§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [11th August], "That the Clause (Appointment of Land Commissioners,)—(Mr. Carson,)—proposed on Consideration, as amended, be read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
When I was interrupted by the clock on Friday night I was endeavouring to point out that the question now before us is one of extreme simplicity. It is whether the Assistant Commissioners should lie appointed in the future as in the past by the Imperial Government or whether they should be selected hereafter by the Irish Government. Now, Sir, these Assistant Commissioners stand in a very peculiar position, and I think it will be admitted that their functions 140 are of a very delicate nature. They have to decide on the agrarian questions which arise between landlord and tenant—that is to say, they have to decide on a matter which has been the subject of the most strenuous controversy for a very long while past in Ireland; they have to decide between two parties who take almost antagonistic and opposite views, and it is of the utmost importance that their decision should command general respect and should be in itself just and fair. Up to the present time these Assistant Commissioners have been appointed by the Imperial Government, and I do not think that anyone can deny that they have discharged their very difficult duty of arbitrators between tenant and landlord with, on the whole, conspicuous success. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: No!] Does anybody deny it? [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Yes. Everybody in Ireland.] That will assist me materially in my argument. Nobody denies that these gentlemen have been appointed—the great majority of them—by the present Prime Minister.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would by this time know that they got no good by these rude interruptions. I say that a large number—I believe the majority of them—were appointed by my right hon. Friend. As to those, at any rate, who were appointed by my right hon. Friend, I imagine there will be no difference of opinion that he and his Government endeavoured to find fair and impartial men. No one will charge my right hon. Friend with any prejudice in favour of the landlords, or with being actuated by any prejudice at all in making a judicial appointment. When it comes to selecting persons for judicial appointments, I am glad to think that our Governments are never actuated by private prejudices. These Commissioners have been selected by the British Government as fair and impartial men. We are told, and I accept the statement, that their decisions have universally—not in one case alone; not only in the case of those who were appointed by the late Government—but have universally given dissatisfaction to hon. Members opposite. Although they are fair men, although, at all events, they were appointed as 141 fair men, their decisions are considered by hon. Members opposite to have been unfair. That is rather an important admission. It is by hon. Gentlemen opposite under this Bill that these Commissioners will be appointed in future. I have shown that gentlemen opposite will be of necessity the representatives of the tenants—the representatives of one of the parties to this great suit. They are to have in future the selection of the Judges who will not be impartial in the sense in which we have hitherto used the word, but who must be selected because they share the views of hon. Members opposite. I think the Government will admit that this is entirely au exceptional ease. We Unionists have vary strong opinions about the appointments of Judges and Magistrates generally. We believe the Government would have done better to have followed more closely the precedent of the Provincial Legislatures of Canada, and have deprived the Irish Legislature of the power of appointment to Judicial offices at all. We are not, however, contesting the wisdom of their decision on that point now. But ordinary Judges have to deal not with one class of cases only, but with all classes of cases, and accordingly the vast majority of the cases are not governed by Party or class considerations, and therefore there is less fear, at any rate, that in regard to them the appointments will be of a questionable character. But we are now dealing with the case of a particular class of Judges, who have to decide a question on which there is a sharp difference of opinion between gentlemen opposite and those whom they represent, on the one hand, and ordinary public opinion in this country as represented by the present Government on the other. I will not put it higher than this. I am perfectly well aware that Irish landlords are not a popular class in this country. I will grant, for the sake of argument, that they are as had as their worst enemies say. I will grant, if you please, that they are none of them good, but are all men of the stamp again and again described and denounced in this House. But even then, unless the last spark of fair play has died out in English breasts, you would not allow these men to he judged by Judges who had been actually chosen by their opponents. Even the worst criminals in this country have the 142 right of challenging the jury if they think that any member of it is likely to he prejudiced in the matter which has to ho adjudicated upon. In some eases they have oven I will not say the right, but the privilege, of challenging the Judge. I remember a case a short time ago which happened at Bristol. It was in connection with the Bristol riots, and the Judge who was on the Rota to try the case either withdrew or it was suggested that he should withdraw, and another Judge was specially selected, because the first Judge had expressed some opinion upon the subject to be dealt with. So careful are we in this country that in the trial of any case the persons to be tried shall have an absolutely fair trial? That, I say, is a universal and invariable practice, and yet here in this case—I think by a lapsus on the part of the Government; I do not believe they themselves have followed out the whole of the consequences of what they are doing—they propose to hand over the whole of the landlords of Ireland to Courts whose presiding officers will be chosen entirely by their opponents. I think I might absolutely rest the case here. I think even if I left it here every impartial hearer would admit that we had a very strong ground for appealing to the Government to accept this new clause. But we go really much further than that. This is not merely a case in which the Judge is to be appointed by one of the parties to the suit, but it is a case in which the Judge who will be appointed, and the persons who will appoint him have prejudged the case. Everyone of them will, before the trial comes on, have prejudged the case, and he will be prepared to decide it in a certain sense. This makes it perfectly monstrous, and carries the injustice further than has, I believe, been sanctioned by any responsible Government. We know perfectly well, when hon. Members opposite say that the decisions of these Assistant Commissioners have given universal dissatisfaction, what it is they mean. We know that the Nationalist Party and their representatives have held that the proper value of land in Ireland is either five years' purchase or the prairie value. Of course, any decision which is not based on that theory is in their view an unfair and unjust decision, and they are hound to take every means 143 in their power of reverting to and obtaining a decision in the opposite sense. They have again and again attacked these very Judges for the decisions they have given. They have attacked the Government who have appointed them as impartial men because their decisions have not concurred with the opinions they have expressed as to the proper value of Irish land. Well, is it likely that when they have the power to select Judges, they will be satisfied to appoint men who may hold the same opinions as those whom they have already denounced? It is not certain that they will take care to put in these places men whom they can depend upon to give what they would call fair and just decisions? If you throw this duty upon them they are absolutely bound to fulfil it in the way I am suggesting, because the one thing they have promised the tenants on which they have laid the greatest stress and on which they have been advocating Home Rule is that if there were an Irish Government the tenants would obtain better terms than they are obtaining now. They will have to act upon that statement, or the tenants will say they have been deceived. There is only one way in which they can fulfil it, and there is not the slightest doubt that they will take advantage of the opportunity the Government give them to see that the Commissioners shall be selected from the men who hold the extreme view of the value of Irish land—a value which I am perfectly certain is not shared by any Member of the present Government. This is not a case in which the "angelic theory" will servo. I am not making any charge against hon. Members opposite; I am not throwing upon them any imputations of unfair or improper dealing. If they honestly believe that Irish land is only worth the prairie value, they are bound to give effect to their honest conviction, and nobody can blame them. But I appeal to the Government will they have redeemed their pledges if, as a direct consequence of their action, landlords throughout Ireland are forced either to accept the prairie value of their laud or to fly for their lives? That is the alternative. If their interests are put in the hands of partisan Judges as we should call them, although they would not be partisans in the view of hon. 144 Members opposite, it is certain that landlords will have to accept the prairie value or even less, and will not be protected if they refuse it. If the Government, knowing what they are doing, persist in the policy they have laid down, I say, in the words of Lord Spencer, they will be doing "a mean and treacherous thing." Lord Spencer said, and said truly, that the landlords have been confirmed in their property by legislation, which to a large extent restricted their rights, and he said it would be a mean and treacherous thing to desert them. I do not say that is what the Government are going to do, but I say that would undoubtedly be done if this Bill passed in its present form. What is the answer to the case I have endeavoured to put before the House? The answer is a very remarkable one, and it was given to us by the Chief Secretary (Mr. J. Morley) on Friday night. He said that three years hence the Irish Legislature would have control of Irish land legislation, and that, under these circumstances, it would be anomalous to give them the power of legislation and to refuse to them the nomination of the Judges. I agree with that. I agree that it would be very anomalous; but am I to understand my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to declare the settled conviction and intention of the Government to hand over unsettled the Irish Land Question to the Irish Legislature three years hence? If they are not going to do that, the argument falls to the ground and is not of the slightest value. If the Government are going, in the course of the next three years, to legislate so as to bring about a final and definite settlement of the Land Question, and so that when the question devolves upon the Irish Legislature there will be no question to settle, there will be no anomaly. It will only be an anomalous thing if you are going to allow the Irish Parliament to legislate on an unsettled question. When the matter was raised before on a question asked by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord G. Hamilton), the Prime Minister, without committing himself, rather led me to understand that the Government consider that an interval of three years is an interval that should be taken advantage of to settle the Irish Land Question in the Imperial Parliament. While refusing to 145 say that he considered it no longer an obligation on the Imperial Government, he did not shut the door to an arrangement of that kind; but if the argument of the Chief Secretary is worth anything the door is to be shut. I do not know why the Land Question is to be reserved for three years; but after that short delay the vexed question of Irish land—the controversy between the Irish tenants and Irish landlords—is to be handed over to the Irish Legislature. I say that is in direct contradiction to everything that has been said by any Member of the Government who has dealt with the Land Question in Ireland. There is no one who has spoken more strongly on this matter than the Chief Secretary. He has used words that were even stronger than those I have quoted from the Prime Minister. He has said not "I will not be a party," but—I will never be a party to placing on the Irish Legislature the burden of legislating on this question.
MR. J. MORLEY
I have never contemplated such a state of things after the expiration of the three years. What steps we may take between now and that time is another matter.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not say that when we have finally settled the Irish Land Question there would not be details that would from time to time come under the cognisance of the Irish Legislature; but the policy my right lion. Friend has declared again and again has been that the question is practically and substantially to be settled before the Irish Legislature is called on to deal with it. There can be no doubt whatever as to the language of my right hon. Friend. Hero is one quotation—taken from a speech delivered by him at Newcastle on 11th February, 1886—And the second thing about which I have never concealed my opinion and which Irish Liberal and Conservative friends, with uneasy minds, may fix in their minds is, that I, for one, will never be a party to placing the minority—the property of the minority—at the mercy of the majority, in case they might be inclined to deal lawlessly with it.Again, at Newcastle, addressing his constituents, my right hon. Friend said—I said, and I will always say, that I should be no party to having a new Irish Government when it is constituted with the burden of the present land system in Ireland on their 146 shoulders. We have no right to set up a Government in Ireland; we have no right to continue our Government in Ireland unless we are prepared to provide a great basis, a Conservative basis, in having as many occupiers and tillers of the soil as possible the owners of their own holdings.My right hon. Friend does not contend that that is the case now.
MR. J. MORLEY
The Leader of the Opposition brought forward a scheme to convert occupiers into owners.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
Where did I ever state that that would be the effect of the Purchase Bill?
MR. J. MORLEY
The right hon. Gentleman said he was laying the basis of an operation which would transform occupiers into owners, and that that would furnish the only basis for a settlement of the Laud Question.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the right hon. Gentleman says that I meant by the Purchase Act to transform all occupiers into owners he misconstrues what I said.
MR. J. MORLEY
He said his Bill would only sanction an advance of £30,000,000, which would be a circulating fund; but he also said, I think, that a sum of £95,000,000 would probably suffice to transform all the occupiers into owners.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I must press this further, because it goes to the root of the whole matter. The right hon. Gentleman does not deny that; he considers that a definite settlement of the Land Question is a necessary concomitant or precursor to the Home Rule Bill. Now, does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the late Government provided such a definite settlement? Does he contend that they finally settled the Land Question in the sense in which he used the words—I still think we are bound to attempt some definite settlement of the Land Question along with or immediately before the passing of Home Rule?Because either he does think so, or he does not. If he does think so, I must say he is mysteriously taciturn as to his opinions when the Home Rule Bill is before the House. Here was this settlement which he asserted it was the duty of statesmen to place in the front rank— 147 a settlement which was absolutely necessary to the welfare of Ireland—here was this final settlement before the House, and the right hon. Gentleman never had one word to say for it. He voted against it. He must have thought it an insufficient and thoroughly inadequate settlement. He never could have spoken strongly against it and voted against it unless to his mind it was altogether insufficient. Therefore, the final settlement has still to be made. Now, I ask my right hon. Friend in what way in this Bill the Government are preparing for the definite settlement which they pledged themselves to make before they contemplated conferring self-government on Ireland? Do the Government believe—I do not ask whether they believe that this House believes—that they are settling anything by the Home Rule Bill if they leave the Land Question unsettled? The House will have in its mind a most significant and interesting question asked to-day. My right hon. Friend was asked as to the facts in reference to a meeting he had stopped, and which was to have been held on an evicted farm. What were the facts? A meeting was announced to be held there in close propinquity to, or immediately upon an evicted farm where there were two caretakers. The meeting was announced, and its object was said to be to hold up to public condemnation the persons responsible for the eviction. Thereupon my right hon. Friend behaved as we should always expect him to behave. He at once sent down orders that the meeting should not be held, because if it had been held it might have had an intimidatory effect, and the caretakers might have been in peril, and possibly would have had to fly for their lives, or, at all events, would have been in considerable personal danger. Did hon. Members opposite (the Nationalist Members) approve of the action of the right hon. Gentleman? Did their action show any appreciation of the course he had taken? Not at all. They put hostile questions, criticising questions, objecting questions. Does my right hon. Friend believe that if these hon. Gentlemen had been a Central Government they would have forbidden that intimidatory meeting? Would they have protected the caretakers; would they have protected the property of the landlord? Yet it is to a 148 rule of terror which questions of that kind suggest that the right hon. Gentleman, under this Bill, will hand over the landlords of Ireland. I do not stand here to defend the landlords of Ireland, any more than I would defend any person who, being accused, should demand a fair trial. But I say the Government are in a different position. They have defended the landlords of Ireland. Some of the principal Members of the Government have said—and I suppose truly—that if there are landlords in Ireland who have abused their powers, there are other landlords in Ireland against whom no such charge can be made, and that all of them are entitled to the ordinary protection of the law and of the Imperial Government. As I have said, it would be "a mean and treacherous thing to desert them," and to hand them over to the tender mercies of hon. Gentlemen opposite. We are, in this Amendment, at the mere fringe of the subject. I hope, at some later period, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will tell us how he means to settle this Laud Question, which settlement he has declared to be necessary; but, in the meantime, I ask of the common fairness of the Government that at least they will not, in regard to this particular class of cases, hand them over to Courts that will be appointed by the enemies of one of the parties concerned.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
I think, Sir, it is a very graceful act of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to make himself the spokesman and defender of those in Ireland who toil not, neither do they spin, and I must congratulate him on the abnegation and disinterestedness which he has displayed throughout his oration. He has asked the Government—especially the Member of the Government who has spoken and cannot speak again—a number of questions, and ho has asked him how he proposes to settle this question. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who, I am sure, will be heard again by the indulgence of the House, how this matter was to have been dealt with by that Central Board which he wrote to Mr. Duignan to offer to the Irish Members, and which was to have had entire control over the Irish Land Question? "I am prepared," said the light hon. Member for West Birmingham 149 in his "ransom" and, no doubt, un-regenerate days—I am prepared to hand over to a Central Board, to an Irish Authority, the entire management and settlement of the Irish Land Question,free, of course, from the control of the Central Executive.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman did not, because there was no reference to that in Mr. Duignan's letter. He proposed to hand over the settlement of the Irish Land Question to the Irish Members—the entire control and settlement. How was it to be done? From that, hour to the present the right hon. Gentleman has left us in entire darkness and ignorance as to his method of procedure. He says there is one thing that the Irish landlords are entitled to, and that is a fair trial, and he went over the various birthrights of British citizens in relation to trial by jury and in relation to various other trials. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, did he think in 1887 that the Irish Members were entitled to a fair trial when he handed them over for trial to the Resident Magistrates? Did he think they got a fair trial from these Resident Magistrates, appointed by a landlord Government, when 27 of them were put on the plank bed?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Was Lord Londonderry not a landlord? He was Her Majesty's Viceroy in 1887, and was he not a landlord? Why, he was not only a landlord, but a proved rack-renter. His cases were taken into Court and his rents were cut down, and am I to be told that he was the very person to appoint Magistrates who would insure Irish Members a fair trial? Sir, before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham got up in this House to give us his views how the Irish Sub- 150 Commissioners were appointed, he would have found that in a little volume called Thom's Directory he could get a great deal of information about Ireland. It so happens that of the three gentlemen who hold the post of Chief Land Commissioners in Ireland, not one of them was appointed by a Liberal Government, and every one was appointed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester (Mr. A. J. Balfour). Judge Bewley, Chief Land Commissioner, who is he? He is brother-in-law to Lord Ashbourne. How did he get his appointment? I do not challenge the appointment of Judge Bewley. I believe it was a good, fair appointment, and I believe Judge Bewley really is a gentleman who can be depended upon by both sides to give fair play between landlord and tenant; but, just as I do not deny that you may appoint fair men at times, I repudiate the idea that we have not as much fairness as you have. Take the second gentleman, Mr. Wrench. That was not a fair appointment. It was a most monstrous appointment. He is your supposed Lay Commissioner, a gentleman who was appointed simply for no other reason than because he had been the agent on Sir Thomas Lennard's estate and on the Brooke estate; and if anybody wants to know the kind of agent he was lot him take up a reported case, where he harried and hunted out of his district Sub-Commissioner Crean, simply because he decided that free sale should exist upon the estate upon which Mr. Wrench was agent. He took that case to the Chief Commissioners. He took it to the Court of Appeal, and then, when the law was decided against him, he got Mr. Crean hunted out of his district. Then, look at the ease against him in reference to the Clones market, for which he was denounced by your own Court of Appeal in connection with the crane and weight business in the town of Clones. These are your appointments. Who is the third gentleman. I do not impugn his action, although he was appointed by the Tory Government. I say Mr. Commissioner Fitzgerald is a most respectable man. He did, when County Court Judge for Longford or Meath, confirm very severe and terrible sentences under the Crimes Act; and, no doubt whatever, he was considered by the Tory Govern- 151 ment a very suitable person for the administration of the Coercion Act; but on the whole Mr. Commissioner Fitzgerald, in his action in the Court of the Irish Land Commission, has carried himself fairly and honourably, and I have no desire to attack him. These are three life appointments, not one of which can be considered or touched under the Home Rule Bill. Then I come to the Sub-Commissioners. What was the last act of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester before going out of office? Remember you had the appointment of the whole head Commission, who are appointed for life, in your own hands. Who are the Sub-Commissioners? The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), from his own information, tells us that most of them were appointed by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. Well, here are the names of the 30 Sub-Commissioners, and as far as I can see— I do not say I am right to a man—but as far as my information goes, of these 30 Sub-Commissioners, 23 were appointed by the right hon. Member for East Manchester. And what was the last act of the right hon. Gentleman on going out of Office? Up to that time these Sub-Commissioners were appointed from day to day. They practically had no more tenure than a day