§ Vote of £2,221, to complete the sum for Household of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £24,850 for the salaries and expenses of the offices of the Chief Secretary for Ireland in London and Dublin and subordinate departments,
§ * MAJOR JAMESON (Clare, W.)
, in a maiden speech, said he rose to protest against the principle on which the affairs of Ireland were being administered by the Chief Secretary. He felt he made this protest almost at the invitation of Her Majesty's Government, for the hon. Member for the Newton Division of Lancashire, who moved the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, stated in somewhat apologetic tones, that the reason Her Majesty's Government presented the Queen's Speech in the form of a blank sheet of paper (as far as Ireland was concerned) was in order to educate the new Members of the House of Commons. He accepted the free education so generously bestowed on new Members, but he protested against the Chief Secretary administering the affairs of Ireland on the lines of a blank sheet of paper. The hon. Gentleman either could not or would not see that the 945 agricultural necessities of Ireland called for his immediate attention. The Chief Secretary had said that he intended to conduct the administration of Ireland on the lines, not of the late Chief Secretary, but on those of the First Lord of the Treasury. But he had not done this, for the First Lord of the Treasury had told the House that it was necessary at once to deal with the land in Ireland, because the end of the judicial term of 15 years for which rents were fixed by the Irish Land Commission was rapidly approaching. If five months ago it was absolutely necessary, according to the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chief Secretary would not maintain that it was less necessary now when they were five months nearer to the end of the judicial term. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, too, had said that this was a matter of supreme and immediate moment to the wants of Ireland. Perhaps the Chief Secretary had satisfied the Member for South Tyrone and the Member for Waterford, on whom he lavished his praise on all possible occasions; if so it was not too much to ask him to endeavour to administer the affairs of Ireland with some regard to the wishes and desires of the Nationalist Members who represented three-fourths of the wishes and desires of the Irish people. But the Chief Secretary in no uncertain tones told them that he was about to administer the law in Ireland in a spirit of inflexible and unchanging opposition to their desires. But Nationalist Members from Ireland were not dismayed by this, or the large majority by which the Chief Secretary intended to rule and govern their country. [Cheers.] They had faith in their well-tried Liberal friends, and in the honesty and fixity of purpose of the Democratic Liberal Party of this country. But they relied chiefly on the courage and undaunted determination of the Irish race to bring the administration of the Chief Secretary into harmony with their views and wishes. [Cheers.]
§ MR. JAMES DALY (Monaghan, S.)
said, he hoped that in the interests of the landlords of Ireland alone the evicted tenants would have been reinstated. The Chief Secretary might resort to coercion, but the cause of Ireland would go on, and no matter what Government was in office the evicted tenants would have to be reinstated, for 946 if any class had been badly treated it was these evicted tenants. The Chief Secretary said his interference was unnecessary, for tenants were making arrangements with their landlords. But as far as South Monaghan was concerned the Secretary was wrong. Only one of thirty or forty farms, where there had been evictions, was in the hands of a "grabber." This man was a process server—the most undesirable tenant a landlord could have, because each gale day he had to be processed for his rent. The remedy turned out to be worse than the disease, and the new tenant was worse than the old one. This tenant knew there would be a process for him, and he earned the money the process-server would get by going into the office, taking the process, and serving himself. [Laughter.] He held in his hand a document which was uncontradictory, and which shewed that in a part of Ireland where the Plan of Campaign had been put into force the Land Commission had, in 114 cases, reduced the rents by 43½ per cent. The tenants themselves would have been satisfied with a reduction of 30 per cent., and had that reduction been granted there would have been no Plan of Campaign on the estate. That this reduction had not been granted had been a cause of regret to the landlord ever since. With regard to the judicial rents it could not be denied that the Irish tenants were entitled to have their judicial rents revised. Let the Committee remember the sort of weather that had prevailed in Ireland during the present year. There had been constant rain, with the result that the crop had been reduced to one-half of an average crop. As he understood that the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, was about to go over to Ireland to inquire into the state of the country for himself he should wish to impress upon the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, if he desired to conciliate the Irish people, to be very careful as to the sources from which he obtained his information. If he did not take care it would be the old story of 'birds of a feather flock together," and he would obtain his information from Dublin Castle, which certainly would not assist him in understanding the case of Ireland. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that 947 several other Chief Secretaries had gone over to that country with the full intention of settling the Irish question and that they had signally failed to accomplish their object. If the right hon. Gentleman allowed himself to be nobbled by either Dublin Castle or by the landlord class he would be discredited in Ireland as so many hon. Members from that side of the House had been in the past. He might tell the right hon. Gentleman that the vast majority of the people of Ireland looked with a great deal of suspicion upon him and his Government because they believed that he intended to carry into effect the expression of the noble Lord, the Prime Minister, with regard to 20 years' firm rule of their country. If the right hon. Gentleman desired to make Ireland happy he must boldly strike out a new course for himself and must make an effort to raise her people from their present unfortunate position. If he adopted that course he would cause such peace in the country that none of the Queen's armies could bring about.
§ * CAPTAIN DONELAN (Cork, E.)
said, that he desired to take that opportunity of joining with his colleague, who had just sat down in his emphatic protest against the unfortunate position which the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, had taken up in not only postponing the much-needed Irish Land Bill until next year, but in declining to take any steps in the direction of relieving Irish agricultural distress and thus to enable the Irish farmer to tide over the difficulties which now threatened to overwhelm him. He was aware from the replies which the right hon. Gentleman had given to the inquiries that had been addressed to him upon this subject by himself and his colleagues that he did not admit that any particular emergency existed in Ireland that called for immediate action. He, however, would most respectfully recommend the right hon. Gentleman not to place too implicit a reliance upon the reports and the figures which were furnished to him by the Irish Land Commissioners, because such a mistake had before now resulted in serious agrarian trouble in Ireland. He had no desire to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman had been intentionally misled and deceived by the Commissioners, because they were frequently misled and deceived themselves. In order to show the unreliable 948 character of the information with which the Commissioners had furnished the right hon. Gentleman, he might mention that whilst the Commissioners had stated that the average price of butter in the chief market towns in Munster during the quarter ending July last was 73s. 11½d. per cwt., to his knowledge excellent butter was selling in the country market towns near Cork during the whole of the summer at 4d. and 5d. a lb. and even for less. Then, again, those gentlemen had said that the price of oats was likely to improve, they being apparently altogether unaware of the very important fact which he and his hon. Friends had brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday and to-day, namely, that owing to the large quantities of old oats at present held by Irish corn merchants which were unsaleable except at a loss, there was likely to be no market for new oats except at a largely diminished price. These instances sufficiently proved what little reliance could be placed upon those official and red-tape reports, especially in regard to matters which practical farmers alone were thoroughly competent to understand. Living, as he did, in a purely agricultural district in Ireland and engaged, as he was, in farming pursuits, he thought that he might venture to speak with some little knowledge as to the condition of the farmers in one province of the country at all events, and he could say in all sincerity and without exaggeration or fear of contradiction that their position at the present moment was deplorable, or he might rather say desperate, because, as he had already pointed out, not only had the prices of such staples of Irish farm produce as butter and oats fallen to a point that had seldom been touched during the present century, but as his colleague had shown, the weather during the present year in Ireland had been of so disastrous a character that the farmers of that country would have but little marketable produce to dispose of. The very long drought in the spring and early summer burnt up the grass and thus reduced the yield of milk, while the heavy rains of the past month had seriously damaged the corn. Green crops had also been dried up, and large patches of brown were to be seen in which no seed had vegetated, although, in many cases, it had been re-sown two 949 or three times over. The only good crop in Ireland this year was the potato crop, but although potatoes would happily keep the people of Ireland from starving, potatoes would not pay rent. ["Hear, hear!"] In the condition of general disaster which he had endeavoured very imperfectly to describe, he thought it was obvious that it would be impossible for the farmers in the south of Ireland to pay their rents in full this year; and although he could not speak with the same personal knowledge of the rest of the country, from what he had seen, and heard and read, he was convinced that the farmers in the east, west and north were in just as sorry a plight as their brethren in the south. He would, therefore, earnestly press upon the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this vitally important question with a view to giving some relief to those unfortunate Irish farmers, who, through no fault of their own, were in dire distress, and in sore and urgent need of assistance. He was sure that there were some Irish landlords in that House who would not oppose the passage of such a measure, for, if they had any acquaintance with the condition of Ireland at the present moment they must know that what he had stated was the simple truth. The Government would themselves reap the reward of such an act of justice in a contented tenantry and a tranquil Ireland. [Cheers.]
MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.) rose for the purpose of making a suggestion to the Chief Secretary. It was, he said, beyond question that some relief was desirable and was expected by the tenant farmers of Ireland, who had been grievously disappointed at the non-passage of Mr. Morley's Bill, to which they had looked forward with considerable expectations, but the only answer which they now received was that they must wait for another year and see what the Government would send them. Another obstacle that had been put forward was that the Land Commission had given orders to postpone decisions till after the March gale, to see what the Government were going to do. The weather during this mouth of August had been most extraordinarily disappointing. The second crop of meadows was unreapable, while the first crop had been short owing to the droughts in the spring. The suggestion which he wished to make
was not too great for the limits of the present Session. The Chief Secretary was going to bring in a Bill to renew one clause in the Land Purchase Act of 1881. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to include in that Bill a clause renewing the section in the Act of 1887 which gave the Land Commission power, by a sliding-scale, to vary the judicial rents. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman had adopted the suggestion with regard to the evicted tenants, but there were happily a large number of tenants who were not evicted, and who were entitled to relief, which would have been granted to them by the late Government, and which the present Government had stated must be withheld for the present. The Section in the Act of 1887 was ready to hand. It was passed in a form not the most acceptable to Irish Members, inasmuch as it went solely on the price and took no account of the yield. It was passed by the Conservative Government of that day, and, moreover, at a time when Mr. Justice O'Hagan was at the head of the Land Commission, whereas the present members of that Commission were Conservative appointees. He had never questioned the integrity of Mr. Justice Bewley, and had, in fact, defended him and his colleagues when they were attacked in that House. Accordingly the landlords had now the advantage of a Tory Land Commission to make this revision, and it was a revision which must proceed solely upon prices, taking no account of yield. As a temporary means of relief, achievable in the present Session, he suggested to the Government the re-enactment of that section of their own Act of 1887. He did not expect the Chief Secretary to promise this off-hand, as the right hon. Gentleman was, unfortunately, not a Member of the Cabinet. It was a certain, though he did not say a substantial, measure of relief; it was a manageable poultice to a very large sore. He had another suggestion to make. The Chief Secretary had induced Mr. Justice Bewley to say that he would postpone judicial decisions for a certain time and under certain circumstances, thereby demonstrating that the Government were not without some means of connection and communication with the Commission. In the case of the tenants who were not under the Land Commission, but under the
Land Judge's Court, which embraced no less than one-third of the land in Ireland, he had induced the Government in 1887 to insert a clause in the Bill of that year giving to the Land Judge an unrestricted right, upon the petitions of the tenants, to grant abatements of rent. The Land Judge should be prepared to give concessions to the tenants in his Court, whether they were judicial tenants or whether they were not. At the present time the answer was that the tenants who had had their rents fixed ten years ago can get no relief from the Land Judge. He asked the Chief Secretary whether he would communicate with the Land Judge so that the rentals of the tenants who had had judicial rents fixed should not be considered like the laws of the Medes and Persians, but that they should be considered as subject to variations. This would, he suggested, go a long way to meet the case. He had heard the excuse repeatedly from the Chief Secretary and other Members of the Government whenever demands were made upon them, that they had only just come into office, and that, being only just in office, hon. Members must wait until time had been given to consider the subjects put forward. That, no doubt, from a personal point of view was a reasonable excuse, but from a national point of view, and having regard to the relations between England and Ireland, and the growing necessities of their country, it was no excuse at all. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed the right hon. Gentleman had been inducted into the most unpleasant and disagreeable of all the offices in the Government, and no one who considered the fate and fortunes of that post for many years past would think that the right hon. Gentleman was sitting on a bed of roses, or that at the end of his tenure of Office he would be crowned with them. [Laughter.] But if they went back to the days of Daniel O'Connell they would find that the very same excuses were put forward by the Chief Secretary then. The fact was this—that Ireland had become simply a kind of springboard for British statesmen, from which they must vault into higher positions. [Laughter.] The condition of Ireland was tangible, and they could put their finger upon it with absolute certainty. In the first place, the mass of the people, so far as their
representatives went, was a constant and unvarying quantity. The English could not win over the Irish towards them, and they never would do so [Irish Cheers]; but they were like the man who tried to train his donkey to go without food—they were always on the point of success when the animal died, or the Chief Secretary retired. [Laughter.] Another point in the problem was that a minority was returned from Ireland of practically an equally constant character. Then they had the British parties on each side playing up for the support of that minority, or that majority, as the case might be. But the British Parties had neither that constancy in, nor that direction over, their Irish policy which they boasted of having in regard to other branches of their administration, such as the Foreign branch. The noble Duke, the Secretary of State for War, said when he was Marquis of Hartington, that the Government of England was a continuity; and the same thing was said by Lord Cowper, when he was Lord Lieutenant. But in regard to Ireland the policy was never one of continuity, and could not be, because, according to the way in which the play of British forces was brought into action, a different policy was presented. The right hon. Gentleman was to be pitied rather than to be attacked at the present time. He would find when he went to Ireland that he was no more a free agent than the spoke in a driving wheel. [Irish cheers.] If he saw the necessity of some kind of policy in regard to Ireland, he might be brought plump up against 23 Orange votes; he would know that he could not have the Nationalist votes, because the Nationalists told him frankly that they would have nothing to do with any British Government in Ireland, and, accordingly he would say:—
I had better stick to my 23 Orange votes, which I can rely on as a constant factor if I act in a particular way distasteful to the body of the people.
He would suppose, for instance, that the right hon. Gentleman had a scheme he was sure he had not—of Local Government for Ireland. That scheme, which had done yeoman service upon so many platforms of the Conservative Party during the General Election, was, they knew, an electoral dissolving view.
The right hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet had brought in a scheme of Local Government for Ireland in 1878; they were promised one in the Queen's Speech in 1880, which never came; another was promised in 1881, and they were as near to it now as they were then. But he would suppose that the right hon. Gentleman had such a scheme, and desire to make it in some way acceptable to the general body of the Irish people and their representatives in that House, and he assumed that, as a human being, he would have that desire. The moment he did so the party of the garrison, in whose hands was the administration of this million or million and a half, who had all the grand jurors, secretaries to the grand jury at £500 a year, treasurers at £800 a year, sheriffs, coroners, petty sessions clerks, and all the other minor pickings which were the appanage and the cause of the loyalty of the minority in Ireland, [Laughter] would at once commence to howl:—
Are you going to hand Ireland over to the rebels and give the Irish Party the power of spending our rates? We are the only loyal, educated, and wealthy party, who stood by you at the Boyne, Aughrim, and Derry.
and so on, in the usual fashion. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman was in an impossible position; the Nationalists he could not satisfy except in one way, and the Tory Party in Ireland would not allow him to do anything. For the first time since the Union the British Conservative Party had a majority independent of the Orange Party. But the right hon. Gentleman would deny his proposition; he would not see the Orangemen because they would come to him without their sashes on and in excellent broadcloth, and he would see in them nothing but loyal citizens who had given undeviating support to the Conservative Party. But nobody would pretend that Ireland would be governed except in accordance with the wishes of the Orangemen. Of course they knew from The Times newspaper and other sources of British enlightenment that the speeches of Nationalist Members in that House were merely a common form. But, despite that, he maintained that the right hon. Gentleman's position was an impossible
one, and he would take as an illustration the question of the Christian Brothers. The Government had appointed as Solicitor-General for Ireland a Catholic: he would much rather that the hon. Member for Mid Armagh should have been appointed ["Hear, hear!"] or some other true representative of the Conservative Party. But directly the appointment was made, the Member for South Belfast wrote a letter to the Standard in which he said that the appointment of a Catholic meant that the Scarlet Lady was going to be satisfied by the settlement of the Christian Brothers' question. He ventured to say, that the new Solicitor-General for Ireland cared nothing about the settlement of that question, what he wanted was to get office in order to see his way to a Judgeship. [Irish Cheers.] But why did not the Government settle the Christian Brothers question? They had not put forward an unreasonable claim. The Catholic and Protestant Archbishops of Dublin had joined hand in hand in making the demand on the late Government, and the demand was dishonoured, and it was dishonoured because of the opposition of the Member for South Tyrone, [Irish cheers.] The Member for South Tyrone threatened his resignation, and now the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman was the answer given by his predecessor, that he was going over to Ireland on Tuesday week, or it might be Wednesday week, [laughter], and then, after he had had a little holiday, he would meet these eminent persons who advised the Government, and when he came back he would deal with the matter some time next Session. Meantime, nothing was thought of the deprivation of this body and the pupils of the rights given in England years ago. They began to settle the Catholic University question 25 years ago, and there was not a brick laid yet. How many young men had passed into the world deprived of University education? It would be the same with the Christian Brothers. Now, the Government was going to deal with the land question. What was the first Act of the Government? There were four Unionist Members, who were on Mr. Morley's Committee, now in the Government, and certainly, with regard to the Member for South Tyrone, he readily acknowledged the services he had rendered on that Committee. Of the four, one
was in favour of reform and the other three were against it. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Brodrick) drew up a Report in favour of doing nothing, and he was ably assisted in that arduous task by the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney), and the new Solicitor-General for Ireland. He ventured to say to the Irish tenants this: Why was the hon. Member (Mr. W. Kenny) made Solicitor-General? In his election address the Attorney-General for Ireland had to say something pleasing to the farmers of North Derry; but the Solicitor-General had a purely urban constituency, and he was put into office as a watch-dog on the part of the landlords. [Irish cheers.] The Solicitor-General was to watch the Attorney-General, and the Member for Guildford and the Member for South Antrim were to watch the Member for South Tyrone. [Laughter.] Did the Government in this way think they would secure the confidence of the Irish people on an agrarian question? There was one section of the Irish people for whom he had not the smallest sympathy—he referred to the loyalist section of the North. These Gentlemen joined with the Nationalists in demanding a Land Bill. They declared they were against the landlords, but when it came to the poll they were Tories first and land reformers after. They would find out that this Government was a landlords' Government and then they could console themselves, in their meeting-houses and chapels, that at any rate, the Pope had not come over. [Laughter].
