Adjourned Debate on Question (4th July)—
That the disproportion between the taxation of Ireland and its taxable capacity, as compared with the other parts of the kingdom, disclosed by the findings of the Royal Commission, constitutes a grievance, and demands the early attention of the Government, with a view to proposing a remedy."—(Mr. John Redmond.)
§ Question again proposed: Debate resumed.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I have always observed that Irish Debates have features differing from those of all other Debates, but of all the Irish Debates in which I have assisted in my time I think the present affords the most remarkable spectacle. Who would have believed a few years ago that we should have the Nationalist Members for Ireland sitting below the Gangway, and some Ulster Members on this side sitting below the Gangway, all clinging like grim death to the plank of the Union, while we have, on the other hand, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Unionist Government diligently employed in chipping the plank away, in order that the unhappy crew may be precipitated soon to the bottom! That remarkable attitude, I think, has never before been assumed by parties in the House of Commons, even in historic times. I have always felt that this was an extremely difficult subject to bring satisfactorily before the House of Commons. I have been a Member of this Assembly now for I am afraid to say how many years, and, in common with 1123 other Members, have become more or less impregnated with the spirit of the House. I think I understand pretty well what the House of Commons likes and what it does not like, and I know it is always very difficult to persuade the House to do that which it is not accustomed to, and which it naturally dislikes. For many years past—I know not how many—the House of Commons has been engaged in doing what is called justice to Ireland, but they have always been just and generous to Ireland at other people's expense, and not at their own. If at the present moment we were to ask the House of Commons to do an act of justice to Ireland at the expense of some Irish institution or some Irish class, I do not think there would be much difficulty in persuading the House to adopt our way of thinking. But I do not think there is any Irish institution left for the House to despoil to satisfy the demands of some section of the Irish people. They had the Irish Church, and it was not very difficult to induce them to disestablish and disendow it. Then they had the Irish land, and the Irish landlord was always looked upon as fair game; and therefore, unless the House of Commons are willing to put their hands in their own pockets, there is no hope of getting an act of justice done to the country from which we come. They see Ireland on the wayside, and, like the Levite, they go by on the other side, and probably for the same reason, because the thieves have been there before them and left nothing to take away. Realising, as I have done, the difficulty of persuading the House of Commons to take a line that is naturally distasteful to it, I have come to the conclusion that in the circumstances the worst action to take is to rub the House of Commons up the wrong way. And in that respect I find myself confronted by a very considerable difficulty entirely caused by the course pursued in Ireland by some Nationalist Members, and especially by the honourable Member for East Mayo. The honourable Member, no doubt, has a perfect right to hold his own opinions, but I only wish he could have given vent to them at some other period of the year. 1124 He, however, went to a Nationalist, meeting in the north of Ireland, and declared that he, and those who acted with him, adopted the principles and endorsed the deeds of the men of '98. If it be true that the majority of the Irish people endorse the deeds of murder and outrage upon defenceless people committed by the men of '98—I admit that there were deeds of savage brutality done also by the other side—I can conceive an English or a Scotch Member getting up and saying, "If that is true of the Irish people, the less money they have the better, and we won't give them a farthing." That I think represents the feelings of the great majority of the Irish people. I do not say for a moment that the great majority of the Irish people are in love with England. I do not say that the great majority of the Irish people are not anxious, if possible, to get rid of English rule; I daresay they are ready and willing to get rid of English rule, or any rule, but I absolutely refuse to believe that the people have any desire whatever to repeat the deeds which were done towards the end of the last century, or to embrue their hands in the blood of their fellow-countrymen. I do not believe that the honourable Member for East Mayo has any desire to see those days repeated, nor do I believe that he wishes to return to the horrors of Vinegar Hill, Wexford Bridge, or Scullabogue. What I believe the great majority of the Irish are anxious to do is to kick out the English with as little violence as possible. I daresay that some such desire as that is characteristic of the Irish people, and that difficulty is in my way. I can only hope, however, that the Members of the House of Commons who have heard these speeches will not allow their minds to be turned away from doing what we contend to be an act of simple justice to Ireland for that reason. I have no intention whatever of flooding the House with a cataract of figures; I think we have exhausted the arithmetical considerations of this Motion. All has been said that can be said on one side or the other, so far as figures are concerned, in connection with these financial relations; and I do not know whether, as far as the result goes, the House is much 1125 wiser. At any rate, I do not intend to follow that course, because I can place before the House of Commons, in a very few words, the position that I take, and the position those who sympathise with me take, which is, I believe, the position taken by the majority of honourable Gentlemen from Ireland who sit opposite. We believe, first of all, that the Act of Union was a solemn engagement entered into by the contracting parties. We believe the seventh clause of the Act of Union clearly states, and places clearly before the eye, one of the main points of grievance. The Irish people naturally realised that they were a much poorer people than the partner with whom they were going to be allied. Besides that, the Irish people at that time remembered the days of Grattan's Parliament. Grattan's Parliament was, in my opinion, a very successful Parliament. At that time Irish expenditure and Irish income balanced themselves; therefore, the Irish people remembered Grattan's Parliament, and were very loth to enter into an agreement which might bind them to a future expenditure which they would be unable to pay. Certainly, Grattan's Parliament was a great success, though I have never been able to understand why it was so popular in the minds of honourable Gentlemen opposite, because if a Parliament on similar lines existed in Ireland to-day, nine-tenths of the honourable Gentlemen opposite would be excluded from its walls, because no Roman Catholic was admitted. But, at any rate, the Irish people were grateful to this Parliament, and Lord Castlereagh, in carrying the Union, laid immense stress, as also did Mr. Pitt, upon the fact that when this Union took place the amount of taxation to be levied in Ireland should be in conformity with her capacity to pay, and that it should not exceed that capacity. Well, Sir, that Union took place, and in 1817 a new arrangement took place. There was a Consolidated Fund, but there was nothing to show that in the minds of British statesmen at that time there was any idea of departing from the bargain of the Union. Now, here I join issue with my right honourable Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the 1126 Exchequer said, in his speech yesterday, that the year 1817, which made the taxation of the country indiscriminate, did away altogether with the exceptional arrangement which was entered into at the Union. I absolutely and entirely deny that. This is not a new-fangled idea of ours that we have started during the last few years for the first time. It has gone on all along, and until the year 1853 it was admitted that Ireland was to be dealt with financially in a different manner from the rest of the Empire. In 1842 and in 1845, when Sir Robert Peel brought in his income tax, he refused, on constitutional grounds, to allow income tax to be levied in Ireland. Lord Palmerston was of the same opinion; and it was not until 1853, when Mr. Gladstone struck Ireland a blow from which she is reeling still by adding £2,500,000 to her taxation, that income tax was levied. He dealt that blow with one hand, whilst he offered a sort of sop with the other. During the famine this country advanced altogether somewhere about £4,000,000 to Ireland. At first sight that appears to be a very generous gift; but it was not a gift, because this money was turned into consolidated annuities, and was saddled on the poor law unions of Ireland; and in 1853 Mr. Gladstone, in his speech, showed how generous he was to Ireland in sweeping away this sum that had been added to her debt, and, at the same time, he imposed the income tax and raised the spirit duties. He admitted that, although he had taken away this large sum of money from the debit side of Ireland, he had imposed another tax which would increase Irish taxation, but he pointed out that that would only be for a short time. The income tax is still levied, and the spirit duties have never been decreased. Therefore I venture to point out that we are not alone in taking this view, but that great statesmen, long before our day, most of whom have passed away, took exactly the same view—namely, that Ireland was to be looked upon as a separate entity on the question of taxation. Then, again, the question was raised in 1865. Mr. Pope Hennessy brought forward the questions of the condition of Ireland, especially with reference to the question of 1127 over-taxation, and Mr. Gladstone made a speech, in which, he said that he refused to deal with Ireland or with any other part of the Empire in a geographical manner, because every part of the Empire was the same, and he refused to look at it in any other light. That is very much the view taken by my right honourable Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But, Sir, a most notable speech was made in the course of that Debate. A speaker got up, and, in reply to Mr. Gladstone, he pointed out that in remembering the history of British dealings with Ireland it should never be forgotten that in years gone by this House had destroyed her industries, and looking back on these things, although the generation in which he was then living was not answerable for them—remembering these things, he said that you ought to deal in an exceptional way with a country whose prosperity you have destroyed. Who was it who uttered those words? Lord Robert Cecil. I appeal from Lord Robert Cecil in the House of Commons to Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords. I appeal to Lord Salisbury against his Chancellor of the Exchequer, who sits on the Treasury Bench. The speech then made by Lord Robert Cecil, if spoken in this House now, would have met nearly all the conditions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech, after going through a multitude of figures, showed that the Irishman is not more taxed than the Englishman or the Scotchman. He proved that undoubtedly. Indeed, the Irishman does not pay so much. We never contended that he did. We do not say that we are suffering because we are individually taxed more than you are here. We say that we are less able to pay than you are. We say, here is a bargain that you made with us, and we now wish it to be fulfilled. That is the line we are taking. My right honourable Friend went on to show that the amount that the Irish contribute to the Imperial necessities is greatly diminished. At one time it was £4,000,000; it then diminished to £2,000,000.; and now my right honourable Friend points out that Irish contributions have shrunk from 1128 £2,176,000 in 1896–97 to £1,980,000 in 1897–98. That is a very great shrinkage. But what does it mean? It means to say that in some way or another running Ireland is a very expensive job. We have nothing to say to that. We do not run Ireland. That I take is the duty of the Government in the House of Commons. This shrinkage, in other words, means that if you deduct this £1,980,000 to which the contribution, according to my right honourable Friend, has shrunk, from £8,000,000, which is the whole amount of Irish taxation, you will find that it costs £6,020,000 to run Ireland. I want to know, can we possibly accept that as correct? I do not know any man who is clever enough—even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has got the assistance of so many able men in his office, although you can prove anything by figures—to prove to me it costs £6,020,000 to run Ireland. That is something that I cannot possibly believe. I can only conceive that enormous figure being attained by putting down to the expense of running Ireland sums which ought to be placed to the Imperial account. I know that one set-off is invariably the expense of the Irish constabulary. We are told that a great boon was conferred on Ireland when the cost of the Irish constabulary was taken over by the Imperial Exchequer. At one time it was paid partly by the counties and partly by the Exchequer, and then the whole expense was taken over by the British Exchequer. But the very same moment that this boon was given, to Ireland an almost similar boon was given to England—that is to say, the prisons which were paid for by the counties were taken over by the State, and the principal part of the expense of Crown prosecutions was also taken over by the Treasury, making a very large sum taken away. Therefore you must deduct what you have given us from what you have given to the rest of the country. The House does not seem to understand why we Irishmen refuse to accept as a set-off something that you give to the rest of the country—to Scotland, to England, and to Wales. I will tell you the reason why. Part of the money which pays what you give to Wales and to Scotland 1129 comes out of Irish, pockets. That cannot be denied. If you give us a large grant, which you do not give to the rest of the Empire, well and good—that is a set-off; but you do not do that, and you ask us at the same time to be grateful to you for these things which, we say, and say with perfect truth, are not sets-off at all. Now, Sir, I may be asked what I hope may happen. Honourable Gentlemen opposite are in clover on this question, because they are bound to win whether or no. If you give a grant to Ireland, very naturally they will be satisfied, and, in common with, most other representatives, will get a certain amount of thanks from the Irish people. But if you refuse a grant I am not sure that they will be sorry, because they will have one of the most splendid grievances that ever delighted the hearts of the Irish people. The Irish people have had grievances in their day, no doubt, and those grievances have found expression in this House; but the Irish people knew that all this time they were suffering under a suppressed grievance which only now comes to the surface, and we all know that a suppressed grievance is more violent than an open grievance brought before the eye of man. This grievance, if unredressed, will undoubtedly provide honourable Gentlemen opposite with a topic which they can lay before the people of Ireland for years and years to come. On the other hand I have no such prospect in view. The honourable Gentleman the Member for Waterford concluded his speech yesterday with a kind of threat. He said if you refuse this request you will render the rule of England in Ireland impossible. I cannot unfortunately conclude with a threat, because there is no amount of injustice that I can conceive this House perpetrating to Ireland that will ever make me or my friends disloyal to this country. At the same time I cannot see why the House should not now deal generously with Ireland. You have had the Report of a Commission, and I do not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer found much fault with that Report. He practically admitted in his 1130 speech that the proportion between the wealth of Ireland and the wealth of England was not one-eleventh, but one-twentieth. In reading his speech to-day I gathered that he admitted that. The point he made was by showing the proportion that Ireland pays to the Empire and what the rest of the Empire pays. But if that is so, what we say is, can you reconcile it to your conscience, to the principles of fair dealing, that after having entered into a solemn compact with this country that you should deal with her in accordance with her capacity to pay, you should ignore a Report of this kind which points out this enormous discrepancy between what she can pay and what she does pay, and to do nothing to help her out of the financial quagmire into which you have plunged her? I cannot see why this House should refuse to grant our request. I do not ask that there should be any alteration of the customs between Ireland and the rest of the Empire—that would be absolutely impossible; but, as it has been clearly shown that you owe Ireland a debt of money on the ground of the bargain you made some 100 years ago, and it has been admitted all along by statesmen ever since, I do not see why you should not help us now, and give us back some of the money that you have taken away from our country. I entirely coincide with the views expressed by my right honourable Friend the Member for the University of Dublin. I do not take so large a view as honourable Gentlemen opposite do as to the amount of money we shall obtain, or ought to obtain, from England. I never could see that the amount was so great as was made out by some of the witnesses before that Commission, but I am fully persuaded in my own mind that the Irish people will follow me in this—that this country, under the bargain entered into, owes my country a large debt which she has never paid. I believe there is absolute unanimity amongst the Irish people on that point. There are some colleagues of mine in this House who do not act with me in this matter, but I think they represent an infinitesimal fraction of the Irish people. I know that in 1853 there was 1131 an absolute unanimity amongst the Irish Members against the proposal for the income tax, and amongst the speakers was a Mr. Macartney, who, I think, was related to the honourable Member who sits on the Treasury Bench, and I say that I am speaking now absolutely in the name of a united people. We believe we have a just and a righteous cause; we claim from you that which common honesty ought to make you give. We do not come suing in formâ pauperis; we were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech that, if we made out clearly that we had wants, he hoped the House would satisfy them. We do not come as beggars to your gate, but we come as Irishmen with whom you made a bargain, and who simply ask you to fulfil the terms of that bargain.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (York)
Mr. Speaker, as an Irishman and as a Unionist, I wish to say a few words on this question. I do not wish nor do I intend to go into any figures—I merely wish to lay my views before the House, and to say why I am content to vote for the Motion before us. This is one of the most complicated questions that has ever been brought before the House of Commons. On the one hand, everybody admits that Ireland is very heavily taxed, and they also admit that the population has decreased and that taxation has increased for a great number of years. On the other hand, it is perfectly true, as has been argued in this House, that no Irishman pays any more than any other individual in this Kingdom. That is perfectly true as far as taxation goes, and I for one deplore that the question of altering the taxation has been brought before the House at all, because I think that those people who think with me on this question must recognise that what is called the predominant partner, which is the English democracy, would not be at all inclined to say that the Irish people should pay less taxes than the people of this country, and I do not for a moment suggest that that is a good way of solving the question. The honourable Gentleman the Member for Islington put forward the 1132 view that if we were to embark on this kind of argument it would hold good with any other poor agricultural portion of this country. It is for that reason that I do not think that the argument of altering the taxation would hold good, and I entirely agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said that you must keep your Customs and Excise a level rate all over the country. But the question of Ireland is a different question to the question of England. It was brought out very clearly by honourable Gentlemen sitting on the opposite benches that you had no famines in England, you have had no rebellions in England, and you had also no great effort made which has been successful in doing away with the manufactures of this country. Unquestionably all these things have occurred in Ireland, and I would rather like to point out that this Government have recognised already that the question of Ireland is different to the question of England, because they have given moneys out of the Consolidated Fund to develop the resources of that country in order to put it in a better position all round, and so enable it to pay the taxes that may be placed upon it. My point of view is that the line, as proposed, should be carried on. I am entirely in accord with the right honourable Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin when he says that the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House has shown his sympathy for Ireland, and a great number of us are very grateful to him for what he has done. There is no doubt that the money devoted to the enlargement of the operations of the Congested Districts Board, the money devoted to light railways, and the money that might be devoted in other ways for developing the country, would be the right way to relieve the people of the taxation which now exists, looking to the fact that taxation is increasing while the numbers of the people are decreasing. Now, with regard to this I think, from my point of view, that you had better leave the Home Rule question alone altogether upon this matter. I am speaking as an Irishman, but not as a Home Ruler. If honourable 1133 Gentlemen opposite would take off their shirts to fight for Home Rule, I would take off my shirt to fight against it. I am an Irishman, and I entirely agree with the honourable and gallant Gentleman the Member for Armagh, Our point of view is that if you look at the compact of the Union, which has never been denied from any Bench, we consider that we are fairly entitled to have that compact kept in all honesty, and in all justice to our country; but if honourable Members opposite will bring up this Home Rule question, and attach to the consideration of these financial relations the taxation question, they must be prepared for the consequences. They must remember that the very first thing that must happen on the face of it, if they were to carry their point in regard to taxation, is, that their representation must be reduced by a very considerable amount. I do not say whether that would be for the good or otherwise of the Irish people; my own opinion is that it might be. If they bring this Home Rule question up they make this a party question, because that is essentially a party question, and, as far as Irishmen go, I do not think that this question of the financial relations is a party question, because all think that some remedy ought to be taken to put this matter right. But, as sure as honourable Members opposite keep on arguing that it is associated with Home Rule and with taxation, so surely, if they carry their point, will they have their representation reduced. What is the reason of all this trouble that we have in Ireland? It is what remains from injustice and from bad government in the past. Nobody who has ever read the history of Ireland can doubt but that it has been treated like a political football. Parties have promised this and have promised that, and, to use a somewhat vulgar expression, they sold Ireland. Ireland has not been treated fairly in the past; and what is the result? There are millions of Irishmen throughout the world who have got a hatred of England that has been born and bred in them, and that will take many years before you can eradicate it. I go to these questions only to answer some statements that have already been made. Now, with regard to our being 1134 bad agriculturists. Before the Act of 1870, how could an Irishman be a good agriculturist? There is not a landlord worthy of the name in Ireland that has ever said a word against the 1870 Act, because it is fair. Before the 1870 Act it was all against the tenant endeavouring to improve his land, because if he did so he had his rent enormously increased. Now what I would propose is that which has already been done; and, as I pointed out before, as the Government has recognised that Ireland is entitled to different treatment from England, then I suggest that there should be some grant made from the Consolidated Fund in order to enable the Irish people to develop their country and improve it. Now the Member for Plymouth rather seemed to think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not sympathetic in his remarks upon this question. I take leave to differ from the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Plymouth. I think the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were very sympathetic. He pointed out that something had been done for Ireland largely different from what had been done for England. He also said that if the Secretary for Ireland could prove to him that any money could be well invested in the same direction that he would be very happy to accede to that request. Therefore I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer viewed the question from all sides in a sympathetic way. There is another point which honourable Members suggested yesterday, and with which I entirely agree. I do not agree with the views they expressed with regard to the utility of the Army and Navy. I do think, however, that some of the money spent on both services ought to be invested in Ireland, and that we ought to increase, and largely increase, the dockyard at Queenstown, making it a repairing and building dockyard, and that we ought to do more for Belfast. As far as Belfast goes, I believe there is a great deal in the argument which has been used that so far as the building of ships is concerned at Belfast that is a question of tender on the part of the firms, and not of offer on the part of Her Majesty's Government; and I imagine that if the great firm in Belfast would tender for the building of battleships, they would 1135 find that the Government would be very glad to employ them.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
The Government have, I believe, this year spent a sum of something like £50,000 in putting up repairing-machinery at Queenstown. I wish it was a great deal more, and I hope that this Debate will encourage the Government to recognise Ireland and her right to have a substantial share of the large amount of money spent for defensive purposes. I believe this Debate will do a great deal of good. I agree with the right honourable Gentleman below me that the time has come when we shall have a better day in Ireland; but I hope that the English people will recognise that it is the government of the past that has created a great deal of the dissatisfaction and disloyalty, and, if I may use the expression, the "disagreeables" which exist now. Should they be generous—should they recognise that there is a debt due from England to Ireland which they can pay quite as easy as they can spend money in advancing Egypt and other places throughout the world—should they look at home to the heart of the Empire, and get a better feeling between the two countries, then I say it will be for the good of both, although unquestionably more for the good of Ireland than for the good of England. But do not forget that whatever is for the good of Ireland must be for the good of the whole Empire. I should like to hear some generous sentiments, and some kindly expressions of feeling made by Englishmen sitting in this House. I say that as an Irishman who recognises what has happened in the past. Let them do their best for the future to make matters go more smoothly, so that a more kindly feeling shall exist between the two countries in the future than has existed in the past. I hope that in the remarks that I have made I have given my reasons why I must vote for the whole of the honourable Member's proposal; but the part I really vote for is that it is the Government's duty to provide a remedy which I believe the whole of the Irish 1136 people, independent of party, religion, or politics, really believe, and honestly believe, is desired by the people of this country.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I am always anxious to co-operate on all occasions, as far as it is possible to do so, with my Irish Friends, because I am half an Irishman myself, and that is my reason for saying a few words upon this subject, because it is one upon which I cannot give a silent vote. In the first place, the honourable Member for Waterford, in introducing his Resolution to the House in a brilliant speech, to which we all listened with the greatest attention and admiration, made certain statements. One of them was this: he said, in the opening part of his speech, that there was complete unanimity of representatives from all political parties in Ireland. I am not quoting the honourable Member's words—
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
What I said was that I moved the Resolution at the request of a Conference of Irish Members, presided over by the honourable and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, and which Conference consisted of representatives from every political party in Ireland.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB
I am sorry I misunderstood the honourable Gentleman's words, but certainly the report in the Times gave me a different impression; but at all events, the Member for West Down is against this Resolution; the Member for North Down is against this Resolution; so are the Members for South Belfast, West Belfast, Antrim, and North Londonderry. I think that that shows, at all events, that there is in Ireland dissension on this matter. In fact, it should be thoroughly discussed, and those who have not looked into this question should not be too ready to accept all the statements that are made in this House. Of course, there is considerable unanimity amongst Irish Members. There always is unanimity where there is money likely to be got. There is no country in the world in which that is not so. I know it is in my blood, and I know it is in every Irish- 1137 man's blood, when there is money to be got, to combine to get it if possible. The Irish difficulty comes when the spoil has to be divided. My honourable and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh admits the whole case is summed up in this, that what he wants is to get hold of English money. In my humble judgment unless you can establish this claim by reference to the Act of Union, and all that has happened since this Act of Union, the case fails, and it has no foundation whatever. It is astounding to hear it asserted by Members on all sides that by the Act of Union this claim is just; and then, having delivered themselves of this statement, the next thing is that they go to everything else but the Act of Union to establish their contention. I call the attention of the House to the fact that the most eminent historian of the time, who has studied this question more closely than anybody else, from his place in the House last night did not rest his case at all upon the Act of Union. He was extremely cautious how he touched the Union Act. He knew, in his great knowledge of the entire facts of the case, that the whole history of the Act of Union and all that has happened since make it clear that he could not rely upon it for an argument. But we must remember that, whatever may be the wording of the Act of Union, after 17 years it brought Ireland to the verge of bankruptcy, and that other action had to be taken because the Act of Union was too drastic for Ireland, and it was for this reason, and on this ground, that you had the unification of the Exchequer and a direct departure from the Act of Union. In the Act of 1817 there is no reference, as far as I have been able to understand, to exemptions or abatements, and I appeal to the honourable Member for Dublin University whether it is too much to say that you cannot therefore rest argument on the Act of Union at all. That being so, you have to come to the present time and to the economic conditions of this country, and I find in speech after speech all sorts of other reasons are given why we are alleged to be indebted to Ireland and why we should support this Resolution. Of course, we all know that this new claim arises out of recent events. The 1138 first step was taken by the present First Lord of the Admiralty, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he agreed to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the subject of financial relations. The words of reference are—For the purpose of inquiry into the question of the financial relations in regard to the resources of the population of the three kingdoms.Then we had the Home Rule Bill, and in view of that Bill—as stated in the Report of the Commission—this Royal Commission was appointed specifically in order to deal with Ireland from a new and different point of view altogether. But the Home Rule Bill was never accepted by the country, and therefore I think a great deal of that argument falls to the ground. Take the terms of reference as pointed out in the Report of the Royal Commission itself. The Report says—The terms of reference that were drawn up for our guidance were probably dictated by the fact that an investigation was contemplated in connection with the Home Rule Bill of 1893.By these terms of reference the very first thing the Commission had to state specifically was that Ireland must be treated under the terms of reference in a new and different way, because they say that—Great Britain and Ireland must, for the purposes of this inquiry, be considered as separate entities.And that is the history of our coming to regard this question of Ireland as a separate entity. Now, Sir, I believe it is a bad thing for Ireland, and a bad thing for this country, and a bad thing for the Empire altogether, to consider any part of the country as a separate entity at all. I protest against this doctrine. But, if you are going to differentiate between the different parts of the United Kingdom, I cannot understand why you should not differentiate between different parts of Great Britain. The advantage Ireland has in this argument is this, that Ireland, being an island, and therefore being more or less, owing to that geographical fact, a separate portion of the kingdom, a separate arrangement of statistics is possible in regard to its financial affairs. 1139 But, taking the statistics—the actual facts as they exist in Ireland—you cannot compare them to another part of Great Britain where no separate statistics are kept. I believe that, if you could only draw a magic circle to include the south and east of London, and if you could only get the same sort of figures that you get by the fact of Ireland being an island, you could appoint a committee to inquire, and you would have exactly the same question arising, and the same conclusions would be come to by that committee in regard to the south and east of London as the Royal Commission's in regard to Ireland. One argument used is this: they say that the taxable capacity of the individual Irishman is less than that of the individual Englishman, and then they take the point of the diminution of population, and the consequent increase of taxation per head. But that is the case with all the agricultural counties in England. It is not the British Government, or this House, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or anyone else who has diminished or is responsible for the diminution of population; and anybody whose recollection goes far enough back knows that the people, were poorer, worse fed, and more miserable years ago than they are in the West of Ireland to-day. That is a matter of fact, a matter of common knowledge, and it cannot be denied, and I ask this question, Are those who are going to vote for this Motion prepared to treat the agricultural portions of Great Britain as separate entities? Because in those agricultural portions of Great Britain the same thing is happening, the population is diminishing, and the taxation is increasing; and therefore in those agricultural parts of England exactly the same sort of conditions are in existence as you have in Ireland. I do admit that Ireland as a whole has more generally suffered than Great Britain; owing to the fact that it is a purely agricultural country it has suffered through free trade being adopted. That cannot be denied, but you cannot give abatement out of the British Exchequer to the agricultural districts in Ireland, simply because the operation of the free-trade principle has been bad to agriculture, without doing exactly the same thing for the agricultural districts of England; and 1140 therefore this demand to differentiate between one part of the United Kingdom and another part is unjust. But there is another point which I think is full of serious import, and is not sufficiently considered. If you are going to deal with Ireland as a separate entity in regard to taxation serious consequences, to my mind, will inevitably ensue, and those consequences will be disastrous to Ireland itself. All the calculations which are made upon this subject are, I believe, fallacious, because we leave out one consideration, and that is the enormous gain to Ireland and to the Irish people accruing from the fact that they are not a separate entity, but are part and parcel of the people of the United Kingdom. I allude to the fact of the great outlet for all the genius and talent of Ireland into the Imperial services, and I think—being more or less an Irishman myself—that it is a matter of great congratulation to Irishmen to see that they have a free and open position, enabling them to sweep the board in Diplomacy, in the Civil Service, in the Army, and in the Navy. I ask honourable Members this, supposing this Resolution is carried, and supposing you set up an entirely new state of things, and you say to Ireland, "You shall be taxed less than the people of the United Kingdom generally," because that is what it comes to, fewer of these posts will be open to the competition of Irishmen. ["No, no!" from the Irish Benches.] I hope that honourable Gentlemen who say "No, no!" will explain why not, if they can, because they will do away with one of the great difficulties I have in considering this question. It is not denied that the individual Irishman is not taxed more than individual Englishmen. On the contrary, certain classes are taxed less in Ireland than in England. The moment I come home from the Recess in Ireland I find a paper on my table in London with a demand for so many pounds of taxes to be paid at once.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB
For horses, inhabited house duty, men-servants, and 1141 other things. What I know is that certain classes of Irishmen are let off taxation in Ireland Englishmen have to pay in England. Take the great mass of the population. Nobody on these benches will assert that the individual in Ireland pays one farthing more than the individual in England, and therefore how cam it be contended that the Irishman is overtaxed? Now the honourable Member for Waterford offered us one proof which I think is somewhat a curious one. He said—It was a remarkable fact that the only tax in Ireland which had diminished since 1893–4 was the Income Tax—a very fair indication of the fact that as the burden of taxation had increased year by year, the power of Ireland to bear taxation had diminished year by year.I do not think that is right, and I will tell you why. Because since 1893 there have been enormous reductions in rents all over Ireland. Rents have been reduced by Acts of Parliament, and that means, in simple words, this. The income taxpayers are few, for the land-owning classes are few, and the tenants are many, and these enormous reductions of rent that have been given have gone into the pockets of the tenants, who are many, and in that way the taxable capacity of the many have been increased, and not reduced. That is as it appears to me. I say distinctly that if I am a tenant, and have been paying so much rent, and suddenly I get, by Act of Parliament, 25 per cent. off or 30 per cent. off, I have more money in my pocket, and therefore my taxable capacity has been increased; and if honourable Gentlemen will deal with that point I will do my best to understand their signs of dissent. It is no use taking out of a Blue Book one fact without you consider what is collateral to that fact. I assert that instead of the taxable capacity of the many in Ireland having been reduced since 1893 it has been increased. If Ireland in the matter of taxation is to be dealt with as a separate entity there must be two sides of the account—you must treat everybody all round alike, according to what is given and what is got. But the honourable and learned Gentleman for Plymouth protested against such a doctrine, while my right honourable Friend the Member for Dublin Univer- 1142 sity rests his whole case upon it, so that the arguments supporting the same Resolution by two such eminent men are really mutually destructive. I wish to say, looking at the broad aspect of this question, and assuming that this Resolution is carried, assuming that under the leadership of my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh, or the leadership of the Member for Waterford, or the leadership of the Member for East Mayo, this policy is carried out, what would happen? Ireland would be a separate entity, and would pay a fixed proportion of the general taxation of the United Kingdom, which is to be one-twentieth. Whether she is prosperous or not, that is all she is to pay. I believe that the time is coming when Ireland, under the progress now going on, and with the wider and more enlightened spirit shown, she will see good, and happy, and prosperous days. I believe that Ireland has seen now her worst days, but in any case I can see an immense danger which I do not think is sufficiently noticed. If the masses of Great Britain saw these conditions carried out—saw that the people of Ireland were treated on a different scale, and on a different basis in regard to Imperial taxation to the remainder of the people of the United Kingdom—the people of Great Britain would immediately claim a very much larger share in the appointments and in the situations of the Imperial service. I say really if you carry out this policy, and separate Ireland from all other parts of the United Kingdom, and say, "Ireland shall never pay any taxes more than one twentieth of what we pay," then as the people in Ireland will be paying much less than the people of Great Britain, there will be an immense outcry against the number of Irishmen holding appointments in the Army, in the Navy, in the Civil Service, and in the Diplomatic Services, now open, without stint, to Irishmen. The British people might rightly insist that if Ireland is not to be treated in the same manner as the rest of the United Kingdom, and if she is only to pay one-twentieth of the taxation, Irish people shall only have one-twentieth of the situations in the Imperial service. When you have a separate entity it will be open to the people of Great Britain to say that people hailing from Ireland 1143 shall not be treated equally as they are now. I think the most fatal mistake we can make will be to endeavour to establish this new system, which can only impair the prosperity of the country, and I shall certainly record my vote against it. I did not like to give a silent vote upon this matter, and therefore I troubled the House with the observations I have made, and in recording my vote against the Motion I think I am acting as Ireland's best friend.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said that the honourable Gentleman who had just sat down, in opposing separate entity, differed alike from the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, who both agreed that it would be much better to have a separate entity. Honourable Gentlemen supposed that separate entity was the start of a branch of Home Rule, but the House would remember the Home Rule Measure was not brought in in 1890. Yet in that year the First Lord of the Admiralty set forth to investigate what proportion of the expenses Ireland should pay. There was a great desire on the part of Wales that that principality should also be included in that investigation, but the right honourable Gentleman pointed out that Wales could not be included in the investigation, because it was not like Ireland, inasmuch as it was not a separate entity. The right honourable Baronet lived half his time in Ireland and half his time in England, and, no doubt, while in the latter country felt of some little importance, because he paid certain taxes which he did not pay in Ireland. The honourable and gallant Member for North Armagh had spoken with natural indignation upon the subject of the imposition of the income tax in Ireland in 1852, and it was natural that he should do so. All the honourable Members who represented Irish constituencies would remember that when the income tax was imposed on Ireland it was imposed in the face of an adverse vote of two-thirds of the Irish representatives at that time. Out of 105 representatives 74 voted against it, and the income tax was carried in the teeth of their opposition. He had listened to the 1144 speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with great respect, and it appeared to him that the right honourable Gentleman was struggling with a very difficult position, and acting against his own inclinations. He (Mr. MacNeill) objected with all his soul to the Act of the Union, but while it existed he thought Ireland was entitled to have it fairly administered. It had been said that by the Act of 1817 all England and Ireland, so far as finance was concerned, were merged into one; but under the provisions of the Act of 1817 it was distinctly decided that Ireland should have separate abatements, and that investigations should be made as to the state of the country from time to time. Since the year 1817 not a single investigation had been made. When the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the taxes so far as the individuals were concerned were equal, he could not help thinking that the right honourable Gentleman was speaking against the opinions of nine-tenths of the Irish people. Mr. Foster, the Speaker of the Irish Parliament, one of the greatest financial authorities of his time, was strongly opposed to the Union. It was the object of Mr. Pitt, then Prime Minister of England, that Mr. Foster should be made a strong advocate, and he wrote to Lord Castlereagh to, if possible, get the Speaker of the Irish House to favour the Act of Union, and to offer him a British title, and give him a suitable position. Mr. Foster refused to be bribed, and he opposed the Union through thick and thin, and he said the Act of Union was not to deprive Ireland of her constitution, but to take the Irish purse out of the hands of the Irish people and give it to the people of England. He [Mr. MacNeill] was reminded of that when he saw the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer place his hands with some emphasis upon the dispatch box in front of him, and say that he would not unlock the Saxon treasury. All that Ireland desired was that she should have out of it that which was her own. The opinions against the Act of Ireland were not confined to the Irish House of Parliament. Lord Grey stated in the English House that the effect of the Act of Union would 1145 be to rob Ireland. What did the Act of Union do? It was opposed most vehemently by several Irish Members, and in stating that it was passed without opposition the right honourable Gentleman was in error. What did it do? The Irish National Debt was 28 millions sterling, the English National Debt was 448 millions sterling, and the Act of Union amalgamated those two debts. All the prophecies of the men who opposed the Act of Union had come true. It had taken the Irish purse out of the hands of the Irish people, and it had robbed them. Gentlemen on the opposite side would take great credit to the Tory Party, inasmuch as they did not introduce the income tax into Ireland. Now, they deserved no credit whatever. As a matter of fact it was a race between the Tory Party and the Whig Party as to which would be the party to introduce it. They ought to know that the first person who introduced it into Ireland was Mr. Disraeli himself. There was one thing in which great injustice had been done to the memory of Mr. Gladstone. It had been said that Mr. Gladstone was opposed to the investigation of this Irish financial question, but that was not so. Again and again it was said by his Unionist friends on the other side of the House that if the Irishmen were only united they would gain everything they wanted. Well, here they were now, prepared to go into the Lobby and ask for their own money. But would they get it? Honourable Gentlemen opposite cared for the Union only in so far as it was good for England; the moment it was found to be good for Ireland then they found it useless, and to be used against Ireland. And this was the party of all the virtues and all the talents and all the knowledge—the great Unionist Party. It was a noble Lord who said, "Take care what you do if you diminish the Irish representation." Did the noble Lord know that if they diminished the Irish representation they would still be going contrary to the Act of Union? That showed that the Unionist party, when their own interests were concerned, would break up and tear up the Act of Union into shreds and tatters for political and party purposes. The Act of Union did 1146 not exist if the Irish people did not get their rights under it; the Act of Union did not exist if the Chancellor of the Exchequer got up and said, "I do not care for solemn engagements—what care I for an Act passed 98 years ago or for clauses passed in an unreformed Parliament in 1817?" They were now dealing with practical matters, and he would ask if that was the way to treat the Irish people. This was a great question, in which he felt strongly—in which everyone must feel strongly, everyone who had seen the poverty and suffering in Ireland. He desired to say one word in answer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's argument, which he used with great effect, that, undoubtedly, us between man and man, no greater amount of taxes was exacted from an Irishman than from an Englishman. That was quite true, but it was a specious argument. It must, however, be remembered that the Irishman was less able to bear the taxation, and that made all the difference in the world. He congratulated the Unionist Party in Ireland on their alliance with this great party now in power with 150 of a majority, which now deliberately denied them the rights they were asking for their country—rights which were dictated by common interests and common principles. He thanked the House for the attention with which they had heard him, but he assured the House that the matter would not rest there; it would be carried into the country, and things would be made unpleasant for the Saxon Treasury.
*SIR W. HARCOUET (Monmouthshire, W.)
I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the importance of the question which is now under the consideration of this House. It is not merely a financial question, it is essentially an Imperial question, and bears, of course, most closely on the relations of England and Ireland, the one to the other. Now, Sir, it cannot be denied that a principal feature in this discussion is the Report of the Commission which was appointed to inquire into the financial relations of England and Ireland. I do not understand that anybody questions the authority of that Commission. It is said there is no 1147 occasion to inquire into the difference between the financial condition of Ireland and of England, and that this Commission was appointed solely in reference to Home Rule. Well, that is not the fact. No doubt, in a sense, the Commission of 1893 had relation to Home Rule, but the matter which they inquired into applied equally to the case of the Union as it does to the case of Home Rule. It is equally necessary to inquire into the financial relations under the system of the Union. That is proved by the fact that a Committee for the same purpose was appointed in 1890. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Unionist Government directed that a Commission should be appointed to inquire into the equity of the financial relations as regards the resources and population of each of the three kingdoms. That was not appointed in relation to Home Rule at all; it was appointed by a Government and by a Ministry who were adverse to Home Rule. Then it is said that that Commission was not composed as gentlemen opposite would have desired. But, Sir, it was as well composed as we could make it, because, when we proposed to gentlemen opposite to serve upon it they declined; and if there are any points which were not sufficiently inquired into, according to their views, why did they not accept the proposal that gentlemen who represented their ideas should be especially represented on the Commission? Well, Sir, I go to the findings of that Commission. I will not go into any of the details of the figures or even the documents, for the House has been sufficiently placed in possession of what is important on that matter; but I take the findings of that Commission—a Commission not composed exclusively of Irishmen, not composed exclusively of political Home Rulers, but a Commission represented, I venture to say, by as competent, or more competent, financial authorities as any that could be found in this country. They found practically unanimously on the points to which I am about to refer. I do not think there was any difference of opinion on these heads, unless it was by the honourable Member for Greenock. The findings of the Commission were come to by as competent a set of men as could inquire 1148 into the matter, which not one party but both parties agreed was a matter which ought to be inquired into. What did they find? They found, first of all, that Great Britain and Ireland must, for the purposes of this inquiry, be considered as separate entities. Is it proper that a financial inquiry of this kind should be conducted upon the view that England and Ireland were to be considered as separate entities? Who denies it? Does the right honourable Gentleman deny that? I have not heard the right honourable Gentleman deny it. In my opinion it is impossible to deny it. The language used by the authors of the Union, the language enshrined in the documents of the Union, all treat it as being a question of separate entities. But, Sir, setting aside documents, there is evidence far more conclusive than that in the fact of the treatment of Ireland for 50 years afterwards. It is said sometimes that that might have been true in 1800 which was not true after the union of the Exchequer in 1817. For 50 or 60 years after the Union, for more than 40 years after the amalgamation of the Exchequers, the taxation of Ireland was dealt with on a totally different footing from the taxation of England; therefore, Sir, to deny the existence of a distinction in the financial treatment of the two countries is to deny the document, the facts, and the treatment. To a certain small extent; it is true there exists a distinction still. The honourable and gallant Member who spoke just now referred to one of those distinctions, but it did not appear to me that the distinction had much relation to taxable capacity; it related to exemptions being made in favour of those who kept horses and carriages and male servants. The distinction between the entity of England and Scotland and Ireland is recognised by constant practice, by its subsidies, and by what are called equivalent grants. From the year 1890 we have had, year by year by order of the House of Commons, Returns founded entirely upon the notion of there being a fiscal difference between the two countries, both with regard to revenue and with regard to expenditure. The right honourable Gentleman himself last year proposed to appoint a Commission to consider 1149 the question of the differences in expenditure between the two countries. Therefore, we have evidence down to within the last 12 months of the Government holding the doctrine of there being a difference in regard to the financial relations. Well, Sir, why was not that Commission appointed last year. The right honourable Gentleman says it was not appointed because the Members from Ireland would not serve upon it, and because we upon this bench did not agree to it. Well, Sir, no doubt we did not; but what was the object of the new Commission? If it had been intended to supplement anything which had been omitted in the inquiry already made, the right honourable Gentleman knows that we at least should have been quite willing to agree to it. If there had been heads with reference to expenditure, or any other matter which had been omitted, the proper course would have been to send the Report back to the former Commission, and require that they should further report upon it. But, Sir, that was not the object of the new Commission. It was intended to reverse the decision of the old Commission. How could you expect us to agree to that? A Commission had been appointed with which, so far as I know, the Irish Members were satisfied, and with which, of course, we were satisfied upon that matter. It was a Commission that contained, as I say, all the best available authority on the subject, and I should like to know, if the right honourable Gentleman had gone on to appoint his proposed Commission, where he would have found men who would have been entitled to reverse the opinion upon financial subjects of such men as Lord Farrar, Lord Welby, Mr. B. W. Currie, and Mr. Hunter. Sir, no doubt he could have found a sufficiency of material from which to appoint a Commission charged with such duties as he wished to place upon it, but how was he going to reverse the conclusions of the Commission upon the points on which there was unanimity, not merely among the Commissioners, but among the principal witnesses, such as Sir Edward Hamilton and Sir Robert Giffen? 1150 But the Government are masters of the situation, and if they think they could alter the facts, if they can overrule these conclusions, why do not they now appoint their own Commission as we appointed ours? We appointed men whose opinions we thought were deserving of the approval of the House. If they think they can find a Commission which will say that these conclusions are wrong, it is within their power to do it now. Why do not they appoint a Commission to carry out the objects of the Committee of Mr. Goschen in 1890, and refer to such a Committee an inquiry founded upon those premises? The Chancellor of the Exchequer of that day, the present First Lord of the Admiralty, was, I think, the true inventor of the phrase which is now so much denounced as to "fiscal entities." That was a phrase coming from his philosophical mind which had not previously been known in the phraseology of finance. It is not our phrase, but it originated in the fertile resources of the First Lord of the Admiralty. If the Government think that these facts can be displaced and these conclusions overruled, they have it in their power, as I have said, now to do it. Well, Sir, the findings of the Commission have been referred to. With regard to their first finding—That Great Britain and Ireland must, for the purposes of this inquiry, be considered as separate entities,I entirely agree. I do not see how it can be contradicted. We have no material on which to found a contradiction of it. For the purpose of the inquiry of the Committee set up by the present First Lord of the Admiralty, Great Britain and Ireland were to be regarded as separate entities. Now I come to the next finding of the Commission—That the Act of Union imposed upon Ireland a burden which, as events showed, she was unable to bear.I suppose that nobody disputes that proposition. The Act of 1817 was, in point of fact, the result of the mistake which was 1151 made at the time of the Union. Now let me go to another finding—That the increase of taxation laid upon Ireland between 1853 and 1860 was not justified by the then existing circumstances.Well, Sir, I do not believe that anybody now can dispute the truth of that statement. I have no doubt that at that time these matters were not understood as they are now. They have been the subject of investigation since, and we have had many grievances of Ireland brought to light which were obscure before. The honourable Member for Armagh said, and I agree with him, at all events, in this respect, that the investigation of 1864, and partial investigations since, have partly raised the question; but until this Commission sat I do not believe the question was understood as it is understood now. At least I confess, myself, that I had no conception of the length and breadth of this question until the findings and conclusions of this Commission appeared in their Report in 1896. Well, now, Sir, there is another finding of the Commission in which I entirely concur, and it is, perhaps, of more importance than some others—That identity of rates of taxation does not necessarily involve equality of burden.Does anybody at this day deny that proposition? I wish to give an illustration of it. Anybody who has read the history of finance in those days will quite understand it. People thought that if you put the same tax upon everybody you were imposing the same burden. It was that idea which induced people, in the first half of this century, to think they were taxing people fairly when they put two-thirds or three-fourths of the taxation of the country on indirect taxation. Everybody thought the same thing when there was a tax on bread—but was that an equal burden on the community? It is because that proposition was untrue that we have now, happily, for the last 50 years, been reforming the whole of our principles of taxation. It is for that reason that we have been getting rid of the burden of indirect taxation, and placing it more and more on direct taxation. But let me give this illustration. 1152 It may be an extreme case, but it illustrates the argument. Supposing you had no taxation in this country except indirect taxation upon the principal necessaries of life, every man would pay at the same rate upon the same thing. A man who had £100,000 a year would pay the same for his loaf as the man who had 20s. a week, but is that an equality of burden? Therefore the proposition that each individual pays the same under the same tax is not a financial truth. It is a financial untruth. It is because we have discovered that fact that we have reformed our taxation upon exactly the opposite principle. And, therefore, Sir, I absolutely concur in the principle laid down as their unanimous opinion by that most competent Commission—that "identity of rates of taxation does not necessarily involve equality of burden." On the contrary, it may involve the greatest possible financial injustice, as it has done in times past, when that truth was not appreciated by the authors of the Act of Union, and by their immediate successors. They believed that identity of rates of taxation did involve equality of burden, and it was not until the great reforms instituted by Sir Robert Peel, and followed up by Mr. Gladstone, and happily carried out by his successors, that it was realised that the opposite of the principle hitherto adopted was the true principle of finance, whether in Ireland or any other country. Therefore, Sir, I absolutely repudiate the doctrine of equality of payment by the individual, and absolutely agree with the finding of the Commission upon that point. Well, then, I come to head No. 5—That, whilst the actual tax revenue of Ireland is about one-eleventh of that of Great Britain, the relative taxable capacity of Ireland is very much smaller, and is not estimated by any of us as exceeding one-twentieth.Now, Sir, I do not bind myself necessarily to those figures. It is not necessary that I should do so for the purposes of my argument. The right honourable Gentleman said last night that the figures had been altered by subsequent changes of taxation. I have no doubt that that is true. We have increased the direct taxation in the 1153 United Kingdom, and that has pro tanto altered, to a certain extent, the relative capacities of the two countries in relation to the taxes imposed. But no man can deny, and I am quite sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not deny, as he has not denied, that the revenue of Ireland is greatly in excess of its taxable capacity. As to the evidence in regard to the one-twentieth, it so happens that those were the figures which, in the first Home Rule discussion, were adopted by the present First Lord of the Admiralty and by the Colonial Secretary, who said that the taxable capacity of Ireland was somewhere between one-eighteenth and one-twentieth. I am quite willing to accept upon this subject the finding of the Commission, who, I think, were competent so to find. Well, then, as to the question of taxable capacity, does anybody deny that, as a whole, Ireland is a very poor country, as contrasted with England? I do not think anybody can deny that. I was surprised to hear the right honourable Gentleman ask last night, why had not Ireland done as well as Scotland. Why, everybody knows why Ireland has not done as well as Scotland. Where, in Ireland, is the coal; where is the iron, and all that makes for the prosperity of Scotland, and has altered the whole face of the country, and made it one of the most prosperous manufacturing parts of the United Kingdom? That is why Ireland is not as prosperous as Scotland. As to the poverty of Ireland, it is an opinion generally held that Ireland is a very poor country, but there are things in this evidence which have brought home, at all events to my mind, truths as to the general poverty of the population of Ireland, with which I was not acquainted before, and which are very distressing to read. Well, Sir, these are the findings of the Commission, and to alter these facts or upset these conclusions is, in my opinion, impossible. But there is advanced a question which I admit is of great importance, namely, what is called a set-off in respect of expenditure. Upon that matter there is great room for divergence of opinion; and though the subject does not appear in what I may call the unanimous Report of the Commission, there are many expressions of opinion 1154 regarding it, all very highly deserving of consideration by the members of the Commission in their separate Reports. It was one of the main points upon which, I understand, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted further information from the new Commission he desired to appoint. If there was any more information to be supplied, why is it not supplied? I fully admit that there is some expenditure which may fairly be regarded as a set-off against taxation—that is to say, expenditure which would otherwise have to be met by additional Irish expenditure; but, Sir, the honourable and learned Member for Plymouth applied a very forcible reductio ad absurdum to the argument of the set-off of expenditure when he said that if you were to double the cost of the Irish police you would have reduced the proportion of taxation of Ireland to the expenditure of Ireland by millions. Neither can I admit that the grant of £600,000 to the Irish landlords is any relief in regard to the taxable capacity of Ireland, or any relief to the poverty of Ireland. It is absurd to say that a subsidy of that character, which may be called Irish expenditure, is a reduction or satisfaction of the claim on the part of the poorer population of Ireland to relief in respect of taxation. You gave that £600,000 to the honourable and gallant Member for Armagh for agreeing to local government for Ireland. It is the honourable and gallant Member's hush money. But it is no relief to the poor taxpayer of Ireland.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
May I point out to the right honourable Gentleman that we did not get the £600,000? The tenantry of Ireland got half.