labourer. He made them permanent Civil servants of the Crown, and not one of those gentlemen can now be stirred by the Irish Government. But what is more, fair rent applications can also be dealt with by the County Court Judges in Ireland, and 14 out of the 22 County Court Judges were appointed by the late Tory Government. These all hold life appointments. All the Court valuers were appointed by the Tory Government— every man of them. Every Court valuer in Ireland has been appointed by the right hon. Member for East Manchester, and under the Land Purchase Act of 1891 every man of them is made a permanent Civil servant of the Crown. Sir, in regard to this large body of men—some 60 in all, and if I count valuers I should say it would be nearer 90, all life appointments—very little more than 10 per cent, are Liberal appointments, all the rest being the appointments of a Tory, an Orange, and a landlord Administration. What chance would an 152 Irish Government have supposing you put a Ribbon Lodge as the Executive Government of the country? That is probably the strongest way of arguing it. Suppose you put a Ribbon Lodge as the Executive Government of the country, what chance, I would like to ask, in the course of the lifetime of any individuals here present, who, I suppose, are of an average age of 40 years, pretty much the same from an actuarial point of view as the County Court Judges and the Sub-Commissioners themselves—what chance would even a Ribbon Lodge have of affecting the great trend and tendency of the action of these Courts in Ireland? But I come to another matter. Some of these Sub-Commissioners—one at least— was appointed by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester refused to make the hon. Member himself a Privy Councillor, for which I am extremely thankful to him; but his brother-in-law, Mr. Patterson, was made a Sub-Commissioner. I believe Mr. Patterson is no longer a Commissioner, for reasons over which he had no control. I believe he is dead, but the hon. Member for South Tyrone has always taken a great interest in the Irish Land Question, and one of the subjects in which he has taken most, interest was the case of the long leaseholders. It was said—the hon. Member boasted of it at any rate—that it was largely due to his initiative that the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester passed the Redemption of Rent Act. Now, Mr. Speaker, I should like to know what it is that these Sub-Commissioners can do? They can fix a fair rent in Ireland. How does Lord Salisbury designate the fixing of a fair rent in Ireland under his own Statute passed by his own Government? He described it as a species of torture. It is all right to have Lord Salisbury Prime Minister of England, who described the attempt on behalf of the poor miserable peasants class in Ireland to get fair play from the landlords, backed up by the bayonets of the British Government, as a species of torture; it is all right for Lord Salisbury and his Government to have the giving of 60 or 70 of the appointments; but when it is suggested that the "Other Parties," as they are called by the right 153 hon. Member for West Birmingham, should have some say in the matter, then it becomes as sacrilegious, I was going to say, as the doctrine of "ransom." Lord Salisbury called the fixing of a fair rent a species of torture. I am sorry to say that, so far as the great body of the tenants are concerned, that is what it has proved; and who is my witness? The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), who declared in his place on Friday night that the English landlords had voluntarily given reductions of 15 to 20 per cent. larger than were screwed by process of law out of the Irish landlords. "But," says the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, "the Irish Members have all declared in favour of the prairie value." Sir, that phrase reached us viâ Birmingham. Who was its author? The lamented Mr. John Bright, who declared in our hearing in this House in 1881 that if the improvements of the Irish tenant were swept off the face of the soil, Ireland would become as bare and naked as the condition of the North American prairie. What is the position that we have taken up? The position is the position of the Land Act of 1881—namely, to give the Irish tenant the improvements he made in the soil, and to give the landlord the remainder. And what did your own Attorney General (Mr. Madden)— another of your Judges, because you had the appointment of most of them—what did he say in this House on the Bill of 1891? He said—If you take the interest of the Irish tenant in his holding and the interest of the Irish landlord at the present moment in consequence of his improvements, the Irish tenant now had an equal, if not a greater, interest in the soil than the landlord.I call another witness, one of your own friends too, Lord Cowper. Take the Cowper Commission. When Lord Cowper was challenged—I think it was by another Lord Lieutenant, Lord Londonderry; or was it by the Duke of Argyll, another of your sacred witnesses? He was challenged in the House of Lords on the unfairness of the Cowper Commission Report; and having had 12 months to consider his position, instead of his having been challenged by the Lords—by the Irish rack-renters in that place—Lord Cowper laid down his refusal to recede by one jot or tittle from the 154 position he took up in the Report, and, if my memory serves me, said that improvements to the extent of £100,000,000—I think he said hundreds of millious—had been made in the soil of Ireland by the Irish tenants. I am sorry, Sir, to have to say that under the presidency of Lord Ashbourne in the Irish Court of Appeal—whose appointment was the most monstrous and shocking that even a Tory Government ever made to the position of Lord Chancellor—if the 300,000 Irish tenants who have got fair rents fixed under the Land Act of 1881 had to go into Court in the morning, so tight has the garotte of legal decision become that 50 per cent. of these men would be held disentitled to the fixing of a fair rent, and I believe, indeed, that under the influence of legal decision something like 400,000 Irish tenants have been excluded from the operations of the Land Act of 1881. I will give the House an instance of this class of decision. I think it is a monstrous decision, and it was given under your own Government—the Government of angels—which has been in power in Ireland for 700 years, and what have you made of it? What have you made of the Irish? Whatever we are, we are your handiwork. Instead of giving us Universities and Colleges yon gave us the plank bed and the convict cell. What are these decisions? I quote a decision as recent as only a few weeks ago, delivered at Enniscorthy. By whom? By one of your Land Commissioners, Mr. De la Poer Trench, brother to Lord Clancarty. What was his decision? His decision was this. The tenant went into Court to get a fair rent fixed. He was equipped with every attribute that entitled him thereto. When the landlord pulled out a deed of settlement whereby his father had settled the lands for life on himself with remainder to the eldest son, and, says he, I am the eldest son, and the remainder man of the estate cannot be held responsible for a tenancy created by a tenant for life. I challenge question on this point—that in view of recent decisions, if the tenants had to go into Court again, instead of 300,000 Irish tenants getting the benefit of the land legislation, not 30,000 would get it. What have been your decisions as to haying? Why, we all thought, in consequence of 155 one case dealt with at an early stage by the House of Lords, that where a tenant sold the hay off his farm he shall not be held a tenant for the purposes of pasture. One of the Courts of Appeal has decided the reverse. The decision is that if you have a lease of, say, 200 acres of land, and there is a provision in the lease that the landlord may take up one acre of that 200 for a cottage or something of that kind, then the lease is held to make it only a letting for temporary convenience. The decisions, I venture to say, are such—and I challenge anybody to deny it—that if these tenants were to go into Court again the Laud Act would be practically closed against them. What, then, is the argument? That you having loaded the dice, you having appointed 60 out of the 70 gentlemen who are to administer these Laud Acts, that, so far as our lives are concerned, we are to be stopped from having the appointment of any single man to administer (hem at all. Who is to appoint them? The right hon. Member for West Birmingham did not tell us, but presume it would be the Imperial Government. The Imperial Government for half time, at any rate, will be the Tory Party. They will come in for half the spoils— the Tory Party, who are the landlord party of Lord Clanricarde, the party of Lord Londonderry, the party whose chief was not ashamed the other day to repudiate the act of his own nephew and of his own Ministers. Lord Salisbury tells us that the Act which gave the long leaseholders the right to go into Court and get a fair rent fixed unless the landlord consents to be bought out is a most objectionable provision, which never should have been placed on the Statute Book. He did not know how it escaped his notice. I wonder how it escaped his notice too. Sometimes people thank God they have a House of Lords, and yet the House of Lords and the Prime Minister of the country let this most objectionable Act, this species of torture, this terrible piece of robbery—the act of his nephew, too, above all persons—be placed upon the Statute Book of England. But, Mr. Speaker, if we were in an Irish Parliament, and if the Irish Premier of the day was to make some remark of that kind in regard to some little Irish measure that had passed, and to denounce it as an act of robbery, an act of torture, a 156 most objectionable measure, a measure depriving landlords of right or title to the soil, I should like to know what would be the criticism on the Hibernicism, what twitting would go on in this House, what holding of the sides in laughter by gentlemen in the position of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham at those extraordinary Irish Members who denounce their own Bills, and who declare that they are not responsible for the acts of Members of their own Administration? Do not you think that Irishmen, at any rate, ought to have as much common sense in dealing with this question of Land Purchase or with the Redemption of Kent Act as Lord Salisbury? There is this to be said, at all events. The Irish Members are not tenants. We are not Irish tenants. I am not an Irish tenant. I never had as much land, and never will have as much land, as would sod a lark. And am I not in as disinterested a position as Lord Salisbury or Lord Clanricarde? Am I not as disinterested as Lord Londonderry? Am I not as disinterested as the hon. Member for Mid Antrim, who spout his nights and his days trying to block this most objectionable species of torture in 1891? We own no land, and I would venture to say this—that the man who owns no land at all, at any rate, is as likely to give equal and indifferent justice between two contending parties as the landlord who is one party to the transaction. Sir, the Irish Members, the Irish Party, and their constituents, desire in this transaction between landlord and tenant nothing but the bare letter of the statute law; we desire nothing but what the Land Act of 1881 gave us—namely, that no rent shall lie allowed or made payable upon the improvements made by the tenant or his predecessors in title. If that is prairie value, we are in favour of prairie value. If that is not prairie value, we are not in favour of prairie value. We want our own and no more. Keep you what is yours. You have got in the soil a certain title, so have we. We do not go into the question how you got that title. There you are for better or worse. We represent the immemorial tenants of the soil, and ask for nothing except that what our people have made by their sweat and their toil and their labour and that of their forefathers for centuries should be theirs; and I would venture to say 157 that at this time of day it is not a demand which the Imperial Parliament, as at present constituted, would refuse to us.
§ MR. D. PLUNKET (Dublin University)
I shall not ask the leave of the House to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down through all the points of his speech, because, in my humble judgment, many of them had nothing whatever to do with the Amendment. I may say generally that the greater portion of the vehement harangue was an illustration of what the hon. and learned Gentleman is an extremely good hand at—namely, what I would call picturesque invective, which we have often had the interesting opportunity of listening to before. It cannot be said, on the whole, that those who have been attacked by the hon. and learned Gentleman have come badly out of his hands in comparison with many whom he has assailed before. The hon. and learned Member commenced by referring to the three Chief Land Commissioners. With the Judicial Commissioner, whose position is the most important of all, the hon. and learned Gentleman has no fault whatever to find, except that he was some relation or other to some gentleman who has taken a prominent part in politics. Judge Bewley was, he said, in some way connected with Lord Ashbourne; but, notwithstanding that relationship, he has admitted, as every man in Ireland must admit, that there could not be found in any part of the United Kingdom a more learned, able, and impartial Judge. As to the third of the Chief Commissioners, Mr. Fitzgerald, with him, I think, the hon. and learned Gentleman had no substantial fault to find. I may mention that Mr. Fitzgerald's worth for the position he now occupies is justified by the fact that he had boon previously appointed a County Court, Judge by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Upon the head of Mr. Wrench, however, the full vials of the wrath of the hon. and learned Member fell. But what was the worst that the hon. and learned Gentleman could say of Mr. Wrench? Nothing at all as to the administration of his present office, but that he had prosecuted a gentleman called Crean, which had resulted in placing that gentleman in a very comfortable position. The hon. and learned Gentleman then passed on to the 158 Sub-Commissioners, and said that the vast majority of them had been appointed by the Tory Government. I do not believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman is correct in that statement; but, by whatever Government they may have been made, why were not those appointments challenged in this House if they were wrong?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Because you took their salaries off the Votes and put them on the Consolidated Fund.
§ MR. D. PLUNKET
Neither the salaries of the Laud Commissioners nor the salaries of the Assistant Commissioners are so placed on the Consolidated Fund. We contend for that very thing— that this Assembly here, where both sides of the question can be fairly heard and impartially tried, should have control of these appointments, so that justice should be done. You call them Tory appointments. I deny that you have any right to say that Tory appointments are necessarily unjust and unfair appointments. But they have never been challenged, and what we ask in this clause is that the power of challenging them, if they are unjust, should be reserved to this House. The substance of this part of the hon. Gentleman's speech is that every one of the Sub-Commissioners is saddled upon the country for a length of time. As a matter of fact, every one of these Assistant Commissioners and Land Valuers can be called upon, if this Bill is passed, to retire from their positions. But, passing from the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, I venture to submit to the House, in no heat or passion, a very serious matter which concerns a large class in Ireland who have few Representatives in this House, and who, worse luck for them, can command but few votes for Representatives in this House—a, class to whom, under this Bill, it is proposed to give the most heartless and shabbiest treatment of any class affected by the measure. What is the position of the landowners in Ireland? I speak not only for the unfortunate landowners, but for their families, for the family charges upon their estates, for the mortgagees, numbers of whom, living in England and Scotland, have the greater part of their fortunes vested in Irish land. If it be the fact that the Irish landlords are in danger of being unjustly dealt with by 159 the process of rent-fixing which will be set up under this Bill, all those other people have some claim also to the fair, and frank, and impartial consideration of this House. How does the case stand at the present moment? The amount the Irish landlords now receive in the way of rents is £10,000,000 a year, which is a very small sum as compared with the rental of England or of Scotland. At present, after the Land Act of 1881 has been in operation for some 12 years, and when every tenant in Ireland has had an opportunity of going into the Courts established by that Act to have a fair rent fixed, the sum at which the rental of the Irish landlords is settled is £10,000,000. Of course, if the positions of the Sub-Commissioners were hold by men who agree with the principles adopted by the Nationalist Party as regards the land, very probably that £10,000,000 would have been further reduced by 30, 50, or 80 per cent. It must not he supposed that I am stating an exaggerated figure simply on my own account, because if the Members of the Nationalist Party are actuated now by the same views as they held in the time of Mr. Parnell and the Land League, and had the power in their hands, I have high authority for saying that the reduction would have been much greater than it was. I remember the Prime Minister in 1881—when the right hon. Gentleman was in close and sharp conflict with Mr. Parnell—describing the doctrine of the Land League as a doctrine of public plunder, and saying that the proposal was to reduce a rental of £17,000,000 to between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. Will hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway denounce the principles then laid down by the late Mr. Parnell, and rightly denounced by the Prime Minister as the doctrine of public plunder? By the constitution of the Land Commission the Commissioners have to deal with the most delicate and intricate questions of both law and equity; and it is of the highest importance that men of judicial experience, as well as of ability and impartiality, should be selected for the positions. The Sub-Commissioners have practically in their hands the decisions in regard to the rent which the landowner shall get, and the price he shall receive for the sale of his land. It may be said there is the power 160 of appeal; but, in reality, that appeal affords no protection, because, after all, the Head Commissioners can only see these farms through the eyes of the Assistant Commissioners and Land Valuers; and though it may be true that the Head Commissioners can hold on to their offices, there is no doubt that the Sub-Commissioners may be dismissed the day after the Bill has passed into law. In point of fact, these Sub-Commissioners will be "removables" in a truer sense than the Resident Magistrates. The Irish Executive will have the power at any time of dismissing them. I maintain that the basis of the Act of 1881 was the perfect impartiality of the tribunal which was to decide the questions of rent and sale. It was made a cardinal condition at the time that the men who were to apply the Act should be men of unquestioned impartiality. I remember very well that, as the Bill was passing through this House, appeals were made for compensation for those landlords who might suffer under the operation of the Act; and even many of the supporters of the Prime Minister at the time urged on him to consider the propriety of affording compensation to such landlords. Sir Walter Barttelot proposed an Amendment to give to landlords who considered they might be very injuriously affected by the operation of the Act the power of selling their estates to a Commission appointed for the purpose. The Prime Minister resisted the Motion, and said—The judicial rents can only be fixed on the statutory terms, and can only be established according to the judgment of a dispassionate and impartial body, who shall have to decide between man and man according to the facts proved before them.But can any man, knowing the principles which hon. Members below the Gangway had over and over again declared in regard to the land, honestly believe that, if the Bill passes, and the appointment of the Land Commissioners is in the hands of the Irish Legislature, the Land Commission will stand as an impartial, just, and fair-minded tribunal between the landlords and tenants of Ireland? I will not call up the sayings of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. The Chief Secretary said that this language was used when the movement was commenced, which is now drawing 161 to a close. I entirely agree that when the movement was commenced the minds of men were greatly excited. But what first gave abiding force to the Home Rule movement were the promises held out to the tenant fanners, who could not otherwise be induced to take a substantial interest in the matter of prairie value for the laud, and the abolition of landlordism altogether. These promises have been the force which has carried on the movement to the present day, and are, indeed, the meaning of the solid support given in Ireland to a Bill which, in many other respects, is unsatisfactory to the Nationalist Party. There can be no doubt about it. What is the use of arguing whether or not we ought to give £500,000 to the Irish Government to enable them to carry on their business, when by no Act of Parliament at all, but by the appointment of Sub-Commissioners, they will have the power of dealing at one sweep with £ 10,000,000 a year. Ever since the Act of 1881 has been passed, there have been complaints on the part of the landlords and on the part of tenants; but both parties always relied on recovering in this House justice, and a fair hearing of their complaints. But can the same trust be reposed in the Irish Legislature? In accordance with the propositions they again and again laid down, the Nationalist Members, if they are in power, will be bound to make efforts to reduce rents in a way that would never be tolerated in this House, and the landlords of Ireland will have no protection against injustice and wrong any more in the Legislative Council than in the Legislative Assembly, for, so far as the Legislative Council is concerned, 70 to 80 per cent, of the electors will be tenant farmers waiting for the redemption of the promises made to them. That is the main ground on which I claim that the appointment of the Land Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners should be retained by the Imperial Parliament as a guarantee of justice and impartiality to all classes. The Chief Secretary said a proposal to restrict the appointment of Sub-Commissioners to this House for three years, while the House retains control of the Land Question, might be the subject of argument; but he thought it absurd to continue the appointment of Sub-Commissioners to this House after 162 the power of dealing with the land had passed to the Irish Legislature. The right hon. Gentleman, when challenged upon the point, said that these rights—so I understood him—would be protected under the provisions of Clause 4 of this Bill. Well, Sir, I cannot help thinking that that is wholly illusory. But that does not affect the question before us now, because, without, the Irish Legislature having the question before them at all, appointments could be made by the Executive, and the trick would be done. Well, now, turning to the Land Purchase Act of 1891, the operation of that Act, wherever—in every part of Ireland—the Nationalists have power, has been paralysed since its introduction by the hopes hold out to the people of the better things that would be obtained under an Irish Legislature. I will just quote one sentence from a gentleman who has great influence over the farmers of Ireland. Mr. Davitt said, in August, 1887, that he wanted to warn the tenantry of Ireland against any plan of settlement introduced by the Imperial Parliament as certain to be in favour of the landlords; that the 20 per cent, reduction then granted would lie no permanent relief to Irish industry, but would, 10 years hence, be a burden; and that the farmers would be false to themselves if they trusted to anybody but the Irish nation, represented in a National Parliament in Dublin. If that is the advice to which the Irish farmers attach importance, surely we will only be giving it ten-fold force by entrusting not only to an Irish Legislature the power to treat of the relations between landlord and tenant, and also to the Irish Executive the appointment of these Commissioners. I must not pursue this subject further. It is outside the limits of the argument which I venture to submit to the House as to how the landlords would be affected by the Irish Executive of the future. We were told in 1886 that these men were entitled to the greatest consideration; we were told in 1886 that the history of Ireland had imposed upon the English people a duty—that they were in honour bound to the English garrison, as they were called, in Ireland. They relied upon England, and England relied upon them; and I ask any impartial man is it fail—is it justice— to the class thus described to hand them 163 over to the Legislature and Executive it is now proposed to set up? If you do, then I say history will think in regard to the English people that they were persuaded by the eloquence and personal character of one great Minister to depart from and repudiate those claims of honour and justice which he himself so eloquently defended.