After all, the Union was the first consideration"—
they would be told by the Member for South Antrim—
The Protestant religion was the first consideration, and were they going to sacrifice for a beggarly reduction of 25 per cent. the great principles of the British Constitution.
These were the dry bones on which they would be fed. There would be a great amount of British Constitution and very small reduction. He had great sympathy with the position of the Chief Secretary. He was sure he had the best intentions, but he would find, as his predecessors had found, that the situation was too much for him. ["Hear, hear!"] But now that he was about to proceed
to that country, had he any views whatever about that country? [Laughter.] They had Tory programmes galore during the General Election; showers of British gold were to fall on Ireland—the gold, he might observe, having been first collected from Ireland. [Irish cheers.] As had been observed, they were always wiping the tear from the eyes of Erin, but Ireland had to pay for the pocket-handkerchief. [Laughter and cheers.] Was the right hon. Gentleman to have a free hand in Ireland from Lord Cadogan, who began his career by moving the rejection of the Municipal Franchise Bill? Had the Chief Secretary any views as to that? How many months in office would it take to convince him that an Irishman was entitled to the same vote as an Englishman, a Welshman, and a Scotchman? Would it not be well to lay down a scale as to the amount of time he would require for the solution of the various programmes? Three months for the land question, three and a-half months for the municipal franchise, six months for light railways, 18 months to five years for local Government, and as to the Christian Brothers he might say Tib's Eve. The Chief Secretary was an experienced Member of that House, and he belonged to a family of statesmen. He had heard the Irish question discussed on many occasions. The right hon. Gentleman had had two months for the consideration of these questions. But he was not in the Cabinet, and was not in a position to give the House any satisfaction before the opening of next Session. He would put this to English gentlemen. They had been in possession of their freedom since Magna Charta; they had had a Parliament more or less free since that time operating on their grievances. Public opinion played around every English Administration and sweetened every English office. But so far as Ireland was concerned, in thought and in temper, they were still at the Battle of the Boyne. In the administration of the country they were ruled by gentlemen who celebrated that conflict annually, and whose chief boast was that upon an occasion two or three centuries ago they came out on top. Could English gentlemen imagine that Irish Members, who had been slaving in the House for so many years, could
accept such excuses and answers with any satisfaction, or that the Irish people could have anything but a growing sense of distrust of Parliamentary institutions and a growing sense of disloyalty to the Government that Parliament sent among them? The situation was an impossible one. They were referred to the savings banks—probably the most contemptible argument ever put forward. The savings banks and the whole banking system were novel in Ireland. The people had no other means of investing their money, but in the savings banks or in the land; and in England an increase in the savings banks deposits, instead of being regarded as a proof of prosperity, had always been regarded as a proof of bad trade. The position after a century of British rule was that, while England had grown richer and increased her population twofold, the population of Ireland had fallen by 50 per cent. In England the taxes had become more easily payable by the individual, but in Ireland they had increased by 50 per cent. Yet, after a century of this state of things, the right hon. Gentleman came forward, and in his initiatory speech declared that he would trust to time for the settlement of the Irish question. No attempt was being made to bring about a solution of the larger questions of statesmanship in Ireland. So far as the mind and temper of the Tory Party were concerned, they were as far from a settlement as ever. He would offer no advice to the right hon. Gentleman, because his advice would not be accepted; and the advice which the right hon. Gentleman tendered to the Irish Members they declined to take—[Cheers]—namely, to attorn to the system of misrule in Ireland. While he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman's administration in Ireland were marked by less bloody episodes than those which stained that of his Conservative predecessor, the last thing that any of them could do was to prophesy about Ireland. They could only tell the right hon. Gentleman the conditions of the problem; but they made no prophecies as to the future, except this one prophecy—that, as it was in the beginning so it would be to the end, until Irish Nationalist hopes were recognised so as to enable them to
take their share as freemen in the Government of their own land. [Loud cheers.]
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN after the usual interval,
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
said: Before I proceed to deal with the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for Louth, I wish to say a few words with respect to the speeches of the hon. Members who preceded him in Debate. The hon. Member for West Clare attacked my administration, or, rather, I think he said my non-administration. Well, I have not had very much time for any administrative acts up to the present, and I do not know what administrative act the hon. Member desires to attack, or in respect of what point I ought, according to him, to have exercised my administrative power, but have not. It appeared, however, from the latter part of the hon. Member's speech that his real complaint against me was that I had stated that my intention was to administer the law in the spirit of an inflexible and unchangeable opposition to the destinies of the Irish people. I do not think that I can be fairly charged with having made any statement of the kind. I presume the hon. Member refers to what I said in my speech last week, namely, that the policy of the Irish Executive and of the Party generally was one of inflexible and unchangeable opposition to the policy of Home Rule. But it is not my desire, or the desire of the Irish Government, to administer the laws in a spirit of unchangeable and inflexible opposition to the desires of the Irish people. On the contrary, it is our wish to administer the laws in accordance with those desires as far as the general principles of statesmanship, which no Government can afford to neglect, will allow. The hon. Member for South Monaghan has complained that my answers to questions have not been in entire accordance with the spirit displayed in my opening speech. According to the hon. Member, whereas my speech was conciliatory and even "sugary," my answers to questions have consisted of refusals of what was asked 959 of me. Well, what is it that I was asked to do and have felt bound to refuse to do? The hon. Member desired, I believe, that I should bring in a Bill dealing with the question of the evicted tenants, which should be not merely a re-enactment of Clause 13 of the Act of 1891, but which should also contain a variety of other provisions, and the hon. Member added that with a stroke of my pen I could reinstate the evicted tenants. I think that to anybody who has followed the questions relating to the evicted tenants it will be quite clear that neither I nor any other Chief Secretary could possibly reinstate those tenants with a stroke of the pen. There is hardly any subject about which there has been more controversy, and I must remind the hon. Member that we have from the outset of this short Session refused to deal by means of legislation with any subject of a controversial character. What I have undertaken to do is to deal with the question of the evicted tenants so far as that can be done without stirring up controversial topics. And I would remind the Committee, that, although my predecessor introduced a highly contentious measure last year, and another measure this year which in its dealing with this particular question was to some extent controversial, but not as controversial as the Bill of last year, yet the late Government did not succeed in doing anything at all for the evicted tenants. If hon. Gentlemen will accept our offer to re-enact the 13th Clause of the Act of 1891, it is my hope that at least we may do something, though not very much, for the cause of those who are now out of their holdings. I will not go into the question of how they are out. Then, hon. Gentlemen have further called upon me to introduce a measure for the revision of judicial rents. I would point out that this is almost as controversial a topic as that of the evicted tenants. A Bill was passed in 1887 dealing with this question and providing for an automatic revision of rents in accordance with the fall in prices, but this is not a process which can be very often repeated. If whenever prices happen to fall Parliament is immediately to be called upon to pass a special measure for the revision of rents, it must be clear to everybody that the legislation of 1881, the object 960 of which was to settle the rents for a fixed term of years, would be practically destroyed. The hon. Member for East Cork has urged me not to place too much confidence in the information on the subject of prices which I am supplied with by the Land Commissioner. The, information of the hon. Gentleman may be more accurate than that of the Land Commissioner, but he will excuse me for saying that I at least can have no special reason for believing that to be the case. But whether the hon. Gentleman is right or wrong in holding that the price of oats is likely further to fall in the immediate future, and whether he is right or the Land Commissioner is right as to the price of butter, does not really seriously enter into the question with which I am now dealing. In my judgment, it would require something far more than a presumption in favour of a fall of prices in oats or butter to justify any Government in undertaking to bring in a special measure for the revision of rents fixed under the Act of 1881. It has once been done, in a time, a highly critical time—[Nationalist cheers]—when undoubtedly prices had fallen very rapidly and very far. The mere fact that that course was once adopted is in reality a reason against adopting it again unless the necessity is quite as urgent as that. Now, in the reports which reach me—and I make allowances for errors—no such urgent condition of affairs has arisen as would justify the Government in bringing in a measure such as that demanded by the hon. Gentleman. I pass to the speech, the very amusing and not ill-natured speech, of the hon. Member for Louth. He reminded me that I had disappointed the farmers of Ireland by inducing Mr. Justice Bewley to give orders to the Sub-Commissioners to postpone their decisions in the case of applications for refixing judicial rents. I may at once say I have not induced, or tried to induce, Mr. Justice Bewley to do anything of the kind. I merely asked Mr. Justice Bewley certain questions as to what would be the course of action adopted by the Land Commission. I have suggested nothing to him, and his answers, I believe, were embodiments of the view at which he had arrived before I asked him any questions at all, and quite independently of those questions. The hon. Member for Louth 961 began his speech by giving me a piece of advice. He advised me to do two things—first of all, to introduce into the measure re-enacting the 13th clause a section from the Act of 1887 giving the Land Commission power to apply a sliding scale so as to vary rents in accordance with variation in prices; and he has stated that this measure would be non-contentious. Such a measure could not fail to be contentious, arid contentious in the highest degree. He also spoke of the Land Judges Court, which, under the Act passed in 1887, has power to give abatements to tenants who did not hold under a judicial tenure, and he asked me whether it would not be well I should extend the powers of the Land Judges Court so as to enable them to give abatements whether judicial rents had been fixed or not. And not only that, but he further suggested that such abatements should be of a general character, depending upon the variations in prices—in other words, that the Land Judges Court should be empowered, in the case of estates under their control, practically to apply the provisions of the Act of 1887. My answer to that again is that, whatever may be the merits of the suggestion, it is perfectly clear nobody can regard such a measure