§ [EIGHTEENTH NIGHT.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Legislative Authority.
§ Clause 3 (Exceptions from powers of Irish Legislature).
§ * SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)
The Amendment which stands on the Paper in my name deals with banks; but I have another Amendment lower down to insert in line 14, after "or," the words "bills of exchange." It might be a convenience to the Committee if I were to combine the two. I do not know whether that will meet with the views of Her Majesty's Government; but if the right hon. Gentleman has no objection I will move the two. The Amendment I will submit will be in line 13, after "legal tender," to insert "banks, bills of exchange." The arguments in support of the two subjects will be somewhat different, and, therefore, I will deal with the two things separately. As to banks, the Amendment which I move, though akin to that on the "currency," which the Government were good enough to say they would consider, stands upon different grounds, and I hope it may be accepted by my right hon. Friend. Various 798 countries have endeavoured to raise loans by granting privileges to a bank. This policy has been always injurious, and has often led to very disastrous results. I hope that the Irish Government will not be encouraged to take any such course. If a Government is economically managed, it ought to have no difficulty in raising funds by loan, prudently and within reason—to go beyond this would certainly lead to waste and extravagance. Ireland has suffered much in the past from bad banking. Fullarton, in his work on the currency, goes so far as to assert that—No country, perhaps, in the world, scarcely even excepting the United States of America, has suffered so much as Ireland from bad banking; and now that we have at length, after various unprofitable attempts, succeeded in establishing there a banking system which holds out a fair prospect of usefulness, it does not seem to be exactly the time for disturbing it.That prospect has been fully justified. For many years now Ireland has felt confidence in her banks, and there have been but few failures. I may say, then, with even more force than Fullarton could, that "this does not seem to be exactly the time for disturbing" the Irish banking system. Irish Members, we are told, are anxious to foster Irish commerce and manufactures. Now, the Irish banks are among the most prosperous of Irish institutions. What is the effect of this Bill on them? The hon. Member for Tyrone justly claimed, last week, to represent the views of Irish banks, and I know that he supports this Amendment. But in this case I can also quote the views of the shareholders themselves. Twelve months ago—I give the figures on the high authority of The Economist, 20th May, 1893 — 12 months ago their £7,065,000 of paid-up capital was worth, at the then market price, £18,466,000; now it is worth no more than £16,935,000; "and for this loss of £1,500,000 the bank shareholders know that they have Mr. Gladstone and his scheme of Home Rule to thank." Moreover, the change is the more remarkable, because Scotch bank shares during the same period have risen over £500,000, and English bank shares have remained stationary. It must be evident, thou—no one can doubt for a moment — that Irishmen who are interested in this branch of Irish industry will, almost to a man, be in favour of this Amendment, and will believe that its 799 adoption would raise, and it rejection will lower, the value of their property. Not only does this apply to the commercial banks of Ireland—these are not the only hanks which are disturbed by the prospect before them. The Savings Banks also share the same apprehensions. For instance, the Trustees and Managers of the Dublin Savings Bank, at their meeting on the 14th March, unanimously resolved—That the Trustees and Managers of the Dublin Savings Bank, having accepted office on condition that the money deposited in the Bank should be transmitted to the Commissioners for the reduction of the National Debt, would not be prepared to continue responsible for the working of the bank under the conditions of Clause 21 of the Government of Ireland Bill.I think that is very strong evidence. I have, I think, conclusively shown ground for believing that if you polled the shareholders of Irish banks you would hardly find a single one of them who would be opposed to my Amendment, and who would not, on the contrary, be ready to support it. Looking at the state of the Benches opposite, one would be inclined to think that the Irish Members do not feel a very deep interest in the question; but I presume those Members are, at the present moment, engaged in the consideration of a subject of more interest to them. I would appeal to the test of experience and the authority of precedent. In the British North America Act of 1867, banking and the incorporation of banks is one of the subjects expressly reserved to the Dominion Parliament. But in Ireland the case is even stronger than it was in Canada. In the United States, in Switzerland— indeed, in every case of Federal Union— the Banking Law is reserved to the Central Legislature. I do not know whether we shall be told, as we were on Friday, that this is an insulting Amendment.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK
I am sorry that the solitary Representative of the Irish Nationalist Party says "Hear, hear!" implying that that is the case. But, at any rate, the Committee will agree with me that intention is of the essence of an insult, and I can assure Irish Home Rule Members that I have no such intention. The Government propose to exclude coinage and legal tender. Is that an 800 insult? If not, why should it be an insult to exclude banking and bills of exchange? In every other case of Federalism they are excluded. But neither the Swiss Cantons, nor the States of the Union, nor the Provinces in the Dominion of Canada regard it as an insult. Then why should Ireland? How can it he an insult? Under the Bill Ireland will be represented here, and the only question is whether the Banking Law of Ireland should be settled by Irishmen sitting here, or Irishmen sitting in Dublin? The law relating to banking is not only a very important, but also a very delicate and difficult subject. The Irish Banking Law was settled by Sir R. Peel after the most careful and anxious consideration and consultation with the highest authorities. It has stood the test of experience and worked well, and I anxiously appeal to the Government to accept this Amendment, and not unnecessarily to disturb an arrangement which has proved satisfactory, and which is one of the very few things in Ireland which I have never heard attacked from the Benches opposite during the quarter of a century that I have had the honour of a seat in this House. Under these circumstances, I do submit that, so far as the first part of my Amendment is concerned, I have made out a very strong case. I believe that if I can only induce hon. Members above the Gangway to look at the matter, not as a question of Party or of politics, but simply as a question of what would be best in the future for the commercial relations of Ireland, Her Majesty's Government will agree to the insertion of the word "banks" in the clause. The second part of my Amendment deals with bills of exchange. The subject is one of great importance to the commercial community. The rights and liabilities of different parties to these instruments have given rise to an infinity of legal questions and multitudes of decisions—enough, indeed, to fill a whole library. Now, Sir, in 1882, on behalf of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Bankers, I introduced a Bill codifying the whole law regulating bills of exchange, promissory notes, and cheques. It was referred to a strong Committee upstairs— on which the present Lord Chancellor took a most active and useful part—and 801 so carefully considered that, when it came down again to the House, although it contained over 100 clauses, it passed without the alteration of a word. The Bill, Sir, has given general satisfaction in the Three Kingdoms; from that day to this there has been no proposal for any change. In the preface to the last edition of Byles on Bills, the great authority on the subject, the authors say that—The success of the Code in diminishing litigation must be very gratifying to its framers, few important cases having arisen since.That, Sir, not only means an immense saving of expense, but also of trouble and of anxiety, for it is most necessary to us all that we should know what the law is. It very often does not so much matter what the law is, as that we are able to know what it is. Another important advantage of the Act was that it has given us one uniform law throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland. Now, I say again, I propose this Amendment in no spirit of distrust of Irish Members; but I submit to them that in the interests of trade and commerce in Ireland, which I am sure they are anxious to foster as well as we are, that in the general interests of the United Kingdom, if any changes are made, it is desirable that they should be proposed, and, if approved, adopted here in the Imperial Parliament, so that we may retain—what will be admitted to be in this respect a great advantage—one uniform law throughout the United Kingdom. May I, in conclusion, just remind the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and the Committee of the argument he used in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin on Tuesday when he very justly said—It was not the main consideration which had led the Government to the conclusion at which they had arrived, to which they were bound to adhere. That main consideration was this: that the United Kingdom from geographical circumstances, as well as from circumstances which were social and moral, constituted one great and vast trade circle. If they departed from the principle of uniformity in trade matters, they might, perhaps, satisfy to a greater extent the abstract idea of the light of local legislation; but by satisfying that abstract idea they might inflict an immense practical injury. It was necessary in the interests of Ireland herself that this uniformity of commercial law should prevail throughout these Islands.… But he did not care to debate the question whether they would misuse the power or not, for he based his position on this: that it was vital to 802 the commerce of the Three Kingdoms that there should be uniformity of commercial law from one extremity of the land to the other.I could not, Sir, commend my Amendment to the House in clearer or abler terms. I submit to my right hon. Friend and to the candid judgment of the Committee that the reasons I have just quoted from the Prime Minister's speech apply entirely to the present Amendment. To my mind, it is absolutely necessary that you should introduce these words in order to carry out the principle which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister declared to be vital to the interests of trade and commerce in the Three Kingdoms. I beg, therefore, on these grounds, very respectfully to commend my Amendment to the Committee. This should not be a contentious matter. It is not, as I have already pointed out, a matter of Party or politics; and I earnestly hope that the Committee will regard the question from the point of view of what is best for the trade and commerce of Ireland as well as of England.
In page 2, line 13, after the words "legal tender," to insert the words "banks, bills of exchange."—(Sir John Lubbock.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman (Sir. J Lubbock) will allow me to remind him that the observations I made the other day with regard to the Three Kingdoms constituting one great and vast trade circle had reference to a proposition to give to Ireland the power of regulating external trade, or trade which might be called foreign or international trade. I do not wish to press the argument further; but the right hon. Gentleman will see that my observations had no reference whatever to the details of internal trade within Ireland. In regard to trade, we know that bad legislation in an island may produce evil results to a neighbouring island; nay, we have reason to know that bad legislation in another country produced evil results on the commerce of this country not very long ago. But this state of things, within limits, is inseparable not only from commercial legislation, but from a great deal of other legislation—namely, that if the power of legislating is abused or badly handled, it may not only injure 803 the country in which it is passed, but other countries also. My right hon. Friend says he judges from the absence of the Representatives of Ireland that they feel no interest in this question; but, for my own part, I have observed many times, when the Irish Benches have been sparsely occupied, that that fact is not to be regarded as showing that the Irish Members take no interest in the question under discussion, though they may have not taken much interest in the Debate. It is quite possible the Irish Members have allowed themselves the rare luxury of some remission from their labours. I do not oppose this Amendment on the ground that it is insulting to Ireland. I may have a strong feeling about the method which has been adopted of asking Parliament to withdraw one by one almost every prominent and important power for regulating its business that the Irish Legislature ought to possess. This Amendment, after all, is only one of a long series of proposals to withhold powers from the Irish Legislature. I certainly think it unjust to disparage that Legislature; but I admit that this Amendment does so less than other proposals that have been made interfering largely with the details of Irish life. There was one thing I ought to say concerning bills of exchange, which is that foreign bills, including those drawn on England, could not be touched by the Irish Legislature.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Yes. I apprehend those could not be touched. The Government cannot assent to these constant proposals to withdraw responsibility from Ireland. Without responsibility you cannot expect either an Irish Legislature or any other Legislature to train itself in the difficult work of legislation. No doubt mischief may result from legislation; but, in the end, responsibility and liberty will lead to good. I regard the Amendment as impolitic and inconvenient, and as embodying a principle of a most pernicious character. Subject to a door left open for future consideration, in regard to taking steps to prevent over-issues, the Committee have, by their decision on Friday, given to the Irish Legislature the whole matter of currency; and, taking away legal tender and 804 currency, banking is nothing but a branch of purely internal trade. If you say that banking should be connected with issue, that leads me to consider how far we are able to set ourselves up as an example of great success in this business. The question whether the issue of this country ought not to be made progressively national was opened by the Act of 1844, and although development was contemplated by the measure no progress has been made in the matter. Thirty years ago, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, I introduced a Bill finally to dispose of the question of private issue in England; but, owing to dissension with the hankers upon a collateral point, I failed to carry the Bill into law, and since that time not a single step has been taken for the purpose of applying in a more consistent manner the principle of the Act of 1844. Therefore, if we are to interfere with internal trade in Ireland, I think it ought to be in regard to internal trade as to which we have shown a remarkable capacity for vigorous and efficient legislation, and not one than which there is no subject of legislation that the House of Commons has dealt with with less efficiency. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer made loud complaints upon the subject of the deficiency of reserves in the banks of this country; but for five or six years he was unable to do anything to improve the state of affairs. I do not find fault with him. I have endeavoured to deal with the subject myself, and have failed; but I say this makes a very infirm sort of case for us to interfere with Ireland as the right hon. Baronet proposes. In these circumstances, to adopt the Amendment would be an interference, not with anything that carries Imperial character, but simply with the internal business of Ireland.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
My right hon. Friend has thrown out a fly with regard to the banking system in this country; but he will not think I am treating him with any want of courtesy if I do not rise in response to so tempting a bait. My right hon. Friend suggests that there are many laches in this country, and he says the new Irish Parliament will be more competent to deal with Irish banking than this House. I should like the shareholders in Irish banks to give their opinion on that subject. That would be 805 Irish opinion, and intelligent Irish opinion. It is questionable, I believe, whether the present Bill will be passed into law. If it should not pass, I would suggest to my hon. Friend that in any interval that occurs before another Bill is introduced he should cause a communication to be made to the representatives of Irish banks and their shareholders and customers as to whether they would prefer to leave the matter in the hands of gentlemen who manage The Freeman's Journal Company, or in those hands which are so incompetent to deal with the question as my right hon. Friend suggests they have been during the last half-century. If we were to take Irish opinion, not from a political but from a commercial point of view, in this matter, I am inclined to think that it would not support the doctrine laid down by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend instanced a case of legislation in one country damaging another country, but said that was one of the matters that must be endured. He said the American Legislature had passed Acts which had been extremely damaging to this country, and we had been obliged to endure it. The assumption is, therefore, that if the Irish Parliament passed Acts which were injurious to this country we should also have to endure it. But the answer is that one case is remedial and the other is not. The more we can obtain uniformity in commercial law the better for all interests concerned, because the more identity there is in commercial matters the better. I do not think there is anything in the argument that because other nations pass laws injurious to us we must contemplate with equanimity the prospect of the Irish Parliament doing the same thing. As far as there are common commercial interests, it is desirable to have common legislation in the greatest possible degree. If we are to retain the Irish Members in this House, is it not better that commercial law should remain on one footing than that there should be two sets of laws with regard to bills of exchange and banking? As to bills of exchange, the Irish Members ought to see no possible reason why the law should not be common to the two countries. The right hon. Member for London University (Sir J. Lubbock) quoted the case of the Dominion Parliament and the Provincial 806 Parliaments of Canada, and also the case of the United States; but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister does not pay much heed to colonial and foreign analogies when they do not fit in with the case he wishes to make. I would suggest a compromise to my right hon. Friend the Member for London University. Supposing we were to admit, injurious as it may possibly be, that internal banking should remain with the Irish Parliament, would the Government agree that the laws relating to bills of exchange should be left to be dealt with by the Imperial Parliament? I understand from the Prime Minister that bills drawn in Ireland on England would be Imperial—
§ MR. GOSCHEN
And that those drawn in England on Ireland would be local. We are to treat Ireland as a foreign country in that respect. Bills of exchange between England and Ireland are to be put on the same footing as bills of exchange between England and France. This question illustrates the difficulty which meets us in every Debate respecting the separating of English and Irish affairs. It appears, however, that so separate are the two countries to be that we may have to treat Irish Bills as foreign Bills. Possibly we shall have to come to some arrangement with the Irish Parliament, after negotiating as with a Foreign Power, for obtaining a common law as to bills of exchange. I do ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is it worth while to raise this difficulty at all, looking at the question, not as a political matter, but as a matter of common sense? A man might have bills in his bill-box, a portion of them being subject to Imperial law, and a portion subject to Irish law, so that he would be exactly in the same position as if he were dealing with a foreigner. I do not say that any great damage would arise; but every banker would tell you that he would much prefer that foreign bills should be subject to the same law as English bills, and that varieties of contract are a drawback to quick and safe business. I would recommend my right hon. Friend the Member for London University to withdraw the portion of his Amendment with reference to banks if the Government will accept the other portion.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
I am rather surprised at the right hon. Gentleman desiring to appeal to the shareholders on the subject of policy. The right hon. Gentleman, two years ago, raised a note of alarm which created almost a panic in this country, when he said that the reserves of all the banks in England were so small that there was an infinite danger in reference to the security of the commerce of this country. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman used the most alarming language. Well, the question was referred to the shareholders and managers of the English banks, and they pronounced unanimously against the opinion and the policy of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Let us see what they accepted. The right hon. Gentleman said, in effect—"If the country is to be safe you ought to keep greater reserves." Well, in other countries there are laws by which banks are compelled to keep 25 per cent, of reserves. Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to legislate in this direction to protect the country against the dangers of which he so loudly complained? No; he did not venture to face the banking interest, because it condemned him altogether. If he had carried out the policy he advocated he would have reduced the profits of the shareholder. Why do the banks keep such low reserves? In order that, by using their money, they may make larger profits and larger dividends. Under these circumstances, the shareholders condemned the alarming statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and the panic he endeavoured to create. To say, then, that the shareholders are the final judges of what is sound policy is a most astounding statement as coming from the right hon. Gentleman. The interests of the shareholders are not the same as the interests of the community. The right hon. Gentleman says they carried out part of his policy. Part of his policy was to request them to publish their accounts. He did not even make that compulsory. They have published their accounts, but have increased their reserves? [Cries of "Yes!"] Who says "Yes?"