§ *MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said, there was one characteristic of the arguments from the Unionist side which struck him very forcibly, and that was that the speakers devoted themselves to dealing with the Irish Parliament, and what it would do when it was formed. All this, however, must be based upon surmise and prophecy. For his part, he preferred to deal with the object set forth in the clause before the House, and to see how this Parliament had administered the Laud Act. It was comparatively easy to examine the Land Act of 1881 and its administration. If they got before their eyes a picture of the Chief Lay Commissioner they had an idea of the spirit that animated the whole administration. The appointment of one showed them the character of all the appointments. The Legal Commissioner only dealt with points of law. It was not necessary to introduce Party, for the appointments of the Liberals had been as bad as those of the Tories, nor to enter into any personal question or to name any of the Judges. It was only necessary to consider the class of man who was appointed as Chief Commissioner. But before doing this let us inquire what was the duty cast upon the Courts? It was to arbitrate in disputes between landlords and tenants: 288,000 rents had been fixed, affecting 1,500,000 of the agricultural population of Ireland, and relating to some £5,000,000 of rent; and it was to be remembered that the other half of the population wore indirectly affected by the decisions arrived at. And who were the men appointed to this duty? They were simply land agents. The occupation of such agents was to get as much rent as they could out of land. If he were inclined to press the point, he should describe them as sweaters of the Irish people. And they were not only employed in this way on their own behalf, but often had made loans of money which practically gave them a proprietorship of 164 other lands. These were the class of men appointed as Chief Commissioners. What were the results of these appointments? The results had been referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). He did not wish to say anything regarding the hon. and gallant Member, since he was not in his place; but he would tell the House that the first Chief Commissioner appointed was the hon. and gallant Member's own agent for many years, and when he became Commissioner his son became agent in succession to him. The gentleman so appointed would have been more than human if he did not remember his old connection with the estates, and that in dealing with the cases brought before him, in making reductions for every £1 he took off he would be taking 1s. or 2s. per annum out of his own son's pocket.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
wished to ask the hon. Member when had the late Mr. Vernon, to whom he alluded, dealt with cases from that estate?
§ MR. LOUGH
said, he could only say that as Chief Commissioner he had the power of dealing with them on appeal. He was not a lawyer, and he might be wrong. [Cries of "Quite right!" and "Order!"] That, at least, was his impression. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had stated that the reductions in Ireland were 15 per cent, less than wore given willingly by English landlords. That was a very remarkable admission coming from the hon. Member, and how far this result might have been achieved by the character of these appointments he left the House to judge. He wished, however, to take a wider view of the question. There could be no doubt that the Land Act of 1881 had been administered in the landlord interest. The total reduction was practically as stated—20 per cent.; and if the rents in England were reduced 35 per cent., 50 per cent, would have 165 been a fairer reduction in Ireland, and that was the reason that so much dissatisfaction had been expressed in this House and in the country. The reductions were so unsatisfactory that an amending Act was brought in in 1887 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member For East Manchester (Mr. A. J. Balfour) giving a further reduction of from 5 to 10 per cent, on the judicial routs.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, it was not, for, as a matter of fact, in some cases there was an increase of rent.
§ MR. LOUGH
said, such cases were very few. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would find that the effect of the Act was to reduce the rents all round from 5 to 10 per cent. As such a large proportion of the people had been affected directly by the Act, he thought that it would not be unfair to trace any great movements which had affected the Irish populations during the period to the operation of these Acts. The first movement he observed was that the rate of decrease in the population had been doubled. This decrease was only 4 per cent, from 1871 to 1881; from 1881 to 1891 it increased to 9 per cent. Then with regard to pauperism; in 1876, with a population of 5,250,000, there were 250,000 people relieved; whereas, in 1888, during the administration of the Act of 1881 and the Act of 1887, with a population of 5,000,000, pauperism stood at 525,000— a proportion of 11 per cent, of the inhabitants. Then the administration of these Acts had been extremely costly. It cost more than £100,000 per annum, and it had brought a crowd of lawyers into the country towns which they could very well have done without. All this was to reduce the rents to Griffith's valuation; and that result might have been effected by a stroke of the pen, instead of the institution of this elaborate Commission with all its machinery. The greatest blot upon the Act was the sense of wrong produced in the minds of the people. The pool Irish farmer was brought into the Land Court to get his case fairly considered, and looking at the Bench he saw there sitting as his judge 166 the very man against whose oppression he had come to appeal. [Cries of "Name!"]
§ MR. LOUGH
said, the next question to which he asked their attention was— Did this pay the landlord? Only a reduction of 20 per cent. had been made. He considered it would have paid the landlord better if it had been 50 per cent. The landlord did not collect the judicial rents any easier than he did the old rents. There was still the six months gale, and the Rent Office expenses were the same as before. It was now a recognised principle in many estates to make a regular reduction of these rents. Indeed, the net result was simply to re-establish the old rack-rents under another name. That was very unfortunate for the laud-lord; and if the Judges had acted in a different spirit, granting an adequate abatement, it would have been better for him now. They had got a standard in Ireland that enabled them to estimate the fairness or unfairness of rents since 1870. Since that year sales of laud on a large scale had been taking place in Ireland, and it was possible to estimate the fairness or unfairness of the annual rent by the number of years' purchase that was given for the land. If the annual rent was high, the purchase would be low; while if the annual rent was low, the number of years of purchase given would be high. In 1870 to 1876 land sold at 22⅔ years' purchase; in 1876 to 1880 at 22⅓ years—that was under the old rents. Under the judicial rents land purchase recommenced in 1886, and in that year they had 18 years' purchase, the average price all over Ireland; in 1887, 17½ years'; in 1888, 17 years'; and in 1889, 16½ years'. And during the last 15 months still lower prices ruled. In Munster, to March, 1893, the rate was 154 years'; Leinster, 16 years'; Connaught, 13 years'. I hat covered the whole country except part of Ulster. In these three Provinces the average that could now be obtained for these judicial rents was only 15 years' purchase. He thought that if large sales were pressed they could not be effected at more than 167 14 years' purchase; perhaps the rate would even be only 12 years. So that they found that the landlords had created for themselves a very bad market—a worse one than they would have had to face had the Judges acted differently. He took a single ease as an illustration. Suppose a farm, of which the judicial rent would be £25; the reduction of 20 per cent, would make it £20; this, at 14 years' purchase, would be £280. Now if, instead of the reduction to £20 this rent had been reduced to £12 10s., and that £12 10s. had been sold at 24 years' purchase, the farm would realise £300. He thought he had stated the case fairly, and shown that, by the course they had taken, the landlords had depressed the buyers and spoilt the market. They had made land almost unsaleable the very moment when they themselves wanted to sell. He was anxious, before sitting down, to refer to a point made by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Carson) the other night, as to the position of the English taxpayer. The hon. and learned Member's view seemed to him an extremely curious one. The learned Member wished to show that it was in the interest of the English taxpayer for the tenant to pay, and the landlord to receive, a high price for the laud. But surely if the English taxpayer had only the security of the land for his money, the more cheaply the land was bought the better. Again, there were only a few landlords, and they would disappear; but the Irish tenant must remain; and if his condition was improved, he would be a larger consumer of English goods, so that the British taxpayer would make a larger profit from him. The interests, therefore, of the British taxpayer did not coincide with those of the Irish landlord, but of the tenant. He thought, in these circumstances, they would be justified in rejecting the clause. The matter might be left to the Irish Legislature. It could not, even if it administered these Acts in favour of the tenants, do worse than had been done by this Legislature. It would then only bring the question to a just balance, for this Legislature's administration had been in favour of the landlord. His opinion was that the Irish Legislature would be warned by the unfortunate experience of this House and avoid prejudice in favour of one side or 168 the other, and that it would be their effort to insure for the law a fair and impartial administration.
§ MR. ROSS (Londonderry)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down appeared to be fond of statistics; but he could not regard otherwise than as extraordinary the results he had adduced from the statistics he had quoted. He could not help expressing his astonishment that the hon. Gentleman should have proceeded to make an attack upon a gentleman of the standing of the late Mr. John E. Vernon—a man of such high character that his appointment to a Chief Commissionership was universally accepted. The hon. Gentleman spoke of Mr. Vernon as a land agent, and said he tried to get as much rent as possible out of the people—he went further, and called him a sweater.
§ MR. ROSS
said, he did not know what the hon. Member meant by talking of a sweater with some restraint; but he did say that the word was used by the hon. Member in describing the late Mr. Vernon, when he was speaking of him as the late agent of his hon. and gallant Friend. The hon. Member went on to make the further charge that Mr. Vernon's son succeeded him in the agency; and that, in dealing with rents, Mr. Vernon acted upon the principle that he might be taking so much out of the pocket of his son. The fact was, however, admitted that Mr. Vernon never fixed any rents on this estate. The hon. Member said he was born on the estate; but what right had he to make that insinuation against a man who was dead, and who had enjoyed the confidence of 169 the Prime Minister—[Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE signified assent]—a man who was appointed to his office in the middle of a burning agitation, and who, in such circumstances, was chosen to be at the head of this inquiry into that great question in Ireland? The hon. Member might accuse Mr. Vernon; but he could not bring forward any evidence to sustain his accusation. He noticed that when the hon. Member was going to make some astounding and preposterous statement he always prefaced it by saying, "It would be generally admitted." In accordance with this practice, he said it would be generally admitted that the Laud Acts were administered solely in the interests of the landlords. He (Mr. Ross) thought he remembered such a body — meeting continuously — as the Waterford Commission, which attacked the Sub-Commissioners, and said the landlords were being robbed by the method of fixing the fair rents under the Land Act of 1881. The hon. Member, to prove that rents were unfairly fixed in 1881, said—"You yourselves had to pass an Act of Parliament in 1887, under which you reduced all rents." Of all the absurd statements of the hon. Member this was about the most absurd. What happened in 1887? There had been a certain fall in the price of some commodities and a rise in others; and, inasmuch as the rents had been fixed at a time when those commodities were at a different price, an Act of Parliament was passed which worked upon a sliding scale in respect of the rents fixed in the several years, the effect of which was to raise the rents in some cases and lower them in others. He quite admitted that the general result all round was to lower the rents. But what became of the hon. Gentleman's argument? Was the procedure under the Act of 1887 any admission that the rents were fixed in 1881 too high? Not at all, because the whole ground of the Act of 1887 was that a serious and unprecedented depreciation in the value of some commodities had occurred. The hon. Member said that the poor tenant, on being brought into Court, found himself face to face with his greatest, euemy— meaning his landlord. He called upon the hon. Member for names, and he said that these charges should not be made unless they could be substantiated. The 170 hon. Gentleman, by dealing in his own peculiar and unique manner with statistics, proceeded to show that rents were fixed a great deal too high, and he said that if landlords had only accepted less rents they would have got more of them.
§ MR. ROSS
Very well. How did the hon. Member show this? He said that some years ago the landlords' interest in land sold for 25 years' purchase, but lately it had only sold for 16½ and 13½ years' purchase. He could tell the hon. Member that land had sold for very much less even than that. But how was that a test? These latter sales took place when the whole of the landlords' interest was in peril; it was at that stage of the agitation when landlords in the South of Ireland were glad to get rid of their laud almost at any price, in face of the threats which had been held out by the Irish Nationalist Members as to what they would do when they got Home Rule. The hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) was, unfortunately, not in his place. He always noticed when that hon. Member had a particularly bad case he proceeded to his favourite weapon of personal abuse. Personal abuse was a weapon within the meanest capacity, and was not worthy the hon. Member for North Louth. But what had that got to do with the question? No matter what subject might be before the House, the hon. Member must have his customary fling at Lord Ashbourne and his familiar kick at Lord Londonderry. What on earth had that got to do with the admittedly serious question before the House? They (the Opposition) said that this clause was a very real test as to whether all sense of fair play and justice had left that House or not, because if it had been stated a few years ago that the Land League were to be the people to appoint the Sub-Commissioners the whole of the civilised world would have laughed. But that was the very thing that was seriously proposed now by the Bill as it stood. If in 1879 or 1880 anybody had suggested that the Laud League should appoint the Sub-Commissioners, the Prime Minister would have said that such a proposal was insane, yet that was the very thing the right hon. Gentleman was 171 now doing. He failed altogether to understand the position taken up by the Government on this question. They had admitted, by their retaining the Irish Land Question for the next three years, that the Irish Legislature were not to be trusted with the Land Question, otherwise what was the meaning of the reservation? Did it not mean that the Members who would compose this Irish Legislature had been mixed up in this matter too much to be trusted to deal with the question at all? If the Government admitted they were not to be allowed to deal with the question directly, why did they give them permission to deal with it indirectly? They admitted there was a duty and responsibility upon them. What was the measure of that duty and responsibility? He took the words of the Prime Minister. On the subject of the Irish landlords who had been so much abused that day, it was well to recollect some words from one whom they would all respect. The right hon. Gentleman, in 1886, described this as an obligation of honour and of policy, and then said—I have the honour of knowing myself many Irish landlords who are an honour to the class to which they belong. I hope that what I have said will show that in quoting the mournful testimony of history I do not seek to make them personally responsible for difficulties and for evils of which they are the victims rather than the cause.Then he went on to say—It would be like giving over to Ireland the worst part of her feuds, and confronting her with the necessity for efforts which would possibly be hopeless, but which, at any rate, would be attended with the most fearful risks.… I have shown you how terrible the subject of the land is in itself.… Why is Great Britain to be cumbered with this subject? Are we bound to cumber ourselves with it? Is it an obligation of policy, and a dictate of honour? I am satisfied that the House, however reluctant —it cannot be more reluctant than we are—if it be an obligation of policy, if it be a dictate of honour, and still more if it be partly the one and partly the other, will not shrink from any duty which these considerations may entail.… But I must point out that the obligation on our part has been admitted already.… I may name another consideration, which is not one of honour but of prudence.That was the measure of the obligation and duty admitted in those eloquent words by the Prime Minister. Had that obligation passed away? Had that duty become lessened? Then, into whose hands was the right hon. Gentleman 172 putting this all-important power of fixing fair rents? He would not go back to speeches made by hon. Members below the Gangway very long ago, though he was far from admitting that the Chief Secretary's answer was a good one when he said that these speeches were made under a real grievance, and that they were speeches of men made in time of excitement. The excitement and fever had lasted an extraordinary time. It was a chronic fever, which would last to the very end of time. The language he would quote showed the purpose and views of hon. Members below the Gangway. He would take the language of one who always expressed himself with great ability and clearness. The hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton), speaking on March 8, 1893, said—I submit to you also that if the Irish landlords know that at the end of three years the Irish Legislature will have power to make a law upon the land, the effect upon their conduct will be important if not conclusive, for there is no way for a landlord to get out of his position except by the sale of his lands to his tenants, and to no other persons, for no other persons will buy it. In that condition of things I think the prospect of legislation at the end of three years will induce the Irish landlords to be probably reasonable, possibly even liberal. Moreover, within that period of three years it is extremely likely that the prospect immediately before them will induce many Irish landlords to sell to their tenants upon reasonable terms.What did too hon. Member mean by "the prospect immediately before them"? Surely to any man of reason that must mean the prospect of confiscation, the proposal of losing all their interest in their land.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
The hon. Gentleman must not hold me responsible for his imagination. I had before me when I made that speech the fact that the tenant-farmers of Ulster generally desired compulsory purchase, and I notice that no Ulster rural Member has as yet spoken in this Debate. The tenant-farmers, as I have said, desired compulsory purchase, and I had in view the fact that any prospect of passing an Act for the compulsory purchase of land might induce the landlords within these three years to make voluntary transactions.