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Then the honourable and gallant Member has kept silence at a cheaper rate. I wish all Irish demands could be settled on as reasonable a footing as that. The great disproportion of the taxation of Ireland arises, as the honourable and gallant Member for Armagh admitted, from your system of government of Ireland. I find in an Appendix to the Report of the Commission that in 1819–20 the cost of the civil government and the collection of the revenue in Great Britain, 1155 with a population of 13,765,000, was £4,435,000, or 6s. 3d. per head of the population. The cost in Ireland in the same year, with a population of 6,800,000, was £1,512,000, or 4s. 5d. per head of the population. In 1892–93 the cost of the administration of Great Britain, with a population of 33,000,000, was £29,981,000, or 17s. 11d. per head; and the cost of the administration of Ireland, with 4,638,000, was £5,542,000, or £1 3s. 11d. per head. When you undertook the administration of Ireland the cost of that administration was a great deal less than the cost in Great Britain; and new, after three-quarters of a century of your administration, it is a great deal more than the cost of the administration of Great Britain. But, Sir, you have undertaken the government of Ireland, and, of course, you have at the same time undertaken the expenditure which is consequent upon it. I remember that when the Home Rule Bill was under discussion great attacks were made upon us because we proposed that a sum of half a million should be given to assist the new system in Ireland. You have started a new system of local government in Ireland and you have given a much larger sum. But you have not given it to the right parties. You have not given it for the purpose of the development of local government. You have given it for the purpose of getting a number of gentlemen to agree to your scheme, and the loss to the English Exchequer is larger than the sum we would have placed at the disposal of the Irish people under Home Rule. This system you have entered upon—I think it is called "killing Home Rule by kindness"—you will find an expensive system, and the worst of it is that it will not achieve the end to which it is directed. You said that we would diminish the contribution of Ireland to the English Exchequer. Why, Sir, the contribution of Ireland under your system is diminishing every day; and in a very few years it will have disappeared altogether. The system we proposed was, at all events, to guarantee a certain contribution on the part of Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer. What guarantee have you got under your system that 1156 there will be any contribution at all from Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer? These are considerations which seem to me to be, on the evidence, utterly incapable of being refuted or contradicted. But, Sir, everybody must feel that the great difficulty in this case is not the establishing of a grievance, but the discovery of a remedy. The Mover of the Motion discreetly avoided that subject, and left it to others to suggest. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin [Mr. Lecky] approached the subject, and made certain suggestions. After the lapse of 100 years we ought not to be too technical in dealing with a question of this kind. My honourable Friend the Member for Longford [Mr. Blake] approached the subject, I think, in a spirit of moderation. He said—We have a claim; we do not insist on any particular way of meeting it, but we desire that it should be recognised and that it should be dealt with.If I may be allowed to address an observation to the Irish Members, let me say, Sir, that if they desire this grievance to be redressed I hope they will approach it in a spirit which will bring them as little as possible into conflict with the just interests and the claims of their fellow British subjects. I do not agree at all with the spirit of the remark of the honourable and gallant Member for Armagh, that he would accept nothing in satisfaction of the Irish claim which at the same time was given in satisfaction of similar claims in England and Scotland. On the contrary, in my opinion, if there are classes in any part of the United Kingdom who have claims to be redressed similar to those in respect of which Ireland claims redress, the best, and indeed the only practical, method of dealing with both those claims is that of equal justice; and it is in that spirit alone that, in my opinion, this difficult question can be solved. Now, Sir, the foundation of the whole Irish claim, which was recognised at the Union as a covenanted claim, is the relative poverty of Ireland, the relative inferiority of its taxable capacity. It cannot be denied that there are other parts of the United Kingdom as well as 1157 Ireland where the people are taxed largely in excess of their taxable capacity; but less, I hope and believe, than is the case in Ireland. Well, Sir, everybody knows that the great burden of taxation, the unjust burden of taxation, upon the poorer classes of the community is to be found in indirect taxation. Nothing is brought out more conclusively in the evidence before us than the undue pressure of indirect taxation, having regard to their resources, on the people of Ireland. In a paper, which seems to me to have been drawn up with great care by the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce on the financial relations of Ireland and Scotland, I find this passage. The document states that in England the taxation upon tea is 1s. 10½d. per individual; in Scotland, 1s. 9½d,; and in Ireland, 2s. 4d. Is that a fair system of taxation to impose upon a poor community? Now, there is no complaint, as I understand it, of the taxation upon income in Ireland—
§ *SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, then, there is. I will not dispute it. But it must be remembered that everybody is exempt whose income is under £160 a year; and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to extend that principle by way of abatements up to £700 a year; therefore that can hardly be called a burden upon the poorer class of people in proportion to their taxable capacity, and I do not regard that as part of the grievance which I have been wishing to see redressed. The same thing applies to the death duties, and the rates at which they are levied. Well now, Sir, in regard to these remedies, I also entirely agree with those who say you cannot deal with it in the manner of differential duties. I believe that would be returning to a bad financial system. There is an objection much stronger than that, and that is the objection which would be raised—justly and loudly raised—by people in an equal state of poverty in England. And I entirely agree that a differential rate of duty upon particular commodities is a remedy which I certainly could not resort to; but it is not at all inconsistent with the argument as to a separate entity, because the separate entity in Ireland is the population 1158 which I may call, in the great majority of cases, one of predominant poverty. There is no reason whatever, if you have got particular classes of people in different parts of the country, why you should not give them similar relief in similar situations. Therefore, I would not be a party to any recommendation which would make a poor man pay more for his tobacco, pay more for his tea, or more for his spirits in England than in Ireland. Well, Sir, I am not in favour of these grants in aid, as advanced by the right honourable and gallant Member for Armagh. I have never observed, that these grants in aid, whether in England or in Ireland, and which have been rather rudely called sops or doles, have done much good. They have almost always gone to the wrong people. That has happened with the last £600,000. It has happened in this country. The Government decline to accept the Report on the financial conditions in Ireland. But they did not reject the Report of the Agricultural Commission; they hurried on to get the interim Report on which they secured one and a half millions or two millions of money. There, again, it went to the wrong persons; and therefore it is that I say that subsidies and grants of this kind always, according to my observation, go not to the relief of the people who ought to be relieved. It was not the covenant in the Union that you should give relief to the wealthier classes. It was to give relief in respect of the poverty and in respect of the taxable capacity of the people of Ireland. It is, therefore, from that point of view that you are asked to reform the taxation. Now, the real relief of taxation that should affect a poor country and the poorer classes in all countries is the relief in respect of indirect taxation. And here let me say that there is one commodity of which I have not found anybody desirous of altering the taxation, and that is alcohol; at least, I have not found anyone bold enough to propose it. Well, that is a form of indirect taxation; and I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night claim credit—and he is entitled to the credit—for having done something in the way of indirect taxation, by the reduction of the duty on tobacco. In that respect, he says, Ireland will profit 1159 and the poorer classes will profit by the reduction made in England. I do not know whether that be the case or not; it is enough to establish the principle, at all events. That is in the direction in which I say all our reform in taxation has gone, and ought to go; but I confess it is a very small affair to have been noticed in a period when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the control, in the way of surpluses, of something not far short of ten millions of money. How much more ought and might have been done to relieve a community like that in Ireland, distinguished by poverty, or a community having poverty of the same character in different parts of the United Kingdom? There is another consideration that should be weighed in this matter, and that is the vast growth of the expenditure of this country. Why is it that you have not had a greater relief of taxation than that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been, able to give? Why, it is on account of the vast and growing expenditure of the country. Now, how does that affect Ireland? Ireland went into partnership with a great and rich country, and at the time there was a sort of understanding as to the proportionate contribution which the poorer partner was to bear towards the common fund. But if you increase the burden of the poorer partner's obligations, and expect him to bear an equal share of the outlay with his richer partner, it is obvious that that is a great injustice to the poorer partner. Therefore, I say, if you are to do anything in this matter which is to be effectual at all, you must do it, in my opinion, either by a reduction of this enormous expenditure, or else you must do it by an increase of direct taxation. There are no other methods of dealing with the question. The principle, which is established on both sides of this House in a manner which cannot now be reversed, is that the fundamental principle of financial reform, whether in Ireland or in England—and it is the principle which is consecrated by this covenant in the Union—is that the people should be taxed in proportion to their capacity of bearing it. That is a proposition which is not peculiar to Ireland alone. It applies as well to the poor classes in England as it does to the 1160 predominantly poor classes in Ireland. It is on that footing that you should meet this question of great complexity. That this question is an intricate one no one denies; neither does anyone deny that it is one which cannot be lightly set aside. It is one for which you must endeavour to find some satisfactory solution. We have the covenant—which can be proved—towards Ireland to deal with her according to her taxable capacity. We may have no covenant of a similar character with respect to population in a similar condition in the rest of the United Kingdom. That is quite true. But in my opinion, if you are to deal with this matter wisely and justly, you must devise some system which will have regard to the taxable capacity of the people, first of all to the people of Ireland, and at the same time to the people of this country who are in a similar position. In my opinion, Sir, you cannot deal with this subject by peddling devices. It cannot be dealt with by denying the solidity of the claim. It cannot be met by any occasional arrangement, or by throwing a boon here and a sop there. It can only be dealt with by adopting some broad, wide, and sound principle of financial reform. If that principle is to be sound in its character, the burden of your taxation should be borne in proportion to the power of the classes or countries to which they are to apply to bear it; and, Sir, adhering to that principle, and making it of universal application, you will be able to redress the grievance—the admitted, the written grievance of Ireland—and you will also make it applicable to grievances which are not less real, and which can be found in other parts of the Kingdom of the Queen. These are the principles on which I think you ought to proceed—principles which will redress a grievance of Ireland which cannot be denied, and which, at the same time, will give relief to the poorer classes in every part of this country. In conformity with that principle, I certainly shall vote for this Resolution because it does declare that this is a grievance in Ireland which has been specially reserved. A system of the kind to which I have referred will redress that grievance, and I think it no disadvantage that, in redressing that grievance, we shall redress the grievance of others who have an equal right to complain.
§ *MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
Sir, I have listened with something like despair to the speech which has just been delivered by the right honourable Gentleman. If I understood the right honourable Gentleman correctly, he seemed to make no difference whatever between the case of the poor country of Ireland and the case of poor areas in Great Britain. Sir, every Member of this House who takes that stand and lays down that proposition does not, I assert confidently, understand the very elements of the Irish case. I do not say that we could not have a case on the assumption of the right honourable Gentleman. I think that if Ireland be a poor country, and if there be poor areas in Great Britain, and if the common system of taxation press unduly upon those poor areas in both countries, I think Ireland as well as England has a case for a rearrangement of taxation in their interest. But, Sir, we have a distinct claim for relief on another ground altogether, and I, for my part, will not depart from that ground in any discussion which may take place in this House upon this question. We take our stand upon the fact that there was a treaty made between this country and Ireland which guaranteed her certain rights under certain circumstances, and that there was no treaty made by Ireland, or by any other Power, with those poor areas in Great Britain. What was the treaty and the covenant to which indeed the right honourable Gentleman in the course of his speech referred, but as to which he would not give the slightest effect? What was that covenant? It was that the taxation of Ireland should never be assimilated to the taxation of England until two sets of circumstances had arisen; first, that the debts of both countries, between which there was a great and overwhelming disproportion, should have reached a certain relation to each other. That was the first. The second was: until the circumstances of the two countries should have become similar. Sir, the whole question here is, or at least the chief part of the question is, have the circumstances of Ireland and Great Britain become similar? Because if they have a great part of the justification for this Motion would absolutely dis- 1162 appear. On the other hand, if they have not become similar, the ground taken by the Irish Members in basing, a claim for special relief on the Act of Union stands absolutely unassailable. Now, who would assert—what sane man in this assembly would assert—that the circumstances of Ireland and of Great Britain have become similar? Why, the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night admitted that they had not become similar. He said that there were very few points with regard to this whole matter upon which anybody could agree with anybody else, but he did say there was one point upon which there was practical unanimity—namely, that Ireland was relatively a much poorer country than Great Britain. Sir, is that a fact, or is it not? If it be a fact, it is the fact provided for by the Act of Union, which said that, as long as it is the case that Ireland is a poorer country than Great Britain, she is to be entitled to a lower rate of taxation. Will anybody deny that? If nobody will deny that, what is the use of talking to me of poor areas in Great Britain, or the right honourable Gentleman talking to the House of Commons this evening of poor areas being entitled to equal relief with Ireland? If it be the case that Ireland is poor, and that the Act of Union has laid down that Ireland is to have a lower rate of taxation if she is poor—if that be the case, what foundation is there for the assertion that any poor area in Great Britain has the same right in respect of relief from taxation as the poor country of Ireland? What is the use of talking to me of the Hebrides? What is the use of the honourable Member for Islington telling us that there were poor areas in London? Why, there was no treaty made with London, there was no treaty made with the Hebrides, there was no treaty made with the agricultural districts of England. On the other hand, there was a treaty made with the whole of Ireland, and therefore I say again, and I say it confidently, that as long as that treaty exists—you may tear it up if you like, only do it openly and honestly; you may say, we will violate it, and will deliberately and consciously violate it— 1163 but as long as it exists, and as long as you pretend it does exist and act upon it in other matters, and as long as it cannot be denied that Ireland is a poorer country relatively than Great Britain, then I say it is idle to tell us that the poor areas in Great Britain have the same or a similar claim to that which we have. I say the case for Ireland—the ground for relief in Ireland—is in addition to every claim that can be made on behalf of any poor area in this country. Sir, I said I had listened with despair to the right honourable Gentleman's speech. When the right honourable Gentleman, with all his knowledge—for he is an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, he is a distinguished historian, he is a man specially versed in financial science, he knows the history of the last 12 years, he has been to the public knowledge making vigorous efforts to understand the relations between Great Britain and Ireland—when he fails to grasp this essential fact of the Irish case, what are we to hope for from the common ruck of Englishmen and Scotchmen, who do not understand the question, who have never read a line about it, who, if they do hear a speech in the House of Commons, are so indifferent to the claims of justice that they will get up in this House, after a speech like that delivered by the honourable and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth, and repeat again and again, with the greatest confidence, propositions which have been refuted by him and others in the ablest and clearest manner. What hope have we, Sir? I confess that I have very little hope of our convincing the House of Commons upon this question. I introduced and presented to the House to-day a few petitions from public bodies in my constituency. I confess I did so, not because I thought it was of the slightest use; I did it because it was the desire of my constituents that I should do so. I myself have long since come to the conclusion that on certain questions, and especially on questions of money, on any question that touches the pockets of the British people, it is not Debates in this House that produce conviction or that lead to justice being done. I think myself—and I speak the opinion of many on the subject—when I say this, that the obligations of conscience to which the 1164 honourable and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth referred last night, and the obligations contained in the law of the land with regard to this matter, would be more likely to be respected if the Irish people and the Irish nation had an Admiral Sampson in their midst, and had a navy like his, and could do to London or some other British port what Admiral Dewey and Admiral Sampson have done to Manila and Santiago. If we could bring about a state of things of that sort, I have no doubt in the world that the exact meaning of the Act of Union would be apparent to every Englishman and every Scotchman in this House. We should not ear any more of the necessity of appointing a Royal Commission to find out what is the meaning of the Act of 1817. We would not hear any more of the noble intentions of Pitt and Castlereagh, or of the meaning of promises which they held forth to the Irish people, and by virtue of which they induced them to give up their rights, and induced Ireland to sign away its own birthright. We should have no question of a set-off. All these things would be buried and forgotten and the British Parliament would come down to us, to the Irish Members, in this House, and say, What you are claiming is just; it is written in the law, it is known to history, it is binding on conscience; and although it does take from us a certain amount of money which we hoped to retain for ourselves and our people, it does behove us, in the interests of justice, not to make restitution to you for the past, but to do something to prevent injustice being done to your country in the future. But, Sir, I do not expect to hear a speech like that delivered from the Treasury Bench in this House unless the Members on the Treasury Bench and the Government of England are put, if not to the same risks and perils as the Spaniards in Cuba, at least to some practical inconvenience and trouble in Ireland. I have no right whatever to dictate a policy to anybody in Ireland, and I do not mean to do so; but, in my opinion, if the All-Ireland Committee, embracing representatives of every section of Irish opinion, instead of drawing up circulars showing the injustice of our case, pointing out the provisions of the Act of Union, making it 1165 clear as noonday that the Union says one thing and that you are doing another, if they would settle down, instead of doing this, into a Committee of Ways and Means for discovering how to cheat the Revenue, I have no doubt whatever that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, especially if they could carry out their plans, would come down next year and say that his speech of this year and of last year were quite misunderstood. Sir, I do not intend to weary the House by referring to the details of this question, but merely for one or two moments to one or two points which were made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night. He said that there were several points left untouched by the Royal Commission which has already inquired into this subject. Sir, he indicated these three points: first, what were the charges for Irish purposes on the Imperial Exchequer, before and after the Union; second, what is the amount of the charge made as a contribution by Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer; and, third, what was the Imperial expenditure to which Ireland should contribute. Sir, no doubt the Royal Commission has not placed on record, in its own words, answers to these questions, and no doubt they are interesting and important questions to answer, but no one knows, better than the right honourable Gentleman himself that the materials for answers to these questions are to be found in the evidence contained in the pages of the Blue Book containing the evidence. They are to be found even in the Report of the Commission; in almost any of the long Reports answers to these questions are to be found. In my opinion it is really trifling with the House to pretend that answers have not been given to those questions, and to base on that fact a refusal to give Ireland justice. You nave got in the Report and in the evidence the total amount of taxation paid by Ireland, and you have got the total amount of expenditure; in the Estimates laid before Parliament every year you have got information as to how every penny is spent. Is it not, therefore, open to anyone to find out for himself the answers to all these questions? And the right honourable Gentleman must know, if he has read any of the literature published in Ireland, he must know that in Ireland we have answered 1166 these questions. He must know that, as regards the question of set-off, we have answered; he must know, if he has read some of the papers published by Mr. Samuels, one of his own supporters, in Ireland, that on the question of set-off Ireland has nothing to fear from further inquiry; on the contrary, in all the returns—I do not care by what Government they are presented—it is shown by the figures presented by the Treasury itself that the set-off is simply a fraudulent device for concealing the truth from the British public. Sir, the right honourable Gentleman asked what tax pinched. I answered that by an interruption from, these benches, and I give the same answer now—I say that every tax pinches; I say there is no tax that does not pinch. When the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said to-night that there was no complaint from Ireland against direct taxation, I say that while, of course, indirect taxation presses more heavily upon the poor than it does upon the rich, in Ireland every tax hurts the country, and while if I were to choose between a direct and an indirect tax I should prefer to have the former, I say at the same time that we suffer also from direct taxation. It is, therefore, the duty of every Irish Member to protest against the present rates of all taxation, direct or indirect. The right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition gave us as little to hope for on this point as the right honourable Gentleman opposite. I listened for the remedy which he would propose. He was against a reduction of direct taxation. That would not do, he could not differentiate. He could not conceive a scheme by which the differentiation in favour of Ireland could be effected in respect of indirect taxation. Finally, he was against grants in aid. What is he in favour of? The right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been rather candid on the subject. He says, "What is your remedy—what tax pinches?" and, anticipating our reply, he says, "I cannot differentiate in favour of Ireland. I am not a Home Ruler, I am a Unionist; I cannot abandon the system of common taxation, which has now been in vogue for 80 years; I cannot see any way by which you will differentiate and which would be consistent with the maintenance 1167 of the political Union." I think I am putting his position fairly. I am not a Unionist, but I traverse that position entirely, and I think there is no Unionist Member for Ireland in this House, who has spoken, on this Debate, or who will speak, who will not traverse that position as a Unionist. Is a Unionist a man who stands by the 7th Article of the Act of Union? And what does the 7th Article say? It says most distinctly that Ireland is to be treated as a separate country in respect of taxation; it says that Ireland is to get separate treatment, in the shape of separate favours in respect of taxation under certain, circumstances. By what right does the right honourable Gentleman say he is a Unionist if he does not carry out those provisions? The answer to the objection that those provisions cannot be carried out is solvitur ambulando. For 60 years after the Union you had a separate Exchequer; for 40 years more you had a direct tax in England; and even down to the present day you have taxes in England which are not levied in Ireland. The thing has been done, and if it has been done it can be done. For my part I will not abandon the right of Ireland to separate treatment in the matter of taxation for any dole or grant for Irish purposes. Therefore I will not refuse any grant for it. At the same time, for no grant or dole will I yield up the rights of Ireland to separate treatment in this matter. What form that separate treatment ought to take it is for others to determine. What the Irish people should do is to see that the principle of their demand is conceded, and I only hope that the union existing in Ireland on this subject will be made troublesome to the Government of England if they persist in their present policy of refusal.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
Where I think honourable Members on this side of the House who are supporting this Resolution make a mistake is in ignoring the fact that there are distressed districts in this country as well as on the other side of St. George's Channel, and if they had their way, by passing this Resolution, we should have the poor farmer in East Anglia paying more in order that the grazier of Tipperary and the owner of grass lands in Meath should pay less. In my opinion a very sensible article 1168 appears in the Times this morning—which I commend to the notice of honourable Gentlemen who are supporting this Resolution—which said that in the event of a Resolution of this kind being passed Essex, with its broken-down agriculture, would want to know why she had to pay the same taxes as the wealthy manufacturers of the West Riding, or of Lancashire; or that the crofter of the Hebrides would ask why he was taxed in the same way as the miners of Lanarkshire and the engineers on the banks of the Clyde. Honourable Members on this side of the House who support the Resolution do not bring their arguments to a logical conclusion, and apparently they have not the courage of their convictions. If they mean what they say, why do they not propose taxable entities for England as well as for Ireland, instead of making fish of one and flesh of the other? As they do not do so, I shall vote against the Resolution.
§ MAJOR JAMESON (Clare, W.)
The right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech told us that Financial Relations Commissions were instituted merely in order to find out what taxation Ireland paid under a system of Home Rule. Now, Sir, I think no doubt that that is true to some extent, but the right honourable Gentleman will not imagine that Ireland will be fonder of the Union when she finds out that that very Commission stated that at the highest one-twentieth was Ireland's share of taxation. I thought he would have been the very last to bring such an argument to bear on the question. I think he also gave himself away when he compared the present conditions of Ireland and Scotland. The Leader of the Opposition went not quite far enough in what he brought to the notice of this House. He told you that it was easy to see, and easy to realise, that Scotland must be put in a different position to Ireland because of her vast factories and mines. Well, Sir, I think all the House will agree with that, but there are many Members on the opposite side who will be in sympathy with that phase of the question, and I say that the honourable and gallant Member who has just sat down is one who will join with us in saying that Ireland can alone depend upon the agricultural industry. But what happened? 1169 England has taken from us something like three-fourths of our agricultural produce, and then, in order that Scotland should remain rich, and the miners and artisans should be fed, and fed cheaply—for their benefit, and not ours, the agricultural produce of Ireland was brought down to the same level as foreign countries, and everything we possessed was lost to us. But Ireland has a compact, and those who are Unionists surely do not wish to go back on the compact made. If they do, then let them say so, and let us go free. If you do not—if you still wish to maintain that Union—are you going to maintain it when you have impoverished us? Sir, we have heard in this House a discourse on the difference between chronic poverty and temporary distress, but never will you remedy chronic poverty until you have once more brought back to Ireland prosperity, and return the money which has been taken from her. That is a striking instance of how the Government could deal with it. If the Government are afraid to grapple with it, then I think they had better make way for those who are not. I did not understand the remedies the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would apply, but I am sure of this: that, at all events, he will recollect that under the Act of Union it was laid down unmistakably that from time to time the finances of Ireland should be looked into. But, Sir, we are not in a position to dictate the remedies to be adopted. When the Home Rule Bill was brought forward this Financial Commission was appointed in order to see what was the proper remedy. I cannot imagine for a moment that there is any courage wanting on the part of Her Majesty's Government to come forward to relieve not only the temporary distress which now exists in Ireland, but the chronic poverty which has increased from year to year ever since this disastrous Union was formed. I trust and firmly believe that the Government will still reconsider this question, and will endeavour to make some proposition by which the people of Ireland may be restored to the wealth which they once possessed.
§ *SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)
I should not have taken part in this Debate but for the remarks of my right honourable Friend the Leader of 1170 the Opposition; but I should like to say a few words upon his speech. I must confess that I was very much surprised at his arguments, and still more astonished at the conclusion at which he arrived. He told us he was going to support the Motion which is now before the House, but the greater part of his speech was practically directed against both the speeches of the Mover and the Seconder of the Resolution. The Mover of the Resolution, in his eloquent speech, based his case, and honourable Gentlemen opposite have done so since, mainly on the Act of Union. They consider that it is because of the Act of Union that they have the special claim which is put forward in the Motion now before the House. But the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that in his view there are many suffering from poverty, both in England and Scotland, who are as much entitled to relief as the similar class in Ireland. They were not only to be relieved also, but at the same time. In his view, therefore, the claim was not geographical; it did not refer specially to Ireland, but was a question of classes. My right honourable Friend the Member for the University of Dublin urged that we should do what we can by means of liberal grants to increase the manufacturing and agricultural interests of Ireland, and to develop the other resources of that country; but my right honourable Friend opposite differed entirely from that suggestion; he argued that these grants went to the wrong persons, and generally did more harm than good. Having thus demolished the speeches in favour of the Resolution, he suddenly announced his intention of voting for it. The right honourable Gentleman then proceeded to make a very strong attack upon indirect taxation. He spoke as if indirect taxation was unjust in itself, and ought almost entirely to be replaced by direct taxation. That is hardly the question before the House at the present moment, but I should like to ask my right honourable Friend how far he is prepared to carry that theory. Surely he does not say that indirect taxation should be altogether abolished. In fact, he himself told us he would not reduce the taxation on alcohol, but the great bulk of the 1171 indirect taxation of the country at the present moment is upon alcohol. Of the 21s. per head, said to be contributed by Ireland, which, however, I regard as very uncertain, 13s. is on alcohol, 7s. on tobacco, and 2s. on tea, etc. His objecjection, then, applies only to a very small part of our indirect taxation. Surely, however, it is very important to retain a certain amount of indirect taxation, because if you do not do so you will have practically one set of people arranging the amount to be spent and another set of people paying the taxes to provide for it. Now that would be a most unfortunate arrangement in any country. It would tend to give the working classes the idea that it did not matter to them what was the amount of expenditure, because they would not contribute towards it. That would not conduce to economy. But those who have looked into the question will agree that, although the working classes might not contribute towards it by indirect taxation, they would contribute towards it by a diminution in wages. Of course, if you diminish indirect taxation, for a time you do benefit the working man, but all these matters adjust themselves after a certain length of time has passed, so that whatever Parliament may do every member of the community will inevitably contribute towards the expenditure of the community. Therefore, while I agree with the right honourable Gentleman that we have done wisely in reducing the proportion of indirect taxation to direct taxation, still I think we ought carefully to consider how much further we are going in that direction, and it would be a fatal mistake to abolish indirect taxation as a whole. That, certainly, would not be talking a course for the benefit of Ireland or for any portion of this country. My right honourable Friend told, us, and I agree with him in this, that it would be impossible to have differential duties between England and Ireland. But, then, what becomes of this Resolution? How are you going to carry out what is desired by honourable Members opposite, unless you have differential taxation? We do make a difference in regard to the assessed taxes now paid in this country, and which are not paid in Ireland; but it is quite clear that, so far as indirect 1172 taxation is concerned, it is absolutely impossible that you should have differential duties between different parts of the United Kingdom. Now, Sir, in these Debates frequent references have been made to the findings of the Royal Commissioners, as set forth in their Report, to which special reference was made by the Mover of the Resolution. I should like to quote to the honourable Member for Waterford a few words from the evidence of Sir Robert Giffen, which show that his evidence has been very much misunderstood. The honourable Member for Waterford gave to the House the impression that the evidence of Sir Robert Giffen was to the effect that Ireland was overtaxed. Now, what was his language with regard to that question? He said, in reply to a question upon the point—I have not given any evidence upon that subject. I have simply given evidence as to the resources to which you may apply for a reconsideration of taxation.It is clear, therefore, that the general evidence of Sir Robert Giffen has been very much misunderstood on that point. The Leader of the Opposition stated very clearly, and with his usual great ability, that in his judgment the way in which this question was to be met was by a radical alteration of the general system of taxation of this country, which would benefit the poorer classes, whether they resided in Scotland, Ireland, or England, and in taking this line he seemed to consider that he had the support of Lord Farrer, Lord Welby, and Mr. Currie. That, however, is not so. They expressed exactly the opposite opinion. They said that we might "dismiss altogether the notion that the injustice under which Ireland suffers can be remedied by any general changes in the taxation of the United Kingdom." They, therefore, do not agree with my right honourable Friend in the general conclusion at which he arrives; and certainly honourable Members opposite will not feel that any of the suggestions thrown out by the Leader of the Opposition would meet the difficulties under which they, rightly or wrongly, believe Ireland to be suffering. From their point of view, no doubt, this is a question of contract. That is a suggestion into which I will 1173 not go at the present moment. I am not prepared to vote for this Resolution: I do not admit that Ireland has any just grievance, and submit that this House has for many years past been anxious to do everything in its power to conduce to the prosperity of Ireland, Still, while I cannot vote for the Resolution, I think there is much to be said for the view of my right honourable Friend the Member for the University of Dublin; and, although I do not intend to vote for the Resolution, I am sure I am expressing the opinion of a great number of Members on this side of the House when I say that we shall always look favourably on any proposal brought forward in this House which will tend to improve either the manufacturing, commercial, or industrial interests of Ireland. There are, it seems to me, indications of considerable improvement, and I cannot but hope the sister island has a brighter prospect before it in the future.