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, I looked the other day to see what the reserves were; and I found that, as nearly as possible, they were exactly the same as when the right hon. Gentleman sounded his note of alarm. They varied from 11 per cent, to 15 or 16 per cent., thus differing hardly at all from the former condition of things. It astonishes me, then, that the right hon. Gentleman should take the shareholders and managers as the persons who are to be the ultimate judges. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for London University (Sir J. Lubbock) said that banking shares in England have not diminished in value. My experience has been the reverse. I have looked at the figures, and I find he is entirely mistaken. The shares in England, as well as those in Ireland, are not as high as they were a few months ago, or a few years ago. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has asked the Mover of the Amendment not to proceed with it as far as the banks are concerned, subject to an appeal to the shareholders.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
What I recommend to my right hon. Friend is that if you accept one portion of the Amendment he should withdraw the other.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I do not quite understand this principle of swop in reference to bills of exchange. All we have said is that they are within the power of the Irish Legislature when they are drawn on Ireland. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer says it will be an extraordinary thing for a banker to have in his portfolio bills of different kinds. I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman's experience would have taught him that there was a great difference between inland and foreign bills. Bills drawn on Ireland should be left to the Irish Legislature, and bills drawn on England should be subject to Imperial legislation. When my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) proposed to deal with foreign bills of exchange he was told by all the authorities that he was going to ruin English commerce, and that Amsterdam would again become the Money Market of the world. The proposal of the Government is a perfectly sound one— namely, that the bills which have no 809 operation outside Ireland should be under the control of the Irish Parliament.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said, he really thought that when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) rose twice in the same Debate, and assumed that in consequence of his position he would be called on, although an Irish Member had been called on, he assumed too much.
§ MR. CLANCY
said, he thought it was time for the right hon. Gentleman to give way. He himself should not have risen but for the statement made by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Lubbock) that the absence of the Irish Members might be accounted for by their want of interest in the question at issue. It was not part of his (Mr. Clancy's) mission to defend the Members who were absent; but it was notorious that they were absent not because they felt any want of interest in the Debate, but for another purpose, which was known to every reader of the newspapers of the day, including, he was sure, the ingenuous Baronet opposite. The right hon. Gentleman led the House to believe the Irish Members were absent from this Debate because they felt no interest in the subject, whereas the real reason was notorious, and must have been known to the right hon. Gentleman. He was glad the Government had not given way. If they had given way upon the reasons given by the Mover of the Amendment and by the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, he thought it would have considerably altered the attitude of the Irish Members towards the Bill. Anything like the weakness of the case they had made for taking away a purely Irish concern from the control of the Irish Parliament could not be imagined. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer descended, not for the first time, to some very paltry and puerile arguments. It was puerile and contemptible to refer to the affairs of The Freeman's Journal as an argument, and to descend to this paltry trick of the platform to justify the taking away from the control of the Irish Parliament a matter of entirely Irish concern. (Such taunts were beneath one occupying the position of the right 810 hon. Gentleman, and were unworthy the subject of discussion. The right hon. Gentleman made some allusion to the question of consulting shareholders. He wondered did the right hon. Gentleman consult the shareholders—did he consult the Egyptians when he undertook the management of their banking affairs? With reference to the argument that under this Bill there would be two classes of bills of exchauge—one subject to Irish law and the other to Imperial law—he would point out that there was not a firm in London which had foreign transactions which was not afflicted with the same thing, and yet found no difficulty whatever in managing its affairs. There would be far less difficulty in dealing with Ireland. The Member for London University pointed out that the present law regarding bills of exchange was a very good one, and he went on to assume that because it was a good law the Irish Parliament would immediately change it. It did not follow that the Irish Parliament would alter it by one jot or tittle; but what they contended for was this right if they wished to make changes according as they seemed to be desirable, and that was a matter of purely Irish concern which they could not surrender on any consideration. He would point out one consequence of taking away from the Irish Legislature any power of dealing with banks. Some two or three years ago a panic was created in Dublin by the non-publication of accounts by the Bank of Ireland; and if this Amendment were carried, the right hon. Gentleman would have secured in advance that the Irish Legislature should have no power whatever to compel such institutions to publish their accounts. For his part, he should be ashamed to sit in an Irish Legislature which would not have the power to do a thing like that. The argument of the right hon. Baronet amounted to this: that at present the laws regarding banking and bills of exchange in Ireland were good; that the Irish Parliament would change them, and that, therefore, they ought to be deprived of power to change them. He put it to any man who was a supporter of the principle of Home Rule, could the Irish Members submit or listen to such an argument for a moment without feeling they were insulted? The right hon. 811 Baronet had disclaimed any intention to insult, but he acted under leaders who habitually resorted to the use of insulting language, and he had never yet heard the right hon. Gentleman in his mild manner utter even the mildest protests against these insults. On the contrary; he put down Amendment after Amendment on the Notice Paper in regard to this Bill proposing to take away one Irish right and then another, and he supposed he would support another hon. Gentleman presently who would propose to take away stamps, and still another who would propose to prevent the Irish Parliament from dealing with pens and envelopes. He must take the right hon. Gentleman's repudiation of any intention of insulting the Irish Members with a grain of salt. What the Member for London University and what the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench meant was that the Irish people were not fit to manage their own affairs. ["Hear, hear!"] That statement was cheered, and he could not understand any Unionist or Tory supporting an Amendment designed to carry out that idea, but for goodness sake let them be honest, and not pretend they were not insulting the Irish people! Although it was perfectly natural for Unionists to take this stand and propose these Amendments, he thought a very strong course indeed ought to be taken by every supporter of Home Rule which should be not to make terms with those who proposed them, not to enter into any compromise on the subject, and not to discuss seriously Amendments such as the present one, which were insulting in their very nature, and which went to the very root and traversed the principle of this Bill. The way to treat such Amendments was not to treat them seriously, not to discuss them, but to vote them down steadily one after another.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, he had been struck by what had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the statement he had made respecting bills of exchange. A bill that was drawn in Ireland, say in Belfast or Cork, would be in every sense what they would call an inland bill of Ireland, but if a bill was drawn, say in London upon Cork, he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what bill did he call that?
§ SIR H. JAMES
did not think that answer was quite worthy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If a bill was drawn in London on Cork, was that an inland bill or a foreign bill? The Chancellor of the Exchequer used the word "Imperial." He could not conceive such a term. They could not call it an Imperial bill. Bills drawn in Ireland upon Ireland ought to be dealt with by the Irish Legislature; but suppose a bill was drawn by someone in London on Cork, where the acceptor was in Cork, would that be dealt with by the Irish Legislature?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
We understand this: that the exception of trade is operative upon both classes of bills, and, being connected with trade as we excepted trade in the Bill, that will prevent it being acted upon by the Irish Legislature.
§ SIR H. JAMES
said, the right hon. Gentleman stated that bills of exchange referred to trade, and so they did. But suppose they gave a bill of exchange for the price of a piano, or to repay an old debt they owed under a covenant; what had that to do with trade? Were such bills of exchange included in the word "trade"? This was where he was afraid so much difficulty would arise. A night or two ago they were told that the word "navigation" would cover merchant shipping, and now they wore told that "trade" would cover bills of exchange. But all bills of exchange were not trade bills; and if it was to be said that the Irish Legislature was to be prohibited from dealing with bills of exchange belonging to trade, let them in the word "trade" include bills of exchange. That could not offend the hon. Member opposite. The insult was complete to him already if under the word "trade" they were to include bills of exchange. The hon. Member was grossly insulted by the Bill because the Government were not allowing the Irish Parliament to deal with bills of exchange, because they included trade, and under that term they would include purely Irish bills, because there was trade in Ireland. He was putting to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he had to consider what would be the effect on English bills drawn upon Ireland, or Irish bills drawn upon England. Take another matter. 813 There were foreign bills that would not originate in England drawn, say, in St. Petersburg. Was there a different law as to foreign bills of exchange if drawn upon Cork or London? How would they stand with reference to foreign nations if such was the case, and the Irish Legislature had said there should be 10 days of grace instead of three? He should like to know if a bill was drawn in Belfast on Cork, payable it might be in London, was that an Irish or an English bill, or an Imperial bill? They were told that the countries were to remain perfectly united; but here within these limits they were to have different rules of trade affecting contracts, to which Englishmen on the one part and Irishmen on the other should be parties, but in regard to which the Imperial Parliament would have no power whatever, such power being left entirely to the Irish Legislature.
