giving or withholding his assent. A general Bill might be passed affecting certain relations between the two countries, and it might be referred to the Cabinet in London. Was it expedient that the Lord Lieutenant should be authorised to give his consent to an Act of doubtful validity, or to allow the question to be referred to the Judicial Committee before he gave his assent in order to determine whether the proposed Bill was or was not ultra vires, the inference being that if it was not the Royal Assent would he given? The Government had gone the length of admitting the expediency of allowing the question to be tried the moment an Act was passed. He would put it to them whether it was not better that the matter should be tested before the assent was given in a case where bonâ fide doubt existed as to the validity of the Bill? The alternative was that if this power was not given and the Imperial Parliament disallowed the Act, very critical relations might be raised between the Governments of the two countries. As a matter of expediency, the Government having, rightly as he thought, gone so far, they were bound to assent to the new clause proposed by his noble Friend. Upon those grounds, he submitted that a case had been made out for the proposal which that clause contained.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think, Sir, we should have some explanation from the Government, for reasons which I will explain. I fully admit that many Amendments from this side of the House have had for their avowed intention the 46 minimising of the scope of the Bill; but there is another class of Amendments which are intended to make the Bill, if passed into law, work more smoothly. I support this Amendment as belonging to the second category. The Government will not be prepared to deny that one of the weakest points in the Bill is the extraordinarily ambiguous and difficult position in which it places the Lord Lieutenant. He will have to carry out functions partly as the Representative of the Sovereign, advised by the Irish Administration, and partly as advised by the British Administration.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will not discuss that point further than to say that when we consider the relations of this House—the Imperial Government, I should say—to the Lord Lieutenant, and those of the Lord Lieutenant to the Irish Legislature, there is a great difference between the Lord Lieutenant and a Colonial Legislature. Those functions which the Lord Lieutenant will have to perform are functions of extraordinary difficulty; and if the Government wish the Bill to work smoothly, they are bound to accept everything which will prevent undue and unnecessary friction between the Lord Lieutenant and the eIrish Executive. If a Bill were passed by the two Houses of the Irish Le islature and doubts as to the legality of the Bill were raised in his mind, what course is he to pursue? If he exercises his prerogative and refuses his assent, he places himself in the most critical position with regard to the Irish Legislature and Executive in which a man professing to exercise Constitutional authority could be placed. Why, Sir, we know what would occur if he were to exercise his veto on a Bill affecting some vital matter in Ireland. There would be an agitation from one end of Ireland to the other denouncing his un-Constitutional action in refusing assent to a law passed by the Legislature. But if he had the power suggested in this clause, he could say—"I am quite willing to admit that the Bill may be all right, but let us submit it to a competent tribunal, and try its legality." If he did that, and the proposed Bill were pronounced ultra vires, he would be amply protected and justi- 47 fied in the exercise of his Constitutional authority, and no agitation need arise. That is the broad ground on which I venture to think that in their own interests the Government should accept this clause. What are the arguments against it? We are left to our own ingenuity in the matter. The Chief Secretary, as I understand, confines his attack almost entirely to certain technical objections. I confess I am utterly at a loss to understand what difficulty would be introduced into the working of the Irish legislative machinery by a provision so obviously innocuous. I would most respectfully press upon the Government the advisability of accepting a clause which would, as I am firmly convinced, make the relations between the various constituent parts of this very difficult and complicated machine they were to set up work together with far greater smoothness than they can possibly do if the Bill is left in its present shape.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I do not see, Sir, the primâ facie grounds on which a proposal of this kind is made. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that there is something peculiar in the nature of the case we are going to create which must produce conditions altogether new, and he is supported by the hon. Member (Mr. T. H. Bolton). I am inclined to the opposite view. What is the case? It is that of a subaltern authority, which is empowered to make laws for certain purposes. Upon some of the laws made by that authority the question is raised whether it is within its competence to make such laws. Is that a new case? It is the case substantially created wherever we have a subaltern authority empowered to make laws—in the case of a Town Council or Municipal Corporation, for instance. In that case you have the power to make bye-laws, and the question of ultra vires is just as legitimate in regard to the bye-laws and Ordinances of those Councils as in regard to the Statutes of the Irish Parliament. There is nothing new in the principle. The question is whether the clause in the Bill as we have placed it before the House is defensible; and, if it is not, whether the mode proposed for remedying the defect is good and wise. I am at a loss to see, even if we had made no provision at all, but had contented ourselves with saving all existing 48 rights, how it could be alleged that there was any great defect in the Bill. I do not know that the present law is essentially defective with regard to the means which it allows of questioning the validity of particular documents which claim to possess legislative authority. I am disposed to contend that the Government have gone a very long way in the direction of supplying what, so far as I understand the matter, it is not necessary to supply, but what we do supply out of that desire for which we never have had credit, but which has actuated us in a number of the provisions of the Bill—namely, to go to the extremest length that we could without absolute mischief in providing against the possibility of wrong which we believe to be in the main imaginary, and for the removal of defects which have not been proved to exist. We have left to every Irishman under the new law every provision which Englishmen and Scotchmen now enjoy for questioning the authority of the various kinds of subordinate legislation. But, Sir, we have gone a great deal further, and, in the interests of the public, have given, first to the Lord Lieutenant, and then to the Secretary of State, the power of trying the question of the competency or validity of any particular law. It is said we can go further. It is said we can do this wisely. But, Sir, is the proposition that is put before us sound in principle, or agreeable to the usual practice of the law? If a question were raised under an Act, it may usually be raised in a concrete form in relation to, or directed by, somebody who has suffered and is suffering actual wrong by the Act. But if we are to say that the question may be raised by the Lord Lieutenant before the Bill receives the Royal Assent, we are causing the question to be raised in an abstract form when nobody is injured, and when it is a matter of speculative argument what the effect of the Bill would be. Is a provision of that kind in consonance with the principles of our jurisprudence? Do the practical habits of Englishmen encourage the raising of legal questions in that form?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. He is aiming to prove that we have already gone too far. Is there anything in the text of the law that admits this?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not say that. I only say that, as you already contemplate the principle that abstract questions should be brought before the Privy Council, you ought not to argue that that principle should not be extended further.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I take it that the point where the right hon. Gentleman made his objection is the first point at which he saw occasion to interpose. The right hon. Gentleman does not deny that the spirit of our jurisprudence is against the raising of these questions in an abstract form, or that this proposition would have the effect of raising them in an abstract form. If the Government have already erred it is out of their desire to go to the extremest length in meeting the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. But we have done it under safeguards, and the whole supposition in the section is—as the right hon. Gentleman will see if he refers to it—that the case would take a practical form, and that no one would attempt to disturb the Act until there was some practical reason in a case of individual oppression, or of some person being wronged. We do not think the Lord Lieutenant would be disposed to go further in the exercise of this power. He will wait for some practical reason to act, such as where individuals may suffer wrong. I do not deny the possibility that an abstract question might arise; but the clause contemplates very different things. Well, with regard to this Amendment, I would like to know what is the meaning of the phrase, "If any question arises"? What is the arising of a question? A speech from the right hon. Gentleman would be an "arising of the question" if he stated that, on a careful investigation and with the support of his friends on his right and left (Mr. Carson and Mr. Matthews), a matter in the Irish Legislature was ultra vires. It used to be a question in ancient times what constituted a valid doubt. That is a question on which the right hon. Gentleman would enter with zest and delight, and I recommend to the acute in- 50 vestigation of his metaphysical understanding the meaning of the phrase, "If any question arises."
§ *VISCOUNT WOLMER
said, the words in question were taken verbatim from the right hon. Gentleman's own Bill of 1886.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The noble Lord is well aware that between 1886 and 1893 seven years of human life have elapsed. To use a homely phrase, we should have had no gumption had we not taken advantage of those years to introduce improvement; but the noble Lord, in the true spirit of retrogression, goes back to the most ancient, the most petrified clause in the Bill of 1886, and flourishes it over our heads in a most menacing manner, even in the middle of a speech, and calls upon us to recognise its authority as if it were a law of the Medes and Persians which ought always to prevail. There is an utter vagueness and shadowy or rather foggy character in the clause, when it lays down the conditions by which the labours of the Irish Legislature are to be brought into question, and hung up at some vital period for many months, possibly for years, upon "a question arising." I put the argument just now upon a speech by the right hon. Gentleman; but I put it a great deal too favourably for his views. It would not require a speech by the right hon. Gentleman. A speech from the smallest midge of a politician would be quite sufficient to enable anybody to go to the Lord Lieutenant and state that a question had arisen on which he would be bound to act. This would be a most convenient, tempting, and an habitual instrument of interminable obstruction in the way of legislation. So far as I can understand the Amendment, it is to put the Lord Lieutenant in conflict with the Irish Legislature. If the Lord Lieutenant interferes upon a Bill before it has become an Act he must interfere upon abstract grounds; he must allege largely his own discretion; he cannot point to practical consequences, and that is putting him into conflict with his legal advisers upon the very worst grounds that you possibly could. But if it is a question of an Act which raises practical questions of great importance to individual rights, and therefore to the public interest, the Lord Lieutenant has a standing ground to take even in the face of his own 51 advisers. If there should be a conflict, which I should much regret, between the Lord Lieutenant and his advisers, under the Bill, as it stands, if the Lord Lieutenant goes to his advisers he will go on something like substantive grounds; but if he has nothing to allege beyond his own abstract opinion he will be placed in a most dangerous position with his own advisers. I hope, therefore, considering that we have gone a great length, the clause will not be further pressed upon the judgment of the House.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS (Birmingham, E.)