§ *MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
Mr. Speaker, I feel that I should not be doing my duty to my constituents if I were satisfied to give a silent vote upon this occasion. The right honourable Member for the University of London, who has just spoken, seems to me to have, as it were, drawn a red herring across the scent in order to divert the mind of the House from what the real question before it now is. We have not come here to discuss the relative merits of direct and indirect taxation, nor did I understand the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition as at all addressing himself to that subject, beyond this, that when we came to discuss the possibility of remedying an admitted grievance, as he pointed out, you have one way, at all events, in which that grievance might possibly be met. Now, the honourable Members who have assumed an attitude against this Motion seem, every one of them, to have ignored the great question which is at the bottom of it. I was rather distressed to hear last night the honourable Member for North Islington revive what I should have thought had passed altogether into the limbo of vulgarism—namely, the taunt that Irishmen never agree except when they want to rob the Saxon, or something to that effect. I do not think that is the 1174 principle which binds together the Irish Members from every part of Ireland upon this question. I would rather say in the language of a classic writer, Commune periculum concordiam parit. That is the foundation of the union between the two sides of the House on this particular question. They feel that injustice has been done to their common country, and they would join, if possible, in obtaining a remedy for that injustice. Now, the honourable and gallant Member for one of the divisions of Essex said he would oppose this Motion because, if he were to support it, his own constituents and the constituencies of Yorkshire and the crofter country would all seek to be treated as separate entities. Now, I must say, with all respect, that this is a most glaring fallacy. It ignores the real nature of our cause. He forgets that we are dealing now with the taxation, not of Yorkshire or Wiltshire or Inverness, or any of the counties of Wales, but with the taxation of Ireland, a country which was historically, geographically, and racially distinct from England. The fact is altogether ignored in that argument, and in the argument of the right honourable Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that up to the time of the Union Ireland was an independent country, bound only by a common Crown to England. It was as independent by law as England or Great Britain itself, and the common bond of the Crown was the only bond between the two islands. It cannot be forgotten that from the first landing almost of the English in Ireland, Ireland had a separate Parliament—a separate Parliament going back for centuries, and a Parliament that existed under various fortunes up to the passing of the Act of Union in 1800. It is also ignored that in the last two decades of the 18th century Ireland had made an enormous stride in national prosperity and in its wealth and general progress. What, then, at the time of the Union was the state of facts? I am not going to trouble the House with figures. I have, of course, studied the subject to a certain extent, but I now trust to my memory, and if I am wrong, I shall no doubt be set right. At the time of the Union the taxation of Ireland was comparatively small. Its national debt was only 28 millions, while the debt of 1175 England was 446 millions. At the time of the Union Ireland had only to support 15,000 soldiers, of which only 5,000 were bound to serve abroad. At the very time when this Act of Parliament was brought about for the political purposes of England—I am not now entering into any discussion of the justice or injustice of the Act, I am not now going to revive the old story of the fraud and corruption by which that Act was brought about, I am dealing with facts which cannot be questioned—at a time when these two separate Parliaments had been completely independent of each other, independent from the year 1782, as every historian knows, they entered into a compact which I say is the foundation of Ireland's claim upon the present occasion. Now, the conpact was this. It was at a time when, as I have said, the national debt of Ireland was only 28 millions as against 446 millions for England that this compact was made, that the Exchequers should be kept distinct, and that the taxes should be kept distinct until certain conditions were fulfilled, one of those conditions being that the national debt of England was lowered to the same level as that of Ireland. Unfortunately, and that is at the bottom of the great injustice under which Ireland has suffered, a wrong ratio was then made the basis of that Act of Union. It was represented by both Mr. Pitt and Lord Castlereagh that Ireland would gain financially by the Act, and that the taxation of Ireland would not amount to a million a year—I think those were the figures—and in that way they induced the Irish Parliament to adopt the standard of 2 to 15 or 1 to 7½. As was pointed out by one of my honourable Friends on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker Foster predicted that the result of that calculation would be—and it was a most remarkable prophecy—that Ireland would in course of time be further taxed to the extent of two millions and a half, and so actually hit upon the very figures arrived at here. He, in the early part of the century, being a great financier, and being thoroughly conversant with the resources and position of Ireland, actually warned the country and warned the people that the effect of adopting the Act of Union upon that basis would be an increase of 1176 taxation for Ireland in comparison with England to the extent of two and a half millions. Mr. Grattan proclaimed also that the result would be to burden Ireland with over-taxation, and in the very protest that was signed by the Irish peers who were against the Union an elaborate discussion was gone into to show that the ratio of 1 per cent. and a half so taken was an erroneous calculation. They were true prophets, for what occurred was that almost immediately after the Union Ireland was unequal to raising the revenue that would at all meet the tax imposed upon her in that proportion, and the consequence was that in 1817 her debt had swelled enormously. Up to 1817 the Exchequer was kept distinct. It was then consolidated, but it was consolidated with due regard to the Article of the Act of Union, and that Article provided that in regulating the taxation, when the Exchequer was consolidated, regard should be had to such exemptions and abatements as the circumstances of Ireland required. Therefore what occurred was this: for several years, the taxation of Ireland was not exempted, for several years the pressure was not relieved; but it is a mistake to suppose that the agitation against that over-taxation is of modern growth, because in 1834 Mr. O'Connell, in a famous speech delivered in Dublin, pointed out and remonstrated against the iniquity of this state of things, and in his forcible way asked what they would think of a partnership where one partner put in £1,000 a year and the other only £100 a year, and where the terms of the partnership were that they were to put down pound for pound to run the concern. As Mr. O'Connell said, if any man was willing to enter into such a partnership as that he had better walk over to Swift's Hospital—the great lunatic asylum in Dublin. It was always a grievance, and always felt to be a grievance, and as time went on the grievance became aggravated, until finally we have results that have been ascertained by the recent Commission. Is it astonishing, then, that under this extraordinary arrangement, where the rich partner is taxed substantially only as heavily as the poor partner, Ireland should present the wretched appearance and reality of poverty that 1177 she has presented up to the present time? In 1834 Mr. Senior, a great economist, a man of great authority, gave it as his opinion that the Irish people were the worst fed, the worst clothed, and the worst housed people in the world. I believe from my own experience and knowledge of the country that that description is equally applicable, with very little modification, to their condition at the present day. The Devon Commission reported that Ireland lived under suffering greater than any other people in Europe, and now the whole case, as I understand it, upon which the objection to this Motion is based, is that this contract of the Union and this Act of 1817 has passed away into the regions of ancient history, and that now the English Government, or rather the British Government, are at liberty to treat Ireland, not as a separate entity, but on the same terms as Yorkshire or any other shire in England should be treated. But I am not aware of any principle by which length of time could be an answer to a proved grievance. I am not aware of any Statute of Limitations that is a bar to a remedy to a national wrong. Ireland's population has fallen by one-half, while England's population has more than doubled. Between the years 1840 and 1850 the population of Ireland was 8,000,000, or thereabouts; the population of England was at that time a little over 15,000,000 or 16,000,000. But what is the state of things now? Why, Ireland's population has dwindled down to 4,500,000, while the population of England has swelled up—which we all regard with pride and satisfaction—to 34,000,000 or 35,000,000. Now what is the reason of this? Why, it is because in England you have enjoyed a paternal Government; because England has done everything to foster her trade and to develop her industrial resources; because, while the taxation of Ireland was doubling, that of England was gradually falling under the auspicious system of finance, which substituted direct taxation for indirect taxation. Now, the taxation of England has been ascertained by this Report. I am not going to trouble the House with more than one or two figures taken from that Report. In 1850 Ireland paid per head about one- 1178 quarter of what England had then paid in point of taxation. That is a very simple figure. It was one-fourth in 1850. In 1896, at that ratio, the taxation per head in Ireland—I am speaking only of Imperial taxation—would be 14s. 6d., and what is it in fact? Why, it is £1 15s. 4d. I have ascertained this in taking the figures from the evidence and Reports of this Commission, but I have not the materials to verify those figures with the changes that have taken place since the years on which the calculation of that Commission is based. Another way of putting it is this: the average British income was proved, or stated, by some witnesses to be £30 a year, and the average British taxation per head was £2 10s. That included both local and Imperial taxation per head. But look at the case of Ireland. The average Irish income at the very outside per head is £15, and the average taxation, both local and Imperial, per head in Ireland is £2 12s. There is another way in which this glaring contrast has been represented. Now, the aggregate income of Great Britain is £1,600 millions; deduct £10 per head for 35,000,000 population, and that would make £350 millions, leaving a surplus of £1,250 millions for taxation in Great Britain. Ireland's annual income is £60,000,000. At the same percentage per bead—that is, £10 on 4,500,000 of population—the result would be £45,000,000, and the balance would be £15,000,000 as a surplus for taxation. Yet what, I ask, is the ratio of 1,250 millions to 15 millions? The maxim of Mill was that to warrant equality of taxation there should be equality of sacrifice. Can anyone say that there is equality of sacrifice, comparing the average income of the inhabitants of Great Britain with that of the inhabitants of Ireland? Is it not clear that Ireland from this unfortunate connection, carried out by the Act of Union, has been a sufferer, as is demonstrated by the condition in which she now exists, compared with either England or Scotland? Now, over and over again this question has been discussed before the British House of Commons. We all know by looking to "Hansard" the general tone which a distinguished Member from 1179 Ireland, the late General Dunn, constantly adopted when he brought this question before the House. We know also that it was brought before this House by a great financier, Sir Joseph McKenna, and he demonstrated that the taxation, up to the date in which he moved the resolution in 1867, in Ireland per head had risen from 10s. 1d. to £1 3s. 3d. Well, during the same period the taxation in Great Britain per head had only risen from £2 11s. to £2 13s. The subject was again and again renewed, and so late as 1890, as was pointed out by the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, by granting this Commission, admitted that which is the foundation of our case, that Ireland must be treated as a separate fiscal entity. There is no mystery about that phrase, for an entity is a well-understood term. There are some Members, perhaps, who would be pleased if this word entity were kept out of sight altogether in dealings between England and Ireland, but for the whole of this century it has been recognised that Ireland was to be treated as a different country, bound by the ties of the Union, to England. The whole course of legislation has recognised Ireland as a different entity. There are two streams in our Statute Book of Statutes applying only to England and Statutes applying only to Ireland. The celebrated land code has been the means of regenerating in some measure Ireland, and preventing it being completely swamped by its otherwise miserable condition. That is an illustration of how Ireland is treated as a different country. This very Session, under the auspices of the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House, the Standing Committee upstairs has been engaged day after day considering two Acts of Parliament, neither of which, whether they may be good or bad, has its benefits extended to Ireland. Therefore it is vain for honourable Gentlemen—no matter how eloquent, how ingenious, or to whatever Party they belong—to contend that Ireland can toe treated in the same spirit with regard to taxation as Yorkshire, or Essex, or Lancashire, or any other part of the kingdom. Now, then, the question remains as to 1180 this question of set-off. I apprehend that all taxation must be divided into two heads, local taxation and Imperial taxation. Local taxation is raised, as we all know, out of the rates paid by the inhabitants of a particular locality. All those taxes which are raised for Imperial purposes over the Empire at large are Imperial taxes, and I say that it is impossible to discriminate and say that because Ireland gets certain grants out of the Imperial Treasury, that should be dealt with as a set-off for admitted grievances. I say admitted grievances, because the very use of the term "set-off," as all lawyers know, indicates that there is a valid claim set up before the question of set-off can arise. There is the maintenance of Dublin Castle, the maintenance of the constabulary, and all those other grants that are made out of the Imperial Exchequer. I am not speaking of the agricultural grant, for that stands on a different basis. They come out of the Imperial revenue, and cannot be discriminated from any other Imperial outlay. The Imperial expenditure in London is 20 or 30 times greater than the whole Imperial expenditure in Ireland put together, but we cannot complain of that. We all treat it as part of the terms under which we are part of this Imperial system. But, on the other hand, the right honourable Gentleman opposite cannot claim as a set-off the maintenance of the constabulary, the maintenance of the parks, the maintenance of the public buildings, and the maintenance of Dublin Castle, and the whole system of judicature for the preservation of peace, and for the administration of the law, that cannot be attributed to a separate account, and must be adopted as the necessary expenditure chargeable against the entire Empire. In this respect, I agree with what has been said by several Members on both sides of this House. I think, as an Irishman, that there is nothing more degrading, nothing more calculated to diminish our self-respect, than to come to this House of Commons, and with bated breath and whispering humbleness hold out our caps for doles and pittances for Ireland. What I demand here, in the name of nay constituency, and in support of this Motion, is justice. I demand 1181 no generosity, but I insist upon justice as a right, and I insist upon it as dependent upon those principles of natural equity and natural justice which England has always been supposed to maintain to the sacrifice of all selfish interests. I am not here to indulge in recriminations as to the past. I am not here to complain of centuries of wrong, of injustice, and of political blunderings. I am here to advocate a particular Resolution based upon particular grounds, and it is one satisfaction, at all events, whatever the result of this Division may be, and whatever the result of this Debate may be, that it will silence for ever the argument which, since the short time I have been in the House, and long before I had the honour of being in this House, I frequently read of—namely, the undue liberality of England to Ireland. What they did was well expressed by Mr. Commissioner O'Brien in his evidence before the Commission. The money they gave—part of it was to keep the Irish people alive under famine and pestilence; the rest of the money was given to keep the Irish people quiet. And why quiet? Because they were wronged in the way in which their taxes were piled upon them; because they were wronged in their trade and industrial resources not receiving the same encouragement and fair play under which England has become the greatest and the wealthiest Empire that the sun ever shone upon. For that reason our expenditure may have been necessary to keep them quiet, just as a large expenditure at that time was necessary to keep them alive. I do trust to the honour and sense of justice of this House—and this matter is not a Party question—and I hope honourable Members, no matter on which side of the House they may sit, will not hesitate even at the eleventh hour to do this act of tardy justice to Ireland.
§ MR. BECKETT (Yorks., N.R., Whitby)
I cannot look upon this as a question in which only Imperial interests are involved My honourable Friend the Member for Essex put in a plea on behalf of Essex. At the same time, I confess that I have listened to the arguments he 1182 and others have adduced with interest; but I do not see how it is possible to treat Ireland on the same footing as Essex or Yorkshire, or any other part of Great Britain. In the first place, Ireland is a poor country taken under the wing of a rich country against her own will and for our own purposes. That seems to me to constitute a special claim on the part of Ireland. I do not think any Englishman can contemplate the present condition of Ireland with entire satisfaction. We see in Ireland to-day a diminishing population, and we do not see any increasing resources; and, altogether, no matter in what way we make a comparison, the contrast between England and Ireland at this present moment is very great indeed. I think it will be admitted that if we take Ireland under our control against her will, it constitutes a special claim on the part of Ireland on account of our conduct towards Ireland in the past. Most of us Unionists think that many of the misfortunes under which Ireland suffers she has brought on herself, but, at the same time, most of us recognise fully that we also are responsible, and that although Irishmen are to blame, we Englishmen are to blame as well, and this constitutes a special claim upon us on the part of Ireland, and any well-proved grievance on her part should be speedily removed. In times gone by, when Ireland was in a turbulent condition, and outrages were prevalent in the country, then I admit that we were right in standing with our backs to the wall, and refusing to grant her anything, and I feel sure that no one feels more admiration for my right honourable Friend than I do for the way in which he ruled in Ireland during those troubled years. Our policy in Ireland has hitherto' been to concede everything to force and nothing to persuasion. But my right honourable Friend the Leader of the House completely reversed that policy in one respect, because he conceded nothing to force; but I now ask him to reverse that in another respect and concede everything to persuasion. Now the question is, supposing there is a grievance, is it a genuine and real grievance? Well, it does seem to me that we cannot get away from the Report of the Royal Commission on this question. 1183 Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has challenged the accuracy of that Report, but it would be a great relief to us if that inaccuracy were proved at once. If those conclusions were ill-founded, it ought to be established that they are ill-founded, and if I might offer a suggestion, it would be that the Government should appoint a fresh Commission to go into the subject to see whether we can have more light thrown upon it, and see whether the taxation could not be adjusted according to the taxable capacity of the country. But, after all, we have admitted that principle over and over again. We have admitted it in the exemptions and abatements under the income tax; we admit it in the graduation of the death duties; we also admit it to some extent in the Agricultural Rating Act; and if we have admitted it practically in so many ways, I do not see why we should not admit it in the case of Ireland. England, it is perfectly true, is not bound to relieve the poverty of individuals in Ireland any more than she is bound to relieve the poverty of people in England, but the general condition of the countries under her sway should be taken into consideration, and the condition of Ireland at the present moment is not what it should be. The Government seem to be perfectly ready to admit that principle themselves. Now, what have they done themselves this Session? Why, they have brought in a Bill to afford relief to the West Indies because the general condition of that country is not prosperous. If they can make special advances and legislation for the benefit of the West Indies on the ground that they are suffering from economical difficulties, I do not see why they should not extend that principle to Ireland. I do not pledge myself to every detail of this Resolution, and I do not support all the suggestions that have been made for the relief of Ireland, and if we do not relieve her now in cash, I think, at all events, that the Government have a guide to go by which should be of material assistance to them in removing many of the difficulties, and in that Report they will find the direction in which they, might proceed. By applying some sum—I will not say what sum—and in applying the principle of State 1184 aid to agriculture, they might do something to improve very much the condition of Ireland, and advance its material prosperity. It is certainly a wise policy to adopt, because the more prosperity there is in Ireland the more she will pay to England in taxation. It is a pounds, shillings, and pence question now, but it will pay us to do what we can to establish her prosperity. I look not only to the material condition of Ireland, but I take a wider survey and look at the spirit of Ireland and the spirit of the Irish people all over the world. I think no patriotic man can fail to have been struck last year during the celebration of the Jubilee by the fact that Irishmen refused to take any part in those celebrations, and the reason they gave was that while Great Britain could look back for 60 years to increasing prosperity, that had not been shared by Ireland. Now that, to my mind, was a great and significant fact, and it was one that could not be ignored. We now see the same thing in another quarter where also it cannot be ignored. There is no question that our country at this moment stands in a somewhat perilous condition before the world, and there is danger of a very dangerous combination being formed against us. The Prime Minister had indulged in a very gloomy forecast of the present situation, and we have been told that these are very critical times. Now, in these critical times there is one thing which every Englishman looks upon with satisfaction and hope, and that is the prospect of increasing amity with America. Not only so, but it is an important, element of security for the future which holds out to us opportunities which may enable us to draw closer the bonds of friendship which unite us to America. But there is one thing which stands in the way, and that is the action of the Irish people in America. Now, I think, that is founded upon a great deal of prejudice, ignorance, and misconception. Undoubtedly that has influenced a certain number of Americans, and America has taken it that we have not treated Ireland with justice. Now, if we take advantage of this opportunity to provide a remedy, if we say that we will yield to Ireland 1185 this demand simply because we think that it is wise on our part to do so, and if we say that perhaps it is certain that she is entitled to all this in consideration that she is a poor country and needs our help and assistance, and that we will do what we can to help her, I think that would impress the American people very much, and incline them to lend us an ear, and they would then say that we had treated Ireland as she ought to be treated, as an integral part of the United Kingdom. Upon these grounds I venture to support this Resolution.
*MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
As a member of the Financial Reform League I have been asked by my brother members to speak upon this Resolution. I do not share the opinion expressed by those who say that we should not go into the history of this question, nor do I intend to detain the House by any array of figures; but I feel convinced that the majority of the Members have not considered the question from an historical standpoint. Ireland was practically free from this enormous taxation before the Union. A large majority of the Unionists in Ireland are in favour of this movement for readjustment and restitution. I am glad to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place. I have no idea of treating this subject except as a matter of arithmetic, of common sense, and justice, and I can tell the right honourable Gentleman that this agitation is not going to pass away. We have established branches all over Ireland, the leading local Unionists of Ireland are heartily co-operating, and if our demand for justice is not conceded in a proper spirit probably means will be adopted to bring this question before the country in a way that will not be very pleasant to the Government. We are in earnest, we do not mean this to be an academic Debate, for we intend to bring this grievance to a practical conclusion. I am a Home Ruler; still, I believe that the over-taxation of Ireland is really the most important question that can be brought before the Irish nation at the present moment. Yet at one time Ireland had hardly any financial burden except local taxation. In 1715 the so-called National Debt of Ireland 1186 was only £116,000. During the existence of the Irish Parliament there was nothing added to that debt, but in 1800 the Irish National Debt suddenly rose to four millions. Subsequently there was a great addition, for the English got up an insurrection in Ireland in order to give an excuse to carry the Union with the aid of bribery and corruption, and that nefarious transaction cost twenty-two millions; and, be it remembered, the British Treasury debited Ireland with the twenty-two millions which it cost to carry the Union. In the year 1801 our National Debt was raised to eighteen millions of money, and I would like to point out to the English, Scotch, and the few Irish Unionists who are opposed to this Motion that the men who carried the Union at that time would never have voted for the Measure if they had believed that the Union would have resulted in double taxation to the Irish nation. The fact is that a clause was inserted in the Act of Union which was supposed to safeguard the Irish taxed under certain well-defined exemptions contrary to legal contract. From the date of the Union we have participated to a double extent in the payment of taxes, but we have not participated in the expenditure. In the Irish Parliament Debates preceding the Union the main opposition to that Measure was that Ireland, a lightly taxed country, with a small debt, would be brought under the taxation system of Great Britain, which was far more burdened, but so much richer that the taxes were more easily paid. In order to carry the Union Pitt and Castlereagh nominally, made concessions. They had to consent to a period during which Ireland should contribute according to a fixed ratio, to be gauged by an estimate of her relative wealth or taxable capacity. This system was to last until the debts of the two countries arrived at a certain proportion, either through the liquidation of the British or the increase of the Irish debt (which was more likely, and occurred). In 1799 Pitt described the Measure which would, by freedom of commerce and common use of capital, infuse a large portion of wealth into Ireland, that mighty limb of the Empire. Mr. 1187 Fitzgerald, speaking officially on 16th June, 1815, said—I do not fear that Parliament will ever declare the competency of Ireland to bear the entire weight of that taxation which the wealth and resources of England enable her to support, without reference to those considerations upon which alone Ireland should be exempted from those burdens which are laid upon all other subjects of the United Kingdom. The power of that exemption is expressly reserved to Parliament by the Act of Union.Yet this legal, solemn contract is now repudiated by a Unionist Government, and termed obsolete by leading English newspapers. So much, for parchment treaties. As to the new plea of set-off and Imperial expenditure, Lord Castlereagh said in the Irish Parliament—If the proportion of expense shall be rightly fixed and ascertained for every part of the Empire, it is immaterial to Great Britain where that expenditure takes place. This is an explicit declaration on that argument of our opponents.Now as to the modus operandi and figures. In 1801 the British National Debt was £450,500,000, and the annual charge £17,750,000. The Irish National Debt at that time was £28,000,000, and the annual charge was £1,250,000. Immediately after the Union the process of increasing Irish taxation went on, and the result was that some 15 years after the British National Debt was, in consequence of foreign wars, £735,000,000, and the annual charge £28,250,000; while the Irish Debt was £112,000,000, and the annual charge £4,000,000. How did this come about? Why, by the manipulations of the British Treasury. The British Debt did not double, but the Irish Debt increased fourfold, and it is exactly upon the same system, that taxation is carried on at the present time, as we have to pay for wars in which we are not interested. The Irish nation had no quarrel with the French people at the time of the Peninsular War; on the contrary, the French were ready to come over and help the Irish nation. This was proved by the Embassy of Wolfe Tone and the expeditions of Hoche and Humbert, and previously Irishmen had fought all over the Continent, amongst other battles, at Fontenoy, in 1188 the exiled Irish Brigade. [Laughter.] I notice that the honourable Member for Belfast laughs.
Perhaps the honourable Member for Belfast does not know that the people of Belfast were strongest in their opposition to English rule at one time. Everybody who has studied history is aware that the United Irishmen were started in Belfast, and that city was more opposed to English rule, possibly, than any other portion of the British dominions, and probably that may come about again.
