HC Deb 10 March 1896 vol 38 cc542-63

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)

proposed as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months." He said that on Friday last he had to call the attention of the House to the case of a minority of Catholics in Belfast who had been entirely deprived of all municipal representation, and he had now to call attention to an even stronger case—to the case of the majority of the Catholics of Derry, who were absolutely unrepresented on the Corporation of that City. Derry, according to the last census, contained 33,200 inhabitants, of whom 18,340 were Catholics. Thus 55 per cent. were Catholic, and 45 per cent. were Protestant; yet, owing to the strange laws made by that House, the majority of the people of Derry had not got a single representative in the Corporation. And not merely was there no Catholic member of the Corporation, but the body of Protestants elected to the Corporation carried out the same exclusive policy in Derry which was carried out by the Corporation of Belfast in the distribution of the municipal offices. As a matter of fact, there was not an official under the Corporation of Derry who was a Catholic, and therefore the majority of the people of Derry lived under this extraordinary state of Government, that they were not merely deprived of being Town Councillors, but not one of them could hope to be even a Corporation official. Every single officer of the Corporation of Derry, down to the humblest one at ten guineas a year, was a Protestant. It was perfectly clear that this was a state of things which most fair-minded Members of that House would be anxious to see removed, and when the Municipal Franchise Bill had nearly passed in the last Parliament, the Corporation of Derry began to see that a change would come. They therefore set themselves to find some way of preventing the majority of the people getting control in Derry, and they set themselves to find some dodge by which they could prevent the 55 per cent. of the Catholics having any proportionate representation in the Corporation. This Bill was their dodge. This was not an ordinary Private Bill. No such Private Bill had ever been introduced into the House. It was a scandalous and flagrant trick, and it was a Bill which ought to be jeered out of the House as a ridiculous imposture. To begin with, the Bill proposed an extension of the City of Derry. The City contained a population of 33,200, and included an area of 2,000 acres, half that area being built upon. Therefore there was plenty of room for expansion, without extending the present limits. Fair rents for agricultural holdings had actually been fixed within the present boundaries of the City of Derry. Nevertheless, the Corporation proposed to take in no less than 30 square miles of surrounding rural country. There was not an acre of that area which could be properly described as urban in character. Not a single acre, not a single townland in the area proposed to be taken, included so much population as one person to the acre. It was, therefore, the most grotesque scheme for extension ever proposed by a Corporation to the House—a proposal to take in an enormous and entirely rural area solely for political purposes. The object of taking in this great area, greater than the City would grow to in the course of 20 generations, was because the population outside the present boundaries was mostly Unionist, and it was hoped that thus the Catholic votes might be swamped under any system of voting. He had been told that the hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill intended to drop the proposal for extension, but he protested against a Corporation using their power to promote a Private Bill, and bringing forward in the House a grotesque scheme of this kind, putting opponents to great trouble and considerable expense, and more or less agitating the whole countryside which it was proposed to take into the town, and then, when it was found the proposal was too grotesque for serious consideration, dropping it, of course without any offer to repair the damage caused. The second proposal was, that there should be a £4 Franchise—that was to say, that nobody rated at £4 and under should have a vote. He believed the vast majority of the people of Derry protested against this proposal as stigmatising the population of Derry as inferior to the people of English towns. However, he was glad to hear that, even on that ground too, a more reasonable frame of mind was now prevailing. He heard that the promoters of the Bill were ready to meet their opponents, but he called attention to the point as a matter of procedure in Private Bill Legislation. Dropping first the proposal for extension, and then altering throughout the provisions as to the Franchise, meant that two-thirds of the Bill would assume an entirely different shape to what it had at present. In fact, the Corporation came to the House and asked the House