§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD W. BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
formally moved the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ MR. DILLON
Sir, the impression created in the minds of Irish Members by the speech in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary introduced his Irish Local Government Bill has been considerably modified by a perusal of its terms. In the first place, the Bill was said to be a simple Bill, making allowance for the necessary complexity of the subject with which it deals; but, having had an opportunity of seeing it in print, I am forced to the conclusion that it is an extremely complicated Measure, and that, so far as the financial provisions are concerned, the complication is so great that I think it must fill with alarm anyone who looked forward to having the duty of administering it cast upon him. The complexity of the Bill is also considerably increased by the method of drafting which has been adopted. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in introducing the Bill, said—I am prepared to admit that it is a new departure in draftsmanship. At the same time I think the House will consider that we are justified in the course we have adopted. It will have the effect of very greatly lightening the Bill, while, at the same time, we have hedged it round with precautions which will prevent the withdrawal from the full discussion in this House of any matter useful and proper to be discussed.And then the right hon. Gentleman goes on to say—It is the intention of the Government that the subject-matters left to be dealt with by Orders in Council and by the Local Government Board shall be strictly non-contentious matters.That may be the intention of the Government, but it must be plain that it will be necessary to examine the Bill very closely in Committee in order to make sure that we have security that their intentions are effectually carried out. So far as the discussion on the Bill has shown, I doubt very much if this plan of drafting will have the effect 421 of lightening it. Looking at the Bill from the point of view of those who afterwards may have to administer it, I cannot but think that, so far as possible, it is extremely desirable to include in a Measure like this, and to state as clearly as possible, the law as it is to be administered. In this Bill, however, that principle has been departed from, and, to an extent unprecedented in the practice of this House, the Bill goes in for a system of legislation by reference, leaving certain portions of the Measure little better than mere skeletons, to be filled in afterwards by orders of the Council in Ireland, and by regulations of the Local Government Board; but, apart from the financial provisions of the Bill, there are some important particulars in which it falls short of the Measures of local government which have been given to Great Britain. We Irish Members cannot be expected to forget that the pledge given in this House in the autumn of 1886 by Lord Randolph Churchill, on behalf of the Government of that day, has not only been broken in regard to the date of its redemption, but that now, after 12 years of waiting, we are called upon to pay a bribe, or blackmail, or whatever it may be called, of £300,000 or £400,000 a year—which ought to have gone into the pockets of the farmers of Ireland—for a Measure which ought freely to have been given to the people of Ireland. Sir, I feel bound to recall to the House the character of the pledges which were given, on the highest possible authority, to the people of Ireland. On August 19th, 1886, Lord Randolph Churchill, then Leader of the House of Commons, used the following language—I now come to the third question—that of Irish government, on which I can only say that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to devote the Recess, which we hope will be one of due length, to the careful consideration of the question of local government for all the three kingdoms.… The great sign-posts of our policy were at that time, and are still, equality, similarity, and, if I may use such a word, simultaneity of treatment as far as is practicable in the development of a genuinely popular system of local government in all the four countries which form the United Kingdom.422 On April 25th, 1888, speaking in a Debate on the Irish Local Government Bill, he used this very remarkable language—All the circumstances upon which the Chief Secretary has enlarged this afternoon, or, at any rate, circumstances of a very similar character, showing all the defects which exist at the present moment in popular institutions in Ireland, and showing all the dangers that might be anticipated from the extension of popular institutions or the establishment of new ones, were before the Government of Lord Salisbury at the time they had to make a decision—a most momentous decision—with reference to this question. It has been supposed, and this supposition I have never before noticed, although it has been rather widely alluded to in the Press—that, in the declaration which it was my duty to make at that Table in August, 1886, I was stating that which was much more my own opinion than the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. I think it right to say that that was not so in any degree whatever. The declaration which I made at the Table at that time was, as far as it related to Ireland, a written declaration. Every sentence of it—I might almost go as far as to say every word of it—represented the opinion of the Government, and had been submitted to and assented to by the Prime Minister himself and by the Chief Secretary for Ireland of that day.It thus appears that the pledge given by Lord Randolph Churchill in 1886 was a written pledge, considered and approved by the Government. Lord Hartington, who spoke at Rossendale on July 6th, 1886, went even further than Lord Randolph Churchill. He said—I admit that it may be possible, after all that has taken place, that any Government that has been responsible, or will be responsible, for dealing with the Irish question, may find it necessary to make large changes in the system of the government of Ireland, and to propose a Measure for extensive self-government in Ireland which a few years ago no Party in this country would have been prepared to entertain.On a subsequent occasion Lord Hartington declared it would be necessary for the Unionist Party to extend to Ireland a Measure of local government wider and more generous than anything required for the people of England. Sir, these pledges were given to us without any reservation, or any indication, that we were called upon to pay for the rights which were promised to us. And now we are asked to pay this large bribe to the Irish landlords in order to get a Bill which, I regret to say, falls considerably short of what has already been freely 423 given to Great Britain. Notwithstanding this, I adhere to the view I expressed last year, and again on the introduction of the Bill—namely, that with all its faults, and they are considerable, and with all its shortcomings, and they are considerable, the Measure, if passed in its present shape, will effect a most beneficial and far-reaching revolution in the condition of Irish local government and Irish life. I have