§ *MR. VESEY KNOX (Cavan, W.),
in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said it would be unnecessary for him to detain the House at any length in explaining the object, of the proposed Measure. It was a Bill to repeal the Coercion Act, which was called in Parliamentary language The Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act (1887). The subject had already been fully discussed in the House at various times during the past seven or eight, years. About a year ago a Bill, with the same object, was brought forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway; it was fully discussed, and the Second Reading passed by the decisive majority of 60 votes. It was, therefore, clear that a year ago the House, after full consideration, had made up its mind that this Act ought to be repealed, and nothing had occurred in the interval which could possibly alter the mind of the House on the subject. On the contrary, the state of affairs in Ireland, under the ordinary law and under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, was happily such as had not existed within the memory of living men. The returns of outrages were a monotonous series of blanks. There was absolutely no extra ordinary and little ordinary crime in that 714 country, and under the circumstances it was remarkable that there should still be on the Statute Book an Act of this character, the passing and the very existence of which on the Statute Book was an insult to the Irish people. Of course it might be urged by his hon. and learned Friend who was to move the rejection of the Bill, that this state of affairs would be likely to alter if the hon. Member's friends were returned to power. He had no means of foretelling what might be the policy that would be pursued by the hon. and learned Gentleman's friends, and he did not say it would pass the wit of man to stir up outrage again in Ireland. It would be possible, he had no doubt, for an ambitious Chief Secretary, anxious to pursue one of the easiest roads to distinction open to any man by his repressive policy, to stir up some resistence to law in Ireland, and to gain some reputation by putting it down in a determined manner. That was a road to distinction that had been followed by many notable men, and he had no wish to cut off that road to distinction in the future from any hon. or right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway. When the late Lord Augustus Loftus was Ambassador at St. Petersburg, he used to find that the Russian generals sent on duty beyond the Caspian were constantly making incursions into territory non-Russian, and when complaints were made to the Foreign Office they were always met by the reply that these generals were so anxious for distinction and decoration that they promoted hostilities and their Government could not control them. Lord Augustus Loftus then asked if it would not be well to decorate them before sending them to the Transcaspian provinces. On this analogy he suggested that any Conservative Gentleman who might become Chief Secretary for Ireland should be understood to be a, heaven-sent Statesman. He would even be ready to admit for the purposes of these proceedings that the hon. and gallant, knight the Member for Sheffield was a new and better Cromwell without the warts. He therefore hoped, on these principles, that they might be able to arrive at a compromise. He, and his hon. Friends near him, would admit, if it was desired, that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen above, the Gangway 715 were better rulers of Ireland than the Government were; but if they made this concession in favour of the vanity of the Opposition, he hoped that the Opposition would in return make the concession to the convenience of Irish Members. He hoped the Bill might be read a Second Time without absorbing the whole of their time that afternoon. The second Order on the Paper, Technical Education (Ireland) Bill, was of great interest also, and was in the hands of the hon. and learned Member for Mid Armagh. That hon. and learned Gentleman intented to Move the rejection of the Bill under consideration. Last Wednesday some hon. Members talked at length on one Bill, because they objected to the Bill that stood next it on the Order Paper; but it would be an innovation in Parliamentary proceedings if the hon. Member were to talk for a long time on one Bill with the result of preventing his own Bill from being reached. He hoped, therefore, that he would meet the views of the hon. and learned Member for Mid Armagh by being brief, in the hope that both this Bill and the hon. and learned Member's Bill would be disposed of that afternoon. He begged to move the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. JAMES O'CONNOR (Wicklow, W.)
in Seconding the Motion said, he proposed to make a brief reference to the present condition of Ireland. The tranquillity of the country supplied a strong argument in support of the repeal of the Act of 1887. It might be said by hon. Members above the Gangway that the present condition of Ireland was not its normal condition; that its normal condition was one of crime and outrage. He denied that it was so. The condition of Ireland at the present time was its normal condition when it was not harassed by rack-renting landlords, and when the police force of Ireland were not instigating the people to commit deeds of violence under orders from Dublin Castle. That House could not have forgotten the order sent to Mitchelstown—"Do not hesitate to shoot"—and what followed upon that order, nor yet the fate of young Hanlon at Youghal. When Ireland was left alone she was peaceful and tranquil. When she was instigated by Coercion Acts Ireland could not be tranquil. It was a matter 716 of history that it was when Coercion Acts were used that there was more violence and outrage in the country. If the present Chief Secretary had followed the example of his predecessor at the Irish Office, the condition of Ireland would be very different from what it was now. There was one reason why even the Opposition ought to be predisposed to vote for the repeal of the Act. As long as it remained on the Statute Book it was a standing proof of how readily the Tory Party could break faith with the people of this country, because they obtained power in 1886 on the clear condition that they could and would govern Ireland without Coercion; and when they were in power they proceeded immediately to break faith with the people, to disregard their pledges, and to enact one of the most drastic Coercion Acts ever passed in that House. Therefore, hon. Members above the Gangway on the Opposition Benches, ought to be very glad to have this Act removed from the Statute Book.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said, the Coercion Act was admittedly a failure in Ireland. It did not succeed in putting down crime and outrage; quite the contrary. Acts of this kind notoriously had never had the effect of checking crime in Ireland; they were, in fact, provocative of crime and outrage. Last year he had the honour of seconding the Motion for the Second Reading of a Bill similar to that now under consideration. This was practically the same Bill which was introduced last year by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway, who, unfortunately, was not able, for private reasons, to be in his place that day. The Bill last year was passed on the Second Reading by a majority of 60, a very considerable majority, but in spite of that no further progress was made with it. That was very unsatisfactory. The present Bill contained only one clause, and could be passed through Committee in two or three days at most. The Irish Members were entitled to claim from the Chief Secretary that, after the Second Reading, something more should be done with the Bill this Session. They were entitled to ask that two or three days should be set aside by the Government for the consideration of the Measure in Committee, and for the Third Reading. 717 It might be said that the Bill would be thrown out in another place, but that was not a consideration that should influence that House. The right hon. Member for Midlothian had declared in that House that this Coercion Act ought not to be allowed to remain on the Statute Book for a single day longer than the Government could help, and the Chief Secretary had said that the repeal of the Act should be one of the very first actions of the Government. In view of that statement, the right hon. Member ought not to be satisfied with merely supporting the Second Reading, but ought to undertake that time would be found for dealing with the subsequent stages of the Measure. The Irish people felt very deeply upon this matter. They were told that when the Conservative Party should return to power coercion would be revived in Ireland. That being the case, it was the business of every man in that House who was opposed to coercion to do everything in his power to I prevent this weapon from getting into the hands of any future Government that might be disposed to use it. There was an unanswerable case for the repeal of the Measure.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Armagh, Mid.)
who rose to Move that the Bill be read a Second Time that day six months, said, that if there were unanswerable arguments for the acceptance of the Bill before them, such arguments had, at any rate, not been advanced that day. The hon. Member who had moved the Second Reading appeared to realise that the least said in support of the Measure the better. The hon. Member apparently rested his case upon an anecdote about military life in the Transcaspian provinces, while the seconder of the Motion merely indulged in some general denunciations of coercion, such as they had often heard. But the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had said that the Crimes Act failed to suppress crime. That, as far as he could gather, was the only argument that had been adduced in support of the Bill, and he therefore proposed to refute it. In 1887 there were 870 persons wholly boycotted, and 3,965 partially boycotted. After this Crimes Act had been in operation, 3 or 4 years not a single person was partially or completely boycotted in Ireland. It was admitted that during 718 the same period agrarian crime was reduced 50 per cent., and that ordinary crime fell below what it had been for 20 years previously. It was, however, sufficient to base the opposition to this Bill on the broad ground of public and Parliamentary convenience, and that ought to appeal to the common sense of every Member of the House. The Crimes Act took the best part of 3½, months of Parliamentary time to pass. The First Reading occupied 5 days, the Second Reading 7 days, Committee 19 days, Report 4 days, Third Reading 2 days. That was a total of 37 days spread over 3½ months of Parliamentary time between March 28 and July 8, 1887. All English and Scottish business was blocked, and the business of the United Kingdom was brought to a standstill; yet in the same breath hon. Members below the Gangway proposed, on a Wednesday afternoon, to undo the whole of that work; and told the House it would be necessary to do it all over again if a Unionist Government succeeded to office. It was monstrously unreasonable to render waste all the precious Parliamentary time and to deliberately render possible the necessity for a similar expenditure of time in the not far distant future. He hoped to hear from the Chief Secretary something not quite so perfunctory as the House had had from hon. Members below the Gangway. It was to be hoped that if he was going to take up the measure, he would justify his position to the House. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, according to the principle laid down by hon. Members below the Gangway when a Unionist Government was in office, there had not been a greater coercionist than the right hon. Gentleman himself. The contents of the Crimes Act were only a very small part of what was denounced as coercion. When the Unionists were in office, English Members went over to Ireland and denounced them because they exercised the ordinary law in a special way to meet extraordinary circumstances, and that was what the right hon. Gentleman boasted that he had done ever since he had been in office. He did not criticise him for that, but it was his own case. What did the right hon. Gentleman tell the House last year? When he was defending his position he 719 said that there were strong reasons for resorting—to every means that the ordinary law and vigour of administration placed within your reach. And what has been done? There has been consistent vigilant patrolling. All the resources of police foresight, police caution, police supervision have been used to the full.And then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:—I have never said that a weak, nerveless Government will do well in Ireland, but I have said that you will do more by using vigorously, discreetly, and watchfully the powers and instruments that the ordinary law and the ordinary machinery of the Administration placed in your hands than by resorting to violent measures.But hon. Members below the Gangway said that Irish villages ought to be governed like English villages, by one policeman. In their view, to use police vigilance, foresight and caution, as the right hon. Gentleman had done, was coercion, and while he thought the right hon. Gentleman had simply been discharging his duty, he had incurred the condemnation of the hon. Members who proposed this Bill. There was hardly anything in the Act of 1887 which was not already contained in the law either of England or Scotland. He denied that it could properly be called a Coercion Act. The real Coercion Act was the Act of 1881–2, which was passed by the Liberal Party. It suspended the habeas corpus, it gave unlimited powers of arrest without trial, unlimited power of suppressing newspapers and public meetings, and committed the trial of murder and treason felony cases to a commission of Judges. That was a Coercion Act. The Act of 1887 contained none of those powers. It dealt with machinery and procedure, and not with the substantive law. Did the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary deny that the machinery of the law required strengthening in 1887. If he did he was in conflict with his own colleagues. The present Secretary for War, when the Chief Secretary in 1885, said they could not be sure of getting a conviction on the clearest evidence, and it was not merely reasonable but it was necessary to provide some measure to overcome that difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman added that such a measure might very well be made part of the 720 permanent law of the land. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, upon the first introduction of the Home Rule Bill, said—With certain exceptions in the case of, winter juries it is impossible to depend in Ireland upon the finding of a jury in a case of agrarian crime according to the facts as they are viewed by the Government, by the Judges and by the public, I think, at large. That is a lost serious mischief, passing down deep into the groundwork of civil society.To illustrate the state of affairs in Ireland which rendered the Act of 1887 necessary, he would point out that in 1886, long after the Home Rule Bill vas brought in, a Nationalist gentleman, Mr. Rolleston, wrote to United Ireland complaining that in a previous issue it had stated that Protestants and Catholics, if on the Nationalist side, should unite n defeating Government prosecutions. Mr. Rolleston protested against that, and asked if it was liberty that a man should lot be allowed to go into the jury-box and find a verdict. Here was a note upon Mr. Rolleston's letter by the editor of United Ireland, who was a Member of that House—In a self-governed Ireland it would, of course, be intolerable that men should not be allowed to differ freely in the jury-box and everywhere else; but in the state of chaotic conflict to which English rule reduces us, he who is not with us is against us, and must expect to be dealt with accordingly. That is not liberty, but it is the way of winning it.That might be the view of hon. Members below the Gangway of the way to win liberty, but was there a Government worthy of the name, that when they found a great part of the population ready to take that view, would not endeavour to strengthen the law in order to procure the fair trial of criminal cases? The three principal portions of the Act of 1887 were the Secret Inquiry, which was similar to the inquiry held in Scotland, the Summary Jurisdiction Clauses, which gave summary jurisdiction to the resident magistrates in cases of riot and boycotting; and thirdly, change of venue—was not the Government justified in inserting a provision for a secret inquiry on their former experience of Ireland, when they found this determination to defeat the prosecution of criminals? Nothing but the secret inquiry would have secured the discovery of the Phœnix Park murderers. 