HC Deb 18 July 1898 vol 62 cc141-73



I do not propose, Sir, to offer any opposition to the Third Reading of the Bill. We never were opposed to the Bill itself; but I do not think we ought to allow this opportunity to pass without entering our protest, our final protest, against this im- position upon Ireland; because, after all, it is the British Members who are responsible. They practically put the Irish Members in the position of saying, "We must either reject the whole Bill or take it with the objectionable clause in it." As British Members I think we ought to protest against any position being taken up of that sort. But, first, I think we ought to clear up one matter that was dealt with last week in regard to the financial proposals of the Bill. The Conservatives, and, unfortunately, the honourable Member for Waterford, as well as some other Members of this House, have charged us with obstruction to the Bill. But anyone who looks at the Bill, and who knows anything about the forms of this House, must know that the charge is untrue, nay, more, it is perfectly absurd. What is this Bill? It has 93 clauses, with seven schedules in it. It is practically the Irish equivalent to four English Bills rolled into one. It is a Municipal Franchise Bill. It is the English Local Government Bill of 1888; it is the English Local Government Bill of 1894; and it is the English Agricultural Rating Bill of 1896—practically all rolled into one. Now, if we really desired to obstruct a Bill of this kind I think I might venture to say—without the application of the closure—it would be absolutely impossible to carry a Measure of this kind through. The contemplation of this Bill makes one's mouth water because of the infinitude of its provisions. There has been nothing like adequate discussion of the Bill. We have confined ourselves to the salient points of the proposal hitherto, and the whole of the discussion on the First Reading, the Second Reading, and I think I might venture to include the Report stage, did not occupy more than three days, and to call that obstruction is absurd; and I venture to say such criticism is insincere. We, as Liberals, should like to get this Bill passed through the House. It is a large Measure of self-government and a very comprehensive Measure; and I think also it is a very liberal Measure. It is so liberal, indeed, that the English criticism levelled against the Measure itself has really emanated from honourable Members on the other side of the House rather than from this side. For instance, I have seen long articles in the Globe all in the same strain, complaining that the Bill is opposed to the Protestant minority in Ireland and that it tends to smooth the way to the establishment of Home Rule. I think one very strong reason why the Liberal Party should be anxious that this Bill should be carried through is that it may have the effect of postponing, as a problem of immediate practical politics, the consideration of a larger measure of self-government. But still, I think, in the long run it will have the effect of accelerating or of facilitating the passing of such a Measure. There are some persons who believe that this Bill practically takes Home Rule off the political menu, so far, at any rate, as the next electoral spread is concerned. I do not know so much about that. Speaking as a Welsh Member, I think that the Welsh people are prepared to concede self-government to Ireland. But the English people are, I venture to assert, more prone to be guided by experience than by logic. They are eminently a practical race. And they may decline to entertain;—if a Bill of this kind is passed through the House—the question of extending its scope until they see how it has worked out in Ireland. Therefore I do not know what the effect may be as far as its connection with Home Rule politics is concerned, and as a Measure of practical politics. But I am thoroughly convinced that it must, in the long run, assist in the favourable consideration of the provisions of self-government as contained in the present Bill. I will tell the House why. I think this Bill does away, once and for all, with the most substantial objections to the extension of self-government to Ireland. What is the strongest objection in the English mind—the strongest fear in regard to this self-government in Ireland? It is the root of the distrust of the capacity of the Irish people to govern, and is proverbially known as the Hottentot argument. But I think that has been disposed of for ever. It has been discredited by the author of the same doctrine. This Bill confers an exceedingly large Measure of self-government on the Irish people, and a large Measure of self-government is far more dangerous than the Measures of self-government proposed by Mr. Gladstone ever were. Every Bill, every Act of an Irish Legislature, passed in broad daylight, in the presence of the whole of the Irish people, will be a safeguard and a guarantee of good faith by the very publicity which will be attracted towards it. The case is altogether different with the proceedings of a small parish council like Ballyhooley or Ballykilbeg. Hundreds of these councils carry on their discussions all over Ireland. But the British public, with its many and varied interests, its enormously weighty enterprises to think about and control all over the world, will not scrutinise and watch every action of these little parish councils. Lord Salisbury, in a remarkable speech which he delivered at Newport some time ago, said local authorities were more exposed to the temptation of unfair criticism by the minority than those authorities whose operations covered a wider area, and he added that it was much more dangerous to experiment with self-government on a small scale than on a large one. That is an admission of Lord Salisbury himself. If the majority have made up their minds to utilise the powers vested in them for the purpose of persecuting and irritating the minority there are a thousand and one ways in which they can do it, and as many ways in which they cannot do it. For instance, an Imperial Parliament cannot do it. You have the Press, with its organs all over the country to call attention to it, and the force of public opinion, once roused, would be so strong as to terrify and hinder the action of any majority, however strong, which might be utilised for persecuting purposes. But that is not the case which arises here, as Lord Salisbury has pointed out. But I would also point out that this Bill, containing large and extensive powers, is without a single real safeguard. I know the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has said that there are safeguards in this Bill. Where are they? The only thing he could characterise as a safeguard was the financial clause; but what sort of a safeguard is that? I submit to the House, Sir, that it only aggravates the situation. It only refers to one important power which is conferred upon these authorities. What is the danger which the right honourable Gentleman endeavours to guard against? The only danger which he seems to guard against is that these authorities may possibly incur reckless expenditure, that they may overtax the wealthy classes, that being poor themselves, they may try to plunder their wealthy neighbours. But, Sir, what is the safeguard of the Government? They exclude one class alone from the possibility of anything of that kind, but what about the other classes? What about the large farmer, the tradesman, the professional man? These are left even in a worse position than they were before. Because, what is the effect of this Bill? It is this: you do not merely subsidise one class and say, "We will give you £300,000, so as to give a margin, to these authorities in case they do incur reckless expenditure; at any rate, there will be £300,000 between you and your rates." The Government go further than that. So far as one class of rates is concerned, one class of people are to be exempt—your tradesman, your farmer, your professional man, your manufacturer is to pay more, in order that one class may be exempt; so that not only is it not a safeguard as regards a most thrifty and deserving class of the community, but at the same time it deprives them of the support of the one powerful class in fighting against reckless expenditure. Not only that, but the extra burden that would have fallen upon the landlords will, under this Bill, fall upon the people. There is no safeguard—things are worse than they were formerly. Either the Government do not believe that there is any danger of these authorities incurring any extra expenditure, or they have been guilty of a most shameless abandonment of those classes in Ireland in order to protect their own friends. Then there is another argument which has been disposed of once and for ever so far as this. Bill is concerned, and that is the fear that if any powers of Home Rule or self-government were conferred upon the Irish democracy, who are mostly Catholics, the Catholics might persecute their Protestant fellow-citizens. I do not mean persecution in the mediaeval sense of the word, that Protestants would be put to torture at the stake, but in the sense of withholding fair treatment from them. The danger apprehended is the danger that the Catholics of Ireland might treat the Protestants in exactly the same way as the Anglicans of England treat their Nonconformist fellow-citizens—that they would exclude them from participating in power or position—that is the danger apprehended. Of course, the Unionists have been always more sensitive about the Protestants of Ireland than about the Nonconformists of this country. What safeguard, I ask, has he Government introduced against a possibility of that kind? If there were any danger of that sort, it is ten times worse under this Bill than under any Bill for Irish self-government. These councils will have more power of patronage than any Irish Parliament would ever possess; every public position in Ireland is transferred to the council, from the clerk of council to the lowest scavenger. There are hundreds of these positions to be handed over to these Catholic councils in Ireland. What guarantee have the Government introduced that the Protestants will have fair play—that they will have any share of the promotions—if these powers are handed over to the councils? Where is the clause? The Catholics of Ireland may treat the Protestants as the Protestants of Belfast treat their Catholic fellow-citizens, and exclude them, from all positions except that of scavenger. There is not a clause to protect your Protestants. Then come the demands of your Irish friends, and "they point out, "How are you going to protect the Protestants?" and the Unionist Government says, "We are not electioneering now—how much; what are you going to take?" They discuss preliminaries, the Government write out a cheque, and the keys of every Protestant citadel throughout Ireland have been handed over to the Catholics, and if we are to believe all the electioneering talk those keys are handed on transfer to Rome by a payment of £350,000 to the champions of the Irish Protestants. This lesson is not going to be lost on the English electorate. The next time we hear you cannot trust the Irish people with Home Rule we will say, "What safeguard had you against the industrious tradesman of Ireland being debarred from occupying a position under the Local Government Board?" When there is talk of persecution of Protestants in Ireland the English people will see that we paid you £350,000 a year for that cry, and they will not give a second mortgage. The result of this Bill has been to work a distinct progress in the Home Rule controversy; it has deprived Irish landlords and the Unionists of their best arguments, and they cannot advance them in the future in view of their attitude towards this Bill. Sir, I find in the book of the honourable Member for Islington that the Irish rates have gone up from 2s. to 3s. in the £ to 16s. in the £.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

