§ *MR. LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)
In rising to move the Address of thanks to Her Majesty for Her Gracious Speech, I wish to claim Mall sincerity that privilege oh kind indulgence which is usually accorded to younger Members of this House. I esteem it a very great honour indeed to have been selected to move the address of thanks at the commencement of a Parliament, which promises to be of great historical interest. It must be a matter of congratulation and gratification to all the Members of this House that the first paragraph of the Speech indicates that the horrors of war are not known in Her Majesty's Dominions, that our relations with foreign Powers are satisfactory, and that that peace has been, and is being, maintained which is so essential 78 to the prosperity of our gigantic commercial enterprises. We hope this May long continue to he so. The House will remember that the late Government granted a Charter to the British East Africa Company, for trading; and other purposes, in Uganda. Through the unfortunate failure of the anticipations of the company, it has withdrawn from that country. But the Charter involved some governmental control over the company's action; and ass it is difficult to relieve control from responsibility, the Government have thought tit to send the experienced Commissioner into Uganda to ascertain if any responsibility involving the honour of Her Majesty's Government has been incurred. The House will Ho doubt be glad to learn that Papers are Promised on this subject at the earliest possible moment. With regard to Egypt, hon. Members tare well aware of the complications which recently arose there. The Khedive deposed a Minister who was in sympathy with British authority, and appointed in his place one whom the British Commissioner in Egypt could not recognise as being favourable to those reforms which have happily been initiated in that country under British guidance. When the facts were brought to the Khedive's knowledge he promptly deposed the unsuitable Minister. But although he has thus made reparation, and has promised its ail future matters to rule in consonance with the wishes of the British Government, yet the possible consequences of what might only have been a slight youthful indiscretion but when committed by one occupying such a high responsible position has rendered it necessary to slightly increase our forces in that country. It is one of the unsatisfactory characteristics of a military occupation that, if a disturbance were to break out in Cairo or any other large town, might be held responsible for damage done to the persons and property of foreign residents, for therefore, it has been deemed proper to have in Egypt a force capable of maintaining that law and order which is so necessary for the good government of the Country. Egyptian Government desired all increase of the Native Army, but that was frustrated (although not by us), while also the recent invasion of the Dervishes has helped to guide Her Majesty's Government in the action they have taken. But the Govern- 79 ment wish it to be distinctly and deliberately understood that this step involves no change of policy whatever, that the policy laid down in the Queen's Speech in 1883 will he strictly adhered to, and that the withdrawal of British troops will proceed as expeditiously as a prudent consideration of the circumstances will permit. I feel convinced that the vigorous, yet temperate action of Her Majesty's Government will command the approval of every Member of the House. Coming to home politics, I may say it is a matter for great satisfaction that we have a Queen's Speech dealing with so many subjects of the deepest interest to the electors of this country. We know that agriculture is suffering under a grievous depression. It would not be consistent with the traditions of Liberalism were the Government to remain indifferent to that fact, and they are, therefore, prepared, following the precedent laid down by Lord John Russell in 1836, to appoint a Committee to inquire into all the grievances afflicting agriculture. If this cannot afford any immediate relief to farmers, they will, I am sure, have great satisfaction in knowing that their necessities are being made the subject of inquiry by an impartial Committee of this House. Speaking for myself, as one who has been a professional fanner all my life—not a very long life, I admit—I think the duties of this Committee will not be light. They will find a successful foreign producer, who largely cultivates his own land, and who has no restrictive covenants hindering him from making the best of his produce. Whatever capital he spends on his holding goes into his own pocket only. The foreign producer is not hampered as the British farmer is those largely increased charges for transit which, unfortunately, the Railway Companies have seen fit to impose. I think he competes on more than favourable conditions with the British farmer, who is hampered by the knowledge that he may be vexatiously disturbed from his holding without adequate compensation, and who is in some cases paying at the present time an exorbitant rent for his land. That has been brought about by the keen competition which must exist where an unlimited number of farmers are striving for a limited amount of land, intensified by the fact of the landlord being made a preferential creditor. Then, as we know, British farmers are 80 unable to get farms of suitable size for their capital. They have to bear the whole incidence of local taxation, and get no benefit from it when they quit their holdings. They are also hampered by covenants, which restrict them in their cultivation, and which will not allow them to have the freest facilities for the disposal of their produce. If we could get rid of those restrictions, I think the British farmer would be able to adapt himself to the altered circumstances and to the altered demand for the various commodities he has to sell we should, in fact, see a more prosperous state of affairs for agriculture. In order that agriculture and agriculturists may prosper it is essential that the tenant farmers and the labourers should be prosperous—that their prosperity may shine upon the landlords. I believe the Government are also prepared to deal with the question of land transfer and the law of primogeniture with a view to securing a material increase in the number of owners of land, instead of fostering it by artificial legislation, as has been the case during the past few Sessions. I, for one, deplore very much indeed that any gentlemen calling themselves the friends of the farmer should go into country districts and talk about Protection. They may depend upon it that if a change of our fiscal policy is desirable the large centres of population, such as the hon. Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. Howard Vincent) represents, will not consent to a tax upon food. I regard those gentlemen who go down to the country and make these fallacious promises to the farmer as the worst enemies of my class. In the next paragraph of the Speech is mentioned the question of Ireland. It is difficult to say anything new or that is not controversial on that hotly-contested subject; but I wish to congratulate the House on the fact that the commencement of this Session has not been marred by the announcement of the imprisonment of any Members of Parliament. That, I hope, is a happy augury of the conciliatory policy which the Government intend to introduce for the benefit of the Irish people. It will be a matter of infinite satisfaction to the House that since the rigours of repressive legislation have been removed 81 agrarian crime has sensibly diminished, proving that even in Ireland respect for the law born of confidence in the lawmakers is a far more effectual preservative of the peace than even the most overwhelming physical force. The Irish people have again and again asked for the restoration of their Parliament which was so cruelly torn from them by that venal told corrupt majority which passed the Act of Union. Before that time, according to the historian Lecky, the material progress of Ireland was rapid and uninterrupted. It may he from sentiment that they are asking for this change, but it is patriotic sentiment, therefore the duty of statesmen, especially of Liberal statesmen, to endeavour to find some remedy to satisfy the aspirations of the Irish people with a due regard to the safety of the Empire. This question has been discussed with wearying iteration on thousands of platforms during the last six years, and now for the first time there is a majority in this House who believe that there is a means of satisfying Irish needs while maintaining the supremacy of the Empire. We cannot atone for the wrongs of the past 700 years, but we can turn over a new page with reconciliation indelibly inscribed upon it. There may be difficulties in the way, but those difficulties will be overcome by the co-operation of the two nations, wishful for an early settlement. The benefit will not be wholly Irish. One result will be to relieve this Parliament from a congested state of the public business which the democratic sentiments of the country impose upon it. It will be a bright jewel in the legislative crown of any statesman who initiates a policy which will tend to the permanent pacification of the Irish people. The next paragraph! in the Speech refers to our Registration Laws; and if we have any amendment of them, it must be in the direction of simplification, because it is impossible to conceive anything more complicated than our present system, which seems to be formed to exclude, rather than include, the greatest possible number of electors. There is an urgent necessity for the reduction of the qualifying period, for at the last Election it was obvious that a man must have occupied his qualifying holding two years before he could vote. Men who have, in 82 search of their livelihood, to move from place to place should not be prevented from claiming their franchise rights within a reasonable time. Our registration is kept up by Party organisation. Surely that ought not to be so, but a public officer ought to be appointed who without legal quips or cranks would put every qualified elector up1m the register. I am sure the House will concede this that it ought to be made as easy as possible for a citizen to exercise the first right of citizenship, that of having a voice in his country's government; and if we can make it as difficult to keep him off the electoral register as it is now difficult to put him on, we shall have advanced a long stage in the solution of this difficult problem. Then there is the matter of official expenses. I presume that Members of Parliament are elected for the public welfare, and, therefore, the public funds ought to bear the official expense. The duration of Parliaments will also receive attention. Seven years is a very long time for a Government to rule a nation without appeal to the electors, and I am sure that hon. Members opposite will give every facility for passing a Bill for shortening the duration of Parliaments, because they will regard seven years as a long time to remain in the cold shade of Opposition. Besides, after a General Election, there is a great outburst of legislative zeal, as we have witnessed by the notice of so many Bills to be introduced this evening. Equalisation of the franchise is also mentioned in the Queen's Speech. This is more usually known by means of the formula One Man One Vote. That would establish the principle that wealth is not necessarily synonymous with patriotism, and that the interest of a man in his country's welfare is not regulated by the extent of his earthly possessions, but by his manhood. And, since a large number of electors hold that opinion, I feel sure that the Government will be justified in giving that measure a foremost place. The next subject mentioned in the Speech is the proposal to introduce Suspensory Bills to check the growth of ecclesiastical establishments in Scotland and Wales. This is according to the precedent of the Queen's Speech of 1869, "that Parliament will be governed by the desire to promote religion through principles of equal 83 justice." Equal justice, according to the overwhelming expression of opinion by Welsh and Scotch Members, is not now done, and the Government are bound to consider that the Established Church in Scotland or Wales is not the religion of the many, but the Church of the few. Another paragraph in the Speech, that of the extension of Local Government, is of vital interest to one who, like myself, represents a rural constituency, the depopulation of which we all so deeply deplore. The late Government established Comity Councils, the success of Which, I have no doubt, has exceeded their sanguine expectations. But, in order that the County Councils may do their work properly, they must be supplemented by District Councils. We in Devonshire greatly feel the need of a body to which we can delegate our powers in order that