§ 1. £27,373, to complete the sum for Civil Service Commission.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
said that the Commissioners were carrying on the examinations not only for the Civil Service but also for the Army and Navy. They conducted the entrance examinations for the Army and Navy as well as some other examinations. There had been complaints as to the inefficient knowledge of languages said to exist both in the Army and the Navy, and some persons had found fault with the Commissioners on the ground that they were supposed to sympathise with the acquisition of the older branches of learning rather than with the acquisition of foreign tongues. He did not associate himself with these charges, because he did not know how far the Admiralty and the War Office were responsible for the examinations, and how far the Commissioners were responsible; but he believed, judging from experience at the Foreign Office, that the examinations were discussed between the departments concerned and the Civil Service Commissioners. The Navy was extremely deficient in officers acquainted with foreign languages, and considerable difficulty had been found in naval operations when civil interpreters had to be called in. Major-General Tulloch, in a Paper read before the United Service Institution, had thus summarised the facts. He said that as regarded the Navy, the officers had what might be 113 called a schoolboy acquaintance with French; only a limited number had passed as interpreters in that language, a few in Spanish, and there were only eight German interpreters and one Russian. Now, considering the number of naval and marine officers in the Service, that was a state of things that was most unsatisfactory—and in that observation he thought the Committee would be disposed to agree. He went on to say that the two languages, German and Russian, in which there were so few interpreters in our Navy, were surely above all others the most important now that the German and Russian Navies were rising so much in power, and it was humiliating to confess that although German and Russian were almost unknown to our officers, English was spoken by nearly all the officers in the German and Russian services. There was something to be said, of course, from this point of view—that English was the great maritime language of the world, and it was perhaps even more necessary that foreign naval officers should be acquainted with the English tongue than that British naval officers should be acquainted with foreign tongues. But if the First Lord of the Admiralty would turn his attention to this matter, he thought he would be inclined to admit that there was some room for improvement. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
said he was quite aware of the importance of a knowledge of foreign languages to the officers of the Navy. The Admiralty had gone very carefully into the question as to how far the knowledge of modern languages ought to play a serious part in the examinations for the Britannia. They had consulted the best authorities and had taken a great deal of trouble in this matter, and they had come to the conclusion that it would not be advisable to give modern languages a high place in the examinations; that was to say, that knowledge of foreign languages should not enable the candidates to take a position to which their other qualifications would not entitle them. It was a question where to begin, and they were of opinion that they should rather try to encourage the study of these languages after the men had passed into the Navy. He quite agreed that every inducement 114 should be given to officers to acquire foreign languages, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the matter received, and would continue to receive, the full attention of the Admiralty, and that they would be very glad if to a larger extent the officers of the British Navy were acquainted with foreign languages. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 2. £121,659, to complete the sum for Local Government Board.
§ * MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
wished to put a question to the President of the Local Government Board with regard to prosecutions under the Vaccination Acts. He understood that in answer to questions put during the Session, the President of the Local Government Board had assured the House that what was called the Evesham letter—in reference to repeated prosecutions—had been sent to the Boards of Guardains whose action was brought before him. Since the issue of the Report of the Vaccination Commission it had become increasingly the custom on the part of many Boards of Guardians to deal in a lenient manner with the question of vaccination prosecutions; but several cases had been brought to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and to the attention of hon. Members representing constituencies in which this question excited much interest; and what he had to ask was that the Local Government Board would consider the advisability—in view of the emphatic declarations of the Royal Commission—of issuing a circular giving stronger and more definite advice in the direction of the Evesham, letter. Legislation on this question being in suspense, he thought they had a right to expect that the Local Government Board should take rather more decided action than was represented by merely sending out as a matter of form what was called the Evesham letter. The number of repeated prosecutions might be very small; but certainly some of the cases which had been brought before him were exceedingly hard and showed a relentless spirit entirely in conflict with the recommendations of the Commission in dealing with those who had conscientious scruples as to the vaccination of their 115 children. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to issue a circular defining the duties of Boards of Guardians and making suggestions which would lead to the removal of the scandal of repeated prosecutions, which in cases were marked by great cruelty to individuals and great wrong-headedness on the part of the Guardians.
§ SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take some steps in this matter of vaccination, whether in the direction suggested by the hon. Member or in another direction he would not say. He wished to press on the right hon. Gentleman the importance of an earlier issue of the Report of his Department. There was no Departmental Report of greater value to the public, or that which was looked forward to with greater interest by those who took heed of the administration of the Public Health and of the Poor Laws. He had been much disappointed, however, that greater dispatch was not observed in publishing. He was quite aware that great care was required in the preparation of the Report; but he sometimes thought the gain to the public would be greater if more promptitude in publication were secured, even at a little sacrifice of accuracy in minute details. He certainly thought the staff of the Local Government Board wanted strengthening, not in ability or in industry, but in numbers, ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. GEOFFREY DRAGE (Derby)
called attention to the immense growth of vagrancy in the last eight or ten years. He found from the reports of the Local Government Board that since 1890 the mean daily number of vagrants had increased from 4,900 to 13,320. It appeared that the Casual Poor Act of 1882 had failed. A deputation waited on the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in 1895, and he informed them that as long as the Casual Poor Act was not put in force he could not grant any further inquiry. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his attention had been called to these reports and to the repeated complaints of the inspectors for the United Kingdom of the want of uniformity and continuity in the administration of this branch of the Poor Law. It was stated by the inspectors in report after report that if continuity and uniformity were introduced, the number of 116 vagrants would be reduced. The mean daily number of vagrants was now larger than it had been at any time during the last 38 years; and in all rural districts the burden was seriously felt. The reports of the inspectors recommended fresh grouping of areas, classification, and separation of tramps from bonâ fide workers. In view of the great number of important questions to be considered in Supply that night he would not enter more fully into the question. He would content himself with calling the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the subject, and merely asking whether he was preparing to deal with it by fresh legislation, or whether he was prepared to recommend the local authorities to be more active in putting the existing law in force?
§ * SIR C. DILKE
referred to a question which he had mentioned on former occasions, when he had the concurrence in what he said of the President of the Local Government Board, namely, the manner in which his patronage in the appointment of auditors ought to be exercised. He had ventured to point out the enormous and increasing importance of the duties of the auditors, and the extent to which they had the trust and confidence, both of the local authorities and of the House of Commons. In what he had said the right hon. Gentleman had been good enough to express his agreement; and he himself laid down two years ago the principles upon which he hoped to proceed in appointing auditors throughout his tenure of office. Of course this was a matter in which the usage of the Department had changed in recent years. There could be no doubt that some years ago there was a good deal of political pressure brought to bear upon the Department to obtain the appointment of certain persons as auditors. Two earlier Presidents of the Board, Mr. Stansfeld and the present First Lord of the Admiralty, set an excellent example in standing out against that political pressure. He wished he could think that some of those who afterwards filled the office were as successful in resisting that pressure. He knew, when once any such political appointment had been made, how difficult it was to revert to a better system. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would agree with him that as far as possible the auditors should be trained 117 to the service, and that the men who had proved themselves to be thoroughly competent in the smaller posts should be gradually appointed to the higher posts, because experience was of immense importance in connection with these very delicate and difficult functions. It was not, as the Committee knew, a mere financial audit, but it was an audit in which the auditor had in certain cases to advise the Board with regard to certain items which, though not strictly covered by statute, might nevertheless be items that ought properly to be allowed under the circumstances of the case. It had been suggested that some recent appointments had been appointments of gentlemen whose experience hardly justified their selection. A gentleman appointed in Surrey had only three or four months' experience; another, appointed as assistant auditor in the Metropolis, had only three months' experience; and a third, appointed in Cheshire, had only two months' experience.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
, replying first to the request that greater leniency should be shown to people who disregarded the vaccination law, reminded hon. Members that the Committee on Vaccination reported last year. Immediately afterwards he found it necessary to make further inquiries from the officers of the Local Government Board with regard to the necessary production of lymph. The report of the inspectors, who had made an exhaustive inquiry into the subject, had only just been completed. From the draft which he had seen he believed that sooner or later there would be a complete reform of all the laws relating to vaccination. The Inquiry appeared to show that in future vaccination would be performed in one of two ways, cither directly from the calf, or by means of calf lymph preserved in glycerine. The effects of this new method of preserving calf lymph were, he was told, very remarkable. He could not yet expres a final opinion, but probably the result of the latest researches would be to bring about a very considerable reform in the whole subject of vaccination. The amendments of the law which it might ultimately be desirable to propose were now under consideration. The question now was what ought to be done in the meantime. Speaking generally, he sympathised with the 118 views of the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, but the existing law must be observed, and he could not step beyond the limits of his duties and recommend Boards of Guardians to disregard the law. His action, however, would be in consonance with the spirit of what was called the Evesham letter, in which it was pointed out that where repeated prosecutions had been initiated for noncompliance with the law Boards of Guardians had a discretion not to proceed further. He admitted the lateness of the publication of the Report of the Local Government Board, but, as the Committee knew, the Department was overworked. The Committee appointed to inquire into the expediency of reorganising the Department had quite recently concluded its labours, and having seen a draft copy of that Committee's recommendations he hoped that the Government would be enabled so to reorganise the Department as to prevent in future any recurrence of the arrears of which complaint was now made. With regard to the question of vagrancy there had, he admitted, been a great want of uniformity of practice among Boards of Guardians. Interesting experiments bearing on this question had recently been made in Suffolk, and the subject was under consideration at the present moment, and he hoped that it would be possible to make some alteration in the system.