no intention of laying before the House a complete catalogue of all the particulars in which this Bill falls short of the method of local government now existing in this country. I shall deal with only a few points, and I have no doubt that those who follow me will take up other points. I take first the control of the police. No one can deny that it is a matter of capital importance. No one can deny for a single moment that it is a point on which this Measure entirely falls short of the Local Government given to this country. I stated at the time of the introduction of the Bill that neither I, nor, so far as I knew, most of the Irish Members expected that a Unionist Government thought of proposing a Measure of Local Government for Ireland and would include in that Measure a proposal for handing over the control of the police to the local bodies. I fully recognise that a Government such as the present Government, which does not attempt or profess to rest upon the majority of the people, would find considerable difficulty in proposing to hand over the control of the police to local and popular bodies. But, Sir, I feel bound to take note of this great deficiency in their Measure, and to express my conviction that whether in the future the Irish Constabulary is retained in its present form of organisation as a centralised Constabulary, or whether it is, under some future scheme, broken up and handed over to local control—whatever may be the ultimate decision as between these two alternatives—I hold that it will be quite impossible that the present system should continue unchanged, and that the police force in Ireland should, as at present, be under the control of officers who are in no way responsible to the popular representatives in Ireland, and who are completely cut off from all touch with the popular institutions of the country. Now, Sir, I come to the 424 next point which has struck me as a deficiency of the Bill, and that is the limitation which is placed by Clause 22 subsection 2 on the power of the County Councils set up by this Bill to spend money on roads—a limitation which I do not think exists in the English or Scotch Act, and which, seeing that in future the whole weight of the expenditure is to fall upon the occupier, appears to me to be a most offensive and unnecessary limitation; and the more so when we remember that no matter what provisions are inserted for the readjustment of rents in the Bill, it must be apparent to everybody that any expenditure on roads, or bridges, or improvements in a country district must increase the value of the owners' property and their security for their rents. It appears to me to be a monstrous and unnecessary provision to put a limit upon the power of the newly constituted bodies to improve the country when they are to do it at their own expense, or at the expense of the occupiers, and when, as we shall see further on in the Bill, the landlords are to be set free from all expense. Well, the third point I desire to take is this. Under the English Act, as I understand, the Chairman of the County Councils and the Chairmen of the District Councils are ex-officio Justices of the Peace. [An HON. MEMBER: No, only Chairmen of District Councils.] Well, Chairmen of District Councils. That is my strong point. In the Irish Act it is only Chairmen of County Councils, and not Chairmen of District Councils. Now, of course, there will be a very much greater number of Chairmen of District Councils than Chairmen of County Councils, and I think it is a matter of very considerable importance to attach any inducement that can be attached to draw to the service of these District Boards, and this important office, men of intelligence and men of influence in their neighbourhood. And so far as it does have that effect, I do not see why this Bill should place a disability on Chairmen of District Councils in Ireland which is not placed on the Chairmen of District Councils in Great Britain. And I will say further that any argument that existed in favour of making Chairmen of District Councils in Great Britain ex-officio Justices of the Peace, exists in my 425 judgment with ten-fold greater force in Ireland. It may be, however, that this is only an inadvertent omission from the Bill, and that the right hon. Gentleman will be quite ready to correct it when his attention has been drawn to it. Now, Sir, I turn to a question which is of greater importance—of very much greater importance—and that is the question of the relations of the Local Government Board to the new bodies that are to be set up in Ireland, and also to the Boards of Guardians, which under this Bill will be, practically speaking, new bodies. The Local Government Board in Ireland is a nominated and irresponsible body, and in that respect it differs radically from the Local Government Board in this country, because the Local Government Board in this country is, of course, one of the ordinary departments of the administration which is kept in constant touch, through its representatives in this House, with the public opinion of the country and with the representatives of the people. And I must confess that, for the people of Ireland, a most sinister significance must be attached to the movement which has taken place immediately on the introduction of this Bill—a widespread movement amongst the landlords and their representatives to capture the Local Government Board more effectually than it has been captured at present. One of the universal demands that have been put forward on behalf of an irreconcilable section of the landlord class in Ireland is that they must have representatives added to the Local Government Board who will be representative of the old grand jury, and who are experienced in the work of the grand jury. Now, I think the least we ought to say with regard to such a demand as this is that the power of the Local Government Board shall be no greater, at all events, over these popular local bodies about to be set up than is the power and comparative responsibility of the Local Government Board in this country. That is a question which, of course, will have to be dealt with in detail when we are in Committee on the Bill, but I think it is an all-important issue, and an issue which I must confess arouses a good deal of anxiety in Ireland. I notice in this collection that Clause 61, 426 sub-section 1, proposes that the present power of the Local Government Board with regard to guardians and the officers of the guardians shall be fully reserved. Now, I am informed that those powers do not exist in the English law and in the case of the English Local Government Board. I believe that they are special powers conferred upon the Irish Board. Originally, up to the year 1847, the law of Ireland was that the Poor Law Commissioners, as they were then, had power in certain eventualities to dismiss a Board of Guardians entirely, but they had no power to immediately send down paid guardians. The law of 1847 was that they were bound to order a new election, and if, after the new election, the new Board of Guardians continued to defy them, they then could dismiss the second board, and send down paid guardians. But at a later time, by an Amendment Act, the law was altered, and now it is in the power of the Local Government Board to summarily dismiss by sealed