It has occurred sometimes to some of us that the interval of seven years which has elapsed since the Bill of 1886 has not been employed by the right hon. Gentleman with sufficient reflection upon the difficulties to which his then scheme gave rise; but we now have a sufficient account of the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has turned those seven years to his advantage. His mind has been contemplating these doubtful words, "If any question arises," and he has come to see the vagueness and insufficiency of those words. They are foggy, vague, and unsatisfactory, and form no basis for action. Permit me to say that I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has given a sufficient explanation of Clause 20 in his present Bill. It is perfectly true what the right hon. Gentleman says, that the genius of our English law has always been adverse to abstract questions, and, so far as I know, in this country there is no means of deciding the abstract question whether some Act be ultra vires until an actual case has arisen; but when the right hon. Gentleman was setting up a subordinate Legislature, with powers over the whole domain of the Civil and Criminal Law, but with certain restrictions upon it, it becomes of the utmost importance to see that the mischief which has arisen in the United States should not occur in Ireland, and that there should be some speedy way of ascertaining whether a law was ultra vires or not. In America the gravest consequences have followed from legislation which was ultra vires. Rights and duties have grown up under it, money has been expended on the faith of those enactments, and then, after 12 or 14 years of operation, has come the judgment that such act was void, and had conferred no rights whatever. That is the 52 inconvenience the right hon. Gentleman had to meet. Therefore, he did not content himself with the provision in the clause, which enables any private individual who believes that a law that is sought to be put into operation against him is ultra vires to appeal to the Exchequer Judges for a decision in a concrete case; but he put Clause 20 into his Bill. Now, what is the difference between Clause 20 and that suggested by the noble Lord opposite? It is perfectly right, in the view of the Prime Minister, that when a Bill is taken to the Lord Lieutenant on the Monday morning he should say—"I assent to this Bill to-day, but remember I am going to-morrow to appeal to the Privy Council to know whether the Bill is ultra vires or not." Not only may be do that, but he must do it under Clause 20. What an absurd positions! The clause of the noble Lord simply proposes that that appeal to the Privy Council shall be made before the Lord Lieutenant gives his assent to the Bill. I think the theory is sound, that the Lord Lieutenant will have no option in giving his assent to the Bill. I think everybody will now admit that the veto of the Lord Lieutenant is a mere farce; it will be the Constitutional duty of the Lord Lieutenant to assent to any Bill which his Executive Council advise him to do. [Mr. SEXTON: Subject to instructions.] Yes, but independent of instructions. It is true that the Lord Lieutenant represents the Sovereign in Ireland, but he also represents the Imperial Government; and under Clause 20 it will be his duty, mechanically, to give his assent on the Monday morning, and on Monday afternoon to write to know whether the Act is valid. Practical men must think that an absurd position to put the Lord Lieutenant in. It would be a much wiser course, and would cause much less conflict with his advisers, to give him the power of first obtaining an authoritative opinion whether the Bill was a proper one to give his assent to? It cannot be held—even by the hon. Member for North Kerry—that, granting a Bill is ultra vires, it will be the Constitutional duty of the Lord Lieutenant to give his assent to a nullity. The clause now proposed will call in the interposition of the Privy Council at a more appropriate period, and will save the Irish Legislature from what may be called a 53 certain rebuff or reproof administered to it by the Privy Council if it passed into law a Bill that should be afterwards declared void. That is really the whole question that we have boon debating. The point is a very narrow one—is the Lord Lieutenant to give his assent when he is aware or has reason to believe that he is giving his assent to a nullity, or is he to be able to take authoritative advice and ascertain whether his suspicion is well-founded or not? Tue further question which the right hon. Gentleman has raised, in criticism of his own language—namely, whether the clause ought to be more precisely defined than by saving "if any question arises"—is a Committee objection and not a Second Reading objection. I would submit to the right hon. Gentleman that the fact that the clause loaves it to the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant to act, whether the question does arise or not, is quite sufficient to safeguard it from the inconvenience pointed out. It will not be the duty of the Lord Lieutenant, under this clause as drawn, to act upon any slight or immaterial matter: it will be only in a grave matter that he will refer to the Privy Council. To prevent a void and ultra vires Act from becoming the law of the land surely must be recognised by everyone as a desirable thing. One might conceive instances of a Statute which upon the moment of its passing would operate to divest rights, and even to transfer property from one man to another; but if a Pill be ultra vires and void, surely it is better to stop its operation in limine, and not wait for the Act to be passed. These reasons appear to me to be conclusive, and if the noble Lord goes to a Division I shall support him.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said, he did not understand how a Lord Lieutenant could be aware beforehand of a Bill being ultra vires. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it would be very anomalous and a bad thing if the Lord Lieutenant assented on a Monday morning to a Bill, and on the following morning referred it to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; but it would be better—ten times better—to do that than to take the opposite course. To pursue the opposite course would be extremely dangerous. When the Lord Lieutenant assented to a Pill on the 54 Monday he had thereby discharged all his essential functions. He avoided all friction between himself and his Constitutional advisers in Ireland; and if afterwards the Bill was declared by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to be void, no irritation need be felt, because it would be seen on all sides that the law had taken its course, and that the law had decided against the Bill. He repeated that it would be ten times more dangerous to pursue the course which the right hon. Gentleman suggested. The Leader of the Opposition had referred to particular clauses and Amendments on the Pill. The first, he said, were those which were avowedly meant to minimise the Bill, and he referred to the second class of Amendments as Amendments that tended to the smooth and easy working of the measure. Well, he really thought, when the right hon. Gentleman said that, that it was rather comical for the right hon. Gentleman to support any Amendments which his noble relative would ask the House of Lords to throw out in three weeks' time. For his part, he took a less charitable view than that which the Prime Minister had taken of the right hon. Gentleman's declaration regarding the Amendments of the second class. The former class of Amendments, which were avowedly meant to diminish the Bill, were not dangerous, for every genuine Home Ruler had his back up against them at once. It was the second class of Amendment—those that tended to the easy and smooth working of the measure—that they feared, and he regarded this one as one of the most dangerous of the whole lot, and was extremely glad that the Prime Minister had taken, as he humbly ventured to think, the correct view of the case. This Amendment was really one for bringing into the working of the Irish Constitution an instrument of delay. Supposing there was a Pill on some important Irish subject urgently required by the Irish people, if this new clause were adopted, that Bill, although it might not be ultra vires at all, would be actually dead for a year or two or three years until the Privy Council had decided whether it was ultra vires or not. If this new clause were enacted he thought it would be an instrument, in the first place, for creating intolerable delay in the 55 passing of useful legislation, and, in the second place, an instrument well adapted for its purpose of wholesale intrigue in England on Irish matters. Suppose a certain Bill were proposed in the Irish Legislature and carried, and a Tory Government were in power in England, if the Amendment were carried, it would be quite possible for this Tory Government to delay it indefinitely on the pretence, forsooth, that it was ultra vires. The very best that could happen would be that after about two years the Bill might become law, and it would consequently be jeopardised thereby. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) that the Government had gone very far indeed in the 1st sub-section of this section. He agreed, for his own part, that it would be quite enough to allow any subject of the Queen who might be injured by legislation in Ireland full and ample opportunity to appeal to the Courts of Law, to carry his appeal from the Exchequer Judges to the Privy Council. He thought that would be an ample and sufficient safeguard for any person who might think himself injured by Irish legislation, and that was what took place in Canada and other great Colonies. Only the other day the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was called upon to decide a question of ultra vires. It was in the case of an Act passed by the Canadian Legislature, and the Privy Council had it before them to decide. That would be ample protection. But the Government Bill went much further. It provided for a case in which no wrong had been suffered. He thought that to go any further than that was to make a mockery of the whole Constitution so far as the veto and other vital parts of this measure were concerned. Either this power would be exercised or it would not. If it was not to be exercised, the thing would be futile. If it was to be exercised—and he had a strong suspicion that those persons who desired to discredit the Irish Legislature would exercise the power vexatiously—then the result would be Constitutional friction between the Lord Lieutenant and his advisers which might result in the breaking up of the whole Constitution. It seemed to him that this Amendment, if it were carried, would change the veto; and he thought, instead of 56 rendering smooth and easy the working of the Constitution, it would introduce into it an instrument first for causing delay, and next for causing wholesale intrigue. It was said that great expense would be attendant upon the trial of these questions at the suit of private individuals; but that was not a novel thing. It happened every day in the case of the Colonies, for people went every day from the furthermost parts of Australia to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and it was not considered a very anomalous thing that they should be bound to do so. As compared with the political dangers which might be involved in the adoption of this clause, the question of expense did not deserve to be taken into consideration at all. The right hon. Member for Bodmin asked what was to be done in a case of doubt? He replied by asking what was done every day in the case of the Colonies? Finally, he would say this—that it seemed to him to be a strictly unconstitutional proposal. The proposal actually was that, after the two principal parts of the Irish Legislature—the Upper and the Lower Houses—had assented to a Bill, the Lord Lieutenant, the third person, should come in and actually set aside their decision. It seemed to him to be a strictly unconstitutional proposal—a proposal for creating delay in matters of legislation in the first place; and, in the next place, a proposal for disturbing the Constitutional settlement which they hoped might be permanent and final.
§ MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
said, the last speaker had stated that, of the two classes of Amendments that were referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, the one to which he more particularly objected was the class of Amendments which were intended to make the Bill work more smoothly and easily. The hon. Member need have no fear with regard to Amendments of that sort, because he did not think there was the slightest chance of the Bill working smoothly or easily from any point of view. The Prime Minister and the hon. Member who had just sat down ignored altogether the fact that the word "may" and not the word "shall" was used in the proposed clause, and all the arguments of the Prime Minister seemed to him to apply more to the employment of 57 the latter than the former word. Any frivolous or absurd objection would, of course, be ignored by the Lord Lieutenant, and no appeal in such cases would be allowed by him. That was the common practice in the Courts of this country every day; the Judge only granted the right of appeal when he himself considered that there was reason for doubt. The Lord Lieutenant, who was supposed to be a carefully-chosen official, and a man of common sense who had his reputation at stake, would only allow appeals when he himself had serious or grave doubts with regard to the matter. The Prime Minister urged that, undo this Amendment, people would raiser abstract questions before anyone was injured. Did the right hon. Gentleman desire that someone should be injured before a question was raised? The right hon. Gentleman had remarked that if the proposed clause were adopted, Bills which had been passed by the Irish Legislature would be hung up for months. That, however, would only be the case when the Lord Lieutenant, in the exercise of his discretion, directed that they should be submitted to the final decision of the Privy Council. Nothing could be more absurd than making the lord Lieutenant declare he had no doubt whatever that a Bill to which he had given assent was ultra vires. The Lord Lieutenant would be reduced to the position of a mere machine, and to talk of his veto under the circumstances was ridiculous. This question was raised on the Committee stage; and he thought, from the admissions made on the Government side, that when they came to the Report stage some such clause as this would be accepted. The Prime Minister had not said a single word that applied to this clause as it stood at the present time, he failed to see that the postponement of any measure brought in by the Irish Parliament for a few months, in order to bring it before the Privy Council, would injuriously affect any class of persons; but he did see that the greatest possible damage might arise if Acts were passed by the Irish Legislature and were treated as the law, and were subsequently declared invalid. In 1886 the Government considered this clause a wise and proper provision, and he hoped they would see their way now to accepting so reasonable a proposal.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 173.—(Division List, No. 262.)
§ (Appointment of Imperial officers.)
§ "Immediately after the passing of this Act Her Majesty shall appoint in Ireland such person or persons as she may deem necessary to represent Her Majesty to enforce on her behalf and in her name any Imperial right or interest, and the provisions of any Act of Parliament or any common law rights which the Irish Government have refused or omitted to enforce, and so many officers as Her Majesty may deem necessary for the duo execution of any decision or order of the Privy Council, or of any judgment decree or order of the Exchequer Judges and the said last-mentioned officers, and also any persons employed by them shall be entitled to the same privileges, immunities, and powers as are by law conferred on a Sheriff and his officers."
He said, the Home Secretary had conceded in the Debate on the Second Reading that it would be necessary to have in Ireland such Executive Authority as would he required for the execution of the Imperial law, and by the clause he proposed to set up this Executive Authority. He thought it would be conceded by everybody who understood the Bill that, unless they provided themselves with proper machinery for the maintenance of Imperial interests in Ireland, they must have such friction between the Imperial Legislature and the Irish Legislature as would lead to constant unpleasantness, or to the abrogation of those rights which they had taken so much trouble to construct. The general structure of the Bill, as was stated in his speech on the Second Reading by the Home Secretary, was very much the same as existed in the United States. So far as he knew, this question of keeping up Imperial Executive officers could never have arisen in our own Colonies, because the Constitutions of those Colonies gave them full and equal powers, such as this Parliament had itself, subject, of course, to the veto. The only parallel they had for the Constitution they were now setting up in Ireland was the Constitution of America. It had been taken from the American Constitution; but why did j not the Government follow the provision of the American Constitution, which set
up a Federal Executive in each State? The Home Secretary said—
In my judgment the Executive in Ireland is intended to be, and must be, dependent upon, and responsible to, the Irish Legislature; but that does not in the least prevent the retention, as is expressly provided in this Bill, by the Crown and the Executive Government of the United Kingdom of such Executive authority as is necessary for the execution of the Imperial law.
Why did the Government, when they were setting up this system, fail short of the provision of the American Constitution which provided for such matters as he proposed to provide for by this clause? The highest authority upon these questions, the Chancellor of the Duchy, in his great work on the American Constitution, said—
Collision is avoided by giving the Federal Government, so far as its functions extend, a direct and immediate relation to the citizens, so that it should act, not through the States, but on its own authority, and by its own officers. These are fundamental principles, whose soundness experience has proved, and which will deserve to be considered by those who, in time to come, may have in other countries to frame Federal or quasi-Federal Constitutions.
That occurred to him to be exactly appropriate to the present clause. That clause dealt with two matters. They admitted that they had set up—though, he (Mr. Carson) thought, in a very imperfect way—the Court of Exchequer Judges, under the 17th section, for the protection of Imperial matters. They admitted that the Court was to have cognisance of all matters that were passed by the Irish Legislature. But they objected that they had no provision, as in the American States, to put the law in motion, or for the purpose of putting in force the judgments or the decrees of the Privy Council or the Court that was set up. It seemed to him that this paralysed the whole action of the system they had put into this Bill for the purpose of preserving the Imperial authority. He wished to take one or two cases which, if this Bill became law, might have to be decided by the Irish Court. Numbers of Acts of Parliament directed the Attorney General to do certain matters. A very large amount of money had been advanced by Ireland to England—
§ An hon. MEMBER: England?