they may be more thoroughly performed. Boards of Guardians also need to be popularised. The President of the Local Government Board has done something in that direction by reducing the qualification to a uniform rate of £5. But Boards of Guardians must still further conform to democratic ideas by their members being elected by a single and a secret vote. Some take objection to that on the ground that it would lead to the election of men who have no stake in the economical administration the funds, but it would he a lamentable fact if the protectors of the poor were to merge their identity into protectors of the rates, and become Poor Rate, rather than Poor Law Guardians. The President of the Loral Government Board has appointed a Poor Law Commission composed of competent advisers and I sincerely trust that it will be able to devise smile means by which honest aged workers may anticipate a brighter end than the prospect of looking through the workhouse window into a pauper's grave. It has been said that means should be found to inculcate thrift milling the toiling classes. However laudable this may be, agricultural labourers do not need to have thrift inculcated by Act of Parliament. Having to live upon 12s. or 15s. a week, the exigencies of their position make it necessary for them to exercise that desirable attribute. But the structure of local government will not be complete without Parish Councils, and a 84 measure to ensure success must be placed upon a broad, a comprehensive, and a democratic basis to those Councils must be relegated a share in the educational and sanitary arrangements, and ether important subjects which affect every day life, so that no right of citizenship that is now enjoyed by, the more fortunate dwellers of towns shall be denied to the rural resident. We know that the agricultural labourer, since he has had the political vote, has immensely increased his political knowledge, and we believe that by giving hint an active interest in the affairs of his parish, we will be doing something to benefit him and to induce him to remain on the soil which he is now se ready to abandon. I come now to the fast paragraph of the Queen's Speech. I leave to my hon. Friend who will second this Address the paragraphs dealing with the Loudon Programme, and with other matters affecting city life; but the last measure referred to in the Queen's Speech is of vast importance to the community at large, and that is the measure which proposes to deal with the increasing evil of the intemperate consumption of strong drink. As instanced by the startling fact that£140,000,000 was expended last year on spirituous liquors, and also emphasised by criminal statistics, this intemperance is hanging like a millstone round the neck of the British maim., and is undermining our -whole social system. The evils of intemperance surround us on every hand. We cannot come into this Metropolis without seeing the baneful effects of the intemperate use of strong drink. Thousands of children are brought up in this foul atmosphere. They are pinched and starved, and they hunger for the food that might -be bought for them by the money now squandered in the public houses. But although so many evils spring from the excessive use of alcoholic liquors, it is subject to little or no popular control. The Government, however, now intend to throw the responsibility of this question on the people themselves, in order that their representatives shall discharge that duty now devolving on the magistrates. The direct veto will be conceded by a separate vote of the ratepayers in borough and county municipal con-complete without Parish Councils, and a stituencies, who will have control of 85 the licences in the whole of the United Kingdom, and the opening of public houses on Sunday will be regulated, too (in England alone), by this new licensing authority. I have only now to thank the House for the very courteous consideration it has extended to me, and to move this Address of Thanks to our Most Gracious Sovereign—That we, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ *MR. M. BEAUFOY (Lambeth, Kennington)
In rising to second the Address moved by my hon. Friend, I hope I may be allowed to mention an occurrence for which I am sure the House will agree whit me when I say We feel a deep and sincere regret. I canted forget the able and interesting speech which was made by the hon. Gentleman who occupied the position I now fill on the last occasion the Address was moved, and I ant sure the House will be unanimous in deploring and regretting With me the untimely death of that hoe. Gentleman, Mr. Cross. I am informed by those who are entitled to give advice on the difficult task before me, that there are two main objects to he taken in View by those who have the honour to propose and second the Address to the Queen's Speech: One is, that the speakers should, as far as possible, avoid controversial matter; and the other is, that they should confine their speeches to the most reasonable limit possible. But I am bound to say that the task of dealing with controversial matters in an uncontroversial manner is entirely beyond my powers, and I feel that in that respect I can only throw myself on the kind indulgence of the House. The maxim declares that brevity on such an occasion as this, if not the soul of wit, is the essence of wisdom, commends itself more readily to my mind; and if the House grants me but a brief indulgence, I shall endeavour not to press unduly on their attention. My hon. Friend who moved the Address expressed his gratification with the tranquillity which now prevails in Ireland, and expressed the hope that that there 86 would go on increasing, and that there would be a still larger decrease in agrarian crime. I cordially share in that gratification; and I think I may congratulate Members on all sides of the House on the prominence given in the Queen's Speech to the Government measure which will soon be laid before us for the better government of Ireland. No doubt that is a highly controversial measure, on which I should tow he unwilling to enlarge; but I think every Member will share with me the satisfaction which I feel that this difficult question is shout to be withdrawn from the heated discussion of the platform to the calmer, if more critical, consideration of this House. I do express the hope that in spite of the many difficulties with which this question bristles, the discussion of it will he worthy alike of the great importance of the subject and of the best traditions of Debate in this Assembly. I share with my hon. Friend his pleasure that the Government is about to introduce a Registration Amendment Bill. My hon. Friend has dealt with the question as it affects the rural voter; but I venture to say that great as is the injustice in the rural districts, it is greater in urban districts, and greatest of all in this city of London. I hope some means will Le found of doing away with the old end out-of-date borough limits, and that we shall secure greater ease in enforcing claims for successive occupation, and so enable thousands to exercise the franchise who have been so long deprived of that privilege. But if this question is interesting, as it undoubtedly is, to the electors, it possesses a peculiar interest to those elected by the electors. Though, no doubt, the evils of the present system are evident to every citizen, I am sure that every hon. Gentleman who has gone through the difficulties and trials of a contested election can feel nothing but the greatest possible relief that the Government intend to modify and simplify the present confusion that exist in our Registration Laws. With regard to the shortening of Parliaments, that is a matter which, however viewed in this House, will he viewed with satisfaction by the country as tending to bring the sentiments of the House into closer connection with the electors outside, and thus insuring that it shall be more representative of the real feelings of the people. 87 With regard to plural voting, it is an interesting question to rural districts, but it is one of those subjects that have a peculiar interest to London, for one of the effects of the proposed change will be to minimise the evils of the present old and out-of-date Livery Franchise, which so discredits our elections in London. I rejoice that the Government have shown a determination to take into consideration questions affecting labour. The Employers' Liability Bill now before the House is likely to receive support from all parts of the House, and the support given to the Bill of the late Government shows it is desirable that the term "common employment" should be satisfactorily defined. I venture to think that the country generally has lost very little by the postponement of the consideration of this measure. I think the House now contains a larger number of working men than it ever contained before, and we cannot over-estimate the advantages which will accrue to the deliberations of this House on labour questions by having a number of skilled experts, with not only sound views on the subjects, but able also to bring to bear on our discussion their practical experience of what the real wants and wishes of the working men are. I venture also to express the hope that one of the results in the amendment of the Registration Laws will be a very large increase in the number of working men Representatives in this House. The overworking of the railway servants has been a source of danger to the travelling public, and the time, indeed, has come for the House to take this question into consideration, for not alone in the interest of the public, but in the interest of the working classes, some means of limiting the long hours of labour is required. The amendment of the Conspiracy Laws has been frequently before the House, and I must congratulate my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty on the prominence given to a subject in which he has taken such great interest, and which he has done so much to elucidate. But there was one part of the Queen's Speech to which, as a London Member, I attach peculiar importance, and that is the paragraph which deals with the proposed enlargement of the powers of the London County Council. That is a ques- 88 tion of the greatest possible interest to Londoners, and, therefore, of the greatest possible interest to those who represent Londoners in this, House. The claims of London are not few; and if I may speak somewhat. plainly, they are not always peculiarly modest; and while we should like to see a whole Session devoted to London, it is obvious that in the present congested state of affairs and arrears of Public Business, it is too much to expect that any great sacrifice of the time of the House can be made for the furtherance of measures which affect London alone. But I am sure the people of London will be gratified by the announcement in the Queen's Speech in reference to London affairs, not only because they will be pleased to find that Tier Majesty's Government places confidence in the London County Council—a body in which London itself has placed its confidence—but because I venture to think it foreshadows a greater union between the Government and the London County Council than has ever existed before. Speaking as a metropolitan Member, I may be allowed to express a hope that the benevolent intentions of the Government towards London will not be exhausted by the production of this measure. It is an open secret that the London County Council is preparing, or has already prepared, a member of bills or questions of importance affecting London, and I hope that the Government will give the greatest possible consideration to those bills, as a proof of their confidence in the London County Council. There are, of course, many questions affecting London which are of a national and Imperial character, but there are many minor questions which can be better and more speedily remedied by the London Parliament sitting at Spring Gardens than by the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. I am sure that Londoners will be grateful to the Government for this mark of confidence in the London County Council, and I hope it foreshadows the coming of better things for London. I hope I have not broken my pledge that I would not unduly take up the time of the House. I thank the House for the indulgence it has extended to me and for the assistance it has given me in the discharge of the duty allotted to me. I think that the list of measures 89 mentioned in the Queen's Speech will give us considerable work for some time to come. Of course, much controversy must naturally arise from the variety of interests affected; but actuated as we all are on both sides of the House with a sincere desire to do our duty to our constituents and to forward the best interests of the country, I hope the result of our labours will be not only to obtain a well-earned holiday, but to better the welfare of all classes.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That," &c. [See page 85.]