to draw the Bill for them in such a shape as would give the Bill a probability of passing. But the promoters had left in the Bill a provision for so arranging the wards of Derry that, even if Parliament were to extend the Franchise, as had been proposed by the Irish Nationalist Party, the majority of the people of Derry would still have a very small share of Municipal power. He thought it was well understood that the object of division by wards was to give, as far as possible, proportionate representation to all sections of the population. But that did not seem to be the view of the Corporation of Derry. Their idea of division by wards was that it was a way by which the Corporation could be made to represent Protestants, with just as few Catholics as possible. They had drawn the most extraordinary division of wards that had ever been proposed. They had seized on the Parliamentary polling districts, and took them as suitable ones for wards, thus quite reversing the process that obtained in any other town. As a rule, Parliamentary polling districts were altered to suit the wards, but here the wards were made to conform to the polling districts. Parliament had dealt with this point, for it gave Corporations power to alter polling districts at any time, and obviously it was a matter of slight importance how polling districts were divided, while the ward divisions were of much importance. He had been anxious to find out how it was that the Corporation came to think of this proposal, and the best explanation of the genesis of the proposal he found in certain facts published in the Conservative newspaper, The Derry Sentinel. That newspaper gave the number of Catholics and Protestants in each polling district after the revision of 1892. According to the statement of The Derry Sentinel, if the City were divided into five wards, even with the Parliamentary Franchise, and taking the Protestant electors and Catholics, who were the majority of the population, these last would only have a majority in one of the wards. Such was the statement of the Derry Conservative newspaper, and upon that the Corporation founded the proposal they submitted to the House that Derry should be divided into five wards, so constituted that in only one ward should Catholics have a voting majority. He need hardly labour this point to show how preposterous, how insulting to the intelligence of the House, was this proposed division into wards. The dodge evidently was that the Catholics should be allowed to have a representative in one of the wards, where there were about 750 Catholics to about 100 Protestants, and that in every other district there would be a distinct Protestant majority. In that Bill they were asked to set up a new code for the City of Derry, that would leave the Catholics, who were a majority of the population, with only one-fifth of the representation. It was alleged that these divisions were, at any rate, equal in area. That, he believed, wan true, but they were very unequal in population, and it would happen, if the provisions of this Bill were carried, that the Catholic ward would have half as many people again as some of the Protestant wards. There was a proposal to increase the size of the Corporation to 40. He was speaking for the majority of the Protestants and the Catholics of Derry alike, when he said that it was very undesirable to increase the number unduly. Clause 15 of the Bill contained another extraordinary proposal. According to that clause the Town Clerk, Surveyor, or other officer should not, except for grave misconduct or neglect of duty, be subjected to dismissal or reduction of salary without the consent of the Lord Lieutenant. That was a most extraordinary provision, and he defied the hon. Baronet (Sir Thomas Lea), who had great knowledge of municipal matters, and who had charge of this Bill, to produce any precedent for it. It might be that a Nationalist Corporation might think a mace-bearer rather an absurd extravagance in these modern times, yet they could not dismiss him without going to the Lord Lieutenant. The proposal was ludicrous. His contention about this Bill was that it was so inherently vicious, and so absurd, that the House should not give assent to its Second Reading. Instead of changing the details of every clause, and putting the Bill into such a shape as that it should be allowed to pass into law, he thought they should give the Corporation an opportunity of bringing in a Bill more in accordance with the usual practice of English Corporations. If the useful power which permitted Corporations to promote Private Bills for municipal improvement was to be used to further political and partisan jobs, then it would be necessary to restrain that power, and, when so partisan a Bill as this came before the House, he considered it should be rejected at once, and the Committee spared the trouble of considering it. He moved that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.