§ MR. A. K. LOYD (Berks, Abingdon)
said, before the right hon. Gentleman passed from the subject of vagrancy he desired to ask whether his attention had been called to the serious increase of child vagrancy?
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said that was no doubt an important branch of the question now under consideration by the Local Government Board, and would receive, as it deserved, his most careful attention. Replying to the right hon. Baronet, he thought he might say that the exercise of patronage was one of the most disagreeable duties that fell upon him, and it was quite true that attempts were made to exercise more or less pressure upon the Department with regard to the granting of appointments. He had refused countless applications to exercise his patronage in favour of individuals who, no doubt, had very excellent claims, but whose qualifications were not as good 119 as those of other candidates. In making selections he had always made it an absolute condition that the candidate should possess sufficient experience to enable him to perform the duties efficiently, but he was not prepared to say that experience was the only qualification to be considered. He attached great importance, for example, to the character and education of gentlemen seeking appointments. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not think that he would be doing right if he were to discuss the three cases to which the right hon. Baronet had specially referred. He would, therefore, content himself with saying that, with regard to the gentleman recently appointed for Cheshire, he had received a letter highly commending him from one of the auditors under whom this gentleman had gained his experience. In other cases he had received testimonials not less satisfactory, and he was confident that in respect of every appointment for which he was responsible, he had fulfilled the pledge which he gave to the right hon. Gentleman on a former occasion. Passing to another subject, he said that since Question time he had received the Report of General Scott, who had been sent to make inquiries into the alleged diminution of the water supply in parts of the East End. General Scott said that a number of the buildings referred to in Mr. Hand's letter of the 30th ult. had been examined, andin every instance except one, water was available at the taps on the top storeys. The exception was Shepherd's Buildings, where the water reached the fourth floor only. The cistern contained water at 11 a.m. to-day, but at 2 p.m. was empty. Generally speaking, there seems to have been a scarcity or total absence of water during the greater part of last week, and a general recovery in the supply on Saturday. The total absence of water was in almost every case restricted to the upper floors of the buildings. The people seem to be comfortable as a rule and pursuing their usual occupations. The local authority state that the health of the district is normal.He would also read certain letters that had passed between the secretary of the East London Water Works Company and the Whitechapel district authorities. On June 31 the secretary of the company wrote to the chief sanitary inspector of the Whitechapel district as follows:—In reply to your letter of the 30th inst. enclosing copy of a complaint from a Mr. D. G. White, I beg to state that the mysterious 120 interruption between our Hornsey Wood reservoir and the mains supplying the district from it has now been discovered. It is reported to me from the works that the pressure is much better, and I trust the inconvenience is at an end.Then there was another letter dated July 30 from the secretary of the company to the medical officer of health, in which he said:—In reply to your letter of the 29th inst. enclosing copy of a complaint from Mr. B. Morna, of 63, Davis Mansions, New Goulston, S.E., I regret to inform you that we have some mysterious interruption between our Hornsey Wood reservoir (which is quite full of water) and the main supplying the district from it. Every possible investigation is being made to discover the cause, and the engineer hopes soon to unravel the mystery. The accident, whatever it may be, is most deplorable, as we have upwards of 1,000,000,000 gallons of water in stock and some of the finest machinery in the world to get it to the consumers' houses. I trust the inconvenience will be of short duration.On July 31 the general superintendent of the company wrote to the sanitary inspector—I had already received communications from 28, Spital Square and Josephine House, Tenant Street. In both cases, of course, the deficiency was due to the cause pointed out in the surveyor's letter to Dr. Loane, but I hear this morning from the district foreman that in every case the cisterns were filled up during the night, and I am glad to say we have discovered the cause of the trouble and the pressure is now excellent.He hoped now that this trouble, which, of course, was a very grave one at this time of the year, would be at an end. No efforts on his part to bring that about would be spared, and every step would be taken by the Board to prevent a water famine, which in the part of London affected would be nothing short of a calamity. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Vote agreed to.
3. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £27,246, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin and London, and Subordinate Departments.
§ MR. DILLON
, the Chief Secretary not being in his place said, that in order to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of defending his salary, he would move to report progress.
§ MR. DILLON
said he rose to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000 in respect of the salary of the Chief Secretary. This Vote had been put off to too late a day as to render it impossible for a large number of Irish Members, who had returned home, to express their opinion of the right hon. Gentleman's administration of his office. He could never be a party to any arrangement by which a fixed number of days should be set apart for Irish Supply. The amount of discussion on Irish Supply depended on the conduct of the Irish Government, and to some extent upon the amount of Irish legislation proposed during the year, and if the Irish Government was to be run on the principles which had characterised the action of the Government during the present year, he ventured to assert that four days would not be nearly sufficient to discuss Irish Supply. When the right hon. Gentleman first came into office he made a remarkable speech. On October 16, 1895, the right hon. Gentleman said that the people of Ireland were becoming tired of political agitation and would welcome in a kindly spirit anything Parliament might be able to do for them. The right hon. Gentleman continued:—We are ready to take the chance of our Measures being welcome. We should be glad enough, no doubt, to kill Home Rule with kindness, but whatever may be the result of our efforts, our intention is to do our utmost to produce and pass such measures as will promote the material interests and prosperity of Ireland.Speaking as the right hon. Gentleman did, as the head of the Irish Government, and as representative of a party with a majority of 150 in the House of Commons, and with a solid House of Lords at its back, it was not unnatural that he should have aroused considerable hopes among certain sections of the Irish people. Great bodies of the people, and even large sections of the Nationalists, expected that while they would be denied 122 the claim, which they could never surrender—namely, the right to govern themselves, they would at least grant large and generous concessions such as it was in the power of this Government to give. A large section of the Irish people not unnaturally expected that, amongst other things, great Measures would be passed dealing with the development of the material resources of the country; that money would be of little or no consideration; that there would be an attempt to settle the University Education question and the Land question; that the government of Ireland would be run on an even keel, and that the Party which used to be the Party of ascendancy would no longer control the machinery of the Castle. He had no hesitation in saying that every one of these expectations had been disappointed, and now, after nearly two years, the right hon. Gentleman had absolutely failed to carry out the fair promises of his speech at Leeds. [Nationalist cheers.] He had undertaken to kill Home Rule with kindness, but knowing, as the right hon. Gentleman did, the fidelity of the Irish people to the Home Rule sentiment, one would expect that he would have known it would have taken a good deal of kindness. ["Hear, hear!"] He should await with curiosity the catalogue of the measure of kindness by which the right hon. Gentleman expected to carry out his undertaking. He should recall to the right hon. Gentleman's mind his famous tour to the West of Ireland. According to his own account he was received with kindness and courtesy at Belmullet. What had he done for Belmullet? ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would state to the House what he had in contemplation—if anything—to meet the cruel state of distress and fever which prevailed now in that very district through which he travelled in the autumn of 1895. The hon. Gentleman then quoted from a letter written in 1825, by the Statesman, George Canning, in which the writer drew a picture of the peaceable state of Ireland. He (Mr. Dillon) could almost imagine that the Chief Secretary had a copy of the letter, and repeated almost its very words in his Leeds speech. If Ireland was in this very peaceable condition, why did not the right hon. Gentleman set himself earnestly to govern according to popular methods? If he 123 were acting consistently his business should be to avail himself of this wonderful peace, and prove to the people that under a Unionist Administration they could obtain good, honest government according to the will of the people. He (Mr. Dillon) entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that his Land Act, except in the case of those clauses which allowed farmers, not previously allowed to do so, to enter the Land Court, had nothing whatever to do with the lowering of rents, and he had proved what had been their contention, that the Act had failed to afford that just contribution to the necessitous which they were entitled to expect from any revision of the Land Acts. ["Hear, hear!"] But though some of the clauses of that Measure were good, and had been defended by them, he did not think the Chief Secretary was entitled to any credit for it, but rather the reverse, because when he dealt with the question at all he should have done so in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. They were entitled to complain if Members responsible for Departments did not take sufficient trouble to see that their Departments got proper opportunities of passing necessary Bills. They were doubly so entitled when the Minister united in himself all the responsible Irish offices. Ever since the present Chief Secretary had held his office they had not had a single reasonable opportunity of dealing with any Irish Bill. He had been told that the Irish Land Act was so badly drafted that it would eventually lead to endless law suits. If Clause 40, for instance, had been properly considered and amended in Committee it might have worked well. As it was it was brought up at half past five o'clock one morning, and the Chief Secretary practically said "take it or leave—"
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said the hon. Gentleman was going rather beyond what was generally permitted in Committee of Supply. The legislative action of a Minister could not be criticised in Committee of Supply.