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down told us in the closing observation of his speech that the task entrusted to him and Ids colleague on the present occasion was not an easy one. I am sure the House will agree with that statement, and will feel that I am only expressing the common sentiments of the House when I say that that task, difficult and delicate as it was, has been performed by them admirably and to the satisfaction of till who heard it, to whatever Party or politics they may belong. The hon. Gentleman Who moved the Address told us, and told us truly, that there was a large number of interesting subjects dealt with in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. That certainly is the case. Whatever criticism may be passed on the Speech Her Majesty has been advised to deliver, it cannot be said that it lacks interest or lacks matter. I notice, further, that the hon. Gentleman is not quite content with the Speech as it stands, and that he showed some disposition, I thought, to add to it a large number of Bills which may some day see the light, but which are not noted at present in the programme of the Government. He referred to District Councils—a matter of which I see no location in the Speech—to a Land Transfer Bill, to various Bills connected with agriculture, and to a Bill dealing, root and branch, with the form of the present Poor Law administration. These are all no doubt very interesting and important questions. They are questions which are certainly worthy of the consideration of the House, but, so far as I have observed, they do not form a part of the programme—the ample and sufficient programme which the 90 Government are to bring forward in the course of the present Session. The hon. Gentleman spoke with especial authority on the question of agriculture, and that question of agriculture is mentioned in the Speech from the Throne in words of sympathy that everybody connected with agriculture, directly or indirectly, either as owner, occupier, or in any other capacity, must feel are none too strong for the present unhappy condition of that great national industry. Whether the remedy which the Government proposes, which is that of a Parliamentary inquiry, is likely to do much good I cannot say. I think it may be of interest and importance, and I do not at all desire to minimise the value of any such investigation. But the hon. Gentleman was not content with either the expression of sympathy in the Speech or with the particular remedy proposed by the Government, for, if I do not misunderstand him, he appears to attribute the present unhappy position of those interested in the cultivation of the soil in this country to the fact that farmers were restricted in their mode of tillage; that the existing law of compensation for unexhausted improvements was wholly inadequate, and that there was competition between the funnel's for farms which drove up rents to the highest possible height. Well, I do not mean in any controversial sense to object to any of the questions thus raised, especially as they are not in the Queen's Speech; but I think if the experience that he has had in his own part of the country at all resembles the experience I have had in such parts of the country as I have land all opportunity of examining, certainly among the evils under which agriculture groans at the present time, an inutile competition among the farmers for farms is not one. I now pass on to those paragraphs of the Speech which deal with the very important questions of foreign mid colonial policy. The first paragraph deals with the question of Uganda, and on this subject, though I have a question to ask the Government, I have nothing but congratulations to offer them on the policy which I understand they have adopted. There was a moment when I, at all events, was afraid that the spirit Which animated them in opposition might continue to animate them in Office, and that we should find that they dealt with the problem of 91 Uganda as responsible statesmen very much in the spirit of those Debates which we all have fresh in our minds, and which took place in the spring of last year. Some influence or influences, of which I do not possess the secret, appear to have made a profound modification in the views of the most powerful Members of the present Administration. At all events, we have heard nothing of that policy of abandonment which certainly I understood to Le recommended by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt), speaking at that time merely as the Member for Derby. However, better counsels have prevailed, and I do not wish to rake up unnecessarily what is past; but I should like to ask with regard to the future what provision the Government have made—I do not ask for details, but I should like to have some general account of the provision they have made—for that interval which I presume must elapse between the abandonment by the company of Uganda and the period when some final and permanent arrangement will be made by Her Majesty's Government for dealing with the great interests and the vast populations of that district in Africa. I notice, and notice with satisfaction, from a phrase in Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne, that the Government are fully alive to the fact that unless Sir Gerald Portal be supported by material force he is not likely to be able to carry out with success the object of his mission. But when that mission has been accomplished—when he leaves Uganda and returns to make a Report, I should like to know what plans the Government have for administering the country? They must have some policy on the subject, and all I desire to know, and not in any controversial spirit, is whether it is at the present time consistent with the public interest to tell us what that policy is? Egypt, I am glad to say, affords but little matter on which we need do otherwise than congratulate the Government. They had to meet a difficult and very sudden crisis—apparently a crisis of which no previous warning was given, and which, as far as we know, they had no reason to anticipate. They met that crisis with courage, with directness and promptitude, which is the very best way to secure that their object shall be peaceably accomplished; and I 92 can assure them that if their policy in the matter of Egypt, and in other foreign affairs, is on the same lines as those which they have pursued during the last few weeks, they may count on the support of gentlemen sitting, on this side of the House. I should like to know, however, from the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give us any account of the causes which have led to this apparently most unexpected difficulty. I do not anticipate an exhaustive account of those causes from him, because I imagine that it is impossible to deny that among them are to he found the somewhat rash utterances which he and the Secretary for Ireland made on the subject not long ago. I do not know precisely what policy with regard to Egypt was in their minds when they made these statements, but they surely might have known, mid if they did not know they ought to have known, that it is impossible for men in their position, speaking whether as Ministers or as ex-Ministers, to make the statements which they did make about our position in Egypt without raising expectations in foreign countries and in Egypt itself which cannot but be fruitful, and I fear have been fruitful, of great trouble in that country. I notice it is stated in the Speech from the Throne that the measure—the strong measure, I admit the necessary measure—of sending troops to Egypt does not indicate any change of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government, or any modification of the assurances Her Majesty's Government have given from time to time respecting the occupation of that country. That is true; but do not let us go off with the delusion that, because no modification is Made, or indeed ought to he made, in the pledges and promises to which we stand committed in this matter, nevertheless the position is changed—is materially changed, and may be changed for many years to come—by the incident that has occurred. It has been brought home to us in the clearest manner—it has been emphasised by acts of policy that cannot be forgotten that, in addition to the external dangers of Egypt, to the dangers of internal sedition, to all the difficulties which must ensue from the peculiar relation in which Egypt stands, to the power of Europe this further danger has 93 been added: that the fruits of our long labour in that country may at any moment be upset by a Ministerial crisis at Cairo. It is a fact; it is true; it stands evident on the face of the Queen's Speech; it is written deeply on the page of history. We cannot forget it; and it must inevitably profoundly modify the view we take, which we must take, or the difficulties of our position in that country, and the added responsibility thrown upon us. Now, Sir, I do trot think that it is necessary for me to say more than I have said upon the first portion of the Queen's Speech, which deals with questions of foreign affairs. I turn, therefore, to the second portion, which deals with projects of legislation and questions of domestic concern. Of agriculture I have already said something I will not say more, especially as I doubt not that those who represent in this House agricultural constituencies will feel themselves in duty bound, before this Debate comes to an end, to deal at length with that most important question. But I must make this observation. The words of the Speech leave it vague, leave it doubtful is to whether it is to he dealt with by Committee or Commission. The Mover of the Address, I think, clearly gave it to be understood it was to be dealt with by a Committee of this House. I must congratulate the Government on that decision, for I cannot pretend that they have been happy in their attempts to deal with problems by Commissions instead of Committees. They have appointed two Commissions—one dealing with the Highlands of Scotland, and the other with a very important amid interesting problem in Ireland. The Highland problem, in its ultimate bearing, has a social aspect, but the basis for any legislation with regard to the extension of crofters' holdings is a question, in the first instance, of the possibility of turning the land in the Highlands to a particular purpose. It is rather a question for experts, and for experts alone. The Government have chosen to make up a Commission of eight, four of whom I understand to be gentlemen interested in, and acquainted with, the Highlands generally, but not acquainted with the agricultural possibilities of the Highlands at all, whilst all of them are deeply committed on the very question into which they are asked 94 to examine. I do not know what good results the Government anticipate from their inquiry. I am not hostile to the inquiry itself. I am sure the more the truth is known about the state of things in the Highlands the better for everybody concerned but if the Government desire not to put off awkward questions by appointing a Commission, hilt to have a Commission which will command respect, that is not the way in which a Commission should be constituted. But there is a Commission even more famous, I would say notorious, than that which is about to begin in the Highlands, and that is the Commission which, in consequence of a compact between the present Government amid that most important section of their followers, was appointed to examine into the position of the evicted tenants. I have had to deal with this Commission elsewhere, and I have no particular desire to repeat, though I am ready to do so, what I have already said but I think it is absolutely necessary that on this occasion, when it is our business to make a survey of what the Government has done since last we were assembled within these walls, it is absolutely necessary I should say something about a question which has so properly engaged the attention of the public. The opposition of the Evicted Tenants' Commission was, on the face of it, an unfair one. Turn and twist the thing as you may, it is quite clear that the opinions of the majority of the gentlemen who are now carrying on this examination into the position of the evicted tenants do not make them fair representatives of the various interests concerned. You might have appointed a Commission not containing persons of strong political views to make a representation as to what you were to do with the evicted tenants. I admit that the objection to such a course was great, because probably any small body of gentlemen who were not committed to political views on this question would have told you there was nothing to be done. That would not have suited the views of the right hon. Gentleman who was responsible for the government of Ireland, and, therefore, there is a great heal to be said for appointing gentlemen who, at all events, represented something or other. But I think you should have chosen a Chairman who would preserve, 95 at all events, the externals of fairness. I do not think you add to the dignity or authority of the Commission you appoint when you select men who, whatever he their ability or their position in the country, are moved to behave as the President of that Commission undoubtedly did behave, even front the very first day it sat. He appeared to riot and revel in his sudden freedom from the trammels which bind an English Judge, and he could not refrain from indulging in the unwonted luxury of delivering the verdict before be had heard the evidence.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But my complaint in reference to this Commission is not based wholly or chiefly on what I am obliged to describe as its imperfect composition. My complaint is that there is no adequate machinery, and that, owing perhaps to the action of the President, and perhaps to the action of the right hon. Gentleman, no machinery has been provided by which any cross-examination could take place on the evidence put before the Commission. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is under the impression that he was following a precedent, or that the Commission, at all events, were following precedent in not allowing counsel or persons interested to appear and cross-examine on their own behalf. So far as my knowledge of the matter goes it would be difficult, and perhaps impossible, to find a Viceregal Commission in Ireland—("Oh, oh!") Is this, or is it not, a Viceregal Commission? It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a Viceregal Commission like this—for it was a Viceregal Connnission and nothing else—in which cross-examination by counsel or the parties interested has not been permitted. I care nothing about these technicalities. I should not have objected to the right hon. Gentleman creating a new precedent had it been a good precedent. But you have only got to read cursorily the examination on any day of this Commission to see that the results of its labours are rendered hopelessly worthless—("No, no!")—by the fact that no adequate cross-examination takes place upon it at all. I heard some hon. Gentleman expressing dissent from the Benches opposite, and, therefore, to satisfy him I will give an illustration of 96 the kind of thing; I mean, and he will find twenty more if he wants them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) was examined the other day before the Commission, and he gave a very great deal of interesting and valuable information, and among other things he stated that the "Plan of Campaign" was a purely agrarian battle. De was asked a good many questions on that subject, and nobody who reads his evidence, as reported in the Freeman's Journal, but will agree with me in saying that the purport of it was unquestionably to this effect: that the "Plait t of Campaign" —with regard to which not a single criticism has ever been passed by any member of the Commission at all—the "Plan of Campaign" was for purely agrarian purposes. Now, Sir, one of the members of the Commission was Mr. Roche, Q.C. Ire was counsel for the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo when he was tried for participation, I think I am right in saying, in the "Plan of Campaign." [Mr. W. O'BRIEN: No; I think you are wrong.] At all events, that is not material to the point I am about to make. Part of the evidence against the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo consisted in certain speeches delivered in connection with the "Plan of Campaign." In those speeches I understood—I have looked at those speeches, and they are incapable of any interpretation whatever other than this—that the "Plan of Campaign "was part of apolitical movement carried on for political objects, and was part of the machinery by which Home Rule Government was to be brought in. Now, Mr. Roche must have been cognisant of these facts, because he was counsel to the hon. Gentleman, and I presume he knows enough about Ireland, even if he had not been counsel, to have been aware that the statement of the "Plan of Campaign" was a purely agrarian business is a paradox so monstrous that, at till events, a little bit of cross-examination would not have been indecent or improper. Not one single word or question was asked by my member of the Commission, from the President downwards, in order to test the statement, which, I suppose, will appear in the official Reports of that Commission as an authoritative and unquestioned fact. The 97 hon. Gentleman Who said "No, no" when I said just now that the machinery for cross-examination was inadequate may now be disposed to change his opinion, and he may think. at all events from the point of view or the Government themselves, it would have been well that they should have appointed a Commission, the result of whose labours would have been less open to question than is inevitably the case at present.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman pardon me? I say the question was put tome, in connection with that question, whether, in instituting the "Plan of Campaign, we ever considered the political opinions of the men connected With it. I was cross-examined on that.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member, I believe, was asked that question, and I believe he said "No." But I notice a passage in one of the hon. Gentleman's speeches—We call upon you to tell us to destroy this Government of men called landlords—(cheers and groans) —who never in the past history of Ireland have shown any sympathy for her people, and who, whet any demand has been made in the past to set free our country, these landlords have always stood forward as foremost and bloodiest to put down the national ranks. Believe me you will never see in Ireland a free people, never see this country a five country able to deal with its, own laws until," as he "this plan was successful.