MR. T. B. CURRAN (Donegal, N.)

supported the Amendment.

MR. MURNAGHAN (Tyrone, Mid)

in supporting the Amendment observed, that in the Bill as originally drafted the Corporation of Derry asked for powers so extensive and far-reaching that it seemed to him they acted on no other principle except that when the sun shone they should make hay. They evidently thought they had got to support them a Party that would not hesitate to go any length. What did the Corporation ask? They asked this House to sanction a proposal to take in 31 square miles of territory without any absolute necessity for so doing. Within the last 20 years the population of Derry had increased something like 300 people, the present limits of the city were very inadequately filled up, so that there was no actual earthly reason why this Bill should have contained such a provision. The proviso of a franchise of £4 and over for the municipal elections had been put in, because the corporation was afraid that in the course of a little time the municipalities of Ireland would be treated as those of England and Scotland now were, and that the franchise would be assimilated to that for the parliamentary elections. In order, therefore, to protect themselves in all their privileges, and to keep within their grasp every place of power, influence, and emolument, they adopted this method of effecting their object. The corporation must have acted systematically, for if they had come and asked for this proviso without also making some provision for an increase of the wards, the Catholics of Derry would have had some sort of representation. But under the system that was now proposed, what was the fact? The fact was that the Catholics of Derry, who were the majority and numbered 55 per cent. of the population, would only have in the Corporation a representation of one-fifth, whereas under the existing system they would be able to obtain one-third. It was clear, therefore, from an examination of the Bill, that it was not brought in the interest of the general welfare or of good government. If the Corporation had desired to promote the interests of the citizens at large or of the public good, there was a simple way of obtaining that with the consent of everybody. There are living in Derry men of intelligence and of influence, belonging to the Catholic Party, who were most anxious that the City of Derry should be built up and become prosperous, and that its material prosperity should be insured. If the promoters of the Bill had taken such men into their deliberations, then he believed a good Bill would have been brought before the House, which would be acceptable to all parties. Therefore, he argued that it was very clear, to anyone acquainted with the circumstances of Derry, that the Bill was not introduced for the general good and would not promote the peace and prosperity which all good Governments should desire to see existing in a community. He (Mr. Murnaghan) therefore most positively protested against this Bill. He believed that this Bill was intended to fasten an insult on the Catholics of Derry, and to make it appear as if they were unworthy to occupy their proper position in the city. He hoped hon. Members opposite would take note of this action on the part of the Ulster ascendency Party. There were, he believed, plenty of hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite who had no adequate idea of the feeling on this matter in Derry and other places in the North of Ireland—that because a man professes a certain religious belief he must not be allowed to work out his own salvation, or to improve the general conditions of himself and his family. They in the North of Ireland had opposed to them forces which they could not combat, and therefore he appealed to English Members opposite not to help the Derry Corporation in this matter, and to take into consideration the large section of people who lived outside the influence of the promoters of this Bill.

SIR THOMAS LEA (Londonderry, S.)