721 The Chief Secretary had defended him self for not using the secret inquiry by saying that it was a failure. There had been 31secret inquiries and 11 convictions secured, and he thought that was a very considerable proportion. He knew it did not succeed in Clare, because the conspiracies there were of an exceptional kind; but it succeeded in Kerry, and if that were all it would be sufficiently justified. He rested the success of the Act upon these two facts, that 31 secret inquiries were followed by 11 convictions, and that crime was suppressed in the county of Kerry. As to the exercise of summary jurisdiction, very little was heard now about removables. If it was true that these resident magistrates acted so wickedly and basely, why had they not been removed? The charges that were made against them were unfair and unjustifiable, and, so far from the Chief Secretary removing any of them, he had increased the number. [Mr. JOHN MORLEY: "No."] He had not increased the number, but he had appointed residents in the places of those who had died or retired. [An hon. MEMBER: "And they administer the ordinary law."] But sometimes in an extraordinary way. Had not the Chief Secretary written a letter to the hon. Member for North East Cork, explaining the circumstances under which the police had attended an eviction, and evidently conveying his own regret at the course the law had taken? And the ordinary law had not been administered in Ireland as in England, but it had been administered in Ireland as exceptional circumstances required. It could be administered as it was in England, only when in Ireland the attitude of the people towards the law was the same as it was in England. The decisions of the resident magistrates were subject to appeals to the County Courts and the Court of Queen's Bench; there had been a good many appeals; and the decisions of the magistrates had stood the tests very well. As to summary jurisdiction, there were many boroughs in this country which had extraordinary power, and recently extraordinary proposals were made in the Glasgow Police Bill. The truth was, summary jurisdiction had always been a question of degree, a police question as to how far it was necessary. [An hon. MEMBER: "A 722 constabulary question."] If there were any circumstances that could justify it they were boycotting and organized resistance to the execution of the law. Change of venue was common enough in England. Criminal trials were often removed to the Central Criminal Court; and in Ireland the Act only applied to the Spring and Summer Assizes what was done automatically at the Winter Assizes. There could be no question but that it had had a good effect. It was not true that trials had been removed only from the Nationalist parts of Ireland; they had been removed from Belfast, as in the case of the persons charged with insurance frauds who were tried and committed at Wicklow. A local venue was not an essential party trial by jury; what was wanted was a fair venue which would secure an impartial trial. Very often a local venue would be unfair to a prisoner. Then it was argued that Ireland was in a peaceful condition, in the enjoyment of the Pax Morleyana. True, Ireland was not in a normal condition; just as disturbance had been artificial and manufactured, so was the present peace. The hon. Member for Mayo had said that—if the Tories got back to power before Home Rule was passed, there would be one of the biggest land agitations that had ever been seen, and that there would be more necessity than ever for dealing with the evicted tenants.Did not that show that the present peace was the result of a political bar again? If peace or disturbance could be laid on like gas or water was not something required to prevent flooding or explosion from the escape of gas? True, the Act was not in operation; it was a sword in the sheath; but it might be necessary to withdraw it; and it would be rash not to be prepared for the necessity if it should arise. The hon. Member fur Mayo had appealed to the people to be ready to "resort to the old weapons and the old methods;" we knew what those were, and it was the duty of the Government to prepare for the adoption of that advice. It was said that Coercion Acts were unjustifiable, and this in particular; but the Chief Secretary had said—I have never denied that in emergency, as, for instance, in the year 1867, it might become necessary for the Government to suspend the guarantees of liberty and equality.723 Was not this Act passed to meet an emergency? The difference between them was narrowed to the objection that this Act was made perpetual. Would the Chief Secretary say an emergency was not likely to arise again? Was it not the whole case of his Party that this Pax Morleyana was Morleyana alone? That being so, if the Unionists come into office would they be able to govern without an Act like this? If not, and this Act were repealed, they would have to spend three months of Parliamentary time in passing one. ["Hear, hear.''] That cheer meant that if the Unionists came into office they were to be at the mercy, not merely of such Nationalists, but of English Members and ex-Ministers who would not hesitate to use disorder in Ireland as a means of and a lever for returning to office as part of a political game. So long as the danger was before them, so long was it necessary to keep this Act on the Statute Book. The hon. Member said that Ireland was now in a normal condition of peace. That was not the case. Fourteen Coercion Acts were passed in the first 14 years of Grattan's Parliament, and very nearly as many in the next five years. During the present century there had been 28 Coercion Acts passed by Liberal Governments, and they were all of a much more serious nature than the Act they were now dealing with, and which he and his friends denied was a Coercion Act at all. What was wanted in Ireland above all things was steady administration. [Mr. MORLEY: "Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman wanted steady administration, but he would do his best to prevent steady administration in Ireland. If they were to have steady administration, they must be in a position to meet the exceptional emergencies with which they were threatened, and had reason to expect. One of the worst features in the Government of Ireland had been these spasmodic Coercion Acts—Acts dropped at one moment and brought on at another. The real mischief in the administration of the criminal law in Ireland was the difficulty in getting evidence and securing a fair trial. When they had found the real mischief, they should get the minimum of legislation that would meet it. They had got that minimum in this Act, 724 and he believed it was only by the preservation on the Statute Book of an Act such as this that they could secure that steady administration of the law, which the Chief Secretary admitted should be one of the first objects of a Statesman. The Crimes Act did not only repress outrage and preserve order. During the operations of the Act, evictions had fallen in number by 75 per cent., pauperism had decreased by 13 per cent., and emigration by 18 per cent. That state of things was, he maintained, largely due to the existence of the Act, because the presence on the Statute Book of such an Act was not only a guarantee for the due administration of the criminal law in times of emergency, but a guarantee also that people would be protected in the ordinary conduct of their business and employment. It was in the firm belief that this Act was a necessary element in securing the continuance of the prosperity of Ireland, and of the happiness of a large majority of Irishmen that he unhesitatingly moved that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ CAPTAIN McCALMONT (Antrim, E.)
gladly seconded the Amendment. He, like his hon. and learned Friend, listened in vain to the hon. Member for Cavan for anything in the nature of an argument in favour of the repeal of the Act. In saying that, he did not wish to reflect in any degree upon the hon. Member's ability, for he confessed it would require a person to be peculiarly ingenious to show any plausible reason for the withdrawal of the Crimes Act from the Statute Book, an Act which caused no one of Her Majesty's faithful subjects the slightest inconvenience or injury. They had been told the Act should be withdrawn because the majority of the Irish people, through their representatives in the House of Commons, demanded it. He thought it would be more accurate to say a majority of Irish Members required it. There was a large minority in Ireland who held the exactly contrary opinion, and their view, he thought, was worthy of some slight consideration; for that minority were much more concerned in the real interests of Ireland than the majority. The people he represented realised the advantage of having law and order in their midst, and 725 would, if needs be, be prepared to instruct him to do his utmost by his vote to stiffen the provisions of the Crimes Act rather than bring about its repeal. He rejoiced to hear that in Ireland there was now immunity from crime, but they knew from experience that in Ireland there had been sudden outbursts of crime, and difficulty had been found in bringing the offenders to justice. Was it wise not to make provision for such outbreaks, and was it creditable to the House of Commons, or the country, that should there be a recurrence of crime and outrage hon. Members should be brought down to the House hurriedly for the purpose of re-enacting a measure which for no earthly purpose they had possibly but a short time previously removed from the Statute Book? As far as he could judge, the only object of passing a Bill of this kind was to enable such a state of things as existed at the time of the fearful atrocity, known as the Phœnix Park murders, to again exist, and to enable the perpetrators of crimes such as those to stalk through the land, or effect their escape, while the House of Commons was endeavouring, day after day and night after night, to re-enact a measure which was framed for the purpose of dealing with such a state of things, and with such people. No matter what they might say at the polls, he did not believe that the people of Ireland desired the removal of this Act from the Statute Book. The House would, in his opinion, be better employed in discussing the next Bill on the Paper—namely, that dealing with the absolute want of technical instruction in Ireland—than in spending their time upon a Bill which, after all, was only prompted by maudlin sentiment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed: "That this Bill be read a second time this day six months."—(Mr. Dunbar Barton.)
§ SIR THEODORE FRY (Darlington)
said, the best way to get to the next Bill on the list was to pass this Bill at once. It was rather surprising to see how very anxious Members opposite were to keep the Crimes Act on the Statute Book. There could only be one reason, and that was they thought that 726 if they again obtained a majority in the House, it was quite possible they would want to make use of the Act. He did not think there could be any stronger argument for the removal of the Act from the Statute Book than that particular one. If hon. Gentlemen opposite felt sure that Ireland was so tranquil, peaceful, and contented that, when they came into power, they could govern Ireland without a Coercion Bill, they would join in removing this great blot from the Statute Book. Hon. Members often declared that there was nothing which they so much desired as that Ireland and England should be governed by the same laws; but whenever there was an attempt made to make the laws of the two countries the same in any respect—as, for instance, in regard to Municipal Franchise—hon. Members opposite always did all they could to defeat the attempt. Now, the House was asked to consider a measure to repeal the hateful Coercion Act in Ireland, and to so far assimilate the law in the two countries. If hon. Gentlemen were honest and genuine in the professions which they made in the House and on platforms in the country, they had here an opportunity of carrying them out. Many people in the House, and out of it, did not know the difference existing between the laws of the two countries; and he knew one hon. Gentleman opposite, who, when he came into the House, was unaware that the Municipal Franchise, and the Poor Law Franchise in Ireland were different from those in England. He was sorry that the present Government did not last year carry out the Vote of the House on the Second Reading of the present Bill. They ought to try to remove this Coercion Act while they were in office, because, if it remained on the Statute Book when a Tory Government came into power, that Government would not hesitate to use the powers, hateful to the Irish people, of packing juries and changing the venue of trials. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: "Juries are packed now."] He hoped the Government would do their best to pass the Repealing Bill.
§ *MR. H.O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
said, that the hon. Member's remarks about equal laws for England and Ireland were surprising, seeing that the hon. Member for the last ten years 727 had been helping Parliament to make the laws utterly unequal. There would be more reality in the hon. Member's profession, if he was prepared to extend the Land Laws, Poor Laws, and Education Laws of Ireland to England. It was a remarkable circumstance that the operation of the "Oppressive and Insulting Acts," as they were called, was absolutely unknown in some parts of the North of Ireland, where the people lived ordinary lives, like those on the other side of St. George's Channel. To establish that these Acts were insulting and oppressive, it was necessary to prove something more than had been proved, in face of the presumption raised by the fact that in parts of Ulster the operation of the Act was unknown. As to the attitude of the Government, the Chief Secretary seemed to be playing the part of some of the military commanders of the beginning of last century, who, finding that a country was no longer tenable, burnt and destroyed everything of value, in order that no one else should hold what they could not hold. If the Government and their supporters did not share the anticipation that the Unionist Party would be responsible for the government of Ireland at an early date, there would be no need for pressing this Bill. But, on the face of it, they knew and believed that the time was not far distant when the reins of government would pass from the hands which now held them. What was the position then? The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite stated that the administration of the Chief Secretary had been successful in many respects, and the peace, which was so conspicuous during the latter years of the leader of the Opposition's administion, had been happily perpetuated by the present Government. But it was urged that this was a strong argument for the repeal of the Crimes Act. That was trifling with the House, for it assumed that the House was ignorant of facts known to ever Member in it. We had now a government of Ireland by bond. We had a position of tranquility in Ireland on a definite and positive understanding. There was a Party in the House which said, as long as the Imperial Parliament support us in what we conceive to be advantageous for our country, we will obey Parliament. 728 But directly it refuses to do so, we shall refuse to recognise its authority and take matters into our own hands. That was an intolerable position, which no Party in the House ought to be allowed to assume. There was no doubt about the facts. The policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite was to permit to the present Government undisturbed rule in Ireland as long as the Government gave way to their persuasion. Hon. Gentlemen had two methods of operation. While they had a Government ready to concede their demands, they took that in satisfaction of their claim, and allowed the Government to transact their business quietly. But, directly the United Kingdom returned a majority hostile to their views, they were not willing, as every Party ought to be, to obey the law of the land, but they declared that they would then resist the administration of the law. The hon. and learned Member for Cavan said that he had no information as to what was probable if the present Government went out of office. The hon. Member ought to know what was probable, because one of the most prominent and best-informed men of his Party had made the matter absolutely clear and beyond dispute. Here was the categorial statement of the hon. Member for East Mayo, made at the end of 1893:—"Now, I will tell you the reason why there is no land agitation in Ireland to-day on any great scale. It is not because there is not plenty of reason for a land agitation, because I say that it is impossible that this system of wholesale eviction for rack-rent can be tolerated. But why is it we are not encouraging any agitation in the country now? I will tell you the reason. Because there is a Government in power who are doing their best to give the whole government of the country into our hands. If we can get Home Rule we will settle all these matters very soon; but, if the Tories ever get into power before we get Home Rule, I believe that there will be one of the biggest land agitations which has ever been seen yet, and then will be seen the necessity of dealing generously with the evicted tenants." That was a distinct threat that the evils against which the Act of 1887 was directed would arise, 729 as far as hon. Members opposite could control matters, if the present Government left Office. There was another method of putting on pressure which was used when the Government was hostile to hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was the method of outrage. That was the method by which hon. Members had declared that they had pursued their ends in the past and by which he believed they intended to pursue them in the future.