§ MR. DILLON
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but as he has taken me strongly to task, and insinuated that I gave an untruthful answer on that occasion, I would ask him to be good enough to explain to the House his idea of the distinction between an agrarian and a political movement?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That would he a very interesting and proper subject for cross-examination. The hon. Gentleman has replied it was not political but it was agrarian. I will give him a broad distinction which I think adequate. I say that a conspiracy which is directed against men, not because of their particular relations to their particular tenants, but because they formed what is described as part of the garrison—the loyal garrison of the country—a conspiracy which is directed avowedly to bring these men to their knees, and is 98 avowedly a part of the method Ly which Irish nationality is to he vindicated, that, I say, whatever else it is, is unquestionably a political movement; and in spite of the speeches to which I have referred, and in spite of Mr. Roche's knowledge of those speeches, the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo Was allowed to answer, without cross-examination, a question to the character of the combination in these words, "It was a purely agrarian movement. Entirely, of course." I have no desire to desire to come into conflict wile hon. Member for East Mayo, and it is not his merits or demerits that are now to question, but what I am pointing out to the Irish Secretary, and to the right hon. Gentleman who will follow; me in this debate, is this—volt have by this incident, and many others I might have mentioned, erected a tribunal which is incapable Of carrying out the first duty of any tribunal, because by its lack of power of cross-examination it cannot get at the truth. Before having this question of the evicted tenants I should like to ask, as a merely practical inquiry, whether the right hon. Gentleman bus any hope of their reporting soon? As far as my observation goes, there was nothing in their reference, though there may have been in their instructions, but there was nothing in the reference to confine their attention to the "Plan of Campaign" estates; I am not aware they made any inquiry into the case of tenants not on the "Plan of Campaign" estate. Are they going to report only on one branch of this inquiry? Are they going to report Soon, and, if not, are these tenants—in whom the hon. Gentlemen from Ireland and the Government are so deeply interested—are these tenants going to continue in their present difficult position without in the least knowing what is the elucidation and the position to he proposed by the Government? It would he interesting to know this, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give ns some information on the subject. Well Sir, the Speech goes on to soy that—The proclamations recently in force which placed Ireland under exceptional provisions of law have been revoked, and I have the satisfaction to inform you that the condition of that, country with respect to agrarian crime continues to improve.99 I gather from that that, in the minds of the Government at all events, there is, if not an immediate connection between the repeal of the proclamations mentioned and the diminution of crime, as between cause and effect, at all events they wish us fully to grasp that there is no antagonism between these two particular sections and the improvement of the country. Well, what were those proclamations? I believe in the main they consisted, and consisted only, of power to change the venue and power of special jury and secret inquiry. These were the only parts of the Crimes Act in force in Ireland when the late Government left Office.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It was not done immediately before the General Election, on the contrary it was a position of affairs of long standing. However, at present the merits of the late Government are not the question. We are discussing the position and merits of the present Government. I want to know, in the first place, why the Government particularly triumphed in the repeal of those two sections. No doubt they were part of the Crimes Act, but they were parts of the Crimes Act and preceding Crimes Acts, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has over and over again said that they were not to be described as coercion, that they were not in diminution of personal liberty. I think that either he or some members of his late Government actually went the length of suggesting that these provisions should be extended to England, and have force here as at this moment they have force in Scotland, therefore when the present Government repealed those things it was not in the interests of liberty that they did it. In what interest was it? These two sections could only have two effects, they would facilitate the detection of crime and the punishment of the crime. To which of those objects was it the right hon. Gentleman objected, and does he feel so confident at this moment, in spite of the improvement of which he boasts in the Speech, and no doubt rightly boasts—does he feel so confident that time perpetrators of the moonlight raids, of the agrarian murders 100 and outrages which have taken place since the repeal of those two sections—does he feel confident that they will be detected, and if detected will be brought to justice? I believe I am not going beyond the truth when I say that since Lord O'Hagan's reform of the Jury Acts in 1872 there has not been a conviction before an ordinary jury, except at Winter Assizes, for an agrarian crime. A Winter Assize, as every one who has been in Ireland knows, is equivalent to a change of venue, and at a Winter Assize, under all circumstances, a certain number of convictions in clear eases have been obtained. But the right hon. Gentleman, for some reason which I dare say he will explain, but which I cannot conjecture, has forborne to deal with many of these eases at the Assize.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
My suggestion was that many cases have not been dealt with at the Winter Assize. That was my suggestion, and I am glad to hear the contradiction of the right hon. Gentleman. I shall have another opportunity of criticising the right hon. Gentleman, but in the meantime I entirely accept his statement. The right hon. Gentleman, I presume, would agree with me in saying that it was a good policy to bring forward these eases at the Winter Assize, as there was a greater chance of justice being administered. The right hon. Gentleman agrees with me in that. Why have you a better chance of justice? Because von have a change of venue. The right hon. Gentleman admits that you have a better chance from change of venue—then why has he withdrawn that part of the Crimes Act which gives that change? Why has he deliberately deprived himself of a weapon incapable of abuse—but yet by which the criminal might be brought to justice? How many men have been made amenable for offences committed in Clare and elsewhere during the last few months. Has the right hon. Gentleman been really successful in finding out the perpetrators of outrages, and, after they have been found out, in bringing them to 101 justice? If he has, then, and not till then, he may put in a paragraph to boast that he has abolished this admittedly salutary provision of the law, and that, nevertheless, the agrarian condition of Ireland continues to improve. Now, with regard to the improvement of Ireland itself, the right hon. Gentleman has advantages which his predecessors never enjoyed. He has the aid in pre-serving law and order of a great many important influences which were not at the command of the late Government. There are those deeply interested in the success of this Administration, not without some influence upon the rise and fall of agrarian crime in Ireland, who are bound by the very necessities of their position to give every aid to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not grudge it him —I rejoice in any good consequences that may ensue from it. But the right hon. Gentleman must be aware that there are dangers in that situation which he has not apparently seen Ids way wholly to avoid. If you work too much with those who have been connected with persons who have broken the law you should, at all events, be careful to do nothing to suggest to the public the impression that you have bought their support by the favour of criminals. I am not sure that the present Government have done all that they could do to avoid that rock. I do not allude here inure principally or particularly to the release of two dynamite criminals, to which a great deal of public attention has recently been called. On the contrary, with regard to one of those men—Egan—I recollect that my right hon. Friend, unfortunately not now in Ids place, the late Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Matthews) distinctly told me that he would have released him—
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, I think I am right; and at all events, without resting upon personal reminiscences of private conversation, I believe that my right hon. Friend stated in this House that he did see a very wide distinction between the case of Egan and the other men. With regard to Callan, I have no recollection of any conversation with my right hon. Friend; but I should be pre- 102 pared to accept the statement of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is responsible in this matter, if he were to tell the House that the release of these men was no part of a policy of amnesty, and that he had no intention whatever of recommending the extension of the Royal clemency to other persons, with regard to whom special circumstances could not be alleged, who had been found guilty of those crimes. If he makes that statement, I for one should be content; but it must be recollected that I should never even have raised this question, or asked for a statement front Ministers of the Crown upon the subject, if the present Administration had not by their previous declarations and recent acts given too much ground for the suspicion which has taken hold of the public mind that they are perfectly prepared to buy political support by recommending the extension of the Royal clemency to criminals. I am certainly not going to make an accusation so grave without attempting some proof, and as hon. Gentlemen below the gangway cheer me I will begin by quoting from a speech of one of these. I observe that the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) made a speech on January 17th to which I beg respectfully to call the attention of the Home Secretary. Speaking at the Meath Convention on the 17th January, the hon. Member said,—I myself was engaged in a very urgent correspondence with the Home Secretary as to the case of John Daly and James Egan, as to whom I have a very particular feeling in the matter, and a very considerable hope of a satisfactory conclusion at the very moment when that diabolical explosion at Exchange Court came to thwart and deprive these unfortunate men of their chance of liberty.There is only one conclusion to be drawn from that speech. An important Member and supporter of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Morley) is under the impression that after the correspondence conducted between himself and the Home Secretary Daly was only kept in prison—not because he was a dynamiter, not because he was a man who ought to he kept in prison—but simply because another dynamite explosion in Dublin Castle made it inexpedient on political grounds and in view of the temper of the public mind in England. That is not my view of the right hon. Gentleman, 103 but that is the view of the hon. Member for Cork. That is what the Member for Cork thinks of it, and I say if the right hon. Gentleman has the misfortune to possess such friends, it is impossible he should wholly escape from the accusations which have been levelled—and, as I believe, unjustly levelled—at the Home Office administration for the last few weeks. There is another and even more serious reason or justification for the suspicion which undoubtedly exists in the public mind on the subject, and that reason is the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland dealing with the release of the Gweedore prisoners. Now, Sir, I do not wish to go at length into the case of the Gweedore prisoners, but I must remind the House of the bare outline of certain material facts. There was a warrant out against Father McFadden. Father McFadden deliberately evaded the police weekday alter weekday. Father McFadden publicly announced that if he were arrested there would be bloodshed in Gweedore, and finally, after the police had in vain attempted to serve the warrant upon him, an effort was made at a certain place on a Sunday morning, and in the course of that effort Inspector Martin was most brutally murdered. A certain number of the persons engaged in that transaction were made amenable. They were brought before the magistrates, and subsequently brought before the Assizes. They pleaded guilty, or rather a number of t hem pleaded guilty, and they received sentences most carefully considered by the Judge, as anyone can see who reads the reports of the case. One got 10 years, two seven, and one five. Their cases were separately and carefully considered by the Judge, and he explained at great length that they were fortunate in getting off with the sentences which were inflicted upon them. The right hon. Gentleman conies into office, and the Lord Lieutenant, the controller of the prerogatives of mercy, takes up his duties, and almost immediately after all these men, whether sentenced to 10, seven, or five years, are let out without, as far as I know, or as far as we have heard, any steps being taken by the right hon. Gentleman either to discover the Judge's opinion, or to discover the merits of the case and deter- 104 mine what ought to be done. The right hon. Gentleman objects to that. I as smite, therefore, he did go into the merits of the question, and I presume, therefore, he consulted his present Attorney General. His present Attorney General (The Mac Dermott) was the counsel for the accused on that occasion.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