§ MR. ROSS
thought that the persons who attended that meeting would naturally arrive at the conclusion that the landlord's interest was disappearing. What 173 was making it disappear? The setting up of Home Rule in Ireland; and although ho, of course, accepted what the hon. Member said was his meaning, still he thought most of the persons who heard the hon. Member's speech would think the prospect immediately before them was the annihilation of the landlord's interest. [Mr. SEXTON: No, no!] However, he had not to depend merely upon the words of the hon. Member for North Kerry, who always spoke in a very guarded and accurate manner. But there were many more who had spoken. He would quote from a speech of the late Mr. Harris, Member for East Galway, delivered in the year 1877. He said—I am not going to indulge in a No-Rent Manifesto. That was put to the people before, and if they had adhered to that great programme, there would be no landlords in Ireland to-day; but they had not the courage to do that. But we put a programme before you that will lead to that result, that will first take one slice, and then a second, and we will keep slicing at it until nothing remains.Then there was the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who in the year 1880 said—With 300,000 Irishmen enrolled as members of the Land League, all the armies of England would not levy rent in this country.That was the hon. Member's description of the policy of the Land League. He was afraid the hon. Member for East Mayo had not withdrawn from the position lie had there taken up, because in a speech reported in The Freeman's Journal of 8th August, 1893, the hon. Member said—Landlordism still in Mayo is a force for evil, and believe me I speak of what I know when I say that if the idea spreads for a single moment that the people were going to turn their backs on the principles of the old Land League that, bad as landlordism is to-day, it would be twenty times worse if you were to weaken the power of national organisation.["Hear, hear!"] The sentiment was cheered by hon. Members below the Gangway. That showed that not only did the hon. Member for East Mayo continue strong in the faith, but all his followers below the Gangway heartily agreed with him. They were told by the hon. Member for North Louth that he was quite as impartial as any of them, and that he might be relied upon to appoint Sub-Commissioners who would hold the scales fairly between the landlord and tenant. The hon. Member for North Louth, in the year 1882, said— 174We believe that landlordism is the prop of English rule, and we are working to take that prop away.Later on he said—…We wish to get rid of British rule in Ireland. Landlordism is the prop of that rule, and must be abolished.Again, on October 9, 1887, the same hon. Member said—When I go about the country, and when I see the big houses empty and untenanted and rotting, I say to myself, 'Glory be to God that I have lived to see this day!'This was the hon. Gentleman who was free from anything like malignity, and who would have a judicial frame of mind in appointing Sub-Commissioners. The hon. Member for Louth fell with great fury upon Mr. Le Poer Trench, who would be admitted, by every person who practised in the law in Ireland, to be one of the fairest and most upright lawyers they ever had. He had never before heard the slightest suggestion that Mr. Trench would be partial, and the statement that he was Lord Clancarty's brother was altogether unfounded. Here was what was said by the Member for North Leitrim at a meeting in County Sligo on October 16, 1892—Before I say a word on the question of the reduction of rent, allow me to say that I hold the opinion that there should be no rent paid to the landlords at all. I hold that the land of this country was created for the use and benefit of those who till it, and until that question is settled—as it must be settled soon—there can be no peace, as between landlord and tenant, in the country.These were the statements of the gentlemen who were to appoint the Sub-Commissioners. He could not really imagine how the Government, having spoken as they had in the past, could fail to see what an outrageous injustice and hardship would be created if they did not accept this clause, either wholly or in part. He quite admitted there was great force in what the Chief Secretary said as to preventing the Irish Legislature touching the land for all time; but here was a subject brought to their attention, and it was clear the Irish Members thought landlordism was itself something in the nature of a crime or felony. How otherwise could they account for their supporting the Plan of Campaign, which every lawyer in Christendom would say was illegal, and which the highest authorities of all the Churches denounced as immoral? Yet they justified the 175 Plan of Campaign. How could the appointment of Sub-Commissioners be handed over to these men, who would be absolutely the masters of the situation? Of all the judicial persons in the world a Sub-Commissioner was the most irresponsible. He could put what value he liked on the laud without giving rhyme or reason for his decision, and it was a difficult thing to raise any rent or lower any rent when once it had been fixed by the Sub-Commissioners. [Mr. BODKIN said it was a very common thing.] It was extremely difficult to effect any change in the question of value, because the Chief Commissioners said the Sub-Commissioners had been to the place and had investigated the whole situation, and they would not reverse the decision of the Sub-Commissioners unless they had gone wrong on some point of law, or unless the Chief Valuer—and he did not suppose such an official would exist under the new régime—reported that the rent had been fixed at a ridiculously low figure. Even if hon. Members were relying on the Court of Appeal, how could the Court of Appeal ever do the work? They would require 200 Sub-Commissioners, and how could three Chief Commissioners ever hope in any way to overtake the amount of work that would be thrown upon them? and, of course, the expense to the landlords would be simply ruinous. To appoint members of Trade Unions in England to compulsorily fix the wages they were to receive from employers was not so absurd as what the Government were doing, because they were actually giving over the appointment of Sub-Commissioners to the Party whose declared aim and object was to destroy and ruin the landlords. He said that the proposal of the Government was unfair, not merely to the landlords, but to the Legislature it was proposed to set up, because a temptation would be put before them which they could not resist. Fancy what would happen to a Member of Parliament who secured the appointment of a Sub-Commissioner favourable to the landlords! He would be at once ejected from his seat, whilst what would happen to the Sub-Commissioner who did not comply with the wishes of the tenants was exemplified by the way in which the Lord Mayor of Dublin was dislodged the other day for some mistake 176 in his social functions. He appealed to the Government, if they wished to retain any reputation for fair play or justice, to deal with the important question placed before them in this clause.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE(who was imperfectly heard) (Edinburgh, Midlothian)
said: I think the House will admit that since the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) this Debate has travelled over a field very greatly wider than that defined by the terms of the Amendment. The right hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket), who found great fault with the Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) for certain parts of his speech, not only discussed the Laud Question at large, but he also went into the question of the relation of the land to Home Rule, and he said there would have been no Home Rule Question if it had not been for the land. Before addressing myself to the Amendment there is one word the House will consider I am not only justified, but bound to say upon the subject of the character and appointment of Mr. Vernon. It has been said with truth that Mr. Vernon enjoyed the confidence of the Government that appointed him, and of which I had the honour to be the head. Appointments of a secondary character are not matters in which the British Cabinet intervenes, but unquestionably the appointment of Mr. Vernon was an appointment of such importance that it would be most dishonourable on my part to evade any part of the responsibility of that appointment. I am not able to speak with accuracy of all that took place in connection with the Commissioners after the appointment of Mr. Vernon; but as to Mr. Vernon, he was a man not so much to he considered as a person of standing in connection with a particular estate as he was a man who enjoyed largely and widely the confidence undoubtedly of the landlord class in particular, but also of the community at large. He was a person who was held in the highest and even exceptional respect, and it was in that view that the office of Commissioner was conferred upon him without his seeking, and my recollection is that, on the contrary, he was very reluctant to accept the office. Contented with the position he held, and extremely unwilling to put himself into 177 a more forward position; and if he was induced to accept the office it was in consequence of the pressure of the Government upon him, for we believed, whether rightly or wrongly, that his appointment was one that would have the effect on the one hand of preventing violent hostility from the entire landlord class in Ireland, while on the other hand, so far as we knew, he was a person who was not suspected of anything like intentional unfairness against the Nationalist Party. His conduct was very strongly attacked in 1882, but that was the only concerted and violent attack made upon those who worked the Act. The attack was made in the House of Lords under the name of appointing a Committee of Inquiry. We also had a strong attack made in this House, upon Mr. Forster and his appointment of Assistant Commissioners, which Mr. Forster gallantly and successfully defended. Now I come to the question which is immediately before us, and I hope I can confine myself pretty closely to the question. As I understand the matter, my right hon. Friend has fairly stated his case. His contention is that if the Irish Legislature and an Executive enjoying the confidence of the Irish Legislature is invested with the appointment of the Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners that these will be gentlemen who will pay no regard whatever to the specifications of the law, but will proceed entirely on their own absolutely uncontrolled opinion as to an original injustice of Irish landlordism, and administer the law in that spirit with utter and total disregard to every legal obligation. Now, what are the proofs that have been produced of that heavy charge? My hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) met the challenge of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). Did he accept the doctrine that five years' purchase on a prairie value were the limit of the landlords' fair rights? My hon. and learned Friend stated, in the most explicit language, that what he wanted was a fair construction and fair application of the Act of 1881. He stated that if that Act were so applied, and if it presented the prairie value, then he was for prairie value; but if prairie value meant anything less than the value which was the fair construction of the Act, he was not 178 for it. A speech has been produced of a Mr. Harris, now dead. Undoubtedly a very violent speech, in which Mr. Harris said he would come for a slice this year, next year, and the year after, until there was nothing left. But who was Mr. Harris? Undoubtedly he was an Irish Member, but he was not a leading Irish Member. I am bound to admit that the hon. Member succeeded in quoting another Irish Member, who now sits in this House, and who had propounded doctrines as to the payment of small rent and no rent at all, and who said he was inclined to the doctrine of no rent at all; but these are doctrines from which I dissent in the strongest manner. These doctrines, whether of the dead man or of the living man, I conceive to be subversive and dangerous. I believe that Mr. Harris never occupied a position as a leading Member of the Irish Nationalist Party, and my impression is that the hon. Member, the living Member, the single living Member, who has been quoted with any sort of approach to effect, is also a gentleman who has been without experience in Parliament, who probably represents that excited feeling which had undoubtedly called for, if not justified by, the past history of the Land Question in Ireland. As a charge against the sentiments and judgments of those who possess the confidence of the Nationalist Party, they have, so far as the present Debate is concerned, in my opinion entirely broken down. As to the question of the interpretation of the Act, I know that the most monstrous charges are made, and it is right and necessary for us to meet them with the exposition of what are their true character. I have very little hope of making any impression upon the minds of those who sit opposite, but at least I am able to point out that they have succeeded in showing, with regard to one gentleman, now dead, and another now living and occupying a seat in this House, that he holds opinions about rent in Ireland that we are not able to justify, which have not received from us any countenance, and never would receive from us any countenance whatever. Is it really to be a condition of the action of any political Party that no such thing is ever tolerated in it as the utterance of violent opinions? Are you ready to have that test applied to yourselves? What are 179 the doctrines of armed resistance? They are quite as strong as those of prairie value and no rent. Are you in a position to take the mote out of the Nationalist eye and not regard the beam in your own —in the eye not of a dead Member of Parliament, not in the eye of a new-born Member of Parliament, not of men unknown in your ranks, but of your very Leader? The isolated offences of individuals for which you seek to hold the Nationalist Party strictly responsible furnishes a strong contrast to the language used by your Leaders about resistance to the law—language which I believe you will ere long sincerely and cordially regret. [A laugh.] I merely give my opinion. To some gentlemen opposite it appears ridiculous; but it is my belief that there will not be adhesion to these most revolutionary, most disorderly, and most unpatriotic doctrines. My answer is that we have no right to impute this general untrustworthiness to those who now represent the Irish Nationalist Party, nor have we a right to impute it to the Irish people. I do not deny that there is excitement, or that there has been excitement about the Land Question in Ireland; but this I will say: that I believe if we look back over the history of this country the Irish people have been, upon the whole, the best rent-paying people in the world. They have paid rents in silence and without complaint for long periods of years, which no other people have done. Therefore, I hold there is no reason why we should accept the proposition that the Irish nation is to be held generally untrustworthy in regard to the eventual form of and administration of the Land Laws. In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), I have no hesitation in saying that we ought to deal with the Irish Land Question within the three years. The Irish Land Question has been from its origin—by which I mean the period anterior to the first legislation in 1870—a question which presented to us a huge mass of entangled difficulties; but we have made a number of successive steps, and by these steps we have achieved a great deal towards the solution of the question. In my opinion, we have made advances since 1881. I do not deny that the Land Act of the late Government is an advance; in fact, the two Land Bills 180 have been most important advances towards the solution of the Irish Land Question, and the question of the purchase and sale of land, which came at a later period, was a still further advance. If the right hon. Gentleman asks me for my judgment, the best opinion I can form is that it would be impossible for Parliament to pass over those three years without some further legislation with regard to Irish land. But after my 61 years of Parliamentary life I cannot speculate on what I might be doing three years hence. Any opinion I might give on the case must be more or less, from the necessity of the case, of an abstract character; nevertheless, it is my deliberate opinion it would be monstrous to bind the House of Commons. I hold that the Irish Legislature would be under the strongest moral and prudential obligations to deal with the subject in the spirit in which my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) dealt with it to-night. I cannot conceive a stronger moral obligation, for, whatever may be said as to the injustice in which heretofore Irish landlordism was rooted, you cannot, after centuries have elapsed, visit on the children the sins of the fathers; and if you did, the injustice would be as gross as that which had been originally inflicted. But are there in the future to be no landlords in this House or in the other House? The case alleged is that these Assistant Commissioners will not look to the provisions of the Act of Parliament they are to administer; they are all to be men who think the landlord has no title to any rent, and would act in their sentence without any regard to the Act. That, in my opinion, is a monstrous supposition. If the Irish Legislature were to appoint Commissioners who would hold such ideas, or who would give effect to such revolutionary ideas, would that escape notice on this side of the water and in this House? Was approval given to such an idea by the Member for Limerick, or by Mr. Davitt in his remarkable speech which adorned and dignified his too short career in this House? So palpable an injustice would not be tolerated or endured for a moment by the people. Therefore, I think there would be ample security for meeting a case which, if, indeed, it did occur, 181 would be a grievous case; but the occurrence of which I, for one, have no anticipation. But there is one little circumstance to which I must venture to remind hon. Gentlemen, and it is that often in this House and out of it we hear a studied attempt to identify the landlord class with the loyal minority. We know what is meant by the loyal minority, but I venture to prophesy that when this matter is so far settled as to give into the hands of the Irish Legislature the management of the Land Question, or which is called the Land Question in this House, the landlord class will do well to reckon with, finding among the most difficult and awkward of those tenants with whom they will have to deal a considerable portion of the loyal minority. I should be very glad to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite give us their opinions on this subject. Do they think the Ulster tenants are satisfied with the present landlords? If they are not satisfied on that point, they would do well to take that circumstance into their view in determining their future course. With regard to the Amendment, I would point out that if you pass such an Amendment as this you would, in the first place, introduce an anomaly that is without justification; and, in the second place, you would introduce a machinery which could never be made permanently workable. Are we to allow the Irish Legislature to make all the laws with regard to the land, and then are we to exclude the Legislature from all influence over the administration of those laws? I am not prepared to take a course that shall abrogate and stultify the very first principle of the Bill by introducing into it a mechanism which proceeds entirely upon the old principle that Ireland is to be governed not by its own free action in its own domestic affairs, but is to be governed by influences brought to bear upon it from beyond the Channel; and that the English Cabinet, without any responsibility to Irish authority, is to determine from year to year and generation to generation who are to be the persons appointed. In my opinion, that would indeed be a very great mistake—a great mistake in the interest of the landlords themselves; and were I in their position I should represent to them that it would be safer to leave the responsibility of these appoint- 182 ments to the domestic Legislature, but using all the means they could to maintain a lively observation from British quarters on what the Irish Legislature did in quittance of that responsibility. That would be a far safer position for the Irish landlord than to introduce into the heart of the Bill an important administrative provision contrary to its spirit; provoking, irritating, and exasperating to Ireland in every point of administration of this vital question, and binding a final farewell to all the hopes we, at any rate, cherish, and failing to give to this Act something in the nature of a solid and permanent settlement. On these grounds I follow my right hon. Friend in offering a decided opposition to the adoption of this Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down began his observations by attacking my right hon. Friend near me, the Member for the University of Dublin, for travelling beyond the scope of this Amendment. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is the first opportunity on this Bill on which the peculiar methods of Parliamentary management adopted by the Government have allowed us to say a word on what, after all, is the vital centre of the Irish controversy— namely, the Land Question. It certainly is not a strange thing that some hon. Members should have been tempted to move slightly beyond the rigid points of the Amendment actually before us. But, while such procedure is excusable, I do not admit that the Opposition have been the offenders. The Prime Minister, who is so anxious for the relevancy of our Debates, and who when he is attacking us is most anxious that ample debate should be allowed, himself dragged in an attack I did not disover on whom, but on those he described as the Leaders of the Unionist Party, for having made certain speeches which he interpreted as an incitement to violence in Ulster. Those speeches may or may not have been made, and the subject is one which may or may not be open to the criticism of the Prime Minister; but what has the criticism to do with the Amendment before the House, and who is guilty of dragging in irrelevant subjects likely to embitter and prolong debate? I freely grant, however, that the right hon. Gentleman was not the chief offender. The 183 chief offender, no doubt, was the hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy), who made a speech most characteristic of him; and if the hon. Member will allow me to give him a piece of advice it will be not to attempt by such speeches to further Government business. It was the kind of speech I have often listened to from the hon. Gentleman, and the kind of speech which, when I sat on the Bench opposite and was anxious for the rapid progress of business, I was frequently obliged to listen to in silence. But on the present occasion I would say that the speech of the hon. and learned Member seemed to me to be almost absolutely irrelevant and characterised by that gross want of taste to which the House is accustomed from that particular quarter, and to be adorned by those attacks on the absent and the dead which the hon. Member is peculiar for. With regard to the greater number of persons the hon. and learned Member dragged into the controversy I do not intend to delay the House. Lord Ashbourne, for example, is capable of taking care of himself; but when the hon. Member attacked a man like Mr. Wrench, who, from his position, is incapable of replying, and when I know those accusations to be absolutely unfounded and totally devoid of a shadow of accuracy, it is necessary that I, who know Mr. Wrench well, and how much he deserves the confidence of every man interested in the impartial administration of the Land Law in Ireland, should defend him from the unwarranted attack of the hon. Member—an attack which I do not care further to qualify. I pass to the speech of the Chief Secretary, on which one word of comment is necessary. The right hon. Gentleman repeated, I am sure in perfect good faith, the criticisms which have been passed so often on the Irish landlords in regard to their conduct since the passing of the Land Act of 1881—criticisms which I believe to be utterly unfounded. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether it is possible to defend the Irish landlords when we see that they ire only compelled by the action of a judicial tribunal to grant those reductions of rent in Ireland which English and Scottish landlords have voluntarily granted. I do not think that is a fair observation. If the Act of 1881 had not been passed, and the Irish landlords had then refused to reduce the 184 rents, they might have been open to criticism; but after this House has produced public machinery for the purpose of revising and reducing rents, how can we blame the Irish landlords for saying—"You have provided machinery; let it work; we are not going voluntarily through the trouble and expense of estimating the precise amount of rents that may be reduced when you have told us that you mean to do so, in so far as justice requires, by machinery of your own creation. Whatever is done, the rents are to be secured to the tenants for 15 years." I think that that answer is conclusive. I confess, if I had been an Irish landlord in 1882, and my tenants had come to me with a request to reduce their rents, I should have said—"I think reduction very desirable, even necessary, looking at the fall in prices and the state of the crops; but the State has provided you with a means of arriving at that result, and I advise you to avail yourselves of it." If I had pursued that course with my Irish tenants I do not think it would have lain in the mouth of anyone—certainly not anyone responsible for the passing of the Act of 1881—to criticise my action.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman throws in an interruption which, if I were to deal with it adequately, would double the length of my speech. He asks me why, under the circumstances, we passed the Act of 1887. If he wants my views on the land legislation of Ireland, I would say that my opinion is that the Act of 1881 was taken in the wrong direction. It unsettled the whole Irish Question and settled nothing. The proper mode of dealing with the Irish Land Question, according to my view, is now, and always has been, by the extension of the scheme of Land Purchase. As the Government, against my protest, insisted on passing the Act of 1881, and against an Amendment which I moved, it became necessary that we should patch up the sinking ship and try and make the machinery work; and though I do not look forward to the particular clauses of the Act of 1887 with any special admiration or affection, I believe they were absolutely necessary as a consequence of the disastrous legislation for which the right hon. Gentle- 185 man and his friends were responsible. That is a parenthesis extracted from me by the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman. I now come to what is the very heart of this matter—"What is the action which we are justified in expecting from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in the appointment of the Sub-Commissioners when they have the power?" How did the Prime Minister deal with that question? The right hon. Gentleman took the speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) and said that two speeches had been dragged to light made by Irish Members —one by a Mr. Harris, now dead, and the other by the hon. Member for Leitrim. The speeches were described by the Prime Minister as deplorable, and speeches of which the Home Rule Party could not in any way approve. He said they were speeches which did not represent the general policy of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland. On the contrary, I maintain that they represent absolutely the policy of those hon. Gentlemen; and if my hon. Friend quoted no other speeches it was not because there were no other speeches to quote. Such speeches abound, and may be found in scores in the evidence given before the Special Commission. I will road one sentence from the finding of the Commissioners. They said—In our judgment the leaders of the Land League … combined together to carry out a system of boycotting, and by a system of coercion and intimidation to promote agrarian agitation against the payment of agricultural rents for the purpose of impoverishing and expelling from the country the Irish landlords, who were styled 'the English garrison.'The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) himself used that phrase,The English garrison.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