§ MR. CARSON
said, he meant from England to Ireland. No one would 60 think he was assuming or taking it as from Ireland to England. Well, a very large sum of money had been advanced from England to Ireland in connection with the Land Purchase Acts. A large amount of money was now due under these Acts. The Statute under which that money was lent provided that, in the event, of the amounts not being paid, certain proceedings must be taken in the name of the Irish Attorney General. Times might come when Irish farmers might not be able to meet the demands of the Imperial Government. The Bill, however, did not provide for the continuance of the Irish Attorney Generalship. Here was an Imperial debt in which the Irish Government had no interest whatsoever. Would the Irish Government have to screw the money out for the purpose of paying the Imperial Government, the matter being one with which the Irish Government had nothing to do at all? Or were the Irish Government to do nothing? And was there to be no remedy for the recovery of these moneys, or for putting on Imperial pressure? They surely must have someone to enforce these charges. It would be, he took it, absolutely necessary to enforce them. That was one of the considerations that he wished to force upon the Government. He would next take the case of the Customs. In the administration of those certain duties devolved upon the Sheriffs in Ireland. Would the Sheriffs continue, and, if so, would they exercise those powers and perform those duties that now devolved upon them? Would they be Imperial officers, or would they act under regulations by an Irish Act? It would be an extraordinary position for the Sheriffs if they were to be both Imperial and local functionaries, as their performance of the duties under the Imperial Government might bring them into conflict with the Irish Government. He would remind them that they had the Customs specially reserved, and that ought to enable them to see the difficulty that might arise; and he asked was it not likely, under such circumstances, that they would have a collision between the two Governments? Was it likely that the Imperial Government could insist upon carrying out the law, although they had nothing whatever to say as to the administration of the law? Again, it seemed to him that, 61 in a great many cases where the Attorney General had duties thrown upon him, he might enter a nolle prosequi. He might say that a particular case was no business of theirs, and that he was not bound to take the initiative. In his (Mr. Carson's) opinion, where a point of that character might arise, they should make provision for preserving the law as it now stood. If they took a case in which they had laid down that the matter was an Imperial one, who was to set the law in motion—a case in which the Irish Government were not to interfere, and the Imperial Government was to have complete control? They must have some Executive Authority in Ireland to watch these matters on behalf of the Imperial Authority, and to see that these matters were not infringed upon. He did not think the attitude of the Government was a serious way of treating the matter. There ought to be, as in the American States, an Executive officer whose duty it would be to look after these Imperial matters and proceedings, to set the law in motion, and have the question at issue brought before the Exchequer Judges. Coming to the Exchequer Judges, he wanted to know how they proposed to deal with the Privy Council and the Court—how were the decrees to be carried out? The Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) suggested a plan, the meaning of which was that, if a collision occurred, they were to come over here (to Westminster) and bring in an Act. It seemed that all they had to do was to bring up the Bill and have it passed at once; that, he thought, could not be done, and all the time the collision would be going on and the law would be paralysed. How wore they to pass their Bill with 80 Irish Members in attendance here?
§ MR. CARSON
said, he would take a case such as they had at present—say a majority of 20, made up of Irish Members, and that, under the circumstances to which he alluded, would be quite certain. These Members would be here keeping the Government in power upon, English questions, and asking, in return, that they should be served in these Irish matters. Even supposing they were not a majority, they could prevent the Bill passing, and thus, as he had said, the law 62 would be paralysed in Ireland. Why should they wait for that? Why should they depart from precedent; why should they not keep to the course which would prevent friction? But the Home Secretary told them that he did not anticipate any such necessity, as it would be the duty of every Sheriff and other officer to give assistance in carrying out the decrees of the Exchequer Judges, and the laws of the Imperial Parliament. It did not follow that this duty would be performed. It did not follow, because a law was passed requiring a citizen to do a certain thing, that, therefore, the citizen would do it. The theory was excellent in point of law, and he thought he (Mr. Carson) and the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Solicitor General) would be agreed upon the point. But they had had experience of the posse comitatus. What provision had they made in the Bill—what machinery had they provided—for dealing with the jurisdiction in criminal cases as exercised in the Bill? He took the case of somebody being tried for a breach of the Coinage Act. This was a very common case in Ireland—it arose at every Assizes. All the prisoner had to do was to say that he required to be tried by the Exchequer Judge, and the trial would then be postponed until the Judge came down, oruntil the prisoner was brought up. His opinion was that the Judge would have to go down, as the prisoner would have to be tried at once upon a matter which was Imperial. The Irish Legislature would have nothing to say. But, on conviction, they would have to take the prisoner, and put him into an Irish gaol. He would refer the Government to the case of America, when Federal gaols had to be established. They knew what happened in that case. The gaols were established in cases where a disposition had been shown to thwart and conflict with Congress; and he thought they might have in this case the same result. There would be nothing to prevent the Irish Government throwing open the doors and letting the prisoners go free. When he was told that there was no probability of improper action being taken, he could call to mind the case of the Dublin Corporation, whose duty it was on one occasion to hand over the presentment for the purpose of raising taxes for the Richmond Lunatic Asylum. There was a 63 dispute between the Corporation and the Executive Government with regard to the number of Roman Catholics on the Asylum Board, and, because their wish was not granted, the Corporation refused to pass any presentment at all. The Judge took the presentment and signed; but the Corporation had other presentments issued and collected by their collector, tearing up the presentment which had been signed by the Judge and refusing to allow it to be collected. These were extreme measures; but they were adopted by the Corporation in order to get rid of certain restrictions. He did not blame the Corporation for trying to have an increased representation of Roman Catholics, but what had happened showed the lengths to which they were prepared to go. He thought, therefore, they should have an assurance upon the point. So far as the Bill was concerned, they had given it the go-by; but if they were to have afterwards the power to carry out the Imperial Executive system which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said was essential, they ought to have an explanation. They ought to know whether the supremacy was to be a real one or not—whether the system would be a real one or not. The clause he had attempted to frame was nothing new. It was founded upon the precedent they bad, and upon their experience in relation to the United States. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Bryce), who had dealt with the matter in his work on the American Constitution, would admit that this was the only way in which they could proceed in reference to these subjects.
§ Clause (Appointment of Imperial Officers,)—(Mr. Carson,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ *THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir J. RIGBY, Forfar)
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had on this occasion referred now and then to his clause, but the greater part of his speech was directed to difficulties already existing in Ireland, and his complaint appeared to be that the Government did not eradicate all those difficulties by their Bill. He spoke 64 of the action of the Corporation of Dublin with regard to lunatic asylums; but what remedy had he suggested for a case of that kind? There was nothing in the Amendment which would affect the state of things such as arose under the present law. The hon. and learned Member also spoke of the difficulty that arose because the posse comitatus was not always in harmony with the Executive officers. Would his Amendment alter that state of things, or have the slightest effect upon it? What was the use of referring to the difficulty as to the posse comitatus in reference to a clause that could not have any application at all on the state of things. They had had what were supposed to be defects in the Bill pointed out to them. Well, of what advantage would the Amendment be to them? He was obliged to discuss the Amendment to show its inconsistencies, and how utterly ineffectual it would be. He supposed he should be told presently that this was a technicality, because what was understood by right hon. Gentlemen opposite as a "technicality" was a close argument, whereas the argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite was simply a derision of the Government proposals they might happen to be dealing with, and an indulgence in generalities that never came to an end. The suggestion was that there must be two Executives in Ireland. He did not agree with that. He quite agreed that there might have to be, but not that there must be, two Executives, because they were entitled to believe that the Bill would be suited to the wants of Ireland, and that, instead of being a cause of discord, the Bill would bring about harmony. That, certainly was the principle on which the Bill had been framed. They did not talk about "angelic tempers."
§ MR. CARSON
said, he had not said a word about angelic tempers. He had referred to angelic theories or arguments.
§ SIR J. RIGBY
said, some one else had used the phrase, and he had meant the same thing as the hon. and learned Gentleman, for angelic temper or argument, he supposed, meant angelic disposition. He had never said a word about it, and did not intend to. He would assume that under the new state of things, when it was brought about in Ireland, the Irish 65 people would be guided by the motives which actuated human nature all the world over. He went no further than that. He did not assume that the Irish Executive necessarily sot itself against Imperial interests, or would do other than attempt to forward the interests of the Irish people. In most of the cases referred to by the hon. and learned Member the Irish Executive would have a direct motive of pecuniary interest of a most important character. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to those moneys which wore owing from people in Ireland under the Local Loans Acts, and so on, to the Imperial Exchequer, and the hon. and learned Member assumed that the Irish Government would take a view adverse to the Imperial Exchequer, and that, therefore, it was necessary in the Bill to make provision for such a state of things. What were the existing provisions of the Bill? These monies were to be paid by the Irish Exchequer to the British Exchequer.
§ MR. CARSON
said, he had not spoken about local loans at all. He had referred to loans lent direct to individuals by the Board of Works, acting for the Treasury.
*SIR J. BIGBY
said, he did not pretend to have an exact knowledge of those financial arrangements. But to deal with other matters the Irish Executive had a direct pecuniary interest in the Sheriff's duties in support of the Customs, a larger interest than the Imperial Authority, inasmuch as they got two-thirds of the money collected, while the Imperial Government received only one-third. He did not talk of theories of any kind, but held that where their pecuniary interest was involved the Irish Executive might be expected to act in accordance with common sense. Therefore, he submitted that no primâ facie case had been made out for the necessity of two Executives existing side by side in Ireland, the one confined to the execution of Imperial enactments and to the protection of Imperial interests, and the other standing aloof and holding itself absolved from any assistance for Imperial purposes. He submitted that what they might reasonably expect to see in Ireland was what had in this respect taken place in Canada, where there was 66 no necessity for a duplication of officers on the large scale now suggested. When anything was wanted to be done the Dominion Government applied to the local Executive, and found no difficulty about the matter. He did not know that the local Executive would take on itself any great amount of expense or trouble, but that would be decided by the arrangement that would be made. On the hypothesis of hon. Members opposite they would be the worst enemies of the Imperial Government, and on the hypothesis of the Government they would be content not to interfere, and he should hope that they would be quite willing that the time of their officers should be devoted to a useful purpose—useful to Ireland as well as to Great Britain—that of assisting the officers of the United Kingdom. If they did not, there was the remedy pointed out by the hon. and learned Gentleman. He (Sir J. Rigby) had a word to say about the United States. Surely it was not necessary to point out the great distinction that must necessarily exist between the Constitution of the United States and the proposed Constitution of Ireland. The Federal Government in the United States had to do with a series of Sovereign States; but Ireland, from the beginning, would not be any less a part of the United Kingdom than it was now. Ireland would remain to all intents and purposes a portion of the United Kingdom, though within a very wide, but, at the same time, a clearly defined and limited sphere, it would be able to make laws for local purposes. There was no analogy between that case and the position which was occupied, according to the States Constitution, by the Federal Government in a Sovereign State. After the Act passed there would be in Ireland a full and complete staff of officers, some of them Customs officers, over whom, he took it, that the Irish Legislature would have no jurisdiction whatever. With regard to them the position remained unaltered. They were servants of the Imperial Government, and so they would remain. There were many of them who had duties, partly local and partly Imperial, to perform. Why should that be altered? How would the House get rid of their obligation to fulfil duties towards the Imperial Government in respect of 67 matters that were not within the jurisdiction of the Irish Legislature? It was said that they wore to serve two masters. That would not be the case in any sense in which the direction or orders of the two masters might come into conflict; but at the present day, throughout the Civil Service, it was a common thing for au official to obey the instructions of several masters, each one representing a department of Government. He saw no reason to suppose that any difficulty would arise in Ireland where there were two sets of duties to be performed—one exclusively local and the other concerning the Imperial Revenue. Without being at all unduly sanguine, it was obvious that the very hypothesis of the Bill was the assumption that it would not create violent antipathies in Ireland, but would do away with them. It was brought in for that purpose, and those who did not believe in it voted against it as a matter of course. He could not imagine a man voting for it unless he thought that the reasonable hypothesis was that dissensions and difficulties would presently be got rid of in Ireland by the operation of it. And it was upon that assumption that the whole Bill was recommended to the House. It was on that assumption that the Government supported and maintained the Bill. He said, then, that it might be possible, but that it was by no means certain, that particular officers would be required in Ireland for the purpose of protecting and safeguarding Imperial interests. If that were so, what was there to prevent that being done without a clause in au Act of Parliament? Unquestionably, where a duty was cast upon the Executive Government, it had the power to appoint agents for fulfilling that duty. Granted that they must come to Parliament to get money to pay those agents. That was the common case in our Civil Service in this country, as it would be in Ireland. They must come to Parliament. How would it be under the Amendment? The Amendment was altogether useless in regard to the payment of the salaries of these officers. It made no provision for the payment of the officers; and, therefore, it did not alter the existing state of things at all. The Amendment provided that the officers should be appointed, but the salaries would be dealt 68 with in the ordinary way by the Treasury, sanction for payment being given in the ordinary way by the House of Commons. The Amendment pre-supposed a condition of things which the Government could not assume, and proposed a scheme which, so far as it would be effective, the Government could not for a moment accept. The Amendment provided that the appointments should be made immediately after the passing of the Act. That was long before the appointed day, and before there could be any experience to go upon as to the necessities of Ireland. The scheme was au unbusiness-like one, au impracticable one, au expensive one, as it necessarily must be—so that it was one which, in all respects, ought to be rejected by the House. The appointments were to be made immediately—"such persons as Her Majesty may deem necessary." On what data was this conclusion to be arrived at? The clause said—To enforce on her behalf, and in her name, any imperial right or interest and the protection of any right of Parliament, or any Common Law rights which the Irish Government have refused or omitted.So that the poor Irish Government, before it came into existence, was to be charged with having refused or omitted to perform duties; or else there must be supposed an exact knowledge of the extent to which its failure to perform duties would extend. He did not say that a case might not arise in which it might be necessary or advisable to appoint agents to protect Imperial interests in Ireland; but could that be done beforehand, without knowledge or experience? There might be some who thought this a reasonable and practical scheme, but their views, at any rate, were not shared by the Government. The Amendment went on to say—As many officers as Her Majesty may deem necessary for the due execution of any decision or Order of the Privy Council.It might be said that this was technical, but, at any rate, he thought that the framers of the clause ought to take the trouble to bring their language into reasonable Constitutional form. He did not know what was meant by an Order of the Privy Council. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council advised Her Majesty to make au Order, but the Committee did not make the 69 Order. In an outside way it might be called an Order of the Privy Council by people who did not profess a knowledge of these affairs, but where they wore framing that which they wished to become an Act of Parliament they should adopt language which would be understood in Courts of Law. And, furthermore, wherever anything had to be done under an Order, whether an Order of Her Majesty in Council or of the House of Lords, the regular and proper way was for the Order to be sent down to be made an Order of the Court from which the appeal proceeded. In the present case going to the Exchequer Judges the Order would direct them to carry it into effect as if it were an Order of their own. It might be that it would be necessary to make a formal motion when the Order got down to that Court. It was so with them in the Chancery Division. It had evidently not been worth the while of the hon. and learned Member to put his clause into a practical form. It was quite enough for him if he drew a clause dealing vaguely with some small portion of the question about which he had been so eloquent and leaving everything else untouched. The provision of the clause that there should be officers appointed to carry into execution the Orders of the Exchequer Judges was already contained in almost identical language in Clause 17.