in supporting the Second Reading, said, he was at some disadvantage as compared with the hon. Member for the City of Derry inasmuch as he only represented that part of the county further from the city itself. He therefore looked upon it from rather an outside point of view, and was unable to give to the House full information with regard to the Measure. The hon. Member in moving the rejection of the Bill began by saying the Nationalists were not represented in the city. They were not at the present time, but up to the year 1892 there always had been Roman Catholics elected to the Corporation of the City of Derry. [Mr. T. HEALY, "No!"] An hon. Member contradicted him. Did not he remember—at all events he (Sir Thomas Lea) remembered very well—that during the last 20 years of his connection with the County of Derry, Mr. Charles O'Neill was in the Corporation. He thought Mr. O'Neill died in 1892, after having been a Member of the Corporation for 27 years. The late Mr. O'Neill's election was frequently opposed by staunch Protestants. He sat, he believed, for the most Protestant ward in the City of Derry, and was always returned at the head of the poll. They need not go further than amongst Members of the House of Commons. There was a Member who sat in the House for several years (Mr. O' Hanlon) who was also in the Corporation of Derry for 10 years. He also remembered other Roman Catholics who sat in the Corporation elected by a majority of Protestants. He admitted that at the present time it was not so, but they must take into account that in 1892 there occurred a most violent change of feeling. They had legislation introduced in the House of Commons which stirred up the strongest party feelings. They in England fought municipal elections from a party point of view, and could it be wondered that violent party feeling prevailed in Derry, where the Unionists had looked at recent events as a sort of notice to quit. It was this feeling which prevented Unionists from voting for Nationalists. It was only during the last three years that Roman Catholics had ceased to sit in the Corporation, and the change was entirely due to the violent legislation to which he had referred. He had always felt that it might be advantageous to have Roman Catholics sitting on the Derry Corporation, and this Bill was for the purpose, he believed, amongst other things, of enabling a very considerable number of Catholics to be elected to the Corporation. The hon. Member said the wards had been cut up to suit political purposes, but he would ask any hon. Member of that House what more natural basis could be taken for cutting up the area of the City for municipal divisions than the existing Parliamentary polling districts? No better method could, he thought, be desired; but if an improvement could be suggested it could be brought before the Committee upstairs, and not Debated on the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill. Objection had been take to the extension of the boundaries of the City. In the Bill he held in his hand all Clauses for that extension had been struck out. The City of Derry during the last 50 years had more than doubled its population, and the Corporation, naturally believing that increase would still continue, proposed to enlarge the boundaries so as to provide for the possible wants of the future as well as the demands of the present. There had, however, been considerable opposition by hon. Gentlemen opposite to that proposal, and the clauses had therefore been struck out of the Bill. The hon. Member for Derry City had referred to the proposed franchise. He said it was above £4 franchise. As he (Sir Thomas Lea) read the Bill, the franchise was a £4 franchise, such as was passed a few days ago in the House of Commons, without Division or comment, for the City of Waterford, a Nationalist city. Looking to the future, as they would have the Parliamentary franchise, for his own part he would have gone the whole hog and proposed the Parliamentary franchise in this Bill. But the Corporation in its wisdom had reduced it to a £4 franchise. That would increase the number of electors from 800 to 3,000, while the total number of electors on the Parliamentary roll was over 4,000. He was informed, and he believed with very good reason, that