The United Irishmen were started in Belfast, and many good Nationalists are there to-day. Meantime, during this cycle of years, we participated in paying, and paid more than our due share of taxes, without having any share in the expenditure. To enable this to be quietly done the exchequers were amalgamated. I have no faith in British statesmen or in the British Treasury, and I believe that no move is made by the British Treasury that is not actuated by the desire to "best" everyone with whom, they have any dealings. The right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House may smile, but it is a very extraordinary fact that all the dependencies of Great Britain become poor, while Great Britain herself becomes rich. Look at the state of India to-day, slowly recovering from famine, oppressed with over-taxation, and almost ruined by a depreciated, unstable currency. Look at the West Indies, to whom you are granting a sugar bounty, whilst the distress in Ireland remains practically unrelieved by Government. Look at Ireland—discontented, disarmed, and overtaxed. Examine all those countries where your financial rule is supreme. You do not financially govern Australia, because, practically, they are independent of you, and practise Protection even against the so-called Mother Country; Canada also follows its own system of finance and Protection. It is useless to pursue particulars; for, Mr. 1189 Speaker, I assert unhesitatingly that every dependency of Great Britain ruled from the British Treasury is always plundered. It is so, and I challenge anyone to prove the contrary. Now, the amalgamation of the exchequers took place in 1817, distinctly on the principle of the acknowledged system of exemptions, which was part of the Act of Union, was to be carried into effect. That was perfectly clear, and such consolidation of the exchequers was brought about on the mutual understanding that consolidation would mean the reduction of taxation all over the country, and that the expenditure should be treated as Imperial expenditure, and not be debited to Ireland, England, or Scotland. But this was a skilful move on the part of the British Exchequer; for Lord Castlereagh declared in the Irish House of Commons, 6th February, 1800, the United Parliaments will always be able to make abatements in Ireland. Yet about the time of amalgamation the local taxation in Ireland was something like 15 per cent. of the valuation, but local taxation in England was only 9½ per cent. of the valuation. This progression of taxation graduated, and coming to the year 1853, after the great famine, greater burdens still were placed upon the Irish people. Although there was a surplus of 2½ millions, the income tax was extended to Ireland, and the whisky tax was increased. I wish less of it was consumed, and that there had been a smaller revenue from the drinking of whisky. But, notwithstanding my being a temperance man, I insist that it is a disproportionate taxation to place upon Ireland, because the greater portion of this money is expended in England, though exacted from what is, unfortunately, almost Ireland's chief manufacture. I must now revert to points which should have been brought before the House with regard to the increase of taxation almost in ratio to the decrease of population. In 1841 the population of Ireland was 8,000,000, and the taxation £3,900,000. In 1851 the population was, by famine and emigration, reduced to 6,000,000, and the taxation £4,060,000. In 1861 the population was under 6,000,000, and the taxation over £6,420,000. In 1871 the population was 5,000,000, and the taxation 1190 £7,036,000. In 1893 the population was under 5,000,000, and the taxation £7,568,000. In 1898 the population was 4,545,000, and the taxation has grown to £8,146,000. In the face of those historical records and official figures, how can it be maintained that we are not overtaxed? Are we to understand that according as the people grow less the taxes are to be increased? What is the first duty of a Government? It is to preserve the people, and the English Government in Ireland have ignored that duty, because the people have gradually got less in number until now they are one-half of what they were 50 years ago. The taxation has more than doubled since 1841, and the population has decreased by one-half. I was glad to hear a Unionist Member, who spoke last, make some remark about the Queen's reign. I have no objection to the demonstration of loyalty which came from the English people on the occasion of the Jubilee of Her Most Gracious Majesty; they have a right to their opinions, so have the Irish people: it is about the only liberty left to them. I have, frequently stated outside this House, and I am not afraid to repeat here what I say outside, that loyalty is a contract. If the Government do not fulfil their duties and responsibilities, then the taxpayers—otherwise the Community—are not bound to be loyal. We have heard a great deal about the glories of the Victorian Era. Let me point out what the glories of the Victorian Era have been to Ireland. When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 our population was 8,024,000, and our taxation was £5,175,000. Our taxation per head of the population was 12s. 11d. Now, after 60 years of Her Most Gracious Majesty's reign, how do these figures work out? I will ask honourable Members opposite who expect us to join in hosannahs and hallelujahs just to note these figures. In 1897 our population had dwindled to 4,545,000, and our taxation, rising as the population decreased, was £8,146,000, and instead of being 12s. 11d. per head of the population it was £1 15s. 10d. That is the result of 60 years of the Victorian Era to the Irish people, and yet honourable and right honourable Gentlemen opposite wonder why Irishmen are not loyal and contented with 1191 the system of government which exists in Ireland at the present time. What I have just pointed out has been with reference to Imperial taxation, and now for the local taxation which is imposed on the people. Everybody knows, who is acquainted with the government of Ireland, that local taxes have in the past been raised by non-elected grand juries, by municipalities, and town commissioners, elected on a limited fancy franchise differing in almost every district. The poor law guardians were elected by multiple votes, and to counteract popular influence were re-inforced by non-elected ex-officios. This simple statement of affairs incontestably proves that we have had no system of local government in Ireland, and the local taxes that have been raised have been levied without the consent or the knowledge of the people. The passing of the Irish Local Government Bill is an admission that since the Union the Irish ratepayers have had no control of internal expenditure. Surely the time has come when the Irish nation should insist on an audit of national accounts, asking for readjustment and restitution, and demanding a fair proportion of the share in national expenditure. In 1837 the local taxes in Ireland were £1,030,000, or something like 3s. 7d. per head. During the Victorian Era up to 1897 it had gradually increased until it reached the sum of £3,975,000, or almost £4,000,000; that is to say, it had increased almost four times to what it was in 1837. In 1837 local taxation was 3s. 7d. per head of the population; in 1897 it was 17s. 6d. Here, again, exactly as the population decreased the taxation increased. In 1837, with a population of 8,024,000, the total amount of taxation was £6,205,000; in 1897, with a population of 4,545,000, the total taxation was £12,121,000. In 1837 the total taxation per head was 15s. 6d., in 1897 it was £2 13s. 4d. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to study these figures, because he is an expert. I am only a business man; but looking at these things from a commercial point of view, I want to know how they can be explained, and how it can be alleged, as is said by some Unionists, that we are taxed under the proportion which exists in England at the present time. I maintain that since the Union Ireland 1192 has paid in taxation a greater sum absolutely than the Germans levied off the French for a war indemnity. Financial war has been waged by the British Treasury upon the Irish people; for if this immense sum of money had been returned in expenditure by giving employment in the country from which it was taken Ireland's economic and material position would be much better to-day. But there is yet another point of view, and I would put this constitutional point before the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am not a constitutionalist authority, but I understand, if I understand anything, that taxation is the the cost of supporting the Constitution. If it is levied for anything, it is levied for the purpose of supporting the Constitution. If that is so, the question arises, have we any Constitution in Ireland? No. We have absolutely no Constitution in Ireland at the present time, because the Habeas Corpus Act is suspended, and we have instead a perpetual Coercion Act. The people in Ireland are all disarmed, and we are not allowed that right to carry arms which belongs to every free people. Honourable Gentlemen opposite may smile; it may be a laughing matter to them, but to us it is a very serious and constitutional consideration, because it comes to this, that we are paying £8,000,000 a year for a suspended Constitution, and for the privilege of being disarmed. Therefore, I solemnly state in this House that all these taxes are levied in Ireland under false pretences at the present moment. If we are to pay taxes we should get some return from them, this perpetual Coercion Act should be repealed, and our people should have the right to carry firearms as every free nation has. With regard to what has been said in this Debate as to the policy of set-off, and how much should be allowed in consequence of certain high charges that are expended in Ireland, I answer these excessive charges are necessary, as a result of your system of misrule—that is the reason. Give us the management of our own affairs, abnormal expenditure will very soon disappear, and we could manage our government in a constitutional and economic fashion. For example, the cost of civil government, in Belgium, a free, self-governed country, 1193 is 10s. a head, while in coerced, foreign-ruled Ireland it is 19s. 7d., or double. Brougham, a Lord Chancellor of England, laid down that the plain and simple test of the merits of any Constitution as, Does it secure the best laws at the smallest expense both of money and subjection? So, according to this great British jurist, with your constant coercion and terrible taxation, English rule in Ireland is the worst in civilisation. I am here as a member of this Irish Financial Reform League, to join my Unionist brethren in Ireland, in order that we may obtain readjustment and restitution in regard to this financial question. I have no definite proposal to make, because of the difficulty which surrounds this question respecting the deferential duties and matters of detail which will undoubtedly have attention at a future stage of these proceedings. Many honourable Gentlemen in this Debate deal with this question in a very narrow way. I have not yet heard a speech on the other side that was worth considering. We have had no serious answers whatever in reply to our contention. I do not regard laughter as an answer. Scoffs are not facts, silence is not reason; and if some honourable Gentlemen get up and enter into small hair-splitting details about little matters that scarcely merit the attention of the House, those are not arguments against the facts which we have been advancing in this important Debate. In the words of a great man who used to sit as a Conservative in this House—Disraeli—The cause which will not bear discussion is lost.We are prepared to discuss this cause, not only in the House of Commons, but in Ireland, and in England also, but we find the great Press of this country boycotting this question. Why? Because they are afraid of it, because they know that we have right and justice on our side. I am quite aware that the honourable Member for Belfast does not agree with me, but he is only a unit in this Assembly. The vast majority of the Members of his party are on our side, and I do not look upon him as past conversion; perhaps, when his constituents examine his action in this matter, he may be induced to alter his opinions. We have had a 1194 gentleman from Belfast who is as good a supporter of this Resolution as any Member in the House—the Rev. Dr. Kane. We have had him on our platform in Dublin, and he was accorded a good reception. If he has been converted, then surely we may have hopes of the honourable Member for Belfast. I trust that when this matter is being considered by the Government the undoubted claim for the industrial, commercial, and agricultural recuperation of Ireland will be fairly considered. It must be borne in mind that, according to their own figures, the Government have a yearly profit out of Ireland, over and above the enormous expenditure it takes to keep a coercion Government, of not less than £2,176,000, and this sum is retained by Great Britain and swept into the British Treasury as an Imperial contribution. None of this money is spent in Ireland; it is absorbed into the British Exchequer to give work and employment in Great Britain. Further to accentuate the situation, the greater part of this expenditure is upon the Navy. Scarcely a shilling of naval expenditure is given to Ireland. But the great British Fleet is utilised to protect the vast mercantile marine flotilla of carriers which unceasingly pour into Great Britain supplies which lessen the value of Irish products. And as to the Army and horses, why, they are supplied by foreign meat, hay, oats, and straw, imported from countries which neither pay rates nor taxes nor rent, nor give employment. All creeds and classes in Ireland recognise that the exportation of £2,750,000 yearly, according to the verdict of the Royal Commission, is a national evil that demands an immediate remedy. The condition of Ireland proclaims the need of expenditure on drainage, harbours, fisheries, canals, railway communication, and education. We very sadly need a Board of Agriculture, and I for my part will be inclined to say that one of the first things to which attention ought to be directed is the buying up of the Irish railways, because there can be no commercial prosperity in Ireland until the carrying system is cheapened and modified. I support this Motion heartily, and I trust that the result of this Debate will be that those who have any sense of justice or of impartiality will vote for it. But I have no faith whatever in the sense of justice possessed by 1195 most Unionist Members upon the Irish question. Somehow they are all in a mist of prejudice, and it is almost impossible to educate them, when that education means a sacrifice of their own interests. However, I hope that all Irishmen and many Unionists will help us in the Division which is about to take place upon the issue of readjustment and restitution. In ordinary Governments there is an indemnity for taxes in freedom, and in despotic countries there is an equivalent for liberty in the lightness of taxes, but in Ireland neither of those conditions prevails, because we have to bear heavy taxation to support a coercion Government, a system which will not continue when Irish public opinion becomes, as it should be; the breath of the law in overtaxed Ireland.
§ *SIR T. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
I had not the advantage of hearing the speech delivered yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I read it this morning, and for my part I must congratulate the right honourable Gentleman on the perfect candour with which he has given us the attitude of the Government in this matter. The right honourable Gentleman spoke as the English Chancellor of the Exchequer, he spoke in the English Parliament, and he spoke as one entrusted with the care of the interests of England. The right honourable Gentleman spoke as an Englishman, and I for one have no fault to find with what he said from that point of view. The business of the English Chancellor of the Exchequer is to advance the interests of the country against the encroachment of other countries, and in this particular matter he has to defend the interests of his country against the interests of Ireland. I therefore look at the attitude of the right honourable Gentleman as the attitude of an Englishman, and I am not prepared to find fault with his declarations. The attitude of the right honourable Gentleman is one, however, which can hardly be followed by Irishmen. We are not representative of the English Treasury, we are only representing the interests of our own country, and therefore the House and the right honourable Gentleman will not think me discourteous if I express my 1196 views upon this subject from the Irish standpoint. One thing struck me as peculiar, and as worth noticing, and it is this: this Parliament is supposed to be the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and we are told that in this Parliament Ireland will obtain everything she requires, and that her interests will be as carefully looked after as the interests of England or of Scotland; and yet this question, which, to my mind, is the most important of many important Irish questions, has not found a single representative of the controlling Government—of the Parliament of the Union—of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—to take up the cudgels on behalf of Ireland. If this Parliament were really a Parliament of the United Kingdom—if it were as anxious as it professes to be to give full and ample justice to Ireland—I think it logically follows that some member of the Government of the country would be empowered to state what are the opinions of the Government on behalf of Irish interests, and from an Irish point of view; but no voice has been raised on behalf of Ireland from the Government benches. There is another matter in connection with this which makes it more curious—namely, that, according to one of the many treaties which Ireland entered into on this financial question, England gave her a specific pledge that for all time there would be a guarantee for Irish financial interests in the Act for consolidating the Exchequers; and there was a special clause—I think it was clause 4—in which the Irish people were promised that if they agreed to that consolidation of the Exchequers they would have a representative in the English Government. They were told that if they agreed to that consolidation of the Exchequers in 1817 they would have a Vice-Treasurer for Ireland. This Gentleman was appointed by the Act of George III., cap. 98; and, further, the Irish people were promised in this same Act that, in addition to this Vice-Treasurer, they were to have two Irish Commissioners to assist the Treasurer in looking after the interests of the people of Ireland, and the salaries of these gentlemen were fixed, and it was arranged that they were to be Members of this House. 1197 The Act for consolidating the Exchequers was passed, but we do not hear now of any Irish Vice-Treasurer for Ireland, or of any Commissioners being appointed to look after the interests of Ireland in financial matters. Of course, I do not want to say anything discourteous to this House, but it is only a sample of the way in which promises have been carried out to Ireland. Ireland, in this House, has no friend. It is a perpetual case of England versus Ireland, and all the odds are in favour of England. When we Irish Members come over here and make speeches, and Debates are raised, on questions vitally affecting Ireland, for all the good that we do we might just as well stop at home. No matter what the Irish Members may say, that is always the case. Now, upon this particular financial matter we have said a great deal, but we might just as well be talking to the wind as talking to this House; and no doubt the idea is this: that by wearying us out by paying no attention to our demands, as time goes on there is a much better chance for Nationalist aspirations dying out amongst us. The Irish Members have always protested against the financial arrangement between England and Ireland. They have been doing so ever since the Act of Union, and they are doing it to-day, and they will always continue to do it. I am glad to say that they have not always been quite alone in their protests against English mismanagement of Irish finances. Unfortunately, they have had but very few friends in England, but still they have had some friends. I will go back to the year 1817, and give the expressions of an English Member of Parliament, and his opinions and his belief as to the English financial treatment of Ireland. On May 15th, 1817, there is a report in "Hansard" of a Debate on Irish finance. I think, if honourable Members occasionally looked over the ancient editions of "Hansard" they would find many interesting things, and among others they would find that there were a great number of Motions and Debates which have 1198 arisen upon this question of Irish financial relations. In this particular Debate Sir John Newport, who was a constant friend of Ireland, made a very interesting speech, from which I may be allowed to quote some passages—From the result of the Debate of Friday, on the great question vitally affecting the peace, the happiness, the security of Ireland, and of the Empire (a result which I must ever consider as seriously calamitous to the country by disconnecting the two islands in interests and in affection), I proceed this day to discuss the question of the finances of Ireland in this House with a reluctance which I should not feel were I impressed with a conviction that the concerns of Ireland would experience here that dispassionate and deliberate consideration which their importance and magnitude imperatively demand.He said that which has been stated several times since, that Irish financial affairs did not get proper attention in this House. The next passage I will quote is in answer to the speech of an English Member in this Debate, who said that Ireland is a debtor in this matter to the generosity of England—Those (if any there be) who can believe that the well-being of that country affects in an inconsiderable degree the best interests of the Empire, know little of the value of Ireland in the general scale, and very inadequately estimate the unexampled efforts, military and financial, by which she has contributed, during years of extreme peril, to the common defence. Those, on the contrary, who have known and witnessed those exertions must be deeply impressed with the value of her services, and must feel that her great sacrifices in war demand, as an act of justice, a corresponding participation in the blessings of peace, not merely as it refers to the condition of Ireland, but as it vitally affects her connection with Britain. I deeply lament the decision of Friday, because it proves that a majority in this House do not even now view as they ought the baneful effects of that disorganisation which centuries of bad policy and misgovernment have produced in Ireland; the misery which the old and odious principle of division has engendered, by which you have sought to perpetuate disunion as the foundation of your sovereignty, and have succeeded in estranging her from a consolidation with the interests and feelings of Great Britain. Though greatly weakened in my confidence in the justice of the House from that decision, it is, however, my duty to state the claims of Ireland as connected with her financial concerns, and attempt to obtain for her in this respect that equitable consideration which has been denied to the other great branch of her system.1199 He then goes on, and this is very interesting to English Members—In reviewing the burdens imposed upon that part of the United Kingdom at different periods (a consideration overlooked too much from the magnitude of the affairs of the Empire), it will be seen that she took upon herself too large a share in the expenditure incident to the war, and has now, in a state of peace, a substantial, irresistible claim on the justice of the country for a fair and adequate relaxation of the pressure of taxation which has been accorded to Great Britain. If the statement be indisputable, that Ireland has made such sacrifices, then her claim for relaxation of burthens cannot be impeached. But, in addition to the demands of justice, the interest and policy of England require that she should be so relieved, for her present unexampled state of distress has arrested the consumption of your manufactures She cannot afford to buy from you as in her more prosperous days, and your depreciative market has felt the consequences of their depression. It is painful but instructive to review the course which Ireland has run in later years, and dispassionately to peruse the annals of that country. In the years 1781 and 1782, the period of her brightest glory, when the energy and talent of my right honourable Friend (Mr. Grattan) called into life and action that proud and noble spirit which was in that crisis the guardian of the country against foreign invasion, and the steady supporter of the law's ascendancy in her internal management; when she was left unprotected by England, who declared her inability to afford protection at that memorable era of your weakness, she repelled the foe, enforced unexampled obedience to the laws, and asserted her independence. She effected all this by the enthusiastic spirit of an united people. She fled not then for refuge to the protection of a standing army, but grasped the lance and shield of a free and enlightened nation, and preserved the integrity of the British Empire. The picture was too soon reversed, and a recurrence to the old, hateful system of policy encouraged by the Government produced its accustomed baneful consequences. This fatal change arose in the viceroyalty of the present Privy Seal (Earl of Westmoreland), whose measures, seeking to govern by division, were adapted to poison the source of the people's happiness and affections. Who can look back on it without abhorrence? It alienated the people from each other with the active and malignant spirit of a demon—it brought down on the devoted country misery and ruin, and history will inscribe its character on her records in letters of blood. This fatal policy inordinately increased the public debt, accumulated an oppressive weight of taxes, and ultimately so embittered the state of social relations, as to drive the people to surrender that independence they had nobly won, and merged their Legislature in the Parliament of this country. I will not now question the course pursued by the authors of the Union. I reluctantly concurred from the deplorable situation of the nation, but under no possible circumstances would I have assented had there existed the smallest hope of a change 1200 of system originating in Ireland which might have saved the country. She fell because her people were divided and severed from each other, and there appeared no chance of reuniting their discordant and conflicting interests, prejudices, and passions. There then existed hopes, and more than hopes (since unhappily frustrated) of a change in her policy of legislation; it became thenceforth the bounden duty of an Imperial Parliament to see that she had equal justice and equal relief afforded to her necessities in proportion to the strength of her claim.On the point of equal treatment of Ireland by England, Sir John Newport went on to say—That the complaint which I now urge of the inadequate relief extended is well founded, I can adduce the irresistible evidence of one of your own committees—of a committee composed from the most leading and authoritative members of this House. Their report in 1815, sanctioned by the concurrence of the noble Lord in the blue ribbon of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of the honourable Member for Corfe Castle, bore testimony to her unexampled and disproportioned efforts, greatly exceeding those of Great Britain, even including her temporary and war taxes; the corollary of proportionate reduction on the return of peace cannot be controverted. Now, mark the reduction afforded to the several countries in the last Session. From Great Britain, £17,000,000; from Ireland £320,000; and this is the measure of impartial justice which an Imperial Parliament dispenses to the Empire! If, in addition to this, I shall show you that the pressure of taxation is so inordinate and unequal as to defeat even its avowed object, increased revenue, will you not pause in the continuance of such a system? Since the year 1808 Ireland has been subjected to taxes estimated to produce three millions and a half addition to her revenue, and the receipts of the last year exceeded those of 1808 by £10,000; so that for an increase of £10,000 you have impoverished the country, and dried up the sources of permanent revenue! Even this receipt, too, of the last year, is accompanied by notification from different parts of the abandonment of articles which produced taxation to a much larger amount than the specified increase. It has been truly said that in finance, two and two do not always make four—the maxim is here most strikingly exemplified. In touching upon this topic, I do not charge my right honourable Friend opposite (Mr. Fitzgerald) with proposing inadequate taxes or an inoperative system, but I do say, that in the course pursued towards Ireland, you drew the principal, and not on income, and thus taxed the people until they were compelled to defeat the tax by abandoning consumption of the taxable object—and this has been accompanied by a fruitful harvest of discontent, whilst your harvest of revenue was absolutely unproductive.And now may I quote Sir John Newport on a view of the matter that is, 1201 perhaps, the only one likely to influence this House—namely, that England loses by the over-taxation of Ireland—I have stated to you the case in a general view, as it respects Irish revenue, and shall again refer to it somewhat more in detail. Let us now consider it as affecting the internal condition of Great Britain in her manufacturing interests. Amongst the principal causes of decline, which have enormously increased your poor rates, by depriving your manufacturers of employment, the loss of the Irish market for British goods (of which it was a great consumer) is most striking and prominent. You have not incurred this deprivation by competition of other countries—for against that rivalry you are secured by duties insuring your monopoly—but by your own misgovernment, which has reduced your customers to beggary. The decreased demand is most manifest in eleven leading articles of British manufacture. It is not momentary, but has been during four years greatly and rapidly progressive. It has strikingly advanced with the advancing taxation of the country, and affords irresistible proof that it grows out of a system fatal to Ireland, and ruinous to Britain. Now to the details. In 1814 the amount of these your manufactures imported into Ireland was reduced to £1,100,000. The calculation is made on the official value, and consequently far below the real value of the goods; but it is thus stated as placing the comparison beyond the reach of doubt or cavil. In woollens the import fell off from £2,000,000 to £600,000; in leather, from £200,000 to £49,000; in wrought iron and hardware, from £340,000 to £170,000; in cottons, including cotton yarn and twists, from £320,000 to £130,000. Now, all these reductions in the importation of manufactured goods from Great Britain into Ireland will be found to comprise, not articles of luxury or rare use, but essential objects of habitual consumption. If we examine the internal taxes, the same decisive symptoms of increasing poverty are apparent. In 1814, 800,000 barrels of malt paid duty; in 1815, 670,000; in 1816, 480,000. The product of duty in home-made spirits in 1815 was £1,420,000; in 1816, £1,120,000. In the consumption of tea a similar deduction has been experienced; in 1815 the duties produced £576,000; in 1816, only £442,000. The effect of increased tax on wines has been strikingly apparent. The annual average of three years' import, ending 1806, was 6,700 tuns; of three years, ending 1817, 2,882 tuns. The product of duty in 1803 was £390,000; in 1816, but £191,000; whilst the rate of duty was more than doubled, not half the amount of revenue accrued to the State. The notices of farther abandonment for the years 1816 and 1817, of articles of necessity, are 42,000 windows and 10,000 fire-places, a decisive evidence of poverty; for who deprives himself of light or heat that can continue to purchase the comfort they dispense? The notices for giving up carriages, horses, and servants were delivered in like proportion. The disparity of taxation in a minor article heretofore of very general use was not to be overlooked—the little jaunting 1202 car, in which the family of the country farmer were conveyed to public worship on the Sabbath, had been subjected within a few years to an increase of tax from one guinea to seven pounds; and this, too, in a moist climate, and where the parish churches (at least those in which service is performed) are thinly scattered. Thus does the tax become a bounty on abjuration.This latter reference to the assessed taxes is specially interesting, showing, as it does, why certain taxes are payable in England now, and not payable in Ireland. They were remitted in Ireland simply for the reason that they were no longer productive. Sir John Newport continues—Let us now see how the results of the financial documents uphold the report from the Committee of 1815. The gross revenue for Ireland for ten years before the Union was £21,614,000. The average of annual taxes were £2,161,000; for ten years succeeding the Union, £45,679,000; the annual taxes, £4,557,000. For six years ending January last, £38,490,000; the annual taxes, £6,416,000. So that the last six years' average of taxes trebles that of the first of these calculations; and yet, in despite of these immense exertions, these disproportioned sacrifices on the part of Ireland, it became absolutely impossible for her to discharge the quota of contribution allotted by the Union. With enormous taxation, accompanied by decreasing revenue, the higher orders either non-resident, or, if resident, impoverished by the excessive demands of the State, abandoned their proper station in society; their salutary influence visibly decreased; the people became hourly more disorganised and discontented with bitter and increasing hostility to the treaty which has extinguished their separate legislature. It is impossible to view this state of things without alarm. The increasing list of absentees, the diminished influence of resident gentry, conspire together to dissolve the social compact, and (in the impressive language of a right honourable Friend now no more) 'to destroy that beautiful gradation of ranks, interwoven with each other by mutual good offices and affections, which linked together civil society in Britain from the throne to the cottage.' To disturb, to derange one rank of a community so constituted must produce deformity and ultimate ruin to the whole.And now let me quote a most important passage relating to the treatment of the Irish Debt—But it has been alleged that you have relieved Ireland from her debt, and assumed its payment to yourself. Yes, you have indeed taken on you the debt, but not until the course of your finance had beggared the country, and left to her no possible means of supporting it longer. You first caused the immense accumulation of debt, which baffled all attempts to liquidate it or arrest its progress; you then take on you 1203 the debt, but leave the taxation which, was intended to meet it. This may be parliamentary logic, be termed a benefit, but it is logic nowhere else. You have by this course no harvest to expect but one from which you will reap a bitter crop in the ripened discontents of the people. When I unite this subject of extreme taxation with what (in every degree of deference to the decisions of the House) I must still conceive an unjust disregard of the other complaints of Ireland, I cannot but tremble for the consequences. I see you descending, step by step, into a systematic callous apathy, the fruits of which are already felt, and will be still more sensibly experienced. When these well-founded grounds of complaint are added to the non-fulfilment of the pledge given to Ireland at the Union, or if not a pledge (as I know the noble Lord in the blue riband dislikes that word), at least strong hopes and expectations held out at that time, relied on by those who too generously confided, but never in one instance since fulfilled—when I consider the past and the present, I cannot but deeply feel and express my apprehension of the result.This is the eloquent testimony of an Englishman on behalf of the claims of Ireland, and at this juncture it should be recalled to public attention. This speech is full of the most interesting and valuable evidence in support of the Irish claim for financial relief. Sir John Newport was one of the few English Members who claimed that Ireland was overtaxed, and it is a fact that taxation has never been diminished since the Act of Union, but it has constantly and steadily increased. And now we are face to face with a situation which, in my humble judgment, is absolutely unprecedented. This House appointed a Commission, consisting of the leading financial experts of this county, to look into the affairs of Ireland, and when this Commission has reported and has brought in a verdict favourable to Ireland the verdict is to be set aside. If that verdict bad been the other way about—if the Commission had reported that Ireland was not taxed sufficiently—what would have happened then? I have no doubt we would have had a very speedy readjustment of the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland, and you would have had no difficulty in getting over the objection of separate entities. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the Government do not intend to take any steps with regard to the Report, for one reason, namely, that it would upset the 1204 methods of the Administration. That, of course, is a very important and a very weighty argument in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it is neither weighty nor important with us. We have had no hand whatever in establishing this system. This system has been imposed upon us in defiance of the protest of the Irish Members, so that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants us to sympathise with him because of the difficulty of remodelling the system, he appeals to deaf ears. We consider that this system which prevails between England and Ireland is one which is devised for the benefit of England, and which works for the injury of Ireland. My honourable Friends in this Debate and in many and many other Debates which have taken place in this House, have laid such multitudes of figures before the House on these various occasions that I have no intention of following in their path. The point really is when we come to look at the matter apart from all verbiage that England has done Ireland a gigantic fiscal wrong, and the question at issue is, has England now sufficient courage, sufficient generosity, and sufficient honesty to admit that she has done wrong, and that she is prepared to take steps to remedy Ireland's grievances? But I am afraid, from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we cannot entertain the hope that England has arrived at a proper idea of what her position with regard to Ireland is in this matter. The question, nevertheless, is not to be disposed of by one speech, or by many speeches. The question will not be so easily disposed of as honourable Members seem to think. It is true that we in Ireland have not been very active upon this question of late; we have not held many meetings throughout the country, because we have been engaged upon other matters, and there are other questions in which we are immediately concerned, and for the moment they have occupied our attention. But this matter is not going to be allowed to drop. The movement which has been started in Ireland is not going to die away; it will be persevered with. There will be other Debates in this House, and the English people will hear more of the financial relations 1205 between England and Ireland, and for this reason, that we in Ireland are absolutely and firmly convinced of the justice of our case and of the grievances which we labour under in connection with our financial system. We shall stick at this matter, and do all that we can to see it through. It is not that we accuse the present House of Commons, or any of its immediate predecessors, of being financially unjust to Ireland, but a situation has now arrived in Ireland under which the Irish public are becoming aware of the vital importance of fiscal reform. Knowing England as we know her, we are determined to persevere in this matter in the face of all and every opposition. Sir, there are just one or two points which have been made by various speakers in this Debate which I may perhaps be allowed to allude to. One palliative rests in the fact that there is the enormous expense of the Irish administration; that is not a fair argument to use to us. We are not responsible for the expense of the Irish administration; we have nothing whatever to do with the Irish administration; it does not represent us; it exists against our wishes. It is absolutely independent of us, and takes no notice whatever of any expression of our sentiments or feelings. Why should we be reproached with the expense of the Irish administration? Why should we be told that because the rulers of Ireland wish to maintain an expensive system of administration that that is a fault of ours? Should the fact of their doings so be used against us and against the claim of the Irish people to obtain justice in this matter? We do not undertake the government of the Empire; we have nothing whatever to do with the disposition of the administration of the Empire. We have no more to say to the government of Ireland than we have to say to the government of Cuba, and why the expense of the Irish administration should be urged against us as an argument is a thing that I fail entirely to understand. It is an argument the validity of which we most emphatically repudiate. Then we hear a great deal about the amount of money which is given to Ireland by England, and the periodical grants which are made by England to Ireland; but, on the other hand, 1206 we hear nothing at all about the money given by Ireland to England, and if our contention is correct, and we maintain that it is correct, that Ireland is overtaxed every year to the extent of between two and three millions sterling, it is time for the English representatives to consider the position in regard to this great generosity of England towards Ireland, and the enormous sum of money which is overpaid. There are some instances which are within the recollection of all of us, and which we hear no word about. What recognition is ever made of the profit of the Irish Church, at the time of the disestablishment and disendowment, when the Government took over the funds of the Irish Church, and remained in possession of them? It is true, of course, that they made certain rules for compensation for members of the Irish Church, which was so disestablished, but that was Irish money, not English; the Government has retained all the huge balance of the Irish Church Funds in their hands, and no doubt they are devoted to Irish purposes; but that is Irish, money, and you cannot put it down to the generosity of England; you cannot make out that you are extremely generous to us on that account. Then there are other ways in which we are told that you are so generous. I refer to these Land Purchase Acts, from which we are supposed to derive such great benefits; but England does not pay for the working of those Acts: that is all paid for by Ireland, and with interest, and probably will prove to be of very substantial benefit and to give a very substantial profit to the Treasury. The same with the Labourers' Dwellings Acts and the raising of money for the local administration of Ireland. It is all supposed to be part of a scheme of English generosity to Ireland. The generosity is simply a paper transaction. All the money is Irish money lent by England to Ireland at interest, and to England's profit. Then we are told that Ireland does not contribute sufficiently towards the defences of the Empire. Now, Sir, I might argue the point why Ireland should contribute towards the expenses of the Empire. I am not aware that the Empire is of very great importance to Ireland, but has Ireland any right to be 1207 heavily taxed in connection with the defence of the Empire? Might I ask the House, when we are told about not contributing enough to Imperial expenses, how much of the money devoted to imperial purposes is spent in Ireland Properly speaking, no money at all for we do not receive a single farthing from the millions of money voted for Imperial purposes in Ireland. All these vast sums of money which are paid for purposes of the Army and Navy are spent in England and Scotland and Wales. Take your Naval Defence Act of 1888. How much of those millions has been spent in Ireland? Not one single farthing of it. Every penny has been spent in English and Scotch shipbuilding yards, and the buying of Welsh coal, and so on; and then we are told that we do not contribute towards the Imperial expenditure, when all this money is spent in Scotland, England, and Wales, and we derive not one single farthing's worth of benefit from it whatever. That, I think, absolutely disposes of the argument which is raised against Ireland that she does not contribute towards the expenditure of the Empire. There is only one more point, Sir, and I have finished. Some honourable Members from Ireland are in favour of a system whereby certain grants are to be made to Ireland for specific Irish purposes, and in that way some method will be found of redressing the financial inequalities which exist. I am opposed to any system of that sort. I consider that people who suffer most from the pressure of taxation are the people who pay the taxes. The taxpayers have the first and best claim to be relieved from taxation, and I object to taking money out of their pockets and putting it into the pockets of the officials for the purpose of spending it upon some project about which they have nothing to say, and about which they are absolutely unconcerned. I think the proper way, when the settlement of the question does come, is to leave the money of the taxpayers in their pockets. They best know where the shoe pinches and what their money ought to be spent on, and what to do with their surplus if they have any. I protest against the spending of Irish money amongst Irish officials. Ire- 1208 land is already overrun with them, and so long as I have a word to say in this House I shall continue to protest against it.