as non-contentious, and therefore it is useless for me to consider at the present time whether it would be desirable or undesirable to bring such a measure forward. The hon. Member, having dealt with these two points, proceeded to wander at his own sweet will over almost the whole field of Irish policy. He referred to local government, the Christian Brothers, a Catholic University, the Land Bill, and, lastly, a Municipal Franchise Bill. I did not know that on the Vote for my salary I should be likely to be called upon to deal with all these questions. I should, however, like to say, with regard to the Municipal Franchise Bill, that the hon. Member was not correct in his statement with regard to Lord Cadogan and the rejection of that Bill. Lord Cadogan, in the House of Lords, strongly pressed the Second Reading of that measure, and it was largely at the instance of Lord Cadogan that the Second Reading in the House of Lords was passed. When the Bill reached the Committee stage, in consequence of circumstances very well known, those 962 Amendments which had not been introduced into the Bill, and which there had been no opportunity of introducing in the House of Commons, the Session being almost over at that time, could not be dealt with; it became perfectly clear that the Bill could not, in the time at the disposal of the House, be amended as it required, and in consequence of that, and for no other reason, the Bill was dropped. With regard to the other questions on which the hon. Gentleman seemed to invite my opinion, I am sorry to say that I cannot on the present occasion follow him. He urges that personal inexperience, which is the misfortune of each new Chief Secretary—[Nationalist cheers]—is no excuse for inability to at once formulate a policy; but I cannot help saying it is a somewhat strange thing that the moment a new Chief Secretary—and especially a Unionist Chief Secretary—comes into office, all those thorny questions which have been gradually accumulating in connection with Ireland suddenly seem to assume an urgency which they did not possess before—[Cheers]; and if I may take one out of the long list by way of illustration—I mean the Christian Brothers—I would remind the hon. Gentleman that my predecessor was considering this question for no less than three years, and at the end of the three years he was not able to furnish a solution that was satisfactory to the National Board of Education. If Mr. Morley was unable to find a solution of this question in three years, surely I may claim a little more than three weeks to come to a conclusion upon it. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Louth dwelt at great length on the difficulties which any Chief Secretary naturally and inevitably had to contend against. I can assure him I am deeply sensible of those difficulties, and in some respects I am ready to admit that I do not think he has exaggerated them. Every Chief Secretary has a very difficult task before him, and I certainly should not be fit to hold the place I do, if I did not realise those difficulties to the full. But, Sir, some of these arise from the fact that the Government of this country is carried on by means of Party, and I would remind the hon. Member that even if Home Rule was granted under a Bill such as that brought forward by Mr. 963 Gladstone during the administration of the late Government, Ireland also would be ruled by Party, and the disadvantages which attach to Party government would be, I believe, quite as strongly felt under a Government carried on in Dublin as under a Government carried on in Westminster. ["Hear, hear!"] I am aware that the Government of Ireland has shown an absence—a deplorable absence at times—of continuity, but at all events, as I think the hon. Member for Louth has himself said, we may now look forward to six years of Unionist Administration. That will, at any rate, I trust, give us a continuity of six years, and a continuity of six years is worth something. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member has told the Committee that the population and the produce of Ireland have been growing less, and taxes have been increasing. It is true that the population has been growing less, and I am not at all sure that those who remain are not happier in consequence; but it is not, I think, true that the produce of Ireland has been growing less, and I am certain it is not true that the wealth of Ireland has been growing less. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member referred with some contemptuous expressions to the amount which is now deposited in the savings banks of Ireland, but even he cannot deny the testimony to the increased prosperity of that country afforded by the returns of the railways, which show a steady increase. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member has told me if I trust to time to produce ameliorating effects in Ireland and to reconcile the people to the Government under which they live, I am trusting to a broken reed. That is a matter which only time can show. The hon. Member tells me I am not likely to repose on a bed of roses or to leave my office crowned with laurels. I do not expect one or the other. I know perfectly well that I shall not repose on a bed of roses; I know the disadvantages which attach the position I now hold, but I shall be well satisfied if, at the end of that time, I can feel that I have done my duty, and that Ireland, if by ever so little, is more prosperous and more contented than when I found it. [Cheers.]
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
observed that the Chief Secretary, towards the conclusion of his speech, had alluded to 964 one of the difficulties of Irish Secretaries being their inexperience of Irish affairs. That very inexperience was one of the main causes of the opposition which had always animated Irish Nationalist Members towards the present system of Government. ["Hear, hear!"] Why should Ireland alone of all the portions of the United Kingdom be subjected to the government of a man who, by the admission of the right hon. Gentleman, approached that most difficult task with a total inexperience and want of knowledge of Irishmen? If the Irish Members needed any justification of their persistent opposition to the present system of government of Ireland they had it from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman himself. The Chief Secretary had said that one of the causes of the difficulties and troubles of the Irish Government was to be found in the fact that the Government of this country was carried on by Party. Government by Party had its advantages and disadvantages, and with all its disadvantages experience had shown it was the form of government which best safeguarded the liberties of the people. Government by Party, however, was one thing in Great Britain and quite a different thing in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the same troubles would exist under Home Rule. He disputed that proposition, because then the Irish Minister would be responsible to the people whom he ruled, whereas now the Chief Secretary, with his extensive powers, was utterly irresponsible to the people whom he governed and to whose convictions, desires, and aspirations he was opposed. The right hon. Gentleman complained that a great many Irish questions assumed suddenly, and apparently mysteriously, on the advent of a Unionist Chief Secretary, a burning and intense character. The explanation was very simple. They had been burning questions for years, but when there came into office three years ago a Government which, though undoubtedly weak, and unable to do much for Ireland, did try to solve those questions, was it rational for any man who understood the play of politics in that House to make it a reproach against the Irish Members that they did not press upon the late Government the solution of questions which, according to the 965 measure of their ability, the then Government, with their small majority, were endeavouring to solve? The Chief Secretary had mentioned the case of the Christian Brothers. He frankly admitted that he did not approve of the conduct of the late Government on that question, as he thought they ought to have settled the claims of the Christian Brothers long ago, but as practical politicians they had to recognise that the late Government was weak, with an uncertain majority, which did not permit them to act with that freedom which a Government with a majority of 152 could exercise, whilst he contended that the action taken by the Irish Members on the subject was the only prudent course they could pursue. The Party of the right hon. Gentleman won many thousands of votes at the late Election on the ground that they were favourable to denominational schools, and, having no obstacle in their paths, he trusted they would immediately apply themselves to settling the grievances of the Christian Brothers in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman said, that one of the evils of Irish Government had been its lack of continuity. In some respects it had been too continuous for the taste of the Irish people, for, notwithstanding changes of Government, some of the worst features of the policy of the Irish Government remained the same, and although a great change was made by the late Government in this regard, there was much in its conduct the Irish Members had to find fault with. Some of the worst features of the Irish Government were continuous, no matter what Ministry came into power. The right hon. Gentleman held out to them most delightful prospects. He bade them cheer up, for they were now to have six years of continuous Unionist Government, and that, he said, was, at all events, worth something. They were familiar with all the talk about prosperity. Years ago—35 years ago—Lord Lieutenants, addressing banquets held in connection with the cattle show, used to congratulate Ireland on the enormous increase of her flocks and herds, the decrease of population, and the increase of wealth. Years rolled on and events took place which convinced many men that such optimistic utterances of the Lord Lieutenants were based on untruth 966 and fallacy. They were now promised a period of repose and peace; he had no doubt they would have six years continuous Unionist Government—the six years continuous administration of the brother of the right hon. Gentleman. That period was eulogised as one of prosperity and peace. He would take one list, that of population. In the whole history of modern civilisation there was no greater strain upon any civilised Government than the continuous depopulation of Ireland. Fifty years ago Ireland had a population of 8,500,000, and to-day she had a population of 4,500,000. In 10 years the population decreased by 470,000, and that period covered the six years of the Unionist Government. In 1886, when the last Unionist Government entered upon office, the population of Ireland was 4,905,000, but in 1892 it had decreased to 4,638,000, being a reduction of 267,000, or of 44,000 per annum. Was not that a frightful fact, and especially when they remembered that the larger part of the reduction was the direct result of the violent expulsion of people from their homes? [Cheers.] That was what six years of continuous Unionist Government in Ireland was worth. Ho presumed that, before the right hon. Gentleman left office, another 250,000 of people would have gone. ["Hear, hear!"] In 1892 a Home Rule Government came into office. It was perfectly true that that Government had not been able to do anything for Ireland. But whose fault was that? [Cheers.] Could anything be more unreal, more unjust, more uncandid than for the right hon. Gentleman to blame the late Government for not having achieved anything for Ireland, when he knew it was his friends on the other side of the Lobby who prevented them? [Cheers.] The late Government, however, did two things. In 1892–93 they reduced the drain of population from 44,000 to 19,000—["Hear, hear!"]—a fact which would be written in the pages of history to their honour. And though they sent Irish Members back with empty hands, they for the first time brought into the House a great and a beneficent and a generous measure of land reform for Ireland, without waiting to be forced to do it by agitation and crime in Ireland. There used to be a conviction in the minds of the Irish 967 People that they could not get even attention until they resorted to disorder and crime. There fell from the right hon. Gentleman words which ho was sorry to think conveyed that lesson again to the people of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said that once before—in the year 1887—the judicial rents were revised in a time of great crisis, and he intimated that there was no great crisis now. Must there be a great crisis before any justice would be given to the Irish people?