order any Board of Guardians in Ireland, and send down, without further appeal to the country, paid guardians, who, so long as the board shall choose, shall exercise all the powers of Boards of Guardians in that district, and levy heavy taxes on the people without any representation or votes of the people at all. I pass from this subject with one observation, and it is this, that in my humble opinion, so far from listening to the cry raised by the landlords in favour of placing representatives of the old grand jury system on the Local Government Board, it will be far wiser for the right hon. Gentleman and the Irish Government to bend their minds to the task of introducing into the Local Government Board some popular element which would decrease the danger of friction between the Local Government Board and the new popular bodies in Ireland, and render it more likely—probably that is all they can achieve—that the Local Government Board and the new popular bodies will work harmoniously together. Now, Sir, there are one or two other points to which I desire to allude before I say a word upon the financial clauses of the Bill. I will refer for one moment to Clause 59, sub-section 1, by which it is proposed that clergymen should be disqualified from serving on 427 any County Councils or District Councils. No disqualification is suggested against clergymen serving on the committees which are to be appointed to manage the lunatic asylums, so far as I can discover from the Bill. This is not the law in England, and I object to this disqualification for many reasons. I see no reason why it should be introduced into an Irish Act when it does not exist in the rest of the United Kingdom; and I confess that the language used by the Chief Secretary in connection with this disqualification, when he was recommending it, has greatly increased my objection to the proposed provision. There is no doubt, he said, something to be said on both sides of the question, but I hold to the opinion that the admission of religion to County Councils would not tend to economy of administration, or to the smooth working of the new institutions. Well, Sir, I have no reason to believe that ministers of religion in Ireland have any desire to sit on the County or District Councils, but I see no reason why a distinction should be made as between the rights as citizens of ministers of religion in Ireland and those of the rest of the United Kingdom, and I think that, taken in conjunction with the language in which the Chief Secretary recommended this provision, it does convey an insult both to ministers of religion in Ireland and, by implication, to the people of Ireland. This proposal is based upon economic grounds, and I do not see, if the right hon. Gentleman thinks ministers of religion are calculated to interfere with economic administration, why he should not extend the same disqualification to the committees of lunatic asylums, which are to have the control and expenditure of large sums of money. Well, Sir, the third point to which I desire to allude is the extremely invidious and oppressive power of levying compensation for malicious injuries. It is proposed by this Bill to transfer that power from the grand jury which hitherto exercised it to the County Courts, and, as I have already stated, I think that would be a great improvement on the present state of things; but I want to know why the right hon. Gentleman proposes to continue this power in Ireland, and why he cannot assimilate the 428 law of Ireland in this regard to the law of Great Britain? But, if the Government insist upon continuing this power, I venture to suggest that the power should be transferred, together with the other finance powers of the local bodies, to the new local bodies, the County Councils and the District Councils. The reluctance of the Government to trust this power of levying compensation for malicious injuries in the hands of the local bodies is another illustration of the insuperable difficulty of ruling a country on two antagonistic principles; that is to say, of ruling a country on the principle of trusting the people and at the same time of being afraid to trust them. When the right hon. Gentleman offers the people of Ireland a democratic—for it is democratic—system of Local Government, I think he ought to make up his mind that he could trust them in this particular as in others. Now, Sir, there is one other minor point connected with the powers of the County Councils. As the right hon. Gentleman is probably aware, there are several towns, at least some towns, in Ireland which have had town councils of their own, which object strongly to the schedule list in this Bill as being too narrow. I refer to such towns as Drogheda and Newry. There are several others, but hon. Members will speak for their own districts. There are several ancient towns whose population, as unfortunately has been the case in Ireland under the system which prevails in that country, instead of increasing, as such towns in this country have done, have decayed and consequently fallen below the limit which the right hon. Gentleman has fixed. Now, I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman on what practical grounds he objects to allow any of these ancient towns like Drogheda, Newry, and Kilkenny, and several others, to retain their dignity and certain advantages which they consider they would obtain by being recognised as towns entitled to have county councils of their own, like Derry, Waterford, and other cities. I trust and hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to add to the schedule every town which has a reasonable ground for making this request. Now, Sir, I turn to Clause 12. Clause 12 is a clause which really does not seem to properly fit into this Bill at all. It is a clause 429 which proposes to make provision for exceptional distress. It is, in my opinion, an attempt on the part of the Government to relieve themselves from all responsibility in the future of dealing with the recurrent famines which have characterised the western districts of Ireland, and really I think a meaner and more unjust proposal was never put forward on behalf of the Government. What does it amount to? At present, what is the condition of things with which it is proposed to deal? In very poor districts in the west of Ireland, where there are a great number of holdings, mostly under £4 valuation, the landlords, to use the language of the right hon. Gentleman himself, pay four-fifths of the poor rate. That is under the present law—and under the law as it has stood ever since the poor rate was established in Ireland. This, says the right hon. Gentleman, is now to be at an end, for the agricultural grant, which takes the place of the landlords' contribution, is to be fixed and unaltered; and if the occupiers are to bear the cost of the relief the area must be widened, for individual electoral divisions will be unable to bear it unless this is done, and a Measure of relief will become almost an annual necessity. In other words, he proposes not only in these districts to give to the landlords their enormous share of the grant which they will obtain, but relief from the recurrent liability for dealing with famine which they now share with the Government, and which undoubtedly largely decreased the value