As a matter of fact I did not consult the present Attorney General, exactly, because he had been counsel in the ease. The person I consulted most was the Lord high Chancellor of Great Britain.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Did he then before Lord Herschell the facts which, had he consulted the Attorney General, he might have made himself acquainted with? The right hon. Gentleman appears to think. I brought in the name of the Attorney General because there might be a suspicion that the Attorney General having been counsel for these men would be unduly favourable to this case, but my point was exactly the opposite. [An hon. MEMBER: Explain.] I will explain. The Attorney General for Ireland knows too much about the ease. Had you consulted him he could not have said —and you know he could not have said—that in his opinion these men did not deserve all they got in the way of sentences; but even more, because it so happens, Mr. Speaker, that on this case a side light was thrown by a certain trial of libel, in which the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Timothy Healy), who Was one of the counsel for these men, was plaintiff. The present Attorney General for Ireland was the other counsel with him for the defence of these men, and he was examined in this libel action. What came out tit that trial? It came out that in the opinion of counsel themselves—in the opinion of the Member for Louth and the Attorney General for Ireland—the Crown had got a pull in this case—the Crown had got worsted in the trial of these men, who had got off with much smaller sentences than they would have got if the Crown had laboured successfully to conduct their own ease. It came out conclusively that there were facts stated upon the brief for the defence which, had they been known to the counsel for the prosecution, might 105 have ended in the hanging of these very men: that these were facts known to a Castle official—I suppose the Attorney General is a Castle official—they were known to the Member for Louth, they might have been known to the right hon. Gentleman, for they were not secrets which a counsel was bound to keep with regard to his clients, but facts made notorious in the Courts of Law in Ireland, and of which reports can be read to this day in the files of the Freeman's Journal. I say these being the facts of the case, the Minister who shows his contempt for the safety of the police by arbitrarily diminishing the just punishment of these malefactors is using the prerogative of mercy not as it was intended to be used —namely, as an instrument of justice—but that political ends may be furthered. The remainder of the Speech, about which I shall be very brief—as I am conscious that I have already occupied the House an undue length of time—deals with projects of legislation. I do not mean to discuss those projects at any length. Some of them deal with subjects which ought to be dealt with, and which in my opinion are eminently worthy of the consideration of this House. Some of them deal with subjects on which I shall certainly reserve my criticism till we see the exact form in which the present Government propose to deal with them —such, for instance, as the reform of the Registration Laws, the Employers' Liability Bill, and other Bills. Other measures seem merely to be considered—I judge from the position they occupy in the Speech—as a somewhat barren homage paid to the Newcastle Programme and I do not collect that the Government have any very great belief in the possibility of bringing them to an issue in the course of the present Session. That may well be. All Governments are liable to bitter disappointments—and I have no ground for anticipating that the present Government are likely to be more fortunate than their predecessors. One of these Bills, however, I must say a word about. It is that dealing with the Ecclesiastical Establishments in Scotland and Wales. I pass by the question of shorter Parliaments, for I do not suppose that any gentleman on either side of the House supposes that time life 106 of this Parliament, at all events, will be unduly prolonged. But with regard to Ecclesiastical Establishments, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he agrees with, I think it was the Mover of the Address, who stated that this procedure—namely, of bringing in Bills for the prevention of the growth of new vested interests in the Ecclesiastical Establishments of Scotland and Wales—is in accordance with precedent. So far as I have been able to discover, it is not in accordance with precedent. A Bill of a similar import was brought in, no doubt. in the case of the Irish Church, hut after a Resolution of the House of Commons—deelaring in favour of Disestablishment. Then, and not till then, did the right hon. Gentleman think himself justified in bringing in a Bill which must have for its effect the paralysing or the great clerical institutions with which it deals, and van anything be conceived more cruel than the position of a Church in Scotland and in Wales if these Bills were passed? That they would be followed rapidly or effectually by any process of Disestablishment nobody acquainted with the difficulties inherent in any programme of Disestablishment can possibly believe, and therefore it is actually proposed by the Government that, in the absence of any Resolution of the House in favour of Disestablishment, and with nothing before them except the record of past Sessions, uniformly adverse to Disestablishment, they should bring in, and, if possible pass, Bills which, should they become law, will paralyse the efficiency of the Church of Scotland and the Church of Wales, will place them in an impossible situation, toil will hold out to them no hopes of a final issue either in the direction of Establishment or in the direction of Disestablishment. Sir, I cannot conceive that when time Government really face the policy which they have undertaken in the Speech from the Throne they will deliberately elect to adhere to it. But, Mr. Speaker, all these final paragraphs of the Speech sink into insignificance compared with that one paragraph dealing with what is described as "provision for the government or Ireland." The task of carrying through that gigantic constitutional revolution is, indeed, heavy enough for the shoulders of any Parliament, sufficient to occupy 107 the time of any Session. I suppose it will be my fate to make many speeches before the Session closes upon this question. I do not mean to discuss it now. It call hardly even be that the Debate on which WC are now engaged shall close without some gentleman opposed to that policy challenging one or other of the main issues raised by any Home Rule Bill. I shall reserve Until that occasion arises anything I have to Say, contenting myself now with observing that vigorous indeed must be the faith which shall seriously believe that any measure or the kind indicated in the speeches of the responsible Members of the Government shall carry out the great objects indicated in the paragraph which deals with the question of Home Ride. There we are told that this Billhas been prepared with the desire to afford contentment to the Irish people, important relief to Parliament, and additional securities for the strength and union of the Empire.Even in the first blush of enthusiasm for their own measure I can hardly believe that the gentlemen on that Bench accept in their own hearts the statement that they have put in the Speech. Well, I do accept that, but it is difficult to accept it. I admire the robustness of their faith; I admire the boldness and the audacity of their convictions. We are asked to find securities for the strength and union of the Empire in a measure which reverses the invariable process by which every Empire in the world has been built up. It is a measure which runs counter not to this lesson or that lesson, but to the whole lesson of all history. Show me an Empire which has grown in strength by any measure of the kind and I withdraw. So far as my researches in history go, it has been by the concentration and not by the dissipation of power that Empires have been built up, and I shall not readily believe that the laws of history are going to be reversed for the special benefit of the British Empire. With regard to the other statement, that it has been prepared with the desire to afford contentment to the Irish people, I can only say that a measure which is regarded not merely with dislike, but with passionate and irreconcilable aversion by one-third of the Irish people, which is regarded with a sentimental approval mixed up 108 with a certain desire for spoliation and plunder by another third, and which by the remaining third is regarded simply as an instrument by Which you are to wrest further concessions from the Imperial Parliament, is not one, whatever else may be said of it, which is likely to afford contentment to the Irish people.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREA SURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
Mr. Speaker, though I have heard many portions of the very comprehensive speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) with deep regret and strong dissent, some of his remarks even exciting, in my mind astonishment at the course pursued on this occasion, for the first time in my recollection, by a leader of the Opposition. I have great pleasure in referring to the graceful tribute which, at the opening of his speech, he paid to the Mover and Seconder of the Address. He did them both justice so large that for me he has left nothing to do. I will only say with respect to my two hon. Friends that, in acknowledging the tact and judgment of the speeches which they delivered, so much to the satisfaction of the House, I am, I can assure them, not merely complying with a conventional custom—for such it may almost be said to have become—but I am rendering to them a spontaneous and genuine tribute which everyone who heard them knows to be deserved. The right hon. Gentleman in the beginning of his speech, which was the more pacific part of it, referred to the intentions of Her Majesty's Government and to Bills not in the Speech, as well as to Bills in the Speech. Undoubtedly those intentions are large. Some, perhaps, may press us to frame further plans and add to the proposals that ale now canting before Parliament. We may, like others, rail to give full effect to what we desire, but the measure of what we desire and what we have announced is to be found in the fact that we have seen for a long course of years, with an increasing eagerness in the country for vigorous legislation, a continuing, growth in the arrears of that legislation, and we have thought it our duty to acknowledge largely that desire of the country, with the firm intention of losing no opportunity and sparing no effort to give effect 109 to the views we have expressed. There are Bills, undoubtedly, which it is the intention of the Government to present, and which it is their hope to pass, not named in the Speech from the Throne. I will not go over them, because I trust that in the course of a few days the notices given by the members of the Government will convey the most authentic information as to those Bills. There is one thing I should mention. It is the intention of the Government, proceeding partly from recollection of Debates in this House during the last Session and in no small part upon what has taken place in Wales during the recess, to issue a Royal Commission for the purpose of examining into the laud question in Wales. The right hon. Gentleman has put to me a number of specific questions. He asked me whether the proposal to introduce suspensory Bills is agreeable to precedent.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