§ MR. DILLON
said that what he complained of was the action of the Chief Secretary in threatening to withdraw Bills if Irish Members discussed them.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said that the proper time to criticise such action was when the action was proposed to be taken. 124 He founded what he said upon a decision of his predecessor. The hon. Member for Preston called attention to the action of the Board of Trade, and said that the President of the Board of Trade ought to put his foot down and insist upon securing for the Department a larger amount of the time of the House. The then Chairman ruled that the hon. Member could only call attention to the administrative acts of a Minister, and that it was not in order to refer to what a Minister had done or not done. That was a ruling which had obtained ever since. The hon. Member could, perhaps, raise the question he sought to bring up upon the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill.
§ MR. DILLON
said he would avail himself of that opportunity. Let him now turn to the right hon. Gentleman's action in Ireland. In March last at Knock, County Mayo, the Chief Secretary appeared to resuscitate the very worst conditions of the old coercion regimé. It had been the fortune of the right hon. Gentleman to have had a very quiet time since he undertook the administration of Ireland. Ireland was a very strange country, and he ventured to warn the right hon. Gentleman not to build too surely on that foundation, not to feel too confident that the whole term of his office would be as peaceable and easy, as far as disturbances went, as the period which had passed. But in the midst of peace and order the right hon. Gentleman was guilty at Knock of proceedings on a par with some of the worst acts of the coercion period. An ordinary agrarian meeting was summoned to take place at Knock, but just before the day it was to be held it was determined not to hold it as the land grabber had proposed terms, and it was likely a settlement would be arrived at. After Mass on the 21st of March the priest wanted to explain to the people that the meeting was postponed, but the police who had been drafted into the parish would not allow him to come out of the chapel. A considerable crowd collected and were advancing towards the place of meeting when they were charged by the police, and scattered in all directions. The meeting was not proclaimed, and therefore he maintained that the proceedings of the police at Knock amounted to a going back to the most odious practices 125 of the old coercion days. There was a violation of the right of speech, a violation which would never have been attempted in this country. Immediately after the occurrence the Chief Secretary said the meeting was prevented because it was believed it would endanger the tranquillity. But any meeting to which the Government objected might be held to endanger the peace. The action taken amounted to an invasion of the right of public meeting, although happily it had occurred in only one or two instances recently. In reply to a question on the subject, the right hon. Gentleman used the expression that the people were warned that the meeting "was not allowed to be held." He did not say that; the Riot Act was read or that a proclamation was issued that the meeting was illegal. There was no allegation which constituted a proper warning, no allegation that the meeting was properly proclaimed. The police simply, without any legal justification whatever, scattered the meeting by charging the people with their batons. It all showed that the old spirit of the Coercion Act was still alive. It was said that this was done under the common law, but the common law meant one thing in England and another in Ireland. They were told that the people had a remedy at common law, that they could apply to a Court and get damages against the police. This was adding insult to injury. The people had no remedy. They could not take action in an expensive court, and even if they did, they would not have the smallest chance of recovering damages. If such a proceeding had occurred in this country the remedy would be sought in this House by an instant Motion for Adjournment, and the Minister would be brought to task, not only by Members of the Opposition, but he ventured to say, even by Members of their own Party. The case illustrated the supreme grievance of the Irish people, and that was that the Administration of Ireland was in no way responsible to the Irish nation. He had often been asked by Unionist Members whether some plan could not be devised by which Ireland could be reconciled to the Government of this House. His reply was that if they passed all the Bills for the time being that the majority of the Irish people required there would 126 remain the great question of administration, which, after all, was the greatest part of government, because it was no use having good laws if the administration was bad. He would rather live under the worst laws, like those of Turkey, if they had a decent, honest administration responsible to the people. The insuperable difficulty which he saw in conducting the government of Ireland was that, whatever the intentions of the Chief Secretary, and even though he were an Irishman, thoroughly acquainted with the country by training, sympathy, and local knowledge, there was no machinery provided by this House by which he could be made responsible to the public opinion of Ireland. It was the fashion now-a-days to run this House down, and though Irishmen had good reason to run it down, still if Englishmen could get rid of this House for a year or two, they would soon be brought to reason. The greatest function this House discharged was, that it checked and controlled the action of the Administration, and it secured, as far as Great Britain was concerned, the Administration being of all countries in the world, most constantly in touch with public opinion. The right hon. Gentleman had still, he supposed, two or three years of office. During the last two years he had done little or nothing. If he had still any hope of achieving the great task he had set before him—the getting out of the minds of the Irish people, as he said at Leeds, "the fixed opinion which existed there that the Government of the country was a hostile and not a friendly Power"—he advised the right hon. Gentleman to make haste and show to the Irish people that they might hope, if not for good administration, at least for the redemption of some of the promises of this Unionist Administration.
§ * MR. DRAGE
said that he ventured to intervene in this Debate chiefly on account of the deep interest he took in the housing of the working classes in Ireland. At the recent international congress in Brussels reference was made to the housing of the working classes throughout Ireland. Unlike the hon. Gentleman opposite, he had the profoundest confidence that the Chief Secretary was capable of formulating and carrying out a policy which would redeem his pledges in this regard. The House 127 was now in possession of all the information which could possibly be required either for legislation or administration. There had been no fewer than four inquiries into the subject. There was one in 1885, another in 1891, and one in 1893; lastly, they had the census report of 1890 and the reports of the Irish Local Government Board. He wished briefly to refer to the intensity of the evil where it existed, to give an account of the extent of the evil which prevailed throughout Ireland, and the failure of the administration hitherto, and lastly to make one or two suggestions which had arisen out of the recent international congress. As to the intensity of the evil, there could be little or no doubt, according to Mr. O'Brien, a Poor Law Inspector for 30 years in Ireland, that no population had been known to sink to such a low level of general wretchedness as the agricultural population. It contained no less than 54 per cent. of the adult males, and 22 per cent. of the whole population. In Munster and Leinster there had been a certain amelioration owing to the action of recent legislation and administration, but the misery remained intense all over Ireland and was not confined to the congested districts. There were districts at the very gates of Dublin where the Poor Law Inspector had to creep into the miserable huts on his hands and knees in order to administer Poor Law relief. The condition in the small towns was even worse, and the Commissioners of a recent English Commission, who examined the housing of the agricultural population throughout Great Britain, had stated, comparing the worst district, Monmouth, with the housing of the poorer population in Loughrea, that Monmouth was, comparatively speaking, a paradise. [IRISH MEMBERS: "Lord Clanricarde!"] New Ross for ten years had the highest death rate of the United Kingdom; and, according to the Commission of 1885, the great trouble at Waterford was, not the administration of the Chief Secretary or of his predecessors, but the difficulties that existed in the town council, who owned all the worst property in the town and drew considerable rents from it. How was it that the town council could hold these tenements and let them out instead of pulling them down? In Limerick and 128 Galway the same state of things existed. Except Belfast and the north-east corner of the country, it appeared that there was not a great town throughout the length and breadth of Ireland where the greatest misery did not prevail. According to the Census Report of 1890 there were at that time 20,000 houses in Ireland containing one room and one window, and built of mud or a like material. This class of dwelling appeared to be rapidly diminishing, and there were now only 15,000 such houses in Ireland. But if accommodation were taken into consideration they had Dr. Grimshaw, the Registrar General, to vouch for the fact that the number of families in fourth class accommodation in Dublin was the same in 1881 as in 1841, and further, Mr. Henry Robinson, of the Irish Local Government Board, had stated to the Royal Commission on Financial Relations that there had been no improvement in the general social condition of the people since 1872.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I cannot see how the hon. Member connects the social condition of Ireland with the salary of the Chief Secretary. If he can point out any administrative act which the Chief Secretary has taken or any administrative act which the right hon. Gentleman has failed to fulfil, then the hon. Member would be in order; but the matter he is now referring to seems to be one which can be dealt with only by means of legislation.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
That question does not arise on this Vote; it arises on the Vote for the Local Government Board of Ireland.