of their property. Sir, the first effect of a provision of this kind will be immensely to add to the value of the properties in the congested districts, because it will get rid of the great contingent liability which now lies upon them; and when we remember that the condition of things which prevails in these districts is largely due to rack-renting, evictions, and absenteeism on the part of many of these landlords, I say a more outrageous proposition was never placed before the House. Sir, we may sum the matter up thus. It is proposed to shift on to the shoulders of the poorer western counties in Ireland the whole responsibility of any future famines which may occur in the west, relieving those of the burden and responsibility who are now jointly 430 responsible, namely, the landlords of the district. I say a more monstrous thing cannot possibly be imagined. In the years 1849 and 1850 an attempt was made on the part of the Treasury to shift to the ratepayers of Ireland at large this responsibility for the poverty-stricken districts of the west, and a rate was struck of sixpence, and afterwards of twopence, by which a sum of £424,000 was raised all over Ireland for the relief of the western famine districts. Well, Sir, I think that was a monstrous thing to do. It was an attempt to relieve the Treasury by throwing the tax upon the shoulders of the whole of the Irish people, but it is an infinitely more unjust thing to say that in future the responsibility for the starving districts of the west of Ireland is now to be cast, first on the union where the distress exists, and then upon the counties which are the poorest in Ireland. In other words, is to put the whole of this burden upon the western counties and plunge the surrounding populations into the morass of poverty which now exists. That is a proposal which I will resist with all my ability, and when it is understood in the west of Ireland, the Government will be very soon aware of the feelings which will be aroused in the counties of Galway, Kerry, and Mayo, and other poverty-stricken counties. Now I turn to the financial provisions of the Bill, and I will quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing this Measure. He said—The proposals of the Government, although they may appear complicated and intricate, will tend in the direction, in practice, of administrative simplicity.Well, all I can say is that anyone who has read the Bill as carefully as I have will agree that the right hon. Gentleman is too sanguine. I do not think that the financial proposals of the Bill will at all tend in the direction of administrative simplicity. I think these proposals will set up a great deal of confusion, and will lead, if I am not deceived in the matter, to an immense number of disputes. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—In the first place, the occupier is in future to be liable for both County Cess and Poor-rate, whether in towns or rural districts. The 431 distinction between Cess and Poor-rate will cease, and the two will be collected together as one consolidated rate. This change in the incidence of rating will, of course, involve a temporary readjustment of rents in which a tenancy shall have been determined, or in the case of holdings under the Land Act where a new fair rent has been fixed. These adjustments of rents present a variety of cases, all of which have been provided for out of the Bill. In the case of holdings other than agricultural land the problem is simple, and the principle followed is that the rent shall be adjusted so as to prevent between landlord and tenant any change in the burden existing in the financial year 1896–97. That year is taken in the Bill as the standard financial year, and all adjustment of rents has to be made on the assumption that there will be no increase or decrease of Poor-rate and County Cess taken together as compared with the total rate in the £ for County Cess and Poor-rate taken together in the standard year. The effect of this will be that the whole of any decrease in the rates will go to the benefit of the occupier, the whole of any increase will go to his disadvantage.It is well known that the tendency, particularly in the rural districts in Ireland, is to increase, and a more preposterous statement, one more delusive to the occupier in the urban district—that he will get the benefit of all the decrease in the future, whereas all the increase will be to his advantage—I never heard. [Mr. GERALD BALFOUR: Only so long as the tenancy lasts.] I have a house myself in Dublin, and the tenancy lasts for 150 years, and that is a long time. I think we are entitled to an explanation of the grounds on which the Government propose to shift the burden of the increase of the rates in Irish towns from the shoulders of the landlords to the shoulders of the occupier without offering to the ratepayers in rural districts any corresponding advantage whatever, because all the advantage goes to the holder of agricultural land. Now there is another point connected with the position of urban ratepayers under this Bill to which I will direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. By Clause 34, sub-section 4, it is proposed that—The provisions of this Act with respect to agricultural land shall extend to every hereditament entered as land in the Valuation List within the meaning of the Valuation Acts, but shall not extend to any hereditament situate within the boundary of any borough or of any town which is (for the time being) an Urban Sanitary District.432 When the English Rating Bill was in this House, and an Amendment embodying the principle contained in this subsection was moved from these Benches, it was resisted on behalf of the Government of the day in the most eloquent speeches, and it was declared from the Ministerial Bench that such a provision would inflict the greatest possible injustice on those who were working agricultural land in the neighbourhood of large towns, and so far did the Government go that they absolutely refused to exempt land within the boundaries of the City of London, so that the relief given by the rate could extend to the very boundary of the urban district; and yet in Ireland it is proposed deliberately to exclude from the benefit of this Act all agricultural land within the boundary of an turban district, the number of which, I believe, is 74, as well as I can remember, according to the last Irish Local Taxation Return. But, Sir, on reading over the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I find that he says it is true that the urban district or the urban ratepayers will lose something, but that will be, to a large extent, compensated for by the fact that, according to the definition under the Irish Act, relief will be given in respect of woods, domains, and gardens which were excluded under the English Act; in other words, the comfort he has to offer to those in Irish urban districts who occupy agricultural land for getting nothing under this Act is that their portion is taken away in order to give it to the landlord in relief of his domains, woods, and flower gardens. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this is adding insult to injury, and is a great addition to their grievance. I must say that, looking at it from the point of view of the urban occupier, I do not think he derives any great advantage from this Bill, and that, whatever may be said as regards the occupiers of agricultural land, this Bill does punish the urban occupier in a very uncomfortable way; and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to assimilate, in this particular, the Irish Bill to the English Act. Now, coming to the agricultural grant, it amounts to £730,000 a year. We remember that, in spite of the protests of the Irish Members two years ago, when the Bill was passed for 433 England, the share of Ireland was so arranged that the amount paid to Ireland under the Local Taxation Act, 1896, turned out to be £150,000 a year; so that, as this Irish Local Government Bill now stands, if it is not altered in Committee, in addition to the other financial grievances of Ireland, on this account alone, in two years, Ireland will have lost £1,150,000 to which, by the admission of all, she is now entitled. And in the fact of that monstrous and astounding fact, the right hon. Gentleman proposes that the agricultural grant is only to begin to accrue from the 29th September next, and the payments are to be made only to the 31st March, so as to be available for the local bodies for the half-year ending 31st March next year. The Government, I am sure, will be astonished at our moderation if we acquiesce in this matter. The Government should at least so alter the Bill as to make the agricultural grant in Ireland commence to run from 31st March next, so that payments to the local bodies can be made before the 29th September. That would leave us still to the bad to the extent of one and three-quarter millions, and I think that ought to be enough. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that the system under which the grant is to be distributed, and the various adjustments which are to be made, will turn out to be easily workable, and to be simple in the extreme. I confess I cannot agree with him. I think that these adjustments are terribly complicated, and that they will give rise to no end of disputes, and, I am afraid, increase the ever-increasing volume of law with which Ireland is cursed. Supposing that we admit that the system of distribution is simple, let us consider for a moment the policy of the financial provisions of the Bill. What is that policy? The first great principle of the Bill is this: that under it the landlords of Ireland are to receive a large annual relief from their present liabilities front rate; that relief amounts to a sum which has been variously estimated, but which, in my opinion, will amount to very much more than half of the whole agricultural grant, if you take into account, as, of course, I take into account, the relief which the landlords will obtain in respect of domains, and this sum of £400,000 a year for ever is to 434 be handed over to the landlords of Ireland, not, remember, in accordance with the precedent of the English Bill, but as regards at least £300,000 or £250,000 to be handed over in addition to what they would have obtained if the same principle had been applied to Ireland as has been applied to England. This sum is to be handed over as a bribe, or as blackmail, for the landlords of Ireland to withdraw their opposition to the Bill, and I myself—and, I believe, the Irish Members generally—am committed to the principle that, taking into account the circumstances in which we are placed, and considering that we have waited 12 years, and that it is essentially a sine quâ non that we should have some Measure of this sort, we are prepared to pay the bribe if we get the Local Government Bill as it has been promised to us; but we take it with a wry face, and we cannot forget the large sum that has been taken from us. It is not all—by no means all—which it is proposed to give the Irish landlords in order to disarm their opposition; because not only are they to have in the present an immense bribe such as I have described, but they are, in the future, to attain, so far as a portion of their estates are concerned, freedom from all liability in reference to any increase of rates whatever. Now the right hon. Gentleman declared his conviction that it might be found that, when this popular system of local government came into operation, there would be no extravagance; but it is very extraordinary how Ministers can change their views in relation to the objects which they are endeavouring to attain, and I have frequently heard the very contrary of that statement made by colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman, in words of the most burning eloquence, that the extension of local self-government to Ireland will lead to a large increase in expenditure. I desire to point out that you may have a considerable increase of expenditure, and are very likely to have it without any extravagance whatsoever. The whole course of modern local government, both in this country and in Ireland, points to an increased expenditure, and it is a thing that we cannot for a single moment admit that there is any ground on which to anticipate or to fear increased expenditure in Ireland, or, at any rate, if there 435 is any, that it can be justly called extravagance. Take, for instance, the history of the grand juries themselves. What has been the history of local administration by the grand juries in the past? It is the history of a steadily increasing expenditure, and I think we are entitled to point out that all the indications of the past few years point to the fact that if there be no extravagance, but only rigid economy, we are bound to have an increased expenditure. Now, I will put a few figures before the Committee, and I will take the case of the poor law expenditure. In 1860 the poor law expenditure was £558,000, in 1870 it was £815,000, in 1875 it was £975,000, and in 1896 it was £1,309,000, and although the increases in the county cess are not so great, because there have been so many new duties thrown upon the Grand Jury, there has been a steady and very considerable increase from year to year for many years past. We have heard great praise of the Grand Juries' administration, but I think that what I have said will show that you cannot count upon a decrease of expenditure in the event of this Local Government Bill being passed. I, therefore, say that it is most unjust to make a provision that these landlords shall be relieved from all liability for increase of rates in the future, when we remember that every expenditure on roads, bridges, drains, or in any other direction whatever, must necessarily go largely to increase the value of the landlord's property. It seems to me that that is a very large order indeed, and what I would most strongly represent to the Government is this: that if they stick to their position that this exemption of the landlords from all future liability in respect of any increase of rates is an essential element in their plan, that they ought to abandon their principle of a standard year, and to make the agricultural grant vary from year to year in accordance with the necessities of the case. Now, Sir, I turn to another point in connection with the distribution of this grant. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the distribution of the grant is about as unjust and as oppressive as anything can possibly be imagined. Take, for instance, one or two concrete cases to illustrate how this money is given. I take the case of a landlord—and I know cases to which this 436 description applies in the congested districts—who has a rental of £10,000 a year paid by tenants who are rated at under £4 a year. How will this grant apply in that case, as regards the poor law? That landlord, in an ordinary year, with a poor rate of 2s. in the £, would have to pay a poor rate of £1,000, and under this Act he would receive £500; that is to say, an absentee landlord, who lives in this country, and who has contributed largely by his absenteeism and by his neglect of his duties to manufacture this poverty, would receive by the act of this House £500 a year for ever on condition that he does not oppose this Bill; and, in addition to that £500 a year, he has a Parliamentary undertaking that if a famine breaks out and the rates rush up to 5s., 6s., 7s., 8s., 9s., or 11s. in the £, as they have done, he is not to make any contribution at all to the condition of things. What will be the result of this state of things? Why, that it will inevitably greatly add to the value of property, and the persons who are at the root of a great deal of the crime and poverty and trouble in Ireland will be rewarded in that way. Take the case of our friend Lord Clanricarde; he will receive a Government grant of £400 or £500 a year—I do not know what he has done to deserve that. But while Lord Clanricarde and the other landlord I have mentioned receive £500 a year each, what is the position as regards their tenants. The relief to the poor tenants will amount to 1s. 9d. or 2s. That is about the benefit which they will receive, while the landlords pocket about £500 a year. It is a sad thing and a curious commentary upon the power of this House, of which we have often heard the boast, to do equal justice without fear or favour in Ireland, that the Government should be obliged to squander public money in order to buy off the opposition of Irish landlords in this case upon a Bill which they have promised Ireland for the last 12 years. So much for the policy, but what about the machinery of the Bill. I will not now go into it in detail, but it is greatly complicated, and I am very much afraid in some particulars will prove to be defective. Elaborate arrangements are made for the adjustment of rents by which it is proposed that all the benefits 437 derived from the relief of the county cess shall go to the occupier, and all the relief from the poor rate shall go to the owner; but the complication is something terrific, because, in the first place, in the case of agricultural land, the raising of relief on the land and upon the buildings must be upon a separate principle, because in raising relief on agricultural land the buildings are excluded. That does not by any means exhaust the complications, because we have in the Bill a long list of excluded charges—excluded from the rates when collected for the amount of relief to be given to the rates, but which are to be raised by separate poor rates which are not to be taken into account in the same way as the adjustment of rates on which relief has been given. There is to be an elaborate calculation made all over Ireland, because the relief is not to be given to each district or ratepayer on the basis of the rates they paid in 1896–1897, but a calculation is to be made by Government experts of what would have been paid if there had been union rating in that year. It will be an elaborate calculation, and the result will be that when it is made nobody will be able to understand or to follow the principle by which the sum is arrived at. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman by this Bill will open up a very wide held for dispute. There is one other point in connection with the financial relations to which I wish to direct special attention, and that is the maintenance of the lunatic asylums. The right hon. Gentleman has inserted a provision in the Bill for this purpose, and he explains that that provision will relieve the surplus of £39,000. He said that that would be more than sufficient to provide for the adequate cost of making more satisfactory and humane the treatment of the lunatic poor of Ireland. Anybody who has read the reports in connection with the controversy of the lunatic asylums will have great doubt about that. Then I notice that most stringent powers are conferred upon the Lord Lieutenant to require the County Councils to make proper provision for the poor lunatics, which may entail a great deal of building and extension of lunatic asylums. I think it is extremely likely that the carrying out of Clause 9, page 42, will entail a much larger expense upon the County 438 Councils than is provided in that additional grant, and before this is passed I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give some assurance that provision will be made for whatever additional expense may be placed upon the County Councils with regard to these matters. That is all I wish to say with regard to the details of the Bill. We must, in examining it, take into account that all our past experience points to the possibility, if not the probability, of greater expenditure. We must remember, in recalling the circumstance of these striking figures I have just given with regard to poor law expenditure, that where in 20 years the poor law expenditure has practically doubled, that fact is concurrent with the rapid decrease of population. The price is hard enough for a country as poor as Ireland, after so many disappointments, and after so long a period of waiting, and after listening to the boasts of this House that this Parliament is great enough to give equal justice without fear or favour. The price is hard enough on the people to endure, but it would be an unnatural strain on the patience of the people if the Government are to take advantage of our necessities to put the burden of these rates on the shoulders of the people, and to expect them, after having waited 12 years, to accept a mutilated Bill.
§ *MR. J. A. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
As representing an Irish constituency I wish to say that it is my desire that this Bill should pass, not in any mutilated form, but in its entirely and in all essential details fully equal to the Local Government Acts of England and Scotland. I very well recollect that, speaking upon this subject in 1892 and 1895, my text on all election platforms was that we would give to Ireland that which was given to England and Scotland in, as far as possible, exactly the same terms, no less and no more, and this Bill is certainly the mere fulfilment of those statements. If we are to have this Bill mutilated and safeguarded as some would require it to be, it will not be the actual fulfilment of the promise which the Members of this House believed themselves fully authorised to make upon the platforms of England—namely, that the Unionists were going to give a Local 439 Government Act to Ireland on the same terms as the Acts for England and Scotland had already given Local Government to those countries, and we shall be placed in the position of having stated that which was not true, and that which was not intended to be carried out by the Government. Consequently, I should be very glad, if any changes