when this Bill passed and the next Municipal Election took place, at least 16 Nationalists would be elected to the Corporation as against 24 Unionists. That was a very considerable increase. It was at all events a step in the right direction, and one he should be glad to see passed. The hon. Gentleman also made some criticisms with regard to the increase in the number of representatives. They proposed to increase the number from 24 to 40, which did not seem to him at all unreasonable. The small boroughs of about 8,000 population had their 24 representatives, but the two towns that may be said to compete, as it were, in proportion to the City of Derry were Limerick and Waterford, and it was not at all remarkable that Derry, which had a rateable value very considerably higher than either Limerick or Waterford, and a population exceeding in the one case and nearly equal in the other, should wish to have 40 representatives. He could not understand the Bill being opposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they maintained that the additional 16 representatives would be nearly all Roman Catholics. The hon. Gentleman also made some reference to Clause 45, but that matter could be dealt with upstairs; all they wished was that, if any of the officials were summarily dismissed by a Nationalist majority, they should be able to obtain some compensation. The other objects of the Bill were to his mind the most important objects which a municipal body could strive to obtain. The water supply of the City was neither good nor ample, but it was hoped in the future to obtain a far better supply. Before doing so, they wanted to be in a position to borrow without increasing the rates. It was calculated under the Bill that by paying off loans borrowed at a high rate of interest, and borrowing at the current rate of interest, they would be able to reduce the rates of the city by no less than £2,400 or £3,600 a year according to the period of repayment, and by doing that they would increase the efficiency of the Corporation for sanitary purposes and enable it to get a proper water supply. The hon. Gentleman had not touched upon the powers for dealing with the market tolls, but if they could obtain for the City of Derry the powers necessary for the welfare and well-being of the City, it would inaugurate an era of prosperity which he hoped would continue for many years to come.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

said, the hon. Baronet who had just spoken had very astutely remained silent on the important matter of the franchise. He had closely followed the observations of the hon. Baronet, and he had observed that he did not say one word as to the acceptance by the promoters of this Bill of the Parliamentary franchise. Had the opponents of the Bill then been misled on that point also? Had they not been assured that the £4 franchise would be dropped, and the Parliamentary franchise adopted? Could the hon. Baronet confirm that?


I said just now, as far as I myself was concerned, that I would go the whole hog at once and have the Parliamentary franchise, but the Corporation prefer the £4 franchise as the first step. The Corporation are willing to leave the matter to a Committee upstairs.


Then we have been deceived, and for my part I think we should have no truck with the promoters of the Bill in this House. Continuing, he said the one idea that the promoters of Bills of this kind had was to get them through anyhow, without regard to good faith. The opponents of the Bill had been led to believe that the Parliamentary franchise would be adopted as a simple basis, but now it turned out that that was merely a pious opinion of the hon. Baronet, and that the Corporation had no idea of adopting it; so that, seeing that in four out of the five wards the Protestants would have an absolute majority under the Parliamentary franchise, what would their majority be under a £4 franchise? He (Mr. Healy) had taken his figures from the Orange organ the Derry Sentinel.


said he had not seen the Derry Sentinel, and he certainly should not take a newspaper as his authority. He took the authority of the Corporation. He had seen the numbers in the five wards, and he said undoubtedly that in two wards there would be a majority of Nationalists.