§ * MR. DRAGE
said that this was the first opportunity they had of connecting this matter with certain other branches of administration and of putting them all together. As to the suggestions made, one suggestion was indicated by the Financial Relations Commission which would be of great value in this connection. It was that loans should be issued at cheaper rates for local purposes, and especially for grants in aid of better dwellings for the poor. There should be a special grant made in aid of building 129 houses in the congested districts. According to the last census there were 770,000 illiterates still in Ireland, and there was always a close connection between bad housing and want of education. The measures which the Chief Secretary might bring forward would be welcomed by the working classes of this country, who were, for the most part, ignorant of the profound depths of misery to which every foreign and English inquirer found the poorer classes in Ireland had sunk. They would, he was sure, back up the Chief Secretary in any step he might take to mitigate this stain on civilisation in England in the 19th century.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
impressed on the Chief Secretary that they were criticising the office and not the man. The Chief Secretary had begun his career in office extremely well, and had endeavoured to get information as to the state of the country from all quarters. The right hon. Gentleman visited Ireland, and sought to obtain information from everyone; but a change had come over the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman's dream, and the information he now gleaned was more or less strained through the official sieve. He did not think that the Chief Secretary had been entirely successful in divorcing himself from official influences, and he had not exercised so strong a personal will as he might have done. He drew attention to the New Land Commission, and asked why it had been constituted and what was the necessity for it? The new Commission was composed of an ex-Judge, two ex-valuers, and two military politicians. The objections which were raised to Mr. Justice Mathew as the head of the Evicted Tenants' Commission could with equal propriety be urged against the appointment of Sir E. Fry, because it could be pointed out that Sir E. Fry would as an ex-Judge mingle in an angry political and public controversy; and they could not forget that both the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chief Secretary had inveighed against the appointment of Mr. Justice Mathew. These were two gentlemen of whom they knew nothing, except that one had been a valuer in Scotland, in cases between landlord and tenant, though not in connection with the Crofters' Commission, and the other was a landlords' agent and valuer in offices in 130 London. He knew both the gentlemen who had been appointed in Ireland, and no one was more utterly unfitted to hold the scales evenly between landlord and tenant than Dr. Traill. He had a strong and almost extreme bias as a landlord, and he was a Tory politician. Dr. Traill was one of the subscribers to the battering-ram policy of a former Irish administration; and recently in the Land Courts his harsh conduct towards a tenant was severely censured. It looked unkind and unamiable to say it, but he believed that the effect of the mere appointment of the Royal Commission, although it had never sat, had had the effect of paralysing the sub-Commissions. A gentleman belonging to the Tory Party in Ireland, and closely connected with the landlord section—whose name, of course, he would not mention for any consideration—had told him that since the appointment of the Commission rents had been raised 10 per cent. What was more, he had special means of knowing. [An HON. MEMBER: "In what part of Ireland?"] Well, he would tell his hon. Friend in the smoking room. [Laughter and "hear, hear!"] He might inform the hon. Member for South Tyrone, who had just returned to his place, that he had been discussing in his absence the constitution of the Land Commission. He had stated that it was composed of one ex-Judge, two ex-valuers, and two military politicians. No doubt Mr. George Fottrell, who was a professional valuer, had theoretical instincts in favour of Home Rule, but it was perfect nonsense to put him forward as a representative of the Nationalists. The hon. Member for South Tyrone did not make speeches now. Would he be in perfect order in making a speech for him? (Laughter.)
§ MR. MACNEILL
said he would faintly try to represent the hon. Member's sentiments on the constitution of the Land Commission. He would tell the Committee what he considered to be the probable views and sentiments of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. The Commission had been forced on the Government by the pressure of the House of Lords, especially of Lord Londonderry; and why was it so forced on them? Because the Land Commissioners and 131 the sub-Commissioners, who were the Government's own nominees, and completely under their thumb—even they did not come up to the mark; and so this Commission had been constituted, and, as he had said, the effect on the judgments of the sub-Commissioners had been already unfavourable towards the tenants. These tribunals were absolutely under the thumb of the Government. Every single, sub-Commissioner had been appointed, directly or indirectly, by the present Government, and he would say, in reference to the head of the Commission—
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The hon. Gentleman is entering on a discussion of the personnel of the Land Commission, and, in doing so, he is not in order.
§ Mr. MACNEILL
said he was only referring to it by way of illustration. He simply wished to say that this Commission had been appointed to coerce tribunals, every member of which was already under the thumb of the Government. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had any personal opinions, he thought he would be rather for the tenants than against them. But did he think that by doing this he was in the slightest degree conciliating Unionist opinion in Ireland? If he thought so he was quite mistaken. The so called Unionist party in Ireland was hopelessly severed. He would read a letter from a constituent of his right hon. Friend—an eminent constituent. The gentleman said:—I think the Government will miss the help of the Irish Unionists when they want it in England. If ever I again go before an English audience, it will not be to keep them in power, although I am no less a Unionist than before; and what I feel in this regard is felt by thousands.That was a letter written by an eminent gentleman who had stood on many a platform in support of the Government's Irish policy; and the right hon. Gentleman must see in a letter of that kind, which was most certainly sincere, plain proof that all his efforts to conciliate that Party must fail unless he was prepared to be merely the outward and visible representation of politicians of the Dr. Traill type. [Laughter.] He was obliged to the House 132 for having listened to him. There was one great objection he had to the Chief Secretary: it was a personal objection. He would rather have a Chief Secretary whom he could dislike and fight. [Laughter.] He would like a Chief Secretary who would give him genuine sport. But when he got up in his place, he saw the countenance of a right hon. Gentleman, with a charming personality beaming across the Table at him. [Laughter.] He could not help thinking that if the Chief Secretary were only left to his own inclinations, and could give the go-by to the Castle officials, he might achieve a reasonable success. As it was, he had done tolerably well, belonging, as he did, to a class of politicians whom O'Connell used to call "beggar-shavers" [Laughter.] What he meant was that the right hon. Gentleman reminded him of the apprentices who were allowed to shave beggars, taking no fees in consideration of the gashes they made. [Laughter.] He objected to the right hon. Gentleman trying his 'prentice hand on Ireland. [Laughter and cheers.] At the same time, he had no doubt that if his abilities, and his genuine desire to do right, with perhaps some show of resistance to the Castle officials, could make him a success, he would be one. [Laughter.] In the meantime he would press his little Bill on the right hon. Gentleman, and ask him to answer him all about the Land Commission, and to say also whether he agreed with him in his character of Dr. Traill, and so on. [Laughter.]