§ *MR. GORDON (Elgin and Nairn)
It is long since this House has heard a Debate on so important a question, argued for two nights, with such a deep air of unreality overshadowing the proceedings; and yet I cannot give a silent vote. Though I shall vote with the large majority of this House, I wish to explain that those of us who vote against this proposal are not wanting in kindly feeling to Ireland. If there was one election pledge issued in the election addresses of the Unionist candidates, during the last General Election, more common than any other, it was this, that our policy as regards Ireland was to deal not only with justice, but with generosity. I for one am able with a clear conscience to declare here to-night that in the last two Sessions of Parliament the Unionist Government and the Unionist majority have amply fulfilled that pledge. Have we not passed for Ireland a Land Purchase Act? Honourable Gentlemen opposite may sneer at the passing of these land laws, which I for one would like to see extended to portions of our own country. These would have been impossible but for British credit. This very Session the Government have brought forward a proposal in connection with their Budget which, but for the Irish desire indicated last year that the tobacco tax should be dealt with, might not have received a favourable reception in the Cabinet. There has been a further proposal put before this House, and shortly it will be carried into law, granting a large subsidy to the Irish landlords in relief of rates in connection with Irish local government. These and other benefits to Ireland are the result of our pledges at the last General Election. Mr. Speaker, there is no more popular operation in life, especially in political life, than showing generosity at other people's expense. I am going to vote against this proposal, because I feel I am not dealing with my own money, but with the money of other people, of my own constituents, among whom I can reckon large numbers of poor—nay, 1209 even poorer people than many Irish citizens. The prosperity of Belfast is one of the most gratifying circumstances during the last half-century. As for Irish poverty, only last month an Irish millionaire's will was proved; and in years to come other Irish millionaires will contribute to the death duties. I cannot be generous, as I have said, at my constituents' expense. One honourable Gentleman opposite tells us that this is only an Irish question. I deny the fact. If Ireland is going to ask for remissions of taxation it is clear to every reasonable man that somebody else in the community must pay that remission which Ireland hopes to get; and as there are no others to tax for the remission of Irish taxes than Englishmen, Welshmen, and Scotchmen, I am going to vote against the proposal. Why? My constituents are willing to be just, they are willing to be generous; but there is one thing they will not endure, and that is an unfair and baseless demand upon their pockets. I have listened with great patience during two nights to the many reasons given for this proposal, but I have not been able to trace them to a sound, economic, or financial basis. I largely agree that some of the arguments will gather votes for this cause even on the benches near which I speak, but those are not sound reasons; these are reasons of common patriotism which, for a time, has bound together and united the Irish party. My constituents and those of the great cities of the United Kingdom are masterful; they are silent just now, because they feel that common sense and prudence in this matter are safe in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The large majority in the country are silent because they know the air of unreality that pervades our discussion, but if this House were to change its attitude from that of a debating society—discussing problems which have no practical aim—and pass into the attitude of a legislative body, then the masses of our great cities and counties who are daily struggling and labouring for a bare livelihood will assert themselves. What is our position? We have entered into a national partnership with Ireland, a partnership of share and share alike.
§ *MR. GORDON
I accept the "No"; I had hardly finished my sentence; I have very considerable doubt whether financially the conditions are share and share alike, and are not largely to the benefit of Ireland. I for one, however, do not object. There is another fallacy in regard to Ireland, and that is, that Ireland is confined in a ring fence. On the contrary, there is no ring fence round any of our communities in the United Kingdom. By a process of migration they come and go to and from all parts. The Irish population was certainly most numerous before the days of the potato famine. It is asserted that the Irish population has been halved. I deny that the Irish population is halved. Large numbers of people have exercised the wise personal option of leaving their old homes (to their own advantage), and we find that in the great cities of Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, and within a mile or two of this Chamber itself, thousands of Irishmen have found work and wages. I maintain that the Irish population—within the United Kingdom—is as large as it ever was. To return to the point to which I was referring—the point of share and share alike. Most generously and magnanimously, this House has given large financial help to Ireland, such as has indeed never reached the English or the Scotch constituencies. Certain taxes are paid in this country, but they are unknown in Ireland. Education payments in Ireland are largely in excess of those in this country. Police payments are franked by this House from the Imperial Treasury. I for one have never received any benefit from the Irish constabulary. The benefit that comes from the law and order maintained by the police in Ireland is one, I know, that is at times keenly relished by honourable Members opposite. Within this very Session relief to landlords' rates has been given in Ireland and not to England nor to Scotland.
§ *MR. GORDON
Not in England or Scotland. The tobacco remission was very much at the request of honourable 1211 Gentlemen opposite. Most undue expenditure is made on law to enable Irishmen to quarrel among themselves and make peace again. Our system of taxation has no doubt been drawn up to suit the artisan who earns good weekly wages. I quite grant that if you go to outlying districts—to the Highlands, to the Hebrides, or to Connemara—you are dealing with an entirely different population, who refuse to exercise the power of migration which we all more or less exercise. Those persons are not in good natural positions. They are still no doubt enjoying a certain rude leisure and freedom, going to bed when they like, and getting up when they like, doing what they like, but not six days' work a week like the artisan; and they live thus at the heavy cost of self-denial in other things. After all, this is not a question that affects the entire Irish population. Before you get Irishmen with a grievance as regards those whisky and tobacco taxes you have to eliminate from the four and a half millions of the population all the women, children, and men who neither smoke nor drink. There are systems of taxation in Southern Europe, grinding systems which destroy energy and empty the humble cottages of those lands of almost every decent comfort. The tendency, I am glad to say, is to lessen burdens from all the population of the United Kingdom, who do not drink or smoke. The result of it is that, while we would wish harmless luxuries to be enjoyed by as many as care to use them, ours is a system of voluntaryism in taxation, just as you have voluntary subscriptions for ecclesiastical objects; no one need submit unless he chooses. I should like to remind the House in a few closing words that the larger part of the prosperity of England, which has been so constantly referred to, was not made in Whitehall, in Downing Street, or even in this House. The truth is that all trade and capital is constantly suffering from decomposition, and unless you have energetic individuals and an ample supply of capital, unless you have mechanics properly guided by eager private citizens, you will never maintain a high level of general prosperity in any community. The progress of England has not been brought about by fiscal changes alone. The prosperity of Eng- 1212 land has arisen from the application of the people, from the industry of her citizens, from the supply of capital which confidence has brought to our great centres. I have often heard the argument that the remission of taxes would bring great welfare to Irish individuals. How can we bring prosperity when a large number are not payers of the taxes we should have to remit? Politicians are a little apt to take themselves too seriously. This House can do many things, but there are other points of great national and personal importance beyond Parliamentary control or influence. I am sorry to say that the persistent policy has hitherto been to seek larger doles for Ireland, and to discourage the spread of capital. That has probably not been done with malice aforethought, but capital has nevertheless been discouraged. Another unfortunate tendency in Ireland is that the educated classes are largely led to look for their career beyond the shores of Ireland, and a sad coincidence is that while the Irish are successful, as they eminently are, in England—I have seen an Irishman at the head of our Army; I have seen an Irishman at the head of the House of Lords; I have seen an Irishman very near the head of the Church of England—and in the Colonies and America there are large numbers of successful Irishmen who have benefited by being transplanted. There is one fact for which some influence must be responsible—amid all the success that Irishmen achieve, and the fame and the fortune that they secure, I have not heard of a single wealthy Irishman who has ever cared to go back and settle in his own country. The honourable Baronet who spoke before me complained that the sums contributed for Imperial purposes in Ireland were not also spent in Ireland. Well, Mr. Speaker, I fail to see how the contribution which is to keep up the Empire—the Crown, the Houses of Parliament, the Army, the Navy, and the Civil Service—can be spent in our Imperial Budget, and, again, be spent in Ireland! That is a confusion that has run through many of the speeches. This Chamber serves many varied purposes, and to-night this House is going to prove itself a lethal chamber for all false sentiments and false claims. I believe our 1213 system of ventilation will carry from the floor of this House to its ceiling, and beyond it, all these shadowy claims, all these baseless assertions, and that we will be to-morrow restored once more to common sense and prudence—a united Treasury with large compassionate allowances for the poorer nationality.
§ *MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
The honourable Gentleman who has just sat down has paid a great tribute to the British rule in Ireland; for he stated that after 700 years of that rule the condition of the country was such that no Irishman who had left Ireland would ever care to live in it again. The honourable Gentleman, opposite thinks that is a reproach to Irishmen. If we had had the land in our hands all that time, and if we had reduced it from a deflowered garden to a blackened potato patch, as you have done, and if it could be said that not a single Irishman who had achieved wealth, in spite of his love for his native country, cared to return to his native shores, what a reproach it would be to the native administration! The honourable Gentleman opposite sees so little effect in his own argument that he thinks it good enough when he addresses the House to compare it to a lethal chamber. He has also referred to the advantages we receive from our connection with England, the cheap money, and so forth, that we got. Sir, to-night, in my correspondence, I have got a letter from the town clerk of Dundalk, where they want £1,400 for a free library. They wish to borrow that sum from a private individual—perhaps he is a stockbroker, I don't know. The British Government say No. I have here a letter from Her Majesty's Treasury, dated the 8th June, replying that they must borrow money not from a private individual, but from the Irish Board of Works. And yet here is the honourable Gentleman telling us of the advantage we get from British credit on every occasion. Now, it is very easy to argue this question from one point of view and also to argue with great success against that point of view. For myself, I may say that I have noticed a continual improvement in the tone and temper of this House in dealing with Irish questions. The movement no doubt is insensible, but those who watched the spirit in which 1214 this House received Irish questions and Irish Members 15 or 18 years ago must have noticed that even in the most obdurate natures there is something like an uneasy feeling in regard to Irish claims. What is Ireland? You can dispose of it in a single sentence, from your point of view. You have only to say, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has only to say, echoed by right honourable Members, "It is not the nation that is taxed, it is the individuals," and you dispose of the whole Irish question. But is it not the individuals that make up a nation? I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer this question: Has he ever heard of the Isle of Man? Has he ever heard of the Channel Islands? And if it is unnecessary for the security of England that the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, by reason of their smallness or by reason of their poverty, should not be included in British burdens, and should be allowed to manage their own affairs in local Legislatures, where, so far as principle is concerned, is any argument to be adduced against the case of Ireland? They never think of the Isle of Man, considering the relations between Ireland and England; they never think of Jersey and Guernsey and all these other prosperous places much further away, much nearer to the coast of France. If they were to ask the House of Keys or the Legislature of any of these places to agree to a similar bargain to that which Ireland had agreed to—to join with this common system of legislation that prevails in this country, to put their heads in chancery, and then, having put their necks in the noose, if the Government were to object to carry out those bargains, do they expect they would have peace in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands? The right honourable Gentleman the Member for Monmouth, whose speech I was so glad to hear, absolutely disposed of one contention. It was said: Tax every man's bread, tax every man's salt; it will come home to all alike. But is it fair for Rothschild and is it fair for Lazarus? Everybody knows that it is not. What England does with Ireland is this, she is the Dives of the partnership. She insists on Lazarus joining in the connection, and then Lazarus has to go around 1215 collecting coppers, in order to enable Dives to keep a coach and four. That is the situation as regards Ireland. Why did we enter into this Union? I will leave now the question of bribery altogether out of the question, I will leave the question of the Rebellion of 1798 and of the intimidation of that year; I will assume for you that the Irish House of Parliament was a competent Legislature, although as a matter of fact there was no General Election before the Union. I have tried to get some idea of the constituents which elected the three or four hundred men who made the Union, and there is absolutely no record of how these men were elected except in very few cases; and so I venture to say that the men who made the compact of union on behalf of the 5,000,000 of people then existing did not then represent 20,000 voters, or 20,000 citizens, in the country. But I will assume, for the purpose of my argument, that it was a competent tribunal, and an altogether unbribed tribunal, although, as one of your greatest statesmen has said, the whole unbribed intellect of Ireland was against it. But when they made the Act of Union the compact was one which both Pitt and Castlereagh declared their intention of standing to. And, observe, if the financial compact had not been made one of exemption and abatement the Irish representation granted us in 1800 in this House, instead of being 100, should have been something like 210; and there was a time when, as between Ireland and England, Ireland would have been entitled to 250 Members sitting on the floor of this House—looking at the matter numerically. But we never got a numerical representation in this House. Why? Because Pitt and Castlereagh, and men of that stamp, said, "We shall count your representation, not in proportion to your and our population, but taking the population only in connection and along with questions of fiscal burdens and of fiscal contributions." So that the greatest injustice has been done Ireland in the matter of our representation, yet there are rumours now that there is to be another breach of the treaty, and that, having robbed us in defiance of that treaty, and deprived us 1216 of the 200 Members to which, at the time of the treaty, we would have been entitled—and in 1832 Ireland would have been entitled to 180 Members—now you threaten to turn round, and reduce into even a less proportion of Members than this Act of Union gives. I was very much struck yesterday by hearing the Chancellor of the Exchequer using, with regard to the Act of Union, the phrase that it was antique. Then he said it was old. Then he said it was technical. All these pleas in abatement might be averred against the Ten Commandments. But in the case of Ireland the only ground that you have for breaking this compact is that you are the masters, that you have the majority, and that we are unable to enforce our side of the covenant. You often speak of Ireland as a sister island, and you sometimes speak of the Union as a marriage between Ireland and England. Take the case of a marriage settlement. It might be old; the husband might become a great bully; he might have advanced in wealth; but if in the marriage settlement there was written a covenant that the wife should be entitled to pin money, or that, in regard to the common purse of the establishment, their expenses were to be regulated by mutual contributions in respect of which the wife was to be entitled to exemption or abatement, is there a court of law in the land which would not enforce the marriage settlement? Now, we are told that it was old, antique, inconvenient, or technical, and that if justice to us is done the masses would rise in their masterful might. In other words, because you have got the force, because you have got us down, you refuse us our rights. These may be the maxims of the Stock Exchange, these may be the morals of Mr. Hooley, but as far as my knowledge goes this is not the statesmanship that we are told prevails in the House of Commons. Let me give two instances. I take the case of Malta, a small island, an insignificant island, having regard to some circumstances. Malta was taken by assault, and a British General, in order to appease the Maltese population, issued a proclamation guaranteeing the Maltese in all their customs and in the exercise of 1217 their religion. A portion of the Maltese law was that marriage there required to be celebrated according to the decrees of the Council of Trent. British regiments have gone to Malta; English Presbyterian ministers and clergymen of the Church of England have thundered against that law as being unjust to the Protestant faith, deputations have gone to Rome to beseech his Holiness the Pope to make exemptions and abatements in regard to the marriage laws of that country. The only answer they got was that under the promise of a British general—made in a time of war—the customs of the Maltese nation would be respected; and so you have retained the allegiance and loyalty and respect of the people of Malta. Take another instance. How did you preserve the Canadian Colonies? Why, Sir, at the time of the revolution in America American troops went north, they went to Quebec and other places of that kind, and they invited the people, who were mostly French, to join in rebellion against English rule. At the time the Canadian people had only been something like 17 or 18 years under English rule, and were foreigners almost to a man. The priests of Canada turned out and said: The people who ask you to go into this rebellion are the men who went across to Westminster 18 years ago to petition the House of Commons not to respect the capitulations of Quebec, which guaranteed Catholics the free exercise of their religion after the war between England and France. The French refused to join in the rebellion because the English Parliament kept faith with them, despite Protestant pressure; and this maintenance of the treaty to respect the Catholic religion in Canada saved you a colony, the greatest at present that decks the crown of Britain—a colony larger in extent even than the United States itself. If, having got these people to remain calm on the promise that their religion and their rights would be respected, you had broken your word immediately after, where would your possessions have been? The Irish fiscal question depends on the question of treaty faith. Now, let us argue this from the standpoint of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the Act of 1817. Of course, an English 1218 Chancellor of the Exchequer could not be expected to refer to an Irish Act accurately, for it was passed in 1816 and not 1817, and it was passed, Sir, be it remembered, as our reward for Waterloo. The blood of the Irish regiments had hardly ceased to flow, under the Irish general in your service—it was one short nine months from the great days of June—when the Ministry, the perfidious Ministry of England, brought in this Bill, in 1816, to reward the Irish for their valour in the field. Our debt at the time of the Union was six millions; our debt to-day is six hundred millions. Our taxes at that time were exactly half what they are to-day. You have doubled our taxes; you have remitted half your own; and then you ask us to be satisfied because it is individuals who are taxed, and not nations. The right honourable Gentleman stated that in 1816 the Irish Members unanimously accepted the Act of that time Sir, I do not know whether they did or not, but I know this—in 1816 no Catholic could sit in this House. I know that the franchise was the £50 franchise, and that the 100 Members who were entitled by the terms of the Act of Union to sit and speak in this House represented, and could only represent a mere fraction. But was the Act of 1816 kept? You no more kept the Act of 1816 than you kept the Act of Union, or the Treaty of Limerick. You seem to be unable to keep anything except our money. What was the Act of 1816? When you annexed our island our debt of six millions was run up in the course of those 15 or 16 years under the British system of book-keeping to something like 120 millions, and the kind of service that Ireland had in those days and the kind of watchfulness that she had from the Treasury Bench will be best judged by the fact that the Irish Secretary for a large portion of the time was your chief commander in the Peninsular War, the Duke of Wellington, who, I suppose, conducted the affairs of Ireland from Badajos and Vittoria. Such was the amount of care that was given to Irish interests! When you had obtained peace, when we had won Waterloo for you, when half of your army was composed of Irishmen, and Irish blood had been poured out 1219 in your interests, you come and pass this Statute. I hope you will keep it yet. When you consolidated our debt, you abolished the Treasurer of Ireland, and were kind enough to consolidate the office with the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. A nice custodian of the Irish purse! Giving over our till to the thieves to keep! But, having done so, even some of the Irish Members of that day were careful to insert two main safeguards. They said "Abolish our Chancellor, but you must create a Vice-Chancellor, and provide that he shall have the right to appoint a deputy in order to watch the Chancellor who is acting for John Bull." But, Sir, the position of the Vice-Chancellor or of his deputy was scarcely ever filled, and so little regarded was that Statute and its provisions that many of its sections and clauses of the Act of 1816 were abolished as spent and obsolete by the Statute Law Revision Act of 1874. That is how you kept your covenant in Ireland! But there is one provision still subsisting. By section 14 two persons are to be appointed—Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury of the United Kingdom and Ireland to sit and act as such with, and in addition to, the number of Commissioners who may by law now be appointed for executing the office of Treasurer of the Exchequer of Great Britain.Where are our two Commissioners? Let us examine the Front Bench opposite with a microscope, and try to discover who are the two watch-dogs who have been appointed in order to look after Irish interests, and to act as Commissioners to the Treasury of Great Britain and Ireland. You have repealed the main clause, and you have turned the other to the use of appointing two Lords of the Treasury, who act as Junior Whips at the door of this House, to see that Members do not go unpaired to dinner. It is to that pass, Mr. Speaker, that the Act of 1816 has been brought. We have been told of the great advantages that accrue in the possession of an Imperial Army and an Imperial Navy. Sir, somebody said he did not see what use there was in the Navy for Ireland. Having regard to the Chinese policy of Her Majesty's Government I have sometimes wondered whether there is very much use in the Navy for England. You 1220 created a navy, it is true, at great cost, but what did you do with it? The only result that I can see of an expense of some £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 upon the British Navy is that you have obtained the excellent and prosperous port of Wei-hai-Wei, the customs and excise of which will probably bring you in much less than the single parish of Ballyhooly. No doubt something could be said from the point of view of Imperial statesmanship were you able to show that by your management of Ireland, and by your disposition of Imperial forces, substantial gain and advantage resulted to our country, but you cannot. Moreover, Article 7 of the Treaty of Union speaks of "exemptions and abatements," which means, to correctly construe the Act, exemptions from taxation and abatements of taxation. No court could ever decide that it was an exemption or abatement of taxation to tax the three kingdoms equally, and give us back some of the money thus unconstitutionally raised. But do you suppose the disposition of your Army and Navy in Ireland is a compensation for the treatment of that country? It is perfectly true, as was said by the right honourable Member for Dublin University, in his admirable speech, that there is a large drill and training ground in our country, and many barracks, thanks to frequent rebellions, but what do the Irish people gain by this? At the present moment your Army in Ireland is fed on American beef and New Zealand mutton; the flour comes from Argentina; the hay comes from Germany, the soda water from Aldershot, and the officers get their supplies from the stores in Victoria Street. Except that the Army buys its postage stamps in the country, and that as a contribution to the Crown a sixpenny telegram is occasionally sent to a bookmaker asking him what is going to win the Derby, I am unaware what advantage the general population gets from the presence of the Army in that country. But do you gain no advantages? You gain Irish recruits, but I am sorry to say that when you get them you do not seem to know how to handle them. What did you do with the 18th Royal Irish the other day in India? You degraded and disgraced that gallant regiment of yours in the face of the whole of India, and in 1221 the face of their brother soldiers, and instead of sending them to the front you sent them down the hill. That, Sir, is the great advantage that we get from the British Army! As for the British Navy, what advantage Ireland gets is a mystery, though sometimes we read of an Irish sailor's head being shaved in prison for wearing the shamrock on St. Patrick's Day; but no ships are built in Irish ports, and you never dream of sending an order for a ship to Belfast. I have one more word to say in regard to what the right honourable Gentleman said on the question of our Imperial contributions. I have never complained of any increased grants for the Navy. If I were an Englishman I would build three ships for every one built by a foreign Government; for the Navy, if the Government would only use it occasionally, is a paying service. From an English point of view, therefore, I cannot understand a patriotic Englishman objecting to an increase of the Navy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer committed himself to the proposition, which he stated very strongly, that the Irish people had repudiated the principle of an Imperial contribution. I should like him to quote the words of any responsible person, of any Member of this House, in support of that statement. No such words can be quoted. When we had an Irish Parliament it was thanked again and again by the King for the supplies it voted for the Navy. I am sorry to say that His Majesty did not return the compliment, because when the English recovered from the French Government some £30,000 or £40,000 when the Irish College was burned down in Paris during the Revolution the money given in compensation was used by His Majesty for the construction of stables. Well, Sir, to revert to this question of Imperial contributions. I challenge Her Majesty's Government to show that the Irish Party, or any section of it, or any responsible person in Ireland, has ever committed himself to any such proposition as he has laid down. I verily believe that under a free Parliament the Irish people would become willing to make contributions proportionate to their means, proportionate to their fiscal ability, and calculated by any inde- 1222 pendent tribunal. For my part I repudiate as far as I can any suggestion that such a proposition has been laid down at any time. The right honourable Gentleman has referred to Mr. Sexton's Report. He did not quote a single sentence from it, but referred to the Report as a whole, stating that its effect was that the Irish people had repudiated the doctrine of Imperial contributions. I have not had the opportunity of referring to the Report since the right honourable Gentleman's speech, but I am quite satisfied that what Mr. Sexton was arguing was that owing to the poverty of Ireland it would be unfair, until the country had the chance of recuperating, to exact so large a contribution as the two millions of money which Ireland gives. Now, Sir, we are asked to say what tax pinches the people whom we represent. I respectfully reply, Mr. Speaker, that you have no right constitutionally to impose any tax upon us without the consent of the majority of the Irish Members. When you lost America it was due to the imposition of a trumpery tax, and, in earlier times, the ship money, which led to the execution of a king, was also a trumpery impost, except for the great principles involved. We dispute the authority of the House to tax Ireland unless it commands the approval of the Irish people. If you dispute the construction of the Statute, who is to settle it? Is it to be settled by a jury of stockbrokers? Here is a great constitutional dispute as to the reading of a treaty between two nations framed by your greatest statesmen, and assented to by the Irish Parliament upon the faith of their promise. Do you think that we, who saw the destruction of our Parliament under a covenant as solemn and as sacred as could ever be described, are going to assent to that covenant being ignored by pettifogging arguments? No, Sir. If you claim the right to read the Treaty in your way, we claim the right to read it in ours. In some controversies there is no way of arbitrating except by the sword. You for the present possess the sword. The Spaniards thought the same in Cuba. They were fully convinced they could hold Cuba against a lot of niggers. You are quite satisfied also that you can hold Ireland against a lot of Irishmen. A great 1223 Attorney General who held high office for 13 or 14 years, declared the Act of Union illegal and without force to bind us, and that resistance to it was a mere question of expediency. These are not the rash words spoken on the hillside at a Land League meeting; they were the calm and deliberate judgment of a man who had witnessed the destruction of our Parliament and its absorption in another, and these words find an echo in the hearts and minds of the Irish people every time that financial injustice is pleaded for and maintained by your statesmen. You say you must insist on fiscal unity, but have you legislative unity, have you administrative unity, have you judicial unity? On every one of these questions is there not racially and rootedly a wide difference between the institutions of Ireland and the institutions of England? You invited us, so to speak, into the directorate of a long firm; you tried the "confidence trick" on Ireland, asking for the care of her purse, saying, "Trust our statesmen and believe their promises." Do you think that the people who read history, as well as you do, who have memories, as you have, and who have pockets; as you have, though they have much less in them, will tolerate patiently a continuation of this system by references to the condition of Essex or the condition of the Hebrides? If Essex or the Hebrides had had treaties made with them, then, Sir, let those treaties be kept. You broke the Treaty of Limerick made by the gallant Sarsfield at the time when the ships of Louis were in the Shannon, bringing French soldiers, French guns, and French gold. He said, "I will trust the word of King William," He trusted the word of King William—himself, I believe, an honest and capable man, a man who, I believe, did not willingly lend himself either to the penal laws or to the destruction of the Irish industries. He trusted his word, and in three years the Irish gentleman was a pauper, the Irish priests proscribed, and the Irish clansman was a soldier in the armies of Austria, France, and Spain. Such was the result of the Treaty of Limerick. One hundred years later the descendants of the men who helped to break the Treaty of Limerick made another treaty with 1224 England, believing that, as they were Protestants, that as they were loyal, and that as they were aristocrats, England would keep the new treaty faithfully. You kept the Treaty of Limerick for three months; you kept the Treaty of Union for 16 weeks. And it has resulted in—what? In a paralysis of the arm of England where she would like to be strongest! The breach of the Treaty of Limerick sent the "wild geese" into the armies of foreign sovereigns, the breach of the Treaty of Union has sent Irish exiles to America, there not to break treaties, but to prevent treaties of amity being made with you. Have these things no lesson? Has history no lesson? Mr. Speaker, I decline to argue this question as a mere question of £ s. d., or as a question of duties upon wine or spirits. I say there is a great national and constitutional question lying at the root of this matter, and until that question receives adequate consideration at the hands of British statesmen Irishmen will be entitled to claim that they are wronged, and that their wrongers are mere tyrants and treaty breakers.