With the Parliamentary franchise.


That is the one at present in my mind.


said, that in Derry every man, woman and child was known to the party organisation. [Laughter.] The opinion of every man was known, and if he happened to get drunk and was taken before the magistrates, he was followed with pious care to the Courts, and if he was imprisoned his vote was immediately struck off. The hon. Baronet said that the Derry Sentinel was inaccurate in regard to the Parliament franchise.


I do not know anything about the Derry Sentinel.


said, it was the organ of the Orange Party in Derry, and the figures were supplied upon the authority of the Party agents. These were the figures that it gave for 1892, the year of the General Election, when everybody was keenly awake on the point. In the East ward there were 537 Protestants and 213 Catholics; in the North ward 595 Protestants and 361 Catholics; in the West ward 128 Protestants and 750 Catholics; Waterside ward 421 Protestants and 256 Catholics; and in the South Polling district 359 Protestants and 338 Catholics. So in every one of the proposed five wards, according to the authority of their own newspaper the Orange organ of Derry, they proposed on the Parliamentary franchise to get the control of the City into their own hands. What would it be on a £4 franchise? Did the House recollect the way this Bill came before it? The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland thought it in keeping with his position to go to Derry within the last three months and receive an address from the Unionist inhabitants, including this very Corporation, in which they applied to him these words:— But for your Excellency's action in the House of Lords (these were not the exact words, but the effect of them), we should now have been subjugated by the passing of the Healy Municipal Franchise Bill of last year. The Viceroy of Ireland who procured the rejection of the Bill had the infirmity to receive in Derry, where the majority was Catholic and pining for the franchise, this address. He thought it in keeping with his position as the Queen's representative to allow an expression like that to be used in presenting him with an address. That was the spirit of their Government and of their Chief Secretary in Ireland. The "Parliamentary Debates" for 5th July, 1895, showed that the Lord Lieutenant moved the rejection of the Bill on the ground of want of time to consider Amendments that the House of Commons had not dealt with. Yet the House of Lords on that occasion found time to consider the Factory Acts Bill containing 50 clauses, to read it a Second time, and pass it through the Report stage and its Third Reading without Amendments. They knew from the Chief Secretary that he would not take the smallest trouble with an Irish private Bill. The right hon. Gentleman denied that he had any right to give his sanction to private Bills; but Standing Order 173 said that the promoters of a Bill to give additional powers to a Municipal Corporation, must obtain a certificate under the Seal of the Local Government Board, setting forth whether it was promoted with or without the sanction of that Board, of which the right hon. Gentleman was President. The right hon. Gentleman could bring in a Parks Regulation Bill, which was not wanted, to exclude the people from Phœnix Park; but when the Catholics of Ireland were vitally affected, he did not think it worth his while to give the matter the smallest attention. As to this Bill, there was nothing in it, practically, except the protection of the position of the Corporation. As a makeweight, something was put in about loans; and that was the only substantial thing in it. It happened that this very Bill in all its provisions, even those relating to the Town Clerk, were moved as Amendments to the Municipal Franchise Bill in Committee last year by Mr. Ross. The hon. Member moved an Amendment to protect the Town Clerk in his position in case the Franchise were extended. In fact, the Amendments moved to a public Bill formed the substance of this private Bill. As regarded the Town Clerk of Derry, he personally would take no objection to these provisions, because he was a popular man and he need have no apprehension that he would be unfairly dealt with. The Town Clerk of Derry was a respectable and decent man, and so was his father before him. The Corporation of Derry distribute per annum £3,350 12s. 10d. in salaries, and the Catholics do not even get the odd tenpence. If ever there was a Nationalist majority, the Lord Lieutenant was to be required to give his sanction as a preliminary to the dismissal of any one of several officers, including the Town Clerk, the Surveryor, their assistants, the City Accountant, the City Treasurer, the City Analyst, the Sword-bearer, the Mace-bearer, the Sanitary officer, the Superintendent of the Cemetery, and his assistant, the Superintendents of the markets and of the slaughter houses, and caretakers of the hospital, and the nurses thereat. Why was it that the Protestants of Derry were afraid of the Catholics? Why was it they thought the Catholics would dismiss the Protestant officers? It was because they knew that three centuries of intolerance was rankling in their breasts, and that the Catholics had not been allowed to go within miles of this Corporation. If there was any apprehension that the Town Clerk was in danger—and there was no more popular man in Derry—as far as he was concerned he had no objection to give him protection; but to go down to all the other officials was grotesque. Was this a reasonable Bill? Did it come properly under the designation of a private Bill? The Attorney General had that day given notice of an Armagh Bill. Would the Government deny their responsibility for that Bill? There was not a single Catholic in office in Armagh. It was not right to deal with this question city by city all over the north of Ireland. The Government rejected the Franchise Bill, through their Lord Lieutenant with the assistance of the Lord Chamberlain, and the least that could be asked was that these Bills should not be considered in the light of private Bills at all; but as Bills promoted by Corporations, in which Protestants had an ascendancy, and therefore wished to maintain their power. Derry was situated, not geographically, but in fact, in the County of Donegal, and the farmers of Donegal would have to pay heavy octroi duties in bringing their butter and other produce into the market. He did not know whether this was a good system of maintaining a town market or not; but before these powers were granted, the majority of the population of the town ought to be represented in the Corporation. The men who were asking for these powers had been unreasonable in the past. They had denied any rights whatever to the class of people who would have to pay these taxes. So far as the extension of boundaries was concerned, that part of the Bill had disappeared amid the ridicule of the Protestants themselves, who declined to submit themselves to these taxes, even for the purpose of bolstering up a rotten Corporation. In what spirit did they expect the Bill to be dealt with by a Select Committee consisting of a majority of Englishmen and Tories? The promoters of the Bill would be then paid out of the rates, while the poor Papists would have to come and protect themselves at their own expense. Was that a fair thing? Ireland had waited 13 years for some scheme of local self-government. Where were the simultaniety and similarity which were promised? There was no analogy between these private Bills and English Bills. Therefore he asked the Government, being responsible for the good government of the country as a whole, and especially being responsible for this most inflammable portion of it—Ulster—to say that that question should be dealt with as a whole in some comprehensive scheme. [Nationalist cheers.]