If the right hon. Gentleman will look Lack to the circumstances of 1868 he will see that the Suspensory Bill did not rest simply on the previous Resolution and as not the natural sequence of such a Resolution. The Suspensory Bill was passed because the House was on the eve of dissolution, and not because it was an adequate sequel to the Resolution. There was no connection between the two, and the Suspensory Bill grew out of the circumstances of the Rinse itself with respect to dissolution. why, Sir,— why are we to he prohibited from taking cognizance of other circumstances besides a Resolution of the House? If out of 30 Members for Wales 28 are returned determined for disestablishment, are we to be precluded from taking notice of that fact and proposing a measure which I do not believe with the right hon. Gentleman will in the slightest degree suspend, on the contrary, I believe it will quicken, the activity of the Church in Wales, and which is thoroughly justified by opinion in that country? The same considerations are applicable to Scotland, though the numbers are not so conclusive. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken in his speech of precedent. I would like to know where he got die precedent for the Leader of the Opposition, in discussing upon the Queen's Speech a specific 110 announcement, an inoffensive announcement, of a measure of the most enormous constitutional importance, and, while disdaining all intention to discuss it, entering in inflammatory sentences into a ease which begged every question, which broached every argument, which exaggerated all that could have been said as the result of the most careful inquiry and most comprehensive investigation of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has dime his best, to prepossess the minds of those who follow him with conclusions the most extravagant, with contradictions of history the most "Show me," he said, "an Empire strengthened by the principles of local autonomy." I will show him that every Empire which has adopted those principles has been strengthened. I quote the ease of Austria. Now, Sir, I am going to carry the right hon. Gentleman back to the days of the declarations of Lord Salisbury. Lord Salisbury was then engaged in courting assiduously these Home Rulers—these Separatists—and he alluded in glowing terms to the case of Austria, and intimated that it was not, impossible that matter be drawn from the case of Austria applicable to the ease of Ireland. Have we in this country no experience in this matter? What was the relation of this country to its colonies GO years ago? A relation which, in the view of the right hon. Gentleman, would have beep perfection itself. They were all ruled front the centre. The principles of freedom were discountenanced. The desire for separation was charged in Canada upon those who called for Canadian Home Rule. The same arguments were used, and the same imaginings freely dealt in, but not by the then Leader of the Conservative Party. He was not the man to follow such a course. What has happened? An absolute revolution has taken place in the entire system of governing the people of the colonies of the Empire, and the consequence is that, instead of being a cause of weakness and discredit, they ht ye become one of the chief glories of Great Britain, and one of the main sources of our moral strength. I want to get rid of these vagaries of the right hon. Gentleman, and pass to his treatment of Ireland. He appears to consider WC have been guilty of great offence, 111 because after removing certain proclamations which he criticized in no invidious terms, but in terms of great mildness, we find a decrease of agrarian crime in Ireland. Let me here say that with one sentence of very severe denunciation in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I should stand in the most cordial concurrence but for one slight defect, and that was its total want of truth and accuracy. No one, to whatever school or creed he belonged, would fail to denounce, any Government which. Would condescend to debase itself by making the prerogative of clemency an instrument for gaining political support. And if these acts were proved, we should not be behind the right hon. Gentleman in the severity of the censure we should bestow upon the guilty politicians. The principle of the right hon. Gentleman cannot be matter of debate. It cannot be denied that the wise administration and the wise clemency, in my opinion, of my right hon. Friend and of the Irish Government has been simultaneous with, and has been an illustration, and a favourable illustration, I think, of a continuing decrease of agrarian crime in Ireland. I will only say on that part of the subject that it appears to me painful to notice the unwillingness, the almost resolute determination, of the right hon. Gentleman to allow nothing to clemency and mercy, nothing to the disposition of a political mind which strives as far as possible to meet the demands of a nation. I thought the whole of that part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was pervaded by what I must call the animus of coercion. I have not time now to examine the great inaccuracies of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman on that subject, nor will I follow him into the argument about the dates of the withdrawal of the Coercion Act, or the particular parts of the Coercion Act withdrawn in various parts of Ireland. I must say one word on the subject of the Commission appointed under the advice of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. My right hon. Friend placed at the head of that Commission one of the most respected Judges in England. It was impossible for any man to give a better indication of the spirit in which he wished the inquiry to be conducted. The right hon. Gentleman has raised two 112 points, which arc these—one is that cross-examination was improperly refused. If he can give me a single precedent of a case in which cross-examination has been practised, I—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
What are the Viceregal Commissions in which cross-examination has been practised?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
You ask for a Return. But why, before a Return is granted, make these accusations? The right hon. Gentleman said that Mr. Justice Mathew is guilty of giving the verdict before he heard the evidence. That is what the right hon. Gentleman has himself been about. The whole of the attack on this Commission was au attack upon a body upon which it is totally impossible to form a judgment until its Report is before us. The charge which the right hon. Gentleman made against Mr. Justice Mathew is a charge which in its fulness and its force as it appears to me recoils on himself. The Report he has declared must be absolutely worthless. If it is to be absolutely worthless, why does he weaken Ids own position by anticipating the fact? Why does he not wait, until the Report is before is, when, if he is justified in his accusation, he might urge it with legitimacy and with force. Now, I ought, before going to foreign affairs, to give one assurance with regard to Egan. The right hon. Gentleman demands of us that we should disclaim the idea which may have been charged upon us by some that the release of Egan was part of a policy of release—that is to say, a policy of release other than the policy of release which has been traditional in the Home Office, and which depends upon the careful examination of case by case, and upon the dealing with each case on its real merits. The right hon. Gentleman may receive from me on this subject the most unequivocal answer. The subject was raised in the debate which preceded the defeat and resignation of the last Government in August last, and, in terms agreed upon with the most competent of my colleagues, I entirely disclaimed any such policy of release or any such intention to 113 seek for political advantage through this medium, and I pledged those who were then in Opposition under no circumstances to follow a contrary plan to that which has been in operation at the Home Office in respect to the remission or mitigation of sentences on prisoners. The right hon. Gentleman commented on two paragraphs of the Speech which relate to foreign affairs. He said he did not complain of the spirit of the paragraph which touches upon the case of Uganda, though he appeared to think it was totally out of keeping with the sentiments delivered by those who were in opposition whets they questioned some proceedings of the late Government in respect to the country. He put to me a question which was pointed in its nature and which deserves a reply. He wanted to know if Sir Gerald Portal proceeds to Uganda and makes a Report upon the subject, what provision is to be made for the peace of the country during the period between his making that Report and the time when that Report might be received, might be considered, and acted upon. The right hon. Gentleman scents very sensitive upon the condition of Uganda during. a period of about nine or 12 months. Does he not see that, with tenfold force, the question he has put applies to the declaration of policy he made himself on behalf of his colleagues with regard to Uganda? What was that declaration? He disclaimed abandonment. He announced in 1892 his intention to apply to Parliament in 1893 for powers to make a railway. The making of that railway of over 700 miles and over an elevation of amity thousand feet must have occupied, I suppose, at least three or four years, besides the preliminary year of delay with which He began. What was to become of Uganda during those five years? He is horrified at the idea that Uganda should be for one moment without the presence of the British Government, but he contemplated with perfect satisfaction the five years—a most moderate estimate if Parliament had ever agreed to his railway at all, of which I am doubtful. But I am aware that although that is a tu quoque, it is in a form which shows that five or six times what we appear to contemplate was the fixed, and announced as 114 the fixed, policy of the late Government. Yet tu quoque is a poor argument if you rest on tu quoque alone. The reason why we have done this is because our inquiry is a bona fide inquiry. With respect to Uganda there may he those in this House who think, and there may be many who desire, that we should wash our hands of it, and have nothing to say to it; but these gentlemen ought to consider what are the terms of the Charter given by the Crown to the East Africa Company. I will not at this time of the night attempt to weary the House by reading the terms of that Charter, but they are most remarkable, by reason of the largeness of the powers which they convey to the Secretary of State both for compelling and controlling the company, and by the manner in which they give authority to the company for exercising the rights of government. They certainly raise questions which are not very easily answered. What is the condition of the British Government? Its condition is this—that it lots been represented in the country almost exclusively by two parties—on one side the agents of the East Africa Company, nail en the other side by the missionaries, to whose independent efforts all possible honour is due. But there is no evidence before us which proceeds from persons W110 are entitled or who are even well qualified to speak on the part of the British people, or direct the course which they ought to take. The Government of the right hon. Gentleman accepted—I do not see how they could do otherwise—the policy of withdrawal of the company. They did not provide—and I do not see well how they could wisely have provided—any machinery to take up the actual work of the company and form a consecutive line of proceedings. They left a state of things in which we are almost entirely in the dark as to what may he the relations and what the expectations created by the circumstances that have taken place. We had no other course to take except by sending a competent person to that country in order to make investigations upon the spot and to place ourselves in such a position that we might be enabled to arrive at a rational, temperate, and well-informed conclusion on behalf of Parliament and 115 the country. I have seen it stated by a gentleman of very good authority that Sir Gerald Portal carries to Uganda, a foregone conclusion, and that he is a determined advocate of annexation. If that be so, it is not known to us; it is not believed by us. It is believed and it is known—we proceed On his own official declaration—that he proceeds there with large and comprehensive views upon the whole question, with an earnest desire to bring out its difficulties as well as its obligations, and advise that course which may appear for the best, and place us in a condition in which we may be enabled to arrive at a rational conclusion. Then comes the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman upon the case of Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman asks me if I can give the causes of the late proceedings of the Khedive in Egypt. Sir, I think I am hardly the person to whom such au inquiry should be addressed. What we lament told consider unfortunate is that the Khedive made no communication to us about these causes, that he took a very important measure of internal government, and took it not, as we conceive, in conformity with the usage which had been long established and uninterruptedly pursued—with one exception, I may say. There was a circum-stance which tended to raise the notion that the Prime Monster whom he dismissed was a person whom he might properly dismiss—that was, that he was unfit for his duty, as he was suffering at the time from grave indisposition—an in-disposition Which at the tune disqualified him from performing the duties of his office. It did not disqualify him, as we believed, permanently, but at the same time there was a course open there which it would be unfair to suppress. Apart from that, I am afraid I must refer the right hon. Gentleman to other quarters. What we had to do was to consider the state of facts which arose in Consequence of the act of the Khedive—an act followed by explanations and assurances on his part, the terms of which were such that it was impossible for its to take exception to