* MR. BROWN (Shropshire, Wellington)
observed that not many years ago the law of bills of exchange was carefully consolidated, and it was very desirable that no change should be made in it. He contended that, unless the law relating to bills of exchange was made clear and simple, they would be putting a bar in the way of Irish trade, and the law on the subject ought to be such that it should be as well-known abroad as it was here. They had had no answer yet to the questions put by the right hon. Member for Bury. Bills might be drawn in Ireland and accepted by Ireland; they would be deemed to be entirely inland bills. But what would be the position of bills drawn up abroad and accepted in Ireland, whether they related to trade or not? If there were to be two laws on the subject, there would be the greatest confusion.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Let me point out to the Committee how this Debate has been conducted. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Loudon, in order to shorten the discussion, put his two Amendments together. Then a reply was made by the First Lord of the Treasury, who went into a general history of banking. I resisted the temptation to follow my right hon. Friend; I said to myself "Lead me not into temptation." The Chancellor of the Exchequer then attacks me again in connection with the banking of this country—a method 814 which is not calculated to promote the rapidity of debate—and holdup a number of controversial subjects and the degree as to which bankers in England had, or had not, accepted my proposals. During the whole of these discussions there has seldom been a more irrelevant speech. Supposing I had attempted to reply— and the right hon. Gentleman knows I have a right to reply—I might show him in some detail whether or not and to what extent I benefited the country by the proposals I made, or the reverse. But I resist the temptation. I will not prolong the discussion on this important Amendment by any reply to the somewhat personal character which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave to it. But let the Committee remember the time given to that part of the case, and then the point as to which the right hon. Gentleman is silent. He does not reply at all to the points which have been raised. There is always the same display. General topics are discussed, insults to Ireland are spoken of, or any personal question may be raised; but as to going into the exact substance raised by the Amendment, that is entirely avoided by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said I thought it a monstrosity that we should have two classes of bills of exchange. On the contrary; I said that merchants and bankers bad these two classes of bills; but I also said that they desired as much similarity of law between the two as possible. What I want to point out is this: With regard to foreign bills, foreign countries and the mercantile classes of this country have had conferences in order that they may bring about an assimilation of the law; whereas Ireland, for this purpose, is to be made a foreign country, which may have legislation contrary to ours. I do not know whether the House sufficiently remembers that the Prime Minister said he would consent to nothing in the Bill which, if applied to Ireland, might not be also applied to Scotland, England, and Wales.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I said Scotland and Wales. I say that if Scotland demanded it you would not dare to resist it.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Then we should be in the same position as regards Scotland as Her Majesty's Government is in at this present moment as regards 815 Ireland. They dare not resist—even to make bills of exchange in Imperial matters—because they are denounced by the hon. Member for Dublin County. But my point is this: We must give what Scotland, Ireland, and Wales asks, therefore we shall have four different parts of the United Kingdom with four different powers of dealing with bills of exchange—each to be treated as a foreign bill; therefore, instead of one having bills of the United Kingdom, there are to be bills from the four Principalities forming the United Kingdom. I do not think that is promoting the interests of that vast united trade circle to which my right hon. Friend alluded the other day. His whole argument is in favour of giving the different parts of the United Kingdom the power of making different laws as to bills of exchange circulating in the United Kingdom, and putting them on the footing of foregn countries.
§ * MR. MARTIN (Worcester, Droitwich)
wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question which really went to the root of the whole matter relating to bills of exchange. Would an ordinary bill of exchange drawn in London on Cork or Belfast be drawn with an impressed stamp as a London bill or as a foreign bill, which would bear an adhesive foreign bill stamp? Was Ireland to be treated as part of the United Kingdom or as a foreign State or colony? This point was an important one, and had a bearing on Irish revenue. If Ireland was to be treated as part of the United Kingdom then stamps would fall within the Imperial revenue; but if she was to be treated as an independent colony and dependency of Great Britain, she would have her own Stamp Acts.
§ * THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir J. RIGBY,) Forfar
In answer to the hon. Gentleman, I have to say that there is no doubt at all that Ireland is not to be a foreign country. Ireland is to remain part of the United Kingdom. ["Oh, oh!" and cries of "Order!"] There is no doubt about it. The Sovereign of Ireland will be the Queen of England. I cannot conceive the state of mind of hon. Gentlemen who, simply because certain powers are to be given to the Legislature in Ireland, will so exaggerate and misunderstand the state of things as to jeer at a statement which is 816 literally and entirely true—namely, that Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom, and undoubtedly it will remain so also as regards bills of exchange that are drawn from Ireland upon London and accepted in London. The case of bills of exchange drawn upon Loudon in Ireland is different in some respects. That is to say, if there is no prohibition on the Irish Legislature to legislate on Irish bills of exchange, such bills would be subject to such Irish laws. The view I take is this: If you exempt the Irish Legislature from dealing with this matter, you then, as a matter of fact, prevent the Irish Legislature from dealing with bills which are not foreign bills, which are not Irish bills in the ordinary sense, but which are instruments of trade between one part of the United Kingdom and another. We are told that "navigation" does not include "merchant shipping." I cannot understand how anyone can have a doubt about that. It has always been the case in great Acts that the words are taken as representative words. If you are debarred from dealing with navigation you must take it that that includes merchant shipping. So also with regard to matters of trade. You must not consider what is the narrowest possible interpretation you can put on the word "trade," but what is the meaning of the word in a great Constitutional Act which takes away altogether from the Irish Legislature the power of dealing with external trade.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, he always hailed the advent of the Solicitor General, because he felt sure they would receive from the hon. Gentleman some enlightenment on nice questions under discussion. But he was afraid be had not on the present occasion such advantage as he expected, and which he usually derived from the Solicitor General on this very delicate matter. What was the question before the Committee? The right hon. Baronet the Member for London University proposed to exempt from the powers of the Irish Legislature banks and bills of exchange. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, suggested that "banks" should be dropped, inasmuch as the question of banking was reserved for the Irish Legislature, and that the discussion should be confined to the matter of bills 817 of exchange, a view with which he thoroughly agreed. On Clause 3 the Committee were considering what subjects should be remitted exclusively to the Irish Legislature, and what subjects should be reserved, not for the Legislature of Great Britain, but for a Legislature in which Great Britain, England, Scotland, and Ireland would all be represented, for that was the scheme of the Bill and the real question they had to consider—whether legislation touching bills of exchange was a matter so intimately connected with trade that it would not be better to reserve it entirely to the Representatives of the three Kingdoms assembled in the Imperial Parliament rather than remit it to the Representatives of different parts of the United Kingdom meeting in their several parts of the Kingdom? A bill of exchange was a very ubiquitous thing —it went here, there, and everywhere, and it would be impossible to classify it so strictly as to say to what part of the United Kingdom it belonged. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury referred to a class of bills drawn in one part of Ireland upon another part of Ireland, but acceptable and payable in Loudon. A bill of that class had the same characteristic in Loudon markets as a bill drawn anywhere else in the Kingdom, and for practical purposes they could not distinguish between such a bill and a bill drawn in Ireland upon London. Therefore, the question was, whether it would not be convenient for the purposes of trade that legislation touching bills of exchange should be reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and not be delegated to the Parliaments of different parts of the Kingdom? If the Government did not accept the Amendment, the matter must be made more plain, for it was impossible to follow the reasoning of the Solicitor General and say it was clear, as the Bill stood, what legislation in the matter of bills of exchange was remitted to the Irish Legislature and what legislation was confined to the Imperial Parliament.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
thought that what was wanted in the discussion was a little practical experience. At present bills were drawn in Loudon upon Ireland, and it appeared to be the opinion of some hon. Members that to get these 818 bills paid it was necessary to issue a writ in London and have it executed in Ireland. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, at any rate in the case of such bills, the writ was issued from the Irish Courts. He thought that if they prevented the Irish Legislature from interfering in a matter of that kind they would be creating great difficulties in the way of carrying on the trade of Ireland. The Committee should assume that it would be the interest of the Irish Legislature to facilitate trade. Surely it would be the interest of the Irish Legislature to make the collection of bills in Ireland as easy as possible; because, if assistance were not given to English traders to collect these bills in Ireland, Irish traders would receive no assistance in the collection of their bills in England. Then, again, it seemed to be forgotten that the system of banking in Ireland was essentially different from the system of banking in England. Not a single argument had been advanced as to why this subject should be exempted from the Irish Legislature; and, in his view, such exemption would throw great difficulties in the way of Irish trade.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
said, that some Representative of the Unionist interest should be allowed to say a few words on this subject. He could assure the Committee that it was thought of enormous importance in Dublin and Belfast that the law in reference to bills of exchange should be uniform throughout the Kingdom, and that if it wore not uniform Irish trade would be dislocated and Irish credit would suffer. The Prime Minister had told them that bills drawn in Ireland upon England and bills drawn in England upon Ireland would come under the term "trade," and would be excluded from the future Irish Legislature, if it ever were established. On that point he had to ask the Solicitor General a question. There were two plain principles of law—namely, that the interpretation of a contract, including a bill of exchange, was regulated by the law of the place where the contract was made, and that the remedy was regulated by the law of the place where the remedy was sought. Therefore, if a man was to draw a bill of exchange in Ireland or in England, with this Bill in operation, he ventured to say 819 that in an Irish Court, or in an English Court, the Judges would be bound to interpret the law according to the law of Ireland if it were made in Ireland, or according to the law of England if it were made in England, and apply the remedy in accordance with the law of England if the remedy was sought in England, or according to the law of Ireland if the remedy were sought in Ireland. The Prime Minister had said that the intention of the Government was that this matter was included in "trade," and that it should not be dealt with by the Irish Legislature. But no Court would be justified in interpreting an Act of Parliament according to the desires of those who framed it. Plain words should be inserted in the Bill that these powers were reserved to the Imperial Parliament. They were told that this Bill was part of a big scheme for the Federation of the Empire. But every Federationist desired that the law of trade should be uniform throughout the Empire, while the Government were trying to dislocate the trade of the United Kingdom—to make the laws of commerce so different, even within the narrow compass of these seas, that the merchants of London and the merchants of Belfast would be unable to tell the law which affected any question of trade that might arise. Let them look at what occurred recently in Australia. A number of banks had failed there one after another. He read the other day that a Conference had been held there with a view to having a uniform law of banking established throughout the Australtan Colonies. So that in Australia they thought it better to have, as a preliminary to Federation, a uniformity established in the laws of commerce, while the Mother of all the Parliaments was going in the opposite direction, and doing its best to separate Ireland from England.
§ SIR THOMAS LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, this question of bills of exchange was of the most vital importance to the commercial classes of Ireland, and they desired to see the Amendment carried. The Prime Minister had all his lifetime striven to break down the barriers of trade and commerce in all parts of the world; and now the right hon. Gentleman opposed an Amendment which proposed to carry out the trade prin- 820 ciples which he had always advocated. In 1882, under the Government of the right hon. Gentleman, the Bills of Exchange Act was passed. That Act implied to all the British Islands; to the Isle of Man and the various Channel Islands, and was intended to make the law on the subject comprehensive, and the rejection of the Amendment before the Committee would be a direct violation of that Act. Unless the Amendment were adopted, immense confusion would prevail in the matter of the bill of exchange. For instance, there was nothing to prevent the Irish Legislature declaring that certain festivals should be bank holidays, and great inconvenience would be caused with regard to bills which fell due on those days. The Solicitor General had said that the Bill would not make Ireland a foreign country. But the Bills of Exchange Act of 1882 said there were only two classes of bills—inland bills and foreign bills, and it was quite clear that under the bill Irish bills would be foreign bills.
§ * SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer about banks had no reference to the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman's reply referred to the question of administration; but the Amendment dealt with the question of law. He would not enter on the subject of banks, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, though it was tempting to him; but with regard to the question of 6 bills of exchange he should say that the issue would be very unsatisfactory to all those who were connected with trade and commerce. The Prime Minister stated that the Amendment dealt only with the details of Irish trade. Surely that was not so; it applied also to bills payable in England. If the Amendment were not adopted they would have three classes of bills, and three different laws applying to them—bills drawn in and payable in Ireland; bills drawn in Ireland upon London; and bills drawn in Ireland upon other parts of Ireland and payable in London. Such a system would introduce great confusion in commerce, for which there was not the slightest reason. If they could consult commercial circles on the subject, there was no doubt that there would be an over- 821 whelming expression of opinion in favour of the Amendment.
§ * MR. W. KENNY (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
said, he wished to reply to a statement made by the hon. and learned Member for North Dublin. The hon. and learned Member, after having given the Committee a diluted edition of the leading article which appeared in The Daily News that day, proceeded to say that there was a panic in Dublin some two or three years ago on account of the non-publication of the accounts of the Bank of Ireland. There was no foundation whatever for that statement. What took place was this—
§ * MR. W. KENNY
said, he would only say, in reply to the hon. and learned Member, that it was not on account of the non-publication of its accounts by the Bank of Ireland that the panic arose; but it arose in consequence of a Nationalist newspaper—which did not now represent the opinions of the hon. and learned Member, but which at the time was a vital and effective force in Ireland—having preached a crusade against the Bank of Ireland because its Directors were Unionists.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 254; Noes 283.—(Division List, No. 131.)