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said a good deal of ground had been covered by the discussion, and it might advance business if he dealt with it now. The Chief Secretary for Ireland was in the unfortunate position of being one of whom much was expected. He was expected to work miracles, and if he failed he was denounced as un unprofitable servant. The expectations so often formed by hon. Members opposite seemed to him to be unreasonable; and their disappointment at the non-realisation of expectations which were of their own creation was equally unreasonable. The hon. Member for East Mayo referred to a speech which he (the Chief Secretary) delivered at Leeds in the autumn of 1895, in which he used a phrase that had since attained 133 a certain amount of notoriety. He said on that occasion that—the policy of the Government would be to endeavour to promote the material prosperity of Ireland; and the Government would, of course, be very glad if they were able by kindness to kill Home Rule. But whether that was so or not, he thought it would be their duty to persevere with their policy, no matter whether that policy was received with gratitude or not.Well, the Government had carried out the policy which he then announced—he trusted with some degree of success. [Cheers.] However, he need hardly point out to the Committee that two years was not a very long time in which to effect a considerable improvement in the prosperity of the country. But the hon. Member for East Mayo said that great expectations were formed in consequence of that speech; that it was anticipated the Government would immediately introduce Measures on a large scale for increasing the material prosperity of Ireland; and then the hon. Member went on to state the kind of Measure which he thought, after the promises which had been given, should have been introduced by the Government. And what were the Measures? One was a Bill to establish a Catholic University, and the other what he called a good Land Act.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I think not. I think the hon. Member said we had not carried out our promise, and then he said:—He has not introduced a Bill for establishing a Catholic University nor a good Land Act.As to the establishment of a Catholic University (the right hon. Gentleman continued), the views of (ho Irish Government and of the First Lord of the Treasury were well known. He need not pursue the matter further. It obviously had no direct connection with the material prosperity in Ireland. As to the Land Act, after the ruling of the Chairman it would not be appropriate on his part to defend the policy of that Act, or to argue what the hon. Member professed to be its shortcomings. The picture which he drew, not in October, 134 1895, as had been said, but in 1896, of the condition of affairs in Ireland was not overdrawn, and at the present time there was in that country a state of peace, contentment, and tranquillity such as had not prevailed for a great many years. The hon. Member said that the Government ought to take advantage of this period of peace to pass measures which would carry out what he called the "will of the people." But if the hon. Member meant by that measures which would please the majority of the Irish representatives, he must mean that it was the duty of the Government to introduce a Home Rule Bill, which certainly was not their intention. The duty of the Government was not to give effect to the will of the majority of the Irish representatives when they differed from them as to what was desirable in the interests of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Their duty was to do the best they could according to their lights for the country which was committed to their charge. The hon. Member averred that nothing had been done for Ireland during last Session and the present Session. The hon. Member must have forgotten that last Session a very considerable number of Measures of importance were passed for Ireland. In fact, the Irish legislation last Session would compare very favourably with the legislation for England and Scotland respectively during the same period. Scotch Members, he had reason to know, were very much dissatisfied because so much time was devoted to Ireland and so little to Scotland. If during the present Session the Government had not been able to carry a large number of Irish measures the hon. Member must know the reason, although he had not thought fit to allude to it. The Government had prepared a Measure for establishing a Board of Agriculture in Ireland and also a Measure deeding with the administration of the Poor Law, and those Measures were abandoned because it was not deemed expedient to proceed with them in view of the promised legislation for Ireland next Session. As the First Lord of the Treasury had said more than once, a Government must not be judged by what it did in the course of a single Session for a particular section of the United Kingdom; its performances must be judged as a whole. 135 Last Session was largely devoted to Irish legislation, and next year again there would be an Irish Session in the fullest sense of the term. He now came to the strictures that had been passed on his administration. Reference had been made to the condition of affairs at Belmullet, and he had been asked what the policy of the Irish Government was with regard to the distress of that district. The policy of the Government had been to throw upon the local authorities to the extent of their powers the responsibility of carrying out the work which the Legislature had intrusted to them. A period, however, came when the Board of Guardians thought that that responsibility was heavier than they could bear, and the Union of Belmullet was now being administered by vice-Guardians, and at the end of September it would be the duty of the Government to consider whether the amount spent in the relief of distress had been such as to throw a greater burden upon the rates than the Union could reasonably bear. If it should be proved that was the case the Government would be prepared to consider whether public money ought to be used so as to relieve the rates. The difficulty in Belmullet had been increased by the unfortunate outbreak of fever in the island of Inishea, which had thrown an additional burden upon the Union. He was happy to think that the fever was now abating. The next subject which had been referred to was the meeting at Knock. There had been in the district several rather aggravated cases of boycotting the holders of evicted farms, and meetings had been held practically to stimulate the boycotting. In these circumstances it became necessary to stop this particular meeting. He regretted that no proclamation was issued, and if it should be, his misfortune to have to prevent other meetings he would take care that that omission should not occur again. He might, however, observe that there was no legal compulsion upon the Executive to proclaim a meeting which it was desired to suppress. This meeting was the only one during his two years' tenure of office which it had been necessary for him to prohibit, and he congratulated himself upon such a record.
§ MR. DILLON
complained that the police charged the people though there was no resistance or disorder.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that the police had warned the people beforehand that the meeting must not be held. The people not dispersing the police did charge, and in the confusion that ensued the drums were broken, but he had no reason to suppose that anyone was injured. Passing to the speech of the hon. Member for Derby, he said that he agreed with the hon. Member as to the grievous want of proper accommodation for the labouring classes in many parts of Ireland. The Executive, however, could not fairly be blamed for the existing state of things, for in legislation respecting the housing of agricultural labourers Ireland was better off than England, and only last year a Bill was passed which greatly facilitated the process by which Irish labourers could secure cottages for habitation. The administration of the Acts dealing with the subject rested primarily with the Boards of Guardians, and the Executive could not do more than bring to bear what pressure was possible upon the Guardians. In the last resort they could take the administration of the Acts out of the Guardians hands and transfer it to the hands of Government officials, and, though they were anxious to avoid having to do this, they had been compelled to do it in a number of cases. [Mr. KILBRIDE asked whether the cases in which the administration of the Acts had been taken out of the hands of the unions had all occurred in Ulster?] He believed that nearly all, if not all, had occurred in that province. [Nationalist cheers.] He had been asked by the hon. Member for South Donegal why the Commission appointed to inquire into the administration of the Land Acts and the Land Purchase Acts had been set up? The reason was that the Government thought that an authoritative inquiry into this subject would be better and more to the interest of the Land Commission than an agitation carried on on the one side by the landlords and on the other side by the tenants. If the Government had not appointed this Commission, what would have been the inevitable result? He would call as a witness the hon. Member for East Mayo himself. On April 9th 137 the hon. Member wrote in a letter which had been published:—The reductions given by the Sub-Commissioners are not proportionate to the very heavy fall in prices, and I have always maintained that the present reduced rents are more difficult to pay under the present circumstances than the unreduced rents were in the circumstances prevailing before 1879. That being so, it is plain that in making reductions no real consideration has been given to the interests of the tenant. But, insufficient as reductions are, you will have observed that the landlords have opened a campaign in the House of Lords and in Ireland with the avowed purpose of intimidating the Commissioners. The effect of these operations is already manifest in the recent action of the Land Commissioners in raising nearly all the rents on appeal. I have no doubt that, if the landlords' campaign is not met by a united and national movement on the part of the farmers, the reductions given by the sub-Commissioners will grow less and less.He would also quote one sentence from a speech made by Mr. William O'Brien on December 20th, 1896.Even when the rents they fixed were impossible the resources of civilisation were not exhausted, the tenants had still the resources of their own organisation and their own combination, and they manage to extort pretty substantial reductions, even to 20 to 25 per cent., upon the judicial rents. Believe me, that as far as the Land Commissioners are concerned their reductions are up or down according to the strength of the agitation.Was it possible to imagine a better argument for an Inquiry than the statements of hon. Members opposite and their friends? Was it not obvious that the landlords having made strong representations and the tenants being equally dissatisfied—the Commissioners themselves being the subject of attack from both sides—in the interest of the Commissioners themselves, it was desirable that an impartial Inquiry should be held? ["Hear, hear!"] Although such an Inquiry had been condemned by the hon. Member for East Mayo, it had not been condemned by all the individuals representing the tenants in the North of Ireland. For instance, at the meeting of the Liberal and National Union at Belfast a resolution was passed heartily welcoming the appointment of a fairly constituted Commission—[Nationalist cheers]—with power fully to consider all sides of the case; and a further resolution was passed to protect the tenants' interest before the Commission. And 138 he had seen a good many statements to the effect that before a fairly appointed Commission the tenants would have no difficulty in making out their case. The Government took sides neither with the one party nor the other; but it was impossible for them to see the Courts of the Land Commission attacked in this way from both sides without feeling that, whatever disadvantages might attach to an Inquiry into the proceedings of a judicial body, those disadvantages were less than would result if they allowed this condition of things to continue, without any effort whatever to get an authoritative pronouncement on the grounds on which the sub-Commissioners were proceeding. ["Hear, hear!"] That was the reason why they thought it their duty to appoint a Commission, and he thought that even hon. Members opposite, with very few exceptions, had not complained of the fairness of the personnel of the Commission. [Nationalist laughter.] He was perfectly aware that the hon. Member for South Donegal had devoted a considerable portion of his speech to a criticism of the members of the Commission, but he believed that if the gentleman appointed had not on the whole formed a fair and proper tribunal to arrive at a conclusion on the matter there would have been a howl all over Ireland, very different from the subdued criticisms that had been passed. The hon. Member for South Donegal said that the Government ought not to have appointed Sir Edward Fry, because they previously criticised the appointment of Mr. Justice Mathew. But they criticised the appointment of Mr. Justice Mathew because he was at the time acting in the capacity of a Judge. Sir Edward Fry had ceased to be a Lord Justice of Appeal. Did the hon. Member mean that the Government ought not to appoint any one of a judicial character? Sir Edward Fry was no longer a Judge, and therefore the criticism passed on Mr. Justice Mathew did not apply. Now he would look at the two experts. The hon. Member had been able to say nothing against them. These two gentlemen were eminent in their profession, and one was a Scotchman and one an Englishman. It would have been impossible to find any distinguished valuer in Ireland whom both sides would have regarded as fair, and for that reason the 139 Government had appointed an Englishman and a Scotchman. He then came to the Irish Members of the Commission. The hon. Member contended that Dr. Traill represented the landlords rather than the tenants. When the Commission was started the Government had hoped to find impartial men in Ireland, but further consideration made it painfully evident that it would be absolutely impossible to obtain two perfectly impartial Irishmen—[laughter and Nationalist cries of "Oh!"]—who, being such, would also be recognised as being impartial by both sides. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not say there was not an impartial man in Ireland, but there was no man who was not known to have held opinions inclining in one direction or the other. The Government had endeavoured, therefore, to appoint two Irishmen, one of whom should be an acknowledged representative of the landlords and the other a recognised representative of the tenants. [Cries of "No, no!"] Any fair-minded man would hold that Mr. Fottrell, who was a very able man indeed, was identified with the cause of the tenants rather than with the cause of the landlords. [Cries of "No, no!"] He had absolute confidence himself in the impartiality of this Commission. The personnel had been selected with great care and trouble, and he did not believe that a better tribunal could be found to inquire into the difficult matter committed to them. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork Co., N.)