17s. 6d.


Well, I am very moderate. The only protection is that you exempt the Irish landlords, and the English people will draw their own conclusions.

MR. LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)

With my honourable Friend, do not in the slightest degree object to the proposals of this Bill so far as it confers, local government on Ireland, but with him I join issue with respect to the financial proposals. I say here to-day, as this is the last opportunity we will have of speaking on it, for my own part I cordially welcome this measure of Local Government for Ireland, but I regret it has had to be carried with a taint of corruption which runs through the grant of something like £730,000 to the landlords. Now, honourable Gentlemen opposite—there is not a single one of them has made the point that this is a good provision, or that it is a provision that they have recommended to their constituents. And further, I do not think there is a single Member on the opposite benches who stated at the last election that he intended to vote for proposals to give money to the Irish landlords. If they had done so there would not have been that magnificent majority behind the right honourable Gentleman which at present supports him. Sir, on the contrary, honourable Gentlemen opposite did not say that we were going to pay more money to Ireland, but the whole cry was that Ireland did not pay enough. They denounced Mr. Gladstone's proposals. Now, I have in my hand a small leaflet—it was afterwards printed as a placard—and this leaflet was disseminated amongst the voters of this country. It deals with the work of the right honourable Gentleman opposite, when his supporters said that Ireland did not pay enough towards the Imperial Exchequer. It is headed, "Britons, don't be cheated. This bag shows"—here there is a bag with £7,700,000 printed on it—"what Ireland ought to pay every year towards national expenses according to her population." That is a very big bag. Then, Sir, they had another bag, a bag representing £3,700,000, and it shows "What Ireland ought to pay every year towards national expenses according to her wealth, as shown, by the death duties, which Mr. Gladstone said in 1886 were the best possible test." Then they have a very tiny bag at the bottom, with £1,550,000 printed on it, and this bag shows "What Ireland would pay every year towards national expenses under the Home Rule Bill." ["Hear, hear!" from the Unionist benches.] I am very glad indeed that honourable Gentlemen opposite cheer that—they recognise this leaflet—that is the test, It is not £1,550,000, but it is £1,365,000; so that this leaflet, which was circulated all over the country, shows that Ireland did not pay enough, but under the Bill of the Chief Secretary Ireland's contribution will be decreased. These figures and facts were brought home to the English electorate not only by speeches like those to which I have referred, but by others. The honourable Gentlemen opposite when they went down to their constituencies and made these speeches were probably not aware that they were making speeches to their constituents which they would be unable to sustain or make again when they came before them again. For I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that the honourable Gentlemen in private life would never descend to such petty tactics as to say one thing upon the platform and another in the House of Commons; but when it comes to a question of politics, political morality seems to fall to a very low ebb indeed, and I can only say that it shows this, that the policy of the present Government is the most bare-faced hypocrisy that ever existed. Under this Bill Ireland will pay £7,700,000 less than the leaflet says she ought to pay towards the national expenses if she were taxed according to her population, £3,700,000 less than if she were taxed according to her wealth, and she will pay £700 a year less than she would have had to pay under Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill. And what is the conclusion? The difference must come out of the British people. British electors refuse your consent to such an unfair bargain. I think we shall make a good deal more of these figures and facts when the next election comes, and for honourable Gentlemen of the Conservative party to descend to such petty tactics as these is to perpetrate political dishonesty. There are sins of commission and sins of omission, and one of the sins of omission of this Government is that they are not going to give old age pensions to this country. It was only the other day that the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary said that he thought the resources of civilisation were not exhausted. I am afraid that the Exchequer itself will be exhausted if the Government pursue their present financial policy. With regard to old age pensions the Government had not performed their pledges. But in regard to this Irish Bill they had gone further than that, they had done that which they said they would not do. The Chief Secretary said the arrangement was made, but who between? An arrangement was certainly made by somebody, but in this case the expenses must be paid by the hard earnings of the taxpayer here. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for Dublin University refers to this practice in his History of England in the 18th century. I am very sorry it has not even yet been exterminated, because some of the descendants of the self same families who were largely bribed to carry the Union—the descendants of these noblemen and others are the very men who are receiving large sums under this grant to the landlords in Ireland for their acquiescence in this measure. We know that under the union £75,000 was given for seats in the Irish Parliament. Lord Downshire was a vehement opponent of the union with England, and he had seven seats at his disposal. He was paid £750 for those seats. What does his descendant get now? He gets £2,290 for his poor rate, he gets that directly, and indirectly, in the shape of county cess, he gets £3,437, so that altogether he gets £5,700 for ever and ever in order that his silence may be purchased when passing this bill into law. At the time of the Union he received £52,500. Mr. Lecky, if I may allude to him in that way, says Lord Ely received £45,000 for six seats at the time of the Union. What is his descendant going to receive now? £595 for poor rate, and £867 county cess, so the Marquess of Ely obtains something like £1,400, and he has had the interest of his £45,000 which was received by him as a bribe for carrying the Union. There are many other noble lords that I could quote, the Duke of Abercorn, the Duke of Devonshire, and Lord Clanricarde, and they each received £750 as their share for bringing about the Union, and they are receiving now £300 and £1,000 a year out of the grant, and £500 and £1,500 a year with regard to the county cess in Ireland. It is a most monstrous thing that these noble lords and their ancestors should be bribed first of all to barter away Irish liberty, and secondly in order that Irish liberty may be restored. The right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, speaking upon the proposal of Mr. Gladstone in 1893, said it appeared to him to be a distinct feature of Irish patriotism that it was a plant of such tender growth that it could not thrive unless it was plentifully watered with British gold. It might well be said the Irish landlord's patriotic sympathy was a plant of such tender growth that it could not thrive without being plentifully watered with British gold. Under the Union bribery was not confined to mere money, peerages were given. I should not have objected if the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary had taken that line in this instance—if he had given them peerages to get their consent to Local Government for Ireland, should not have minded if he had packed the peerage of this country with Irish landlords, and I would suggest to him now that the honourable Member for North Armagh, in addition to what he will receive under this grant, should be made a peer because he was originally one of the most vehement opponents of this Bill. The cruel irony of the thing is this, that at the time of the Union the Irish peers were made British peers, and were put in a position to levy blackmail when any proposal was made to give local government back to Ireland What had the Government gained by this enormous expenditure of money? £730,000 a year to Ireland. They had falsified their financial pledges to pay this money. The demands of Ireland are two: first, she suffers under a financial grievance because she is taxed over and above her means, because she is a poor country, and that being so there is not a single Irish Member on those benches who will regard this £730,000 per year as a set off against their claim. Then, again, Irish National members demand a measure of Home Rule or self-government for Ireland. Personally speaking, since this debate commenced I am more and more convinced of the necessity for Home Rule for Ireland. We English members have been discussing things, that we know nothing whatever about. I beg pardon, we have confined our discussion to the financial portions of the Bill of which we have some knowledge, and our constituents will have to have a much greater knowledge of them. I think it is a monstrous thing that we should be supposed to discuss matters of which we have so little knowledge. But this Bill will not satisfy the financial grievance of the Irish Nationalist. Honourable Members opposite, if a Measure of Home Rule were brought before this House, would naturally vote it down, but fortunately there is one thing which they cannot vote down, and that is the Septennial Act, and probably in three years we shall have a General Election, if we do not have one before, and if it goes anything like the by-elections [laughter], well we give you Durham. The great majority of by-elections have shown that the Government had not the confidence of the people which they had in 1895, and if the great parties of the State, the great Liberal Party and the great Conservative Party, are evenly balanced I say the question of Home Rule is bound to come up again when the 80 Irish Members of this House from those benches demand it and make their will felt upon the legislation of this country. Personally, I say Ireland should have a fair trial of Home Rule, and this Bill cannot be taken in the least degree as a settlement of her legitimate national demands. The system which has been in operation in Ireland has been most wasteful, and is most wasteful and extravagant to-day, and it has been barren of any progress. Because I am absolutely convinced that no man who goes back and reviews the events of the last hundred years can honestly say that English rule in Ireland has been a success. Ireland is dominated by policemen and officials of every kind who, like the Chinese Mandarins, batten upon the blood of the country and the misery of the people. There is another thing which the Government will have to consider in settling this question. We were told the other day by the right honourable Gentleman the Colonial Secretary that, however terrible war might be, he would welcome war if it resulted in the English and American flags waving side by side over an Anglo-Saxon Alliance.


They never will.


But I recollect listening to the honourable Gentleman the Member for South Durham when he stated that a friendly feeling was growing up between the United States and Great Britain, but it was being actively combated by the Irish in America, who were determined that until the Irish grievances were redressed there should be no understanding between the two countries. I think it would be better to remedy the grievances of the Irish people and to give them self-government.

*SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

The object of the two speeches that have been delivered by the two honourable Members to whom we have just listened I have not been quite able to gather. The honourable Member for Carnarvon did not explain how, if in a simple case of local government, such horrors were produced that were not equally produced when poor little Wales got local government for itself. He cried out in horror and asked where the protection of the Protestants was under this Bill. He seemed to forget altogether that this Bill had nothing whatever to do with the religious convictions of the people. Then with regard to the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down, I fail to see what object he had in his mind. With the exception of his dissertation upon Irish history, I think we have had very much the same sort of speech all through the agricultural grant debate two years ago. We have heard this tirade against landowners before, but upon this occasion I do not really know what his object is. It appears to me that the only thing he is driving at is to make the population of Great Britain believe that some great injustice has been done to Great Britain by this Bill, because he talked about rewarding the landlords out of the pockets of the taxpayer of Great Britain. But he must remember that this £750,000 is the Irish portion of the grant, and the question of the way it goes or what becomes of it when it gets over to Ireland has nothing to do with that point. There is no question of robbery so far as Great Britain is concerned, and under those circumstances I do not see what his reference to the "deplorable conditions" has to do with it. Now, I would like to say just one word upon the Third Reading of the Bill. I certainly wish to congratulate the Government upon the despatch with which they have passed up to this particular stage a most complicated and, as I believe, as great a Bill as ever was passed by this House. This Bill finally disposes of the control of the grand juries over the fiscal arangements of the country. I approve of the Bill as a whole and in detail, but at the same time I do not want it to be thought for one moment that the grand juries failed to discharge their duties during the years that are passed. Speaking as a grand juror myself, and I have watched grand juries for many years longer than I like to recall, although I feel, and always have felt, that the principle of government by grand juries was bad, still I say that the grand juries did work honestly, truly, and well. I feel that the system, which this Bill when it becomes law is to terminate, could not continue under the light of public knowledge. What is the system which this Bill is to terminate? It is to make a change really inevitable, because under the fiscal system existing in Ireland one class of people administered the money produced by another. English members would find, no doubt, some little difficulty in following it, but to illustrate what I say, the county cess was administered by the landlord and produced by the tenant, but when you come to the poor rate, it was the tenant who mainly administered that, though found by the landlord in the main. I can only say that is my personal experience in many districts in Ireland. The other point I wish to make is with regard to single member constituencies. I have no personal desire to discuss this, but I have a very strong hope that the principle of single member constituency will remain. I hope so, because I think it has an advantage over the system of a dual constituency. I have looked thoroughly into the question, and I would say broadly and briefly that I do not think any greater misfortune could happen to this Bill throughout the length and breadth of Ireland were dual constituencies now adopted, and that any excuse for opening this large controversy is to be avoided. I think, in whichever way you look at it, dual constituencies would not attain the object that is sought by its advocates. I would give an instance of one union within my own knowledge. There are 16 electoral divisions, one of which has dual representation, so that there are 17 elected guardians. Now, if you search that union up and down from end to end you certainly will not find 32 moderately large ratepayers. And, in my opinion, if in that union you applied the principle of the dual constituency, although you attained all the advantages which the advocates of that system seek to attain in that particular union, you would not get enough suitable men to elect. You might get five; that would be the practical result of it, and to obtain those five you would have to add eleven members to the district board who would be necessarily very small ratepayers, who would have no knowledge, and could have no chance of acquiring any knowledge, of the management of public affairs. I wish to raise my voice and express my strong opinion that the Government were extremely wise in framing the Bill in the manner in which they did, so as to only allow single member constituencies, and I hope it will not in any sense or form be altered. I hope that when this Bill becomes law criticism as to the working of it will, at all events, not be too premature. You cannot change and reverse a policy which has existed for years and years, and expect to get no friction and no confusion when a new system takes its place. We must remember that at first, by reason of the effect of the last system of administration, Irish people have had no real experience of the management of their public affairs or dealing with their finances, and therefore it would be too much to expect that at first there should not be many errors and many difficulties. We have all been trained in a bad school, owing to the system which has been in force, and I think also that those gentlemen who live in the mountainous districts of Ireland cannot be said to have any knowledge of the management of public business, for the reason that the money which they have administered was money which mainly belonged to other people and not to themselves. Therefore, in making this change we must recollect that the people who have to administer it and make it work well will 'have to acquire a knowledge of public affairs in order to ensure its success. I am quite sure that the common sense of the Irish people will gradually rectify all the mistakes which it is only natural will be made in the first instance, and that by and by, when it comes to a question of electing their representatives to these bodies they will not be asking whether a man is a Protestant or Catholic, or whether he is a big or small ratepayer, but who is the best man to do the business of the constituency. I do not in my own mind expect that this Bill will produce a sort of fairy land in Ireland, because we must expect a great many mistakes, but of this I am absolutely confident, that under the admirable regulations in the Bill it will work out in the end with great and entire success, and I think it is the greatest Measure given to Ireland by this House in this century, except, of course, the Catholic Emancipation Act. I think the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chief Secretary—one the author of the Bill, and the other the statesman who carried it through—will, in generations to come, be recognised as having taken for the first time a step based upon broad statesmanship, and I look forward to the most beneficent results to Ireland from it.

MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)

The honourable Gentleman who has just spoken was almost the last man I hoped to see converted to the belief that, in the matter of management of local affairs, the Irish people were capable of being trusted.


I have held my present opinion for years and years.