§ MR. DILLON
said the right hon. Gentleman was sadly in error. In 1886, when Mr. Parnell introduced his Bill, they were met with precisely the same denials which were thrown across the House that night. They were told that the year was prosperous and that there was not a shadow of an excuse for any reduction of the judicial rents. Lord Salisbury declared, in the autumn of 1886, that it was not expedient to reduce the judicial rents, and if it were expedient it would not be honest or just. What brought about a revision of the rents in 1887? The effects of the winter of 1886. He desired now to say a word on the question of the evicted tenants. The late Government introduced a Bill which would have settled that burning question. In the course of the discussion upon that Bill the Gentlemen who then sat on the Front Opposition Bench said that if the measure were made a voluntary one they would not oppose. The present Leader of the House said that he felt great sympathy for those tenants, and that in the interest of order and good government something ought to be done for them. This Government had ample opportunity and power to settle the question. It had been said that no contentious business would be introduced. If the right hon. Gentleman introduced a short measure of two or three clauses, he could settle this evicted tenants question, on a permanent footing, without 968 raising contention in any quarter of the House. He held, in all sincerity, that it was a great deal more to the interest of the right hon. Gentleman, and his six years of Unionist Government in Ireland, than to the interest of anybody else, that he should settle this question in a generous fashion. The right hon. Gentleman desired to conciliate the confidence of the Irish people. He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman would succeed in doing it—[Nationalist cheers]—but surely nothing could give him a better chance of effecting that object than to do a thing that would strike the Irish people as a gracious act at the outset of his administration. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that nothing would touch the hearts of the Irish people more than a generous measure of relief for the evicted tenants; and he urged the right hon. Gentleman, before he closed his mind on the subject, to ascertain how far he could go in that direction without raising contention amongst his own followers. There were two matters he would urge on the attention of the Chief Secretary. One was that he would modify Clauses 13 of the Act of 1891, so that the Land Commission could bring the landlords and evicted tenants together, and act as a kind of arbitrator between them; and the other was that he would introduce into his proposed Bill a clause appropriating a sum of money from the Irish Church Fund, which could be practically given to the evicted tenants to rebuild their houses now in ruins, and partly to the landlords, for the losses they have sustained through those evicted farms. He did not for a moment believe that the landlords would do otherwise than extend a warm acceptance to such a proposal. He believed that most of the tenants who had gone back to their farms under recent settlements would inevitably be evicted again in the course of the next few years, because they had no money to put up new buildings, or to properly stock their lands. What was 969 the use of trying to settle the question in that fashion? If the Government tried to settle it on those lines, they would only be preparing for themselves fresh anxieties and fresh difficulties in the future. [Nationalist cheers.] There was another matter which he would urge on the attention of the Chief Secretary when he went to Ireland. There were between 30,000 and 40,000 tenants in Ireland who had been evicted under what was known as "the eviction-made-easy clause" of the Land Act of 1887. They were, it was true, left in possession of their holdings, but they were deprived of their rights under the Land Act of 1881, and they remained a source of trouble and danger, believing, as they did, that they had been most cruelly and brutally treated. That clause had been supported by the hon. Member for South Tyrone; but, very recently, the hon. Gentleman frankly stated to the House that, after five or six years' experience of the working of the clause, he found it worked with grave injustice, and that some indemnity was due to the tenants. He had no doubt that the Chief Secretary would do some things that would be good for Ireland. He had no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman would spend freely, as his brother had done before him, from the English Treasury, on light railways and other excellent projects of that kind. Ireland always got a great deal more out of a Tory Government than out of a Liberal Government. [Unionist cheers.] The Tory Government insisted on the maintenance of what they called law and order, but they always gilded the pill. That happened in the case of the right hon. Gentleman's brother. The present Leader of the House governed Ireland for six years with a strong hand; but towards the close of his administration he spent money more lavishly in the country than it had ever been spent before. The right hon. Gentleman built railroads, and those railroads were doing a great deal of good. [Unionist cheers.] He had never been 970 very friendly with the right hon. Gentleman, but the right hon. Gentleman built 30 miles of a railway through his constituency, which proved a great service to that part of the country. But he did not believe, after all was said and done, that the right hon. Gentleman got the vote of the poorest peasant in Ireland at the General Election in 1892. He hoped the present Chief Secretary would act in like manner; and that he would settle the question of the Christian Brothers, and other questions it was difficult for a Liberal Government to settle. But he told the right, hon. Gentleman—and the right hon. Gentleman would remember his words at the end of his six years of Unionist Government—that he would find when all was over that he had not got one vote more from the Irish people in support of his policy. [Nationalist cheers.]
§ * MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said, he had listened with a keen sense of disappointment to the speech of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman had a most unique opportunity—an opportunity that had been offered to few Irish Secretaries—and he regretted the right hon. Gentleman had not taken advantage of the opportunity to rise above those prejudices that were the worst traditions of the party to which he belonged. The right hon. Gentleman had a majority of 152 at his back. The Irish Members were prepared to give the right hon. Gentleman every assistance in any remedial legislation he might introduce; and he was sure the Liberals and Radicals would co-operate with them in that policy. Why then should the right hon. Gentleman talk about controversial legislation? There were two measures to which the Irish people looked forward with anxious hope—one was the revision of the judicial rents, and the other the reinstatement of the evicted tenants—and those measures would be regarded as non-contentious by the House generally. He did not know, under the circumstances, how 971 the right hon. Gentleman was going to face with any confidence the condition of things that now existed in Ireland. If he had to take a text for his speeches on this occasion, he would take it from a memorable speech made by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who was now a Member of the Government. The hon. Member said:—The Ulster tenants were a patient race, but patience did not last for ever. Let them not drive the Ulster tenants to despair.He should substitute "Ireland" for "Ulster" in the words of the hon. Member, and say that the Chief Secretary had sent a message of despair to three-fourths of the agricultural tenants of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said in effect there could be no legislation—unless there were a crisis. He remembered in 1886, that, after an unanswerable case had been made from the Irish Benches for legislation—after proof of great distress, and that the crops had failed or were in danger—the reply made was a blank denial; and the right hon. Member for the City of Dublin wound up his speech by saying that, at any rate, the price of wool had risen. In 1886 there was no crisis, but in 1887 the Government had to bring in a measure for the revision of judicial rents, and then it came too late for a great number of the tenant-farmers. If that measure had come earlier there would have been no combination of tenants; and he appealed to the Chief Secretary to mark these lessons of 1886. In that year there was a fall in prices, and the harvest was bad. He remembered going through the Ponsonby estate and seeing a state of things which was only paralleled by the present. Early in that summer everything was promising, and this year, up to the middle of July, there was a more promising harvest. But in 1886, as in this year, the weather broke in the middle of July, and blight appeared, and the barley crop was hawked about by the farmers, who could 972 find no buyers. Finally, on the Ponsonby estate, it had to be sold for pig-feeding. Let the Chief Secretary look outside the officials of the Land Commission for information on this subject. They always returned the same stereotyped answer, suited to the political exigencies of the Government of the day. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman sometimes read the Irish newspapers, even those opposed to his policy. If he read the Irish papers of that day and the day previous he would learn what was the condition of the crops, even in the richest parts of Ireland. Only a fortnight ago, Lord Winchilsea spoke of this year's harvest in England as "the most disastrous on record." The climatic conditions in England were better than in Ireland, and if there were a disastrous harvest in England, what mast there be in Ireland? Every crop had gone, with the single exception of the potato crop. Did the Government intend to blunder on, with more coercion and more disturbance and distress? The present Government had now a unique opportunity, with a peaceable Ireland and a strong majority. A Bill of two or three clauses could be passed in an afternoon in the House of Commons, and would pass in the other House without discussion; and such a Bill would go far to bridging over the interval between the present situation and the passing of the new Land Bill. As to the evicted tenants, it was still a burning question in Ireland. A year ago the late Government attempted to deal with the question, but in another place the measure met the fate which all legislation intended to benefit Ireland met with at one time or another. It was not the fault of the late Government that the question was not settled. But, of course, Parliament last year said that they would be willing to adopt a voluntary measure. The then Opposition were willing to support Mr. Morley's Bill dealing with the evicted tenants, if it was made a voluntary measure. He invited the Chief 973 Secretary to seize the opportunity now. What had been the result of Clause 7 of the Act of 1887, intended to deal with evictions? It had done infinite injury in Ireland. It had muffled up the worst horrors of eviction; but the painful effect of eviction remained notwithstanding. Forty thousand persons had been deprived of their tenantright by the insidious operation of that clause. In the first quarter of this year no fewer than 875 families were deprived of their tenancies by that clause, and during the half-year the number had risen to 2,404. Some of these might be reinstated, but the bulk of them were practically at the mercy of the landlord. Their tenancies were forfeited; they had no more rights in the soil than a squatter. Was not that a very dangerous condition of things after the passing of four Land Acts? A large number of these persons would go to swell the number of persons who had been evicted in Ireland. The Government could deal with the question now, while peace prevailed in Ireland; and he invited the Chief Secretary not to wait until he was compelled to deal with it in a time of panic. If Ireland was peaceable the prevailing answer was, "she does not want legislation;" but if she was restless the answer was, "she is not fit for legislation, unless it be of a reprehensive character." He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to make a beginning in his administration of Ireland worthy to secure the confidence of the Irish people. The last Election ought to have taught the Tory Party, as it had taught every thoughtful public man in this country, that, however events might change in Great Britain, the current of public opinion in Ireland flowed steadily on in the direction in which it had flowed for centuries. He and his hon. Friends were willing to assist the right hon. Gentleman in the opportunity which he now had, and he appealed to him to rise to the occasion.