said that the right hon. Gentleman's argument, summarised, was this—because you cannot get absolutely impartial men in Ireland, therefore, you ought to appoint a tribunal strongly partial to the landlords.The hon. Member for Derby, whose intervention in a Debate on Irish affairs Irish Members were quite ready to welcome, expressed some difficulty in endeavouring to discuss this Vote. He quite appreciated that difficulty. The Chief Secretary reminded him of the extraordinary character, Pooh Bah, in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Mikado," for the right hon. Gentleman was President of the Local Government Board, head of the Fisheries Department, head of the Veterinary Department, Education Minister, and was responsible for the 140 whole Irish policy. But the hon. Member for Derby had brought some rather interesting matter into the discussion, and he would like to point out that the housing of the labouring classes in Ireland had much improved, and was an improvement on what it was in many parts of England. That this was so was due to the fact that the Act had been administered by Nationalist Boards of Guardians. ["Hear, hear!"] There was one other point on which the hon. Member might wish to be enlightened, and that was in connection with the small towns and the improvement of their condition. In Loughrea, for instance, there was a ground landlord and no local board, and no improvement could be looked for at the hands of the ground landlord of Loughrea. The right hon. Gentleman was neglecting a great opportunity for settling the Education Question. When, eight years ago the First Lord of the Treasury occupied a seat on that Bench as Chief Secretary, he made a strong speech in favour of the settlement of the University Question, and he promised that the Government would take an early opportunity of dealing with it, but from that day to this nothing had been done. The right hon. Gentleman was now in a higher position, and he had now a great opportunity—a most golden opportunity—for grappling with the question. He had heard the declaration of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. He had a majority of 150 at his back. Again, surely it was easy under the circumstances to settle the burning question of primary education.
§ MR. FLYNN
hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not neglect this matter of primary education. He indulged the hope that between this and next Session the right hon. Gentleman would devote some attention to the subject, and do something to settle a great grievance. With regard to the Land Commission, the right hon. Gentlemen said the Government were trying to satisfy the agitation on both sides, but if the agitation had been on the part of the tenants would a Royal Commission have been obtained? ["Hear, hear!"] He thought not. This Royal Commission 141 would not settle the matter—it would unsettle it. The Commission was granted in answer to an agitation skilfully effected by the landlords in another place. Still he doubted whether the Commission would do any good. They were told that it was to be impartial. No one believed that. Mr. Fotterill was put on as a kind of balance, he supposed, to Mr. Traill, the latter a landlord of the reactionary type. He was one who thought that legislation had been carried to a revolutionary extent. This was the man who was placed on the Commission to counteract Mr. Fotterell, who had frequently acted for landlords. Therefore, instead of settling the question, they had, in his opinion taken a wrong and dangerous step towards the dissatisfaction of the people of Ireland. They were pulling up the plant to see how it was growing, and this they were doing in answer to the clamour of a small section of Irish landlords. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for Mayo, why should they apply indifferent doctrine to Ireland from the law as it was applied to Trades Unions in England? The Irish constabulary did to an Irish crowd what the police in this country would never dare to do to the people. The reason was that Parliament was amenable to public opinion, and the Irish Executive was not so amenable. That Executive did not care a button about Irish public opinion, but the Government did care for public opinion here, because it was strong and returned a large number of Members to the House. If the Executive found themselves constrained to order the police to enter into conflict with the people they ought unquestionably to issue instructions to the effect that the operation should be carried out with as much regard to decency as possible. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would give them some assurance that if meetings were to be prevented in future they would be prevented with the least possible violence.
§ SIR THOMAS LEA (Londonderry, S.)
wished to say a few words with regard to the administration of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gerald Balfour) in Ireland. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had made a mistake in agreeing to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Land Acts in 142 Ireland—["Hear, hear!"]—because he believed that it would not have the effect of satisfying either Party. ["Hear, hear!"] There was one grievance which sometimes the Irish people laboured under, and that was that when the Chief Secretary had the appointment of members to representative bodies, he did not always see that the true feeling of a district was represented. There was the case of the Board of Control which had forced the County of Londonderry to build a new asylum, the county having no proper representation on the Board. It might be that the Board of Control was free of his authority and that the Government could not exercise a ruling voice over that body, but he thought that it should not have been allowed to decide finally without consulting local opinion.
§ SIR THOMAS LEA
said it was true that the Board of Control had statutory powers under which it acted. The Asylums Board for the County of Derry did not represent the county; all the Local Boards passed resolutions against the proposed asylum which was to be erected at a cost of £150,000. A more gross action, contrary to the old maxim that taxation and representation should go together, he did not know. Only little more than the City of Londonderry was represented on the Board, while the barony of Magherafelt, which would have to bear one-third of the taxation, would have only one representative on the controlling body consisting of 15 or 20 members. The Attorney General for Ireland represented a division of the county which was equally poorly represented. He hoped that this matter would have the careful consideration of the Chief Secretary, because North and South Derry alike cried out against the present state of things. He did not see why the opinions of the local authorities, the Board of Guardians should be ignored, and he trusted that in making any further appointments the Chief Secretary would bear these facts in mind. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DENIS KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)
said the Chief Secretary had renewed the pledge he gave the other night that within the present financial year he would come to the relief of the ratepayers of the Belmullet Union. He understood 143 that in the Poor Law Relief Bill the right hon. Gentleman included four other unions, the Listowel, the Oughterard and two others.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he stated that of the distressed unions, the case of Belmullet was amongst the hardest.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
said that the late Board of Guardians at Belmullet estimated that a rate of 12s. 6d. in the £ would be necessary. Surely if that estimate was at all correct, there was no need for further delay in coming to the relief of the ratepayers. The Chief Secretary also said that at the present time peace and contentment prevailed in Ireland to a much larger extent than it had for many years past. As far as outward appearances went, peace did prevail in Ireland, but the right hon. Gentleman had no evidence that contentment prevailed. He supposed the right hon. Gentleman went on the old supposition that when the Irish tenant farmers were not shooting landlords they were contented. He feared that some fine morning the Chief Secretary would have a rude awakening that the Irish tenant farmers were not satisfied with the Land Act. If there was no agitation in Ireland why had the Government appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the procedure, practices, and methods of valuation of the Land Commission? Did the right hon. Gentleman not tell them it was better to appoint this Commission than that agitation should continue both on the part of the landlords and of the tenants? Lord Salisbury told a deputation of Irish landlords that at this time of day the class or section of the community that did not agitate would go to the wall. He did not often agree with the Prime Minister, but in that contention he agreed with him entirely. The Chairman of the Commission was to be an English ex-Judge of Appeal. No doubt he was an able and learned man, but what special qualifications did he possess for the position of Chairman of this new Commission? As far as he knew, this gentleman had no qualification whatsoever for this office, because he had no practical experience of the administration of the Irish Land Laws, which were entirely different from those of England. They were told this 144 Commission was appointed to stop agitation. Whatever way they reported, it would only have the effect of increasing agitation on the other side, and would do much to unsettle what had been settled in the past. This Royal Commission was a body that was to sit in judgment on the Land Judges of Ireland. For the first time in the history of this country a judicial body, by the sanction of the Government, had to have their conduct inquired into by a Royal Commission. They had thus the extraordinary circumstances that a Conservative Government were the first to appoint a Commission to inquire into the action of Judges whose salaries were in the Consolidated Funds, and who were as much Judges as those of the Court of Queen's Bench or Exchequer. He wanted to know how an Englishman's respect for law and order would be increased if this or any other Government appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the action of English Judges? Respect for law and order in Ireland was little enough as it was, and it would not be increased by the appointment of this Commission. As for Dr. Traill, another member of the Commission, he was notoriously a landlord partisan, and as for Mr. George Fotterell, he would like the Chief Secretary to point to a single case where he sacrificed a penny in the interest of the Irish tenant farmer. He knew of no case where Mr. Fotterell was actuated by any desire to benefit the tenants at all. He was simply desirous of increasing his own professional business and of earning the 2 per cent. to which he was entitled for every purchase transaction which he was instrumental in bringing about between landlord and tenant. He would ask the Chief Secretary, Did the Report of the Cowper Commission—a Commission which, to a large extent, was analogous to the present one—stop the land agitation in Ireland? It did not; neither would the Report of this Commission. The result of the Report of this Commission would be exactly the same as that of the Cowper Commission, and instead of bringing about a cessation, it would be a fruitful source of continued agitation both on the part of the landlords and tenants.