I am glad we have been able to ascertain the opinion always held by the honourable Gentleman. We stand in a very fortunate position. We have seen the conversion of both political parties. In one case the conversion took place 13 or 14 years ago, and in the other case it has been of more recent date. It is a mystery to me why English Members are so anxious to charge one another with inconsistency. They have all been inconsistent—they have all changed their opinions; and I venture to say that it is nothing against one Party any more than it is against another to admit that they have changed their mind. It is said that the Irish are a missionary race, and we never lose hope of converting either Party in this country by our arguments to our view. One very remarkable case came to my notice the other day. Mr. Palmer, at one time a Member of this House, went down in 1892 to fight an agricultural constituency in Berkshire, where there were no Irishmen, and he was not in favour of trusting Irishmen with the management of their own affairs. He is at the present moment fighting a constituency, in which there are Irishmen; and so great is the missionary effect of Irish arguments that he has been converted from the opinion he held in 1892, and he has pledged himself to Home Rule. I think there is no reason to despair in any case of bringing English Members who at one time were opposed to our views to another opinion, and I venture to hope that, in the course of some few years, we may find both Parties joining and giving the assent to a measure o Home Rule for Ireland in just the same way as they are joining in giving the assent to a measure of local government My honourable Friend the Member for Carnarvon has recited the various terrible effects to Protestants which he supposes might follow from a measure of Home Rule proposed by honourable Member opposite. I will go so far as to say, with my knowledge of Ireland, that a great number of my fellow-Protestants also believed that all those terrible effects would follow Home Rule. But there are a great number also of Protestants in Ireland who believed that terrible effects, would follow from this Bill. But they are wrong; their representatives in this. House admitted they are wrong, because no such terrible effects are expected. We must complete the conversion of those if our fellow-countrymen by proving that, they are wrong—by proving that no terrible effects will follow trusting the Irish people to govern, not merely themselves, but those who may be living among them, who belong to another religion, and even possibly, in some cases, o another race. That is the best means by which we can convert even the honourable Member for South Belfast to Home Rule, when he sees in the future years the Irish local bodies conducting their own affairs, I do not say absolutely without, making any mistakes, but as well as local bodies do in any other country. He will have learnt that these local bodies, that can be entrusted with such powers should be trusted further to use their powers in a combination of local bodies, or in some other way in a national assembly dealing with the affairs of the whole of Ireland. We do not expect honourable Members opposite to announce that they have any expectation of any such change of view. It will be for us in Ireland, and those who send us to this House, to enable such a change of view to come about. If Home Rule meets with the general assent of both parties in Ireland and in this House, such Home Rule will have a more powerful influence in improving the condition of Ireland than Home Rule ever could have been if it was carried merely by the vote of one party against the strenuous, opposition of a large section of the community. I am glad the speeches which have been delivered to-night enable us, in the final stages of this Measure, to give to the Liberals who have helped us at earlier stages of our conflict that measure of thanks which is rightly due to them in this matter. This Bill is mainly due to the strong fight which the Liberal Party have made on behalf of the Irish cause within the past 13 years. If it had not been for the great work Mr. Gladstone did in converting the mind of the English people to look upon Ireland in a different way—a work which in some degree cannot be said to have failed—we should never have had this Bill; we should never have had the agricultural rating part of the Bill if it had not been for the help of my honourable Friends on these benches. It was their votes, given unanimously, that showed that we had not merely the support of all sections of Irish representatives, Conservatives as well as Nationalists, but also the support of the Liberal Party, which convinced the Government that they would have to yield. I fail to see why my honourable Friends above the Gangway should take up this carping position now that this is to be carried into effect, instead of joining, as they might have done, in congratulating Ireland on the result of their own efforts on Ireland's behalf. It is true when they made this proposal that they did not expect that the money would be divided between the different classes of Irishmen in the way proposed by this Bill. They must have expected that some part would go to the landlords, because it would have been impossible to have paid half the Irish rates without allowing a very large part of the money to go to the landlords, who at present pay half the poor rate. It would have been impossible to have carried out any measure of agricultural rating relief in Ireland without giving a very large measure of relief to the landlords as well as to the tenants. That is a fact which those of my honourable Friends who voted last year in favour of this measure of agricultural relief cannot altogether overlook. They may fairly urge that still more was given to the landlords than was demanded by many of us last year, or than Members on this side of the House would have proposed in the drawing and framing of this Bill if it had been in our hands. But, after all, is it necessary to withhold assent to that part of the Bill which concerns agricultural relief? There can be no doubt that it is, from the point of view of the position of parties in this House and the other House, a great thing to get a general assent to the passing of this Measure into law; and there can be no doubt, from the point of view of the successful working of this Measure in Ireland afterwards, that it is also a great political advantage to have it carried by general assent. It is not a question of paying so much blackmail to one man or another in the other House. It is a question really of securing the general assent, and reconciling the classes in Ireland, who have hitherto been opposed to every Measure of extension of popular power to a Measure larger than, any which has been passed by Parliament. That, I think, is a great political object, and if a larger part of this money has to go to the landlords than was contemplated by any of us when we joined in demanding a larger agricultural grant last year, that is no reason for opposing the Measure. My only fear is that the action of a small number of Members above the Gangway, and the ill-considered utterances of a section of the Members who have dealt with this matter, will create an impression on our people in Ireland. In one of the Liberal newspapers—the Daily News—there was a statement that there never had been agricultural depression in Ireland. So absurd a statement, put forward as the view of a newspaper-reading section of the Liberal Party, will give the people in Ireland an entirely false impression of the attitude which the Liberal Party here adopt towards us in Ireland. I venture, therefore, to thank the honourable Member for Carnarvon for the speech he has made to-night, and to tell him that, in allowing this Measure to pass its Third Reading without opposition, he will be ratifying generally the agreement which was arrived at last year, when this Measure was first considered in outline. Since some question has arisen as to whether there was any agreement made, I would venture to refer to what fell from the lips of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs. He said there was obviously a great advantage in forestalling the lapse of time and bringing forward these proposals in a Session previous to that in which they were to be introduced. He went on to say there was an admirable opportunity for the Government, to place the proposals before the country before they came to be dealt with in Parliament, and he declared that it was gratifying to know that there appeared to be something like agreement among the different sections of Irish politicians on the subject.— not complete agreement, perhaps, but still an agreement in aim and intention. I am sure, —he went on— I am justified in saying that we shall treat the proposals of the Government, as foreshadowed by the right honourable Gentleman, in no carping or grudging spirit. That was the statement of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Stirling Burghs, speaking on behalf of the Opposition. He said there was something like agreement in aim and intention on both sides of the House; therefore, I venture to hope, in spite of these threats of agitation, that must necessarily lead to bickering between the Irishmen and the Liberal Opposition, that it will be admitted by the country that this Measure has been passed through all its stages by a substantial agreement in aim and intention between all parties in this House.