MR. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, in rising to move the Amendment standing in his name, he would like to assure hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and especially the hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy), that he did so with no wish and with no intention of casting any slight on hon. Gentlemen who represented Irish constituencies, but who believed in Home Rule. He moved his Amendment simply and absolutely for this one purpose—that he believed having a uniform system of stamps for the whole of the United Kingdom would tend, inter alia, to the harmonious working of the Three Kingdoms. He found, on looking to those countries of the world regarding which they had heard so much from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Bryce), that in the Federal system of the United States they had one uniform postage stamp for the whole of the United States. Also, 822 with regard to the great Dominion of Canada, the various State Legislatures had no power to issue a special stamp—that power was reserved by the Parliament of Canada. With regard to bills of exchange, he thought it would conduce greatly to the harmonious working of the commercial system to have one uniform stamp for every part of the United Kingdom. He thought it would be a grave anomaly that in Ireland there should be one stamp affixed on bills of exchange that might be considered in England as a foreign stamp, and the acceptor in this country might have to place another on the bill; and, therefore, it was desirable they should have one uniform stamp for the whole of the United Kingdom. Why did he say it would tend to the harmonious working of the commercial system of the country? Hon. Gentlemen were aware that there were various small sums sent from England to Ireland by means of the postage stamp; if that was interchangeable it became very much more facile for the people of this country to send small sums of money in the shape of stamps for the purchase of small quantities of goods in Ireland. If the Bill had specified in proper language the powers of this proposed Legislature, it would not have been necessary either for himself or other hon. Gentlemen to get up and propose exceptions to the measure; but instead of that the Bill gave general powers, and exceptions to the Bill had been worded in such a vague and indistinct manner that it became necessary for hon. Gentlemen to discuss the question at some length. There was another point, and he granted it might be considered by some as merely a sentimental aspect of the question. Suppose the Irish Legislature had power to issue a postage stamp, what guarantee had they it would be in any respect a resemblance of the stamp now in use in the United Kingdom? They might issue one with the harp, which would intensify to the popular mind the intention of the separation of one part from the rest of the United Kingdom. They might issue a stamp bearing the harp of Ireland, or with the three crowns, as suggested by the hon. Member for Essex, or with the representation of the future Chancellor, whom some said was to be the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. 823 Justin M'Carthy). They did not know what they would have on their postage stamp; but when they reached the Financial Clauses of the Bill they would be able to discuss whether it was considered necessary to have a Different stamp from that now in use. But he would further point out that the question of stamps was a question that was not merely a question of the United Kingdom, but was now almost an International question. They had the International Postal Convention the other day, and by means of that a uniformity of postal rates had been charged all over the world.
§ MR. W.E. GLADSTONE
We have provided for the uniformity of postal rates, and stamps will be included.
was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation. He had read the Bill through, and had heard the opinion of legal experts on the question; but he would not press the question of stamps further when he understood he left that to the Conference that was pending. The other matter—that relating to bills of exchange—had been discussed at some length; and if the right hon. Gentleman gave him an assurance that the Bill would be made to include the postage stamp, and that the stamp should be uniform all over the United Kingdom, then the necessity for his Amendment ceased.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to put the Amendment upon this clause into Clause 20?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The most convenient mode would be to say that in the postal rates we include the postage stamp.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
asked if it would not be necessary to have two postage stamps, one for Ireland and one for England, because if there was only one for common use part of what was Irish Revenue would come to England?
§ * MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, he did not in any way wish to give the Irish Parliament a power to make any separate standard; but the words in the clause were very wide. It was that the Irish Legislature should not have the 824 right of making any law concerning the standard of weights and measures. It seemed to him that would prevent them from ordering the putting up of standards even in markets and other places. If the right hon. Gentleman would accept the words, "any change in the standards of weights and measures" that would meet his point. It seemed important they should have power of legislating concerning the use of the standards about; but, as the words stood, he thought it would prevent them from passing a measure dealing with them in any way.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 13, to insert, after the word "or," the words "any change in."—(Mr. Bartley.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
begged to move the Amendment standing in his name, to insert after the word "insolvency" the words "bankruptcy or." This was a very large and important branch of the Commercial Law, and what appeared to him to be the vital requisite in Commercial Law was its uniformity. What business men objected to was divergency and uncertainty, and they desired uniformity and certainty. That principle had been held in the different cases that had been most quoted as precedents to govern this branch of the law. For example, in the American Constitution it was part of the first Article that Congress should have power to establish a uniform rule of naturalisation, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcy throughout the United States. Again, the British North America Act distributed between the Dominion Parliament of Canada and the Provincial Parliaments the power over this question of bankruptcy and insolvency. It seemed to him most important, in the future relations of England and Ireland, that this system should be uniform—that there should be no divergence on this question. It was true there were different Acts for England and Ireland; but the Acts of England, Ireland, and Scotland were ancillary to each other, and each was bound to carry out the orders of the 825 other, and in that way it would become extremely awkward if the principle on which they were given was diverted. It seemed to him to be obvious that bankruptcy ought to continue to be treated in the same manner in the different countries; and, therefore, he hoped the Government would see fit to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 14, at end, insert "bankruptcy or."—(Mr. Parker Smith.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
We are not able to come to the same conclusion as the hon. and learned Gentleman on this subject. He has quoted two cases—one is the case of Canada and the other the case of the United States—as authorities in favour of the Amendment. With regard to Canada, I entirely protest against the idea that a division between the Dominion Parliament and the Local Legislatures in Canada is a just principle for division between the Imperial Parliament and the Parliament in Ireland. One is a question of division between two Parliaments, both of which are co-ordinate, and the other is between two Parliaments, one of which is supreme. I can well understand that in a country like Canada, with a floating population, it may be quite right to have one Bankruptcy Law; but it is a totally different question when von come to a country like Ireland, attached to a great country like England. As to the United States, the case is entirely against the hon. and learned Gentleman. It is quite true that Congress did legislate in the direction of uniformity, but it is also true that Congress withdrew that legislation, and now the law in this matter is handled by the several States. If that is so, it is a strong exception to the proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman. As regards these Three Kingdoms, the Law of Bankruptcy between Ireland and England has not been uniform; and if anyone attempted to make the Scotch law conform to that of England in this matter, he would find himself in rather hot quarters. As regards the question of bankruptcy, it is a question of International legislation. I am in favour of uniformity, but I think compulsory 826 uniformity should be part of the internal functions of the Irish Legislature.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
moved the following Amendment:—In page 2, line 14, at end, insert, "life, fire, and marine insurance; or." He said, the Prime Minister had used the argument that there ought to be no divergence between the law in Great Britain and in Ireland; and this being an important branch of Mercantile Law, it was important that uniformity should be maintained. He should be glad to know whether the Government saw their way to accept this Amendment?
In page 2, line 14, after the word "or." to insert the words "life, fire, and marine insurance; or."—(Mr. Parker Smith.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ * SIR J. RIGBY
thought this must be treated as another of those attempts to cut down bit by bit the powers of the Irish Legislature in matters in which there was no reason to suppose they would exercise them otherwise than for the benefit of the country. There appeared to be no kind of reason why this slice of the jurisdiction they had intended for the Irish Legislature should be taken away from them.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
I must protest against the expression that this is another of those attempts to cut down bit by bit the functions which we have decided to entrust to the Trish Parliament, and which we have admitted they are competent to legislate upon. I think that so learned a gentleman as the Solicitor General can hardly have wilfully misunderstood the purpose of many of these Amendments which have been proposed both very briefly and very clearly to this Committee. He must have wilfully misunderstood this Amendment, however, or otherwise he would have known, as was stated most clearly, that it was moved not because a Parliament in Dublin was in any way incompetent to deal with such matters, but that it was for the interest of the whole of the United Kingdom that there should be one uniform law for many of these points. In addition to the examples of the United States of America and the Dominion of Canada, I may, perhaps, refer 827 to another great Power, which is a Federated Power—the German Empire. In the German Empire there are uniform laws on the subject of insurance, bankruptcy, and the whole subject of Criminal Law, and a great many other topics, not because individual States are considered incompetent to deal with these matters, but because a great civilised Power like Germany knows it is to the interest of the people of the Empire that the various parts of the Empire should possess a uniform law. We apparently are much less wise; and while a great country like Germany is endeavouring to promote uniformity of law throughout the whole of its vast territory, we are apparently engaged in the task of endeavouring to create as many different laws as we can.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The application of the illustration used by the right hon. Gentleman does appear to me to strain one's faculties of self-restraint in order not to describe it in more highly coloured language. Does he mean to inform us that the law of lire insurance is uniform throughout the Empire of Germany? That is what he has been tolling us. The proposal is that the Irish Legislature is to be prevented from legislating upon fire insurance, and the right hon. Gentleman says the Empire of Germany is working upon a uniform system. The assertion, coming from so acute a man as the right hon. Gentleman, seems to be so strange as to suggest that he overlooked the fact that we have got from the previous Amendment, and he must have been speaking of the previous Amendment. At any rate, we are not to be startled by such a statement by the right hon. Gentleman, when he is not in a condition to say that the law as to fire insurance in Munich is uniform with that of Dresden, or that fire insurance in Dresden is uniform with fire insurance in Berlin. The case of the United States is also cast in our teeth. But there again, Sir, is the right hon. Gentleman able to inform us—if he asserts it I will believe it implicitly—that the law of fire insurance is the same all through the United States of America? There, again, the right hon. Gentleman remains silent; therefore, I am strengthened in the opinion that he thought he was speaking upon the previous Amendment.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
If my right hon. Friend spoke upon the previous Amendment it was because the Solicitor General spoke upon a previous Amendment, and if Amendments are to be dealt with in that spirit it will be difficult to make that progress we are making upon some Amendments. The hon. and learned Solicitor General said this was one of those Amendments—he classified them—of which there are a whole series which are merely moved to restrict the power of the Irish Legislature. But that is not so. These Amendments are specimens of the cases where it is impossible to distinguish between Irish and Imperial interests, and my right hon. Friend was perfectly justified in quoting, at all events, the spirit of the German Empire.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
And why does the hon. and learned Solicitor General say this is one of a class of Amendments? The hon. and learned Gentleman did not take the trouble to reply to the particular Amendment. All he did was simply to illustrate it and pooh-pooh it as merely one of a series of Amendments. That is, I venture to say, not the best way to attempt to make progress with business. I think it is easy to prove that this question of insurance is deeply interesting, not only to the Irish people, but to the English, and especially the Scotch people. A vast number of Irish insurances are made in Scotland, and there are Scotch offices that conduct a great deal of business in Ireland. This particular Amendment would show, as regards insurance, that it is not so purely an Irish matter. You can make it an Irish matter if you like, but you will by that diminish the power or the inclination of, Ireland to insure in Scotch and English offices, and discourage English and Scotch offices from doing business in Ireland, quite apart from any general principle. If Scotch offices do a large business in Ireland, why is it? Because the Irish people wish to insure with them. If you want to have community of business between the three countries you ought to make the laws of insurance as similar as you can. We have seen that the Government are totally in- 829 different to any of these questions. They treat them all on precisely the same footing—as derogatory to the Irish Parliament. They will not see that which we, however, are determined the country shall sec—namely, that yon cannot separate these interests at any point. That is proved by our Amendments, and merely treating them in the way the Solicitor General has done will not advance business.
§ MR. MARTIN (Worcester, Droitwich)
remarked that fire and marine insurance might be left to take care of themselves, but the case of life insurance was different. It was well-known that, in order to transact life insurance business in England, the office which proposed to do this had to deposit with the Government a sum of at least £20,000. It might be within the thought of the Irish Legislature, with a view to attracting business, to abolish that necessity; and they might possibly be within their rights in doing so. He should like to ask, Would an Irish Company, without having any substantial basis for life insurance, be allowed to conduct business in England and compete with English offices as a British Company, or would it be treated as a foreign company? This was an important question to the smaller class of insurers, and one on which they required to have some information.
§ * SIR J. RIGBY
Before I answer the question which has been put to me by the hon. Gentleman, I wish to say I am very anxious to get rid of this Amendment as soon as possible, but I was not aware that I said a word that would touch the susceptibilities of the most sensitive. With regard to our law which provides that in certain cases Insurance Companies carrying on business here must deposit £20,000, the Irish Parliament could not touch that matter in any way. They cannot legislate for England or Scotland, and so long as we choose to maintain our law that Insurance Companies shall make deposits, whatever Irish Companies may say, they must submit to it as other companies established by other nations have to submit to our law when carrying on business here.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, he might think that life insurance might take care of itself much 830 better than marine insurance. The Solicitor General always left them in a certain amount of uncertainty. He told them that "navigation" included merchant shipping, which was like saying that grammar included a birch rod, and he told them that lighthouses included lightships in Acts of Parliament. The law of marine insurance was an extremely complicated one. Take the law of general average, or particular average. He imagined the Solicitor General hardly proposed there should be two different laws with regard to marine insurance, with respect to particular or general averages, or even with regard to such ordinary accidents at sea as involved the throwing overboard of part of the cargo. He should like the hon. and learned Gentleman to explain how he proposed to keep the law of Ireland—in case the Irish Legislature made laws in relation to marine insurance—in consonance with the law of England on such matters as general and particular averages; and whether, if he did not propose to keep them in consonance with each other, he did not see that grave and serious inconvenience might arise in that part of the law?
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 223; Noes 259.—(Division List, No. 132.)
The next Amendment on the Paper stands in the name of the hon. Member for North Hackney (Mr. Boustield). It proposes—In Clause 3, page 2, line 141, after Sub-section 9 to insert the following sub-section:—"(10) The repeal of any provision of any general Act of Parliament.I have to rule this Amendment out of Order. The next Amendment in Order is in the name of the hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Hartley).
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, he rose to move the Amendment:—In page 2, line 15, leave out "(10.)" He said, in relation to this matter, he would like to refer the Government to the general provisions contained in Acts passed by the Imperial Parliament on matters in connection with trade marks, copyright, and patent rights, and subjects of a kindred character. They had to bear in mind that all these matters were of everyday occurrence; they would have to be considered in connection with the trade 831 of Ireland. He was anxious to ascertain how the matter would stand—whether legislation on such subjects as were indicated would be confined to this Parliament or given over to the Irish people? Copyright and patent rights were very important, and he recognised the difficulty of dealing with them; trade marks would have an important effect on small dealers, and they ought to have a clear explanation with regard to the whole subject. He did not want to exclude the words altogether from the clause; but he thought they should hear from the Government what view they took of the points raised. He hoped the Government would be able to tell them that the provisions of the law as it stood would not be interfered with.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 15, to leave out "(10)."—(Mr. Bartley.)