§ MR. J. G. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
I rise to a point of order. The hon. Member has made allegations in reference to the Irish Party. He has stated that they proceed by methods of crime and outrage, and that they have said as much. I ask the hon. Member, who said so?
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, that he would tell the hon. Member who said so. He had in his hand a perfectly clear statement, contained in a speech made by the hon. Member for Louth [Mr. MACNEILL: "He is not here"] to the people of the North of Ireland. He said:—I can only tell the Protestants of Ulster that if they think the Catholics over half Ulster or the South and West of Ireland are any longer going to commit outrages in order that they may get cheap farms, they will find that the people in the South and West will no longer take the chestnuts out of the fire for them.That, therefore, was what they had been doing and that was what they would do.
§ *MR. T. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
The hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity of endeavouring to make good his original statement, which was that a body of Members in this House desire and intend to obtain their end by means of crime and outrage: I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether that is within the limits of Parliamentary Debate?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member had made a personal imputation of that kind on any hon. Member sitting in this House it would be out of Order. I do not understand the hon. Member to do that, but to suggest that such and such results might possibly and probably arise in the future under a certain state of things, from the action, not of particular Members of the House, but of the Party generally.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, that was his suggestion. He was endeavouring to repeat the sentiment of the right 730 hon. Member for Midlothian when he said that crime followed the footsteps of the Land League, and he thought he had found a very fair indication that that fact was not absolutely unknown to other persons than the right hon. Gentleman. They know that if the present Government went out of Office an attempt would be made, as the hon. Member for East Mayo had said, to revive this agitation; and he did not share the view that in that event the Government should not be in a position to deal with it. He knew the feeling of alarm that would be aroused in the South and West of Ireland when the minority learned that they were to be deprived of the slight aid which this reinforcement of the law gave to the Executive, and were to be left to the absolutely uninterfered-with persecution of the political bodies which dominated that part of the country. It had been said with truth that the points embodied in the Crimes Act were perhaps the minimum of the special adaptations of the law required for the peculiar circumstances of Ireland. Change of venue was not a mere tyrannical expedient to get innocent people into the dock and hang them, but had been introduced because it was found that local feeling was so violent that there was a very great chance that a man would not receive a fair trial. That was a matter of common experience, and no one had been more ready than the present Chief Secretary to avail himself where he could of the right of change of venue. It was perfectly true that he had only changed the venue where, the ordinary law permitted him to do so; but surely it was absurd to suggest that it was a criminal and tyrannical method of procedure to make change of venue a uniform principle in the law of Ireland when the Government had found it necessary in the interests of justice to make use of the Winter Assizes, which was actually a change of venue, in almost every case in which they could do so. He did not agree that secret inquiry had not been a success in the county of Clare. It had not produced a large number of convictions there, but it had relieved the country of many men who were known to the police as the perpetrators or planners of outrages, and who knew that they were liable to be made the subject 731 of an inquiry under this form of procedure in the Crimes Act. The tendency of the Act was to meet those particular weaknesses in the administration of the Criminal Law, which were, perhaps, peculiar to Ireland. The clannish feeling in a great many parts of the country was such that it was particularly difficult to get understand and unbiased witnesses in courts of justice, and unless they wanted to aggravate that unfortunate condition of things, they must protect witnesses and see that trials were fairly conducted. They had the followers and supporters of hon. Members opposite deliberately advocating the commission of perjury in the witness-box. ["Oh, oh!"] An hon. Member had already cited the deliberate recommendation of United Ireland, that jurors should consider themselves absolved from the duty of giving their verdicts in accordance with the evidence and in pursuance of their oaths. It had always seemed to him perfectly lamentable that the Chief Secretary, who had, no doubt, many difficulties to contend with, had never yet, in the House or out of it, found time or inclination to express one word of kindly sympathy with the victims of the persecution that went on in Ireland. He maintained that those people who were attempting to do their duty under the law were entitled to look to the Government for some sort of sympathy, and if that sympathy were sometimes expressed, he would entertain a very different feeling with regard to the Bill, because he would know that whatever Government was in power they would have men at the head of Irish affairs who would make it their first and their imperative duty to stand by those people who were abiding by the law. There had been some slight increase of the crime of boycotting in Ireland during the last few weeks He should not attach any importance to it, if it were not that he felt that the tenure of Office of the Government was coming to an end, and that this was a sort of indication of the commencement of that revival which they were promised. Boycotting was destroyed by the Crimes Act, and it would be cruel to take away the power which had produced a cessation of that abominable persecution. He could understand hon. Members 732 opposite making an endeavour to render the government of Ireland impossible, and to withdraw the reinforcement given by this Act to the ordinary law; but he could not accept the idea that it was the duty of a British Minister who had successfully discharged very onerous duties in connection with the government of Ireland to deliberately take action to make Irish administration more difficult for the Government that had to succeed tins present Administration. He thought that many supporters of the Government would be reluctant to give their vote in favour of this Motion; but if they did they would have occasion to regret their action when they saw the mischief which had been done.
§ MR. J. A. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
said, he approached this discussion mindful of the fact that he was an. Irishman, and he would be sorry to join in any action that would inflict an insult upon his country in any shape or form. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill referred to the Act of 1887 as an insult to Ireland, and, indeed, he could not recollect having heard any important speech from the hon. Gentleman in which he did not make use of this word "insult" as applied to Ireland, or to some portion of the Irish people. In the continuance of the Act of 1887 there was no insult to Ireland that he could see. Possibly this was because he personally was slow to feel an insult on any occasion. He had found it was well to allow an intended insult to pass without remark, arid possibly there might be opportunity for retaliation when the right time came. But in nearly every speech of the hon. Member for West Cavan there would be found an imputation of a deliberate attempt to insult flung at the head of somebody. In the hon. Member's speech opening this Debate, there was a prepared phrase thrown at the hon. Member for Sheffield, comparing him to a Cromwell without warts, and if phrases of that kind were indulged in with reference to individuals, then, no doubt, the habit of insulting might become the order of day. Looking, however, at the facts of the case, and remembering how these so-called Coercion Acts had been considered a necessary part of the policy of every Government that had ever ruled Ireland; 733 having in mind the fact that Grattan's Parliament passed no less than 54 so-called Coercion Acts, or Acts for the more effectual repression of crime, in 18 years; and seeing that since then Liberal Governments and Tory Governments had found such Acts necessary for the due administration of the law in Ireland—then in no sense could he consider the Act of 1887 an insult to Ireland, unless it could be considered an insult to Ireland to repress crime there at any time and under any possible circumstanes. In regard to Irish Coercion Acts, there was a very strongly worded declaration from the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) contained in a manifesto issued towards the end of 1885. In this it was stated:—The Liberal Party denounced coercion, and it practised a system of coercion more brutal than that of any previous Administration, Liberal or Tory. Under this system jurors were packed with a shamelessness unprecedented even in Liberal Administrations; and innocent men were hung, or sent to the living death of penal servitude.Now this was not an utterance from a platform whence men have used, or have been reported to have used, in the excitement of the moment, language somewhat stronger than they intended—this was in a deliberately prepared manifesto signed by several Members of the Nationalist Party, the hon. Member for the Scotland Division being chairman of the Committee from whom it proceeded. But the Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill used these words:—They"— [referring to the Tory Party]— "got into power pledged against coercion, and then passed one of the most drastic Coercion Acts over known.That statement was entirely incorrect In the first place they did not get into power pledged against coercion, and he challenged anybody to produce any sentence from a speech of any Member of the Tory Pary, or Leader of the Party in the House, or on a platform, involving a promise not to introduce a Coercion Bill if such appeared necessary. Then, again, to say that the Party passed the most drastic Coercion Act ever known was absolutely incorrect. The Act passed contained a few fragments of the Liberal Coercion Act of 1882. From the Act of 1887 was omitted the most 734 stringent parts of the unprecedentedly drastic Act of 1882. In regard to the Act of 1882 he had said a great many times, in the House and outside, he never blamed the Liberal Government for it. No Act could be too strong for the punishment of men, who tarred the heads of girls, fired at people from behind hedges, mutilated cattle, and committed many other other outrages; no Act could not be too strong for dealing with such crimes. The Act was only intended to affect criminals, not law-abiding citizens; and how it could be considered an insult to any portion of the Irish people he entirely failed to see. Because outrages were perpetrated and others attempted within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster, a precautionary system was adopted in reference to the admission of strangers; and every Member was required to get an Order before he could introduce a friend to view the building. It was a precautionary measure, and he did not think that any Member felt in the slightest degree insulted because he had no intention to introduce any person having a criminal design or numbered any such person among his acquaintances. Everyone willingly acquiesced in a rule which had for its object the detection of any person who came to the House with an improper motive. Just in the same way how could a law-abiding citizen of Ireland who had no intention of committing crime, or assisting criminals, object to any Act having for its object the protection of the liberty and property of the people of Ireland? He never heard with satisfaction any question asked or statement made in the House by members of any Party tending to expose the faults of the Irish people; but, at the same time, it was known, and it must be admitted, that crimes had been perpetrated in Ireland more disgraceful than had been committed in any other part of the Empire, except, perhaps, in connection with the Indian Mutiny. Since such things had happened it was surely necessary, it was surely wise, that a responsible Government should have at hand the best possible means of dealing with the, difficulties and dangers that arose? Surely the Irish people were not such children, so intensely touchy about insult—looking 735 for it in every Act passed to enforce the law of the country. Much of the perpetual talk about "placing a stigma upon the Irish people" was the stock-in-trade of Members who, in the House and on platforms, treated the people of Ireland not as sensible, intelligent men and women, but as mere children. As an Irish Member, he would be exceedingly glad if throughout Ireland the law were enforced without the adoption of any special legislation, and exceedingly glad he would be to be able to give a vote for this Bill; but to his mind came this consideration, that if he gave such a vote and the Act of 1887 were repealed, and subsequently a crime should be committed in Ireland that would not or might not have been committed had the Act been in force, then he would feel himself to a certain extent—and he was sure so would other Members—responsible for the commission of that crime. He did not think they were justified in taking these powers out of the hands of the Government. If the Government did not need the powers then they would not use them. There was no harm in leaving the powers in abeyance, but if another and a vastly superior Government should come into power a few months hence, that Government, weaker and less intelligent, might possibly need these powers now unnecessary. Let the Chief Secretary strong enough to do without them, leave these powers to be availed of by his less powerful successor. A blot on the Statute Book this Act had been called. Now some years ago, an Act was passed for dealing with a certain class of robberies then prevalent, particularly on the Thames Embankment. The ordinary law failed to stop the crime of "garrotting" as it was called, and so flogging was added to the punishment of convicted criminals, and this put an end to these crimes. The crime against which the Act was passed had ceased, yet no Member moved for the repeal of that Act. It was never spoken of as a "blot" on the Statute Book or an "insult" to the people of England. The Act remained, but there was no necessity to enforce it; but should it ever be required again, there it was. He would perhaps have more inclination towards the view that this Act was derogatory to the people of Ireland, were it not 736 that, in every essential and important particular the Act represented the law now existing in Scotland. They all knew that the Scotch Members who were coming down to vote for the repeal of this Act had the highest respect for themselves. Dean Ramsay once said that he never knew a man who had five drops of Scotch blood in his veins who did not boast of the fact. If men, so proud of their nationality as Scotchmen were, treated this as a constantly abiding part of the law of Scotland, how was it possible for the Irish people to regard this law as insulting. He knew it was the habit of gentlemen, when addressing audiences where there was no one to point out to them the facts about the Scotch law, to say that the law was not at all the same in Scotland, and then they brought