He certainly did so—there is no question about it. Put it is a small matter. Who were the persons against whom that verdict was found? I will not read all the names, but in the first column we find these: Mr. Dillon, Mr. Sexton, Mr. J. O'Connor, Mr. W. O'Brien, Mr. T. D. Sullivan, Mr. A. O'Connor, Mr. Harrington, Mr. Justin M'Carthy, Mr. Condon. Let the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, notice that our ease does not depend upon the chance utterances either of Mr. Harris 186 or of the hon. Member for Leitrim. It depends upon a long series of statements of the most influential gentlemen below the Gangway, which have been quoted and investigated ad nauseam, with regard to which no possible doubt can be entertained, and which produced such an impression on the minds of right hon. Gentlemen opposite in happier times, that they came forward and said under such circumstances that it was an obligation of honour to settle the Irish Land Question before Home Rule was granted. That being the evidence on one side, what is the evidence the right hon. Gentleman has brought forward on the other? The only trace of evidence which he alluded to in the whole of his speech was what has fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Louth. And what did he say? That hon. Member said—We only desire to administer and interpret the Act of 1881. The intention of that Act is to give all the improvements to the tenants, and we propose so to interpret the Act that they shall get the value of those improvements and nothing else.What can be fairer, said the Prime Minister, and, indeed, properly interpreted, what could be fairer? But that statement, which appears to be so clear and precise, is, as everybody who has investigated the subject knows perfectly well, full of fallacy and capable of an interpretation which means nothing less than highway robbery. If you are going to argue, as I have hoard many respectable people argue, that the landlord has done nothing, and that the tenant has made all the improvements, such as they are, so that the whole value of the land is produced by the tenant, and, therefore, the tenant ought to pay no rent, I would ask, has it ever occurred to gentlemen who argue in this way that if the land without the improvements is worthless the improvements without the land are worthless? The whole question is how they were to divide, as between landlord and tenant, the fair share which belongs to each. It is not only not just to say that the landlord had no value in his property because the land without improvements is worthless; but it is a grossly absurd doctrine and little short of public plunder, and if the hon. Member for Louth and his friends are going to interpret their policy as accepted by the Prime Minister in that sense, then I say 187 they will not only have a policy which has for its object the impoverishing and driving out of the "English garrison," but they will entirely succeed in that object, and not a single landlord in Ireland will be able to obtain a single atom of that property which on every equitable principle really belongs to him. I want the right hon. Gentleman to realise exactly what are the dangers which we wish to guard against by this Amendment. It being granted, as it must be granted, that the policy of the future Home Rule Government will be an anti-landlord policy, how will that Government be able to carry out its objects? There are three methods or instruments by which that policy may be carried out. It may be done by legislation; it may be done through Executive action; and, unfortunately, under the existing system in Ireland, it may be done by judicial action. With regard to legislation I will say nothing. That is a subject which will, I hope, come up for discussion hereafter. With regard to Executive action, we have already endeavoured, in one of the Amendments moved from this Bench, to make it impossible for the Irish Government by simply refusing protection to prevent landlords from getting their just rights. On that, again, I will say nothing. But the third and the most insidious and dangerous of all these methods is the judicial method, by which, without passing any Act of the Irish Legislature, and without committing any gross breach of Executive duty, it will be possible for the Irish Government slowly to eat up any property of the Irish landlords until everything that the hon. Member for Leitrim in the moment of his most ardent eloquence can desire will be absolutely accomplished. What are the safeguards? The veto is held out as a method of stopping all flagitious legislation; but here the veto cannot step in. With regard to the Executive action, we are told that it is the duty of every officer of the Crown in Ireland to carry out the law, and that there will be a remedy if he fails to do so. But what remedy is there against bad appointments to the Land Commission? The Prime Minister says "keep a lively observation" upon the appointments made by the Irish Executive in the matter of these Sub-Commissioners. Well, I have two 188 observations to make on that argument. The first is, that if we are to keep a lively observation, with the accompaniment of perennial Debates, upon the exercise of patronage by the Irish Government, then we do not get rid of the Irish Question by passing Home Rule. My second observation is, that the liveliest observation carried on by the most critical majority or minority in this House or in the other House could not really guard against this particular danger. How will the qualifications or the fairness of these Sub-Commissioners be adequately dealt with in a Debate across the Table of this House or in the other House? Such things rest, and must always rest, upon the competence and honour of the appointing Government. It would be perfectly vain for us, or any aggrieved Irish landlord in the other House, to get up and say Mr. So-and-So is a bad appointment, for he has expressed certain views as to prairie value which indicate that he is going to rob the landlords. It is impossible to make these observations and produce any effect by them. The mischief will be done by these bad appointments without its being possible for either House by a Resolution, or by any other machinery, to intervene in the least. The fundamental danger of the situation is that we have got a land system in Ireland which is essentially unworkable in the best of times; but if it be workable at all, it is only workable if it is administered by men appointed by an absolutely impartial tribunal. Everything depends upon the nature of the tribunal. If we pass Home Rule, in whose hands will these appointments be left? They will be left in the hands of an Assembly 99–100ths of which depend absolutely upon the tenants' vote. The right hon. Gentleman surprised me a little while ago by his statement that the tenants of Ulster might be disposed to take as extreme a view of the Land Question as the tenants anywhere else, but if that statement is true it is only an additional reason for the Amendment. I do not wish to argue this question as if it were a question between Loyalists and Nationalists. I desire to argue it upon broader grounds; and I say that if you are really going to leave the whole decision as to the value of one great source of property in Ireland to a tribunal which is a monstrous overgrowth 189 of that system, and to say that that tribunal is to be appointed solely by one party to the suit, it will be a monstrous thing to do. If we could conceive ourselves as going back to Grattan's Parliament, in which both Assemblies were composed of landed proprietors, I should say it would be as monstrous a thing to hand over the Land Question to the landlords as it would be now under Home Rule to hand it over to the tenants. Therefore, it appears to me that we have undertaken a most difficult and delicate responsibility with regard to landlords in Ireland. The Act of 1881 was accompanied by promises to those men which cannot be fulfilled unless the Imperial Parliament retains in its hands the administration of that Act. Whether the impartiality of this great Assembly is sufficient to work so difficult a system as the Act of 1881 I very much doubt. The Debate of today is sufficient evidence that both landlords and tenants think themselves aggrieved by its working. Put of this I am certain—that that which is a task almost too bard to be performed by this House is one far beyond the power of any Assembly in Ireland which depends for its constitution, its existence, and its character on the votes of one, and only one, of the two great parties to this suit about the land.
§ MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
wished to make one or two observations, as the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton) had remarked upon the fact that no one representing an Irish Unionist rural constituency had taken part in the Debate. [Cries of "Divide!"] He represented such a constituency; and in reply to the Prime Minister, who said that the Ulster agriculturists would probably be as difficult to deal with as any other farmers, he wished to say that he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. It would be very unfortunate in Ireland to leave the interests of the landlords to any rural Representatives, whether Unionist or Home Rule. They knew that in all the counties of Ireland under the peculiar land system which there prevailed the tenant farmers would be the worst judges of matters in any way affecting the interests of the landlords. He himself should be extremely sorry to have the Land Question left to his own arbitrament, representing his present 190 constituency. He had been returned by the tenant farmers of an agricultural constituency, and he, for one, should be extremely sorry to have to hold the balance between the rights of the landlords and the demands of the tenants. All Ulster Members representing agricultural constituencies had come in at the last election pledged to compulsory sale. It was clear that Members pledged to that were pledged to try and get the Land Question settled and put out of the way, and in their opinion this Parliament was the Parliament to settle the question. [Cries of "Divide!"]
§ SIR T. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, he intended to reserve the remarks he had proposed to make on this subject until a later occasion, but he wished now to correct a mis-statement made by the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy). It was not accurate to say that the late Government had filled the Land Commission with their own nominees. As a matter of fact, the majority of the Sub-Commissioners were appointed by the present Prime Minister.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: — Ayes 138; Noes 173.—(Division List, No. 264.)
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The next Amendment is in the name of the hon. Member for South Londonderry (Sir T. Lea) as follows:—(Elections not to be held on Sunday.)In no ease shall any election to the Legislative Council, the Legislative Assembly, or the Imperial Parliament be held on Sunday.That is not in Order. Sunday elections have been excluded in the Ballot Act. But, however that may be, there will be opportunities for raising the matter in the Bill—possibly on the Sixth Schedule.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, be had given notice to move the following Clause: —(Rights in sea fisheries.)No inhabitant of the United Kingdom shall be deprived of the rights and privileges of equal treatment as regards public sea fisheries, and no person carrying on any special fishing trade or industry shall obtain any undue preference in Ireland or Irish waters so as prejudicially to affect, other persons engaged in the fishing trade, part of whose business may be carried on in some other part of the Queen's dominions.He thought, however, that the Amendment to Section 5 of Clause 4 to be 191 moved by the Chief Secretary would cover the point he had in view, taken in conjunction with Clause 3. Under the circumstances, he would not move his new clause.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
moved the insertion after Clause 5 of the following Clause:—(Resolutions of Privy Council to be signed.)All resolutions taken upon any matter or thing transacted in the Privy Council of Ireland, or in the Executive Committee of such Privy Council, shall be signed by such of the Privy Council as shall advise and consent to the same.He said, his proposal raised a point of high Constitutional Law which he wished had fallen into better hands than his. Its object was to make Ministerial responsibility a reality instead of, as it was at present, a sham. It was now considered that the responsibility of the Cabinet was collective, and that there was no individual responsibility at all. He submitted that if it were wished to enforce responsibility in any department of life the practical and only possible method was to enforce it on an individual and not on a Corporation. When a burglary was committed the authorities did not complain of the abstract criminal classes; they sought out a concrete Bill Sykes with a concrete crow-bar, put him into a concrete prison, and fed him on concrete skilly. If there was one excuse better than another for the new clause he proposed it was that it was no invention of his own. The clause was extracted from the Act of Settlement. When the English people came to make a new contract with a new dynasty they found it necessary to lay down certain Constitutional rules. The provision from which his clause was taken was passed as the result of a solemn decision by a Committee of the House of Commons, that, decision being that before any new limitation of the succession should be agreed to it was necessary to make further security for the rights and liberties of the people. Of course, he knew that the students of the Constitution would at once say that the clause was repealed five years after it was passed. It was repealed, no doubt, because of the inconvenience the Ministry felt might be inflicted on them by the clause, and because they were agreed that they would face anything rather than individual responsibility for their 192 political acts. But the rule laid down in the Act of Settlement was no new thing. It was simply a declaration of what had always been the law of England, and of the rule that had been universally followed till the evil time of the Restoration. Charles II., wishing to be absolute on the French plan, as it was said, and the Ministers being only too ready to second him in his attempt, the idea was first conceived of that Ministerial Body unknown toourlaw—the Cabinet Council, which was invented for the ease and comfort of the King and the Ministers, and as a cover for all their acts, however illegal. The establishment of the Cabinet Council was not, however, allowed to pass without protest in the House of Commons. One Member said that the method of resolving upon things in the Cabinet and then bringing them before the Privy Council for the assent of that Body had not been the method of England, and he added—"If this method be, you will never know who gives advice." Another Member said he had heard that the distinction between the Cabinet Council and the Privy Council was that the Privy Council were such as were thought to know everything and knew nothing, whilst those of the Cabinet thought that nobody knew anything but themselves. Macaulay said of the Cabinet that during many years old-fashioned politicians continued to regard the Cabinet as an un-Constitutional and dangerous Board, and he added that it had continued to be unknown to the law. Hallam said that the Cabinet had no legal existence, and that such responsibility as was attached to it had no tangible character. The last quotation with which he would trouble the House was to the effect that should the policy of these men arouse a popular cry against them and a penalty be demanded, they would invariably enshroud their persons in the dark recesses of the Cabinet, and thus seek to escape the burden of individual responsibility. The old method he had sufficiently indicated by the extracts he had read. The new method was one under which the gravest affairs of State were decided by a Body unknown to the law and incapable of being tracked in any one of its deeds. They constantly had had to discuss allegations as to what had passed on important affairs in the Cabinet. In 1878 193 there was a dispute between Lord Derby and Lord Salisbury on the question of Cyprus, the one contradicting the other, and, as no records were kept, it remained to this day a question as to which of the two statesmen was right. And it would have still so remained even had impeachment depended upon it. They were told that Ministers might be impeached, but how were they going to get evidence for it? The method of impeachment had not been resorted to since the time of Warren Hastings, and in his case it was only successful because it rested, as Burke told them, on records signed by Warren Hastings himself. He could show by quotations—
MR. J. MORLEY
I rise to Order. I wish to know whether the hon. Member is in Order in going into these quotations?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It appears to mo not quite relevant to the clause to go into these matters of by-gone history. I am of opinion that the argument upon the proposed clause could have been put into a very few words.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that he would follow that intimation, and abbreviate his remarks. All he had desired to say on the point was that as in the past, so in the future, signatures would be necessary in case of impeachment. He admitted that he never expected to receive any support for this clause from any Minister or ex-Minister, nor even from anyone with the least hope of becoming a Minister. They would all wish to enshroud themselves in the secrecy of the Cabinet, and to get rid of all responsibility. Hence his proposal would not receive the support it ought to. The subject, however, deserved attention, and this proposal was an attempt to restore the responsibility of the Minister, which alone was the condition for securing the liberties and rights of the people.
Clause (Resolutions of Privy Council to be signed,)—(Mr. Gibson Bowles,) —brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
MR. J. MORLEY
I do not think I need detain the House in opposing a proposition for which the hon. Member admits that he does not expect the sup- 194 port of any responsible Member in the House. It can scarcely be professed that it needs serious treatment. The hon. Member says that a proposal that a Minister who takes part in the Cabinet deliberations shall sign any Resolution that may be carried is ancient law, and part of our ancient Constitution. I affirm, without fear of contradiction, and in spite of the authorities he has cited, that it has not been the law of England for a single day, except during the period it was contained in a clause in the Act of Settlement which never operated, and which, in fact, was promptly repealed. It is interesting, on the threshold of the 20th century, to find a gentleman coming to the House and attempting to revive a proposal which was found almost too strong for the Tories at the beginning of the 18th century. Why did not the hon. Member propose that no Minister holding office under the Crown should have a seat either in that House or in another place?
MR. J. MORLEY
I will not detain the House any longer in explaining that we cannot accept a proposal which the hon. Gentleman himself admits his own Leaders are as unwilling to support as I am.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
rose to move, as a new clause, the following:—(Confidential documents to be removed to London.)On or before a day to be appointed by Her Majesty in Council, and not later than one month before the appointed day, all papers, letters, and other documents of a confidential nature relating to the detection or punishment of crime, the administration of justice, and the treatment of prisoners which at that date shall be in the custody of any department or official in Ireland, shall be removed from Ireland, and shall be handed over to the custody of Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State in London; and such papers, letters, and documents shall not at any time be open to the inspection of any official save with the written permission of Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State.Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, he would not detain the House long in 195 moving this Amendment, as it was possible it would prove acceptable to the Government, because the major part of the proposition, as it stood, was put by him in the form of a question to the Prime Minister, in the early part of the Session, and the right hon. Gentleman gave an answer which seemed to be favourable to the end he had in view. he had put the proposition in the form he now submitted it to the House for two reasons—first, because he did not think the Government had as yet taken any steps to give effect to the object he had at heart; and, in the second place, because there were certain conditions which were essential with a view to carrying out this purpose which could not, of course, be mentioned in the question as he had put it, or in the answer which he had got, and which he was anxious should be brought under the consideration of the Government. The necessity of taking some such steps as he proposed must be obvious to every person who considered the matter dispassionately. He believed he was correct in saying that there was no one so strongly in favour of withdrawing the documents from Dublin than the present Secretary for Scotland, who was Chief Secretary for Ireland at one time. There could be no doubt that if Home Rule were carried there would be an absolute necessity that the continuity of the Post Office in Ireland should be broken to the extent of removing all papers which would compromise persons from the purview of the Irish Government. He attached some importance to the measure by which the course he suggested would be carried out. He thought something more was wanted than that the papers should be merely taken out of the cognisance and control of the Home Department which would be set up in Ireland under this Bill. It was absolutely necessary that a definite pledge should be given to the House that the papers would be removed entirely out of the purview of every person who either directly or indirectly might give some publicity to those papers, or use them to lead to compromising the safety or welfare of any individual. He wished to make it quite clear that he was not speaking alone of those documents relating to information given to the police in the discharge of their onerous duties; because though he felt strongly that they 196 owed a clear and obvious duty to those whom the police might have employed, in whatever form, to assist them in carrying out the Executive work of the Government of Ireland, and though he was clear that while they were not making many friends, they were in great danger of making enemies of those who had been their friends, it was not alone on behalf of those people that he desired to move this clause. It was the duty of all citizens to assist the law—a fact which was sometimes forgotten—by giving information to the police for the purpose of detecting criminals, as well as attending subpoenas and serving on juries. But he had in his recollection many incidents during the past 10 years in Ireland in which persons who, by obeying the positive demands of the Constitution in respect to-carrying out the Criminal Law, had earned the hostility of parties in Ireland, and who would undoubtedly, if those records were placed at the disposal of the new Government, be open to grave and serious risk. He was not exaggerating in this matter, because anyone who was familiar with United Ireland must know that no pains were spared— no trouble was thought too great—in dogging men and women in order to bring up against them anything that might be considered as showing complicity in the carrying out of the law. Then there was another important reason why he proposed this clause. For many years past the Executive had been compelled to take steps not only for the protection of life and property in Ireland, but for the protection of life and property in England, and, for all he knew, a great deal of the information accumulated by the Government in regard to outrages in Great Britain still remained in the archives of Dublin Castle; and it required no argument to show the undesirability of these documents falling into the hands of gentlemen who were more or less indirectly connected with the organisation with which the persons responsible for some of those acts were more or less remotely connected. There was also the danger that if the documents were destroyed there would be an unfortunate lapse in the continuity of their justice, and they might find themselves some future day without some of the essential links that the police ought to have in their hands. He did not suppose that 197 anybody acquainted with the difficulties of Executive Government in Ireland would deny that under Homo Rule there would be the possibility of some of these documents receiving publicity. Everyone must be familiar with the cases of telegrams disclosed and confidential circulars published, showing a regular conspiracy conducted against the officers who were responsible for carrying out under difficult circumstances the duties which justice imposed upon them. He, therefore, was compelled to believe that if the least opportunity were given for the disclosure or purloining of these documents, the documents might become the property of those whose property they ought not to be. There was only one remedy—that was, to remove all such papers out of the power of those persons who would be responsible for the government of Ireland under this Bill, and transferring them to the custody of some English authority, such as the Secretary of State. He begged to move his Amendment.
Clause (Confidential documents to be removed to London,) —(Mr. Arnold-Forster,)—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
I cannot but remember that the hon. Gentleman who proposes this new clause in the year 1886 wrote a letter to a newspaper in which he raised this topic, and in which he said it was bad enough that at that moment all these confidential papers, which he now refers to, were under my supervision and in my power. The hon. Gentleman, who has since, I hope, obtained a better knowledge of things in Ireland, will not think for one moment, under present circumstances, that confidential documents which would compromise those who assisted the Executive Government in their difficult work in Ireland are now in danger of betrayal. But that is only a personal remark in passing. I think the hon. Member will see that his proposed clause is very wide; it would cover all papers and documents relating to the administration of justice and the treatment of prisoners. Surely the hon. Member will agree—and I gathered from 198 his speech he would agree—that it would be an excessive demand to insist upon the transfer to England of all documents. In answer to a question put by the hon. Member on 6th June, the Prime Minister divided the documents into two classes— routine documents and those of a personal, confidential, and secret nature; and he insisted that a distinction should be made between those two classes. Therefore, the hon. Member is really forcing an already open door. There is no difference of opinion as to the undesirability of allowing certain documents to remain in Dublin. I must point out to the hon. Member what he has overlooked, that provision is already made in the 33rd clause of the Bill for thetransfer of such property, rights, and liabilities as to Her Majesty may seem necessary or proper to carry into effect,and that would, of course, cover documents which are the property of Her Majesty. Now, all these papers to which the Motion refers are the property of the Government, and, therefore, it will be for the Government of the day to determine what documents they will and will not transfer. If it were a Tory Government, at all events they would not be likely to transfer compromising documents. A Liberal Government would be bound by the pledge of the Prime Minister, which I myself am quite willing to renew. There is no difference between the hon. Member and ourselves. We already provide for it in the Bill, and under no possible condition of Executive Government in this country can we conceive imperilling and compromising documents would be transferred; and, therefore, I hope the hon. Gentleman will see that the object he has in view will be fully met without this clause.