§ Question proposed, "That '(10)' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, be fore the Government replied to the question of the hon. Gentleman, he would like to ask whether, having regard to the Act of 1883, it would not be necessary to introduce the word "design"? He would remind the Committee that the distinction was drawn by the Patent Office between trade marks and designs. The words in an Act passed by that House were interpreted as covering designs amongst other things. It was very important to the trade of Lancashire that they should know whether it would be necessary to insert the word "design"?
§ MR. CLANCY
said, he wished to put a question to the Government on this matter. As to patent rights, he could understand the desire for uniformity of legislation. A patent at present was made in Ireland on the same conditions and maintained in the same way and for the same length of time as in England. There could be no objection to that. It was for the benefit of both countries that the same condition should prevail. But there was a point connected with the matter which it was desirable to inquire about. He understood that a person in Ireland taking out a patent had to come to London, and that the fees which he paid went to the Imperial resources. If this were to continue it would mean a very great hardship to the 832 Irish Legislature that it could not secure the fees for patents that were Irish patents. He could not believe that this great and wealthy country would insist upon pocketing the fees for patent rights or those of inventors in Ireland, and he thought there would be a strong objection to Irishmen coming over here to take out patents. He hoped the Government would reply to this question. If the reply was unfavourable, he should feel it his duty to move some Amendment dealing with the matter. He felt that the manner in which patent rights should be taken out should be the same in the three countries. But his point was a very practical one. He put it to the Government that the Irish inventor should be spared the necessity of coming to London, and that the Irish Parliament should be in a position to accept the fees for Irish inventions.
* SIR J. KIGBY
said, there was no reason advanced by the hon. Member why the matters dealt with in the Amendment should be excluded from the Irish Legislature; but it might be taken as inconsistent, primâ facie, to exclude from the Irish Legislature the treatment of matters which were purely Irish. The view of the Government was that there were a great many International matters involved—there were Treaties with foreign countries; and it was because of that that they wished to treat these matters as for the Imperial Parliament He had to point out, as to the question of "design," that there was a very comprehensive definition of it in the Act of 1883. On the question of patent rights, these rights related to the United Kingdom; there was already machinery in existence; there was an establishment in London, where a staff received the fees. It was difficult at present to say what amount of fees—he had no information at hand on the point—was received from Ireland. He could not tell what amount was expended in the working of the office, and what amount stood as profit when all the outlay was paid; and, therefore, he could not say whether the Exchequer benefited by receiving the contributions of the Irish inventors. But the expenditure in machinery and staff was on behalf of the United Kingdom, and he thought the United Kingdom, as a whole, was entitled to receive the benefit.
§ MR. CLANCY
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had said nothing which could induce him to believe that the Government were willing to prevent the injustice of which he complained. He (Mr. Clancy) recognised that this was not the place in which to secure a financial adjustment; but when the proper time came, he would endeavour to show that there was strong reason why the Irish Legislature should have control in that respect of fees from patents.
§ MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
said, he would venture to point out to the hon. Member for North Dublin that the amount involved must necessarily be infinitesimal.
§ MR. CLANCY
said, the smaller the amount was the less the Imperial Parliament should have to do with it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he attached great importance to the question which he had already dealt with, and he therefore proposed that the word "designs" be inserted after the word "copyright."
§ Amendment proposed, after the word "copyright," to insert the word "designs."—(Mr. Hanbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'designs' be there inserted."
§ SIR J. RIGBY
said, the word to which the hon. Member alluded was already defined in an Act passed by the Imperial Parliament.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that did not deal with future Acts. The matter was of extreme importance to the trade of Lancashire. They had it that there were, he should say, at least some 21,000 applications in respect of designs and 24,000 for patent rights, a considerable proportion of which were in connection with the trades in which his constituents were greatly concerned; and he need scarcely point out to the Government that it was of great importance that those trades should be protected. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman undertake to bring the matter forward on the Report stage? If he would, then the Amendment need not be pressed. The hon. and learned Gentleman had admitted, as he understood him, that there was a doubt; and if there was even a possibility of doubt, surely it was not 834 unreasonable to ask for the consideration of the question. They were not going to ask more than the Government were willing to give—
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. MUNDELLA,) Sheffield, Brightside
We are clear on the subject.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was in the House when the question was discussed and the hon. and learned Gentleman made his reply.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, all he wanted was to be clear on the subject, and he thought they could be clear if they inserted the word as he suggested. He was sorry that he had not noticed the importance of the subject before them, as he should have put, the Amendment on the Paper, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have had a better opportunity of dealing with it.
§ MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
said, they include the words "copyright in designs." The word "designs" would have no meaning.
§ SIR H. JAMES
said, he would refer the Solicitor General to the terms of the definition in the Act of. 1883. He would suggest that the Government consider the matter.
§ * SIR J. RIGBY
said, he had already dealt with the subject of the definition; but, if there was a doubt on the subject, he would be ready to consider it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, K.)
said, if they put in some words to the effect that "copyright" should be on the same moaning as the word held in the Act of 1883, he did not think there would be any doubt. However, as the Government would be adjourning over the dinner-hour, he would suggest that the Solicitor General might devote his mind to the point, and tell them his decision on resuming.
§ * SIR E. HARLAND (Belfast, N.)
said, he would like to call the attention of the Government to this fact: that at the Patent Office one taking out a patent must show that it had some originality in order to secure the registration. That had nothing to do with the matter of copyright. One had to pay special fees on a design. On the registration of a design there were certain recognised rules, and he thought 835 the Solicitor General would see that a registration of design was a totally different thing from that of copyright.
§ MR. CLANCY
hoped that before the Government accepted any Amendment they would require it to be put on the Paper so that the Committee might have an opportunity of considering it.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury had said he considered the Solicitor General to be right in the main, but he had added that he had serious doubts as to whether the words in regard to the copyright of designs had any bearing beyond the Act of 1883. If there was a doubt as to whether the words would affect designs generally, why did not the Solicitor General insert words to make the point clear? There were thousands of designs brought out every day, and it would be an unpardonable thing if anything were done which would allow the Irish manufacturers to crib the designs of British manufacturers with impunity. He hoped the Government would remember that this was a British as well as an Irish question.
§ MR. HANBURY
hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General would take the advice of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury, and consider this matter between now and Report, otherwise he (Mr. Hanbury) would have to divide the Committee on the Amendment. At present the hon. and learned Gentleman had the practice of the Patent Office against him.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, the President of the Board of Trade, who, apparently, knew everything, said "No, no." The right hon. Gentleman might give the Committee the benefit of his advice in the matter. The Patent Office had three branches divided into Patents, Designs, and Trades Marks. So much for the administrative side of the question; then to come to the legal question, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury was distinctly at issue with the Solicitor General. He had said that it was doubtful whether the word "copyright" would refer to designs in other than the 836 specific Act of 1883. Seeing that there was this difference of opinion, clearly it would be to the interest of manufacturers throughout the country that the point should be settled, and that the Government should insert words as to which there could be no doubt.
§ * MR. BARTLEY
said, that the words of the Bill of 1886 were most emphatic, and all they would ask would be that the Government should put in the present measure words which would include the definition of the Bill of 1886. He hoped the Amendment would be carried to a Division.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
thought it was unnecessary to divide. He did not suppose there was any real difference between the Government and the Opposition on the matter. The Government, however, must see that the feeling of uneasiness which had been raised was not an unnatural one. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury had said that his first feeling was one of agreement with the Solicitor General, but that on looking at the Act again doubts hung over his decision. The Solicitor General wished not to excite unnecessary uneasiness amongst the Representatives of the manufacturing towns, or amongst those they represented, and he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) could assure him that the feeling was strong in Lancashire, and strong also in the Midlands, judging from the observations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Collings), that this question should be put beyond dispute.
§ * SIR F. POWELL (Wigan)
said, the manufacturing and industrial population of Great Britain had reason to complain of the attitude of the Government. When any question arose as to there being a long line, the Hue was always divided at such a point as to be unfavourable to Great Britain. When there was any doubt, the doubt was always left in such a form as would make it most injurious to Great Britain. This was a matter vitally affecting the industries of Lancashire and Yorkshire. There were few points of greater moment to our industries, and few matters that more concerned our trade. Two or three years ago they had the Cotton Factory Act 837 elaborately argued. One of the clauses in that measure contained a provision about designs, and the working classes at that time fully appreciated the importance of preserving what he might describe as the sanctity of design. They were willing to forego what they thought their just claims in order that copyright in designs might be kept intact, and he thought the Government would be open to great censure if they pressed hardly upon the working classes in this matter. He would put it to the Solicitor General whether, supposing the law dealing with copyright was altered, the effect of that alteration, so far as the Irish Legislature was concerned, would be kept in view. If the Act was abolished or modified by some operation of this Parliament, full liberty would be given to the Irish Parliament, and great and permanent injury might be done to our manufactures. This was not a minor question. It was a gigantic issue. [Laughter.] What! piracy of designs was not a gigantic issue? Then he pitied the gigantic character of the ignorance of hon. Members. Supposing the Irish Legislature were to legislate in a manner unfavourable to the copyright of our designs, and there were to be jealousy aroused on the part of our manufacturing and industrial population, there would be difficulties raised as regarded the import of Irish goods. It might be necessary to have a more careful investigation of Customs, and the free interchange of commodities between the two countries might be greatly impeded.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General had stated that between now and the Report stage he would bring up words to meet the difficulty. He could not accept the words proposed, believing them to be unnecessary. As to the words in the Act of 1886, they had been left out from no sinister motive.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, the words had been left out because it was thought that they would be unnecessary and inoperative. If, however, between now and the 838 Report, it is found that there was a general desire for the words of the Bill of 1886 to be inserted, the Government would do their best to meet that desire. He trusted that now the Amendment would be withdrawn.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that on that understanding he would withdraw. The right hon. Gentleman, however, began by saying that the Amendment was unnecessary, and that did not look as though he were going to give an unprejudiced consideration to the matter. He (Mr. Hanbury) would suggest that a much better way to meet the difficulty would be to re-insert the words of the Bill of 1886.
MR. J. MORLEY
said, be thought it was likely that that was what would be done. If the words were accepted by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland as being good words in 1886, there would be no objection to putting them in now, although they were unnecessary.
§ DR. KENNY (Dublin, College Green)
said, the Bill of 1886 had never got into Committee. Though the Irish Members had given a general assent to that Bill, they had never pledged themselves as to any of its details. He would appeal to the Government, instead of giving way to an Opposition who had avowed the intention of wrecking the Bill, to do all they could to strengthen the measure.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, on the distinct understanding that the Government would not be prejudiced against the proposal; that they would not consider it unnecessary, and that they would not listen to the dictation of Irish Members.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)
moved to add as a sub-section the words "sale of goods." He said there had been many attempts among lawyers during the last few years to reduce some of the provisions embodied partly in the Common Law and partly in different Statutes into 839 the form of a Code, which should be as far as possible uniform for England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, The question of the sale of goods was one that was specially occupying attention in this connection. Lord Herschell last year took up a subject and introduced into the House of Lords, a Bill called the Sale of Goods Bill, which did not, however, get through all its stages. This year the measure had been introduced as a Government Bill. It had passed through all its stages in the House of Lords, and he believed now stood for Second Reading in the House of Commons. He (Mr. Bousfield) had put down three Amendments together as being closely connected. They related to bills of exchange, sale of goods, and public companies. Unfortunately, an Amendment dealing with bills of exchange had already been discussed, and it had been made evident that the Government had no notion of the importance to the mercantile community of uniform law throughout the Three Kingdoms, and they were absolutely and utterly careless about the matter. A great deal was heard about Home Rule all round, and it was evident that the Government were prepared to entrust the Local Legislatures in each of the countries forming the United Kingdom, with the power of altering Mercantile Laws, which were at present uniform throughout the Three Kingdoms.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD
said that their attitude respecting bills of exchange had shown that they were prepared to alter the Mercantile Laws.
MR. J. MORLEY
The law in respect of sale of goods is not uniform between Scotland and England, and there is at this moment a Bill before the House to make it so.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD
said, his point was that the Government were prepared to entrust powers to Local Legislatures, which might have the effect of abolishing uniformity in Commercial Laws where it existed. Everyone knew how differences of law created barriers between countries, and hampered and hindered trade be- 840 tween them. Barriers of this sort were now to be set up between the different parts of the United Kingdom. This would be recognised by those whose livelihood depended on trade as a thoroughly retrograde step. It was a most curious phenomena that the same Government which brought in a Sale of Goods Bill, which would if possible make things more uniform as between England and Ireland, should introduce another Bill which would give Ireland power to legislate on those waters for herself. It was also remarkable to observe that under the 33rd section of the Home Rule Bill, if that Bill passed before the Sale of Goods Bill, the Irish Parliament would have no power to interfere with the last-named measure, although if the Sale of Goods Bill happened to be passed first the Irish Legislature would have power to interfere with it. Was it not a ridiculous position for a Government to occupy—that they left so important a question to a fluke of that kind? The important question, however, was that of uniformity in our Mercantile Laws—the question whether the process of codification was to be absolutely nullified and the tendency towards uniformity put a stop to. The hon. Member for Dublin County (MR. Clancy) had in a previous Amendment suggested that in bringing for ward Amendments of this kind Unionist Members were insulting the Irish Members. He, himself, could not see where the insult came in. Was it an insult to hope that uniformity should be maintained as far as possible in the laws of England, Ireland, and Scotland? If the Irish Members agreed that uniformity in trade laws was a desirable thing, he failed entirely to understand why they should regard such Amendments as insulting. Suppose he had been in partnership with a man for some years, and was going to enter into a fresh partnership with him, would it be an insult to that partner to express a desire that the terms of the agreement should be put upon paper so that there should be no misunderstanding? In the same way, in regard to the new kind of partnership which the Government suggested should exist in the future between England and Ireland, it was no insult to Ireland to ask that the terms of the agreement should be clearly defined.