out a number of parts of the Coercion Act of 1882, which were not in this Act at all, such as the power to suppress newspapers, and asked "Where are these to be found in Scotland?" In the matter of secret inquiry, in the summary conviction, in the change of venue, and in the conviction a by majority, which was more powerful than the special juries allowed in criminal cases in Ireland—they had in Scotland a law more powerful, more effective and continuing constantly than that under this Act, and not a single word was said about repealing that law. Talk about equal justice to all parts of the kingdom! Why had Scotchmen remained for centuries under this blot on the Statute Book if this Act was a terrible insult to the Irish people? With reference to this matter on the equality of the Scotch criminal law and the Irish law under the Coercion Act, lest his opinion—not being a Scotchman, or a Scotch lawyer—should not go for very much, he should like to give the highest possible authority. The quotation he was about to make came from a gentleman who had not only been Chief Secretary for Ireland, but who had also been Secretary of State for Scotland. Addressing his constituents in Scotland in 1886, this right hon. Gentleman (Sir Geerge Trevelyan) said:—In last June, Mr. Gladstone and his Cabinet determined to maintain the law in Ireland. They resolved to have a preliminary investigation on oath into undetected crime, which you 737 have in Scotland. They resolved to have power of changing the scene of a trial from a locality where public feeling was too strong for that trial to be a fair one, a power which you have in Scotland. They resolved to call a special jury in cases of crime, as a substitute for the far more potent and effective system of convicting or acquitting by a majority of jurors, which you have in Scotland. They resolved to allow a summary sentence of a few months to be inflicted for crimes of violence and intimidation by two stipendiary magistrates, who answer in essential respects to your Scotch sheriffs. That is coercion! That is the system, greatly effective as a check of crime, but absolutely without any terror or danger to law-abiding citizens.A truer and more minute statement they could not have than that, and, therefore, the whole insult to Ireland consisted in the keeping in that country a system of law which a Secretary of State, having learned how it worked in Scotland, desired to see applied to Ireland for the benefit of Ireland, a system which had been kept by other right hon. Gentlemen who had also voted in the capacity of Secretary for Scotland as well as Chief Secretary for Ireland. As long as the law thus remained in Scotland, they naturally asked why was it necessary to bring them there to repeal an Act, the application of which might be again requisite? They had been told several times that day that this Act would, in all human probability, be necessary if they (the Unionists) came into power. That they were coming into power was certain. He had never heard a single supporter of the Government inside the last six months who had expressed to him the slightest doubt about the matter The doubts were, only as to whether the majority should be 80 or only 35 or 40. Seeing, therefore, that they were coming into power, and that they had been told so often they could not govern Ireland without coercion, was it not better for them to have a Coercion Act ready than to have an amount of crime committed in Ireland, while they were preparing an Act with which to meet that crime? It seemed to him a serious responsibility for any Party in that House to repeal an Act which had already worked well, and which had been of great service to the law abiding and honest citizens of Ireland. He should like to ask the Chief Secretary were they merely to go through a piece of performance; was this to be a mere ploughing of the sands— as was the case in a similar Bill last 738 year—or was this Bill to be carried through? With regard to the assumption that the change of venue in this Act necessarily secured the conviction and imprisonment of every man accused, he had only to point out that 20 prisoners out of 31 were acquitted. The whole of the 31 would undoubtedly have been acquitted had it not been for the change of venue which thus secured the punishment of 11 guilty persons. Considering the time occupied in the passing of the Act, the fact that no one under it had suffered any injustice whatsoever, that it had borne most splendid fruits in the pacification of the country, and that the law which it enacted was precisely the same as that which existed in Scotland—and for the repeal of which no demand was made by Scotchmen—it seemed to him that there was no reason why they should at this time of the day throw aside this Act, especially remembering the fact that the Government had been in power for three years, during which period they had kept the Act for use and service. [Mr. J. MORLEY dissented.] They might have made use of it to a small or a great extent, but they kept it, and now, when the last sands of their power were running out, they would repeal the Act and leave their successors to struggle as best they might when they got into power.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
I shall not attempt to follow the hon. and learned Member in the graceful and polished banter with which he has adorned his speech. The hon. and learned Member is extremely ignorant of the subject of which he is speaking. He says I have made more or less use of the Act which we are discussing to-day. If he had followed the course of events he would have known perfectly well that before I had been in office a fortnight all the proclamations bringing that Act into force in certain districts were revoked, and we have not used this Act or any portion of this Act—I am not forgetting the Peace Preservation Act, which in one particular is incorporated in it, and which stands on its own. basis—in any single proceeding which has taken place in Ireland in the last two years and nine months. The hon. and learned Member said there was a provision enacted by 739 Parliament to deal with garrotters which inflicted the punishment of flogging. Sir, this not an Act for measuring sentences. This is an Act for securing convictions by certain methods; it has nothing to do with sentences, and I do not think anything could show more clearly how profound is the demoralisation in an Assembly of this kind, caused by the passing of an Act of this character, and making the retention of that Act a Party shibboleth. I have been amazed at the language of the hon. and learned Member who spoke last, but not so much as by the language and spirit shown by the hon. and learned Member for Mid Armagh in the very moderate and reasonable speech which he has made. But he, like the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken, seems to suppose that the provisions of the Crimes Act and the procedure made lawful by that Act ought to be taken by the people of Ireland as a matter of course. In 1887, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite will well remember, both he on his part defending the Act and we, who then sat on that Bench, in attacking the Act, admitted that it was an enormous innovation; that it was a large and considerable invasion of the civil rights of the population of Ireland. It was always maintained by the right hon. Gentleman that it was a necessary restriction of the civil rights of the people of Ireland—a necessary and partial restriction. We differed as to the extent to which the Act was an innovation of the existing criminal law; we differed as to the extent to which it restricted or curtailed the liberty of the subject; but I deny that it was ever maintained by the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition, or his friends, that this substitution—I am now speaking of a particular clause of the Act—of a summary jurisdiction by two resident magistrates in cases where in Ireland, as well as in England, at the present day, a jury would be an essential feature, was not a serious innovation of the civil rights of the people of Ireland. I think, therefore, it shows a great demoralisation in the spirit of constitutional freedom, and in the jealousy with which this House ought to regard any innovation of the constitutional guarantee of the subject, that we should hear such language as 740 was used to-day by the hon. Member for Mid Armagh and other hon. Gentlemen, who seem to think that there was no reason why this Act should not remain in perpetuity. The hon. Member who has just sat down used language which was used a thousand times in 1887, and which was renewed when we had this Bill under consideration last year. It is said that so long as a man conducted himself decently he had nothing to fear from legislation of this kind. But exactly the same remark might be made if you were to bring in a Bill—which you dare not now do—to substitute the jurisdiction of a couple of stipendiary magistrates for trial by jury in England. No doubt, most of us in this House, and most of those we represent, would not feel the direct operation of any such Act; and yet in your most high-flowing moments you would not venture to bring in a Bill for England or for Great Britain, placing upon the criminal procedure of the law the restrictions which are the body and substance of the Coercion Act of 1887. The hon. Member for East Down put to me a very plain question, which was put to me also by the hon. Member for East Clare in an earlier stage of our proceedings: "Do the Government intend," it is asked, "not only to support this Bill, but to do all they can to secure the passing of this Bill?" I think that to ask such a question is to cast a doubt on the antecedents of some of us on this side in connection with this subject. The hon. Member for Clare said that in the Nationalist Party—I think he spoke for both sections—it was thought the Government would have done well to have begun operations in this Parliament with a Bill for the repeal of the Crimes Act. That was a point which we considered, and which we discussed. It is quite true we were pledged to bring in a Bill for the repeal of this Act as soon as we could; but it is also quite true that we were pledged to bring in a Home Rule Bill as soon as we could; and it is perfectly notorious that if we were to begin our legislative career by a Bill for the repeal of this Act, we should have to expend a great deal of time upon the repeal of a measure, the practical effect of which, during the time we would remain in Office, we could nullify, and 741 which we have nullified, with the assurance also that when the repealing Bill was passed through this House it would be rejected in another place. We, therefore, came to thee conclusion—and I do not think anyone will say that we made a wrong choice—to bring forward the Home Rule scheme to which the whole country, Ireland and Great Britain, was looking forward, and to leave the Crimes Act for some future day. But what I say now is, that I am afraid I cannot agree with the hon. Member for East Clare that a couple of days in Committee of the whole House would suffice for the Committee stage of the Bill. It is quite true that the Bill only contains a single clause. It is quite true also that when we have affirmed, as we did a year ago—and as I presume we shall do it again this afternoon, by a majority of the House—that this Bill ought to be repealed, that questions such as whether the special jury provision, the provision for the change of venue, the Summary Jurisdiction Clause, or the provision for the proclamation of a society as dangerous—should or should not be maintained, are therefore comparatively secondary questions. But hon. Members from Ireland know that it is quite possible to move about ten thousand amendments to the details of the Bill. Whether that would not be a gross abuse of the purposes for which this House is assembled I will not say now; but speaking practically, and answering an attack or rather censure for not giving time in Committee of the whole House for the consideration of the details of this Bill, I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite, as practical men, will see that we could not assent to a proposal of that kind. If a proposal of another kind, which would have the effect of enabling this House, through a proper organ, to consider the details of the Bill, such as a Standing Committee, were made, I certainly should not oppose it. The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the rejection of this Bill, said you ought not to repeal the Crimes Act of 1887, because the passing of it took three-and-a-half months of Parliamentary time, and therefore if crime were again unfortunately to break out in Ireland you would have to devote a great deal of Parliamentary time again 742 to re-enacting clauses and provisions which we are now asked to throw away. My answer to that is a perfectly plain one, and I have never varied it, for long before I came into this House I took the same view, which is, that an Act going so deeply into constitutional principle, and affecting so deeply the civil rights of our fellow-citizens in Ireland, would, and ought, to take a great deal of Parliamentary time. I do not look back with any remorse, whatever on the insistence which we showed in 1887 on having this great innovation of the civil rights of Ireland—this practical suspension of trial by jury in that special class of cases where, trial by jury is more urgently required to safeguard the liberty of the subject—this revolutionary measure, and revolutionary because perpetual—fully and amply discussed. The House may have forgotten what this Act does. First of all, the first section of the Act authorises the holding of courts of private inquiry in certain cases. I have never said and since I have been in Office I have had the opportunity of going more closely and in detail into the operation of this particular section—that a single conviction was never obtained under the section. On the contrary, I am aware that 11 convictions in all were secured, and six of these in a single county, the county of Kerry. But I believe, and in that I am supported by the great authority of Lord Spencer, that, with the exception of the Phœnix Park murder case, which I admit is an enormously important exception, every one of those convictions would have been obtained without the secret inquiry. The hon. Member for West Belfast said that I should agree with him that, though it was true that in the county of Clare, formerly a formidable, desperate, and dangerous county, not a single conviction was obtained, yet the Secret Inquiry Clause had the effect of causing evil-doers to take flight through fear. To be quite candid with my hon. Friend, I do not believe that was so. There was a general apprehension of the operation of this Act which caused some ruffians to leave the country, but I do not believe it was owing to this particular clause. The hon. Member for Mid Armagh passed over in the most delightful lightness of heart the Summary Jurisdiction Clause, 743 Does the House realise what that Summary Jurisdiction Clause does? In the class of cases which, as I have already said, more than in any other you ought to have the protection of a jury, that safeguard is removed, and you place it in the power of two resident magistrates to inflict a maximum sentence of six months, with or without hard labour.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