§ *SIR J. RIGBY
said, the Judge would be the man who understood all about the matter—the man who was on the spot. The hon. and learned Gentleman's alternative proposal was that Her Majesty in Council should, immediately after the passing of the Act, appoint men when they might not be wanted, and pay them in spite of that fact. So far as the clause of the Government differed from that of the lion, and learned Gentleman it was infinitely preferable. The clause in the Pill was practicable, whilst that of the hon. and learned Gentleman was unreasonable and utterly impracticable. He had carefully followed the cases brought forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and had seen that they might be cases which in future might cause some little difficulty, and might even require legislation, but the pro- 70 posed clause would not touch one of them. It would not be of the slightest use in regard to the Attorney General for Ireland, for instance. He (Sir J. Rigby) had certainly said on a former occasion what had been attributed to him with regard to prosecutions instituted by a Government Department independently of the Attorney General, and he did not at all acquiesce in the soundness of the answer that the Irish Attorney General, supposing he were appointed by the Irish Executive, would, by virtue of that appointment, have power to override such proceedings. The Attorney General was a very powerful man when he acted in the name of the Crown, but neither in theory nor in practice would be have the sort of power or authority which was attributed to him by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Sir J. RIGBY
said, he presumed that if the Government initiated the prosecution no one except they could enter a nolle prosequi. If, however there was a difficulty, the proposed clause did not by one inch advance along the road of getting rid of, or even alleviating, that difficulty. Assuming that the question of prosecuting in a case of counterfeit coin was an Imperial matter, he contended that no officer of the Irish Executive could interfere in the business, even though he bore the title of Attorney General. With regard to those matters—in respect of which this clause, if inserted in the Bill, would make provision—they had already been provided for, and whilst the provisions of the Common Law and of the Bill were reasonable and practicable, the others were unreasonable and impracticable.
§ *Major DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said that, as he had listened to the speech of the Solicitor General—
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ *MAJOR DARWIN
(resuming) said, that the old argument to which they had been so much accustomed ran through the speech of the Solicitor General—the argument, or rather the assertion, that if the Bill became law they would be bound to trust the Government that 71 would be established in Ireland. The Solicitor General declared that they might be sure that the Irish Executive would forward Imperial interests. But the Bill contained safeguards and precautions which showed that the Government even were not perfectly certain that the Irish officers would always support the Imperial interest. In one part of his speech the hon. and learned Gentleman said he could conceive that certain eases might arise in which the Imperial power would not be properly maintained in Ireland, and also said that the difficulties which now existed in Ireland would not probably be cleared away for some little time. If it were once admitted that there would be cases in which the Imperial Authority would not he properly maintained, that was a sufficient argument in favour of establishing a proper Executive in Ireland for the maintenance of the Imperial Authority of the realm. The Solicitor General had not suggested how, in his view of the case, the Imperial Authority in Ireland was to be maintained. Nothing came out more strongly in the course of these Debates than the different views on the Ministerial and Opposition sides of the House as to the meaning attached to the words "Imperial supremacy." On the Government side of the House the words meant simply an abstract right. Amongst the Unionists they meant not only a complete abstract right, but the power to enforce that right in every way and under all circumstances. Everyone knew that that light could not be enforced without a proper organisation, and the object of the clause before the House was to provide that there should be a complete organisation in Ireland for all Imperial purposes, and available in all possible circumstances to support the Imperial will. He would discuss the matter in the spirit that the Imperial power in Ireland was likely to be maintained. Personally, he did not believe that it would be maintained; but, assuming that it would be, it was necessary that they should have in Ireland an established system to make certain that in all circumstances that power would be felt. The Solicitor General also said that the Civil servants in Ireland were certain to carry out Imperial dictates as well as their local duties, just as in England the Civil servants often had to serve two 72 Departments. But surely there was an absolute difference between the two cases. In England, if Civil servants served two Departments, both Departments were under one Executive responsible to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Civil servants in Ireland would really he serving two distinct masters—the Irish Executive and the Imperial Executive; and it was well known that a person could not serve two masters without giving rise to considerable friction. He had lower down on the Paper a clause somewhat similar to the clause which had been moved by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Carson). Both clauses dealt with the subject of establishing more thoroughly some form of Imperial organisation in Ireland. As he had reason to believe that his clause, being so like the clause of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, would be out of Order, and that he would not have the chance of moving it, he would take that opportunity of placing his views on the subject before the House. The first part of his clause declared that the Lieutenants of counties in Ireland should be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant as representing Her Majesty. The Lieutenants of counties were now appointed by the Lord Lieutenant and their commissions were issued through the Home Office. These Lieutenants of counties were, to a certain extent, military officers and they would have this extraordinary anomaly in Ireland: that military officers would be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant through the Home Office, and not subject to any military discipline, and they would, he thought, practically become the servants of the Irish Executive if no alteration was made in the Bill. His desire was that Lieutenants should be the servants not of the Irish Executive, but of the Imperial Executive. This could be done by declaring them to be Imperial officers, or by transferring their military duties to other officers who would be under Imperial authority. The duties which the Lieutenants of counties had to perform showed that they ought to be only the servants of the Imperial Executive. There were only two of these duties which he would allude to. The first duty was that the Lieutenants of counties had the nomination of Lieutenants of the 73 Militia. If the Lieutenants of counties became the servants of the Irish Executive they might be certain that the character of the Irish Militia battalions would be altered by the change. The officers of the Militia would be drawn from the Nationalists, who desired a greater separation between Ireland and England; and the result of that class of officers being in charge of the Irish Militia would be that the Militia would gradually become of a more Nationalist character, and would in time come to have distinctly Nationalist aspirations. The Unionists held that the Nationalist Members accepted the Bill pro tanto, and intended to use it as a lever for a greater separation, and, therefore, he need hardly point out to them the great danger of having a Militia in Ireland whose aspirations were strictly Nationalistic. He should also like to point out another objection to having in Ireland a Militia with Nationalistic aspirations which ought to influence those British Members who supported the Home Rule Bill. If the Militia became Nationalistic in its character they might demand, in times of emergency, that they should only be employed in the defence of Ireland, which would mean an unfair distribution of the Militia forces of the United Kingdom for war purposes. When a military officer set himself to the task of distributing the Forces of the Crown for the defence of the United Kingdom he would not consider for a moment whether there was any political division between Ireland and England; his only consideration would be what parts of the country were likely to be attacked, and what were the strategical points. It so happened that there were many strategical points in England and few in Ireland, and, therefore, the Irish Militia should be transferred to England in the case of mobilisation for war. Hence, if the Irish Militia demanded to be kept in Ireland it would cause a considerable additional expenditure to this country, because the Irish Militia, not being available in England, the Forces of the Crown would have to be supplemented in some other way. The second duty of Lieutenants of counties, which ought to be performed by Imperial and not by local officers, was in regard to the ballotting for the Militia. In a great national emergency every man was bound to serve in a general levy, which in England and Scotland was regulated 74 by local Militia Acts and in Ireland by the Militia Acts. The local Militia had not been called out since 1815, and at that time it formed a distinct Force from the Militia Force now embodied. By the Militia Act of 1882 the jurisdiction, power, duties, and privileges in relation to raising a local Militia by ballot was retained to the Lieutenant of counties. To his mind, that provision showed that it was felt to be necessary to have an Imperial officer in each county to represent the Imperial authority in regard to this ballotting for the Militia, in times of national crisis there must be unity of command and action, and therefore it was absolutely necessary that the officer charged with the work of organising the ballot for the Militia under the Militia Acts should be directly under Imperial and not local authority. If they put an officer of local authority in charge they might be perfectly certain that in times of crisis the machinery for dealing with the Militia would break down. There were reasons which made it absolutely necessary that the Lieutenants of counties should be Imperial officers. The second part of his clause, which he would have moved had it been in Order, related to certain other civil duties which had to be performed in connection with the Army. Under the Acts organising this ballotting for the Militia the greater part of the duties were performed by the local constables. His desire was to leave the performance of those duties to the local constables, but to take power to replace them by Imperial officers in case the local machinery broke down in any way. It had often been pointed out in the course of the Debates that the Army would as a last resort assert the Imperial supremacy in Ireland. For instance, the Home Secretary had said—It really is taxing one's credulity to ask one to believe that a power … which has complete and absolute control of the whole of the Military and Naval Forces of the Crown … will not be able to enforce to the last extent every power it possesses.That statement implied the possibility of the Irish Executive not assisting the Imperial power, and that the Army might be employed under certain circumstances to maintain the Imperial supremacy. In the Army Act of 1881 there were provisions for billetting troops, 75 and for the impressment of carriages, and in these matters the local Magistrates and constables played an important part. The House of Commons had never been much in favour of billetting or impressment, and the fact that the provisions remained in the Army Act of 1881 clearly showed that it was thought absolutely necessary that there should be some local authority invested with the power of carrying out the billetting of troops and the impressment of carriages. Not only was there nothing in the Army Act which enabled a military officer to perform the duty of billetting, but the Act declared it illegal for an officer to have anything to do with billetting. If the local Magistrates and constables refused to act, it would not be possible without this clause or some such provision to march the troops legally through Ireland. It was therefore necessary that they should have in Ireland an Imperial officer who would discharge those duties under the Army Act of 1882. He confessed that this whole subject was full of difficulties; but in the clause of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, and the clause he had put on the Paper, those difficulties were faced and not shirked. He considered the proposals in his clause justifiable in order to minimise the risk of the illegal use of the military forces. Then there was the less important subject of the apprehension of deserters. In the Army Act of 1881 there were provisions with regard to the duties of Magistrates for the apprehension of deserters. He thought it would be well to have an Imperial officer in Ireland to enable deserters to be arrested, for otherwise there might arise a condition of things under which the Irish Government would seriously interfere with the discipline of the troops quartered in Ireland. If there was not an Imperial officer in Ireland for this purpose, it might become more and more difficult to maintain the Army in Ireland, and everyone who had been in the Army must desire that the troops should continue to be quartered in that country, first, because Ireland was the best recruiting ground for officers and men—and it would be a serious national calamity if Ireland were not open for recruiting purposes—and, secondly, because it was essential that the Army 76 should be kept in Ireland, not for the purpose of suppressing Ireland, but because of the cost—
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I rise to Order. I wish to ask, Mr. Speaker, if the hon. Member is in Order in dealing with the question of the Army in Ireland in connection with this Amendment?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member will not be able to move his own clause; but I think he might state on this clause what he desired to have done—that is, the appointment of military officers for the purpose of dealing in Ireland with billetting, the ballotting for the Militia, the impressment of carriages, and so on. The policy of maintaining the Army in Ireland is quite another matter, and the hon. Member would not be in Order in dealing with it.