§ MR. W. KENNY (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
asked to whose custody the documents would be transmitted, supposing the transfer were made?
§ MR. J. MORLEY
That is a matter which I confess I have not considered, but there will be no difficulty, when the time comes, in deciding into whose custody they will be given. It will only be done by the consent of the Secretary of State.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
I admit that the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Arnold-Forster) is probably more competent to deal with an 199 Amendment of this kind and with certain other matters that he has brought before the House—as, for instance, crime in County Clare—than any other Member in the House. The hon. Gentleman had the distinction, if I may so call it, of being personally connected with the Government of Ireland during a memorable period. He had some relations, if not official at least personal, with Dublin Castle at that time, and he is probably well aware—and it is no doubt the inspiring motive of the Amendment—that there are many documents there which will not bear the light. The reasons given by him are curious. First, that the Government had so far not carried out the promise made to him at an earlier date in the Session. But if he could assure us that the House of Lords will pass this Bill we could then, perhaps, see the urgency of this Amendment. So far no such announcement has been made by any person in authority, and therefore, I should suppose, there is plenty of time for dealing with this matter. The hon. Gentleman spoke of documents compromising persons. I must say I felt it rather difficult to reconcile that matter with the Amendment before the House, because in the Amendment he speaks of—Documents of a confidential nature relating to the detection or punishment of crime, the administration of justice, and the treatment of prisoners.I can hardly imagine how a document relating to those matters would compromise anybody. Certainly not the Judges who tried the cases, nor the prisoners who were condemned. The hon. Gentleman contradicted himself in one part of his speech. He claimed that documents relating to crime committed in Great Britain should remain in the custody of the Imperial Government, and that unless such documents remained in such custody the continuity of criminal justice would be destroyed. That is a two-headed argument; for if the documents relating to Great Britain are necessary to secure the continuity of criminal justice in Great Britain, does it not follow that documents relating to crime in Ireland should be retained by the Irish Government for the purpose of securing the continuity of criminal justice in that country? It is quite clear that the documents relating to the detection or punishment of crime, the administration of justice, and 200 the treatment of prisoners will be absolutely required for the purposes of the Government of Ireland. I do not know what documents would be left behind if this Amendment were carried. It even excludes documents which are the necessary tools of any Government, and without which no body of men could enter upon the government of any country. I regard it as an affront on the Irish people, or any Government they might elect, to suggest that the official documents which they would have access to would be used for the purpose of undue disclosure, or anything of the kind. I have no objection whatever to the reply that has been given by the Chief Secretary. I have no doubt that if the Liberal Party are in Office the question will be properly dealt with. Even if the Tory Party were in Office, I do not consider it very likely that they would remove from the custody of the Irish Government any documents necessary for the carrying on of the government of the country. I am at a loss to understand the aim of the hon. Gentleman when he speaks of documents of a confidential nature. In the transaction of the business of every Government there are documents which are absolutely necessary for the conducting of the work of government. If there are any documents in Dublin Castle which were handed in by private informers which, whether they contained true or false information, might expose the persons who sent them in to danger and injury, I would not object to the removal of those documents. My satisfaction would be complete if the authors of these documents left the country with the documents.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, he had in view special communications from persons who had claimed and received protection.
§ MR. SEXTON
I say if there are any persons in Ireland who, during the recent troubled period, sent in letters to Dublin Castle, either giving information or seeking protection, I think, especially seeing that such a state of things has passed away, no reasonable end could be gained by desiring to keep those documents in Dublin Castle, or even in existence. With the exception of documents which would expose the persons who wrote them, and wrote them in the faith and confidence that they would not be 201 disclosed, and who, if they were disclosed, would be exposed to injury and danger—I say that with that exception the punishment of crime, the administration of justice, and the treatment of prisoners are part of the necessary tools of government, and should not be taken out of the hands of the Irish Government. I will make another exception. I should think that this Amendment applies to papers relating to the present generation; and if there be papers in Dublin Chstle, no matter what their character may be, which date before the present generation, and do not concern the present generation, I think they ought not to be destroyed, as they would probably be most useful and interesting from an historical point of view.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
said, he had no doubt that the Chief Secretary had probably examined some of the documents in Dublin Castle, which were open to the perusal of everyone. Some of these documents were of great historic value. They used to be in the custody of Sir Bernard Burke, and he told him (Mr. Mac Neill) that the rule respecting them was this—that he would let anyone look at documents 50 years old, and that anything of a shorter ago was, for public purposes, excluded. He thought the Chief Secretary would agree with him that nothing would be more unjustifiable than the destruction of those documents. The right hon. Gentleman knew very well that many of the greatest problems of Irish history were not thoroughly solved on account of the destruction of public documents by the authorities. The preservation of these documents was of paramount importance, and historians like Mr. Leeky had placed the greatest stress upon that very point. It was no exaggeration to say that on the documents to be seen in Dublin Castle Mr. Leeky and others had obtained the foundation for the histories they had written. Some of the documents were of the very nature that the hon. Member would wish not to be shown to the present generation. There were documents concerning the Rebellion of 1798. It was quite possible that between 1880 and 1891 documents might have been sent up to the Castle by Irish landlords describing the state of the country, and these would be of interest. As regards 202 the documents sent in by the informers, they should not be destroyed, because they would show the secret springs of the transactions of the period. He could fancy the kind of documents the hon. Member wished to keep from the public gaze. A Castle document came to light in March, 1887, which was a telegram sent by Captain Plunkett telling the Constabulary "not to hesitate to shoot." He had no doubt there were other documents of the kind which they wanted to have preserved for the purpose of illustrating in after years the character of the Government of the time. He hoped these documents would not be destroyed, as documents were destroyed at the time of the Union, to cover the infamy of the transaction.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
The hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Mac Neill) has dealt with the Amendment from an interesting historical point of view; but I do not think his remarks affect the question as to what should be done with these documents. The question raised in the Amendment is one of vital interest to the immediate present and the immediate future. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has given pledges, and intends to do what the Mover of the Amendment desires; but the right hon. Gentleman must feel that the disclosure of all the communications of the Government during the last few years might have the most painful effect. It is useless to argue whether men fear undue disclosure or not. There are persons who have made communications to the Government, and they are entitled to protection; and I understand that my right hon. Friend accepts that view. The question is whether we are agreed as to the means. The Chief Secretary says that there is sufficient protection in the Bill. I do not know in whom the property in these documents is vested, or to whom it could be transferred. The section to which my light hon. Friend referred has nothing to do with the question. I would ask the Solicitor General in whom now is the property in these documents vested? If the property in the documents is in the State, it cannot be transferred to the State; and the view my right hon. Friend has expressed cannot be carried out under the section to which he has referred. My right hon. Friend has given a pledge; but I am sure he will see that when we 203 are dealing with the formation of a new Government a pledge given in the House of Commons to-day can bind no one. Whom can it bind? Can it bind the Government of Ireland? What is asked for is that there should be something in the way of legislation. At present there is nothing to rely on except a statement made in Debate by my right hon. Friend. I would suggest to the Government that they should endeavour to do something more to carry out that which they desire beyond the mere personal statement of my right hon. Friend.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
said, he never put it on the ground of a personal pledge, but on the ground of the circumstances of the situation.
§ MR. MACFARLANE (Argyll)
said, he would like to know what there was at the present time to prevent the Government of England from transferring as many of these documents as they liked? For his own part, he was very desirous that they should be transferred, because if they became public he would be ashamed for his own country. He hoped the documents might be brought to London and kept in secret until all in that House were dead and gone.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, it appeared to him that there was no valid objection to the clause, which, if inserted in the Bill, would give effect to the wishes of everyone.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
said, the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Macfarlane) had put in plain words what seemed to be in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman—that was to say, that transfer of property meant shifting documents from Dublin to London. They were extremely well satisfied with the personal pledge which the Chief Secretary gave; but they were extremely dissatisfied with the clause in the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred them. He should like to hear what the Solicitor General had got to say on the subject as to the meaning of transfer of property. [The SOLICITOR GENERAL here left the House.] What they felt was that this was a most important point, which ought not to be left to the personal pledges or honour of any gentleman, but ought to be made part of the law; and they did not think that the words to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred them had any- 204 thing in the world to do with the matter. Those words dealt with the transfer of certain property to the Irish Government for the purpose of carrying on their business; they were the mere carrying out of details for the Executive that was constituted in the Act, and were not germane to the matter at all. If this transfer from Dublin to London was to be carried through, it must be carried through by certain words in the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman did not like this clause, and was willing to put in certain other words, after his statement that would suit them very well; but they would not leave this on the mere assertion of the honour of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for North Kerry had asked what were the House of Lords going to do? [MR. SEXTON: I did not.] Well, the hon. Member said that for them to move any Amendment, or press any point of detail, in face of the fact that the House of Lords were going to throw out the Bill, was unreasonable.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he had pointed out that if the House of Lords intended to pass this Bill the matter would be urgent, but that otherwise it was not urgent.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
said, the Government made their pledge, and then their friends made the excuse for them that they had not carried it out, because they could not tell what the House of Lords were going to do. That had nothing to do with the matter at all. Their duty, as the House of Commons, was to discuss and carry through these matters, and to get what was right and reasonable put into Bills, without any consideration at all for what was going to happen in another place, otherwise their proceedings would be reduced to a mere farce. The Solicitor General had retired—doubtless for good reasons; but he did not think that, on a legal point of this kind, the Government should he left without Legal Advisers, and the House referred to technical words which had nothing to do with the matter in question. As to the substantially satisfactory assurauce of the right hon. Gentleman, they could rely upon that; but as to the technical method of carrying it into effect that was completely worthless.
§ SIR T. LEA
said, the Chief Secretary had referred them to a clause which he had told them carried out the spirit of the Amendment. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman was this one of the cases in which the word "may" should be read as "shall"? That was rather an important point. The Chief Secretary had given them a pledge, but they did not know who would occupy the position of Chief Secretary in the days to come. Perhaps it might be the hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. Mac Neill), who had told them he did not approve of documents being taken from Ireland, and in such a case the word "may" would not be read as "shall."
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. THEOBALD (Essex, Romford)
rose to move the following new Clause:—(Flags.)That it shall be lawful for the occupier of any premises (without any exception) to hoist and fly over them the Union Jack, and to hoist and fly the Royal Standard over any building (no matter what) where any member of the Royal Family may be at the time.He remarked that as the Chief Secretary had admitted, in an answer to a question he had put to him, that there was some difficulty in connection with this matter, and as the clause afforded an easy means of meeting it, he hoped that his proposal would be accepted by the Government. He said that questions he had put on this subject had caused some hilarity; but that hilarity was proof that some hon. Members did not understand the importance of the matter—some people looked upon the Union Jack or any other flag simply as a pretty piece of bunting. It was true that it was such, but it was also much more, being the public manifestation of the Imperial power, and ought to be so regarded and valued by all who lived under its protection, and, as such, ought to fly over every portion of the Empire. We, living in our quiet homos, did not attach lo the National Flag that importance that was paid to it in the Colonies and other parts of the Empire; and as there were certain places in Ireland where it was illegal to hoist either the Union Jack or the Royal Standard, it was to remedy that anomaly that he had moved the new clause. Nationalist Members from Ireland professed to be firmly attached to 206 the Union. If so, they ought to be firmly attached to the Union Jack, as it manifested the unity of the seat of Empire, in that it bore the crosses of St. George, St. Patrick, and St. Andrew, and therefore they ought to vote for the clause. But if they voted against it they would know that their professions were worthless. The hon. Member for North Louth had brought in a Bill entitled "Display of Flags," but what those flags were the House knew not. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: The Bill was blocked by your Party.] At any rate, the House did not know what was in the Bill, as it had not been printed. A few minutes ago it had been suggested to him that the flag might bear a representation of a rising sun as emblematic of the aspirations of the Irish Party. But that would hardly suit the requirements of the case, as in a short time, if those aspirations wore realised—as no doubt hon. Members from Ireland believed they would be—it would lie necessary to portray on the flag the full risen sun in all its splendour enlightening the earth. If he might make a suggestion, he would suggest that they should on their flag have a representation of the Blarney Stone with a broad grin on its face, as this would mark their satisfaction, and they might term it a happy block, or, still better, a Gladstone, in commemoration of Home Rule. At any rate, a great deal of importance attached to a flag, for so long as it floated over a territory it indicated to whom that territory belonged; and this was manifested in the case of the buildings occupied by Ambassadors or Consuls in this or any other country, as those buildings were regarded as ex-territorial, and as belonging to that Power whose flag floated over them. He must say that he failed to see why it should not be legal to hoist the British Flag over any public-house in Ireland, or to hoist the Royal Standard over any building in which a Member of the Royal Family might be staying. At present it was illegal, and consequently the duty of the Executive was to prevent either flag being hoisted. He did not, for a moment, suppose that any British or even Irish Executive would give orders that it should be hauled down. But in Ireland some new official, or one jealous of performing his duty, might, seeing an illegal act about to be com- 207 mitted, endeavour to prevent that illegal action being performed. Nor would he be wrong in so doing; in fact, his action would be justifiable, and, moreover, if he saw that he alone was unable to prevent the committal of this illegal action, he would be justified in calling on any passers by to assist him. Supposing he called upon an active man passing, who might be the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, and also a man of large proportions, who, one would naturally infer, would be able to force a way in a crowd, and who might be the Chancellor of the Exchequer—would they assist him? He inferred not. Then the consequences would be that those two right hon. Gentlemen might have to appear in the police court on the following morning, charged with not having assisted a policeman in the legal execution of his duty after having been called on to assist him. He would be sorry to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant occupying such a prominent position, and therefore asked them by their votes to prevent such a possibility.
Clause (Union Flag and Royal Standard,)—(Mr. Theobald,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, in the Statute Law Revision Bill, when it reached the Committee stage, he intended to move the omission of the section to which the hon. Member objected, and he thought he might also move in it the repeal of that Habeas Corpus Clause to which the right hon. Member for Bury (Sir H. James) objected. In that way the Statute Law Revision Bill might serve as an outlet to get rid of Amendments on the Homo Rule Bill, and would thus be used for a most admirable purpose.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ *MAJOR DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
moved in page 4, after Clause 5, to insert the following Clause:—(Actions against persons subject to military discipline.)No civil action or proceeding whatsoever shall be commenced or prosecuted against anyone subject to military discipline for having refused to give assistance in Ireland when 208 required either by any Civil Authority or in consequence of any civil disturbance, if such refusal is in accordance with military orders issued by the advice of the Secretary of State for War.He said, the object of the clause was to prevent soldiers being prosecuted in a Civil Court for refusing to give assistance to the Civil power, provided that such refusal was in accordance with military orders. As the law now stood, the Sheriff's, Resident Magistrates, and other officers in Ireland could call upon constables to assist them to execute the law, and no Imperial Executive officer could prevent them being so employed. He believed this Common Law principle existed on the broad ground that every man was bound to assist in maintaining the law of the land. That was the principle on which constables could be called upon to assist in maintaining the law of the land, whatever might be the opinion of the Executive as to the advisability of that law. The employment of soldiers, he believed, rested on the same principles as the employment of constables; and, therefore, it would come about that if the Bill was passed as it was at present framed, the Irish Executive would be able to call upon the soldiery stationed in Ireland to help in maintaining the law, whatever might be the opinion of the Lord Lieutenant as to the advisability of that help, and whatever might be the opinion of the Executive Government of this country. He did not mean to say this would often happen. It might be said that the Irish Executive would not call upon the military to aid if the Imperial power was against that aid being given; but it seemed to him that that was a very feeble assurance to rest upon, and if there was the least chance of the military being called upon to aid in maintaining Irish law, he said that the Imperial Parliament and Executive ought to retain an absolute veto in their hands in order to prevent this power being used if contrary to the will of the Imperial Parliament or Executive. The effect of the clause would simply be that the War Office Orders would over-ride the Common Law rights in this particular. If the prophecies of hon. Members on that (the Government) side of the House came true, if all things went well in Ireland, if she continued in a state of peace and prosperity, 209 then no alteration in the mode of employment of soldiers would take place, because no special Orders would be issued by the War Office, and everything would go on exactly as heretofore; therefore it seemed to him that no one sitting on that side of the House need view with any great objection this proposed clause. But if the views of the Unionist Members came true, if the Irish Legislature passed Acts which the Imperial Parliament strongly objected to, or if the Irish Executive carried out Acts in an objectionable way, then, as the Bill stood at present, it would be in the power of the Irish Executive, whatever might be the opinion of the Lord Lieutenant or of the Imperial Government, to call on the soldiery to help them in carrying out these laws. It appeared to him monstrous that the Parliament should provide soldiers liable to carry out laws over which this Parliament would have absolutely no control. If, however, this clause were accepted, and the Irish Legislature did proceed to legislate in an objectionable way, then the War Minister would issue Orders which would prevent the soldiers acting. An important result which would follow from the acceptance of the clause would be that there would always be in this House a Minister responsible for the use of the troops in Ireland. -It was most necessary, if they were to maintain complete Imperial supremacy over the troops in Ireland, that they must have a Minister here responsible for their use. He should like to look at this question from the point of view of the soldier. It did not, he thought, require much imagination to see that the position of the soldier in Ireland after the passing of this Bill might, under certain circumstances, become intolerable; therefore it was not unreasonable to demand that he should receive some consideration. The soldier, like any other servant, was bound either to obey his master or leave the Service. The question was, who would be his master if this Bill were passed? He believed the Prime Minister had used words to the effect that he would put as much power over the soldiery into the hands of the Lord Lieutenant as he conveniently could. He could not but believe that the Lord Lieutenant, in his dealings with the Army, must be greatly influenced by the Irish Executive; and therefore it would come about under the Bill that the 210 soldiers serving in Ireland would practically be serving two masters—namely, partly the Imperial and partly the Irish Executive. If both these masters were in accord, and the soldier felt aggrieved as to the duty he had to perform, his only Constitutional course was to retire or buy out, or obey. But, at all events, he thought the soldier could demand this—that if the Imperial and Irish Executive differed as to what was right to be done, he should not then be called upon to act. He had been enlisted to serve the Imperial Executive, and he said there was no moral right— whatever legal right there might be—to transfer his allegiance to the Irish Executive in any sort of way. This appeared to him the consideration the soldier ought to receive under this Home Rule Bill. He was prepared to admit that this was a secondary point, and that the soldier was made for the State and not the State for the soldier. But his main argument was that the Imperial Parliament paid and organised the Army; it paid the Army stationed in Ireland; it put this great weapon into the hands of the Irish Executive; and it seemed to him, under these circumstances, that whatever might be the law, this Parliament would remain morally responsible for the employment of these soldiers in Ireland; and, that being so, they ought certainly to see that they remained masters of the situation. He admitted that, under certain circumstances, it was necessary that the Magistrates and others in Ireland should have the power of calling on the troops in case of sudden emergency. He did not wish to take away that power, which would be specially necessary in future, when the Constabulary were abolished; and he could not help thinking that one of the reasons why the Government had decided on the abolition of the Constabulary was that they thought such au Imperial force ought not to be placed at the disposal of the Irish Executive without check. He considered the same argument applied to the clause he was now proposing. If a Bill of this sort was properly framed, it ought to fulfil three conditions. In the first place, he thought that the Civil power, under ordinary circumstances, ought to have authority to call on the soldiery for help; in the second place, if the soldiery did help, the Irish Executive 211 ought to share the responsibility with the Imperial Executive; and, in the third place, the help ought only to be given if the Imperial Executive considered the help was justified. The Bill as it at present stood did not fulfil the third condition, and the clause he was now proposing was in order to insure that the help given by the soldiery in Ireland was only given when the Imperial Executive considered it right. It might be urged against that clause that when a soldier went on duty of this sort he went as a civilian. Take the case of half a company ordered to the assistance of the Civil power, and the officer refusing to go. His trial in the Civil Court would depend upon the principle of Civil Law that he, as a civilian, was bound to assist. But what about the other 49 men marching under his orders? A soldier, when he was aiding the Civil power, was on active service—that was to say, he was under an exceptionally severe Code of military discipline. Could anybody contend that in such circumstances they went as civilians? The idea was too absurd to be seriously put forward as an argument. Again, it might be said there was no similar veto in England; but he, for one, would be perfectly willing to have a similar veto here. In England the law was that a soldier, who was under the control of Parliament, could be called upon to carry out the laws laid down by Parliament; but it appeared to him that in Ireland they wore to pay soldiers to carry out laws over which they would have no control whatever. Possibly he would lie reminded of the self-governing Colonies. There were only two places—Nova Scotia and the Cape of Good Hope—at which soldiers existed under an independent government. But even here the analogy with Ireland failed; those places were distant from England; there were sufficient local forces for carrying out the mandates of the local executive; and, above all, in those colonies, it had not been the habit to call on the troops to give assistance to the Civil power. It might be that the phrase "military discipline" in the clause should be "military law"; his meaning was clear, he thought, as he meant those who were subject to military law. He should press this clause upon the Government as a safeguard for the soldier, and still 212 more because it insured the presence in that House of a Minister who would be actually responsible for the employment of the troops in Ireland. The clause would, in fact, make Parliament responsible. He could not think that Government wished to maintain an Army in Ireland for the enforcement of laws passed by the Irish Parliament without having a thoroughly effective veto upon their employment. These considerations weighed with him in bringing forward the clause which he now begged to move.