You may on board ship—[laughter and cheers]; but you certainly can do nothing of the kind here. The hon. Member for Mid Armagh said that I never say anything now about "removable magistrates." I never did say anything about them except this—which I repeat now as plainly as I ever stated it before, for my official experience of the Irish resident magistrates has not altered that conviction on my part—that, however good they may be for the duty of resident magistrates, they are not the men to whom I would transfer judicial functions which in England are discharged always by a higher judge with a jury. But it is also said: "You have made resident magistrates yourself." Certainly, and I believe I have made very competent ones. But there is all the difference in the world between appointing resident magistrates and confiding in them, without the safeguard of a jury, powers which in England you would not dream of confiding even to the judges of the land. I for one would never trust a judge of the land to decide cases of this kind without a jury. I only want the House to realise the very great importance of this provision, and to realise what Parliament did in 1887, when they placed it out of the power of the Executive Government any day they liked to withdraw this protection from the jury in the cases where they desired to do so. Its first operation places it in the power of the Lord Lieutenant first to declare any association dangerous; then he may, by a second and subsidiary operation, issue an order suppressing that association in any particular district in Ireland he thinks fit, and by that operation impose penalties upon all who take any part in any proceedings of that association. That is a most tremendous power to give to the head of the Executive Government in 744 Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or a Report."] More than that, there is a provision in that clause which enables the Lord Lieutenant, through the main and subsidiary operations, to punish a newspaper which reports any of these proceedings. I am not now arguing for a moment whether that is right or not; but I want the House to realise what serious infringements of right, which we enjoy in England, were perpetrated in Ireland by this Act. The hon. Member for West Belfast said that he deplored that I had never used any language to express my sympathy with the victims and the dupes of these associations. Whether I have done so or not, I have done what is far better—I have taken care, wherever it was shown to me that the law was broken, that the law-breakers should be brought to justice, but to justice by ordinary law. I was warned by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, when Parliament met in 1893, after the present Government came into Office, that by revoking the Proclamations which made the Crimes Act operative, wholly or in part, I was pursuing a fatal policy; the hon. and gallant Member who sits beside him said the Government were making a terrible mistake; and the hon. Member for South Tyrone said, that in forsaking these safeguards, I had been guilty of an act unworthy of a British Minister. Sir, have these prophecies been borne out? I have been told so often this afternoon that this is the last occasion on which I shall have an opportunity, in my present position, of defending my policy, that I may as well, perhaps, take the opportunity of putting on record, in this Debate, what has been the effect upon order in Ireland of what the right hon. Gentleman opposite called a fatal policy. A very few figures will suffice to show how far that policy has been a fatal, mistaken, or discreditable one. In agrarian offences, taking an average of the last two years, when the Crimes Act was still operative, the number of crimes was 445. The average of 1893 and 1894 was 328, including threatening letters, which are not the most serious kind of offence. In Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne it was put upon record that agrarian offences in Ireland had come down to a lower figure than they had 745 ever reached since the figures were kept. The total number of agrarian offences for the four months of 1895, excluding threatening letters—I should not make any difference in the result by including them—is 38. Of those, 9 took place in the County of Kerry and 8 in the County of Clare—it may be that I have transposed these two counties—so that over the whole of Ireland, with the exception of these two counties, the agrarian offences in four months numbered only 10 or 11. In 1891 the cases where convictions were obtained were 7 per cent. of the agrarian offences, there being 227 offences. In 1892 there were 8 per cent.; in 1893, 17 per cent.; and in 1894, 16 per cent.—so that not only has crime gone down under this "fatal policy," but convictions have gone up. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that that is a test of a certain reconciliation of Ireland to a sense of law and order. [Mr. BALFOUR: "Hear, hear!"] That is not quite all, however, for the judges' charges all bear out this favourable account. In the case of County Kerry, Mr. Justice Harrison called attention to a not very remarkable increase in serious crime, but he pointed out that the Government Inspector reported the condition of the county generally to be satisfactory, and stated that the majority of the cases reported were of minor importance. Mr. Justice Holmes, it will be remembered, on July 16, in the Summer Assizes, said that one gratifying feature in the returns for the County of Cork was, that there were very few cases which had been investigated by the constabulary in which they had not been able to make a primd facie case against the accused, which showed that there was every probability that a man who committed an offence would be made amenable to justice. I submit that those are facts which the Government may fairly adduce in support and in justification of their policy of revoking and practically making inoperative what is to us an obnoxious measure. It has been urged this afternoon that some time or another our successors will have the felicity of occupying the posts we hold; and we have been asked why, in view of that eventuality, we should throw both sword and sheath away. I do not want to use a pedantic argument, but I confess that for my part I will never cease to do 746 what I can to remove from the Statute Book an Act which makes a change in the criminal law, in its substance and in its procedure, and takes it out of the power of the Legislature and hands it over to the Executive Government. Surely, in spite of the demoralisation that this Act has effected, in the minds of many Members of this House, the spirit of liberty, of equality, and of equal law, is not so dead in this House that the House will not support the Government, in their endeavour to remove from the Statute Book so flagrant an invasion both of the Treaty of Union, and of the doctrine of equal civil rights which ought to obtain among all the subjects of Her Majesty. Let the House realise that by a stroke of the pen, the Executive can set up a new code of criminal law and procedure in any part of Ireland or all over Ireland. If you were to prove to me that no Government for 10 years to come would use this Act I should be just as earnest as I am now in supporting a Motion for its repeal. I regard it as a flagrant invasion of the civil rights of Irishmen, though I admit that emergencies may arise—I have never said otherwise—when it may be right and proper for the Executive Government to ask Parliament to arm it with new powers for dealing more effectually with disorder and turbulence. The hon. and learned Member for Mid Armagh said that this peace in Ireland—with which he was kind enough to associate my name—was a manufactured and artificial peace. But what is there artificial about it? What I find is this, that the Government in Ireland, without departing by one jot or tittle from its imperative duty to maintain order, is somehow or other in such accord with the moral forces in Ireland on the side of the law that tranquillity results. Why should that state of things be called "artificial" or "manufactured"? I think any Minister who, in his policy, enjoys the goodwill of the majority of the people of Ireland, and who enjoys that goodwill by no surrender of anything which a self-respecting Minister ought to preserve, is a man who ought to be congratulated, and who, can be pretty well indifferent to taunts about a "manufactured and artificial" peace. The hon. and learned Member quoted me as 747 agreeing with him that in Ireland you need above all other things steady administration. Yes, but I do not call an Act which one Party takes up and another Party drops—I do not call that steady administration. As I pointed out last year, Ireland ought to be taught the lesson that the law is steady, stern, and inexorable. But what lesson do you teach her by keeping this Act on the Statute Book for special use? That is a course in which there is no steadiness. I confess that, if you could persuade me that there were any chance of getting 20 years of firm and resolute government in Ireland, on certain conditions I might take the view that there was something to be said for the plan. But what I have said all along, ever since that phrase was first used by Lord Salisbury, is that you (the Opposition) will never get what you call 20 years of firm and resolute government. You will be in Office for five years, and then you will be out of it. When you talk of steady administration, I would observe that a very curious relaxation of the provisions of this Act, which you are so jealous for in the interests of steady and continuous administration, took place about six months before we were going to the polls. I do not call that steady administration. You cannot hope to get the steady administration which you contemplate until that happens which, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman opposite looks forward to—namely, the restoration of the old policy when the two English Parties united to put down the Irish Party, and I warn the right hon. Gentleman that that state of things, at all events, will never occur again. It has been said—the hon. and learned Member opposite has said—that we used disorder as a means to secure our return to Office. I do not plead guilty to that charge for a moment. Long before I was a Member of this House I took exactly the same view which I have explained to-day—namely, that you have no right to punish a country for what you take to be a misuse of political rights by depriving the people of, or infringing in any degree upon, their civil rights. We have been told by every Gentleman who has opposed the Bill now before the House, that the disappearance of Her Majesty's present 748 advisers would be followed by mischief in Ireland. That is a very remarkable admission, and I hope the country will note it. I make no prophecy—I have carefully avoided doing so—as to what is likely to follow in Ireland if there were a change of Government and of policy. But the right hon. Gentleman a Leader of the Opposition, last year, in the Debate on this Bill, told us what he, at any rate, expected. He said—Is it not unreasonable and intolerable to ask us to abandon a method of enforcing the common law of this country, which by the admission of the advocates of present law"—this, perhaps, ought to be "Bill"—will become necessary as soon as Irish patriots see the prospects of Home Rule receding into space? I am certain that must come sooner or later; and then we shall find ourselves face to face with the old problems and difficulties, but without the present methods of meeting them when they arrive.It is a perfectly clear and unmistakable inference from those words that what the right hon. Gentleman looks forward to is that, when hon. Gentlemen from Ireland see the prospects of Home Rule receding into space—and he regards that as certain to come—the Government of the day, whoever they may be, will find themselves face to face with the old problems and the old difficulties, and the right hon. Gentleman thinks that, in the circumstances, it would be very unfair for us to deprive them of the Coercion Act. I hope that in every election that takes place in this country it will be brought home to the minds of the electors that the Leader of the Opposition, who knows Ireland perhaps better than any one who is not an Irishman, says that when his Party returns to Office—which is another way of saying that Home Rule will have receded into space—they will find themselves confronted once more with the old problems and difficulties, and the Crimes Act will once more be put into force, with the result that all the confusion, disorder, and shame which followed upon the operation of the Act in 1887 and the following year will be repeated.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In the speech quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the observations which I made as to the probable results of the destruction of the Home Rule Government were founded not so much upon any conjecture of my 749 own as upon the distinct statements of one of the leaders of the Irish Party with regard to their probable policy.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
If the right hon. Gentleman will read the whole of the context I think he will find that that is not quite the case. He assumed that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite kept order for the present Government in Ireland, and he said that when a Unionist Government should come into Office, the alliance which he said existed must ex hypothesi vanish. He added:—I do not think it is even necessary to wait for the advent of a Unionist Government. Once let the Liberal Party in this country come round to the late views of the present Prime Minister, and the alliance again will vanish.Then comes the sentence to which I have already referred:I am certain that that must come sooner or later, and then we shall find ourselves face to face with the old problems and difficulties, but without the present methods of meeting them when they arise.It may be that the right hon. Gentleman was speaking problematically, but I do not think he will say that that was the case.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will say that he does not believe that in the circumstances described by him his Government will find themselves face to face with the old problems and difficulties. At any rate, if he does say so he will be the only Gentleman of his Party who will say anything of the kind. The hon. and learned Member for Mid Armagh and other hon. Gentlemen opposite have all said that, as soon as the present Government disappears in the fulness of time, disorder is sure to spring up in Ireland, and this Act will have to be resorted to again.
[Mr. DUNBAR BARTON rose to make an explanation, but was interrupted by a stranger (Mr. O'Donovan Rossa) who was sitting on one of the Benches allotted to visitors beneath the Strangers' Gallery. Amid loud cries of "Order,'' this Gentleman called out:—
Mr. Speaker, an assassin's blow has been dealt at me in this House. A stain has been put upon my name. I have come to this House to say——
The remainder of the sentence was lost in the loud cries of "Order" that were raised, and before the interrupter could say anything more he was removed from his seat and the House by the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms (Mr. Gosset) and several attendants.]
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to me as saying that disorder would arise in Ireland when the Unionist Party should return to Office. I wish to say that I based my argument on a speech delivered by the hon. Member for Mayo. In that speech the hon. Member said that on the return of the Conservative Party to Office there would be the biggest land agitation in Ireland ever known, and that there would be a return to the old methods and weapons.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The chief point of the hon. and learned Member's speech was that as soon as "the manufactured conditions" upon which peace depended should have disappeared, there would be a return to the old state of things. Well, Sir, I am not going to detain the House any longer. I will only say that, when I record my vote to-day in favour of the repeal of the Act of 1887, I shall never have given a vote with more perfect confidence that I am doing what the spirit of the Constitution of the country demands, and what the welfare of Ireland demands.