are to be made in this Bill, that they should be made by way of widening the Bill in certain respects, and not of mutilating it. I have heard and read with amusement a number of impossible schemes which have come over from the other side of the channel, but I believe the large bulk of the Unionist electors of Ireland are strongly in favour of this Bill being passed, so that our pledges may be honestly kept. Very strong accusations have been made with regard to the Attorney General for Ireland, who is described as a traitor to the constituency he represents, as a place-hunting lawyer who is willing to sell his country and constituency for some benefit to himself, that he was willing at the election to say anything to gain his seat, and that he has gone away from the position he then took up. But I turn to his election address, and I find he says that the inhabitants of Ireland should be placed upon an equality with the inhabitants of her sister island, and that local government, as far as possible, in both islands should be identical. This Bill, if passed, is the actual carrying-out of that address—that is to say, if it is made wider in one or two details than it is at the present moment. With regard to taking the power at present vested in the grand juries from them, and vesting it in the County Councils, I may say that there is a deal of human nature in grand juries, and naturally they do not like to see any powers taken away from them, but the grand juries see that matters cannot continue in their present condition; and if the grand juries said that they were glad to be superseded and relieved of the powers they now hold, I should not believe them. But when we talk of taking away their powers and giving them to the County Councils we are told that the Irish people are unfitted for the work. Now, although I have opposed, I have never based my opposition to Home Rule on the incapacity of the Irish 440 people to manage their home affairs in any particular. I based my opposition upon what I believe to be the extreme folly of breaking up a partnership between a strong and rich and a poor and weak nation. It is said that there would be a likelihood of the Irish County Councils making exhibitions of themselves; well, I happened to be a member of the first London County Council, and if the Irish County Councils make themselves greater exhibitions than the first London County Council made itself I shall be very much surprised. It is said that the Irish County Councils will do some very extravagant things at first. Well, one of the very first acts of the London County Council was to cast away £400,000 a year in the wine and coal dues, though it was pointed out that the money would simply go into the pockets of the coal owners and the railway directors. No Irish County Council would be capable of throwing away nearly £400,000, nor would, I believe, be quite so foolish. I think it is only fair to say that the grand juries of Ireland have managed the county business extremely well in the past, and I do hope they will meet this legislation which is necessary, and without which we dare not face another general election, in a kindly spirit. I trust that both the grand juries and the large property owners will try to range themselves with their fellow-countrymen and make the best of the County Councils. I think it would be wise of the grand juries to accept this Measure as something which the Conservative Government feels bound to bring in, because, although the grand juries did their work well, the same thing has occurred in London, where the Metropolitan Board of Works, in my opinion, did the work better and cheaper than the London County Council, and yet that Board had to give way and be replaced by the County Council. There was a Local Government Bill brought before this House in 1892. It was brought forward by the Unionist Government. It was an unhappy Bill, and had an unhappy fate. That Bill has passed out of existence, but it was a Bill in which I was extremely interested. Therefore, I visited each of the 32 counties of Ireland in order to gain information on the subject of Irish Local Government, before the Bill should come forward for discussion. 441 At that time I met grand jurors in each county, and in some counties I had interviews with the whole grand jury, and I took down, the views and opinions of all the men I met, and I only found one single man who was opposed to the bringing in by the Government of a broad, generous scheme of local government, such as we are offered at the present time. In each case I explained as briefly as I could what the English Local Government Bill was, and I said, "Suppose that the Bill was offered to you in its entirely, what safeguards would you propose in connection with it, what changes would you want, from your point of view?" I took down the opinions of the men, and found that there were no safeguards demanded, except a safeguard with regard to the amount of the rates. In each county it was pointed out to me that a very large proportion of the rates were paid by a few individuals, and that, therefore, it was important that there should be a limit placed upon the new County Councils in the matter of imposing rates. I asked what limit they would suggest, and I struck an average, and the suggestions they made amounted to about 15 per cent. limit to be placed in this way: that the County Councils should not be permitted to increase the rates beyond the average of the three previous years, to a greater degree than 15 per cent., without the permission of the Local Government Board. I drew up a scheme at the time, and I delivered that scheme in the form of a lecture in Belfast to a large audience in an entirely open meeting. I asked the audience to express their disapproval or approval of the case, and their opinion as to the statements and facts I was laying before them, and I found that the proposal in favour of a Bill fully as broad as the Bill now brought in, was received with enthusiasm in Belfast, and without one dissentient voice. That was in October, 1891. That being the case, it is surely too late in the day to begin to find fault with this Bill, and to talk of a treacherous Government abandoning the Unionists of Ireland and handing them over to destruction of every sort and kind. With regard to the statement made by the hon. Member for East Mayo, I understand he wants the police handed over to the County Councils in Ireland. Now, in that parti- 442 cular I cannot agree with him, and I have a very good example for not agreeing with him, because the large intelligent County Council of London—the largest in the United Kingdom—has not that power. Consequently he will see that instead of Ireland being worse treated than England it is better treated, by being put upon the same footing as London, the most intelligent part of the United Kingdom. I think it might possibly be dangerous to hand over the police to local County Councils in Ireland at the present time, because in some cases it might not be a happy thing for one Member of Parliament to go into another's constituency if the County Council had control of the police. The hon. Member for East Mayo appreciates that perfectly well, and knows to what I refer. Again, he desires to abolish compensation for malicious injuries, on the ground that it