In page 2, line 16, after Sub-section (10), to insert as a new sub-section "(11) Sale of goods, or."—(Mr. Bousfield.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ * SIR J. RIGBY
said, as the Committee had decided not to have a uniform Commercial Code, it would be neither logical nor reasonable to pick out a particular branch of the law, and say that it should be excluded from the powers of the Irish Legislature.
§ SIR E. CLARKE (Plymouth)
said, he must take strong exception to one observation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He told them that the Committee had decided that there should not be one uniform Commercial Code. Now, the Committee hail decided upon certain matters that there should not be restrictions placed upon the Irish Parliament which would prevent it from setting up a separate Commercial Code; but it had not decided not to have a uniform Commercial Code. Some of the decisions which had been arrived at were rather inconsistent with the establishment of uniformity in the Commercial Code between this country and Ireland, and those decisions wore, accordingly, to be regretted. But the matter attained, he thought, somewhat more importance since the speech of the Solicitor General earlier in the evening. The Solicitor General then said that the Bill had for its object the relegation of certain matters to the Irish Legislature. If that were an accurate description there would be little justification for dealing with similar subjects in the form of Amendments; but that was not so. The Government resisted the proposal to make this Bill one of specific delegation. It was now one of general delegation with certain specific reservations. That being so, it was reasonable, upon points where it was desirable to have equality of treatment for the different parts of the United Kingdom, that there should be specific reservations in the Bill. It would be a serious matter if it were otherwise. For how did they stand? If there wore Local Parliaments in Scotland, Wales, and England, they would, no doubt, have 842 also an Imperial Parliament dealing with matters relating to the different parts of the Kingdom. It would be extremely unfortunate, at a time when the Imperial Parliament had for some years given its attention to the codification of the law, that there should be oven a possibility of divergent rule in this matter in different parts of the United Kingdom—even though, as he said, they were to have Local Governments or Parliaments in the different parts of the Kingdom.
§ MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
said, the Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) had referred to some of the Amendments put down as insults to Ireland. The hon. Member evidently forgot that they were dealing with the Bill of 1893, and not of 1886. In 1886 it was proposed to exclude the Irish Members. In 1893 it was proposed to retain them. That being so, he was sure the hon. and learned Gentleman would not fail to see that it was of the greatest importance to Ireland that there should be a uniform rule of law with regard to all matters of this sort where England, Ireland, and Scotland had interests exactly the same. It did seem strange that the Member for North Dublin should look upon uniformity as insulting to Ireland.
§ MR. RENTOUL
said, he was speaking to the Question, and the hon. Member opposite was not yet Chairman of Committees. It would be extraordinary if the Irish Legislature had powers, in such an important respect, to make laws which would be different in character and scope from those framed and passed, probably by the vote or support of Irish Members, at Westminster. They should have the same system of laws in both countries. If they could not get entire uniformity, which the Solicitor General appeared to think they had already, they should try, at least, and get a part of the necessary uniformity. The Irish Nationalist Members might be willing that the Government should agree to this Amendment. He would point out to them that at present they reposed confidence in a con- 843 siderable section of English and Scotch Members—hon. Gentlemen opposite—and, that being so, they could not fairly object to continuing to discuss these important matters in that House, where they were to remain after the Irish Legislature had been established.
§ Question put, and negatived.
proposed to insert—"(11) Companies, their constitution, incorporation, and registration." He said they had now a distinct statement from the Government that they attached no importance to uniformity of law in these matters throughout the Kingdom.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD
said, they had it distinctly, at any rate, that the question was not worth dealing with in this Bill; and, that being so, he did not know whether he ought to proceed with this Amendment. But if they could not have uniformity in one case, perhaps he could show them a case where it might, and ought to be, accomplished. In a great many instances trading companies had offices in Belfast and in Liverpool, and others had offices in Dublin and in Liverpool. It would be absurd that they should be under one law in Belfast and Dublin, and under another law in Liverpool. It would, no doubt, be said that the Irish Parliament would not be likely to alter the Company Law; but with regard to a great and important question of this kind the policy of reservation should be made clear, and should appear on the face of the Bill.
In page 2, line 16, after sub-section (10), to insert "(11) Companies, their constitution, incorporation, and registration."—(Mr. Bousfield.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ * SIR J. RIGBY
said, he was obliged to oppose the Amendment, and, in doing so, he would point out upon this branch of the law that, according to the policy of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, it had not been thought desirable 844 that companies in Ireland should be put upon the same footing as companies in England and Wales, for the Companies Winding-Up Act, 1890, which was a most important Act, was confined to companies that had their registered offices in England or in Wales. That was a deliberate decision of this Parliament—that it was not an essential or vital matter that the Company Law should be identical in England, Wales, and Ireland.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
said, while sympathising with his hon. and learned Friend in his endeavour to secure uniformity of legislation with regard to matters of this kind, he could not help feeling that this Amendment was covered by the decisions to which the Committee had already come, and that to insert it would be, to a certain extent, inconsistent with those decisions. He considered it was most useful that these Amendments should appear upon the Notice Paper, because they brought home to the minds of the commercial community the extent to which this Bill would affect the trade relations between the two countries; but he hoped the hon. and learned Member would recognise that he had done sufficient service to the cause which he represented by putting his Amendment on the Paper, and that he would not press it to a Division.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ * SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he rose to move to insert after Sub-section 10 the words (11) "Marriage and divorce." The Amendment was one of great importance, and when they considered the close association between Ireland and Lancashire and other neighbouring parts of the country, they would see the necessity for the very strict regulation of the Marriage Law. This question had, in previous cases, been reserved from the Provincial Legislatures. In the year 1852, when a new Constitution was granted to New Zealand, which at that time had a Central Authority and a number of Provincial Assemblies, the Imperial Parliament reserved to the Central Authority all dealings with the Marriage Laws. Again, in 1867, 845 marriage and divorce were reserved to the Dominion Parliament of Canada; and he could not find that in the passage of the Canadian Act through the House of Commons a single objection had been made that those subjects were so reserved. With reference to the United States, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Bryce) had in his book, of which they had heard so much, given a very clear view of what was necessary. He said—A more complete uniformity as regards marriage and divorce might be desirable, for it is particularly awkward not to know whether you are married or not, nor whether you are divorced or not; and several States have tried bold experiments in Divorce Laws.And, again, Judge Cooley is reported by the same writer to have said—There is little substantial diversity in the Laws of Marriage in different States, the general rule everywhere being that no special ceremony is, and the statutory forms are not, deemed imperative.When a Bill had been passed by the Legislative Houses in Victoria dealing with the Law of Divorce, Lord Knutsford hesitated whether he would advise Her Majesty to sanction it; but, as he explained in a Despatch in February, 1890, his objection to the Bill was met by the action of the Parliaments of New South Wales and South Australia, and, further, by the fact that the Agents General of all the Australian Colonies appeared before him, and pressed that Her Majesty's consent should be given to the Bill. Lord Knutsford then went on to deal with another important matter—As to the third condition," he wrote, "to which Her Majesty's Government attached the most importance—namely, that legal domicile should be required as a condition of a capacity to obtain a divorce, they observe with satisfaction that upon further consideration this change has been made."Domicile" was a terror to the lay mind, though it might have some attraction for gentlemen of the Legal Profession, because probably no word in the language had given rise to more litigation than "domicile." Section 15 of the Victoria Act referred to thus defined "a domiciled person "—A domiciled person shall, for the purposes of this Act, include a deserted wife who was domiciled in Victoria at the time of desertion, and such wife shall be deemed to have retained 846 her Victorian domicile, notwithstanding that her husband may have since the desertion acquired any foreign domicile. No person shall be entitled to petition under this Act who shall have resorted to the Colony for that purpose only.He thought that that passage was worthy of notice, because it showed that if they were to have one law enacted by a Local Legislature, totally irrespective of the Central Legislature, they would have great confusion as to the interpretation of the Law of Domicile. There were many laws which were necessarily obscure, and only understood by lawyers; but when they came to the subjects of marriage and divorce, which affected the daily lives of the people, the law should be simple and clear, as free from ambiguities as possible, and entirely free from difficulties and doubts. He was sure the Prime Minister would pardon him when he reminded him of an observation which he made in 1890 in respect of certain transactions in regard to marriage which took place in the Colony of Malta. Persons of the most exalted character appeared on the scene on that occasion—His Holiness the Pope, Lord Salisbury, and that distinguished personage, Sir Lintorn Simmons. That controversy was one of great anxiety, and it showed the importance of their being most careful when they dealt with the question of Marriage Laws. Previous to 1865 there had been many laws respecting marriage in the Colonies. The Imperial Parliament felt that there was a great objection to a multiplicity and diversity of laws on the subject, so in 1865 it interfered and passed an Act, the pith of which was—Every law made or to be made by the Legislature of any of Her Majesty's Possessions abroad for the purpose of establishing the validity of any marriage previously contracted in such Possession shall have, and shall be deemed to have had, from the date of the making of such law the same effect for the purpose aforesaid, within all parts of Her Majesty's Dominions, as such law may have had or may hereafter have within the Possession for which the same was made, provided that nothing in this law contained shall give any effect or validity to any marriage, unless at the time of such marriage both of the parties thereto were, according to the law of England, competent to contract the same.He thought that was a remarkable proof of the judgment of the Imperial Parlia- 847 ment, that the whole of the Marriage Laws of the Colonies should be retained under the control of the Imperial Parliament. When they left the Colonies and came to Great Britain interest in the subject increased. In 1892 the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen brought in a Bill to assimilate the Law of Divorce in England and Scotland, and thus described its intention in a few simple words—I think it desirable, on the question of divorce, that the law of two peoples who frequently intermarry should, if possible, be the same.That, too, was the object of his Amendment. Amongst the names on the back of the Bill were the Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Agriculture, and it was supported in the Lobby by the Vice President of the Council and the Chancellor of the Duchy, all of whom, he contended, supported the proposition in his Amendment—that the Marriage Laws of the three countries should be as far as possible alike. He did not wish to enter on the long story of Irish legislation in respect to marriage. The perusal of the enactments on the subject showed him how difficult it was to obtain consistency and uniformity even when the Imperial Parliament was master of the situation, and went to prove the impossibility of securing harmony on such matters in an Irish Legislature, whore, no doubt, passions would, from time to time, run high, and where the great predominance of opinion would be in favour of views respecting marriage which were not in favour with the minority from the North of Ireland. He did not believe that a conflict of laws would be to the interest of Great Britain or of Ireland; and he was firmly convinced that, having regard to the genius of the several populations, if not complete identity of form, at least conformity, as far as practicable, ought to govern our legislation respecting the holy state of matrimony. He begged to move the Amendment.