§ *SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
said, that he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that, although this Bill was contained in a single clause, it raised every question that was raised by the Crimes Act of 1887; and there were certain parts of the Act which he believed nine-tenths of the Members of the House would think it a misfortune to see repealed. Those were portions of the Bill which ought not only to be kept in the Act for "Ireland, but which he would like himself to see extended to this country at once; and if the question of the Crimes Act were discussed in the House or in any Committee, it would, of course, involve a very considerable amount of Parliamentary time. The proposal made was to remove from the Statute Book an Act which stood there, and which could be put into operation when it was considered necessary. The right hon. Gentleman said that to have an Act on the Statute Book which could 751 be put into operation when it was necessary, and need not be used when it was not necessary, did not tend to steady government. His idea of seamanship seemed to be that the ship ought always to carry the same amount of canvas, whether she was travelling in a hurricane or on the smoothest day; and the idea that the Executive Government should have the power to put into force special provisions seemed to the right hon. Gentleman to disturb the steadiness of government. It seemed to him, however, to increase it. If there were particular difficulties to deal with, it was well that the Government should have the power, subject, of course, to the approval or censure of Parliament, of putting into force effectual and well-adapted remedies. The fact that the Act now stood on the Statute Book unused was no reason for believing that the time might not come when even the right hon. Gentleman, himself, if in Office and responsible for the administration of Ireland, would gladly resort to its provisions. This history of coercion in Ireland was a very curious one, and the history of the last 15 years ought to be a warning to the House of Commons not to remove this Statute from the Book. The history of this relaxation of the Crimes Act began at the General Election in 1880. On March 20, 1880, Her Majesty's Speech was read to Parliament, and in that Speech it was stated that the Peace Preservation Act expired on June 1, and that Her Majesty was persuaded that the loyalty and good sense of her Irish subjects would justify her in relying on the administration of the ordinary law, and that, therefore, the Act would not be re-introduced. The Government that advised Her Majesty to use that language did in June allow that Act to expire. What was the reward of relying on the loyalty and good sense of the Irish subjects? At the end of 1880 they had to institute a prosecution, a very complex State trial, in Dublin, which failed, and in 1881 they passed a 752 measure, the most excessive in its coercion and violence ever passed in the House of Commons. Persons were committed to prison, not only without trial, but without public accusation made, and were kept in prison from time to time without trial; and before the Government which had abandoned the Peace Preservation Act had been been 15 months in Office there were 900 persons in Irish prisons, kept there without any accusation being made, and without any power of securing a trial. He voted for that Bill, being impressed by the assurance of the Government that nothing short of a measure of that exceptional severity would enable them to deal with the then condition of Ireland. But he refused to vote for the Bill of 1882, because in his judgment the Act of 1881 had not been honestly applied. It was left on one side in order to assist the progress of other legislation, and he did not think that the Government which had so misused the power given to it ought to be supported in making further demands. What happened after 1882? In 1885 the right hon. Gentleman was sitting below the Gangway as one of the supporters of the Government of the day in its general policy, and there came an evening which would be well remembered by all who were in the House at the time, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian declared that the Government intended to renew some of the provisions of the Act of 1882. These were the very provisions of the Act of 1887. On the same evening the right hon. Gentleman opposite rose in his place below the Gangway and gave notice of a Motion that no coercive legislation was necessary at that time. In the face of that it was impossible to restore the Act. The Government had not the strength to tarry it in face of the opposition of the Radicals below the gangway, and so it was allowed to drop. [Mr. MORLEY: "By whom?"] By the Government then in Office; and a General 753 Election took place. Then exactly the same thing happened as had happened in 1880. Outrages began to take place in Ireland again, and Ireland became so disordered that in 1887 it was absolutely necessary to pass an Act of some kind, and the then Government put upon the Statute Book the very provisions which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and his Cabinet desired to put on the Statute Book in 1885; and now, when a General Election was supposed to be almost imminent, it was proposed to strike off this Act in order that if there might possibly be a new Government they might have to spend an immense amount of time in re-enacting a measure which each Government in turn, had been compelled to pass. He would like to say one or two words which were not of a controversial character. The right hon. Gentleman had developed at large the proposition laid down by the Mover of this Bill, that the state of Ireland at the present time was very satisfactory; and the right hon. Gentleman expressed, in what sounded like a valedictory speech, satisfaction at this. It was true that there was very little ordinary crime in Ireland, and there always had been. No one who knew Ireland at all, and the statistics of crime in Ireland, could help envying that country its immunity from many of the forms of crime which were to be found on this side of St. George's Channel There was also very little extraordinary crime in Ireland, though he was not sure that this was attributable to the present Government. He thought he could show that the forces of disorder, though now quiescent, would be called into activity for political purposes as soon as the political situation in that House had changed. But there were two propositions he wished to lay down in regard to the criminal law. In the first place, he would like to see equal laws for all parts of the United Kingdom. He would not support—he did not support in 1887, in this Act—any single 754 proposition which he would not willingly support, as to be applied to England, if there were any reason for suggesting that such difficulties as existed in Ireland were difficulties which required to be dealt with in this country. He felt the necessity for equal treatment in all parts of the country. But there was another point on which he felt more strongly still. If any sort of coercive legislation were required he would rather see the necessary legislation clearly embodied in an Act of Parliament than allow the persons executing the law to stretch the ordinary law of the country. He did not, of course, want to quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman or those representing the Government of Ireland of late; but he would say that a practice which had of necessity been adopted by this and former Governments, and which he did not blame them for adopting—the practice of jury-packing, which had been carried on under all Administrations—seemed to him to be a practice which was extremely unfortunate. The case of the man Twiss, for example, gave great pain to those who followed with care the methods in which the ordinary law was applied. For his own part he would rather see a stringent criminal code on the Statute Book, and see it stringently enforced, than he would see that system adopted.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I think that the hon. and learned Member ought to explain what he means. I am not aware of any irregularity in the case of Twiss.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I do not say that there was any irregularity, having regard to the practice that has been followed.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
That will not do, if I may say so. I ask the hon. and learned Member to specify what irregularity he refers to in the case of Twiss.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
That qualification is not fair. This is a serious implication, but one which I do not mind if brought 755 forward by irresponsible persons. But I cannot allow it, coming from the hon. and learned Member, to pass without calling on him to specify what irregularities he refers to.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
The practice of jury-packing has been followed by all persons in the administration of the law in Ireland.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The hon. and learned Member has specified jury-packing. Does he say that there was jury-packing in the case of Twiss?
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
I said that the practice known as jury-packing—that is, the exercise by the Crown of the right of telling jurors to stand aside, and of exercising that right to an extent not known in this country—has been followed for a long time in Ireland; and I say that the case of Twiss was a case in which persons had been ordered to stand aside by the Crown, and that the circumstances of that case were not pleasant to those who read the account of them.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The hon. and learned Member has taken a course which, I am sure, when he has acquainted himself with the facts, he will withdraw as warmly as I repudiate his statement. There is not a shadow of foundation for it. The prosecuting counsel, the Judge, and most of the jury were Catholics, and for the hon. and learned Gentleman to introduce the subject of jury-packing in connection with that trial is to do one of the un-fairest things ever done in this House I hope that the hon. and learned Member will recognise the responsibility he is taking upon himself, and will endeavour to inform his mind of the facts of that case, and, when so informed, that he will tell the House that he has been misled.
§ *SIR E. CLARKE
The right hon. Gentleman only does me justice when he suggests that if I have been misinformed as to the facts I should withdraw. If I have been misinformed I shall do so. 756 I think, however, that the right hon. Gentleman has attached to the words I have used a different meaning to that which I attached to them. I did not say that Twiss had not had a fair trial. I did not suggest that in the least. But I say that when you are comparing the enforcement of the Crimes Act, on the one hand, with the ordinary criminal law on the other, I would rather have a trial conducted under conditions declared by Act of Parliament than have a trial with the use of the right of the Crown to set jurors aside, a course which always arouses a suspicion or gives rise to complaint that injustice has been done. I do not think that anything I have said justifies the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, but if it comes to my mind that I have made a suggestion, in any way injurious to those who were engaged in the administration of the criminal law in Ireland, I shall want no prompting to withdraw it. Continuing, Sir E. Clarke said that the point he was upon was this. When it was said that trial by jury ought to be upheld he would say that he would rather have a trial conducted in public, either by a Judge or by two resident magistrates, than he would have a jury procured in a way that enabled people to say that it was not fairly representative of those from whom it was drawn. There was no man in the House who attached more importance to trial by jury than he did; but that mode of trial was inapplicable to many cases. Election petitions, for example, were tried, not before a jury, but by two Judges, because they could never get a fair jury to try them; and there were classes of cases in which no fair jury could be impanelled and no satisfactory trial could take place. The Act on the Statute Book contained the clauses which the Government of 1885 proposed to reenact, but he did not base his defence of the Act upon that. There were practically three large portions of that Act—the first, the secret inquiry; the second, 757 summary jurisdiction; and the third, change of venue and the special jury list. With regard to the first, secret inquiry had been in existence in Scotland for a very long period indeed. It was contained in the Explosives Act of 1882 or 1883, and four years before that proposal was made in regard to Ireland he had supported it in regard to this country. In 1883 the Criminal Code Bill was referred to a Committee of the House. It contained a proposal that this very system should be established for this country. He supported that proposal, and he had been disappointed ever since that that proposal was not carried into law for England. He believed that it would diminish the amount of crime, and particularly of undetected crime, if they adopted that system, which was to be found in the first part of the Irish Act of 1887. In regard to change of venue and special jurors, it had been pointed out that in Ireland they got the change of venue at the Winter Assizes, and that the only effect of the Act was to apply to other parts of the year that provision which they got in the Winter Assizes. But, granted that they had it in daily operation, he would remind the House that a change of venue was applied for in England directly it was supposed that there was in the condition of the locality a particular sympathy with the person accused or a very strong feeling against him. The only other part that remained was the question of summary jurisdiction, and when the right hon. Gentleman said that the Lord Lieutenant could by his order alter the whole criminal law of the country, he was largely exaggerating the power which the Lord Lieutenant had. There was no alteration in the criminal law at all; the alteration was in applying a particular method of procedure which had been found necessary in order to enforce the law at all. There was no controversy between the two sides of the House in the matter. 