Clause (Actions against persons subject to military discipline,)—(Major Darwin,)—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, they sometimes heard a great deal about their interference with the Constitution of the United Kingdom. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen who cheered that statement did not appear to know that the proposal contained in the clause which the hon. and gallant Member had moved would be one of the greatest interferences with the Constitution of the country that could be proposed. For a military man to demand protection was the most natural thing in the world. It would be a very convenient thing if every man under military orders could be told exactly what to do in all circumstances of life; as it would be very convenient for anyone not under military orders. But in cases of civil disturbance, such as were supposed here, there were much greater difficulties imposed upon all of them. They were bound to exercise a right judgment, and to act in accordance with what their duty as subjects of the Queen might demand of them. Whether they were under military law for certain purposes or whether they were not, every man, in case of civil disturbance, was in a very difficult position. It might be his duty to cut off a head or two; and if he did so he might be tried for murder, while if he did not do it he might also be tried for a very serious offence—that of the criminal neglect of his duty. The difficulty was inherent in the nature of the case. Why should a soldier be in a 213 better position than anyone else? There was considerable practical difficulty. To say that a Secretary of State should by his own fiat declare that a certain number of Her Majesty's subjects should be relieved of all responsibility in the case of civil disturbance would be to inflict a grievous blow on the Constitution. Different lawyers—lawyers of the highest eminence—had come to the conclusion that it was a difficult position for a member of the Military Service; but the law had always held that the difficulties must be faced, because a man who served the Queen in a military capacity could not be absolved from the duties of the citizen. Until this Amendment came before him, he had never heard it suggested that a Secretary of State should take upon himself the task of absolving a military servant of the Crown from a difficult responsibility.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS (Birmingham, E.)
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had hardly thrown upon a difficult subject the amount of light that they had expected. He might have made the picture darker in the case of a military man, because, as they knew, if he went out and took part in the quelling of a disturbance, he might be tried for murder; whereas, if he refused, he might be shot for disobedience to his superior officer. He wished the Solicitor General had told them whether it was the duty of the citizen—an ordinary citizen of the Queen—to go out with gun, bayonet, and sword to quell a disturbance. He believed it was not; he believed the whole extent of the duty of a citizen was to go out as he was—all naked—unarmed. The State did not call upon him to use deadly weapons, nor did it call upon the soldier to do this. He should like to have had a little light upon what seemed to be a difficult question—whether there was really any obligation on a military force to go out as an organised force, under the command of officers, obeying the word of command, and moving as a disciplined and organised body. It had happened to him once or twice, while in Office, to have to call out the military power in aid of the Civil power in the Metropolis; but he confessed he always regarded it as a matter of extremely questionable legality to call upon a body of military men to go out armed with deadly weapons as a disciplined force, 214 and not to go out simply as individual citizens to discharge the duty which attached to each one individually. The duty of the citizen lay upon the soldier, and no more; and he doubted whether they were not acting on their own responsibility in going out as a joint and organised force. Those doubts he could not help having, and he thought neither could others, so long as they had an Imperial force which was there for Imperial purposes. It did not meet the case to say that these men were in the position of a military force, acting under the orders of a superior officer. He was sure he hoped that the future of Ireland would be a peaceable future, and that there would be no necessity for the use of such measures as military force. At the same time, he knew that blood there was warmer than it was hero, and that there was a tendency to appeal to military. Indeed, the first thing that struck a visitor to that country was the manner in which the military were called upon in cases of disturbance in Ireland. Conflicts might arise where the military would be used where they were not used here; but, for his part, he was of opinion that the calling out of the military to put down disturbance was a thing not to be encouraged, but to be discouraged. It was a very serious matter to permit any infraction of Constitutional right by the use of an organised body of armed men. He thought that the Amendment, which proposed that the Secretary of State should have a controlling voice, was not unreasonable. There was no necessity to throw on individual soldiers the responsibility of deciding how or when they should assist the Civil power; and the Solicitor General might have given them some information, or tried to show how far the duty rested upon a military force to act as an organised force in such cases as had boon mentioned.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, he had imagined the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Matthews) rose to give them some assistance; but it seemed, from what he had said, that his only object was to get another speech from the Solicitor General. They found, however, that the right hon. Gentleman and the Solicitor General, both eminent lawyers, differed over the Amendment as to the position of the soldier. It occurred to 215 him that, unless Lord Wolseley issued a special Irish edition of his Soldier's Companion, the soldier would be placed in a difficult position if the Amendment were adopted. The Amendment affected the Constitution of the country, and, if it were agreed to, the orders to soldiers would be revolutionised. The Amendment aimed at superseding the custom which had been always recognised, and to throw the whole responsibility upon the Minister. He thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not know what the effect of his Amendment would be. The Secretary of State could not give any military orders, and he should not be entrusted with any such power. It was a curious fact, if the contention of the late Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews), who once allowed himself to be returned by au Irish constituency, was correct, that the military wore more frequently used in England than in Ireland. The last case in this country was at Hull, and then the Secretary of State had no responsibility—the responsibility belonged to the Magistrates. Southampton was another case in which Magistrates acted, and not the Secretary of State. Here they would propose to let everyone construe for themselves; and the result would be to injure discipline and put the Irish Government at the mercy of the Secretary for War. The hon. and gallant Member would not only revolutionise everything in Ireland, but in England also, for he said he would be willing to see this provision extended to England. He (Colonel Nolan) thought the Constitution in England was a tolerably good one; it had taken a long time to manufacture, but in Ireland it was an extremely bad one. He could not support the Amendment.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, he could not accept the view of the Solicitor General on this matter, and he would support the Amendment. The system by which the soldier was tried in the past was disagreeable, but it would be worse in the future if he had to come to the assistance of the Civil power in Ireland. His life, indeed, would not be a happy one. He could only say that, having had some experience of Ireland, he should like to see the Amendment pressed to a Division.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, he thought the intention of the 216 clause was very clear. They were about to establish an Irish Legislature, and under it the Civil power in Ireland was to become paramount to carry out the law of the Irish Legislature, and to have the power of ordering Imperial troops to carry out such law as the Irish Executive might think fit. British officers would be placed in the position either of disobeying the orders of the Secretary of State for War or of the Irish Executive. If British officers disobeyed the Irish Executive they would be liable to a personal action, and if they disobeyed the Secretary for War they would be liable to Court Martial.
§ SIR H. JAMES
said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman was not correct. If he would listen for a moment he would hear. The Secretary of State could give advice to issue an Order, and if he advised it, it would be issued. It would be a Military Order issued on his advice, as contemplated by the terms of the clause. That was the position they had to deal with.
§ SIR H. JAMES
said, it did. The Secretary of State was controlled by Parliament. Now they proposed to establish a different state of things. It seemed to him impossible that they could avoid adopting some such Amendment as this. The Solicitor General had not touched upon the question at all. The point raised by the Amendment was a most important one, and should be dealt with in the most adequate manner.
§ MR. CARSON (Dublin University)
said, he thought the subject had not been dealt with by the Government with that amount of consideration which it deserved. Any question as to the relations between the Civil power and the military forces of the Crown must, be one of the greatest delicacy, and he would like to know what relation was to exist when they had established a separate Legislature in Ireland. They had heard it stated that they had ample security on the point in Ireland. But where was there an example in any portion of the Kingdom or of the Empire according to which a Magistrate appointed by one Government had the right to call out the 217 military forces of another Government? That was the question raised by the Amendment, and, unless some such proposal as this was adopted, he did not hesitate to say that, in his opinion, the management of the troops in Ireland would be absolutely impossible. They must remember that the Irish Magistrates were to be appointed by the Irish Executive; and the Amendment was to provide that when a British officer acted under the Irish Executive and was compelled to obey the Irish Magistrate there ought to be no civil remedy as against such officer. It was clear that the handling of the troops in Ireland would be an impossible task if, when an order was given in Ireland, an officer was to proceed to inquire whether such an order was Constitutional. It was no answer for the Solicitor General to picture the existing difficulties. Those difficulties would be increased tenfold if they were to act as proposed by the Government— under the system that would prevail in Ireland. He hoped some other answer more worthy of the importance of the question would be given.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
It appears to me that the argument of the lion, and learned Gentleman is defective in the most elementary considerations. The hon. and learned Gentleman has contended that officers or Magistrates appointed by one Government are to have the power of calling out the military forces of another Government. Can he show how anything of the kind can occur under this Bill when it becomes law? We have heard the question raised as to the right and duty of every citizen to support the law and maintain public order even, if necessary, by the use of force. The question is, What are we going to do under the present Bill? We have placed the military forces under the command of the Viceroy, and the Commission given to him makes him, and nobody else, the judge of what should be done by the military forces in support of civil order. The difficulties which arise under the Common Law, if they exist, will not exist under this Bill or in anything contained in it, and I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Carson) where he can find the material for defending the extraordinary proposition that under this measure the officers appointed by one Government are to be 218 at the disposal of officers appointed by another Government? It is quite obvious that the question raised in the extraordinary proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman, so far as it is relevant at all, is a question that will arise in every one of our colonies that has responsible self-government. In the case of this Bill we deal with the legitimate action of the Executive under the Commission of the Lord Lieutenant, which gives him, as Her Majesty's Governor General,Power and authority to give such orders and directions to the Commander of the Forces for the time being in Ireland as lie, our Governor General, may judge necessary for the support of the Civil authority, the protection of our Revenue,and other purposes. It is consequently to the Governor General, and not to the Irish Executive apart from the Governor General, that this power is given. Under these circumstances, I think the hon. and learned Gentleman must see that unless he brings forward very different considerations the ground is cut from under his feet.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There is in this Debate extreme difficulty in discovering what the law really is on the subject, and also as to what policy we ought to pursue. The learned Solicitor General alluded to Common Law, but I would ask the House to come back from the mysteries of Common Law and look at the matter in the light of common sense. The Solicitor General has said that every individual, as a citizen, is bound to come out and support the Magistrates in keeping order. A soldier is an individual and a citizen; no doubt he is bound to come out, "and no doubt," said the Solicitor General,When he does come out at the order of the Civil authority, he is in a very embarrassing position. He may be shot if he does one thing, and he may be hanged if he does the other.That is an extraordinary position for the soldier—who is also an ordinary citizen —to be in, and this Bill does nothing to extract him from it. The Common Law, according to the hon. and learned Gentleman, has very little to do with the question before the House. The late Home Secretary differs in his view of the Common Law from the version given by the Solicitor General, and that was to be expected, because my experience of debate has been that whenever a learned lawyer expounds a doctrine, another learned 219 lawyer is sure to get up and contradict him. We may put aside the subtle and almost metaphysical question whether a soldier acting in his capacity of citizen has to go out with or without arms and accoutrements. The Solicitor General says he can come out with arms, and form part of a Regular Army. My hon. and learned Friend admits that every citizen is bound to support the law, but says he is not bound to support it with all the arms he can lay his hands upon. Between the versions of the Common Law given by the Solicitor General, on the one hand, and by the late Home Secretary, on the other, the House may well pause and hesitate. But the House has to consider the matter from the point of view of the soldier and also from the point of view of public policy. From the soldier's point of view, I think it would be an extreme hardship, as my hon. and learned Friend near me has pointed out, that he might be called upon by a Magistrate to come forward and support a law or Act of the Irish Legislature which might turn out in the long run to be no law at all, and for which there might be no defence. It is a hard case to put the soldier in that position, and all the harder for the reason that when a civilian has to decide these embarrassing and complicated problems which the Solicitor General has put before the House, he decides them for himself, and is bound by that decision; but the unfortunate soldier is obliged to obey his commanding officer. He is not allowed to think for himself; and if the commanding officer does not think successfully for him, he is liable to all the pains and penalties attaching to those who show too much zeal in carrying our a law which is no law at all. But it is the question of public policy which I regard as of far more importance. We have to reflect that the Army of the Queen is and must remain at the orders of Her Majesty and of those who are directly responsible to Pier Majesty, and that they should act as the Central Government, and the Central Government alone, may, in the long run, determine. No doubt, they may act through the Magistrates. We are responsible in this Central Parliament for having produced a disciplined force, and we are responsible for the way in which this force shall be used. Would that be the case if the 220 Home Rule Bill should pass? The British Government pays for, organises, and directs the Military Forces, and the only man responsible for the manner in which the Army is used is the Secretary of State for War, who sits in the House of Commons and not in the Irish Assembly. He is the only person whose action can be criticised, whose salary can be reduced, and whose Government can be turned out of Office. If these powers were handed over to the Irish Government—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But the Lord Lieutenant now is a Lord Lieutenant of the United Kingdom. He will not be so in future. He will not be responsible to this Parliament. The new Lord Lieutenant will only be responsible to this Parliament when the British Government has declared that the Lord Lieutenant shall obey the orders of the British Executive. What words are there in the Act to show that the Lord Lieutenant, in giving orders to the military, is responsible to the British Parliament?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
are the Government prepared to introduce an Amendment declaring that the Lord Lieutenant, in as far as he gives any directions to the Army—assuming it to be true that he does give directions to the Army and that proposition is disputed by many authorities—acts as an officer of the English Executive and not of the Irish Executive?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is not a question of a prerogative of the Crown, but of the discretion of the Lord Lientenant, who is called upon to play two parts. In some circumstances he is to act on the advice of the Irish Executive, and in other circumstances possibly in direct opposition to the advice of the Irish Executive and in obedience to the 221 British Cabinet. In which capacity is he to have the direction of the Army? That is a plain question, and it is not decided by the terms of the Commission now issued to the Lord Lieutenant—and if it were, the terms might be altered at any moment. The thing ought to lie on permanent record in the Bill. The Government will admit that this is a point of first-rate importance. Is the Lord Lieutenant, in dealing with the Army in Ireland, to take advice from the English or the Irish Cabinet?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then it will be in the power of the Lord Lieutenant to issue a General Order that no Irish Magistrate shall lie able to call out troops. [Cries of "No!"] If the Lord Lieutenant has not that power, what is the relevance of the speech just made by the Prime Minister? The whole point of it was that these powers are vested in the Lord Lieutenant, and that we need not trouble ourselves about them. It now appears that power is not vested in the Lord Lieutenant to carry out the object of this clause. I do not understand what the position of the Government is in the matter, and I doubt if the Government themselves have fully made up their minds. But I leave that question— which must be determined before the Debate closes.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman often says that I cannot make myself intelligible; but the Commission can make itself intelligible, and I read out from it the words which place the Army explicitly and exclusively under the Viceroy, who, in giving directions to the Army, is discharging an Imperial and not an Trish function.
§ MR. A.J. BALFOUR
Do the Government, or do they not, hold that the Commission, whatever its character, and whatever the powers conferred by it on the Lord Lieutenant, give the power to carry out the objects of the clause?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The question cannot arise at present, but it will in the future. I want to know whether the powers are such that they will enable the Lord Lieutenant to carry out the objects of the clause? I now pass from the 222 Lord Lieutenant to the Magistrates. They are supposed to have a legal right to call out the military irrespective of the Lord Lieutenant and his Commission. We think that Magistrates appointed by the Home Rule Government ought not to have the power. We say not only that it is not fair to the soldier to punish him for obeying instructions, but that it is inexpedient to give to the Irish Executive or the Irish Magistrates the power of employing purely British forces, the Minister responsible for which sits in the British Parliament, for any purposes they may think proper. This is not a question of Common Law, but of policy, and on the merits of that question I entertain no doubt at all. Whether the Amendment adequately carries out the object of my hon. Friend I do not undertake to say, as we are only on the Second Reading of the clause. It is not a question for lawyers to deal with at all. It is a question of high policy whether an Executive over which the British Parliament has no control and Magistrates which it does not appoint are to have the power of employing the organised military forces of the Crown in a manner in which possibly, and even in certain contingencies probably, this House might highly disapprove.