I will not keep the House more than a moment or two. The honourable Member who has just sat down believes firmly in his own mind that the support that we have given to this Bill is an indication of a process of conversion towards that Home Rule policy which he believes to be the policy best fitted for Ireland. He says that we Irish are a missionary race. Are they sending down missionaries to Grimsby, I wonder? At any rate, they do not appear to be very successful in that direction. If I, for my part, could see that this Bill would have the remotest possible effect in bringing about Home Rule for Ireland, I should certainly have been found among its most strenuous opponents. I say it is in exactly the opposite direction. If the Government had not brought in this Bill, at the next General Election there would not have been one Liberal or Home Ruler who would not have stumped the country and said, "You are treating Ireland in a totally different way from the rest of the Empire, and have refused in the Imperial Parliament to do her justice; therefore, you ought to give her a Parliament of her own." Now, Sir, you are going to treat her as you treated Scotland, to whom you do not propose to give Home Rule; as you treated Wales, to whom no sane man would propose to give Home Rule; as you treated England, which has not got Home Rule. I wonder what sort of argument they will be able to bring before the country at the next election, in order to break up the Constitution, and make one of the most desperate experiments that has ever been made in any country in the world. I cannot see any analogy between the Local Government Bill and the Home Rule Bill. Honourable Gentlemen opposite say that if you trust the Irish people with local government, of course the natural sequel of that is Home Rule. I cannot see the sequel. I could trust Irishmen to make a road, or build a bridge, or make a sewer, but I would not trust them to make laws under which I could peacefully live. I quite agree with my honourable Friend the Member for York when he says we must expect mistakes to be made and a certain amount of confusion to arise in the early councils of Ireland. That is only natural. No one can blame the Irish for not having at once a grasp of public affairs, of which at the present time they have had no experience. I admit that. I myself have been very much blamed by many of my own party and friends in Ireland for supporting this Bill. They do not appear to believe that it is possible to trust Irishmen, even in matters of county government, to manage their own country. I think the Irish are just as intelligent as other people, and when an Irishman is left outside the region of eccentricity, into which he will undoubtedly wander if he is left to spend other people's money, and confined within the lines of common sense, and shown that if he chooses to indulge in eccentricity he will find it an expensive enjoyment, that Irishman is seen to be as sensible as any other man. The ordinary Irishman would see that if he had to pay for it he would carry out county government in the best and cheapest way. There is another thing I should like to say. I think there is one means at the present moment of establishing a very fair means of comparison with the future expenditure of county government. The honourable Gentlemen throw stones at the grand jury system. I venture to say that no man who knows anything about Ireland and speaks honestly his mind will fail to say that, however successful county government may be in the future, it will never be done as cheaply as county government under the grand juries. Not only that, but it has been efficiently done, because, however much you may object to the system, no one can deny that the Irish roads, which are the principal cause of expenditure, are a credit to any European country, so that the Irish people will be able to test the future expenditure of the Irish county councils by a very fair gauge, that will enable them to come to a conclusion as to whether their representatives are carrying out that business well, efficiently, and cheaply. Now, Sir, I should never have supported this Bill unless I believed that it would be a success. I believe the Irish people are perfectly capable of taking the common sense view of how to manage the country's affairs; above all things, it will be the means of bringing classes together in Ireland who, up to the present moment have been separated; they will forget the difference between the classes and the difference of politics, and agree to stand upon the same ground, and carry out as effectually as they can the affairs of their counties. That I look upon as an immense benefit, especially to Ireland, and looking upon this Bill as I do, though believing that it is a great experiment, I am convinced that the people of Ireland will be able to adapt themselves to the management of their own county affairs. I supported the Bill all through, and I support it now, and wish it all success.