758 No one said more strongly than the present Secretary of State for War that the time had come when it was impossible to rely on juries in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian said the same thing. In 1882 and in 1887 the choice was between letting crime go unpunished altogether or providing some effective method of trial. He always thought that the great hardship was upon the juryman in Ireland. The unfortunate mail who was called from his business and put into the jury-box to give a verdict—especially in an agrarian case—was in this terrible difficulty. Evidence perfectly clear was put before him, and he was sworn to give a verdict according to the evidence, and yet he dare not do his duty because when he left the Court there would meet him those who would make his life a burden to him. It would have been the merest pedantry to stand by trial by jury when it lost all its efficacy and when it had no terrors for the criminal, but only for the unhappy men summoned to serve on the jury. During the time the Act was in operation he did not think there ever was a case in which it was alleged that the magistrates gave a wrong judgment and convicted an innocent person; indeed, having regard to all the circumstances, he thought it might be said that the discharge of their duty by the stipendiary magistrates was a fair and honest and useful discharge of a great public duty. It had been said, the system of secret inquiries did not succeed. But it did succeed. The number of outrages fell, and so effective was the Act that, while in 1887 there were 5,000 boycotted persons in Ireland, when the late Government went out of Office in 1892 there was hardly a person—he forgot how many—("None'')—there were none; he thought there were 30. The right hon. Gentleman had taunted the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Leeds and his colleagues with having suspiciously reduced the area and effect of the Act 759 about six months before the General Election. The fact was the Act had done its work so well, he ought rather to say the legislation of 1887, for that legislation had two parts—it had the part which was directed against crime, and also the part which was directed to the land question—the legislation of 1887 had done its work so well that towards the end of the late Administration it was not found necessary to keep the Act in force except in one or two very small places. It was not just before the General Election that the change was made. There had been for a considerable time before the General Election so clear and steady a decrease of boycotting and outrages in Ireland, that the law was relaxed and limited in its effect. That being the case, and the present Chief Secretary congratulating himself upon the happy condition of Ireland under his Administration, it was asked:—"Why do you want to keep the Act on the Statute Book?" The answer was perfectly clear and distinct, and he wanted, in connection with this question, to read to the House two extracts from speeches made by two very conspicuous members of the Anti-Parnellite Party—the hon. Member for East Mayo and the hon. Member for Cork City. It was said there was very little outrage in Ireland. That was perfectly true, but he wished the House to consider the extracts he was going to road from speeches which were delivered, one on October 1 last and the other on October 28 last. The first was delivered at Louisburgh by the hon. Member for Cork City on October 1. The hon. Member said:—I venture to tell these noble Lords that, while we advise our people to avoid the grabbers and to leave them severely alone to the condemnation of their neighbours and their contempt, at the same time those creatures of grabbers are beneath our scorn, and I venture to tell these Lords that this winter we will advise our people to fly at higher game, and it is at the noble Lords and rack-renters, whose mere tools and instruments these wretched grabbers are. There are three noble Lords in this county of Mayo 760 who voted in the House of Lords for the rejection of the Evicted Tenants Bill—Lord Lucan, Lord Arran, and Lord Oranmore and Browne. I say that is a crime that ought never to be forgotten for these men.[Cheers.] Hon. Members below the Gangway now cheered those words. Would it be considered where those words were used and when they were used? ["Yes."] Read out in the House of Commons, those words carried with them little danger to either of the three men mentioned by name as being guilty of a crime that ought not to be forgotten. Spoken at Louisburgh, on October 1 last, they were dangerous words to use; they were words which might in their results have involved something more than moral responsibility upon the man who ventured to use them. But there was a still more important passage in the speech made on October 28, at a place called Mullin-ahone, by the hon. Member for East Mayo, and it surely would interest the Chief Secretary, and would show him that under other circumstances he, if he were responsible for the affairs of Ireland, might be grateful that this Act remained on the Statute Book. The hon. Member for East Mayo said:—It will be your fault if you do not make Ireland a little warm during this autumn and winter, and if you do not show that you are determined to turn a new leaf, and by organisation to bring to bear upon the hereditary enemies of our race the irresistible will—for it has already in the past proved itself to be irresistible—of a united, an organised, and a determined people. These are the methods which tamed the House of Lords—aye, and the House of Commons—in the past. These are the methods, and the only methods, by which the rights of the people will be asserted in the future; and I trust and hope that the time is fast approaching when this country will, as in the days which you and I well remember, be united from sea to sea in the firm bonds of a great and active national organisation——[Nationalist, cheers]—he would see how far that chorus of cheers would go—when the Party which loyally represents the cause, and fights for it in Parliament, will know that behind them on the soil of Ireland there exists an active army, who at the slightest word of command will take the field and make the enemies of Ireland feel that they have got to deal not only with speakers in Parliament, but with actors in Ireland——761 there was not much cheering now [Nationalist cheers]—amongst whom the glorious old traditions of 1880 and 1881 are not forgotten and are not dead; who, having once felt what it was to be the equals and the masters of those who for so long had oppressed this dear and beloved old country of ours, will, when the necessity arises, have recourse to the old weapons and use the old methods.''[Opposition cheers and counter Nationalist cheers] What were the weapons and the methods—(Opposition cheers)—of those glorious old days of 1880 and 1881? In 1879 there were 870 agrarian crimes in Ireland. ["And how many evictions?"] In 1880 the agrarian crimes in Ireland numbered 2,585, and in 1881, 4,439. ["How many evictions in those years?''] That had nothing to do with it. [Ironical Nationalist cheers.] Those were the weapons and methods of 1880 and 1881, and it was after those methods and weapons had been used that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking across the Floor of the House of Commons to the man who used these words, said that they had heard from him what were the true doctrines of the Land League, and they all knew now they were the doctrines of assassination. The Government was taking a very grave and weighty responsibility in using its authority and influence in the House to endeavour to remove from the Statute Book this Act. He would be delighted to think that that Act would never have again to be put into operation. He would be delighted to think that the present halcyon condition of Ireland might continue, that there might be the present immunity from crime, and especially agrarian crime; but in the passages he had read there was a warning too strong and significant to be disregarded. And if another Government should come into power, and if then that should be attempted which was avowedly desired—namely, to make the government of Ireland impossible—surely the Government would be entitled to have at its hands a weapon 762 it could only use under the sanction and with the control of Parliament—for the House of Commons could check it at any moment in the use of that authority—but which might be used in the future, as in the past, to secure that peace and happiness which they all hoped to see prevail.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, that there was a great deal in the speech of the Chief Secretary with which he agreed; and no one could be more rejoiced than he was to listen to the right hon. Gentleman's figures bearing on the peace of Ireland. But he must say that there were passages in that speech which he would not again describe as "unworthy of a British Minister," but which he had heard not altogether with satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman had talked strongly about the rights of the Irish people to equal laws with the English people; but he exempted the people of Scotland, who had their own law. The right hon. Gentleman spoke strongly about the right to trial by jury. He had seemingly a very high idea of the rights of those who were charged with committing offences; he thought that they had rights before the law of which nothing should deprive them. He would agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these offenders had rights, but so had other people—the people operated on, for instance. The fundamental difference between the Chief Secretary and those who voted for the Crimes Act was this, that they were prepared to go further for the protection of the people who were subject to outrage than was the right hon. Gentleman. What was the use of talking about the ordinary law in such circumstances as prevailed in 1887? Why, all the "old Parliamentary hands" on the Ministerial Front Bench—he would not speak of the new Parliamentary hands—were 763 convicted out of their own mouths. On platform after platform they had admitted that to trust to the ordinary law in such circumstances was impossible. Every one of the occupants of the Treasury Bench who had been responsible for the government of Ireland had concurred in that idea. As for himself, he had more sympathy with the victims of these outrages than he had with the scoundrels who perpetrated them. As to trial by jury in Ireland, he had had some experience of it. When the House of Commons was engaged in passing the Coercion Act in 1882, to deal with a state of affairs such as prevailed in 1887, did the House hesitate? No, and under that Act he and other citizens of Dublin were called upon to try the whole of the criminals who had soiled the West of Ireland with blood for several months. He stepped into the jury-box within a week of the time when Mr. Field was almost done to death in the streets of Dublin, and he had his pocket full of threatening letters. The Lord Lieutenant, whose courage right hon. Gentlemen praised, rode through the streets of Dublin with a troop of Hussars; and the then Chief Secretary, who now sat on the Treasury Bench, was protected by policemen, before and behind, wherever he went. Was there any protection for the jurors who did the work the then Government called upon them to do? The Government of that day could not save Mr. Field from the Invincibles' knife, nor, but for an accident, would Mr. Barrett's life have been saved. Could they save any of the jurors from the ruin which dogged and threatened them all? He was sorry to bring his own case into this matter, but he must add that, in a paper conducted by an hon. Gentleman who sat on the Nationalist Benches now, efforts were made to ruin him—efforts which very nearly succeeded, and in which hon. Members gloried even now. And after such an experience by hundreds of jurors, the Chief Secretary came forward and 764 talked about the sacred right of trial by jury for the scoundrels who were the cause of this state of things. It was time that the truth was plainly told, in language which could not be misunderstood—that trial by jury for agrarian offences in Ireland was a solemn farce. The only people who were likely to suffer were not the men who were tried and who were guilty, but the men who had the misfortune to try them. The only argument in favour of the Bill was, that Ireland was now in a state of profound peace. That was a solid argument. The Crimes Act was passed when Ireland was in a state of civil war, and he admitted that for 40 years at least there had not been a condition of more profound peace in Ireland than now. Everyone was also glad to know that the time when the Irish Members were at war with the majority of the House was gone by. But the question which troubled his mind was: What was likely to happen in the future? If there were going to be a change of Government, it was most certain that hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the Irish Nationalists generally, would realise that their Home Rule aspirations were destroyed for years to come. He did not believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite would take that quietly—and he should think less of them if they did—either in the House or in Ireland. He did not, indeed, expect to see a second race of evicted tenants. He did not think that the lunacy which produced New Tipperary would be repeated. That interesting place was now the home of all the thieves and ruffians in Munster, for, as it was a kind of no man's land, no one could be evicted. It was a fitting end to the statesmanship which produced it. But, short of this, there could be much trouble in Ireland, and much persecution of obnoxious men and women. Why should those who spent three months in getting the Crimes Act through the House of Commons, and who believed that it was not 765 a coercive, but a protective measure, now vote that power away? He could not quite understand the Chief Secretary, who said that he had always been opposed to coercive measures. What had the right hon. Gentleman to say to the Arms Act, which he kept in force? What more sacred right was there under the, Constitution than the right to carry arms? The real reason was, that the right hon. Gentleman kept the Act for the Ulster Orangemen, should they break out. No one who knew the right hon. Gentleman would suppose that he liked the measure; and the only reason that he kept it, while he proposed to repeal the Crimes Act, was that the Arms Act was useful for Belfast and Ulster, and was not wanted elsewhere. He thought Parliament, in passing the Crimes Act, showed great wisdom; and the idea that the Unionist Party could not govern Ireland without Coercion did not in the least embarrass him. The change in the condition of Ireland began with the passing of this measure; that was shown by the figures. The Chief Secretary had revoked all the Proclamations, and at the present moment the Act was absolutely innocuous. But it was wise to keep the sword in the sheath, to be brought out if disorder and outrage should reappear with a change of Government.