§ MR. BUTCHER (York)
Although I largely disagree with the grounds upon which this Resolution is based, I find myself largely in accordance with its conclusions. In substance it appears to me that the Resolution asserts that Ireland as a whole is in a condition in which she cannot bear the burden of taxation so well as other parts of the country, and that Parliament should devise some remedy for that state of affairs. A remedy has been found in the development of Irish industries, and by expending a certain amount of money in improving the industrial condition of Ireland, and enabling her to advance on the path of progress. I may be told, and it has been repeated over and over again, that Ireland is a poor country, but that England also has its poor, and that there is no reason why Ireland should have any special or exceptional treatment. There are several answers to that question In the first place, it appears to me, at any rate, that England owes some compensation to Ireland for the mismanagement and misgovernment of Ireland in past generations. During the 13th century England destroyed the 1225 industries of Ireland, and reduced her to the plight in which she was dependent upon agriculture, and I think it is for the honour of England that she should find some remedy. Again, if we look at the Treaty of Union we find that we came into a covenant with Ireland for the purpose of giving her separate and distinct treatment as circumstances required it. We are told that circumstances have altered, that the special and separate treatment provided for by the Treaty of Union is no longer possible, and that, therefore, the Treaty of Union is no longer applicable. But does that entirely absolve England from her obligations? It is perfectly true that the fiscal conditions have altered, and that special abatements may be no longer possible; but I say that the same reasons which induced the framers of the Treaty of Union to insert these words into the Act still exist and still demand equitable treatment on the part of this House. What were the reasons for these words, and what were the objects it was sought to attain? I take it that the object was to ensure that, so long as Ireland remained a poor country, so long would the burden of taxation be allowed to press upon her in the manner which she was best able to bear. That provision is still in existence, and if the special mode of treatment devised and provided for by Parliament is no longer applicable, I say it is the duty of this House to carry out the objects of the Treaty of Union in the most suitable way. But we need only go into recent legislation, more especially of the Unionist Government, to find that the Government admit that, in certain cases, special treatment is required from this country towards Ireland. The present Government have brought in Bills, and carried them into law, providing light railways for Ireland, and they have also brought in Measures for the relief of distress in Ireland which were not considered applicable to England. I desire to see that principle expanded, and if the Government will give some pledge to-night that they will be prepared to provide such remedies as may deal with this undoubtedly exceptional state of things in Ireland, as compared with England—
§ MR. BUTCHER
I am glad to hear the First Lord of the Treasury has approved by his cheer that observation, and I trust he will give some pledge that the Government will provide a remedy sufficient for the case, a remedy which will develop the industries of Ireland. England can well afford to do this, and if, as I believe, this policy will be carried out, England will be amply repaid, not only by the improved material condition of Ireland, but by the more cordial relations that will arise between the two countries, and by the gratitude of the warm-hearted people of Ireland.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Mr. Speaker, my duty to-night is to attempt to sum up to the best of my ability the arguments that have been advanced in these two nights' Debate, and to give a reasonable account of the policy which Her Majesty's Government will take upon the important question brought before us. In the carrying out of that duty it would naturally be my principal task to take account of the speech—the interesting speech—delivered by the right honourable Gentleman who leads the Opposition; but frankly I thought that speech, ingenious and able though it was, seemed rather intended to support the financial policy of some future English Chancellor of the Exchequer, to smooth the path of some new "democratic Budget," than to carry out the views which have been expressed either by honourable Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies, or by the Commission for the appointment of which the right honourable Gentleman himself was in part responsible. His statement, therefore, though extremely appropriate for a Budget speech, seemed scarcely relevant to a discussion with regard to the meaning of a certain clause of the Act of Union, or to the special necessities of Ireland. The right honourable Gentleman announced himself as opposed to any distinction in matters of taxation between 1227 England and Ireland, because it was impracticable; and to any special grants to Ireland, because they were demoralising. In other words, he refused to grant the only two things for which Irishmen had asked. But, though he could not accept any Irish plan, he had a plan of his own. Let the Irish Members only support him on some future occasion in abolishing indirect taxation on tea and tobacco, and help him to put a corresponding tax of 7d. in the £ on the income tax, and all Irish grievances would be abolished—the grievance of the English indirect taxpayer would also be abolished, and this question finally set at rest. I do not know how soon the right honourable Gentleman may have an opportunity of proposing an addition of 7d. to the income tax, and of reducing by a corresponding amount the indirect taxation of Ireland. But, whatever be the merits of that novel proposal, it is not a proposal which ever has met, or which, I think, can meet, the views of the Irish Members. I noticed that the right honourable Gentleman was immediately followed by the Member for the Northern Division of the county of Dublin, whose only comment on his speech was that such utterances from an English statesman filled him with despair. I may, perhaps, leave the right honourable Gentleman in these circumstances, at all events for the present, to his Irish followers and supporters, and devote myself to what I think is more germane to the immediate question—namely, the justice or injustice of the existing fiscal arrangements of the United Kingdom as they affect Ireland. I gather both from the speech of the honourable and learned Gentleman who has just preceded me, and also from the tenor of the speeches of the representatives of Ireland, on both sides of the House, that their claim is based upon the wording of the arrangement entered into between England and Ireland at the time of the Union—they appeal not so much to what I may call broad equities as to the letter of the law. They say—You agreed, when you formed the Union with Ireland, upon the terms used in the often, quoted clause 7, which states that under certain circumstances there are to be particular exemp- 1228 tions and abatements granted to Ireland as compared with the United Kingdom. This international pledge is still binding. We demand that it shall be fulfilled.Now let me say at once that I am the last person in the House to deny that, if a case be shown, Ireland has a right to separate treatment. I have never taken the line, I never will take the line, that to treat Ireland as a fiscal entity which may for some purposes deserve special consideration is inconsistent with Unionist principles; for in the first place it is obvious that every district has a right to remonstrate with this House if our general system of taxation presses on it with exceptional severity It has this right in virtue, not of any Treaty, but of general principles of equity which are applicable not only to Ireland, but to every portion of the kingdom, not only to this country, but to all countries; to every conceivable system of taxation, to every possible form of government. But Ireland, we must all admit, has something more than this—and it has this "something more" in virtue of the words of the Act of Union, which contemplate its receiving in certain contingencies "particular exemptions and abatements." What, then, is the meaning of this famous phrase? Against what danger to Irish interests was it intended to guard? Some light is thrown upon this question by a consideration of the parallel treatment of Scotland in the Acts which regulate the terms on which it became united with England. The original Act, passed, as the House knows, in the reign of Queen Anne, contained a series of "exemptions and abatements" in favour of the smaller and poorer country. After enumerating these it proceeded to say that if further exemptions were required by the condition of Scotland the United Parliament of the two kingdoms might be trusted to give them. Now, no one has suggested that the Act of Union between England and Ireland was intended to initiate a new financial policy between England and Scotland. Yet in that Act Scotland is deliberately associated with Ireland as the possible recipient of "exemptions and abatements." From which we may 1229 fairly conclude that the Act of Union with Ireland contemplated a continuation towards both the smaller countries of the policy which for nearly a century had been adopted towards one of them. What was that policy? It was, according to the most natural interpretation of the words, that if a particular tax was found to press with undue severity either upon any class or upon any industry in the smaller and weaker country, that injustice was to be met, and ought to be met, by special exemptions and abatements. Surely the obvious meaning of the words "particular exemptions and abatements" bears out what I have said. Could they be used either to describe the general reorganisation of our taxation which some honourable Members desire, or those large bounties which, as an alternative, other honourable Members have pressed on the attention of the House? Were such things in the minds of the framers of the Acts of Union, either of the Act of Union with Scotland or with Ireland? It is perfectly plain that what the framers of the Act of Union had in mind was the protection of the smaller country—whether that smaller country was Scotland or whether it was Ireland—against the possible oppression of a majority drawn from the larger of the three kingdoms. If that be the meaning, as I think it was, of the Act of Union, how is it perverted by the arguments we have heard used so frequently on both sides of the House? Honourable Gentlemen from Ireland appear to think that neither the words of the Act of Union with Scotland, which dates from the time of Queen Anne, nor the words in the Act of Union with Ireland, which dates from the first years of the century, were ever understood until Mr. Gladstone appointed a Commission to discuss the proper financial basis of Home Rule. Surely that is an extravagant hypothesis. They now appear to hold that what ought to have been done with regard to Scotland between 1708 and 1800 and with regard to Ireland between 1800 and 1898 was to estimate the relative taxable capacity of the three kingdoms, and then to adjust our system of indirect taxation, so that each part contributed its exact proportion to the common stock. That is a new and an unreasonable theory, which would make all in- 1230 direct taxation absolutely impossible, and I venture to say it was never suggested in the case of Scotland in the whole of the century which elapsed between the Union of Scotland and the Union of Ireland, nor was it ever heard of with regard to either of these two portions of the United Kingdom until the Commission was formed whose Report has constituted so large a part of the material upon which these Debates have turned. There is another point which I think ought not to be lost sight of. The Act of Union talks of "particular exemptions and abatements." It never talks of particular subventions. Has anyone till the last twelve months ever suggested that these words would carry with them an obligation to give special pecuniary grants and doles for Irish purposes?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The right honourable Gentleman, by his speech and by his cheer, assents to that. He holds, as I hold, that the very last thing present to the minds of Mr. Pitt or Lord Castlereagh, or to the minds of the framers of the Act of Union with Scotland, was that any inequality which might occur in the incidence of indirect taxation was to be made up by a grant or dole from the Government. That is where the right honourable Gentleman differs profoundly from my learned Friend who spoke so ably last night, from other Friends of mine on this side of the House, and from some of those who spoke on that side of the House. I shall have to refer to this difference of opinion later, and I do not wish to say anything further upon it just now. But there is one more argument, before I leave the interpretation of the Act of Union, which I think I ought to bring before the attention of the House. I say that the interpretation put upon those words by various Members of this House, and by the Royal Commission, on whose opinion they have framed their speeches, is intrinsically ludicrous. They appear to hold that you have only got to establish, in the first place, the taxable capacity of Ireland; in the second place, the amount Ireland contributes to the general Exchequer; that you have only 1231 got to compare those two figures, and if it should turn out that Ireland pays a larger amount than that which, according to her taxable capacity, she ought to pay, then there is a real grievance made out from which she has a claim to be relieved. But, Sir, is it not evident that the burden of indirect taxation—and it is with indirect taxation alone that we are practically concerned—cannot be treated by these simple operations of addition and subtraction? It seems to me self-evident; but if anybody doubts it I will give them two cases of reductio ad absurdum which will prove it. It is stated that Ireland under the present system of indirect taxation pays two and a half millions in excess of what she ought to pay. Suppose the duty on tea, tobacco, and spirits were raised to amounts which would make it impossible for any of the poorer classes in Ireland to enjoy any of these three articles of consumption. On this supposition the Irish grievance would disappear. Ireland would pay nothing, because it consumed nothing. And because it paid nothing it would have no ground for financial complaint. Tax it sufficiently and you remedy all its wrongs!
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The Treasury would lose the money, but Ireland would lose the grievance. I am not stating this as a policy. I am only explaining it in order to show how absurd it is to apply without qualification simply arithmetical rules to this question. If honourable Members are not satisfied with this illustration, I will give them another. My right honourable Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just diminished the tobacco duty. The result of that is at present uncertain, but it is quite possible the duty might prove to be what is called in finance an elastic duty, and a diminution in its amount might lead to great increase in the receipts by the Exchequer. That might be; indeed, I am told by those who are qualified to form an opinion that it may very possibly happen. Suppose it does. Suppose that the effect of the diminution of the tobacco duty is to increase the consumption of tobacco in Ireland, and that the increased consumption is not merely suf- 1232 ficient to make up the loss to the Exchequer, but more than sufficient. Suppose the tax proves an elastic tax: then the result of my right honourable Friend's reduction of it will be to increase the Irish grievance, and the cheapening of tobacco will be an addition to Ireland's wrongs. There is really no answer to this, and I only bring it forward to show, not that the amount of money raised by indirect taxation is to be ignored, but that to consider it in the way that this intelligent Commission considered it, to treat it merely as an arithmetical quantity to be added and subtracted in accordance with an arbitrary theory, is to reduce finance to an absurdity. Therefore, Sir, I venture to say that the method employed by the Commission, at all events, is one that this House ought not to consider. What we have to do is to put ourselves in the frame of mind of a patriotic and sympathetic statesman at the time of the Union. If you appeal to the Act of Union, that is what you must do. If, for instance, it were in my power to invoke the ghost of Lord Castlereagh, and he were to inquire how the fiscal union between the two countries had worked, doubtless the first question he would ask would be whether any of the existing taxes are injurious to the industries of Ireland. And, if so, which? Is it the tea duty, the tobacco duty, or the spirit duty? Is it the income tax or the death duties? To such questions there can be but one answer, and my imaginary ghost would certainly be told that this answer was in the negative. Then he might ask whether, granting that taxation was not oppressive to industries, it was oppressive to individuals? And again the answer must be in the negative. It is true that the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition holds that all this indirect taxation is oppressive to the poorer classes, but he was careful to add that it is no more oppressive to the poorer classes in Ireland than it is to those in England. In other words, whether you take the view of taxation of the right honourable Gentleman opposite, or whether you take the views which have longer sanction and higher authority in this country, in either of these two events you must admit that, whatever else can be said against the 1233 system of indirect taxation in Ireland, it does not press upon the individual Irishman with greater weight than it presses upon the individual Englishman or Scotchman. The next question our imaginary visitor would ask is, "Whether Ireland under our present fiscal system, is obliged to contribute too much to the general Imperial necessities of the Empire?" I think, if he put that question, he would be considerably astonished at the answer which he would of necessity have to receive. I accept, for the sake of argument, the general finding of the Commission, that the taxable capacity of Ireland is one-twenty-first the taxable capacity of this country. I do not traverse that statement, though I think it would be rather difficult to establish it with anything like mathematical accuracy. But if the taxable capacity of Ireland be one-twenty-first the taxable capacity of the United Kingdom, the contribution of Ireland, for the purposes common to the United Kingdom, ought also to be one-twenty-first. What is it, or rather what will it be after the Local Government Bill is in full operation? It will be one-fifty-second. I should like to know what Mr. Gladstone's view would have been of a fiscal arrangement which asked Ireland, with a taxable capacity of one-twenty-first, to contribute only one-fifty-second to our common objects. I am sure he would have rejected it with a scorn which would have in it something of horror. Perhaps it may be said—indeed, it has been said, I believe, by the right honourable Member for the Dublin University—that in these calculations we count a great deal of the expenditure as being for Irish purposes which really ought not to be so counted. We count the cost of the constabulary, and we count the Lord Lieutenant's salary, and other items of expenditure which are really Imperial, though nominally local, and which some sanguine persons suppose that Ireland could avoid if she had either Home Rule or independence. Let us for the sake 1234 of argument assume this contention to be correct, and modify our calculations accordingly. The constabulary at present may be roughly said to cost £1,400,000, the whole of which is borne by the Imperial Exchequer. I do not believe Ireland could police itself under £700,000. Let us take it at that figure. I abolish altogether the cost of the Lord Lieutenancy, and I reduce the law charges, the only other big item in the present Imperial expenditure for local purposes in Ireland which can, with any plausibility, be thought capable of large reduction. I will reduce the amount under that head by one-third. Well, if you carry out all those reductions—
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
That would have to be borne under any circumstances and under any form of government. Let me return to my revised Budget. I suppose the constabulary to be reduced by one-half, the Lord Lieutenancy to be abolished, and the cost of the legal Vote to be reduced by one-third, and I find even then, with all those reductions, that Ireland, whose taxable capacity is said to be one-twenty-first of that of the United Kingdom, does not contribute more than one-thirty-third of our common expenditure. Such is the financial grievance against which, in the opinion of Gentlemen opposite, clause 7 of the Act of Union was intended to provide! But let us go a step further. Let us suppose that Ireland were only taxed in proportion to what the Commission hold to be her financial capacity. What would be the fiscal result? I think the fiscal result would be a very interesting one. The Commission found that Ireland ought only to have raised in taxation one-twenty-first part of the whole amount of taxation of the United Kingdom. The actual cost of Irish government diminished by all the deductions which I have suggested, 1235 diminished by half the constabulary Vote, diminished by one-third of the law charges, diminished by the whole of the Lord Lieutenant's Vote—the cost of Irish government diminished by all those items, if Ireland only contributes one-twenty-first part of the total tax revenue, would still leave Ireland, if Ireland only paid according to her alleged ability, as a dead charge upon the English and Scottish Exchequer of £500,000 a year. Let me put the matter in another way. If Ireland did not pay a shilling to the Army, nor a shilling to the Navy, nor a shilling to the diplomatic services, nor a shilling to the public debt, nor a shilling to any other general Imperial matter whatever, and if her local expenditure were diminished in all the ways which I have described, even then Ireland, if she only contributed one-twenty-first of the whole taxation of the United Kingdom, would still cost the Imperial Exchequer half a million a year. Well, I am bound to say that I think that if that case were put—
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Well, Sir, I worked them out, but there is a good deal of ground to be got over. I am perfectly willing to give them. If the honourable Gentleman will put down a Question to me to-morrow I will give them in detail.
§ *MR. CLANCY
Does the right honourable Gentleman take into account the enormous amounts of money that are put down as Imperial that ought to be put down to the account of England, and that are absolutely all spent here?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I have taken into account the sums spent upon the local government of Ireland and the sums contributed by Ireland, and those are the real elements which have to be taken into consideration.