In page 2, line 16, after sub-section (10), to insert as a new sub-section, "(11.) Marriage and divorce."—(Sir F. Powell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."848
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I make no complaint of his having entered upon so many details and particulars in moving an Amendment of this importance. It was no more than the hon. Baronet's duty absolutely required; but I much regret the nature and character of the Amendment, and I believe that the hon. Baronet has altogether failed to make good his contention. On the contrary, it must be palpable to every Member of this House who has turned his mind to this question—speaking, at least, of people of our own race, for I do not pretend to be acquainted with the Marriage Laws of other countries—that the facts conclusively prove that in no case has Parliament attempted to force together, under one and the same Marriage Law, any very large community or body of persons.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Canada does not contain a very large body of persons. Canada will serve my purpose very well, for it serves to mark what the hon. Gentleman failed to notice—the extraordinary diversity which prevails amongst the communities with respect to the Marriage Law. The hon. Member ought to have supported his contention by showing that the English-speaking races under the Crown have one and the same law. But, on the contrary, the Colonies have made good their claim to have a different law from ours. That is now placed beyond all doubt. The hon. Member quoted the Act of 1865, the effect of which is, if I understand the quotation, that the judgments of the Colonial Legislatures and the laws of each Colony in their results are to receive respectful attention, and to be supported by the Courts of Law throughout the United Kingdom. The hon. Member said—I think strangely—that that is a proof of the judgment of Parliament that we ought to keep in our hands the uniformity of the Marriage Law. In my view it proves exactly the reverse. These Colonies have, at the outside, none but a local power of legislation. The 849 Colony can provide under its own Act for having the sanction of the Crown for the maintenance of certain marriages in its own Courts, but it has no power to go beyond its own Courts; and here Parliament steps in, and to the local legislation of each particular Colony it gives a currency in the rest of the Provinces of the Empire. That is a direct sanction given to the principle of diversity. The hon. Member in the course of his speech named Malta, the Pope, Lord Salisbury, Sir Lintorn Simmons, and I think he named myself. The hon. Baronet enumerated this good array of personages; but he did not tell us why he did not proceed to give the Committee either any judgment he had formed for himself or any materials by which the Committee could form a judgment for ourselves. I am, therefore, obliged to pass by the case of Malta for the present; but I am not aware that the hon. Member could draw any inference from the case of Malta in support of his proposition. I will, however, take the great English-speaking races of the world, and divide them into three groups. First of all, I will take the United Kingdom—formed of England, Scotland, and Ireland—secondly, I will take the Colonies; and, thirdly, the United States. In the United States they have the most enormous diversities of Marriage Laws. In South Carolina, for example, two or three years ago, if not at present, the old Ecclesiastical Law of this country prevailed, recognising no divorce whatever. On the other hand, they have laws in Connecticut, the effect of which is that such facility is given to the marriages contracted in some States that one in 10, in some one in eight, and I am not sure but that there is a case of one in five, contracted are invalidated. Do not suppose that I am recommending that state of things; but I mention it to illustrate my argument that even with the enormous inconvenience and scandal of many of those laws there is great, diversity, rendering it impossible, in many cases, as the hon. Baronet said, for a man to know whether he was married or divorced. In fact, there are cases in which 10 minutes travelling in a railway train will carry a man out of the condition of marriage into the condition of divorce. 850 The United States is blessed with a dissolution of 25,000 marriages every year; and yet even, with that moustrous state of things, it has not been able to bring about uniformity in the United States. No doubt, there is a movement in favour of uniformity. No wonder. If anything could arouse such a movement—if anything could carry it to success, it must certainly be a condition of law and a condition of practice such as I have, I believe, accurately described. But not even that monstrous state of things will induce the United States to create a uniform law. Now, Sir, I take the Colonies. Are the Colonies under one Marriage Law? The Committee know that they are not under our Marriage Law, and they know that this country has made most resolute efforts to keep them under our Marriage Law. Again and again Colonial Acts varying from our Marriage Law were vetoed; but the Colonies persevered, and the Colonies won the day, and now there is extraordinary diversity, showing how dangerous it is to endeavour to apply compulsion in this case to important communities. What has happened? In some Australian Colonies they have proposed—I rather think they have carried—large and loose Laws of Divorce. What has Canada done? It has deliberately taken to the state of things condemned in this country in 1857. Canada has no Divorce Law, except a privilegium for a special case in which a strong reason is shown. Does not this immense variety of tendency illustrate the difficulty and the danger of forcing people under the same Divorce Law? Take, again, the case of the United Kingdom. Here we have an aggregation of nearly 40,000,000 people. We have never been able to enforce uniformity in the Three Kingdoms. Scotland has all along possessed her own Law of Marriage, totally different from that of England, and highly disapproved, I think, by all great authorities in England; but we have never ventured to interfere with it against Scotch opinion, feeling, and tradition. In the Debates on the Divorce Act of 1857, Sir George Grey, who was then Home Secretary in the first Government of Lord Palmerston, stated, with that moderation and ability which always distinguished that most excellent 851 of men, a great argument for the Divorce Act. What was it?—in order that we might have one Marriage Law in three countries. But what was the end of the Divorce Act? Whereas before the Divorce Act we had two Marriage Laws, in the three countries after the Divorce Act we had three, for the old law of Ireland remained unchanged, and the law of Scotland remained with all its peculiarities. Ireland has a law fundamentally different from the English law, and it has possessed that law for 40 years and has never deviated from it. I have never heard of any desire, even amongst the Protestants of Ireland, to introduce the English Divorce Law; certainly, no attempt has been made on behalf of the Protestants of Ireland to introduce it. Ireland having rested contentedly under this law, and we having respected her local or national sentiment to the extent of never interfering, why should we take out of her hands and keep hanging over her this dread of our Divorce Law? I have no right to speak for the Irish Members; but I trust that the Irish Members will let the Committee know what view Ireland takes on this subject. My impression is that first of all the argument for such an Amendment is entirely at variance with all the facts which we can draw from the English-speaking countries of the world, and that most of all it is at variance with the state of things in our own country. I say it has been found impossible in the United States, in the Colonies, and in the United Kingdom. Ireland has differed for a lengthened period from your present law. She is the representative of our ancient, and for many years undisputed—entirely undisputed—law. I believe Ireland would greatly lament and resent interference of this kind. I am bound to say, guided by analogy and by experience, that there is nothing to be said in its favour. Surely the hon. Member must see that it is idle to quote a case like New Zealand. When New Zealand received its law, and when the Marriage Law was reserved for the Central Legislature, the inhabitants of New Zealand were but a very few hundred thousand people; and even in Canada, where, no doubt, the Dominion Parliament has been invested—and I do not think improperly invested—with the general control of the 852 Law of Marriage, even there the solemnisation of marriage is, by an express provision in the Act, left to be dealt with by the Legislatures in the several Provinces. There is no power to enforce uniformity of legislation, and in the British Islands you are unable to do it. I must, therefore, decline to insert this Amendment.
§ SIR E. CLARKE (Plymouth)
The Committee has had a very interesting speech from the right hon. Gentleman upon the very important Amendment which has been submitted; and I have no doubt that the expectation which he has expressed, that there would be a statement made from the Benches below the Gangway on this side, will presently be gratified. The right hon. Gentleman has divided the English-speaking races into three groups. With regard to the United States, we know that our Courts here are continually discussing whether or not in American cases divorces had been effective. The difficulty which exists in the United States is not confined there, but affects other persons resident in this country. There have been cases over and over again where there has been a resort to an American State for the purpose of getting the divorce, upon grounds which in this country would not in the least justify a dissolution of the marriage tie. With regard to the Colonies, the right hon. Gentleman's point was that we had tried steadily to secure uniformity of marriage there, but that we had failed, in view of the disposition of the different Colonies, which we were unable to control. It is true there is a diversity of practice in the United Kingdom; but will anyone suggest that the diversity in the United Kingdom, the Colonies, and the United States is anything but a misfortune and a disaster? I think it has been long recognised that the Law of Marriage ought to be a matter of International agreement; and, indeed, the whole of that part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman went to establish the desirability of obtaining a uniform Marriage Law. We do not desire to leave to the Irish Parliament an opportunity of rendering still wider the divergence in the 853 Marriage Laws of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend referred to the case of Malta. That ease has involved serious difficulties which have to be dealt with diplomatically, and the Canon Law is declared to be the only law which exists in the Island of Malta. It is maintained by great authorities in Malta, not simply by Ecclesiastical Authorities, but Legal Authorities, that no marriage which is not valid according to the Canon Law has any validity at all. It is quite conceivable that in a country whore the action of the Legislature is controlled by the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church, there would be a strong and an effective attempt made to depart further than the law of Ireland does, at present at all events, from the rules with regard to the efficacy of civil marriage which obtain in this and other countries. If there be a fear of such an attempt being made in Ireland, I think it is desirable that in this Bill a specific restriction should be placed upon the Irish Legislature in dealing with such an important matter. It has often been said that the object of this Bill is to give to Ireland the right of regulating purely Irish affairs. But the question of the Marriage Laws cannot be said to be a purely local affair; and it is intolerable that a Bill for establishing a Local Legislature in Ireland should give to that Legislature the power of dealing with the Marriage Laws. The real question is, whether we do or do not desire to secure uniformity in the laws of the whole of the United Kingdom? There is, even at the present time, no uniformity in the United Kingdom in these matters, and it is a question whether the Scottish Law of Divorce is or is not better than the English law. The attempts made to assimilate the laws of these two countries have not been successful. It has, however, been recognised to be of importance to establish a universal Divorce Law; and we ought not to give a power to a Local Legislature to increase the differences in our Marriage Laws, especially when we have reason to believe that the Local Legislature will be governed by opinions which, to the people of England and Scotland, will appear retrogressive, and will tend to render our laws upon these important points even more inconsistent than they now are. I sincerely trust some more 854 accommodating spirit will be shown on the part of the Government with regard to this Amendment.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, it appeared to him that the Prime Minister's arguments did not go to the essence of the Amendment. They appeared to him to deal with a vast variety of interesting matters which were not raised by the Amendment directly, and which seemed to be outside it. All his hon. Friend had asked the Committee to do was to reserve to the Imperial Parliament the right of dealing with the Marriage and Divorce Laws of Ireland if it should seem necessary. In the British North America Act, the Imperial Parliament had to deal with precisely the social questions connected with these laws that would arise in Ireland. He did not think that the Prime Minister could lay any great weight on the question of comparative population. Greater weight should rather be attached to the divergence of opinion in a country; and in Ireland there was a strong conflict of opinion, such as existed in Canada, on the subject of Marriage Laws. The Amendment was not, in his opinion, important as regarded the question of divorce. He did not believe that any section in Ireland desired to see the Divorce Laws enlarged. The Prime Minister alluded to the fact that in the Colonies and the United States there existed a vast variety of regulations with regard to marriage and divorce, and had frankly admitted that those divergencies were not desirable. Those regulations, in fact, existed at one time in Ireland, and created considerable friction. Some 40 or 50 years ago there were laws regulating the marriages of the Irish people, which laid the children of mixed marriages under heavy disabilities. The consistent course of policy pursued by the Imperial Parliament hail been to remove, one by one, disabilities as between Roman Catholics and all sections of Protestants in Ireland, and then to remove the disabilities of the children of mixed marriages. At the present moment there was one uniform Law of Marriage existing in Ireland in common 855 with England, and that was the civil marriage; but beyond that there was no doubt at present as to whether a marriage in Ireland had been legally contracted or not—a point as to which much uncertainty prevailed 40 or 50 years ago. Those whom he represented felt the gravest apprehensions at the prospect of seeing the Law of Marriage handed over to the proposed Legislature, because they could not shut their eyes to the fact that there was a determined effort on the part of the leaders of the greater portion of the Irish people to inflict upon those who entered into mixed marriages every possible disability in social life; and if a Legislature were set up with power to deal with the Marriage Laws, it would be impossible for it to resist the influence of those who guided the faith and conscience of the Roman Catholic population, with the view of making the social indignity into a civil disability. In his references to the United States the Prime Minister had failed to estimate the great defect in the Constitution of the United States, and that was that public opinion could never be brought to act adequately upon those questions. The best writers on the American Constitution were agreed that there was nothing more dangerous to the social system of the United States than the diversity of the Marriage Laws in different States. He ventured to trust that the Prime Minister would re-consider the absolute negative he had given. With all the facts before them, they were entitled to ask the Prime Minister and the Committee to guard the interests of the minority in Ireland from any unfair application of the views of a particular Church in regard to marriage—views which there was too much reason to fear it would be one of their first objects to carry out, should an Irish Legislature be established.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