§ MR. COGHILL (Stoke-on-Trent)
observed that he had had experience since he had been in Parliament of three Irish 145 Chief Secretaries—namely, the right hon. Member for West Bristol, the First Lord of the Treasury, and the present Chief Secretary—and he was bound to say that under the rule of the last-named right hon. Gentleman Ireland had been more peaceable and, as far as all outward evidence went, more prosperous than under that of his two predecessors. He was encouraged to take part in the discussion by the reference of the hon. Member opposite to English Members. On Saturday he was in an outburst of temper assailed by an hon. Gentleman near him for taking part in an Irish discussion.
§ MR. CARSON
said he did not raise any objection to English Members taking part in the Debate, he simply recommended that they should understand the subject under discussion.
§ MR. COGHILL
said he did not on a Saturday afternoon deem it his duty to weary the House with facts and figures which had been presented over and over again and were to be found in reference books. He had wished to make his remarks as short as possible, and if he might make a suggestion in reply it was that before he proceeded to lecture an English Member on the propriety of taking part in an Irish discussion, the hon. and learned Gentleman should qualify himself by becoming the representative of a popular constituency and not creep into the House by the back door of Dublin University. ["Hear, hear!"] He heartily agreed in the protest of the Chief Secretary in regard to the action of certain Unionist Members. When hon. Members on the other side urged claims against the British Exchequer he, though he might vote against the demand, quite understood their attitude, but he protested against Unionist members joining in these attempted raids on the British Exchequer. He congratulated the Chief Secretary on his resistance and assured him that in continuing this resistance to such insidious attacks he would retain the confidence and support of English and Scotch Members in spite of jeers and gibes and sarcastic sneers.
§ MR. P. C. DOOGAN (Tyrone, E.)
said the Chief Secretary must not take to himself the credit for the present peaceful state of Ireland; the present state of peace was due to the poverty of Ireland, 146 the state of depression from which the country suffered and did not indicate that the people were reconciled to the administration of the Land Acts, for reductions in rents had not been in conformity with the fall in prices. The right hon. Gentleman claimed approval of the appointment of this Commission because he said if it had been otherwise there would have been a howl of dissent all over Ireland. From this he was glad to learn that the expression of public opinion had some weight with the right hon. Gentleman, but he must not conclude that because in the present condition of things there had been little agitation the Commission was approved. In excusing himself for not bringing forward measures for the material advantage of Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman could not see that legislation for University education was in that direction, but surely it could not be deemed that higher education had nothing to do with the material progress of a nation and the fact that four-fifths of the population were debarred from this higher education, certainly in his view retarded material progress. The primary education of the country was discussed last year, and some sharp criticisms were passed upon the national system. He would be glad to know if the right hon. Gentlemen had directed the attention of the National Commissioners to the points brought under discussion.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said these were matters which should be raised on the Education Vote.
§ MR. DOOGAN
said he was referring to this as a matter of general administration. Several Questions had been asked in the House on the Fee Grant and matters of that kind, and the answers of the Chief Secretary had not been satisfactory.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said the proper place to raise these questions was on discussion of the Education Vote.
§ MR. DOOGAN
turning from that subject referred to the observations of the Chief Secretary upon the letter of his hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo. Without doubt it was of vital importance to the tenants of Ireland that their rights under the Land Act should not be frittered away at the instigation 147 of a combination of landlords, and a counter combination became necessary. If the industries of England had not been well organised and combined in trades unions, the rights of labour against capital would not be maintained in the safe position they now occupied, and in the same way tenants representing the main industry of Ireland must combine for protection. The Chief Secretary must not deceive himself by the apparent state of tranquillity in Ireland. Continual disregard of the complaints of farmers of the Land Act administration would lead to an eruption of feeling, and again there would be a disturbed and turbulent Ireland to deal with. It must not be supposed that the state of Ireland was the result of Government administration, it was the result of a keen struggle against poverty and of dissensions among the Irish Party.
§ MR. DILLON
said he was unaware that a discussion on the appointment of the Commission would have been in order or he would have dealt with the subject in moving the reduction of the Vote. The Chief Secretary had made some singular and astonishing statements in his reply. He had been asked why the Government had adopted the policy of appointing a Commission of inquiry, and he replied, because they thought it was the lesser evil as compared with agitation on the part of landlords and tenants. This was surprising when the history of the appointment of the Commission was recalled. The landlords started strong opposition when judicial rents were being fixed on reductions from the first term. They appealed to the Prime Minister, who told them in words already quoted to go home and agitate, because the party that did not agitate would go to the wall. So then the great evil of agitation was started on the advice of the Prime Minister. In the letter from himself the Chief Secretary had quoted, he took up a position that he maintained that the present reduced rents were more difficult to pay, were comparatively heavier under the present prices of labour and produce than were the old rents before 1879. It was a practical truth, no farmer would deny. He pointed out that there was a combination of Irish landlords, and that there were evidences 148 that the pressure of their agitation was beginning to have effect, and he told the tenants that if they did not meet the combination of landlords by counter combination their interests would go to the wall. He believed the Chief Secretary would find that this Commission would have no effect whatever in staying agitation in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted certain resolutions which had been passed in the North of Ireland welcoming his inquiry, but he must have noticed that what they welcomed was a fairly-constituted inquiry. There was no one on the tenants' side who would object to a fair inquiry. On the contrary, they would be perfectly willing to meet it, although they would still hold to the opinion that it was an absurd policy to inquire in the second year into the operations of a Court dealing with great interests. The reason for the outcry against this inquiry in Ireland was that it was given in answer to a request of the Irish landlords, which was based on the one ground that the reductions given by the sub-Commissioners were entirely too large. In all sincerity he asked the Chief Secretary whether, supposing the sub-Commissioners, who, it must be remembered, were all appointed by a landlord Government, had, in fixing the second term judicial rents, given no reductions at all and the tenants' representative had demanded an inquiry, would they have got it? The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that such a demand would have been absolutely refused. This inquiry was granted for the purpose of stopping the reductions of judicial rents given by Judges, every one of whom was named by the right hon. Gentleman himself. To grant such an inquiry for the purpose of checking, controlling and limiting the action of those Judges was, in their opinion, to pile injustice upon injustice. The Court had been packed in the interests of the landlords. In saying that he did not moan to charge the right hon. Gentleman with packing the Court. He honestly believed he was guilty of no such intention, but that the circumstances of his surroundings made it impossible for him to man the Land Courts either with impartial Judges or with an equal number of men representative of each side of this great question. Yet, in spite of the fact that, 149 by an enormous majority, they were partisans of the landlords, they had been forced by the overwhelming strength of the case to give these reductions, and it was an absolute injustice to appoint a Commission to override what they had done in the interests of the landlords. He had a word or two to say with regard to the composition of the Commission. The right hon. Gentleman had taken one gentleman who was a very particular friend of his own and a man of the strictest integrity and honour, but it was preposterous to represent him as a partisan of the tenants. He was nothing of the sort. He was a professional gentleman who had taken neither side, who had acted as the employé of the landlords, and who had, notoriously, conducted the greater part of the business for the landlords under the Ashbourne Acts. As for the other Irishman, he was not only a partisan of the landlords, but actually had recently been a suitor before the Court which he was now to be called upon to try. He thought that was an indecent appointment. This man, who was notoriously in Ireland, one of the most rabid, hot tempered and unreasonable partisans of the landlord cause in the whole of the country, was put into a position which he would venture to say, he was absolutely and utterly unsuited for. He might just as well have taken one of the most active and prominent Members from those Benches and put him in that position. So much for the Irish members of the Commission. What of the English members? The right hon. Gentleman had selected a Judge whom he knew to be a man of the very highest character in every respect, but he very much doubted whether an English Judge, accustomed to the ordinary procedure of the English law, was the best person to preside over a Commission which was to investigate and report upon a code of the most complicated laws which was as different from anything known to the English law as one thing could possibly be from another. He thought it would be found that Mr. Justice Fry would be utterly at sea, and would not be at all suited by his previous training for the work he had been asked to undertake. As to the other two gentlemen, they had no surety whatever that they would not be very strong partisans of the landlord interest. They 150 were landlords, he was informed, but he knew nothing in their favour and nothing against them. They were asked to accept blindly the assurances of the right hon. Gentleman that the English members of the Commission were strictly impartial, but if they judged them by that part of this Commission which they knew, then he was bound to say that he pitied the fate of the Irish tenants if their fate was to be dependent on the Commission. He took the strongest exception to the argument that because there was peace in Ireland at the present time, therefore there was contentment. The Irish people never were more discontented, and he defied the right hon. Gentleman to go to any place outside Belfast and one or two other large places in the north, and obtain at a public meeting a vote of approval of his administration or legislation. He was sorry that the Unionist Government had not availed themselves of the interval of peace to pass some really beneficial legislation for Ireland.