§ *MAJOR DARWIN
said, he only desired to call attention to the importance of having an Imperial organisation in Ireland, and to show the difficulties in using the troops in the last resort to maintain the Imperial supremacy without some such organisation. There was an Act of Parliament, passed in the last year of George III., relating to illegal drilling in Ireland. Under that Act Magistrates had power to order any body of men so drilling to disperse. If the Irish Executive should fail to do its duty under that Act, no military officer would have any power to suppress illegal drilling. The Army could not do it. To send out the troops would be an act of civil war, unless they were accompanied by a Magistrate having the proper authority to suppress illegal drilling; and, in his opinion, there must he some Imperial officer to carry out this duty in order, in the last resort, to enforce the Imperial authority. They had been told that in this matter they must trust the Irish Executive. But trusting the Irish Executive simply meant that they did not want to retain the power of suppressing illegal drilling in the hands of the Imperial Government. The reasons he had given were, he thought, sufficient to prove the necessity for having an Imperial Executive in Ireland. They must have this Imperial Executive throughout the length and breadth of Ireland if the Imperial supremacy was to be something more than name. Under the Pill in its present shape the Imperial supremacy was merely 77 a name, and they could only have a real living power in Ireland by creating this Imperial Executive through Ireland.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down was more applicable to his own Amendment than to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dublin University, which was before the House. But there were in the speech a few points which he should like to answer, for though they only bore indirectly on the Amendment, they were of considerable importance. The hon. and gallant Member seemed to contemplate that the clause would include the appointment of the Lieutenants of counties as Imperial officers. That would be a most unfortunate selection, for the Lieutenants of counties, as they existed in Ireland, were respectable noblemen, who did not interfere in Party questions, but who appointed Magistrates strictly according to their own political feelings, and nominated the Lieutenants of Militia by favour, though, of course, in both those matters they were controlled by county public opinion. As to the Deputy Lieutenants, that position conferred the privilege of wearing a handsome uniform, and was not of much importance. The adoption of the clause would be most unfortunate, for it would set up a separate Government in Ireland, and, whatever chance the Lieutenants of counties would have of happily getting on with the Irish Government would be destroyed, because they would be placed in an antagonistic position to the Government. The hon. and gallant Member saw great difficulties in the billetting of troops in the case of a march through Ireland. The rights of citizens wore in this matter of billetting most safely and sedulously guarded—be thought too much so. To limit billetting to public-houses and exempting all other classes of the civil population was perhaps carrying the rights of citizens a little too far, but it would be a much worse state of things if they were to place the billetting of the troops in the hands of the Military Authorities. If the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member were adopted, it would place billetting under the control of persons appointed by the Secretary for War. He did not think anything could be more dangerous to the liberties, not only of the Irish, but of the 78 English people. The power could be used for crushing the people, as it was often used in English history by the Sovereigns. He did not think the Sovereign would do it now, but it might be done by some strong political Party in the name of the Sovereign. The Army had got on very well by having no special rights or immunities—by being in the same position as civilians, and if they departed from that system they would endanger the liberty of the subject. The hon. and gallant Member feared that the Magistrates and Police in Ireland would not take measures for billeting the troops. Under these circumstances the troops could camp where they liked, and let the people take action against them if they liked. The troops might take lodgings at high rents, and the Civil Authorities would have to pay the cost. Turning to the clause moved by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, he admitted that in the United States there were Federal Marshals, and that those Marshals had to act sometimes in the name of the United States Government. He could understand that in times of difficulty—such as civil war, or conflicts with Foreign Powers—the Imperial Government would be justified in appointing some of those Marshals, or some officials of that character. But what the Amendment contemplated was the appointment of a network of these officers throughout Ireland. That would practically mean that there would be two Governments in Ireland. They would have these Marshals checking the Home Rule Government at every step, and the Home Rule Government getting into rows with the Marshals. He believed that as the Bill stood it would be possible to appoint au officer of the kind at the large ports to prevent airy abuse of power by the Irish Authorities, which might lead to a war with a Foreign Power; but to spread a network of such officers all through Ireland, as the clause practically proposed, would be fatal to Home Rule. The fact was that, whenever an Irish Bill passed, everyone was desirous of making something out of it. Some people might call them jobs, but he did not call them jobs, because he thought an anxiety on the part of an hon. Member to provide for as many as possible of his constituents was very laudable. The persons who would probably be appointed to those 79 300 or 400 positions under the new clause would be persons who had passed through Trinity College; and, no doubt, the Representatives of Trinity College said to themselves,—"Well, if we are to have Home Rule, we will, at least, try to secure 300 or 400 appointments under it for our friends. If, however, the Government were weak enough to accept the clause, he hoped that it would be made clear that the Imperial Government, and not the Irish Government, would have to pay for those pleasant quarters for the friends of the hon. Member for Dublin University.
§ MR. ROSS (Londonderry)
said, he desired to say a few words in reply to the Solicitor General. He could not complain of the early part of the learned Gentleman's speech being over-technical. On the contrary, when they had reason to expect the Solicitor General to be technical, he was most profuse and eloquent, and when they expected him to deal with the matter in a general way he revelled in a very plethora of technicalities. The learned Solicitor General criticised the clause in the most effective manner; he began by objecting to the clause because there was no provision in it for payment of these Imperial officers who were proposed to be appointed, and the hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say the word "immediately" was wrong, because how could Her Majesty appoint such persons as she deemed necessary immediately after the passing of the Act, and before the Irish Government could enforce certain Common Law rights? But surely that was an objection of a trivial and trifling character. It would be easy for anyone to form some calculation of the number and character of the officers necessary to appoint for the purpose of looking to Imperial concerns. The learned Solicitor General then proceeded to criticise the language of the clause, and he objected to the expression "Order of the Privy Council." He hoped when Members drafted clauses in future they would be careful to dot their i's and cross their t's, or the learned Solicitor General would be down upon them. But he had no doubt if the lion, and learned Gentleman turned his learned acumen to Acts of Parliament that such was his power he would be able to make equally effective criticism of any clause in any Act of 80 Parliament. However, he did not think that was the way to deal with such a serious proposition as was now before the House. The clause of his hon. Friend had for its object the appointment of officers whose duty it would be to carry out Imperial decrees. He would like to-know whether the learned Solicitor General agreed, or did not, with the language of the Home Secretary which was cited by his hon. and learned Friend at the beginning of his argument; did the learned Solicitor General agree that such an Executive Authority as might be necessary should be maintained in Ireland? If so, where was it? They had admitted that Imperial supremacy must be maintained, and the Parliament in Ireland must be subordinate; but where, from the beginning to the end of the Bill, was there to be found machinery for enforcing their supremacy? The learned Solicitor General took occasion to object to two Executives in Ireland-There were two Executives in the. United States of America, and why should there not be two Executives in Ireland, one representing the local power and the other the Imperial power? The Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Bryce), in his book on the American Commonwealth, spoke of the machinery there as being like that in a factory where there were two sets of machinery, each doing its own work without touching or impairing the other. Was not that perfectly applicable to a case such as they had in Ireland, where they had Local Authority and a supreme Imperial Authority with separate interests requiring separate machinery? On the subject of a Federal Executive the Chancellor of the Duchy in his work said the men of 1787, feeling the cardinal importance of anticipating and avoiding occasions of collision, sought to accomplish their object by the concurrent application of the two devices. With one of them he (Mr. Ross) need not trouble the House, but the other was that it gave the Government, so far as those appointments extended, a distinct and immediate relation to its States. When the Chancellor of the Duchy was framing a Constitution for Ireland, why did he not apply his own device which he approved of in regard to America, and which he considered a remedy against the danger of interference? His hon. and learned Friend 81 in front of him (Mr. Carson) gave a number of instances where important questions would be likely to arise, and it was idle for those who were framing a Constitution to say these difficulties were not likely to arise. Those who framed the Constitution of the United States, like wise men, saw that such difficulties would arise, and provided for them in the ablest manner. Her Majesty's Government had provided no machinery for them whatever, and he was sometimes almost brought to the belief that the Bill was not seriously meant at all, for he could not imagine a Government declaring for Imperial supremacy and having not the smallest atom of machinery for making that Imperial supremacy felt. Take some of the cases put by his hon. and learned Friend. There was the Land Improvement Act, in which the Imperial Government was directly interested, and in that ease who was to set the law in motion when the difficulties arose? Was it to be by the Attorney General for Ireland, who was to be an officer of both the Irish and the Imperial Government? That, he thought, was an arrangement that would never work, because the Attorney General for Ireland would be serving two masters who, very often, would have different interests. The same thing arose in the case of the Customs, the coinage, and treason, and it arose in every one of the cases in which they had an Imperial exception or a reservation. But they had not only to look to the present, they had also to look to the distant future. It might be that the gentlemen who now represented the Irish constituencies might be so affected by a sense of gratitude for Home Rule that they might carry out all the requirements of the Imperial Government in the most strict and religious manner; but they had to look to the future. There might be an angelic band in Ireland at present, but there was to be a seraphic succession for all future time, and that, surely, was going too far. The men of 1787 who drew up the American Constitution—though he was sure that at that time they would have had great faith in the main qualities which their own citizens manifested in the previous years, yet they did not trust to those in any such way; they took the precautions that business men would naturally take, and they provided a special set 82 of Federal officers, the end-all and be-all of whose existence was to animate Federal concerns. In the case of Ireland there was no such machinery; that such machinery was certain to be required was as clear as anything could be, and he could not see why the Government refused a clause of this kind, the intention of which was to provide the Imperial Government with the Imperial machinery for the purpose of carrying out its behests, and for the purpose of initiating proceedings—a matter which was very important. Who were to initiate these proceedings? Were the Exchequer Judges to do so? Was the Attorney General for Ireland to be entrusted with them, though it was not his business, and when they should be altogether placed within the sphere of some official who would represent the Imperial Parliament? He submitted that no answer hail been given to the argument of his hon. and learned Friend, and that if the Government were desirous of carrying a working scheme this clause, or something like it, must be accepted.
§ *MR. T. H. BOLTON
considered the proposed clause was the logical completion of the policy of the Bill; the Bill proposed there should be two authorities in Ireland—that there should be a Local Government to look after local affairs, and an Imperial Government having control, throughout Ireland, over all matters that were of an Imperial character. The learned Solicitor General spoke with regard to this Amendment as though the whole object was only to carry out the decrees of the Exchequer Judges—as though there was nothing else under this Bill to be done but to carry out the decrees of the Exchequer Courts. There must he a large amount of practical business connected with the Imperial Authority in Ireland that it was necessary some representative of the Imperial power should be appointed to attend to. Take, for instance, Sub-section 7 of Clause 10 with reference to taxation, which ran—Where Parliament imposed any taxes expressly for the purpose of war or of any special expenditure which Parliament declares to be war expenditure, or to be extraordinary expenditure for the defence of the realm, the revenue from those taxes which is collected in Ireland shall be paid into the Exchequer of the United Kingdom.83 Who was to collect that special levy made under the authority of the Imperial Parliament after the probationary period of six years? What officials would they have in Ireland under the Bill to carry out the Act made in the Imperial Parliament levying special taxation for war? Suppose the Irish Government differed from this Parliament as to the necessities of the war, as to the propriety of the war and the purposes to which the taxes were to be applied, what power was there in the Bill to assess and levy these taxes, unless they had some Imperial officers throughout Ireland? This was one of the portions of the Bill that seemed to have escaped the astute intelligence of the hon. and learned Solicitor General. The policy of the Bill was that there should be two Governments in Ireland—the Local Government responsible to the Irish Legislature controlling Irish affairs, and the Imperial Government, responsible to Parliament, in which Ireland was also directly represented. The United States people sent not only Kepresentatives to their local Legislatures, but they sent them direct to the Federal Government and Assembly at Washington, and they had Federal Courts and officers throughout the Union. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Bryce) in his book dwelt on the enormous advantage of having Federal officers distributed throughout the United States, and said that it brought the Federal Government into direct contact with the people all over the country. That was what they suggested in connection with this Amendment—that there should be Imperial officers directly in contact with the people throughout Ireland whose duty it should be not only to enforce the decrees of the Exchequer Judges, but also to attend to all those many varied Imperial concerns which would remain associated with the Parliament at Westminster. Why there should be any objection to give full effect to the policy of the Bill he could not, for the life of him, understand. The Amendment was not antagonistic to the policy of the Bill, but well within the lines of the Bill; and, therefore, he thought there was no just reason for refusing to accept it.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
hoped the Solicitor General would forgive him for saying that in the 84 speech he addressed to the House before dinner he presented the spectacle of the good man struggling with adversity.