§ MR. BYRNE (Essex, Walthamstow)
said, he wished to refer to a point taken by the Solicitor General—a point which could be met by the simplest addition to the clause. The clause ran as follows:—No civil action or proceeding whatsoever shall he commenced or prosecuted against anyone subject to military discipline for having refused to give assistance in Ireland when required either by any Civil Authority or in consequence of any civil disturbance.and so on. The hon. and learned Member's objection would be met by making the latter part of the clause read—Not having refused 'in his military capacity,' to give assistance." &c.That was what the clause meant beyond any possibility of a doubt. The whole question that lay at the root of this matter was which Executive was to be responsible for the movement of troops in Ireland? If anything illegal was done in this respect who was to be held accountable? In his opinion, it ought to be an imperial official, who should be responsible to the Imperial Government 223 and to that House. So far as he could see, there was no clause in the Bill to the effect that in disposing of troops the Lord Lieutenant should act only on the advice of the Imperial Executive. If a difficulty arose with the Civil authority in Ireland—if the Cork Magistrates demanded military assistance to put down a disturbance in Cork, and if the Belfast Magistrates made a similar demand for Belfast, who would be held responsible for granting or refusing such assistance? The question should be placed beyond all possibility of doubt in the manner he had described. Soldiers should not be liable to civil action if they could show that they had acted in accordance with General Orders laid down by responsible Executive Ministers in the Imperial Parliament. It appeared to him that the clause was one which could do no harm to anyone. If the Government, however, found themselves unable to accept it, they themselves should introduce one giving an indemnity to military men who should merely carry out the orders of the proper Military authority.
§ *MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
I venture to suggest that, under the Act, the Army is placed distinctively outside the legislative control of the Irish Legislature—and I say the Army in the widest sense in which that word is used: Volunteers, Militia, and so forth. It follows from that that the Executive authority which is to be exercised with reference to the Army as a military force is to he exercised upon the instructions and the responsibility of the Imperial Government. To the extent to which the Crown and the Executive authority is represented in Ireland its representative acts. Therefore, in that regard, upon that responsibility and under those instructions, and, as has been before observed with reference to other questions which have been raised, the truth is that Parliament is reserving to itself under the scheme of this Bill the method by which that Executive authority shall be exercised, and the restrictions which shall be created. The prerogatives of the Crown to be delegated to the Viceroy are prerogatives to be delegated in a form, upon instructions, and after a fashion to be hereafter framed by the Imperial Executive, for its action in respect to which it is to be responsible to this House, who can control the action, 224 who can modify and change the Commission. It certainly does seem to me to follow, from the new state of things which is created by the proposed Bill, that there will be a necessary intervention of Imperial authority through the Viceroy acting upon Imperial instructions in case the military be requisitioned in their military capacity by the Civil authority in Ireland. It seems to me that there flows from the restriction which keeps all the military forces under the Executive control of the Imperial authority, the view that if they are wanted as soldiers to preserve the peace in Ireland they must be requisitioned from the Imperial officer, the Viceroy; and the Viceroy, in determining whether they are to be given or not, must act upon the responsibility and the instructions of an Imperial Minister. That seems the only solution of the question. It may leave the question, as it concerns the preservation of the peace in certain grave contingencies in Ireland, in a position not wholly satisfactory, but certainly not from the point of view of those who are creating these difficulties, but rather from the point of view of those who may conceive that the time required and the formalities necessary before the troops are obtained may be too lengthy and complicated. That it follows from the proposition that the forces are under Imperial control, that an Imperial officer under Imperial advice is the authority under which the forces must be called into the field, seems to me to be absolutely clear.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The statement made by the hon. Member for Longford — like that of the Prime Minister—will be satisfactory if only it is correct. But I do not think the hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman have appreciated the point which we are endeavouring to put before the House. Let us first take the answer of the right hon. Gentleman. He has said that by Clause 5 of the Bill the Executive power of (ho Queen is to be delegated to the Lord Lieutenant by Her Majesty, and that the terms of such delegation are to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. The Commission will, therefore, contain all the powers delegated to the Lord Lieutenant as to the control of the military forces. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Lord Lieutenant, who will be, of course, responsible not only in his 225 own person, but, in regard to the Commission he has from this House, will have full control over the military forces. I will test that by a concrete instance. Suppose that, after the passing of Home Rule, a disturbance breaks out in Cork. In Cork there is a military garrison. The Civil authority calls on the commanding officer of the military garrison there to assist in suppressing the disturbance. I assume that, as in this country, the commanding officer will telegraph to head-quarters—to the Commander-in-Chief or to the Lord Lieutenant. Supposing the Lord Lieutenant, considering all the circumstances, thinks it is a case in which the military power is not required, and accordingly telegraphs back informing the commanding officer that he is not to assist the Civil power, the first question I ask the Government is whether, in their view, the Military authority can in these circumstances refuse to assist the Civil power? If the Commander-in-Chief himself were in Cork at the time, would he refuse to put the military power at the disposal of the Civil power? Grant that all the powers of the Queen had been reserved to the Lord Lieutenant, and that the mission of the Lord Lieutenant came from this House, but suppose that he was in conflict with the Civil authority, does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the Commander of the military garrison could refuse assistance? If there is anything in the argument of the Prime Minister the Military authority ought to be able to refuse assistance; otherwise there is no security in the Commission or in the delegated authority to the Lord Lieutenant. If the Lord Lieutenant himself is powerless, even after he has received our Commission, what is the good of appealing to him if by the Common Law of the land the Military authority must assist the Civil power whether the Lord Lieutenant approves of it or not? In the second place, I ask whether, supposing the commanding officer obeys the Lord Lieutenant, an action would not lie against him for refusing to assist the Civil power? Can he legally refuse assistance? Recently the Chief Secretary refused the assistance of the police to the Civil authority; but when the matter came before the Courts, the right hon. Gentleman was held to be wrong, and was told that he was personally responsible, 226 and that he might be brought up under some form of law and condemned for having interfered between the execution of the law and the Civil authority. If that is so, does not the same law apply to the Military authority as to the police? Is not the law the same, whether it affects the policeman, the civilian, or the soldier? Are they not all bound to obey the Civil authority? I venture to submit that it is only by some such clause as that proposed that the Military authority can be protected from the consequence of obeying the orders of the Lord Lieutenant. Surely it is absurd that we should waste our time in considering that Commission of the Lord Lieutenant if the Commission is to be waste paper from the time it is signed, and to have no real authority whatsoever —and not to be in itself sufficient to protect those who obey it from the ordinary process of law. I do hope the Government will give us their view of this case. If they think, as I understand they do think, that the Military authority ought only to be moved with the assent and approval of the Lord Lieutenant, will they tell us whether or not under this Bill that object has been secured, because it certainly appears to me, according to the law laid down by the Solicitor General, that it has not been secured.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN,) Stirling, &c.
I am not a lawyer any more than the right hon. Gentleman, and I am, therefore, little qualified to instruct the House on the special legal aspect of this case. The right hon. Gentleman has very properly and wisely given a concrete instance. He asked what would happen if a disturbance broke out in Cork and the Civil power called on the officer commanding the troops for assistance. My answer is, precisely the same thing as would happen if the disturbance occurred at Birmingham. Speaking from some study of the legal aspect of the question, I wish it to be understood that on such an occasion the troops act not as troops, but in their capacity of armed citizens. It is the duty of every citizen to assist in maintaining the peace, and it is a handy thing, to say the least of it, to be able to call out citizens who possess the advantage of being armed and trained. That is literally, I believe, the legal aspect of 227 the case. In Ireland, under the new system, the circumstances will be precisely the same as they are at present both in Ireland and in England. The Lord Lieutenant has had full powers under the Commission that, my right hon. Friend has read out, so that he has complete authority over the troops precisely as the supreme Military authority has in this country. I am at a loss to imagine where the difficulty arises. My right hon. Friend imagines all sorts of contingencies arising. He has suggested that the Civil authority might unreasonably call upon the troops for assistance. The officer commanding the troops on the spot has, of course, a very grave responsibility. It has been found to be so in cases which have occurred. There was the case of the Bristol riots, and there was the more recent case of the collision that took place at Six-Mile-Bridge, where, if I remember rightly, either one officer was charged with two offences or two officers wore charged each with one offence—the one offence being that he did too much, and the other that he did too little. It is subject to that unfortunate contingency of responsibility that every officer must act, and the officer in charge at Cork must take the responsibility after the passing of this Bill just as he does now.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
My right hon. Friend has not answered my question. Could the Military authorities, whether at Birmingham or Cork, legally refuse to obey the orders of the Civil authority?
MR. TOMLLNSON (Preston)
said, the subject did not seem to him to get clearer as the Debate proceeded, and as explanation after explanation was given by Members of the Government. The Solicitor General hid rested his case entirely on the duty of the troops as subjects of the Queen to render assistance in their civilian capacity. Since that time the Debate had turned on quite a different question—namely, the power given to the Lord Lieutenant by his Commission. For his own part, he was certain that some such clause as this was required. He hoped that, in view of the difficulties that had been suggested in 228 the course of the Debate, the Government, if they did not themselves suggest some Amendment to one of the clauses, in the event of the new clause being rejected, would at least look favourably upon Amendments on the subject.
MAJOR-GENERAL GOLDS WORTHY (Hammersmith)
said, he had already called the attention of the Government to the great necessity there would be to be careful in handling the troops in Ireland. He had done so in the best interests of peace. If a clause like that before the House were not adopted, the troops would be practically brought under the control of the Local Authorities, and he thought that was very much to be deprecated. The Secretary of State for War was quite content that the officers should be left with the chance of a halter on the one side and the chance of a bullet on the other. He (General Goldsworthy) was not content that the officers in Ireland should be left at the mercy of the local authority, and he thought it would be wise if the Government could see their way to accepting some clause of the kind proposed, amended as suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Byrne). If this Bill passed, the troubles of the Government only began; and unless they took every opportunity to protect the military they would find themselves in a mess.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, he did not know whether he expressed the opinions of any other Members, but he was afraid they had not quite got to the bottom of this question. He could not help expressing his regret that they were not discussing this point in Committee, so that they might then have had a repetition or a completion of the statement made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). He, like his right hon. Friend, would take the illustration of Birmingham instead of Cork. Suppose a tumult arose in Birmingham, and that the Mayor required the officer of troops near the town to come to his assistance; but the officer declined to do so. His right hon. Friend said he could do so on his own responsibility, and must take the consequences of any action brought against him for his refusal. The point which he (Mr. Courtney) wished to put, and which 229 was really the point of this question, was —Could the responsible officer in question be absolved by superior orders from the Home Secretary?
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, his right hon. Friend said distinctly not; but that was the real question which his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War did not touch. He might say, in reference to the observation of the Home Secretary, that Todd said that, as far as regarded the movements of the Regular Army, the Militia, and the Volunteer Forces, the authority of the Home Secretary was superseded in 1854 by that of the Secretary of State for War. In the cases of riots or tumults the Home Secretary had the duty of conveying Her Majesty's commands to the officers in charge of districts, placing them under the control of Magistrates and directing them how to act. It followed that the Home Secretary would really have the power to order an officer in charge of a district to disobey a requisition put upon him by a Magistrate. Could the Lord Lieutenant absolve an officer in command of a district by giving him direct authority not to obey a requisition from the Civil authority? As the Home Secretary had not spoken he would, of course, have the power of replying to him, and he hoped his light hon. Friend would inform the House what would be the position of the Lord Lieutenant in the event of a requisition being made to an officer in charge of a district to direct that officer not to obey the requisition. The Lord Lieutenant was at the present time directly responsible to the Home Government; but what they were anxious to know was what responsibility would attach to him in the future under this Bill?
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney), I think, clearly shows to the House that, under the guise of debating a special clause of this Bill, we are discussing a question which has no special relevance to the future government of Ireland. [Cries of "No!"] Hon. Gentlemen say "No, no!" but that was my right hon. Friend's own position, for he accepted the illustration given by 230 the Secretary of State for War, and admitted, for the purposes of his argument, that the question would be identical, whether it arose at Birmingham to-day or in Cork after the passing of this Bill.
§ MR. COURTNEY
I said the question would be the same to-day; but I pointed out that in the future, when this Bill passed, it would not be so.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
My right hon. Friend then devoted the whole of his speech, except the concluding sentence, to the discussion of the question of what would be the case to-day, and he has not given the House the very faintest guidance as to what difference the passing of this Bill would make. I desire to state, not in any controversial spirit, what I conceive to be the position under the law as it at present stands, and I would express my own opinion that the law will not be changed in the slightest possible degree by the passing of this Bill, and that the responsibility of a military force for the preservation of the peace when called upon by the Civil authority will be no greater and no less in Ireland under this Bill than it is now in this country. What is the law? The military, in such cases, do not stand in any exceptional or differentiated position. When a tumult arises, when the peace is threatened, when public order is in danger of being disturbed, it is the duty of the Civil authority, as it is their power, to call upon all citizens, be they armed or not, to take their part in preventing or repressing disorder. I do not deny that in one respect the armed citizen stands in a different position from the unarmed citizen, not because he is subject to military discipline, not because he is bound to obey superior orders, and least of all because he can shelter himself under some extra-legal authority, but merely because, by possessing arms and belonging to a disciplined body, he is in a better position for discharging the duty he is called upon to perform than an ordinary citizen. [A Laugh.] I do not know why that observation should excite the ridicule of one of the hon. Members for Sheffield opposite. I am stating what I believe to be an elementary, common-place, and even a platitude of Constitutional Law. Let us suppose this state of 231 things to arise: A tumult is threatened, and the Civil authority calls upon a military force to intervene. The officer in command of that force takes upon himself the responsibility either of obeying or disobeying the summons addressed to him. Does either my right hon. Friend (Mr. Courtney) or my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) moan to say that the responsibility of the military authority can in the slightest degree be qualified or mitigated by a reference to head-quarters? Not in the least. I should say, as one who has had some small experience in this matter, that it does not matter in the smallest degree whether the military officer refers to the War Office or the Home Office or the Lord Lieutenant, because in the last resort the question has to be tried before a jury, and the question the Judge would leave to the jury would not be whether the officer had the sheltering command of a superior authority, but whether, having regard to the surrounding conditions, he did or did not perform the duty which the law casts upon every citizen. What difference does it make when the authority—from which, I admit, he may obtain useful and even authoritative advice—is the Home Secretary or the Lord Lieutenant? It would not qualify, or add to, or subtract from the responsibility which the law casts upon him as a citizen. What is the principle which we are now asked to adopt by the clause, almost, I venture to say, for the first time in the history of the British Parliament? It is that we are to take away the responsibility which the law casts upon the military man no loss than upon the civilian, the responsibility of exercising his own judgment, under the particular circumstances of the case, for the maintenance of the law, and to clothe him with an immunity which Parliament has always refused to sanction, and to allow him to set up the plea in excuse for failure or excess of duty that he acted under the orders of a superior military authority. That is one of the most reactionary and un-Constitutional proposals that has ever been submitted to the House. The Government asks the House to leave the law as it now stands alike in England and Ireland, under which the officer exercises his own judgment, subject to his own 232 responsibility, with due regard to the particular circumstances of every case, leaving the question when it arises to the decision of the Courts of Law. We refuse to clothe the military power, either in Ireland or in any other part of the Empire, with this extra-Constitutional safeguard which Parliament has never sanctioned and, we trust, never will sanction.
§ SIR E. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
So many complimentary allusions have been made to lawyers in this Debate that I should have hesitated to address the House; but as there is a difference between the Home Secretary and myself on the law of the matter, I may be able, perhaps, to render some slight assistance. I think the speech of the right hon. Gentleman must have astonished the Prime Minister. It is certainly very difficult to reconcile the Home Secretary's view with that so confidently put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, who, I understood, laid down that the whole of this matter would be in the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant. I was very much surprised to hear the Homo Secretary express the opinion that the question had no relevance to the Bill before the House, for, in view of the alteration that will follow in the government of Ireland if the measure becomes law, and in view of the fact that the Executive Government of Ireland will not be responsible to this House, I think it very relevant and important that we should understand clearly what the position of matters then will be. The question we are now considering is whether or not it is right that, where a military officer or a soldier refuses, in pursuance of military orders which have been sanctioned by the Secretary for War, to obey the Civil authority when requested, he is to be subject to trial by an Irish jury and to proceedings by an Irish Executive. The point which the Members of the Government do not seem to be able to appreciate is that a military officer, though acting under the orders of the Secretary of State for War, may still be liable to proceedings, not where there will be the control of the Imperial Parliament, but under an Irish Executive, the Members of which cannot be called to account for their conduct in this House. It is not a question of legislative interference; it is a question of 233 Executive action. Suppose a riot took place in Birmingham. If the Civil authority requested the assistance of the military, would the officer in charge of the soldiers obey or disobey on his own responsibility, and thereby incur the liability, it may be, of criminal proceedings?
§ SIR R. WEBSTER
That is the point. He would be liable, it may be, to indictment. But the Government do not seem to appreciate that in such a case we in this House could call in question the action of the Secretary of State for War or anyone else responsible for the orders, whereas we should have no control whatever over the action of the Irish Executive, if the case occurred in Ireland instead of in Birmingham. I maintain that the reasons given by the Government in opposition to the clause are not consistent with themselves. When the Government of Ireland is not responsible to this House it is not right that the conduct of the military men, who are obeying orders, should be called in question, and that those men should be tried by Irish Judges and juries, tribunals over which the House of Commons has no control.
§ MR. DARLING (Deptford)
said, that as it was evident the Government did not intend to accept the clause, it might be useful to point out to the military men in whose interest this clause had been proposed a way which had been suggested by that very eminent lawyer the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that when a Colonel of a regiment was called upon to act he was called upon as a citizen. If that be so, and if the Mayor of Cork asked the Colonel of the regiment there to assist him in quelling a disturbance, all the Colonel would have to say was, "I am summoned as a citizen; I will go as a citizen; I will go as an unarmed citizen ought to go; I will go in my black coat and tall hat; I will not take my uniform or sword with me." He could thus go, but he would have absolutely no right to order any other citizen to go with him. 234 He could not compel the men under his command to follow him; they could only be forced to attend by the Mayor giving an order to each individual, and the result would be an unarmed crowd instead of an armed and disciplined force. Now, the Government could avoid all risk of that by accepting the clause.
§ MR. AMBROSE (Harrow)
said, he only wished to congratulate the Home Secretary upon the most useful speech he had made. When discussing the question of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament they were told there would always be the military in Ireland to assert that supremacy. They were told the military would insure the success and triumph of the Imperial Parliament. Now, however, the Home Secretary told them the military were at the beck and call of the Home Rule Government. How could the military be a protection of Imperial supremacy if it were to be subjected to the orders of the Civil Government? What became of Imperial supremacy under such circumstances? Nothing could show more completely the hollow-ness of the scores of speeches delivered during these Debates than the speech of the Home Secretary.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 143; Noes 172.—(Division List, No. 265.)
§ It being Midnight, Further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered To-morrow.