The honourable and gallant Member for North Armagh has drawn a most attractive picture of the future of Ireland under this Bill. I cannot go so far as the honourable and gallant Member, as to suppose that this Bill will cause the Irish people to forget classes and all distinction of politics and religion. The honourable Member for South Belfast will take very good care that that era is postponed. I find myself to my great surprise heartily in accord with the honourable Member for Great Yarmouth in the views he takes. Everybody who has taken an interest in the passage of this Bill through the House must realise that it will be most interesting to watch how it will be worked, and what effect it will have upon those class hatreds and distinctions which have rent and disfigured Irish society to its very foundations for more than one century. I find myself heartily in accord with the view put forward by the honourable Member for Great Yarmouth. The honourable Member renewed his protest against the attempt to set up an artificial system of introducing the representation of minorities. I protest against the proposal to set up two members for these constituencies in the hope thereby to enable minorities to be represented. I warn the Government that if in an evil hour, and under such influences as may assail them in the other Chamber, they are led into introducing into this Bill a proposal unanimously negatived in this House, to give two members to these constituencies, instead of it working in the direction of eliminating class hatred and antagonism, it will have the opposite effect. If you introduce into the House of Lords any Amendment having one object only—to secure the representation of grand juries and ex-officio guardians—you will find, on the part of the Irish people, a determined resistance to that attempt. You will have a great deal more of partizan struggle to overcome than you otherwise would have. I say that the one chance of affording the so-called minority in Ireland to obtain a fair share in the control of county government is that they should cease to be foisted before the public as a minority—that they should stand upon their merits, throw in their lot with the people, and work among the people, and endeavour to carry on the business of the country. Sir, it has been said that I have declared my intention of using any little influence I exercise in Ireland for the purpose of excluding all who disagree with me from the county and district councils. I have never made any such statement, nor have I any such intention, but I say that my desire would be to see men coming forward in these county councils simply and solely, not as representatives of a minority, but as men who have a desire to do the business of the country, and I am convinced that if men of the politics and of the class of the honourable and gallant Member opposite come forward in that spirit they will get their full and fair share of representation on county councils. Well, Sir, the honourable Member for Londonderry said that it rested with the Catholics to prove under this new Local Government Bill that they could be trusted not to oppress the minority, and he pointed out that such a proof would largely forward Home Rule. But the Catholics of Ireland have already proved that. Catholics have had local government in Cork, Limerick, Galway, and the city of Dublin, and I defy any man in this House to point to a single case, ever since the Municipal Corporations Act came into operation 60 years ago, where the Catholics have exercised intolerance to the Protestants. It is not correct, therefore, to say that the Catholics of Ireland have to prove their tolerance. Let the Protestants of Ulster set an example to the southern provinces of Ireland. Let Belfast, Lisburn, Derry, and Portadown give fair play to the Cathoic minority, and I promise that the Catholics of the south will more than reciprocate. Meanwhile I protest against men who alone have been guilty of the crimes—and I call it a crime—of boycotting men from positions, and shutting them out from employment, because of their religion—preaching the doctrine of tolerance which we have always practised where we have had the power. One other point has been mentioned to which I attach great importance—namely, the question of double-member constituencies. I said on a former occasion that if the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary introduced a provision for two-member constituencies it would undoubtedly provoke class war, because it would put the people on their mettle throughout many districts in Ireland, where they would be willing to extend the hand of friendship. It seems to me to be an unheard of proposition, that a man should vote once as a politician, and in the second place for a political opponent. Let me draw the attention of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary to what the Belfast News Letter has to say about this matter as recently as Saturday— The double-barrelled member project also came on for discussion on Monday evening, on the proposition of Mr. H. Plunkett. We must say this method of securing a fair minority representation on district and county councils strikes us as one of the feeblest and most inept ideas ever conceived. That is the view of the chief journal of the Unionists of Ireland. There is one other consideration I desire to mention. I deeply regret that the Government have persisted in keeping in this Bill the provision excluding the priests. This will deprive the people of the remote western and north-western districts of candidates whom they might bring for ward, and whom they would be glad to have. When that unfortunate position was persisted in the other day, I stated my conviction—and I hold a totally different view from honourable Members opposite in that regard—thai the priests of Ireland would be most unwilling to go on the county councils. I know the priests much better than they do, and I believe that the number of priests who would have come forward would be exceedingly small, because they already have plenty of work to do. Therefore you are fighting an evil which is purely imaginary, and does not exist, and in order to fight the imaginary evil you are putting on this influential class in Ireland an insult which they deeply resent, and at the same time are raising a difficulty which, if the Bill had been drawn on the English lines, would not have existed at all. You have, indeed, planted a sore in the minds of those men which they are not likely to forget in the near future. But, Sir, the only districts in Ireland where the priests might have acted on the county councils or the district