§ MR. MICHAEL AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)
wished to call attention to one department of the Vote, and that was the Board of Control.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
intimated that he could not raise the question of the Board of Control on the present Vote.
§ MR. JAMES JOHN SHEE (Waterford, W.)
reminded the Committee that in December last it was the duty of the Chief Secretary to select a large number of sub-Commissioners for the administration of the Land Acts in Ireland. He believed he was correct in saying that of the whole sub-Commissioners, two-thirds, or about 60 in all, were appointed by the Chief Secretary. If they were not to take it that the right hon. Gentleman exhausted the entire number of impartial persons, they must come to the conclusion that in making the appointments he had selected persons who admittedly were not impartial. The hon. Member for East Mayo had referred to the history of the appointment of this Royal Commission. When the Irish landlords visited London for the purpose of interviewing the Prime Minister, they were told by Lord Salisbury that a Commission would be very inefficient to attain the ends they 151 had in view. Perhaps he might give an explanation which would account for the change. On that very occasion when the Prime Minister told the deputation that he regarded a Royal Commission as a very inefficient instrument for the objects they had in view, he also used the remarkable words which had been quoted that the party or body of persons which did not agitate would go to the wall. Acting on that recommendation the influential deputation representing the landowners' convention went back to Ireland, and what happened? Steps were taken to summon a large convention of landlords, and at that convention a resolution was passed calling on the Government to appoint a Commission to inquire into the alleged enormous reductions given by the sub-Commissioners. Soon after the Government decided to appoint the Commission. In considering the personnel of that Commission, the Chief Secretary had to resort to the expedient of putting on one man to balance the other. But Mr. Fotterell, who was supposed to be the representative of the tenants' interests, had never been known to take the tenants' side publicly, while Dr. Traill, the representative of the landlords, was well known as an active partisan of landord interests. Then Mr. Fotterell was solicitor to a number of the men who took part in the deputation to Lord Salisbury in March last. The hon. Member for Derby had asked why the Housing of the Working Classes Act was not put in force in Waterford. The reason was that the working men in Ireland had no votes for the municipal councils as they had in England. The same explanation applied to the non-application of the Labourers' Acts in Ireland. As to Lough Rea, Lord Clanricarde was the landlord there. In Limerick, Lord Clarina was a member of the Board of Guardians, and he declared last year that any man in his employment who took possession of a house erected by the Board of Guardians would be dismissed.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I do not see how this arises out of the Vote for the Chief Secretary's salary. There is a separate Vote for the Local Government Board.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I have ruled that the hon. Member is out of order. The question ought to be raised on the Local Government Board Vote.
§ MR. SHEE
said that he would not pursue the point. The effect of the appointment of the Royal Commission had been that within the last year a complete transformation had taken place in the percentage of the reductions granted by the sub-Commissioners. Where, in the south of Ireland, the sub-Commissioners were last year giving reductions of 30 per cent., now they gave reductions averaging less than 20 per cent. On some estates the reduction granted by the sub-Commissioners had been much less than the voluntary abatements considered a year ago by the landlords. The sub-Commissioners and tenants both realised that the Royal Commission was appointed to serve the landlords' and not the tenants' interests.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid.)
said that as the axe of the Executive was to fall in three-quarters of an hour, this Vote could only be discussed sub terrore. The Vote ought to be considered much more seriously than was now possible. It had been deferred until the last moment, when it was not possible that there should be a full attendance of Irish Members. He was not prepared to beslaver the Chief Secretary, whose sua-viter in modo possibly excelled his fortiter in re. What had the right hon. Gentleman done? He had done little else than answer questions during the present Session.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
observed that neither of those were administrative Acts. They were both legislative. The action of the Chief 153 Secretary in bringing in Bills or his omission to bring in Bills could not be discussed upon this Vote.
§ DR. TANNER
said that in view of the Chairman's ruling he would confine his remarks to the subject of the Royal Commission that had been appointed to inquire into the administration of the Land Acts. The Government had appointed 43 temporary sub-Commissioners and 28 permanent Commissioners. The temporary Commissioners' position would depend upon the findings of the new Commission that had been appointed. That could hardly fail to influence them, and it looked as if the object of the Government was to bring pressure to bear upon these sub-Commissioners. Already they were raising-rents, and the same reductions as were given a few months ago were no longer being given. Mr. Fotterell, who had been appointed on the Royal Commission, had been employed by some landlords as their local agent. The position of the temporary sub-Commissioners was very precarious, and he believed that the appointment of the Royal Commission was the result of a conspiracy on the part of the landlords. The appointment of the sub-Commissioners—
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The question of the nomination, of the sub-Commissioners ought to be raised on the Vote for the Land Commission. It is only the Royal Commission that can be discussed in this Vote.
§ DR. TANNER
said that the administrative Acts of the Chief Secretary came to next to nothing, and it was difficult to find fault with nothing. A cypher represented what the Chief Secretary had done. The right hon. Member believed that things were going on smoothly in Ireland, but he was in error. The right hon. Member ought to do more for his salary. He hoped that before very long the right hon. Gentleman would come down and pay some personal attention to the country, notably to the western portion of the district he represented. If he did so he expected they would get more work and less promises from the right hon. Gentleman. After all fine words buttered no parsnips. [Laughter.] He had got a good deal out of some of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors, and it was by urging them to come down and give a little more personal investigation 154 to the subject. If that were done the people would not be so dissatisfied. They were called upon to pass a large and unmerited salary, for the right hon. Gentleman did little in Ireland except paying attention to His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, and occasionally getting himself up in gala dress.
§ MR. J. GILHOOLY (Cork Co., W.)
said he had put some questions to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to Crook haven Pier, and the answer had been that the pier was private property. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence with the Congested Districts Board in order that this pier might be put in an efficient state of repair.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said the proper place to raise a question connected with the Congested Districts Board would be when the Vote for that Board was taken.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
, continuing, said he wished to refer to the action which the right hon. Gentleman approved of in connection with the breaking up of a public meeting in the West of Ireland. They were told that they were to have the same treatment as Scotland or England, but he would remind the Committee that the action of the dockers in the East-end and the miners in Durham had gone far beyond the action of the men who took part in the meeting in Ireland which had been broken up. The right hon. Gentleman would not be able to govern Ireland by brute force. With regard to the new Royal Commission to inquire into the Land Acts, he denied that Mr. Fotterell was a friend of the tenants. The people of Ireland would not be contented if the finding of that Commission were such as to deprive the tenant farmers of Ireland of the fruits of their industry.
§ DR. TANNER
said he wished to point out that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord said on the point of order that no question could be discussed on the Appropriation Bill which could not be discussed in Supply.
§ Question put, "That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £1,000, in respect of the salary of the Chief Secretary."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 45; Noes, 121.—(Division List, No. 359).155
§ MR. MICHAEL AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)
said he wished to direct attention to a department which the Chief Secretary said did not come within this Vote. He would like to know how the Committee was to get at the Board of Control?
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The Board of Control is not under the control of the Chief Secretary. He is not responsible for that Department.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
Nobody is responsible. It was set up under Statute, and it is not responsible to this House.
§ MR. AUSTIN
Notwithstanding what the decisions of the Board of Control may be, we have no control over them?
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.