§ SIR J. GORST
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman recognised the position in which he stood. The hon. Gentleman spoke of a country with which he appeared to be totally unacquainted, and it was quite a relief to those who were in sympathy with him, when occasionally he seemed to touch ground on which he could stand fairly, and in a position in which he could advance a general and sensible argument. The Solicitor General had one point that he stuck to in a manner that neither the supporters nor the opponents of the Bill had done as yet. He had seldom heard any Member who had spoken on this Bill adhere so closely and generally as the Solicitor General had done to the fact that if this Bill was passed there was still to be a United Kingdom, and Ireland was not to be a separate country federated with Great Britain, but that Great Britain and Ireland were still to remain one United Kingdom, which was to have one Government exercising jurisdiction and supremacy equally over both countries. It was quite certain this Government of the United Kingdom was intended to fill a quasi function of autonomous government for Great Britain, but that did not alter its character with regard to Ireland; it was to be a Government of the United Kingdom exercising the same functions in that regard in Great Britain, but it would be in this unfortunate position in Ireland. Whereas in Great Britain this Government of the United Kingdom would possess a staff of officers perfectly effective to carry out its functions, in Ireland it would be shorn of the greater part of its officers, and be in a position of no authority, with no officials and no agents by whom its functions could be surely and adequately carried out. That was the theory of the Bill, and it was to meet that theory that the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Carson) was proposed. His hon. and learned Friend sought by this clause to give this Government in the United Kingdom the same power to appoint its officers and agents in Great Britain. It need not use that power unless it became necessary. If the 85 officers of the Irish domestic Government should turn out to be such admirable agents for the Government of the United Kingdom as the hon. and learned Solicitor General appeared to think, the Imperial Government would not need to make any such appointments. Also, what the Amendment was intended to do was to give the Government of the United Kingdom identically the same power it possessed on the part of the United Kingdom for Great Britain, and do what every civilised Government in the world did, appoint such officers as the circumstances of the case required. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General said this arrangement would introduce an clement of great confusion, that there would be double government, a double set of officials. That was what they, on that side of the House, had always contended was the principle of the Bill; though it might be a very good principle on which to make speeches on the hustings and to dilate upon in vague general terms to the less instructed electorate of the country, it would do very well for that purpose; but when they examined it as a working Constitution, as an arrangement under which people were to be governed and their common affairs were to be administered, they had always said—and this was their case—it was not a working scheme; it was not a scheme that could be worked to the advantage of Great Britain and Ireland. When the Solicitor General said that if the Government should insist on retaining double government it would introduce confusion in that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland, he was inclined to say Amen to the Solicitor General. The Solicitor General went on to say that the Government of the United Kingdom could be perfectly well served by the officials who were responsible to the domestic Government of Ireland. He could plainly see that that was an argument which the Solicitor General addressed himself to with considerable reluctance. It was a well-known truth that no man could serve two masters, but the whole of the Solicitor General's argument was directed to showing that not only could a man serve two masters, but he could do it well. He (Sir J. Gorst) did not believe this. He had a profound admiration for the Irish officials; he believed them to 86 be as good officials as any in the world, but they would not be able to perform the task of serving well and faithfully the Irish domestic Government, and, at the same time, of serving the Government of the United Kingdom, who would have need of their services. A great many illustrations in detail in this matter were given by the hon. Member for the University of Dublin, not one of which had been answered. The Solicitor General admitted that he knew nothing about advances in Ireland, and he said he would leave that part of the argument to somebody else. That "somebody else" had not yet risen to answer the point. There were advances made in Ireland by the Treasury through the Board of Works, which were not made through the Irish Government at all, but direct from the Treasury to the people of Ireland; and if these advances had to be recovered, the process of law would have to be set in motion by the Attorney General for Ireland, an official of the Irish domestic Government. How could the Imperial Government secure that the Attorney General for Ireland would consent to allow himself to be made the instrument of the Saxon, to wring from these unfortunate people the money which was lent to them by the Saxon Treasury, and which they were shamefully called upon to pay? He hoped before the Debate closed that that hiatus in the Government case would be made up, and that someone from the Treasury Bench would, at any rate, attempt an answer to the unanswerable position taken up by the hon. Member for Dublin University. The point of the case which the Government so far had failed to meet was this: If they were going to set up this theory of a United Kingdom, and if the Imperial Government had to discharge certain duties and functions in Ireland, it must have officers to do it, and this Bill did not make any provision for the Government of the United Kingdom appointing any officers which experience might prove to be necessary in case the officers of the domestic Irish Government found themselves unable to serve two masters. The Solicitor General, in a part of his speech which he really thought unworthy the position the hon. and learned Gentleman occupied, was pleased to fall back upon the language of the clause and say it required amendment. Everyone knew that on 87 the introduction of a new clause on Report the principle alone was in question in the first place. Amendments in detail could be made after the principle had been agreed to. Really, the only question before the House seemed to be the simple question whether the Imperial Government should have the power, which every civilised Government in the world possessed, to appoint its own officers to carry out its own functions.
§ *MR. BUTCHER (York)
said, that whatever charges the supporters of this clause might be liable to, they were certainly not liable to the oft-repeated and stale charge of distrust of the future Irish Government. This was no new restriction, but simply the machinery to give effect to the restrictions the Government had already provided in the Bill, and the question which arose was—Were the Government honest in imposing these restrictions? Did they intend that these restrictions should be effectual, or did they intend they should be illusory? That was the real question involved in this clause. It was the Government that had created this dual Lord Lieutenant, with one side looking to the Imperial Government and the other side looking to the Irish Executive. It was the Government who were responsible for having inserted Clauses 3 and 4 in the Bill, exempting a number of important subjects from the purview of the Irish Parliament. It was the Government who had created a special Court for the purpose of dealing with Imperial questions, and more particularly with the whole of the questions reserved by Clauses 3 and 4 from the competence of the Irish Parliament. Having exempted these subjects from the Irish Parliament and reserved them to the Imperial Parliament, was it not the duty of the Government to give effect to these restrictions they themselves had considered necessary—whether springing or not from distrust of the Irish Parliament he would not inquire—and to see that these restrictions should carry out what he presumed to be their intention—namely, of giving protection to the loyal minority in Ireland? They had had one speech only from the Government that night—to which they all listened with great attention—namely, that of the Solicitor General. One portion of his speech he devoted to the form and the other portion 88 to the substance of the Amendment. They were not concerned much with the form of the Amendment. What they were concerned with was the substance of it. It appeared to him that the speech of the Solicitor General was characterised by a sublime optimism, which could only spring from an exhaustive ignorance of the conditions of Irish life and character. The hon. and learned Gentleman assumed that the officers of the Irish Executive would accept immediately, and without hesitation, the double functions imposed upon them, and would carry out with equal joy the decrees of the Irish and of the Imperial Authorities. He confessed he did not share the sublime optimism of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He then went on and abandoned the only theory which could have justified him in his optimism. He abandoned the angelic theory, and having abandoned the angelic theory he had to fall back upon what he called the ordinary principles of human nature. He should recommend the Solicitor General to study some of the ordinary principles of Irish human nature, as exemplified in the processes of the Land League and National League in not very remote times. Had he done so, the ordinary principles of human nature would not have confirmed him in his argument. Let him give the hon. and learned Gentleman one example. Suppose the Irish Legislature were to travel beyond their province, and, in violation of Clause 4, were to take private property without just compensation. Suppose they decided that a landlord could be bought out for five years' purchase, a theory that had found acceptance on the Irish Nationalist Benches, and on those terms transferred his estate to somebody else, probably a Member of the Irish Government; and then, suppose the Exchequer Judges decided that this was a violation of Clause 4, would the Irish Sheriff carry out their decree and evict the usurping hypothetical Member of the Irish Government? The Solicitor General admitted that cases might arise in which officers acting under the orders of the Irish Executive would not be able or willing to carry out such decrees. The Solicitor General admitted that the Irish Executive would not go to much trouble to carry out the decrees of a Court in Imperial matters. But what was the answer of the Solicitor General? He told them 89 that in such cases an arrangement might be made. It did not seem to him to be very probable that an arrangement would be made for carrying out an unpopular decree of an Imperial Court, against the wishes of what might be popular feeling in the country stimulated by national eloquence. He could not share these views of the Solicitor General, who admitted the possibility of a case arising, and yet would not face it in the only way it could be faced, by allowing the Imperial Government to appoint Executive officers to carry out those decrees. The hon. and learned Gentleman wanted to know how many Imperial officers it would be necessary to appoint? It would be very easy to introduce into the Bill a clause providing that Her Majesty should, when occasion arose, appoint such officers as might be necessary for carrying out the matters referred to in the clause. As to the objection that no provision was made in the clause for the payment of these officers, if the House decided to appoint these Executive officers, were they to suppose the House would not also provide means out of the Imperial Funds for their payment? So far as that objection went, it could be met by a very simple Amendment which there would not be very great difficulty in drafting. What the clause proposed to do was to provide a substitute for the posse comitatus, which was not likely to assist the Sheriff in the performance of his duties. It provided a substitute for the Sheriff, who might be unwilling or unable to carry out a decree, in a case where the posse comitatus, acting under the influence of Members of the Irish Government, would not be likely to assist the Sheriff. The Government having come to the conclusion that the Irish Parliament were not to be trusted with certain subjects, that the Judges appointed by the Irish Parliament were not to be trusted with the decision of certain questions which must be left to Judges appointed by the Imperial Parliament, the question before the House was, were they, or were they not, going to make the decrees of these Judges effective? He had heard nothing which would justify the House in leaving the matter open, and refusing to make provision for carrying out these decrees. He ventured to think the House would 90 be wise to deal with the matter at once, and take stops to see that these decrees were carried out in the only possible way they could be made effectual.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
did not propose to follow the Solicitor General in his verbal criticism on this clause, all the less so as ever since the Solicitor General assured them that a ship was a house and a merchant ship was navigation, he had not attached that importance to the verbal criticisms of the learned Gentleman as he had hitherto done. But as the poet had said—Solicitors General rushed inWhere statesmen feared to tread.And the Solicitor General rushed in to assure them that the hypothesis and the purpose of this Bill was to do away with all want of confidence in the Irish nation and Irish Legislature and Executive. But the Bill absolutely bristled with the contrary hypothesis. It was full of hypotheses that the Irish Exchequer would not pay its debts, and that the Irish Judges would not do their duty. It bristled with distrust of the Irish Legislature and Executive. In Clause 17 the hypothesis was adopted that the Sheriffs and other officers of the Irish Executive would refuse to do their duty. As to the objection of the Solicitor General that no provision was made by the clause for the payment of the officers the Amendment asked should be appointed, he called attention to the fact that in the Bill itself the two Exchequer Judges, in the event of Irish officers not performing their duty, were empowered to appoint some casual person for the payment of whom no provision was made, so that if the objection was good as against the proposed clause it was equally good as applied to Sub-section 17 of the Bill. They had listened to the Solicitor General, he trusted, with becoming patience. They did not think much of his argument which they understood; but they thought a great deal of his law which they did not understand, and, having shown the patience that House always extended to the learned Gentleman, it seemed to him that the time had arrived when, as upon the last occasion the learned Gentleman addressed the House, his Chief should now get up, 91 throw him over, and accept the Amendment.
§ MR. BARTLEY
expressed the opinion that the Debate ought not to close until they had had some answer from the Chancellor of the Duchy, from whose book it had been distinctly proved that he was himself in favour of the proposal before the House. Considering the right hon. Gentleman had a deal to do with framing the Bill—especially those provisions taken from the American Constitution—the House ought to have some words from him. If the right hon. Gentleman had changed his opinion since the publication of his work, he ought to explain why he had done so, and why he was voting against a clause which was in absolute accord with what the right hon. Gentleman had defended in his book. If he did not explain, he would not be treating the House with proper respect.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 104; Noes 155.—(Division List, No. 263.)
§ MR. CARSON rose to move the following new clause:—
§ (Appointment of Land Commissioners.)