said, the hon. and learned Member was understood to have referred to an incident which had occurred at Derry in reference to a certain passage in an address presented to the Lord Lieutenant. If the hon. and learned Member would consult the Lord Lieutenant, he would learn from him that there were grave objections to taking exception to any passage in such an address. He thought that if Lord Houghton had to go through his own experience over again, he would be careful not to object to any passage in an address.


He declined two addresses on account of what they contained.


said, he was aware of that; but he thought Lord Houghton's action was very unfortunate; and he would be extremely surprised that his Lordship was not prepared to admit that himself. Lord Cadogan, as Lord Lieutenant, considered it his duty to receive any addresses that might be presented to him. The hon. and learned Gentleman then referred to the rejection of the Municipal Franchise Act last year by the House of Lords, and he actually had the assurance to refer in this connection to another Bill which was passed by the House of Lords at the same time—the Factory Bill. Did not the hon. and learned Member know that the Factory Bill was discussed day by day on the Grand Committee?


So was my Bill.


And with the majority which the hon. and learned Gentleman had at this disposal in that Committee he rejected every Amendment proposed to him.


Because every line was taken from an existing English Act of Parliament.


That Bill came down to this House un-amended in consequence of the action the hon. Member took in the Grand Committee. It was therefore impossible to discuss it in this House on its report stage. When it first went to the House of Lords something like 60 Amendments were put down, and those 60 Amendments were rendered unnecessary by the action of the hon. Member himself; and to compare the action of the House of Lords in reference to the Factory Bill, with their action in reference to the Franchise Bill was to compare two things essentially unlike. The hon. Member went on to charge him with having stated that the Irish Office had no concern with the private Bills introduced into this House. He never made any statement of the sort. What he did say was that the Irish Government was not responsible for the provisions of a private Bill and that was absolutely true. The hon. Member quoted a Standing Order which stated that when any application was made by any Municipal Corporation or Town Commissioners in Ireland, seeking for new powers or additional powers, that application should receive the sanction and approval of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. John Morley) shook his head when he made reference to the late Lord Lieutenant, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman would bear him out in saying that this Standing Order had been always interpreted as saying that the sanction of the Local Government Board to the introduction of a Bill did not in any sense imply approval of the provisions of that Bill, and that it was always accompanied by the statement that it did not bind the Irish Government not to oppose the private Bill at any stage of its proceedings in the House of Commons. What this House had to consider was whether the Bill was so incurably vicious, that it could not be amended by the Committee to which it was referred. Was that the case with the Bill now before the House. He was sorry he was not present when the hon. Member for Derry (Mr. Knox) moved his Instruction. He understood that the hon. Member objected to three main parts—the extension of the boundaries, the franchise, and the division of the wards. The question of the extension of the wards had he understood already been abandoned by the promoters of the Bill. As to the division of the wards he should say that the promoters had a very strong case. Their proposal was to take the existing polling districts for Parliamentary purposes.


said, he did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that under the proposed arrangement the majority of the population would only have one-fifth of the representation.


said, he did not admit that, but if the contention was correct, it was one which the Select Committee would inquire into. He had a petition from the opponents of the Bill which set forth a different statement from that of the hon. Member. The petition stated that the number of Parliamentary electors who were Protestants as compared with the number who were Catholics was 2,126 to 2,121; and by the proposed arrangement in three wards Protestants would have majorities, and in two wards the Catholics would have majorities. In regard to the franchise he entirely agreed with the remarks of the hon. Baronet (Sir Thos. Lca), that it would be better in this case if the Corporation of Derry were to agree to the Parliamentary franchise rather than to the £4 franchise. It seemed to him that the questions which had been raised were eminently questions for a Committee to decide, and he hoped the House would take that view and vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.


said, the Chief Secretary was so famous, that he was immortalised in this very Bill. In the preamble of the Bill—the Attorney General for Ireland would tell the right hon. Gentleman what the meaning of the preamble was—the Resolution passed by the Derry Corporation arranging for the introduction of this Bill, was set forth. In the Resolution it was stated that the proposals of the Bill had received the approval of the Local Government Board; ''and in respect of other matters the approval of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant." What portion of the Bill did the right hon. Gentleman approve of? Did the right hon. Gentleman approve of the retention of Derry and of the Municipal wards for Orange purposes. The Bill was the twin sister in antiquity to the Belfast Corporation Bill; it was framed to foster sectarian animosity; to set Protestant against Catholic, and as such he denounced it. He asserted that the Bill was Lord Cadogan's Bill. There was a very strong objection to bringing into the Debate the name of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who was the representative of the Crown in that country, but Lord Cadogan was likewise a Cabinet Minister, and those who appointed him a Cabinet Minister should take the responsibility for his anomalous position. This Bill was substituted for the Municipal Franchise Bill, which Lord Cadogan, acting and speaking in another place in his capacity as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, actually strangled out of life. He could prove that this Bill from beginning to end was Lord Cadogan's Bill.


Order, order! The hon. Member for North Louth was alluding to the history of that Bill, and I had to stop him. Its provisions must not now be made the subject of Debate.