§ * MR. JASPER TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
joined with his hon. Friends in pressing 974 on the Government for some legislation to deal with the evicted tenants, and also with the revision of judicial rents. The Irish people, though suffering from bad harvests and low prices for their produce, were still at the mercy of the landlords and the land agents, who demanded the full rent which was fixed when prices were better than they were now. The Irish Members had listened to English Members, representing agricultural constituencies, pleading for something to be done to relieve agricultural distress here. But if land in England had gone out of cultivation on account of agricultural depression, how much stronger was the argument in favour of something being done in the case of Ireland, where the people depended chiefly on agriculture? He regretted that the Chief Secretary had not been able to hold out some hope that he would deal this year with the question of judicial rents. He did not believe they could find a solution of Irish troubles altogether in tinkering with the question of rents; it was to be settled rather on lines of compulsory land purchase. He did not think the case could be met by a mere tinkering with judicial rents that would result in the tenants losing more in law costs than the reductions they would get would amount to for years. As they were told they could not have a reduction of judicial rents to meet the difficulties for the time being they were entitled to have something done to meet the immediate necessities of the case. It was to be hoped the promised Bill to deal with evicted tenants would be a workable Bill, and would do some good: but the problem was beset with many difficulties. In his own constituency efforts had been made by landlords to intensify the present difficulties. For instance, on the estate of Mr. Marsham Jones, in Lower Drumreilly, a number of evictions were carried out in 1883, and the lands were allowed to lie idle. When Mr. Morley promised an Evicted Tenants' Bill, the evicting landlord adopted a plan of speculation with 975 the object of defeating the operation of the measure; he planted bogus tenants on the farms. One of these men had no means, and was unable to stock his farm or to pay rent; he was placed under police protection; his home was turned into a police barrack for which rent was paid; and he and his family were employed as police messengers and to do police work. In May last Mr. Morley gave an undertaking that that state of things should not continue, and it was to be hoped the pledge would be carried out by the present Chief Secretary, and that bogus tenants would not be allowed to receive subsidies for the purpose of remaining in occupation and defeating the promised Bill. The right hon. Gentleman rather infelicitously remarked that perhaps those who remained in Ireland were happier because others had emigrated. Unfortunately, the emigration had not been organised, but the landlords had driven out the young and energetic, leaving the old and less helpful who are dependent on the emigrants—a fact which the landlords turned to account. One of them in South Leitrim, early in the year, had sued a number of tenants in the county court for two years' rent, and the judge condemned the landlord, saying that the tenants could not pay two years' rent in such a year as this, adding that there were no diamond mines in Leitrim. But although there are no diamond mines, the landlord knew that they had most of their families in America, England and Scotland, and that these expatriated people would send money to their friends to enable them to remain in their homes. These were the diamond mines the landlords had been working in—the pressure they put upon the people to pay impossible rents. Nationalist Members from Ireland had done their best to mitigate the evils of rack-renting, and he trusted that the Chief Secretary would do something to further mitigate these evils. For his own part he did not care whether good came from a Liberal or Tory 976 Government, and he would candidly welcome any efforts to settle the land question which would bring peace and prosperity to their unfortunate country.
§ * MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said, the vote for the offices of Chief Secretary for Ireland came to £42,000, while for the Secretary for Scotland it was only £12,000. There were items in the Irish Vote not included in the Scotch, but even allowing for that, they had about£30,000 for the Irish Office against £12,000 for the Scotch Office. Anyone might think Ireland were the richer, more populous and important country. Was this true? On the contrary, the poor law valuation of Ireland was only 13 or 14 millions, while that of Scotland was 26 millions. So a country twice as rich as Ireland only paid half as much for these services as Ireland had to pay. The Secretary for Scotland received a salary of £2,000 a year while the Chief Secretary for Ireland received £4,500. In the exaction of these huge amounts from the unfortunate country they had one of the secrets of the misery that the people of Ireland suffered from. A hundred years ago the taxation of Ireland was the same as now, but the wealth of Ireland was then far greater. Wheat was 80s. a quarter; now it was only 26s. Ireland was an agricultural country then as now. The total taxation for local and Imperial purposes was only two millions, while to-day it was £11,250,000, and this huge sum was made up of extravagant amounts such as he had alluded to. In his opinion Irish Members directed too much attention to the Land Question; he admitted its importance, but the real secret of the poverty of Ireland lay in the increase of taxation that had grown up in the country. The hon. Member for Louth had stated that during the last forty years the taxation of Ireland had been trebled. The population had fallen off, and the poverty of the people had greatly increased. Why should taxation have been increased? The reason 977 was that the amount of taxation was fixed by Great Britain alone, which was rich and prosperous. The Committee had been dealing with the Estimates for Scotland. That country shared in the wealth of England, and so did Wales. The whole of Great Britain had developed in population and wealth. That was the country in which the taxes were fixed. These taxes then were imposed upon a country which was getting poorer every day. The traditional Government of England failed to realise the difference between the one country abounding in prosperity and the other which was sinking more and more into misfortune and ruin. Dr. Grimshaw, the Registrar General for Ireland, said the agricultural produce of Ireland was 25 millions less this year than forty years ago. The Chief Secretary might say that Ireland produced more cattle and less crops than in those days, but even the cattle were five millions less. Agriculture was the only source of wealth in Ireland, and according to Dr. Grimshaw's figures the wealth of Ireland had diminished 30 per cent. in the last forty years. It was said the people who remained in Ireland were better off by the departure of those who had emigrated. But the pauperism of Ireland had doubled during the last 30 years. There were 95 paupers in Ireland to every 1,000 of population; in Great Britain there were 22 paupers to every 1,000. Taxation was piled on Ireland as the poverty of the country became more severe. The deposits in the savings banks in Ireland had increased because the interest was 3 per cent. and other banks only allowed 1 per cent. People put their money in the banks because they were unwilling to invest it in cultivating the land. So the increase in the banks' deposits did not prove that the country was richer. The Chief Secretary had said that the improvement in the railway returns showed that the country was more prosperous, but three articles which had lately attracted much attention in the Fortnightly Review traced the whole of the difficulties of Ireland to the mismanagement of railways. The 978 railways did not serve the agricultural interest in Ireland well. A Board of Trade was wanted in Ireland which would insist on the railways serving the agricultural interest. The railways in Ireland might be flourishing at the expense of the country. One of the strongest arguments against these hopeful views about the condition of the country was that in Ireland good food, the produce of the farms, was exported, and cheap and bad food was imported for the consumption of the people. For instance, Irish bacon was as good as any that the world produced, but the people did not eat it—it was all exported, and cheap and bad American bacon was imported in its place. Good Irish meal was exported, and the people were compelled to eat inferior Indian meal, which was about the worst food that could be purchased. He desired to support what had been said about the sufferings caused by the present bad season. He had been in Ireland a fortnight ago and he found that the suffering in the country was becoming acute, in a way that the right hon. Gentleman had no idea of, although ho paid all respect to the information which the right hon. Gentleman had obtained. He had received a letter that morning which stated that the sufferings were "really tragic." The drought of May and June had swept away all the grass, and the consequence was that the farmers were compelled to sell half their stock at a great sacrifice. After the drought had come a flood, with the result that the hay and oats crops could not be saved, and the country was at the present moment experiencing the worst weather that they had had for years. It was true that the potato crop was a good one, but that was only Ireland's third crop in importance. Her first and main crop was hay, her second was oats, and potatoes formed her third crop. Undue importance was attached to Ireland's potato crop in this country. Forty years ago that crop was valued at £20,000,000 but now only £7,000,000 worth of potatoes were grown. The Irish farmers now depended upon hay, 979 oats, cattle, pigs and butter. The hay crop had failed, and oats and butter had fallen enormously in price. The result was that the situation of Ireland was one that demanded the most serious consideration on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. He fully admitted that the right hon. Gentleman had shown that he was quite willing to inquire into the matter. He had referred to the extravagance of the present Estimates, but the most cruel part of the whole matter was that, if these wasteful, almost immorally extravagant, Estimates were to be reduced, it would afford no relief to Ireland. Let them take the case of the Irish police huts; the police were the one prosperous institution in the country, and its members were fat, comfortable, and well fed. The circumstances in which Ireland was placed were so malicious and cruel, that, if they were to reduce the Estimates, they would make the evil to the people greater and not less. It was the taxation of the country that ought to be reduced. There was no fiscal unity between Ireland and Great Britain now, but the differences were such as did not help Ireland, and they ought to try and suit the burden to the back of Ireland. The heavy taxation imposed upon that country during the last 40 years was the most sordid form that the oppression of Ireland had taken. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would try and deal with this question, and would take some steps that would relieve Ireland from the unjust burdens that now oppressed her.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said, that he had not the advantage of listening to the speech of the Chief Secretary, but, as far as he could gather, the right hon. Gentleman had stated that, in the Recess, it would be his duty to consider the provisions of a large Purchase Bill. As one who was anxious to see the dual system end as far as possible in Ireland, he would warn the 980 right hon. Gentleman against the reenactment of the increased instalments of the first five years. He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman had advocated emigration as one of the great cures applicable to Ireland.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said, that he referred to the time when population was more numerous than the land could bear, and to the fact that some of that population having emigrated, left the rest happier than before.