§ "The Judicial Commissioner and the other Commissioners under 'The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881,' and 'The Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1885,' (and Acts amending the same), shall, as vacancies occur, continue to be appointed by Her Majesty by Warrant under the Royal Sign Manual, and the Assistant Commissioners under the said Acts shall be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant acting on behalf of Her Majesty."
§ He said, although this related merely to the appointment of the Land Commissioners, it would be apparent, he thought, that the question was one affecting the whole relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. The Government had thought fit, in the framing of the Bill, to reserve from the Irish Legislature any power for a certain time—
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.) rose to a point of Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman proposed to move this as a new clause. Clause 24 of the Bill dealt with the tenure of office of the Land Commissioners in Ireland; and his point of Order was that this clause should, therefore, be moved on the 24th clause of the Bill when they reached it.92
§ MR. CARSON
said, on the point of Order, he wished to point out that Clause 24 did not deal wish the tenure of office of the Land Commissioners, but merely with the existing Judges and other persons whose salaries were charged on the Consolidated Fund, and with the manner in which those salaries were to be paid in the future. It had nothing to do with the appointment of these Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners, with which alone his clause dealt. That was his sole reason for bringing forward the clause.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I am of opinion this new clause brought forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman can be properly moved as a separate clause, and not simply as an Amendment to Clause 24.
§ MR. CARSON
said, the case he had to put to the House was this—that if there was good reason for reserving from the Irish Legislature the power of legislating with respect to the land there was much more reason for reserving from the Irish Executive dependent upon that Legislature any power in relation to the appointment of the Commissioners upon whom the whole of the rights of the landlord practically depended. When this Parliament set up a Court in Ireland to deal with rents it created a novel procedure, which depended for its efficacy entirely upon the men who were appointed to administer the Land Act, 1881. If by this Bill the appointment of these Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners was entrusted to the Irish Parliament the obligation of honour which the Prime Minister had said arose from the dealings of the Imperial Parliament with the Irish landlords would be entirely cast to the winds. The question here arose—Was it not possible that the new Irish Executive might appoint men who would not fairly carry out the Land Acts, but who would rather out the principles of the Land League that had been taught for 13 years by men, some of whom would be their masters, and would form the future Government of Ireland? The landlords of Ireland stood in a peculiar relation to them in regard to this matter. The Prime Minister had over and over again stated in that House that the Irish landlords were the English garrison in Ireland, and that by planting 93 them in that country. the Imperial Parliament had incurred these obligations of honour. What would be the policy of the men who were likely to be the future Governors of Ireland in relation to that garrison? Speeches had been made by hon. Members below the Gangway (the Irish Members) since 1886, when the union of hearts took place, down to the present time, in which they told the people in Ireland that when they came into power it would be their privilege and their duty to take care that this garrison should be got rid of for the benefit of the Irish tenantry. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) made a speech in 1887 in which he stated that it was his belief that when the struggle for the land was carried to a successful termination, at the same hour with the disappearance of the landlords the power of the foreign Government would also disappear. Mr. Davitt, a recent Member of that House, also in 1887, stated that when the day should come that they had the right to manage their own affairs the sun might some day shine down upon England when the Irish would have the opportunity of having vengeance upon their enemy for its crimes to Ireland. Those speeches were not made in the heat of passion, before the Liberal and Radical Party were committed to Home Rule. They were actually made in anticipation of this Home Rule Bill, and they were open and bold warnings to the Members of that House that these gentlemen were determined, if they came into power, to take vengeance upon what the Prime Minister had called the English garrison flanked by this country in Ireland. To pass away from hon. Members below the Gangway, he came to the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Morley). Some time after the Government had adopted Homo Rule the Chief Secretary said that—They would not be able to deal satisfactorily with Ireland until some Government brought in legislation for preventing the tenants from confiscating the property of the Irish landlords.What did he propose to do now? So far from bringing in legislation to prevent that legalised kind of robbery, the right hon. Gentleman proposed in an indirect way to baud over to an Irish Executive, 94 composed of men who for the last 13 years had been engaged in driving out the landlords, the appointment of the persons who were to decide all questions between landlord and tenant. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that he was dealing satisfactorily with Ireland by giving power to these men who preached, even down to the present day, to the tenants that they had a right to get the land from the landlords—the power to confiscate the landlords' property? Did he consider how the Irish Members were to be elected? They must take it that the majority of the Irish Representatives in the new Legislature would fairly represent the opinions of the constituencies sending them there. Almost every one of these Representatives would be elected by the tenant farmers; and the Courts in which the Commissioners sat dealt with the interests of landlord and tenant, and it was the tenant farmers who would dictate their policy, and it was to them they would be answerable for their conduct. From the necessity of the case the Executive so elected must appoint men who could not be expected to see that the legislation which had been passed by the Imperial Parliament was fairly carried out between landlord and tenant. He thought there was a conclusive case here. He passed from that to the second branch of his argument, which was this: Parliament had entrusted to those Land Commissioners the administration of £10,000,000 of British money under the Acts of 1885 and 1887, and having done that—
§ MR. CARSON
said, quite so; he included all the Acts relating to the matter. Was Parliament going to part with the entire control over the appointment of the men who were to administer those £40,000,000, and who were bound to enforce the payment of this money to the Imperial Government? They had heard a great deal about reserving matters to the Imperial Parliament; this £40,000,000 was really the money of Great Britain, and were they to run the chance of losing it completely? He did think—although the question of these appointments might seem to be a small affair in regard to a Bill of this kiud—he did think that they should act fairly as between man and man upon the rela- 95 tions between landlord and tenant in Ireland, and that the course which he suggested would be found the best to prevent the friction which, would arise if this Bill passed into law in its present form. If only on the mere selfish motive he would say that they ought to reserve some control. He begged to move the clause.
§ Clause (Appointment of Land Commissioners,)—(Mr. Carson,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The hon. and learned Member who has just sat down has referred to the language which was used in the past by some hon. Members below the Gangway with regard to the Irish Land Question. But that was at a time when the movement was being commenced of which I hope we are now approaching the end. My own view of that language is that it was the product of exasperation provoked by the circumstances of the time, and that that exasperation was to some extent, at all events, not unjustifiable is shown by the fact that the Land Act of 1881 was the outcome of the agitation that had preceded it, and I am not afraid to say that the language that was used in the course of that agitation represented, although perhaps in an exaggerated form, a true grievance and a real wrong done to the tenants of Ireland. Unless you are prepared to say that the whole operation of the rent-fixing Act of 1881 was unjust and the decisions of the Land Commissioners with regard to the reduction of rents, you cannot deny that there is, at all events, some justification for the strong and violent language of the past. That is one remark I would make on that language. Another observation which I desire to make is, that during all these years, from 1879 onwards, so far as my observation has gone, the Irish tenants follow leaders who use violent language, but not up to the point where it endangers their permanent possession of their holdings. Although they have been willing to take up a strong position against their grievances—grievances which, I submit, were proved to be just by the reductions of rent effected by the Land Commis- 96 sioners—yet when the time came they did not follow the extreme measures recommended by their leaders. The "No Rent" Manifesto of 1881 was a failure, not because of the coercive powers which had been entrusted to the Executive Government, but because the Irish tenant, although he will go far to secure a reduction of his rent, will not run the risk except under violent provocation and circumstances of momentary agitation—and then only within narrow limits—of being turned out of his holding. I had many conversations with the late Mr. Parnell on this subject. He was mainly responsible for the issue of the "No Rent" Manifesto, and he has told me more than once that the effect or non-effect of that Manifesto, apart from all else that can be said of it, convinced him that everyone, however strong his political position, who resorted to a policy in which the effect would be to endanger on a largo scale the right of occupancy which the peasants have, must be sure that it would not be supported by the Irish tenants. Perhaps I have gone a little further afield than I should have done, but I only wished to make these remarks on the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman, as to language that has been used in past times under circumstances of great excitement. The hon. and learned Member, coming to the point of his new clause, has referred to some language which I myself used, I think, in 1885, when I said that I would be no party to allowing an Irish Nationalist Government to carry out a policy of confiscation. What inconsistency is there between that language and the policy of the present Bill? By the present Bill the Irish Government is prevented from legislating in such a way as to confiscate the property of the landlords. If Clause 4 is going to be waste paper, I admit that my language was inconsistent with the Bill, but we do not believe that the clause is going to be waste paper. The hon. and learned Gentleman has said that it is the policy of the hon. Members below the Gangway and of ourselves by complicity to get rid of the Irish landlords. But what is the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite? Is not the object of the Land Purchase Act to got rid of the Irish landlords—although I admit upon equitable terms, and with 97 just compensation and by due process of law?
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The hon. and learned Gentleman, in the few observations he devoted to this, overlooked the cardinal fact that if random transactions are sanctioned by partial men, and advances are made on bad security in case of default by the tenant, the loss is to be borne by the Irish Exchequer. The new Irish Government, it is suggested, will have to appoint Commissioners who may make ducks and drakes of advances, or make advances upon inadequate security; but if they do the Irish Government will have to bear the cost. To return to the immediate point of the Amendment, I do not understand whether the new clause is to be limited in its operation to throe years during which the Laud Question is reserved.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I did not quite gather whether he meant that or not. The hon. Member's policy it seems is, first and fundamentally, to take away from the Irish Legislature all power whatever, at any distance of time, of making laws affecting the relations between landlord and tenant. I agree that if you do that you will be consistent in reserving for the same period of time the appointment of officers to carry out laws which, under a system of Home Rule, must ultimately be made by the Irish Legislature. Of course, the Government must be guided by their own policy in this matter as to the limitation of the powers of the Irish Legislature to legislate with reference to the land. If the clause wore limited to the throe years during which legislation will be reserved, there might be something to be said for it; but to make it permanent would involve an absurdity which the hon. and learned Gentleman himself must admit. While you would be giving power to the Irish Legislature to make the laws you would be reserving to the Imperial Parliament the duty of appointing all the officers who were to administer those laws. I cannot think that that proposal is one which would at all square with the proposition and policy of the Bill. I cannot conceive how, with an Irish Legislature existing, though subordinate, the British 98 Government is to attempt the task of nominating these important officers; without exercising the duty of making the laws which those officers have to administer. I have endeavoured to state the case without using excessive language; and when the case is so stated and is understood by the House, I think the House will join us in rejecting the clause.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman had avoided the real gist of the question, as it appealed to many of them, and he thought it should be made quite clear to the House and to the country what was the actual nature of these appointments they wore discussing, and what the functions of these officers whose position they were debating really were. The duty which was put on these officers was a duty which did not fall to the lot of any other official in the whole length and breadth of the United Kingdom. It was the duty of fixing an arbitrary price for an article which otherwise would come into the market, where its value would be settled by competition. There was no precedent for this office. The Chief Secretary had said that the matter would come distinctly under the purview of the Irish Legislature, and was a matter in which the Imperial Government had no right and no duty to interfere. That seemed to him an absolutely untenable view of the question. If they abandoned the claim put forward in the Amendment and allowed the Irish Executive to have the appointment of these officers what was the result they must contemplate with absolute certainty? He desired to follow the example set by the Chief Secretary, and as far as possible avoid recrimination. But they could not conceal from themselves that the object of agitation in Ireland had been the reduction of rent by one means or another. Two methods of doing this had been adopted—the method adopted and sanctioned by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, and the method adopted and sanctioned by the Imperial Parliament; and the two methods had been going on concurrently. One was a legal method—that adopted by the Government—and the other was an illegal method—that which had found favour with hon. Gentlemen opposite. 