said, he would obey exactly in the spirit and the letter everything the Speaker bade him; but he would like to point out that every one of the Clauses in this Bill to which they (the Nationalists) objected on principle were proposed upstairs in Committee on the Municipal Franchise Bill, by Mr. John Ross, the defeated candidate for Derry, and rejected. He contended that the Bill was the Bill of Lord Cadogan, because when the Lord Lieutenant visited Belfast, he was the guest of the promoters of the Bill, the Corporation of the city, and the Bill was laid before him and approved by him. The Bill did not receive the support of public opinion in Derry. On the 20th of February there was a public indignation meeting held in St. Columba's Hall at which Dr. Keyes O'Doherty, the Catholic Bishop of Derry, who was not a politician—who took no part in politics—thought it his duty to appear to protest against the Bill as if interests of his flock were adversely affected by it. He would read three or four extracts from the Bishop's speech:— My rule is to abstain from all such meetings and to confine myself to my ecclesiastical duties here. But there are times and circumstances which demand the sacrifice of one's own private feeling for the public good, and I think the present occasion is one. Again:— This Bill is denominated an Improvement Bill. It appears to me that it should rather be denominated a Bill for deprivation, perpetually, of the Catholics of Derry, of their civil rights. Was that why the Chief Secretary liked the Bill? Was that his way of killing Home Rule with kindness? The Bishop continued:— That we should be perpetually deprived of any representation on the City Council, of any voice in the administration on the City affairs, or of any share of the expenditure of the taxation to which we have to contribute, is certainly a great injustice and one to which we must object in the strongest terms..… The object of the Bill is, while increasing the boundaries, to increase the Unionist vote and to sink the Nationalist vote in the City. This was a pretty object lesson in the Administration of Ireland. Here was the extraordinary spectacle of a corporation of 24 Members, with not a single Catholic representative; while the Parliamentary representative was elected by the Catholics, the men who could not Vote for the Town Council, and whose exclusion would be made perpetual by this Bill. As to the proposed gerrymandering of the boundaries, there was never any complaint or agitation until the House of Lords rejected the Municipal Franchise Bill of last year. He had merely stated the facts of the case; and they were far too strong to be got over. It was really a Government Bill; and as it was admitted to be so faulty, the Chief Secretary must see that the right thing would be to refuse it a Second Reading. As to the extreme Orange faction by which the Bill had been promoted, he knew the men who composed it, and he had known the Boers of South Africa; and he could say that the Boers were far the more tender and considerate to those who were under them.

MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, E.)

Might I ask the hon. Member for North Louth whether he did not say that he would rather be governed by the Grand Orange Lodge than by the English Parliament?


Yes, sir, I did say so, and I am proud of it. I would rather have you than any Englishman.

MR. J. DALY (Monaghan, S.)

said, he did not believe the House knew or realised the state of things which existed in Derry as well as in Belfast. In Derry the Catholics procured a majority of 3,180, and yet they were not able to return a single Member to the corporation, and not a single corporate official was a Catholic. To show the spirit which prevailed among the Party in Belfast the Catholics did not obtain representation in the Corporation, because of the paucity of their numbers, but in Derry where they had a majority, they were also unable to obtain representation. [''Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member also attributed the prosperity of Belfast to the majority of the population, and by the same line of reasoning the prosperity of Derry should be attributed to the Catholic majority. ["Hear, hear!"] He mentioned which promoted this Bill, he mentioned that at the Poor Law Board the City of Derry was represented by two Catholics and two Protestants, but at the nominations the other day, not satisfied with this state of things, two other Protestants were nominated against the Catholics. In the Debate on the Belfast Bill the other night, one of the Members for that city stated that the reason the Catholic population, as an illustration of the different spirit which prevailed among Catholics and Protestants in the North, that in Strabane, where the Catholics were in a majority of the population, of the seven Commissioners, two were Protestants, while three officers were Catholics and two were Protestants. In Armagh, where there were 3,828 Catholics and 3,610 Protestants, there was not a single Catholic officer. Wherever the Protestants in the North of Ireland had a majority, they were not inclined to give fair play to their Catholic fellow countrymen, and therefore he thought the House should support the Motion of the hon. Members for Derry (Mr. Knox), who belonged himself to the religion of the minority of the people of Derry, and who would not be a party to treating them unjustly. [''Hear hear!"]

The House divided:—Ayes, 221; Noes, 130.—(Division List, No. 37.)

Bill read 2a.


said, that he begged to move the Motion that stood upon the Paper in his name with the alteration that instead of the Bill being referred to a Select Committee of nine Members, four to be nominated by the House and five by the Committee of Selection, he proposed that the Bill should be referred to the Select Committee on the Belfast Corporation Bill. His Motion therefore would stand thus:— That the Bill be referred to the Select Committee on the Belfast Corporation Bill. That all Petitions against the Bill presented Three clear days before the meeting of the Committee be referred to the Committee; that the Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents be heard against the Bill, and Counsel heard in support of the Bill. That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records. Main Question put, and agreed to:—Bill read 2a and committed to the Select Committee on the Belfast Corporation Bill.

Ordered, That all Petitions against the Bill presented Seven clear days be- fore the meeting of the Committee be referred to the Committee; that the Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents be heard against the Bill, and Counsel heard in support of the Bill.—(Mr. Knox.)