§ MR. POWER,
continuing, said, that so far from emigration being good for Ireland, it only did her further injury; and, in his opinion, the view and aim of everyone interested in Ireland should be to stop the hæmorrhage of the nation's life-blood, and their aim should be to keep the people at home. He hoped that the Government would make some effort to tide over the coming winter in Ireland. They were often twitted with loving the life of agitators, but if hon. Members opposite knew the life of an Irish agitator they would not think it a luxurious one. It had been burnt into the souls of the people of Ireland that nothing had been done for the past hundred years for the good of Ireland until the country had been on the very eve of rebellion. This was the case with the land legislation of the Conservatives, and he hoped that the action of the present Government would not further impress that view upon the Irish race. The evicted farms were a running sore in Ireland, and unless something was done to bring about the reinstatement of the men who had been evicted, they could not look forward to peace in the coming winter. He suggested that the Land Commission might be brought in as an intermeditary or third party to a settlement. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman had, from his own point of view, a golden opportunity. He had a large majority; he had the assurance from the Liberal and from the Irish Benches that if a non-contentious Bill were now brought forward dealing with 981 the points that had been raised, it would be considered in no captious mood; and he was strong enough, owing to the largeness of his majority, to dispense with those who were inclined to be unreasonable. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman did, he would not be able to change the sentiment of the Irish people in regard to Home Rule. Did anyone contend that if they had a Legislature of their own, this winter would be passed without their bringing forward some measure to assist the Irish farmers? He believed that it was in the interests of those who did believe in a Unionist system to legislate at once in the true interests of the Irish people.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)
said, that the question of the housing of Irish labourers was a burning question, not merely in his own constituency but in all parts of Ireland. The housing of labourers had been dealt with, but insufficiently, and as far as the allotment of land was concerned, it had been dealt with inequitably and injudiciously. If that House passed a Bill in favour of granting to the Irish labourer the acre of land, why should not that which had been granted by the House be carried into execution? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would pay attention to this matter, and remedy the standing injustice that obtained in connection with the position of these labourers. Immense difficulty was thrown in the way of obtaining a cottage and an allotment of land for the Irish labourer, but, if the matter was dealt with seriously and with less red tape, he maintained that these benefits could be obtained. The labourer in portions of the rich lands of Limerick was not on the same footing as one of his own poor constituents in the highlands of County Cork. He drew no invidious distinctions in the matter, but he pointed out how great were the law expenses, and the distances which witnesses had to travel in order to have the whole question settled in Dublin, instead of at the nearest legal centre. He had 982 put the matter clearly before several of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors hoping that something would be done, and that at any rate the courts of the County Court Judges might be made use of, instead of having all these matters settled at Dublin with much expense and delay. He had listened to what the right hon. Gentleman had said with a certain amount of dismay. The weather in all districts of Ireland had been bad. It had been raining almost continuously, and he was told that the grain crops were flat and the hay destroyed. He heard also that all the Boards of Guardians in the extensive County of Cork said that the judicial rents under existing conditions could not be paid during the ensuing winter, and that something should be done. He therefore laid the matter before the right hon. Gentleman and the House. It was also asked that loans should be granted to farmers—small loans at a reasonable rate of interest. They gave money to Armenia, and they spent money in China, and he admitted that these countries called for their sympathy, but Charity commenced at home, that was if they recognised her. He would ask the Chief Secretary to let his mind apply to this. All they asked was that what could be done, should be done. In the words of the old Scottish song:—Now's the day, and now's the hour.Let it not pass. Let matters be amicably arranged. Let not the right hon. Gentleman be led astray from the path of duty. The greatest duty imposed on any ruler was his duty towards God's poor. If the right hon. Gentleman happened to be the ruler for the time being over a poor nation, let him recognise the words of his distinguished precedessor, Drummond—let him think of the necessities of the nation. Was it always to be a case of landlord and tenant? They had now an opportunity of showing what could be done if the labourers were satisfied, if the evicted tenants were restored, if the 983 farmers were satisfied; their position would be very different from what it was. Do not let the golden moment fly, and go back to coercion. He was not going to say one word which could offend. He was only appealing to the right hon. Gentleman, who had spoken calmly and quietly, as he sincerely hoped he was trying to do. ["Hear, hear!"] Let him try to rise above these minor points and deal with the labourers almost first, if not first, dealing with the evicted tenants at the same time. [Laughter.] He wished to draw no invidious distinctions. [Renewed laughter.] If hon. Members had the opportunity of going through Ireland and seeing many of the poor labourers' cottages and the hovels in which the evicted tenants live, they would be less inclined to laugh. But he did not mind the laugh; they were only new Members, and did not quite understand the subject.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
said, the Chief Secretary's speech was devoted, not to the exposition of the policy of his party, but to a criticism of the various suggestions which had proceeded from the Irish Benches, and the right hon. Gentleman either flatly rejected these suggestions, or declared his inability to form an opinion upon them. The suggestions made by Irish Members were divided into two categories—those which related to the more pressing wants of Irish life, and those whose consideration might be postponed till next Session. They were compelled to press on the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of taking some steps even this Session for dealing with the perennial Irish land question. Now, as in 1886, they found the demands of the Irish Members rejected; but whereas ten years ago they had nothing to rely upon but their own experience of what was going on, this year their demands were fortified by the Report of the Committee of the House, which declared that the Irish land question was one of urgency by reason of the expiry of the statutory term. The 984 Chief Secretary denied that there was any necessity for legislating on the subject this year. But that depended on the character of the legislation. If it was to follow the lines of Mr. Morley's Land Bill, which proposed to reduce the statutory term to ten years, then it would make an enormous difference to the Irish tenant whether the change was carried into effect this year or next. Were they to assume that the right hon. Gentleman had definitely made up his mind to reject the proposal in the Bill of the late Government reducing the statutory term: and, if so, were they to take it that the hon. Member for South Tyrone concurred in the conclusion? If it was not so, how could the right hon. Gentleman say that it made no difference whether legislation was passed now or next year? At any rate, in view of the anxiety which the question excited in Ireland, and its admitted urgency, they might expect to have some pledge from the right hon. Gentleman as to the time when the next Session was to open. This was a question affecting not a small section of the Irish tenants, but almost every tenant north, south, east and west. It was a matter which was admitted on all hands to be of urgency, and yet they got no kind of assurance that they would secure an early sitting of Parliament to deal with it. In the natural course of things, if Parliament opened in the month of January or February, the right hon. Gentleman would have no chance or prospect of passing his land legislation into law before July or August; and it was trifling with an important subject like this to throw it over for a period of 12 months in the face of such an agricultural crisis as the present. He would not say it was equal to that of 1886, but without going into any comparison, the fact must be admitted by anybody who was at all acquainted with the circumstances of agriculture in Ireland, that the prospect before the Irish tenants was as gloomy as it could be. The potatocrop was 985 a good one, but important as the potato crop was as providing against a want of food, it was very unimportant when they came to deal with the question of rent, because there was none of the crops in which the Irish tenant embarked his capital and labour which was so unprofitable in the matter of rent paying. Yet with such a gloomy prospect before them, with a Report of a Parliamentary Committee pressing the urgency of this question, here were Ministers, at the beginning of the Parliament of 1895, as they were at the beginning of the Parliament of 1886, opposing the demand of the Irish Members for legislation on a question involving the happiness and the lives of millions of the Irish people. He would refer to another topic with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt in his speech. The right hon. Gentleman made an apologetic reference to the action of the House of Lords upon the Municipal Franchise Bill.