§ MR. JAMES O'CONNOR moved, "That the question be now put," but—
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, there was one advantage in dealing with Irish questions, and that was that the Irish were not a variable people. Their character had been a continuous character, and those Members who thought it would be elevated—he should have said degraded—to the ordinary level of the remainder of the British people were mistaken. The Irish differed considerably from their Saxon fellow-subjects, but he did not 766 think the difference was in their disfavour. Any man who dealt with the Irish question might calculate that the Irishman of ten years hence would be pretty much what he is to-day, and what he was ten years ago. They were actuated by the same motives, and many of them had had the same hopes continuously all down the ages. Therefore they might fairly anticipate what would occur in the future. So far as he was aware no argument had been offered by anybody in favour of this Bill. The Chief Secretary did advance some arguments, but they were entirely theoretical; because he informed the House that he held these views before he was a Member of the House or had any connection with Ireland, and when probably he knew nothing about it, or nothing more than the ordinary Saxon. Had either the Mover or the Seconder of the Bill been able to show that the existence of the Crimes Act on the Statute Book had the, effect of interfering with any fair liberty which a subject of the Crown had a right to expect, that would have been an argument in favour of its repeal. But no argument of that kind was brought forward. Who could the Act interfere, with? It could not interfere with the law-abiding man, or any subject of the Crown who desired to carry out his lawful obligations. It could only interfere with one class, and that was the criminal class, and all the theoretical arguments of the Chief Secretary as to what the law ought and out not to be fell to the ground in face of that fact. The right hon. Gentleman claimed that he ought to be congratulated upon the present peaceful condition of Ireland. Well, he congratulated him. He never had a doubt that under certain circumstances Ireland could be a perfectly peaceful country. As far as crime was concerned he had always held and said that the condition of Ireland compared most favourably with that of any other civilised country. But in one respect it differed from other parts, at 767 any rate of Her Majesty's dominions. He remembered well that, some years ago, in discussing a measure nearly related to that now before the House, he pointed out, in the presence of the late Mr. Par-Parnell, that that Gentleman had his hand on the throttle-valve of crime. He did not know who had their hands on it now.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I did not withdraw it; I never withdraw anything. I explained it. Continuing, he said that the history of Ireland since then had shown that these words absolutely were true. Perhaps what he called crime might not be called crime by hon. Members below the Gangway. He called boycotting crime. Hon. Members below the Gangway had openly stated that they looked upon boycotting as perfectly justifiable. [MR. MACNEILL: "So did Lord Salisbury."] He looked upon intimidation as a crime; and to hold up, as these hon. Members had, to public odium and execration certain persons whose only fault was that they had obeyed the law of the land, and disobeyed the law of the League, was a crime against society which the law ought to punish. Now they had got peace, and why? Did the House not think it very suspicious that such a very sudden fall in the barometer of crime had taken place? Had crime diminished gradually, then they might have said that the cause of the diminution was the natural outcome of the Irish people learning that it was better to obey the law than to oppose it. But agrarian crime in Ireland had now almost ceased to exist. Why? Because for the first time in the history of the country the Government of the day was in open alliance with the men who had made the occurrence in Ireland of these agrarian crimes the very foundation of their policy. What would happen if there was that change of Government which he believed 768 not only the Opposition, but even the occupants of the Treasury Bench looked upon as not very far distant? There would be no such alliance. An alliance between the Unionist Party and the Party of disruption never could exist. Probably, if they made the same terms that that Government had made, and agreed to sacrifice the unity of the Empire to the demands of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, a Unionist Government would succeed in getting immunity from crime in Ireland. But that agreement never could take place. He did not quite agree with the anticition of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, that, with the return of a Unionist Government, Home Rule would be dead. Home Rule could never be dead. Home Rule could never be called dead so long as there were 85 Home Rule Members returned from Ireland, and a Party in England and Scotland who in order to get their votes were ready to sell their country.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that the question of Home Rule is not before the House.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he was perfectly aware of that fact. [Cries of "Order!"] He meant no disrespect to the Chair, and at once bowed to Mr. Speaker's ruling. What he was pointing out was, that the immunity from crime in Ireland was caused by the agreement that existed between the Government and the Home Rule Party below the Gangway; and that, because the Government consented to the policy of the Home Rule Party, that Party in return kept down crime in Ireland. But when a new Government came in, who would have nothing to say to that policy, and who would make no agreement or arrangement with that Party, their object in keeping Ireland in its present peaceable condition would undoubtedly cease to exist. If a Unionist Government ever came into power it would undoubtedly have 769 to confront hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, whose object would not be to make Ireland peaceful and quiet. A law like this, therefore, which placed in the power of the Government, if necessity should arise, a weapon, not to repress freedom, or to destroy liberty, but to repress freedom to tyrannise, and liberty to commit crime, was not an Act which ought to be opposed in the House of Commons. Hon. Gentlemen from Ireland had declared that if they did not get their way they would set about an agitation more fierce than any which had been experienced. This meant that crime, outrage, and intimidation would again arise; and he, as an Irishman, declared that it was in the interests of the freedom and peace of his country that this Act should remain in force, and that it should be in the power of any Government to put its provisions, when the necessity arose into operation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
Those who have followed the course of this Debate will hardly be disposed to deny that the only serious attempt which has been made to justify the very great change in the existing system of legal procedure in Ireland has been made by the Chief Secretary. The Irish Members, who are the authors and the godfathers of this Bill, have said little on its behalf, and they have left it entirely to the Government to defend a measure which, if introduced at all, ought only to have been introduced by the Government itself. The Chief Secretary gave us, as I thought, a very extraordinary doctrine with regard to Parliamentary procedure. He expressed the intention of the Government to support, as I understood, certainly not to oppose, any Motion that might be made to refer this Bill to a Grand Committee. At the same time he told the House that he looked back on the three months' obstruction—[Mr. J. MORELY dissented]—well, three months' prolonged discussion, in which he took a prominent part, when the Crimes Act was originally proposed in 1887, with no other feelings than those of profound satisfaction. Let the House observe what the views of the Government are. They are prepared to violate every understanding with which Grand Committees were established. 770 They are prepared to destroy that valuable addition to our Parliamentary machinery by abusing it. They are prepared to withdraw from the cognisance of this House a change with which they cannot deny that the future of Ireland for good or evil may be bound up; and, at the same time, while they propose to leave this kind of measure to those who oppose the Act, they promise us that, should, by means of this Bill, the present Act be repealed, they will meet in some future Parliament the reimposition of that Act by precisely the same tactics as those that were adopted in 1887. I do not think that this Act will be repealed; and I hope if it be repealed it will never be necessary to reimpose it. But I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he and his friends are occupied day after day in instructing Members of this House how three months' discussion on a Bill may be brought to a tolerably summary termination. I imagine that if it be the deliberate opinion of this Government that a Grand Committee is a sufficient tribunal to discuss the repeal of the Crimes Act a Grand Committee is equally a sufficient tribunal to discuss the reimposition of the Act; and should the Parliamentary situation which the right hon. Gentleman foreshadows come to pass we shall not be slow to remember the lesson he has instilled into us. Leaving the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman's views of Parliamentary procedure, and coming to the view of the arguments he adduces in favour of the vote he is going to give, I find that the whole of his case rested on the fact that the Crimes Act was a case of exceptional legislation in Ireland. I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman reconciles that statement with the fact that he has himself kept in force, deliberately by his own administrative act, the Arms Act and the Whiteboy Acts, some clauses of which have been in constant use in Ireland for generations, have never been repealed and have been used by the right hon. Gentleman himself in carrying out the law in Ireland. The White-boy Acts and the Arms Act have no existence on this side of the Channel. If the Government believe that there should not be applied in Ireland any law which is not applied in England, I 771 am unable to understand how they reconcile that policy whereby the operative part of the Whiteboy Acts or the Arms Act are kept in force with the proposition he has laid down. When the right hon. Gentleman tells us that this is an insult and an injury to our Irish fellow-countrymen, that is an invasion of civil rights which goes deep down to our constitutional principles, he must remember the civil rights which, more than any other, which are in his keeping and in keeping of the House, are the security of Her Majesty's subjects. No civil right comes near or approaches that in the sacredness with which it should be regarded. The liberty of a man to do that which is lawful, if it seem good in his eyes to do it, is the foundation of all civil liberty and all security. If we found it necessary in the past to impose new laws on Ireland—that is a fallacy; rather I should say to contrive a new machinery for carrying out the old law—it was necessary because we felt that of the civil rights it was our duty to preserve among Irishmen the right of every man to do without fear that which he has a right to do is one we are specially bound to safeguard. The right hon. Gentleman will not deny that there are features connected with Irish agrarian crime which have no analogue on this side of the Channel. If there be these special features, is it absurd to have special machinery to meet them? I will mention two, and neither of them will be denied. In the first place, you cannot get, or, at least, it is extremely difficult to get, under the ordinary law, a conviction for agrarian crime in Ireland. I rejoice to hear that convictions are more frequent than they were, but the right hon. Gentleman will not assert that even now it is an easy matter for the Crown to obtain a conviction in many parts of Ireland, where agrarian offences are most prominent. If any one questions my observation, let him remember that the Government, though they justly say that they are anxious not to minimise the use of trial by jury in Ireland, are obliged to use trial by jury in Ireland in a way in which it is not used in England. In the first place, there is the machinery by which a change of venue can be obtained at certain times in Ireland, known as the Winter Assizes. I believe there is 772 nothing analogous to this in England; but this exceptional and accidental fact in Ireland has alone enabled the right hon. Gentleman to extract anything like justice out of an Irish jury in those controversial cases. If there were no change of venue at his disposal, my firm conviction is that even he would be allowed to take that portion of the Act which in certain cases gives the Government power to grant a change of venue. My second observation is, that what is falsely known as jury-packing, and which has been attacked by Irishmen constantly, is employed by the right hon. Gentleman as it has been employed by his predecessors. This Government, like all Governments, find it to be absolutely necessary to challenge a number of jurymen far in excess of the number which it is customary to challenge in England. Practically in England the right is not used; in Ireland it has been found absolutely necessary to enforce it, because in Ireland the jury system has not worked in the same way that it has in England; and the exact similarity upon which the Government pride themselves as between the criminal machinery of the two countries is not founded upon the actual facts. Former Governments have found themselves under the absolute necessity of resorting to methods, quite legitimate, but different from any which it is the custom to adopt on this side of the Channel. The second point with which I will deal depends upon the fact that in Ireland alone, so far as I know, and not in any other part of the United Kingdom, has it been found possible to use agrarian crime as a great engine of political coercion. That it has been so used in the past cannot be denied; it may be so used in the future, although I do not assert that it will. The right hon. Gentleman quoted quite accurately from the speech I made last year the remark—and then we will find ourselves face to face with the old problems and difficulties, but without the present methods of meeting them when they arrive;that is, supposing this Act should be repealed. If the right hon. Gentleman will read the whole speech he will see that I based that opinion largely upon the speeches made by hon. Gentlemen 773 below the Gangway in Ireland, to the effect that when a Unionist Government came in they would then resort to the old methods which, in their opinion they had found so successful on previous occasions. I may have stated—I daresay I did in the words which the right hon. Gentleman quoted—with too much assurance that that state of things would recur. I am quite prepared to modify the opinion I then gave expression to. I think it is possible that hon. Gentlemen, however willing to resort to former methods, may not find their ancient dupes so ready to follow them. I think it is quite possible the old game is played out. I think it possible that the methods by which they sought to persuade, and unhappily did persuade, their countrymen that what they described as the liberties of Ireland should be pursued—methods which I will not specify—I think it possible that these doctrines if preached again would fall upon deaf ears, and would meet with anything but a reluctant assent. But who is bold enough to say it will necessarily be so when men gifted with great powers of oratory, associated with the traditions of Irish agitation, again address large masses of their fellow-countrymen, who sympathise with them on the question of Home Rule; and when they give to the masses the advice they tell us they mean to give, who will say it will not be followed? I hope it will not be followed; but can I be sure it will not be? This House hopes it; but can it lie sure of it? Unless it is sure that these old troubles and difficulties will not arise again under the same conditions which originally produced them, this House, I venture to think, will not deliberately deprive itself of the weapons by which alone difficulties like these can be adequately met. The peace in Ireland has been described as an artificial peace. I do not say whether it is or not; I do not know enough of the circumstances which have brought it forth; but I do say now, as I have said before, undoubtedly those who at one time used disorder for their own purposes, now obviously are interested in maintaining order, and, if their power be equal to their will, then undoubtedly the peace which exists is to that extent 774 an artificial peace, and deserving of the epithets my hon. and learned Friend applied to it. The right hon. Gentleman congratulated himself upon that peace, and described it as being in harmony with the moral forces of Ireland. The phrase is a very singular one; if I had to use an epithet I should not use the epithet of moral; but, at all events, the strength of these forces, if they exist in anything like the plenitude of power which characterised them ten or five years ago, must have had something to do with the diminution of agrarian crime in Ireland; and if they have produced a diminution, they can again produce an increase of agrarian crime. If that be so, I ask the Government why they want to deprive us of the only legal machinery by which it has ever been successfully met? Nobody has denied the success of this so-called coercive measure. Nobody has denied that measures like that, and that alone, are sufficient to secure the liberty of Her Majesty's subjects in that country; and this side of the House will never be a Party to throwing away this invaluable instrument of liberty. The Crimes Act is not now in operation; it remains, indeed, a potential power, though it is not exactly enforced. Long may that happy state of things continue. May Government after Government succeed each other in this country, and the tranquil cause of Irish society go on as now. May the existence of the Crimes Act on the Statute Book be forgotten. But, with the bitter experience of the past, we should be criminally foolish if we refused to keep in repair the only instrument by which a state of disturbance can be dealt with. We have no wish, any more than the Government have, to enforce exceptional measures in Ireland; we desire as earnestly as they do that powers which are not now exercised may never again be exercised; we agree with them so far; let them agree with us that it would be most cruel to the helpess and the poor if we were to deprive future Governments of these powers, which, happily, the present Government do not find it necessary to employ.
§ MR. C. J. DARLING rose to continue the Debate.775
§ MR. KNOX moved that the Question be now put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 225; Noes, 208.—(Division List, No. 63.)
§ Question put, that the Bill be now read a Second Time.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 222; Noes, 208.—(Division List No. 64.)
§ Bill read 2°.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX rose to move, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Law, &c."
§ Objection being taken,
§ Motion deferred.