I do not want to put to the right honourable Gentleman, any question of figures that would be unfair; but the Imperial contributions are debt, defence, and civil charge. I did not quite gather that the right honourable Gentleman stated the account that way. How much does Ireland contribute to these accounts of debt, defence, and civil charge?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
On the hypothesis that I stated, Ireland would pay nothing to debt, nothing to defence, nothing to civil charge. On the contrary, she would cost us £500,000 a year.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Before leaving these figures, left me say that they have been worked out on the hypothesis that the Local Government Bill is in operation, and that the expenditure and the revenue are otherwise the same as they are in the present year. This seems to be the fairest hypothesis that can be adopted, and one in no way unfair to honourable Gentlemen opposite. But, after all, as we are discussing the obligations of England and Scotland to Ireland under the Act of Union, I think we ought to consider a little more in detail what it was that the Irish Patriots feared, and from what dangers clause 7 of the Act of Union was designed to protect them. I conceive that what was apprehended was that the more powerful partners in the Union would use their power to rob the weaker partner. In order to see whether this is being actually done under the existing system, let us ask how Ireland would fare if suddenly separated from this country. If it can be shown that Ireland is a large gainer by being united 1237 to Great Britain, and would be a larger loser by political separation—the separation that I have described—it will be admitted that we have not broken either the letter or the spirit of the Act of Union. Well, what are the facts? The theory on which the Commission oblige us to proceed is that Ireland's taxation ought to be one-twenty-first part of that of the United Kingdom. If that is worked out according to the most recent figures, the income of a separate and independent Ireland would be £5,614,000 in round numbers. The expenditure of Ireland, after having deducted the cost of half the police, the whole of the cost of the Lord Lieutenancy, and one-third of the law charges, would be £5,970,000; so that, on local government alone there would be a deficit in this independent Ireland of no less than £356,000 a year. And mark you this, that Ireland, which would have this deficit of £356,000 a year, would not be able to spend a shilling on an Army to preserve order, or on a fleet to protect its shores; it could have no diplomatic service, nor could it either maintain its neutrality or support its flag among the nations of the world. The smallest Republic in Central America would be better equipped. If my calculation is true—
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
From a purely financial point of view I have no doubt separation would be an economy to this country. I should mention also that on the hypothesis I have laid before the House Ireland would bear no share of the National Debt, not even of the £28,000,000 which she contracted before the Union. I think, under these circumstances, if I have shown, as surely I have shown conclusively, that the Union of Ireland to England is an enormous financial gain to Ireland; if I have shown, as surely I have shown conclusively, that if Ireland were separated from Great Britain it would either lapse into immediate bankruptcy or have to cut down the costs of education and of the other elements of local govern- 1238 ment, which could not advantageously be reduced, so far as I can see, under any possible system; if I have shown, as surely I have shown, that an independent Ireland, taxed only to the extent which the Commission think would correspond to the present taxation of Great Britain, could have neither fleet, nor army, nor debt, and, even without fleet or army or debt, could not meet the ordinary expenses of government; if, I say, I have shown all this, I surely have also shown that no injustice has been inflicted on the smaller country by the greater—
§ *MR. CLANCY
I am sorry to interrupt, but as I am anxious to understand the right honourable Gentleman, perhaps he will allow me to ask him a question. He states that on his hypothesis, even if Ireland did not contribute a shilling to the Debt, the Army, Navy, and diplomatic services, Ireland would entail a loss of half a million to Great Britain. Apparently, honourable Gentlemen opposite do not understand the hypothesis of the right honourable Gentleman. But as at present we contribute to these services two millions a year, according to the Government returns, I want to know—are the Government returns wrong, and ought we to be put down as a dead loss of three millions?
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Perhaps the real difference between us arises from the fact that I have obtained the latest figures available, and also that I have taken into account the contribution to Irish purposes under the Local Government Bill of the present year. I think it will be admitted by all those who have done me the honour of giving their attention to what, I admit, is a dry and dull discussion—
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I am glad, at all events, that I have won an appreciative audience. I think it will be admitted that I have shown a good primâ facie case—let me put it mildly—for thinking that under the Act of Union, at all events, no injustice has been done to Ireland, that Ireland has been a financial gainer, and that on the present scale of local needs and local expenditure, Ireland requires the support of Great Britain, and that separation would entail either increased taxation or bankruptcy. But suppose I am under a delusion. Let us suppose that the illustration which appears to me to be conclusive is no more conclusive than honourable Members opposite conceive it to be. Upon that hypothesis an injustice is being done to Ireland, and reparation is necessary. I should like, then, to ask anybody who has listened to this Debate how they think that reparation is to be made—how they think that injustice is to be met? For while I noticed an extraordinary unanimity amongst the gentlemen who have spoken on behalf of Ireland as to their grievance, I have noticed an equally extraordinary divergence among them as to the means by which it is to be redressed. The honourable Member for Longford commented rather severely upon some previous speaker in this Debate for having alluded to such differences, and I quite admit that a certain amount of difference must be expected when so many persons of such different varying opinions deal with the same subjects. But if we are asked for justice it is but fair that we should be told with no uncertain voice in what justice consists. If we are really to make some alteration in our fiscal system, surely we ought to have some assurance that when it is made it will really satisfy our critics. But I boldly state that nobody who has listened to this Debate can suppose that any conceivable policy on our part would have that desirable result. Consider the schemes which have been 1240 pressed upon us. There is that of the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, to whom I have already referred. I dismiss his particular plan of increasing the income tax and abolishing indirect taxation, because I do not think it met with favour from any gentlemen from Ireland, and it was certainly denounced by some. Then, if we pass from the right honourable Gentleman, there are two great schools irreconcilably opposed, who have alternative methods of dealing with this matter. There are those who think that the alleged inequality of taxation—an inequality which I hope I have shown to the satisfaction of many of my honourable friends does not exist.—could be remedied by subvention from the Imperial purse for Irish purposes. Amongst those who advocated that plan was my right honourable friend the Member for South Dublin, and others agree with him. But the plan was in the first place repudiated by the right honourable Gentleman opposite as being demoralising. It was also repudiated by the honourable and learned Gentleman who spoke a few minutes ago, and by Mr. Sexton, as appears from his report as a member of that Commission. In the view of these Gentlemen no subvention from the Imperial Exchequer could by any possibility redress the inequality which the present system of taxation imposes. They say that the obligation imposed by the Act of Union related to taxation alone, and that out of the Imperial Exchequer you might pile subvention on subvention, you might cover Ireland with railways, you might overflow it with a very Pactolus of gold; but do what you could, still you would remain an unprofitable servant, that still you would not redress the injustice done since the Act of Union, and that still you would not fulfil the pledges given by English statesmen when the Act of Union was passed. How, then, are we to reconcile the arguments of honourable Gentlemen upon that side of the House with those of honourable 1241 Gentlemen upon this side and of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who all mean to go into one lobby, and vote that Great Britain is unjust, although they are irreconcilably opposed to each other as to the methods by which the injustice can possibly be remedied? There is even yet a third school, and it is represented by my right honourable Friend the Member for Dublin University, who made so interesting a speech last night. He is opposed indeed to those who wish to alter our system of taxation. He is in favour of subventions; but he will not admit that any contribution from Imperial sources to Ireland ought to count which is shared by England.
§ MR. LECKY
I said with regard to the Local Government Bill that it was almost absurd to maintain that a grant which is common to the two countries is a special favour to one of them.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
That is exactly what I understood my right honourable Friend to say. So that, although this country and this House might pass laws which gave to Ireland infinitely more proportionately than they gave to England and Scotland, yet because the law was common to the three kingdoms that subvention was not to be counted as in any sense a diminution of the Irish grievances.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I do not agree. Let us take an extreme case in order to test the principle. Suppose that England was far more an urban country and far less an agricultural country than it is, and that, therefore, the grant to agriculture under the Act of 1896 gave but a small fraction to England in comparison to what is to be given to Ireland—population for population—under the new Local Government Bill, according to my right 1242 honourable Friend, Ireland would have nothing to thank us for; though we gave to England £1,000 and to Ireland £10,000,000, nevertheless, if the law conferring it was common to the two countries, the wrongs of Ireland would remain undiminished. That is an extreme proposition.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I think my right honourable Friend has misunderstood my argument. I chose an extreme and imaginary case in order to emphasise my point; but, as he has just pointed out, the existing state of things is a sufficient illustration of my contention. Ireland is agricultural compared with England, and therefore any grant to relieve agriculture in England and in Ireland relieves Ireland more in proportion than England. I do not complain of that, but to say that it is no set-off, and that because the law is common to the two countries that therefore Ireland is not to be counted a gainer, is an extravagant proposition which this House, I think, ought not to accept. Time is fleeting, and I have been betrayed into making a longer speech than I intended, but I must say one word more with reference to the speech delivered last night by my right honourable Friend the Member for South Dublin. He told us that Ireland has a special ground for complaint, because we were driving out the flower of its population, and because an increasing number of lunatics and idiots and other inefficient members of society were accumulating under our rule. Does my right honourable Friend suppose that these facts, if they be facts, are the result of our fiscal system; does he really believe that the taxes on tea and tobacco and spirits produce lunatics and idiots; does he believe that if these taxes were 1243 abrogated to-morrow that there would be a smaller number of these unfortunate members of society?
§ MR. PLUNKETT
I never said anything of the kind. I was very particular to state that these lamentable facts were the result of legislation in the past. I did not put them down to taxation. My argument was that legislation in the past had reduced the country in these respects, and that therefore the taxable capacity of the country was lower than it would otherwise be. I do not consider that the taxation is at all too high, but that our power to bear it has been reduced by the unfortunate legislation of the country in the past.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
If I have misrepresented my honourable Friend I apologise. I have no desire to misinterpret or exaggerate what he said. I regard him as one of those who have been most active in raising the condition of the Irish agriculturist, and I have the greatest respect for him and his labours. I thought the facts he brought forward had, in his view, some relation to the fiscal system which is alleged to be unjust. If my honourable Friend does not think that system is unjust, I have no quarrel with him, but in that case I do not see why he should vote for this Resolution. But, Sir, though I have just tried to explain to the House that neither on the wording of the Act of Union, nor on the claims of abstract justice, can I supply any valid reason for altering our present fiscal arrangement, I should do very great injustice to myself, which is a very small matter, and to my cause, which is a very big matter, if I for one moment suggested that I did not think Ireland was a proper subject for generous financial treatment. My honourable Friend with whom I have just had this amicable controversy across the floor of the House referred to a speech 1244 I made at Alnwick some years ago, the delivery of which I confess I had forgotten, but which, in the abstract as given by him I recognise as embodying sentiments I have always held. He reminded me that I had stated that England's treatment of Ireland long before the Union—long, therefore, before this alleged injustice under the Unions arose—was so scandalously selfish that I thought some reparation might well be considered due to it. I think so still. I think the treatment of Ireland, by successive Whig Governments, in the last century in the interests of the Engglish manufacturers, was a dark blot on our policy, and I do not shrink from any conclusion that may be drawn from that admission. But it has no relation to the Union, it has no relation to the grievance now complained of. I have always held, and I still hold, that Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom which, for historic reasons, and because of its present depression—a depression not now due, I believe, to English legislation—was a special subject for British generosity and benevolence. I heard a speech from an honourable Friend of mine this evening, the Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire, who recommended the Government to initiate with regard to Ireland the policy which has been recommended with regard to our West Indian colonies by the present Colonial Secretary. My honourable Friend has not carefully followed the recent course of Irish legislation. Sir, we have given to Ireland over and over again where we should never have given to England. In the matter of railways alone we have given £1,500,000—given without interest, given without either desire or hope of restitution, given for the benefit of the country and the benefit of the country alone. This case does not stand alone. I think, and I believe the majority of the House think, that any plan for the amelioration of Ireland, for the promotion of its industries, for the diminution of its distress, for the pre- 1245 vention of the chronic causes which have made the west of Ireland so difficult a problem for the statesman and the philanthropist, ought to be considered by this House irrespective of these nice arithmetical calculations as to what was due to this or that, or the other part of the country. But, Sir, do not let us base the ground of this policy upon a false interpretation, as I hold it, of the Act of Union; do not let us peddle about the precise arithmetical proportion which should be contributed by indirect taxation, by the consumers of whisky, of beer, or of tea, to the Imperial Exchequer. Put it upon broader, more rational, more defensible grounds; and if you do so, you will find no firmer supporter than I am of a generous fiscal policy, just as I have ever resisted claims which attempt to clothe themselves in the garb of justice, but which, in my opinion, have no basis of justice, either in the history of the past or in the necessities of the present.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I think it will be acknowledged by the House that it is not an easy task for me to follow so able a debater as the right honourable Gentleman who has just sat down, and my difficulty is increased by the fact that I am compelled by the short time at my disposal to compress my remarks and to address a House already somewhat weary. I therefore, Mr. Speaker, must confine my answer in these circumstances to nothing more than a running commentary upon the speech to which we have listened. The first point I take up is this: the right honourable Gentleman has evolved a ghost from the Irish Parliament. I most sincerely wish that it was in his power, or in my power, to bring into this House in the flesh, some of the men on both sides of the controversy when the Irish Parliament was destroyed, and I think if even Lord Castlereagh or Lord Clare, and the other men who were the firmest and staunchest and most eloquent advocates of the union of the 1246 two Parliaments, could come here and be told that the result of that Union, after 98 years, was that the population of Ireland, which was 5,000,000 in their time, had been reduced to 4,500,000, while the population of England had risen from 10,000,000 to 32,000,000 or 34,000,000, they would have some doubt of the wisdom of the policy to which they gave their consent. If, in addition to that, after their promises with regard to the generosity of this country in its treatment of Ireland, they were brought face to face with the fact that, while the population of Ireland since 1846 had halved the taxation had doubled, and while the population of England had nearly quadrupled its taxation had halved, I think they would begin to doubt the foundation for their statements that the union of the poor country with the rich country would redound to the advantage of the poor country. No, Sir, there is no prophecy that was made by the friends of the Union that has not been falsified; there is not an anticipation or apprehension which was uttered by the opponents of the Union that has not been more than realised by the experience of the last 98 years. I have some difficulty in characterising the speech of the right honourable Gentleman. I do not wish to be disrespectful to him, but I must say I think the House listened to arguments that were fantastic and to figures that were fantastic. Well, I have not time to deal with the fantastic arguments at this moment; I must content myself with dealing with what I must call the fantastic figures. By some method of calculation which I am entirely unable to follow, and which honourable Members on this side of the House were unable to follow, and which my right honourable Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs was unable to follow, and honourable Gentlemen sitting behind the First Lord of the Treasury were absolutely unable to follow—by some method of calculation he has found out that England is at 1247 a dead loss of £500,000 a year with regard to Ireland's contribution.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
No, no! If Ireland paid one-twenty-first of the taxation, then England would be at a dead loss.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I do not wish to interrupt, but desire to make myself clear. Supposing that Ireland paid what you say she ought to pay—that, is, one-twenty-first of the total—instead of what she does pay, then England would be out of pocket £500,000.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I am not taking imaginary figures. What is the use of the right honourable Gentleman's imaginings? I take actual figures. I have here the last Return—Contributions to Imperial Services: Balance available from Ireland for Imperial Expenditure, £2,176,000.That is including in Irish local expenditure all the Imperial expenditure in Ireland. I have another Return before me here: Contribution of Ireland, £3,000,000, £4,000,000, £2,613,000, £5,296,000, £4,488,000, and so on; so that here, according to the Returns, and not according to the fantastic figures., the imaginary figures, of the First Lord of the Treasury, we have Ireland paying these large contributions to the Imperial revenue, even after all Imperial expenditure in Ireland is counted as Irish expenditure. Sir, the right honourable Gentleman must know that we altogether object to this imaginary, unconstitutional, and illogical division of Imperial expenditure and local expenditure in Ireland. In the first place, it is contrary to the Act of Union. The expenditure was to be indiscriminate under the very words of the Act of Union. It is contrary to the speeches made in favour of the Act. The right honourable Gentleman asked us to put ourselves in 1248 the position of a patriotic and sympathetic Irish statesman of the Irish Parliament when he was recommending this change. Well, Sir, I take Lord Castlereagh at his estimate, and not at mine. Lord Castlereagh stated this to the Irish House of Commons—The plan of the Government gave to Ireland the utmost possible security that she could not be taxed beyond the measure of her comparative ability.The meaning of that language is that Ireland's taxable capacity was one of the considerations that entered into the Act of Union. Lord Castlereagh said, further, that—The high duty cannot be levied without rendering the revenue unproductive, or pressing hard upon the poorer classes.If I come to 1817 I find even stronger authority in favour of our interpretation of the Act of Union. Said the then Irish Lord Chancellor—I do not fear that Parliament will ever declare the competency of Ireland to bear the entire vote of that taxation, which the wealth and resources of England enable her to support, without reference to those considerations upon which alone Ireland should be exempted from those burdens which are laid upon all other subjects of the United Kingdom.In fact, every advocate of the legislative union laid down the principle that the taxable capacity of Ireland as a separate entity would always be considered by the Imperial Parliament. That is our case. The right honourable Gentleman lays down this principle of a division of expenditure in Ireland by local and Imperial expenditure. Well, Sir, I say we object to that as unconstitutional and as a breach of the Act of Union. Suppose it carried out. Everything that is spent in England is called Imperial, and nearly everything that is spent in Ireland, whether for Imperial or local purposes, is called Irish. That is not a fair division. In Ireland the expenditure on the Viceroyalty—the Imperial expenditure on the Viceroyalty—is called a contribution to the Irish expenses. But 1249 what about the £440,000 of the expenditure upon the Civil List of the Queen? Is that called an Imperial expenditure or an English expenditure? It is called an Imperial expenditure; or, in order words, it is charged against Ireland as one of the contributaries of the Empire. The residence of the Queen is in this country or in Scotland. I do not say this by way of complaint, but we are charged a large proportion of that £440,000 of the Queen's Civil List, when but 11 days have been spent by the Queen in Ireland, and something like 14 years in Scotland. We pay as much for the 11 days during which the Queen was in Ireland as this country pays for upwards of 60 years that the Queen has spent in England and Scotland. I will tell you another thing. The expenses of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, not Ireland, not merely in Dublin, but in England, are charged as Irish expenses, in place of Imperial expenses; whereas the expenses of the Colonial Secretary, or any of the other Ministers, are put down as Imperial expenditure, and not as English local expenditure. Now, about the two millions that are going to be spent on the streets of London. That will not figure as English expenditure, but against Ireland, as Imperial expenditure. It is a most gross and unfair way of counting against Ireland money spent in Ireland and of not counting against England the money spent in England. No, Sir, we are made in Ireland to pay not merely for our own local taxation, not merely for the Imperial expenditure on truly Irish purposes, but we, repre-
senting a small, agricultural, poor country, are made to pay more than our fail proportion for the mighty Navy of the great Empire, whose protection is required by the immense commerce of this country, and whose protection is almost absolutely useless to us. Well, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman speaks of treating Ireland with generosity. Sir, we do not want Ireland to be treated with generosity. We want Ireland to be treated with justice. I will sum up this method of dividing the expenditure in the very able language of an Irish, and a Unionist, lawyer, Mr. Samuels. He said—
On the Treasury returns, if the recipient happens to be a Civil servant in Ireland, his pocket is an Irish pocket. If he happens to be a Civil servant in England, ten to one his pocket is an Imperial pocket.
And that is the method of calculation that is almost always used against Ireland. I had intended to speak at some length, but I have not had opportunity to do so, and I will merely say this: Here is our position. We ask you to keep your word. We do not ask you to treat Ireland with generosity, but with justice; and we ask you not to confound might with right. We ask you to fulfil the pledges and the promises by which the Irish Parliament was induced to part with the liberties of the Irish people.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 144; Noes 286.—(Division List No. 186.)1255
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.)||Beckett, Ernest William||Bryce, Rt. Hon. James|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Beresford, Lord Charles||Burt, Thomas|
|Ambrose, R. (Mayo, W.)||Billson, Alfred||Butcher, John George|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Birrell, Augustine||Caldwell, James|
|Asquith, Bt. Hn. Herbert H.||Blake, Edward||Cameron, Sir C. (Glasgow)|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)|
|Baker, Sir John||Brigg, John||Carew, James Laurence|
|Bayley, T. (Derbyshire)||Brunner, Sir J. Tomlinson||Carvill, Patrick G. Hamilton|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Horniman, Frederick John||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Price, Robert John|
|Clarke, Sir E. (Plymouth)||Jones, W. (Carnarvonshire)||Randell, David|
|Clough, Walter Owen||Jordan, Jeremiah||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Colville, John||Kearley, Hudson E.||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Kilbride, Denis||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Crean, Eugene||Kitson, Sir James||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Crilly, Daniel||Langley, Batty||Roberts, J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Lea, Sir T. (Londonderry)||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Lecky, Rt. Hon. W. E. H.||Roche, Hon. J. (E. Kerry)|
|Daly, James||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Saunderson, Col. E. James|
|Davitt, Michael||Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Dillon, John||Lewis, John Herbert||Shaw, Charles E. (Stafford)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Logan, John William||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Lough, Thomas||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Evans, Sir F. H. (South'ton)||Macaleese, Daniel||Spicer, Albert|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||MacDonnell, Dr. MA (Qu'n'sC.)||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Farrell, J. P. (Cavan, W.)||MacNeill, John G. Swift||Steadman, William Charles|
|Farrell, T. A. (Kerry, S.)||McDermott, Patrick||Stock, James Henry|
|Fenwick, Charles||McLaren, Charles Benjamin||Stuart, James (Shoreditch)|
|Field, William (Dublin)||McLeod, John||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Finucane, John||Maden, John Henry||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Mandeville, J. Francis||Tennant, Harold John|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Thomas, A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Tuite, James|
|Fox, Dr. Joseph Francis||Morley, Rt. Hn. J. (Montrose)||Tully, Jasper|
|Gilhooly, James||Morris, Samuel||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. H. J.||Moss, Samuel,||Williams, John C. (Notts)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Murnaghan, George||Wilson, Charles H. (Hull)|
|Hammond, John (Carlow)||O'Brien, J. F. X. (Cork)||Wilson, F. W. (Norfolk)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm.||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)||Wilson, J. (Durham, Mid)|
|Harwood, George||O'Connor, A. (Donegal)||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor J. (Wicklow, W.)||Woodhouse, Sir JT(Hudd'rsf'ld)|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Woods, Samuel|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||O'Kelly, James||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Hazell, Walter||O'Malley, William||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Owen, Thomas||Young, Samuel (Cavan, E.)|
|Healy, T. J. (Wexford)||Parnell, John Howard|
|Healy, T. M. (N. Louth)||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. C. H.||Pease, J. A. (North'mberland)||Mr. Patrick O'Brien and|
|Hogan, James Francis||Pinkerton, John||Sir Thomas Esmonde.|
|Holden, Sir Angus||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. C|
|Aird, John||Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Cecil, Lord H. (Greenwich)|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Bigwood, James||Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.|
|Arnold, Alfred||Bill, Charles||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Arrol, Sir William||Bond, Edward||Charrington, Spencer|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Chelsea, Viscount|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Clare, Octavius Leigh|
|Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy||Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middsx.)||Cochrane, Hon T. H. A. E.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Brassey, Albert||Coddington, Sir William|
|Baird, John G. Alexander||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manc'r)||Brookfield, A. Montagu||Cohen, Benjamin Louis|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Brown, Alexander H.||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Brymer, William Ernest||Colomb, Sir J. C. Ready|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Bullard, Sir Harry||Colston, C. E. H. Athole|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Compton, Lord A.|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. Benjamin||Carlile, William Walter||Cook, F. Lucas (Lambeth)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M.H. (Brist'l)||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs)||Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford)|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbysh.)||Cornwallis, F. Stanley W.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Courtney, Rt. Hon. L. H.|
|Bethell, Commander||Cecil, E. (Hertford, E.)||Cox, Robert|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Hill, Sir E. S. (Bristol)||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Hoare, E. B. (Hampstead)||Murray, C. J. (Coventry)|
|Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)||Murray, Col. W. (Bath)|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Hobhouse, Henry||Newark, Viscount|
|Currie, Sir Donald||Hornby, William Henry||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Curzon, Rt Hn G.N.(Lanc, SW.)||Houston, R. P.||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks)||Howard, Joseph||O'Neill, Hon. R. T.|
|Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh||Howell, William Tudor||Orr-Ewing, Charles L.|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hozier, Hon. J. H. Cecil||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Pender, Sir James|
|Denny, Colonel||Hudson, George B.||Penn, John|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir J. P.||Hutchinson, Capt. G.W. Grice-||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Digby, J. K. D. Wingfield-||Jackson, Rt. Hn. W. Lawies||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Jeffreys, Arthur F.||Powell, Sir F. S.|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. IX||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Dorington, Sir J. Edward||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Priestley, Sir W. O (Edin.)|
|Doughty, George||Kemp, George||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir J. H.||Pryce-Jones, Edward|
|Drage, Geoffrey||Kimber, Henry||Pym, C. Guy,|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Edwards, Gen. Sir James B.||Knowles, Lees||Rankin, Sir James|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Lafone, Alfred||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Elliot, Arthur Ralph Douglas||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Lawrence Sir E Durning-(Corn.)||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)|
|Fellowes, Hon. A. Edward||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. T.|
|Finch, George H.||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Robinson, Brooke|
|Finlay, Sir R. Bannatyne||Legh, Hon. T. W. (Lancs)||Round, James|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Russell, Gen. F. S. (Chelt'm)|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-||Leighton, Stanley||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Flannery, Fortescue||Llewellyn, E. H. (Somerset)||Rutherford, John|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'ns'a)||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Folkestone, Viscount||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. Myles|
|Forster, Henry William||Loder, G. W. Erskine||Savory, Sir Joseph|
|Forwood, Rt. Hon. Sir A. B.||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Fry, Lewis||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Lowe, Francis William||Sharpe, William E. T.|
|Garfit, William||Lowles, John||Shaw-Stewart, M.H. (Renfrew)|
|Gedge, Sydney||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Lubbock, Rt. Hon. St. John||Sidebottom, W. (Derbyshire)|
|Gibbs, Hon. V. (St. Albans)||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Giles, Charles Tyrell||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Gilliat, John Saunders||Maclure, Sir J. William||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fred.||McArthur, C. (Liverpool)||Smith, James P. (Lanarks)|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||McCalmont, Mj-Gn(Ant'm,N.)||Souttar, Robinson|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||McCalmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs)|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E||McIver, Sir Lewis||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Goschen, G. J. (Sussex)||McKillop, James||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Manners, Lord E. W. J.||Strauss, Arthur|
|Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Greene, W. R. (Cambs)||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Sturt, Hon. Humphry N.|
|Greville, Captain||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W.F.||Sutherland, Sir Thomas|
|Gull, Sir Cameron||Maxwell, Rt. Hon. Sir H. E.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Gunter, Colonel||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Talbot, Rt Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Uny.)|
|Hall, Sir Charles||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G.||Milner, Sir F. George||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Hamond, Sir C. (Newcastle)||Milward, Colonel Victor||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.||Monckton, Edward Philip||Usborne, Thomas|
|Hanson, Sir Reginald||Monk, Charles James||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Hardy, Laurence||Montagu, Hon. J. S. (Hants)||Warkworth, Lord|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||More, Robert Jasper||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)|
|Hatch, Ernest Frederick G.||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monm'thsh.)||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Heath, James||Morrell, George Herbert||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Helder, Augustus||Morrison, Walter||Wentworth, B. C. Vernon-|
|Henderson, Alexander||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. L.|
|Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down)||Mount, William George||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)|
|Whitmore, Charles Algernon||Wilson, J. W. (Worc'rsh., N.)||Wyvill, M. D'Arcy|
|Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks)||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)||Wodehouse, E. R. (Bath)|
|Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C.B. Stuart-||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Willox, Sir J. Archibald||Wylie, Alexander||Sir William Walrond and|
|Wilson, John (Falkirk)||Wyndham, George||Mr. Anstruther.|