It is true that I allowed that discussion to go on for a short time. The charge was made and the answer given, but it would be out of order to continue the discussion any longer. And if the discussion proceeded upon what took place in the other House during the last Parliament, that would be still more out of order.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
said he neither proposed to discuss the terms of the Municipal Franchise Bill, nor the action of the House of Lords upon it. What he was discussing was the right hon. Gentleman's Irish policy, and he was merely pointing out that while the right hon. Gentleman was ready to make an apology for the House of Lords, he took care not to tell the Committee what the Government intended to do with regard to that Bill. For 20 years, he might almost say 50 years—for Englishmen had enjoyed the same benefit for 50 years—for 20 years Irishmen had been year after year refused any measure of the kind, and now, when the question was raised at the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's régime, he was ready enough to make an apology for the House of Lords and Lord Cadogan, but would give the Committee no indication whatever of what the Government intended to do in the near future. That was the attitude of the 986 right hon. Gentleman. When the Irish Members made definite proposals calling for legislation on urgent questions in this Session in which they were now engaged, the right hon. Gentleman opposed to them a flat negative; and when they demanded to know what was to be the action of the Government, he told them he was not prepared with an answer. Supposing England were governed by an Irish Minister who met the demands of English Members for a declaration of policy regarding their country, with the statement that he knew nothing about England and that he would prepare a scheme when he had learned something about it, would not Englishmen consider the position humiliating to them? The right hon. Gentleman said that the Irish Members did not press the land question forward during the lifetime of the late Government. The right hon. Member was in error. They did press the question upon the attention of the Government, and they obtained the appointment of a Committee to inquire into it, and a Bill would have been passed, but for the action of the Party represented by hon. Members opposite. Then, whatever might have been the faults of the late Government, they at any rate had pledged themselves to effect a final cure for Irish grievances by handing over the Government of the country to the Irish people. The late Government no doubt deserved criticism in many matters, but Irishmen would be very ungrateful if they ever forgot the fact that that Government recognised their just claim to self government and strove to give effect to it. The right hon. Gentleman had pledged himself to bring in a Bill to re-enact Clause 13 of the Act of 1891, for the benefit of the evicted tenants. When that clause was originally passed into law, he was glad, because he believed its enactments, promoted by the hon. Member for South Tyrone and the hon. Member for South Hunts, afforded evidence of conciliatory spirit among the Irish landlords. In the end, however, it was found that that spirit was absent, and the result was that the clause proved to be useless, almost a nullity. If the landlords were going to adopt the same attitude now, the House would be merely wasting time by re-enacting the clause. The right hon. Member therefore would 987 do well to put pressure upon his landlord supporters from Ireland in order to bring them to a reasonable frame of mind in their dealings with the tenants. If there really was a disposition among the landlords to reinstate their tenants, a great deal could be done to facilitate the process by making a Treasury grant for the purpose, such as was proposed in Mr. Morley's Bill two years ago. No doubt if the hon. Member for South Hunts could bring his friends in Ireland to a better frame of mind, and induce them to deal justly with their tenants, some good might be done by the re-enactment of the 13th Clause. He further wished to call attention to the constitution and powers of the Irish Fishery Board, and pressed on the Chief Secretary the importance of doing for Ireland something like that which was done for Scotland by the Scotch Fishery Board. To begin with, for the Scotch Fishery Board, Parliament voted something like £26,000 a year, whereas the Vote for the Irish Fisheries amounted to only £5,000. And it was not only the amount of the Vote. The Scottish Fishery Board appeared to be doing every year more and more excellent work in bringing about the prosperity of the Scottish fisheries. He was sorry to say he could say nothing of the kind with regard to the body which exists in Ireland. In Scotland, the whole machinery was directed to fostering the fisheries, whereas the Irish Board was little better than a body of fishery police, making regulations of a narrow and limited character. Whereas the Scottish Board dealt more with sea than with fresh-water fisheries, the Irish Board took cognisance almost entirely of the freshwater fisheries, and sea fisheries, which ought to be the more important, were utterly neglected by them, and he doubted whether they had jurisdiction over them at all. Thus, they had this unfortunate state of things in Ireland, that a purely agricultural country had nothing in the shape of a Board of Agriculture, and similarly, in regard to the next most important industry, the sea fisheries, whereas they had in England and Scotland bodies set up to watch over the interests of the sea fisheries, nothing of the kind was provided for Ireland. In Scotland, for example, a considerable sum was spent every year by the Scottish 988 Fishery Board in branding the Scotch herrings, and all Scottish Members were agreed that the prosperity of the industry there had been largely promoted by that state of things. ["Hear, hear!"] Over and over again, Irish Members had asked that a similar arrangement should be established in the case of Ireland. Within the last 12 months, the Irish Fish Curing Association made strong representations, calling for a similar system to be set up, but of course nothing of the kind was done. The right hon. Gentleman had declared his policy to be one of looking after the industrial resources and promoting the material prosperity of Ireland. He hoped he would give his attention to this important matter of the Irish fisheries. So far as the prosperity of the Irish fisheries were concerned, they might just as well have no Fishery Inspectors at all, and refuse to vote this £5,000 a year. When Sir Thomas Brady was illegally compelled to retire from his office on the Irish Fishery Board some few years ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, who was then Chief Secretary, thought that a fitting substitute would be found for him by appointing to the position a resident magistrate, whose sole qualification was, that he had acquired an evil reputation in the coercion courts set up by the right hon. Gentleman. He hoped the Chief Secretary would make the Fishery Department an efficient instrument for promoting the fishing industry of Ireland. The efforts of the Department were at present almost entirely confined to the fresh-water fishery. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to set up in Ireland something in the nature of the Scottish Fishery Board, and promote in that way the prosperity of the Irish sea coast fisheries.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
hoped the hon. Gentlemen who had spoken would not think it was out of any want of respect to them if he did not refer to what they had said, much of which had been either arguments in reply to his own speech or else merely restatements of what had been already said. He thought, however, some answer was due to the hon. Member who had just sat down, and who had raised a new point in connection with the Irish fishery. He was as anxious as the hon. Member could be to develop this, which was amongst the 989 most important of Irish industries. ["Hear, hear!"] He was rather inclined to think the hon. Gentleman had underrated what had been already done in Ireland, and he was not sure that he had at all accurately described what was now being done in England and Scotland. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that he would inquire fully into the subject, and if he found there was room for improvement, no effort should be wanting on his part to effect it. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said, the hon. Member for Mid Cork had raised a question as to the Labourers' Dwellings Act. [Dr. TANNER: "And allotments."] There had been certain difficulties to encounter, but the matter was now under the consideration of the Local Government Board. He trusted that those difficulties would be removed by administrative action, and if not, then by legislation. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ DR. TANNER
Under the circumstances, I beg to move a reduction of the Vote by £1,000 in respect of the Chief Secretary's salary.
§ The question having been put from the Chair,
§ DR. TANNER (who remained seated)
On a point of order, Mr. Lowther, I beg to state that the right hon. Gentleman was too late. [Laughter.]
Order, order! I have already informed the hon. Member that that is not a point of order.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 147; Noes, 47.—(Division List, No 25.)
§ Question put accordingly
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 152; Noes, 40.—(Division List, No. 26.)990
§ On the Vote of £939, to complete the sum for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland,
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
suggested, that out of the remaining six Votes in this class the Government might get four, but the others should be postponed until to-morrow. The Vote of the Irish Local Government Board and the Public Works Vote, for example, would raise some points for discussion; but the remaining Votes might be obtained by the Government at a reasonable hour. He formally moved to report progress.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
thought the Committee would Feel that at the time of the year at which they had arrived, some effort should be made by the Committee, even at some personal sacrifice, to wind up the Session [Cheers.] He gathered that this was the view of the hon. Member himself, and it was in that sense, no doubt, the suggestion had been made. But in order to carry out the general view he had expressed, he thought it was necessary that the Government should get the Irish Votes in all classes to-night and to-morrow, or at least by to-morrow night. It must be remembered that if the administration in Ireland were to be criticised, it would be that of Mr. Morley, and it would probably offer to hon. Members opposite less material for criticism than the Administration of other Irish Secretaries had done. He hoped they might finish the Irish Votes to-morrow. He should be glad to take the four Votes offered them to-night, then take the Report of Supply, and tomorrow take the remaining Votes in this class and all other Irish Votes. If that plan met with general approbation, he should be happy to adopt it.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, there seemed to be some misunderstanding as to what the suggestion was. There remained in this and other classes 13 Irish Votes, and the right hon. Gentleman could hardly expect them to assent to the suggestion that all should be disposed of to-morrow, seeing that they included Votes for law charges and for the constabulary, and Wednesday was a short day. The Irish Members had no disposition to prolong the Session; they 991 wanted to get home; but they wanted something to take with them.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had made one mistake in assuming the shortness of Wednesday, which, so far as the actual time at their disposal was concerned, had in it the capacity of being the longest day in the week. [Laughter.] He hoped it would be a short one, and that they would rise at a reasonable hour; but, if they were to sit only a reasonable number of days, it appeared that they must sit an unreasonable number of hours.
§ * MR. FLYNN
asked the Leader of the House to be reasonable. The Nationalist Members were prepared to pass the ten contentious Votes, but, with regard to others, it was an unheard of thing to attempt to force them over the heads of the Irish Members. It would be contrary to the pledges given when the Twelve o'clock Rule was suspended.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
suggested that there should be a distinct understanding that the Irish Votes be finished on Thursday.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he and his friends were most anxious to meet the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman, and they would be willing to accede to his suggestion on the understanding that if there was anything abnormal in the Votes additional time would be granted to them to consider it.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he understood the Irish Votes would be finished on Thursday, and that the Report stage of the Chief Secretary's Vote would be taken at a reasonable hour.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
At a reasonable—not abnormally late hour. We must see what progress is made with the English Votes. But the finishing of the Irish Votes on Thursday is a pledge binding on both sides of the House. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Vote agreed to.992
§ On the Vote of £2,974, to complete the sum for the Public Record Office, Ireland,
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that the Irish Records were in a scandalous condition. They could be easily dealt with by a man like Dr. Hyde, who had done more for Irish literature than any other man in the world, and who would do the work at an expense of a few hundred pounds. The Government should take hold of some competent scholar of the country and put him into the Record Office, where his work would be a labour of love. Some of the work which had been in hand for ten or twelve years should be expedited, and he thought that more men should be put on with this object.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he would be happy to give his best consideration to the suggestions of the hon. and learned Member, and he trusted that the result would be that he would be able to give effect to the hon. and learned Member's wishes.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Vote of £8,780, to complete the sum for Registrar General's Office, Ireland—agreed to.
§ Vote of £6,504, to complete the sum for Valuation and Boundary Survey, Ireland—agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported this day; Committee to sit again this day.