them. We consider that as far as those terms are concerned the relations of the two Governments are placed on a footing which ought to be perfectly satisfactory. But the right hon. Gentleman went a little beyond this—with what 116 intention I do not exactly know. He said that there had been rash declarations on the subject of Egyptian policy. It appears to me that when statements of that kind are made—and made with regard to persons whom they treat as having an important influence on foreign policy—they ought to be supported by something like particulars. I entirely deny the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. What has been said by me on this subject of Egypt is, in my opinion, not half so dangerous as-what has been said to-night by the right hon. Gentleman himself. And now I am referring to what all have heard. What did he mean by his description of the increase of difficulties in Egypt, and why did he dwell on that subject except in order to suggest that we ought to lose no time in getting out of it If not, what is the point in any declaration made by me which he refers to as rash and dangerous I believe that what I said was that if Lord Salisbury were able to carry to a conclusion the plans and policy which he himself had promulgated, which he had pursued with great zeal and much ability and nearly brought to a conclusion, that he would have my support and approval in concluding them. It should be recollected that if Lord Salisbury's plan had been carried out, of the Drummond Wolff Treaty had been ratified—and it was not his fault that it was not ratified—we should at this moment be out of Egypt. It was due to an adverse series of circumstances—which we were taught to believe were untoward circumstances that that Treaty was not carried into effect. In Egypt there are two things perfectly distinct. The one is the condition of the occupation, the great—according to the right hon. Gentleman, the increasing—dangers which surround it; and the grave political considerations which are thereby raised, and which ought, I think, to be reserved fir the most careful and most dispassionate consideration. That is one of the questions connected with Egypt. We had not to deal with that question, but we may have to deal with it as our predecessors had. A communication was made in the autumn to the British Government to the effect that the French Government desired to address to us some friendly overtures upon that subject, and 117 the French Government were assured, in reply, that any such overtures proceeding from them would be received by us in a corresponding spirit. Nothing has occurred in consequence of those preliminary communications; but possibly something may occur, and it it should occur, doubtless among the historical circumstances that will assist in guiding ns will be the very important proceedings adopted by the late Government. But the question we have had before us is a totally different question. I believe that not perhaps the whole of Europe, but that almost the whole of Europe, Perceives that we had virtually no option in the crisis which was recently brought. The responsibility of our position is of We grayest character. We are entirely and exclusively responsible for the maintenance of peace and order in Egypt. The question whether the evacuation of Egypt would be a sound policy or not is a totally distinct question, and any opinion any man may hold upon it ought on no account to be allowed to obscure his perception with regard to the other arid, for the moment, imperative question—what are our duties to Egypt while we stay there? If our duty is plainly to maintain order, if we are responsible for the preservation of order to all who might suffer from breach of order, for my own part I do not see how that responsibility is to be avoided. Undoubtedly, then, we must not flinch from doing whether it be agreeable to its or not—that which on a rational and temperate view of the circumstances is necessary for the purposes of so maintaining order. We did nod proceed on any vague intimation or any unwarranted assumption of our own, hut upon the assurances both of the civil and military authorities on the spot and I rejoice to think that what has been done has received the general acquiescence of the great body of the community both at home anti abroad. I think that is all I have to say On the subjects referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, but I think I must add one word more upon the condition of Ireland. Perhaps it might he of interest to the right hon. Gentleman and the house if I gave the figures, which are very short, that show that the statement in the Speech is not a hasty or unauthenticated statement with regard to agrarian crime. 118 In the year 1891 the agrarian offences were 472, and in the year 1892 they were 405. Perhaps more remarkable than that is the comparison between the halves of the year 1892. In the first six months the offences were 231, in the Second six months they sank to 174. We have faith—within the limits of reason and prudence—in the operation of conciliatory measures. If the right hon. Gentleman says, and says, and says with sane truth, that we are supported in the work of maintaining order in Ireland by agencies from which he did not derive a similar benefit, does dial not raise very serious questions as to the, soundness of his policy for maintaining order in Ireland if it deprived him of suture part of the social and moral influence which might have assisted him
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
By moral agencies I mean agencies in the moral sphere. The right hon. Gentleman has ascribed immorality wholesale to the Representatives of Ireland, but he does not seem to see the fundamental weakness implied by that very reproach in his own position. What is the position of a man who, standing in the face. if not of a nation, at am rate of four-fifths of a nation, is obliged to mistrust them, and when he has difficulties to meet has to has to have recourse to measures of coercion. and is obliged to confess that the Party opposing him has great social advantages him has earnest hope I must express, and that is, that we shall not he inflamed before the time by violent denunciations of the Bill Nye are about to bring' in. If, indeed, there were any disposition to hold back that Bill, I could understand that the impatience of the House aught then find vent in denunciations, of that character. But surely it is better that, instead of resorting at this early date to rhetoric and declamation, we should wait to see what are the provisions which will be propounded for the acceptance of Parliament, and should then endeavour to give to those provisions tile full advantage of it careful, and a deliberate, and, if it maybe, even a deliberate, judgment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There is one opinion which the right hon. Gentleman attributed to me with regard to Egypt on which he was mistaken, and on which I 119 must have conveyed to him an impression which, I believe, I did not convey to the rest of the House. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that I was of opinion that the recent crisis would hurry, would necessitate, a more rapid evacuation of Egypt than might otherwise take place. What I did endeavour to explain was that the recent crisis showed new difficulties in Egypt, new responsibilities, and new dangers that would have to be met. The inference the right hon. Gentleman drew from my words was not the inference I drew myself, nor the inference I intended to convey.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."— (Mr. Barton.)
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *MR. DUNBAR BARTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had stated that his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition had addressed the House in an unprecedented manner. It seemed to him (Mr. Barton) that his right, hon. Friend had, as a matter of fact, shown exceptional chivalry in his speech. Referring especially to the subject of the release of the dynamiters, he (Mr. Barton) knew he was speaking the feelings of many Members of the House when he said they would expect more information than his right hon. Friend had asked for. They would have to ask the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) how it was that the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Barry) was informed that Egan was to be released from Portland Prison on a certain morning, and was thus enabled to find his way to the door of the prison and meet that released convict. If the right hon. Gentleman did not furnish some explanation, hon. Members would be led to the conclusion that, in the words of a Nationalist newspaper, the Government wished to "nobble" Egan for one party in Ireland. As the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said his right hon. Friend had spoken in an unprecedented way, it was well to 120 remind the House that the Government had approached Parliament under unprecedented circumstances. Speaking prior to the General Election of 1885 the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister referred to the state of things that would arise—and which, as a matter of fact, had arisen—if the Liberal Party were returned to Parliament in such a minority that it might become a majority with the aid of the Irish vote. The right hon. Gentleman then said, speaking as he said "seriously and solemnly," that though the Liberal Party was an honourable, Party and trustworthy, it would not be safe to trust it, under such circumstances, to deal with the Government of Ireland, and that a Party in such a position and dealing with such a question would be a "source of danger to the country and the Empire." The House thus had it on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister himself that his Government was under existing circumstances a source of danger to the country and the Empire. Could the Prime Minister be surprised, under these circumstances, if the Leader of the Opposition found it necessary to address to him language which naturally did not meet with his entire approval? His right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was right, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was incorrect, in the statement he made across the Table and in the statement he had made at Newcastle, to the effect that at the Viceregal Commissions hitherto held cross-examination had not been permitted. He (Mr. Barton) had inquired into the precedents. He had found that there had been at least six such Viceregal Commissions during the past 35 years in which cross-examination was freely permitted. The Commissioners were generally Irish lawyers, several of whom afterwards became Irish Judges. Among them were Lord Justice Barry, Mr. Justice Bewley, Mr. Justice Murphy, the late Judge Lynch, and the late Baron Dowse. Surely these were not men who would be impugned in the House for their ignorance of precedents. Baron Dowse was Attorney General in a former Gladstonian Government, and certainly he would have taken care to inform his mind on the subject of precedents. Well, in every one of these cases cross-examination was freely 121 allowed, and the parties were represented by counsel and solicitors, and the Judges subsequently, in their Reports, drew attention to the satisfactory results of the cross-examination. He could confidently assert that if cross-examination had not been allowed these Commissions would not have secured that amount of piddle confidence which they succeeded in obtaining. The Commissions of which he spoke included those of Londonderry, the earlier Belfast Riots, the Belfast Municipal, Dungannon, and Lurgan. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary relied upon the last Belfast Riot Commission of 1886, but he could not have relied upon a more unfortunate precedent. What had occurred in that case? Why the counsel for the Roman Catholic party asked to be allowed to cross-examine. When Mr. Justice Day refused, Mr. O'Shaughnessy pointed out the precedents, and Mr. Justice Day re-plied to the following effect: "True, I admit that there are precedents, but my case is a different one. Parliament lots given me statutory powers. It has given me by special Act power to summon witnesses and as I can force them to attend, I think we can dispense with cross-examination." But what what was the present case? Parliament had not given statutory powers, and the Commission had no powers of procuring the attendance of witnesses, and could acquire no powers of the kind save by inspiring public respect, and he submitted that powers gained in dolt way would in this case be very small. The Chief Secretary might fairly be called upon to explain how it was that he had ignored precedents in the present case, particularly having regard to the fact hat the Commission was a small one. He would challenge the right hon. Gentleman, furthermore, to defend the composition of the Commission when he came to speak of it. He had defended it at Newcastle, butt on extraordinary grounds. He had represented that Mr. Redington was an Irish landlord. If a trades 'unionist was being tried by a blackleg and was told that that was the proper person to try the case because he was a working man, it would be as reasonable as to defend the appointment of Mr. Redington, because he was a 122 landlord. When the Chief Secretary and Lord Ripon were enthusiastically received at a demonstration in Dublin during the late Administration, this gentleman made a speech in Which he not only practically justified the Plan of Campaign, hut in winds he denounced the landlords as the worst enemies of their class and the worst enemies of their country. No doubt Mr. Redington believed what he said; but was the man who entertained such a belief the right sort of man to put upon a Commission to try the Irish landlords? It was reported in the newspapers that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was present when the speech was made. Did he hear it? Did he know of it? If he did, how can he suggest to us that he was acting fairly in putting Mr. Redington on die Commission? Then, as to Mr. Roche, Q.C.