99 There was no reason to believe that the method favoured by hon. Gentlemen opposite was not one which they would enforce if they had the power. The contention of those hon. Gentlemen for the last 10 years had been that agricultural rents were too high and ought to be reduced, and that the legal method of reduction sanctioned by this Parliament was not adequate to meet the case. Reference bad been made to the Act passed by the Prime Minister and his colleagues in 1881, the object of which was to effect reductions of rent in accordance with the ideas of equity and justice as they were then understood in the House. How was that Act received by hon. Members opposite? They at once set themselves up in opposition to the Courts, and there was no evidence that this attitude had been abandoned up to the present. The Chief Secretary had spoken about the "No Rent" Manifesto, and said truly that it was a failure, and he had given the reason which Mr. Parnell appeared to have confided to him—namely, because it was seen clearly that those who followed the advice of the Manifesto were liable to be evicted, the law of the United Kingdom being strong enough at that time to see that justice was done. The tenants knew that if they followed the advice of the Manifesto they would be turned out of their holdings and that there would be no redress for them. That was the reason of the failure, and that alone. The Manifesto was a failure for the reasons given by the Chief Secretary, and not because the advice given was dishonest and thievish in its character, or because a Roman Catholic Bishop had described it as opposed to every principle of religion and dictate of morality, and a breach of the law which said—"Thou shalt not steal." There was no proof that the doctrine adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite in 1881 had altered up to the present time. On the contrary, there was proof that the old spirit still existed with the advisers of the Irish people. The duty of the Land Commissioners was to decide what was, and what was not, a fair rent, and this was the only protection which the landlords had against spoliation. The landlords had been told over and over again, in the House and out of it, that the only true and fair 100 value for Irish laud was prairie value, and that they had no right to the holdings which the tenants possessed, nor to the rent which was paid for the holdings. The landlords had between themselves and the spoliation with which they had been threatened only the protection of the Land Courts, which had been guaranteed them by the Imperial Parliament. The hon. Member had said that this was an Imperial question, and he (Mr. Arnold-Forster) could hardly conceive a case where it was more obvious that an Imperial question was involved. The Chief Secretary said that there was some obvious and natural connection between the limit of time suggested in the Bill during which the Irish Parliament should not be allowed to legislate in respect of Irish land and the limit of time that ought to govern the appointment of the Land Commission. Surely that was a palpable fallacy. There were many questions connected with the tenure of land in Ireland which, on the hypothesis that this Bill would become law, might very well fall into the domain within a definite period. But the Commissioners were dealing with a sum of money something like £40,000,000 sterling, which was the product, to a very limited extent, of the Irish taxpayer, but which was a payment made by the British Exchequer for the peace and good government of Ireland, and to suppose that the people of Great Britain had no concern in the distribution of this money was an idle supposition. It was in the power of the Commissioners to distribute the money as they chose. The Chief Secretary said that surely if there was to be some obviously unjust and inequitable distribution of this money the scheme would be put an end to. But that was not the way the thing would be done, as anyone who was familiar with the Courts must be aware. Pressure had from time to time been put upon the Commissioners—pressure which they had not been able to resist—and that pressure would be uniformly applied to get them to reduce all rents submitted to them. There would be no opportunity of putting into effect Clause 4 of the Bill. They would simply be confronted from time to time with legal decisions which would have to be decided by Courts constituted in the same way as the Courts whose decisions 101 were appealed against. The Chief Secretary had said there was a great deal of justification in the attitude assumed by the Nationalist Members with regard to Irish land. He had said that the fact that rents had been largely reduced as the result of the decisions of the Courts showed that there had been a crying grievance to be remedied* But that was a very dangerous contention. There had been grievances in England and Scotland time after time, to which the attention of Parliament had been directed, and year after year had passed without those grievances being redressed. They had boon at last remedied when public attention was attracted to them, but it certainly seemed a dangerous lesson to teach that no grievance was a real grievance until it was supported by violence and crime. Many scores of grievances had existed in England and had remained without remedies longer than the Irish grievances without leading to crime and outrage, and he considered it an unfortunate circumstance that the Chief Secretary could find no better argument to enforce his sense of the genuineness of Irish grievances than the fact that they had been attended by a long series of criminal acts. [Cries of "Divide!"] If the Amendment wore not adopted the object would be to place on this Commission persons who would use their official position to reduce rents; and if the Irish Legislature were to have power to appoint the Commissioners, the Chief Secretary would find that men would be nominated whom he would now refuse to appoint, and which refusal he would be prepared to defend in the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman's present attitude was altogether inadequate. There was no reason why they should abandon for the future the security which they had hitherto possessed. [Cries of "Divide!"] Officers appointed by the Imperial Parliament were the only people who would be in a position to make an impartial inquiry into those matters. Certainly, if any persons outside the House were to be asked whom they considered the most unfit to be entrusted with the appointment of these so-called judicial officers, they would point to hon. Members opposite who for years had been actively engaged in championing a particular 102 view upon this subject. The Opposition were asking that these partisans should not be made judges on those proceedings. He failed to see why this matter should be better judged by partisans and interested persons and persons who had prejudiced themselves over and over again as to the nature of the judgment they would pronounce.
COLONEL SAUNDEESON (Armagh, N.)
said that, as the question before the House was so deeply interesting to the unhappy class to which he belonged, even gentlemen below the Gangway would admit that he had a right to say a word. The Chief Secretary appeared to imagine that the reduction of rent which followed the passing of the Land Act of 1881 was satisfactory proof that the Irish tenants wore suffering from excessive rent—in fact, that the people were rack-rented; but the right hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that rents in England had been lowered very much more than Irish rents had been reduced by the Courts established by the present Prime Minister in Ireland. The reductions were, in fact, caused not so much by excessive rents as by agricultural depression, which had taken place in Ireland as in England and Wales. The average reduction of rent hi Ireland was about 20 per cent., and in England it was more. It would be as fair to say that the fact that reductions in England had been 30 and even 35 per cent, was a proof that the English landlords had rack-rented their tenants, as it was to say that the fact that reductions of 20 per cent, had been made in Ireland was a proof that the Irish tenants were suffering from previous oppression from the Irish landlords. The Bill which was called a Bill for the Better Government of Ireland might be also denominated a Bill for granting to the Irish landlords three years' purchase of their property. Anyone who knew Ireland and the character of the Government that this Bill would call into existence, anyone who had studied the speeches made by gentlemen below the Gangway in the immediate past would see that the only prospect before property-owners in Ireland under the malign influence of a Home Rule Government was mere confiscation of their possessions. About a week ago 103 there was a meeting of the Irish Federation in Mayo, and the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) told the people to stick to the principles of the Land League, and they would then get rid of the landlords altogether. Of course, they would. In three years' time there would be a general revision of rents in Ireland. The Irish Government were to have the power to appoint Land Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners after their own hearts, who would give the landlords what the Nationalists always said they deserved—the prairie value of the land. So keenly was this felt at one time by the Prime Minister himself that he said it was an obligation of honour to take away from the future Government of Ireland the inevitable temptation of dealing with landlords on the principles they had always laid down in the past. The House now learnt from the right hon. Gentleman that the condition of honour was not binding, but was temporary. Most people thought that an honourable obligation was an obligation for all time. If it was an obligation of honour in 1886 to protect a law-abiding and unoffending class in Ireland against open spoliation it ought to be an obligation of honour still. It was well that the country should remember what the principles of the Land League were. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), speaking after the "Union of Hearts," after the Home Rule Bill of 1886, said—Together, please God, we will march on, shoulder to shoulder, until we shall have liberated this land from two curses—landlordism and English rule.A year later the hon. Member spoke to much the same effect. It was the bounden duty of the British people to see that open robbery and spoliation did not take place in Ireland. From the point of view of Nationalist morality, he believed it would not be spoliation. The fact of owning land in Ireland was looked upon by the Nationalist Members as indicating that legalised robbery existed. There was no crime in the eyes of an Irish Nationalist so great as that which they called landlord robbery, or, in other words, the crime of asking a tenant to pay the rent he owed. Whether rents in Ireland were really excessive and extortionate was shown, he thought, by 104 the enormous prices paid in Ireland at the present time for the goodwill of a farm. An Irish tenant in the open market could get for the goodwill of his farm infinitely more than a landlord could get for the fee simple of the land. Therefore, robbery and spoliation on the part of the landlord did not exist at the present moment in Ireland. If there was any honour left in Great Britain, if honour was not the transitory thing that it used not to be, the British people would see that they had no right to hand over a class of men who had always been loyal to them into the hands of their enemies. If the Home Rule Government was ever to acquire the respect of mankind, which he very much doubted it ever would, it was the duty of the British Parliament to take away from it a temptation which it not only could not but dare not resist. Patriotism in Ireland would be a very popular thing as long as it meant that one section of the population was to get possession of the property of another section of the population. Take away that incentive to patriotism, and the Nationalist Benches in the House of Commons would be vacant. All that was asked by this clause was that the British Parliament should reserve to itself the right of seeing that justice was done in Ireland between the two classes of the population, without which any Government that might be created in Ireland would be not only a sham, but a disgrace to mankind.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I think that in the course of this discussion there have been raised several points of minor importance which may very well be disentangled from the main issue. I was a little disappointed with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary (Mr. J. Morley), because I thought he dwelt rather more on those collateral matters than on the one which is really of primary importance. The question is capable of being stated very simply. Certain Commissioners are to be appointed in Ireland to determine what is to be a fair rent. It is perfectly evident that the interests both of the landlords and of the tenants are absolutely in the hands of these Assistant Commissioners. They have been appointed hitherto by the Imperial Government; but it is proposed under this 105 Bill to transfer the appointment to the Irish Parliament. The Irish Parliament will represent the tenants alone. Under these circumstances, the landlords of Ireland believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Assistant Commissioners who are appointed by the representatives of the tenants will not be in a position to deal fairly in regard to the interests of the landlords. Further, it is contended on behalf of the landlords—and I do not think it can be denied by the Government—that practically it is, under the circumstances, an obligation of honour with the Government to secure fair play for the landlords. Among the collateral matters that are raised is a question in regard to proceedings under the Land Purchase Acts. I admit that I am myself unable to follow that argument or to feel that that is a matter which is of very deep concern to us. It is quite true that if the new Assistant Commissioners were at once to reduce rents throughout Ireland the persons who have purchased on the old basis—that is to say, at higher prices—would at once become extremely discontented, and there would be an agitation for the reduction of the instalments they now pay. Those instalments are payable to the British Government; and although we have the security of the Irish Legislature, it may be argued that to some extent our interests would be endangered if there were a general movement among the tenants for the reduction of their instalments. I agree, however, that that is rather a distant point, and I do not propose to dwell upon it. Then there is the argument that hon. Members opposite had threatened the landlords of Ireland, and deliberately declared their intention, when they have the power, to use it to their disadvantage. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary met that by saying that the very strong and improper language which has been used, as far as that employed before 1881 was concerned, was, if not justified, at any rate caused by a real grievance. Well, Sir, I am not prepared to deny that; I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend—that is to say, I agree that there was a real grievance before 1881; and although that does not justify the language used, it should, to some extent, be taken into account in considering it. But that does 106 not apply at all to the language used since 1881. In 1881 the Government of which I was a, Member, under the guidance of my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister, brought in a Bill—[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, I feel it very difficult to proceed in consequence of the loud conversation that is going on on the Benches opposite.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The Government in 1881 brought in a Bill which was then declared on behalf of that Government to be a final settlement of the vexed question of what was a fair rent. Undoubtedly, if that be the case—and I think it will not be denied,—the excuse which is found for this violent language by the Chief Secretary cannot possibly apply to language which has been used since 1881. I do not want to refer to that language, because that is not, after all, the basis of the present contention, but there is no doubt that the language has followed precisely the same course since 1881 as it followed before that date. Up to the very last moment, even since the commencement of this present Session of Parliament, language has been used by prominent Irishmen in Ireland which distinctly pointed to a reopening of the question of fair rent. We cannot, therefore, doubt that it is the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Courts which were appointed to settle fair rents have not satisfied the aspirations of the Irish people and have not satisfied the ideas of justice of hon. Members opposite. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members from Ireland say "Hear, hear!" They also take that view. Their view is that no Court is a fair Court which does not give a decision of which they approve. They cannot dispute the fairness and impartiality of the Magistrates. [An hon. MEMBER: I do.] Oh, yes they do. Then they dispute the judgment of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, because the vast majority of the Judges were appointed by the Prime Minister. It is, therefore, the judgment of the Prime Minister and the fairness and impartiality of his appointment which his followers are now calling in question. Sir, I do not see how we can ever obtain finality in this matter if 107 hon. Members and those whom they represent refuse to accept the judicial tribunal appointed by the Government of which they are supporters as a fair tribunal. But I do not appeal to extreme and unreasonable persons like those who have interrupted me. I appeal to the Government and the Prime Minister, and I say that from their point of view they must accept and satisfy the decisions of the tribunal appointed by the Prime Minister in 1881. They must admit that the Assistant Commissioners have impartially performed the duty since then. Under these circumstances what excuse, what ground can my right hon. Friend give for transferring the appointment of these Commissioners to the new Irish Parliament? I could refer my right hon. Friend to a passage in one of his speeches in which, referring to the difficulties which were likely to arise from the continued unsettlement of the Laud Question, he said that the old sentiments and opinions of the Irish people resulting from the experience of a long period of years were so much opposed to the existing state of things that they could not be expected not to take advantage of the power in order to—I am afraid of misquoting him, but the effect was this—in order to sustain their case where it differed from the position at present occupied by those whom they regarded as their hereditary foes—
§ It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.