councils are in the remote western and north-western districts, where it is very often exceedingly difficult for the people to get a representative, and in those places it is a great misfortune to keep them off. On the district councils, as well as on the poor law boards, I believe that they would be most useful. Why, therefore, exclude them? In this regard I desire to express my gratitude to the members of the Liberal Party who have frequently been held up to the country as anti-clerical. I desire to thank every Member in the House, including the honourable Member for Flint, whom I have always regarded as a good friend of the Irish people whenever they wanted a friend to vote for a disability which was deeply resented by the Irish people. Now, Sir, I want to say one word in conclusion in reference to the agricultural errant and the attitude of the Radical Party towards it. I listened with great attention to the speeches made from the Radical benches as regards the agricultural grant, but I never gathered that the Radicals were opposed to giving this grant to Ireland; what they were opposed to was the mode of the distribution of the grant. I think the Radicals were perfectly right in maintaining that position, and I think that the trouble which arose a few nights ago was due to the fact that the Radical Party had not had the opportunity to speak on the subject, though, undoubtedly, they have as much right to be heard as we have. Sir, their position is that they object to the distribution of the grant. So do I. Looking back carefully at the Debate which took place last year on the remarkable proposal of the First Lord of the Treasury, I find that I most carefully guarded myself against committing myself to the distribution of the grant. I said that when we saw what kind of local government was going to be given, I, for my part, would not be unwilling to make a large financial sacrifice to secure it; not because I approved of a financial sacrifice, but because I preferred to get a good Bill, even at heavy cost, rather than wait for an indefinite period; and knowing, us we did know, that we had no power to force it from the present Government, I never committed myself until I saw the Bill introduced. When I did see the Bill I thought, rightly or wrongly, it was a great measure of local self-government for Ireland. There are bad points in it, such as the exclusion of the priests, and one or two other matters, such as the too great control of the Irish Local Government Board; but, admitting these to be blots, it is a great Measure; and because it is a great and liberal Measure, amounting to a revolution, so far as it goes, in the control of local affairs in Ireland, I believe it will be followed, if the Irish people use properly the rights about to be conferred upon them, by the concession of larger and wider powers of national self-government. It is for these reasons that I made up my mind, much as I disliked the grant to the landlords, to accept the Bill, and I am perfectly convinced that in so doing I was expressing the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the Nationalists of Ireland. I only want to say one word more. I think the weakest spot in the Bill, which I am convinced will be laid bare, is the absence of a board like the English Local Government Board. I fear there will be mischief there in the future. However, this is a matter which will come up for discus- sion at some other time. I have only to say in conclusion that I, for my part, share in the views expressed by some honourable Members on these benches as regards our indebtedness to the Liberal Party in this respect. Sir, it has been the fate of the Liberal Party in England to see most of the reforms which they have asked for carried by their opponents. That, I imagine, is the fate of all reforming parties. At the same time it is not always agreeable to see a reform which has been denounced by the opposite Partial revolutionary when in opposition, carried by them when they come into power. Does anybody suppose for a single moment that had it not been for the two Home Rule Bills and the Home Rule campaigns, we should have ever had local government in Ireland? The idea is preposterous. For my part, I desire, as the honourable Member for Derby has already done, to thank the Liberal Party for their assistance in the past, and for the steady and loyal support which they have given to this great measure of local government.


Mr. Speaker, I am very glad, judging from the speeches we have heard this afternoon, that everybody thinks this is a good Measure. I remember the words of the Leader of the Opposition on a former occasion, "We are all Socialists now." It seems to me we may say after the speeches we have heard to-night, "We are all Home Rulers now." I think on this occasion we ought to thank the Irish Secretary for having allowed us to make the remarks on the Third Reading stage. At the same time I submit that it is only right that we should have this opportunity, because this is the Bill of the Session, a Bill which the Government consider their great Measure, and I think it is only fitting that we should be allowed to say some farewell words to the Bill before it leaves the House. It has been said that the passing of this Bill will ensure Home Rule. I think circumstances point very much that way, and so far, we on this side of the House are delighted at such a Bill having been brought forward. But this Bill is just 12 years overdue. I suppose it may be called the outcome of the new policy of killing Home Rule by kindness, but I do not believe it is likely to be killed by kindness to the landlords. We all know that the real reason why the large sum of three-quarters of a million a year is to be given to the Irish landlords is because they object to the Measure. This is the first occasion we have sent a Bill to the Lords which we consider just and necessary with a bribery clause tacked on to it. We all know that the real reason why this large sum of money is voted for Irish landlords was because the Government could not get the Bill through the House of Lords in any other way. This money is given, as an honourable Member said, to reconcile those who were formerly opposed to the passing of the Bill. Well, we have had a great deal to do with the Lords in this House. We have generally yielded to them, but we have never bribed them. We have heard talk of the abolition of the House of Lords, but now it looks more like the abolition of the House of Commons, since it is impossible, without the consent of the Lords, and at the cost of the taxpayers' money, to pass an important Measure of local government.

MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)

I only rise for the purpose of saying that, had there been a Division against the Third Reading of this Bill, I should have taken no part in it. I am in favour of local self-government in the highest degree in Ireland, as I am in other parts of the United Kingdom, and the only opposition I have taken part in respecting this Bill has been to the financial clauses, and that opposition was on all fours with the opposition we offered to the English Rating Bill two years back. Even then, however, the discussion of the financial clauses occupied a very little more time than was occupied by some of the Irish Members in discussing the control of bicycles in the different localities. Surely, if that was permissible and reasonable, it was much more justifiable that we should have an hour or two to discuss the question of the financial arrangements, and even then the discussion would not have been anything like so prolonged had we not been badly treated by the occupants of the Ministerial benches. I am not sure that I would have opposed the grant to Ireland had the grant been used for other purposes. The Chief Secretary has been always opposed to every movement, as far as I can remember, to give aid and relief to the starving poor of Donegal. If he had taken some portion of this money and provided a fund against deaths by famine in Ireland, I am certain that no opposition would have been offered to any such scheme from the benches on this side of the House. This Bill is giving to Ireland its share of a grant from the Imperial Exchequer; but we have objected altogether from the very first to the grant being made from the Imperial Exchequer, either in relief of the rates of Great Britain or of Ireland. We are, therefore, perfectly consistent in this matter, and have no explanation to make and no apology to offer; neither have we any conversions to express, as some honourable Members have had to do on the other side of the House to-night. I distrust this system of legislation by bribery. The admissions made by the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, again and again repeated, that this scheme of local government was the subject of arrangement with this side, a part of the arrangement being this system of bribery—that is my interpretation of it—are not correct. So long as you legislate on those terms I hope to vote against your legislation and oppose it by every legitimate means in this House. I cannot but think that the conditions made by the Government will have the most ruinous effect upon the people of this country, because other classes will want similar conditions, and so you will go on until the whole system of legislation from top to bottom is permeated with corruption as bad and as far-reaching as the corruption which existed at the time of the Union between Ireland and this country. I agree with the honourable Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs that this Measure has undoubtedly delayed the cause of Home Rule and will delay it for a number of years. Had this Bill not been passed I do not think we should have had the defections from the cause of Home Rule which are now being heard of from day to day. That it is the Home Rule of tb.9 future, the foundation of a great Home Rule scheme in future years, there can be no doubt; but this temperate Measure has undoubtedly postponed it for a considerable time. The honourable Member for Derry complained that the honourable Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs had made him complain because there was no security for the Protestant minority in various parts of Ireland under this scheme. The honourable Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs said nothing of the kind. What he said was that the promoters of this Bill were the authors of the complaint against the want of protection to the Protestant minority in Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill, and now he said— You are passing a Measure giving immense control of local affairs in that country, and you do not give any guarantee whatever for the security of the Protestant minority. No one can more heartily join than I in the wish that this Bill may be wisely and well used, and that it may prove a great blessing to the Irish people. I welcome the passage of the Bill, and I sincerely wish it all the success that its authors and friends anticipate for it.

*MR. S. YOUNG (Cavan, E.)

We have come to the last stage of this Bill, a Measure which is far reaching and of the greatest importance to Ireland, and will confer a boon upon the people equal to that conferred by Emancipation or the Land Act of 1881. As an Irish Member sent to this House six years ago to promote Home Rule for Ireland I hail with no ordinary pleasure the passing of this Bill, which if not spoiled in another place will afford ample opportunity for the Irish people to give evidence of their fitness for self-government. If I take an imaginary distance of 100 miles to the goal at which the Irish people aim I consider this Bill is about 80 miles of the journey. The Bill is a democratic measure, and it is not overloaded with safeguards, which would have produced dissatisfaction and discontent. It will break down the wall which separates the masses from the classes in Ireland, and I have no doubt it will create an interest in civic and political affairs among the people. It will be an education to Ireland and will prepare the people for the goal at which, I think, they all desire to arrive. I wish also to say that I think very great credit is due to the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland for his laborious, painstaking, and anxious work in the preparation of this Measure, and for his patience and courtesy in conducting it through this House; and I desire to add that the right honourable and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland deserves our sincere thanks for his assistance in the conduct of this Measure.

MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)

Although this Bill removes some of the grievances of the Irish people, yet we Irish Members maintain that it falls very short of the local government that was demanded. My object in rising just now is to make an appeal to the Irish Secretary. At half-past four on Friday morning I ventured to propose a new clause, asking that the Allotments Acts should be extended to Ireland, and I pointed out that although the Government had done a good deal for the agricultural labourer they had done nothing for the artisans living in the towns. Anyone who knows anything of the Irish people knows that they are tolerant to a degree—too tolerant in many things—and that if they have one characteristic more pronounced than another it is their love for the right. The Irish landlords, the ex-officio guardians, and the grand jurors have been to some extent excluded from public life owing to their own action, and if these gentlemen will only show the Irish people that they have their interests at heart every possible help that the people can give will be placed at their disposal. There are lines beyond which we cannot expect the Irish people to go, and if these gentlemen take up a position which I may describe as being like that of a foreign garrison in a town they cannot expect the people to give them positions on these councils. The people will be glad to recognise them and give them positions. We are anxious for the co-operation of those who have leisure and wealth and knowledge. With regard to the effect of this Bill upon Home Rule I do not believe it will lessen by one iota the demands for Home Rule in Ireland, but will rather increase the demand.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I desire to congratulate the Government on the fact that they have made great progress since they passed a Bill of the same kind for Scotland some years ago. Following upon what they have done in Ireland they will no doubt give us in Scotland the same rights and privileges as in the other country. When this Bill is passed the Irish people will have control of their own money, and will not be placed, as we are in Scotland, at the mercy of the Commissioners of Supply, whose consent we require for all new works and for police purposes. When the Scotch Members voted last year for the Motion to give Ireland a larger share of the grant we did so thinking that the same principle would be applied to Scotland, and that the grant would be made permanent. If we had known that we were voting to give £330,000 out of the pockets of the British taxpayer to the Irish landlords we would not have been in our places. I must therefore warn the House that we will fight this question again as we fought it before. The Government have made the grant permanent for Ireland. We are no parties to that permanence, and we will fight it when it comes up for reconsideration.