I have no reason to suppose that any Irish Representative is prepared, at any rate at the present moment, to take part in this Debate. The subject is one of great interest, and one upon which I think no dogmatic doctrine would be justifiable; but from the point of view of convenience there is much to be said, and perhaps more than 856 the First Lord of the Treasury was quite disposed to admit in his interesting speech. The views of the Catholics of Ireland on the Marriage Laws would, if legislative effect were given to them, inconvenience and embarrass the Protestant part of the community, whose family relations would inevitably become complicated and uncertain. There appears to me four Hues of the Marriage Law on which Irish Catholic opinion and Irish Protestant opinion would be certain to diverge; and the divergence, if it occurred, would justify the Catholic majority in legislating in accordance with their wishes. The first reason for divergence between Catholics and Protestants would be the marriage of first cousins. Marriages of that kind are strongly condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and hierarchy, and that condemnation is very largely shared by all Catholic people; whereas we know that under our Protestant law the marriage of first cousins is considered not only legal, but a perfect marriage—even by the Church. That might make a tremendous difference among Protestants and Catholics, because Catholics, holding so strong an opinion as they do, might forbid the marriage of first cousins. I will not go on to argue that they might make their legislation ex post facto, because, though I know there is nothing in the Bill to prevent it, I imagine that such a course would go beyond the bounds of reason. I come to another marriage to which I think Catholics would strongly object and Protestants would sec no harm in. It is the re-marriage of divorced people. I think that the Catholics have no stronger dislike, based on religious grounds, than of the re-marriage of divorced people. It is also a dislike and a disapproval which is supported with the greatest possible strength by the whole Roman Catholic hierarchy; therefore no re-marriage between divorced people, or marriages of divorced people with other persons—which is the same in the eyes of the Catholic Church, although they are not uncommon in England and among Irish Protestants—would be allowed. The feelings of the Catholic Church in Ireland—and they would be represented naturally by the Catholic Members of the Irish Parliament—would, I think, 857 put an end to any such marriages in that country; and I do not know even if the issue of the marriage of a divorced person in England would be allowed to succeed to property in Ireland, because the whole idea of marriage of divorced persons is utterly repugnant to the Catholic mind, and that opinion, I fancy, is universally shared by all the Catholic people of Ireland. I have not done yet. Civil marriages are undoubtedly the law of the United Kingdom. Would they be allowed to be carried on in Ireland if this Bill were to pass? Again, I imagine nothing could be more repugnant to the views of the Catholic Church, and it is easy to sympathise with the view that a marriage not sanctioned by the rites of the Church is not a marriage at all, and the children must be illegitimate and under the ban of the Church. To many of the Protestants of Ireland civil marriages are not repugnant, and I do not know whether von are prepared to allow them to have their right of civil marriage taken away from them, although the Catholic; majority may have a very justifiable objection to it. The last marriage I come to is the mixed marriage—that is to say, a marriage between a Roman Catholic and Protestant—which has been, I should say for the last 50 years, desperately opposed by the Church of Rome, and so strongly opposed that its opposition must have an effect upon the Legislature which, though it need not be bigoted, will very likely on all these matters follow the advice of the leaders of the Church. Would it be fair, and do you think the arrangement would work all over Ireland under the different circumstances of the population in various parts? The marriages of Protestant members of the Constabulary with the daughters of Catholic farmers are regular and constant. The are also, it must be, in Ulster many occasions when Protestants of position are inclined to make marriages with Catholics of family. I rather think that these marriages would not be allowed in Ireland in the future, owing to the hostility of the Catholic Church. I wish the Committee to understand that I do not blame the Irish for having these opinions. I believe they are conscientious opinions; but ought you not, in the interest of the minority, to recollect that their opinions 858 are equally conscientious, and are equally to be respected, and would they be as secure as they are now under the protection of the British Parliament? I pass from these marriages in Ireland to other considerations. The Prime Minister mentioned that there was little uniformity of marriage among the English-speaking race in various quarters of the world. I know, as far as America is concerned, that the customs are extraordinary and productive of the greatest inconvenience. An acquaintance of mine married an American lady, and married, apparently, under the American law and the English law. They were married in France before the English Ambassador and the American Minister in Paris. Shortly after they were married a proposition was supported by the great American lawyer, Mr. Benjamin, that the marriage would not be valid in the United States in regard to the succession in property, and they had to be married again before the English Registrar before the marriage would be valid to the extent that property in the United States could be succeeded to. I turn to Canada, in which I think the right hon. Gentleman has been misinformed. There was no power, so far as I read the Act of 1867, which came into operation in 1868, whatever, given to the Provincial Legislatures to interfere with the uniformity of marriage throughout the Dominion.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
If the right hon. Gentleman will permit me, I will submit to him an argument on that question. There can be no doubt that in the clause which appoints to the Dominion Parliament the subjects with which the Provincial Parliaments cannot interfere, you will find among them marriage and divorce. That is the law. I, of course, saw, and I noticed in the clause which delegates the power to the Provincial Legislatures, Article 12 gives the right of solemnisation of marriage in the Provinces. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not the case, that the solemnisation of marriage is not by any means connected with the Laws of Marriage and Divorce? The solem- 859 nisation of marriage I take it to be the rites of marriage according to the religion of the parties contracting the marriage in Canada. There are, undoubtedly, in Canada Roman Catholics and Protestants of every sect; and, undoubtedly, if they married in accordance with the Marriage Laws and the Divorce Law established by the Dominion Parliament that marriage would be valid. But my contention is this: that the law regulating marriage and divorce could not be altered except by the consent of the Dominion Parliament, and that the Dominion Parliament reserved that power in order to secure the uniformity of law throughout the Dominion of Canada. There is one very striking and startling illustration of the inconvenience arising from the want of uniformity between the Colonies and this country in the Marriage Law. In the Colonies they have agreed, with the sanction of the Crown—though it was withheld for some time—to a marriage between a man and his deceased wife's sister. The consequence is this: that a man often makes his fortune in Australia and returns to England having, perfectly legally, under the law of the Colonies, contracted a marriage with his deceased wife's sister. His property in Australia, whatever it is, will pass to the children of that marriage. His property in England, whatever it is, does not pass to the children of that marriage, and this extraordinary confusion arises—that the children born under the Colonial law and who are perfectly legitimate, when they come to England have to abandon their rights in this country and are bastards. I will not detain the Committee further. I only claim modestly to have laid before the right hon. Gentleman certain arguments which are worthy of his consideration, and I think it cannot detract from the dignity, or honour, or reputation of the Irish Parliament if these matters are withheld from them. It is not their fault that they are a Catholic majority, or that there is in Ireland a strong Protestant minority, and I would press upon the right hon. Gentleman—even if he cannot this evening—if he would still reserve the subject for further consideration, and if he would guard against certain dangers which, though not acute now, might become pretty acute, and 860 might lead to a great deal of dissatisfaction and friction between the various churches and religions in Ireland.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 236; Noes 270.—(Division List, No. 133.)
§ * MR. GERALD BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)
said, he had an Amendment on the Paper which read—Clause 3, page 2, line 16, after Sub-section (10) insert "(11) Census and statistics.The words of the Amendment as it stood on the Paper were taken from the British North America Act, which gave exclusive power to the Dominion Parliament to deal with census and statistics and withheld those matters from the competence of the Provincial Legislatures. He did not intend to deal with "statistics," however, leaving that branch of the subject to be dealt with subsequently by the hon. Member for the Lowestoft Division of Suffolk (Mr. Harry S. Foster). He took this course because it appeared to him that the two portions of the Amendment possessed different degrees of cogency, and that the case of the census was so overwhelming that he could hardly believe it to have been omitted from the list of disabilities in the clause except by inadvertence. In Canada questions connected with the census were withdrawn from the cognisance of the Provincial Legislatures, and a similar arrangement prevailed in the United States. The convenience of such a course was obvious. It was desirable that the census of these islands should be taken at the same time and, as far as possible, by similar methods; and in any Federal or quasi-Federal system like that under the Bill, it appeared to him that to reserve the census to the control of the Central Authority was a matter of vital and essential necessity, especially in view of the discussions connected with population and representation and the financial relations of this country with Ireland. He moved to insert the word "Census." He hoped the Government would be prepared to accept the Amendment, and so spare the Committee the trouble of a Division.
In page 2, line 16, to insert, as a new sub-section:—"(11.) Census."—(Mr. Gerald Balfour.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
The hon. Gentleman who has moved this Amendment has brought forward considerations which are, no doubt, reasonable and important. It is no doubt desirable, so long as the Irish Members are at Westminster—so long as the Imperial Parliament continued to be concerned in a number of questions and decisions depending on statistical information as to population and wealth—it is desirable there should be a power of Imperial census. The hon. Member, however, must not forget that there is nothing in the Bill to debar the Imperial Parliament from directing a census of that kind. But the reason why the Government cannot accept the Amendment is this: that it is quite possible the Irish Government may desire to take a census of their own for some special purpose, and with reference to some special object or set of objects which concern them and them only, and not the United Kingdom.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
They might for some special purpose of their own desire a classification of their own which they might think desirable, or one which the Imperial Parliament, from their point of view, might not think desirable; and taken at intervals which they might deem convenient or expedient. At the same time, the Government's rejection of the Amendment did not in the least impair their full sense of the importance of having census arrangements applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, in regard to the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, they should know whether the Government had in view the machinery that would be required to 862 carry out the objects which they thought desirable objects—namely, drawing up for Imperial purposes general statistics in conformity with those which were collected in this country and in Scotland. His hon. Friend did not want to go to a Division, but they should know exactly what the Government proposed to do.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said, he did not wish to do more than put a question to the Chief Secretary for Ireland—namely, whether he had considered that it was very desirable, from his own point of view, that this subject, on which the Imperial Parliament must legislate, should be excluded from the control of the Irish Parliament? If this were not done, there would be concurrent jurisdiction and legislation, with consequent irritation, between the two countries.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I thought I had indicated sufficiently that, in the view of the Government, it would remain important that the Imperial Parliament should have the means of ascertaining the large general facts, important to the United Kingdom, which the census ascertain and disclose. When the time conies the Government will be prepared to state what the machinery is for carrying out those objects. As to concurrent legislation, I do not believe the chance of friction in this matter is at all likely to arise. I quite feel how embarrassment may arise. The Imperial Parliament will have machinery of its own, and possibly officers of its own, to ascertain those facts, but possibly not.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I should say, probably not. We shall probably have the benefit of the assistance of the Irish Executive officers for discovering the facts of population, and so forth. I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate my argument.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said, he I took it that when they spoke of census 863 at all they meant the same thing—the I National census, which the Government agreed was an Imperial matter to be conducted by the Imperial Parliament. He would suggest, therefore, that the census should be excluded from the subjects within the purview of die Irish Parliament, or that the Government should introduce a proviso simply authorising the Irish Parliament to collect statistics for its own purposes only.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said, he would suggest that the word "decennial" might be added to the Amendment. That would clearly reserve to the Imperial Parliament the taking of the census for Imperial purposes, whilst it would not prevent the Irish Legislature from collecting statistics for its own purposes. If the Chief Secretary recognised the force of his contention, he would move accordingly.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The Government cannot accept the suggestion. Many persons differ on the question of a decennial census, and desire that the census should be quinquennial.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, as there seemed to be no difference of opinion on the main points—that the Irish Legislature should not legislate in regard to the Imperial census, but might collect statistics for their own local purposes—it would be strange if they could not arrive at a unanimous conclusion. The Government said the Irish Legislature should have power to collect statistics for its own purposes. They agreed to that. But they wanted to secure that there would be no interference with the work of the Imperial Census.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
We cannot agree to "decennial census," because the census may become quinquennial; but, surely, no Chancellor of the Exchequer would propose that, for the census was a costly affair, and it was unlikely that there would be a departure from the present 10 years to a period of five.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But could they not introduce words to meet the Chief Secretary's own view? 864 He thought the Committee migh do so if the Government would give their assistance in the matter. Otherwise it would be necessary to go to a Division. He would suggest that the words "Census of the United Kingdom" would produce harmony and peace.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
said, he did not think there was any want of harmony and peace. The words suggested by the right hon. Gentleman added nothing to the meaning, and were not needed for the object he had in view.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 231; Noes 264.—(Division List, No. 134.)
§ MR. HARRY FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
said, he wished to move an Amendment which was not on the Paper—namely, to add to the excepted subjects the collection ofStatistics bearing upon subjects excepted from the legislative control of the Irish Legislature or upon the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland.It would not be necessary to take up much time in recommending the Amendment, as the Chief Secretary for Ireland had already admitted a large part of the argument he (Mr. Foster) had to address to the Committee. It was admitted that there would be many subjects requiring statistical information, which statistical information ought to be collected by the Imperial Parliament. He had noticed in the course of these discussions that whenever a suggestion was made to reserve something to the Imperial Parliament, the suggestion was treated as if the Irish Representatives were to be excluded from that Parliament; but, as a matter of fact, under the Bill the Imperial Parliament would retain as large a representation of Ireland as either England, Scotland, or Wales. Therefore, in suggesting that certain subjects should be reserved to the Imperial Parliament, hon. Members were by no means suggesting that those subjects should be withdrawn from the consideration of the Irish people. There were a number of subjects which the Irish Legislature was to be restrained from legislating upon, and as to which it should be admitted by 865 the Government that statistics ought not to be prepared by one party to the suit, so to speak. Obviously they should be prepared by the Imperial Parliament. Perhaps the most important statistics would be those bearing upon the financial relations of the two countries. Those should be kept from the Irish Legislature, as also should statistics bearing upon Customs, external trade, and navigation, and the other matters excluded from the control of the Irish Parliament. By Clause 12 of the Bill it was provided that there should be a re-consideration of the financial relations, and for the purposes of that re-consideration statistics would have to be prepared. He did not suggest that they should be prepared by England or Ireland alone, but by the Imperial Parliament where both Parties would be represented. The objection the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had to urge against the last Amendment he could not urge against the present, because it was not an Irish matter. It was a matter concerning the relations between the two countries, and the Committee would observe that he had expressly limited the form of his Amendment. The British North America Act had excepted from the Provincial Legislatures census and statistics. He had thought the word "statistics" too large a one as it would be applied in the present Bill, and, there fore, by the form of his Amendment, he reserved the statistics which should be under the control of the Imperial Parliament as bearing on matters on which the Irish Parliament was not to be allowed to legislate.
In page 2, line 16, to insert, as a new sab-section:—"(11) Statistics bearing upon subjects excepted from the legislative control of the Irish Legislature, or upon the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland."—(Mr. Harry Foster.)
§ Question propossd, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The hon. Member who moves this Amendment hopes I shall not urge against it the same kind of objection I urged against the previous Amendment. I must say I have no other objections to urge against this 866 Amendment. The hon. Member has put forward no better arguments in favour of excepting statistics than the hon. Member for Leeds did for excluding the census. The Committee has decided that the census, which contains a summary of perhaps the most important of all statistics, should not be excluded from the purview of the Irish Legislature, and I cannot conceive on what possible ground we could exclude other statistics. I have no more to say than that the Government must oppose the Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Is it proposed that the Irish Legislature should be allowed to collect its own statistics, even in those matters that may become the subject of controversy between Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom?
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I would reply as I did to the last Amendment. This proposal would be deprivative, and without it there would be nothing to prevent the Imperial Parliament from obtaining statistics.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not suppose the hon. Member who has moved the Amendment would gain anything by continuing the controversy. The Committee—not by a very large majority, it is true—has given a decision on a similar proposal, and it would perhaps be well to accept that.
§ MR. HARRY FOSTER
In view of the advice tendered to me by the Leader of the Opposition, I would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. ["No, no!"]
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 211; Noes 248.—(Division List, No. 135.)
§ It being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House. Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.