— a, respected member of his (Mr. Barton's) own profession, and one against whom, as a lawyer, he would say nothing—he held it to be unfair to Mr. Roche, and to all parties concerned, to put him upon the Commission. What was his record? He was a director of the Freeman's Journal during the most critical period of the evicted tenants' question, when Clause 13 of the Land Act of 1887 was in operation. No one could better answer the question. "Why was not Clause 13 taken advantage of by the evicted tenants?" than Mr. Roche. The Freeman's Journal. for the conduct of which that gentleman was responsible, advised the people not to take advantage of it. One of the most important subjects of the Commission's inquiry was the cause of the failure of this Clause 13 of the Act of 1887; and to appoint, that gentleman as one of the Judges to try the case was contrary to all justice. Probably the Chief Secretary was not aware of these things before; but DOW that the facts had been brought under his notice, he (Mr. Barton) asked him as a fair-minded and honourable statesman how he could justify the appointment of Mr. Redington and Mr. Roche upon the Commission? If it had been proposed to appoint these gentlemen to prosecute the landlords, it would have been most unfair: but to constitute these gentlemen the Judges of the Irish landlords was a public' scandal—a scandal which, he ventured 123 to think, would deprive the Commission and its Report of all value in the eyes of the House and the country. But what about the other two Commissioners? When the Commission was originally appointed there were two other gentlemen upon it. The Chief Secretary at Newcastle had taken credit for appointing Mr. O'Brien. Well, if the right hon. Gentleman had appointed Mr. O'Brien, he had taken care to deprive the Commission of his presence very early. He had appointed him to another office after he had sat for only one day. They were entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain whether it was intentional or only through carelessness that Mr. O'Brien was promoted to another office after his appointment on the Commission. It was true the right hon. Gentleman had appointed one neutral man on the Commission—Mr. Murphy. He (Mr. Barton) knew something of politics in Ireland, but he did not know that Mr. Murphy was a Unionist until he saw it announced in the newspapers. He would give the Chief Secretary every credit for having appointed this gentleman. But what happened in his case? So shocked was he at the high-handed conduct of the President, and the proceedings of the Commission, that he left the Commission in disgust; and how could any fair-minded man blame the landlords for refusing to take part in the proceedings which the independent gentleman selected by the right hon. Gentleman found to be so inconsistent with his honour or position that he declined to take part in them? The right hon. Gentleman would find it hard to justify those proceedings. He (Mr. Barton) did not wish to enlarge upon the other subject the right hon. Gentleman referred to—the release of the Gweedore prisoners. The hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. Timothy Healy), who defended the prisoners, had, of course, done his best for them, and he had had to confess after the sentences that they had "got off in a coach." Had the Chief Secretary released the men on a ticket-of-leave?
§ MR. BARTON
would therefore ask for precedents. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell them the precedent for men who had pleaded guilty to 124 manslaughter, and whom their own counsel had declared had got off fortunately in the sentences they received, being released after three years without a ticket-of-leave?
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
I cannot admit that the men got off fortunately. It seems to me that the understanding arrived at was broken.
§ MR. BARTON
said that the circumstances to which he was drawing attention fairly entitled him to demand an explanation from him on these points. On what grounds could he justify these releases? Why had he released Barabbas? The reason he had offered at Newcastle—namely, the peaceful condition of Donegal—was neither more nor less than a paltry excuse for a revolutionary act. What was that peaceful condition due to? To the conviction and imprisonment of these very men whom the right hon. Gentleman had now sent back without a ticket-of-leave to the district in which they had committed the offence. The right hon. Gentleman thought he had governed Ireland with success during the last six months. The right hon. Gentleman's colleagues and the leaders of the Nationalist Party joined in praising the right hon. Gentleman's Administration. If they were sincere in their praise, what a powerful argument that was against Home Rule. If the right hon. Gentleman had been able to govern Ireland with success under a Liberal Administration, why were they going to waste this Session by bringing in this miserable Home Rule Bill which everybody knew could not possibly become law? If the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in the government of Ireland, he had provided the most formidable argument against Home Rule that could be provided. But how had he governed Ireland? He had governed it in a way which could not ensure permanent success. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends were delighted because the country had not yet been plunged into disorder. But it was the Leader of the Opposition who had restored order in Ireland. The system winch the Leader of the Opposition set up in Ireland was not a transient system, and the stable structure which his right hon. Friend had built up could not be destroyed quickly. 125 It would take more then six months to destroy the good work he had bone six years of Unionist Government. How had the present Chief Secretary governed Ireland? He (Mr. Barton) would not deal with outrages. The right hon. Gentleman had shown himself a master of Castle statistics—he had shown how well he could shuffle and deal them. But he ventured to think that the right hon. Gentleman had largely preserved order, so far as he had preserved it, by making promises which he could never perform, and holding, out expectations which were doomed to disappointment. For example, he had led t he Irish Nationalists believe that the evicted tenants would be reinstated, and that the honest men who had taken their farms would be turned out. These promises of the right hon. Gentleman were hills which would not be met when they fell due, and cheques which would be dishonoured when presented. Under these circumstances, what would become of the contentment of the Irish people? The right hon. Gentleman had, as a matter of fact, yielded to the blackmail of his political associates. The right hon. Gentleman would not refuse responsibility for the advice he had given the Lord Lieutenant, and he (Mr. Barton) would therefore ask hint to explain how it was that the Lord Lieutenant refused the addresses of loyal subjects of the Queen who came forward and expressed the view that the legislative union was essential. The Chamber of Commerce of Dublin was a body of importance, and included men whose manes commanded general respect. Their Council approached the Lord Lieutenant with a respectful address expressing welcome to him without a word of bitterness or reproach, but adding an opinion to the effect that the commercial interests of Ireland would he injuriously affected by any interference with the legislative union. How did the Lord Lieutenant receive that address? These respected merchants of Dublin were sent away, being told that their address was an insult to the Lord Lieutenant—Lord Houghton. The address was similar to the one they had presented to the Earl of Aberdeen. After that, what were they to believe about this veto of the Lord Lieutenant, which they were told was to he such a 126 great protection for the Loyalists of Ireland? What chance had the Loyalists that his veto would be exercised to protect them when respectful addresses submitted by them were not listened to, because they expressed approval of existing institutions. The Methodists of Ireland, than whom there Was not a more orderly, quiet, or retiring body, came forward with addresses, stating most respect-fully that their lives Will liberties depended on the maintenance of the legislative union, and the Lord Lieu-tenant refused to receive them. Then in the appointments to Public Boards the chief Secretary had made a Clean sweep all over the country, removing many Unionists or Loyalists, and putting Nationalists in their places. He did not complain of Nationalists being put on the Boards when vacancies occurred in a proper way. But was a general policy of removal partisanship, or was it fair play? He would take the ease of the division he represented. The Chairman of the Town Commissioners — the principal citizen of the town—had been removed, also the leading Presbyterian minister, who hail been seventeen years on the Board. There was a universal belief in the place that these two men were selected for removal because it was desired to give a deliberate slight to the Loyalists of the place. The right hon. Gentleman, in carrying out his policy of blackmail0, bad been using not only his friends the priests and his supporters in the National Party, but sill the instruments of coercion which remained at his disposal. He had been packing juries. In a non-political trial at Wicklow, in which the present Attorney General prosecuted, about 15 jurors were ordered to stand aside, all of whom were believed to be Catholics. No doubt the Attorney General would say, "We set aside jurors in order to secure fair trials." Well, that was what the late Government and their supporters had said all along. When the Chief Secretary came to justify his release of the Gweedore prisoners—if he did so—and made use of the pretext of jury-packing, he would tell him to look into his own house and inquire how it came about that his own Attorney General had acted in this way. 127 The right hon. Gentleman had used other instruments of coercion. Eviction scenes had been reported in the newspapers. Boiling water had been thrown on bailiffs as much under the right hon. Gentleman as under his predecessor. Formerly these things were regarded as sensational material for attacking the Government of the day, but now they were merely incidents which the Chief Secretary deplored, but did not consider himself responsible for. The right hon. Gentleman had made some appointments, of which he (Mr. Barton) heartily approved. He had, for instance, appointed Mr. Meade to be a Privy Councillor. As a Unionist, he desired to see Irish Nationalists taking the places which their position and ability entitled them to. It was said that the Irish Members would not take office. He believed they would if the Government would wait if they would have patience. The appointment of Mr. Harrel as Under Secretary was one of which he approved: but seeing, that this gentleman had been selected from Dublin Castle, it would not appear that that place was such a corrupt and abominable place as it had been so often described by the friends and supporters of the present Government. In conclusion, he wished to say that since the right hon. Gentleman came into Office the Loyalists had refrained from doing anything to embarrass him. They had not made his government more difficult for him, and he would find, when he wished to uphold the law and preserve order and resist the undue pressure of the Irish Members, that they would afford him every support in their power. He was led to make an appeal to him. When the right hon. Gentleman came to deal with these questions to-morrow let him of use shallow pretexts, let him deal candidly with them, and make a clean breast of it. Let, him candidly admit to the House that he had adopted and followed a policy of discreditable blackmail.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir M. J. Stewart.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Mr. Barton128
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I wish to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to Procedure. It has been usual on the day after the meeting of Parliament to stop the discussion at a rather early hour in order to enable hon. Members who have, Bills to introduce them. I should like to ask if the Government intend to adopt that precedent tomorrow, and to say at what hour they Would propose to move the adjournment of the Debate?
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in his description of the practice usually followed in cases of this kind. The Government will offer no objection to adjourning the Debate immediately after the first gentleman who is good enough to sit down after 3 o'clock.