does not exist in England. It does exist in England. It is levied on the hundreds, and so there is not being kept in Ireland something which does not exist in England. Of course, such compensation is not at all so common in England as it is in Ireland, but that simply arises because the cases of such compensation do not so frequently exist, and the reason for giving it is not so much to the front. The hon. Member said he objected to a limit being put upon road making and other expenditure of that sort. He said it was surely not fair to stop the County Councils in this direction, because they would be doing it at their own expense. That is the difficulty; because a large amount of the rates will be paid by a small number of electors. I investigated the case of one barony, which had 2,600 electors. In that barony half of the entire rates were paid by 23 people, the other half being paid by 2,600 people minus 23. I found also that there were a number of people whose total rates were under sixpence for the year altogether. Well, now, it is very easy for gentlemen of that sort to vote for a new road or a new bridge, which would double the rates. It would simply mean an increase of from sixpence to a shilling, and one day's work on the new road or bridge would pay their rates for seven years. It is said, why will you not let the people 443 spend their own money? But when the figures are brought before the House, showing the wonderful disproportion of rates in Ireland, hon. Members will see that the limit in that direction demanded by the most earnest and liberal-minded of the grand jurors and large property owners in Ireland is not an unfair demand at all. In that particular I would be inclined to go with the grand jurors and large property owners to the very fullest extent. The hon. Member also said that in England the Chairmen of the District Councils were Justices of the Peace during their term of office, and that the same rule should be applied to Ireland. In that I entirely agree, and I see no reason why it should not be done. Then he said, further, that ministers of religion were to be excluded in Ireland under this Bill, and such ministers were excluded in England and Scotland, and that that exclusion was a slur cast upon ministers of religion in Ireland. In that also I entirely and totally agree. I think if the ministers of religion had been excluded in England and Scotland it might have been well. Probably there is no reason—I do not see any reason—for allowing them to be on County Councils; but, at the same time, I want to know what is the reason why they are excluded in Ireland and not excluded in England and Scotland. Is it because they are more dishonest, more treacherous, or lower in any way? I fail entirely to see why the exclusion of ministers of religion has been introduced into the Bill, and I trust it will be taken out, and that they will be allowed to be candidates in Ireland, as in England and Scotland. It may be that the power of the priesthood of the Catholic Church is unusually strong and great, and that, therefore, the provision is put in as pointing to them directly. If it is a provision aimed specially at one particular religion in Ireland, that is a reason why I should object to it on broad and general grounds, and I should be very glad if this exclusion of ministers of religion in Ireland were taken from this Bill. Mr. Speaker, I should like to see this Bill accented in a generous and manly spirit. I should like to see it go through this House, as I think it is certain to do, unmutilated, and a broad Measure passed. I would remind the 444 grand jurors that if they come forward and say, Let the Bill go through; let us not damage this Measure; let us work together as Irishmen; let us, who have very large knowledge of public affairs from experience in Ireland, come forward as candidates, I should be astonished if they were not elected in considerable numbers, even by those who differed from them in religion and politics. If, however, everything is done to mutilate this Bill, and to hinder its passage through the House, then when it is passed, if men come forward and say, Now elect us, I say it is too late. When men have done their very worst, it is not the time to say, we will be candidates now, after we have tried to the utmost of our power to wreck the Bill. There is one other point to which I should like to refer, namely, minority representation. That is a thing in which I have no belief whatever for Ireland or for any other country—to jerrymander the franchise to bring in the minority. Because what would be the use of a minority so brought in to the County Councils? There is human nature in Ireland as everywhere else, and there will be human nature in the County Councils, and if a few men were brought in—were jerrymandered into a County Council to which I belonged, I for one would not look with very great favour on the proposals of these gentlemen. Suppose, for example, that by some system of minority representation, which does not exist in England or Scotland, a number of members are brought into the County Councils in the south of Ireland, what would be the fact? The first thought that would arise in the minds of fair men would be this: this system of minority representation that is brought in here, and is not found to be necessary in England or Scotland, implies a doubt with regard to us, and implies that the minority will not be fairly treated by the majority in Ireland, as in England and Scotland. It casts a doubt upon that being so; the effect and influence of, say, two men coming in under the minority franchise to a County Council consisting of 30 members, would, I think, be to render every proposal those two members made almost certain of being rejected at once. I think if those men were not present the very proposals they would bring forward, only 445 to be rejected, might be passed by the Council in their absence. I recollect very well in the first London County Council, in which I was one of a miserable minority—it was the most unhappy position I ever occupied in my life—if ever we wanted anything carried we kept very quiet, and tried to get some good-natured Radical to bring it forward; but so sure as it was brought forward by us, so sure would there be an instinctive opposition against us. What chance would a member brought in on a minority vote have of obtaining any favourable hearing? Therefore I think that this demand made in Ireland at the present time for minority representation is utter foolishness. It might gratify the vanity of a few men to act on the Council, but would these men have any weight on the Council whatever? However, we do not want to gratify the vanity of individuals, but to see the work of the Council done well. But there is another cry raised by a few people in Ireland, and it is this: Are you going to hand us over to our natural enemies? I do not know what this thing means. Who are natural enemies in Ireland? It is true enough that I represent a Unionist-Protestant constituency, but it is equally true that I spent nearly all my life in Ireland in County Donegal, which is largely a Roman Catholic and Nationalist county from one end to the other. I have spent 30 years in that county, and I have no idea what this phrase "natural enemies" means. Are we to look upon a certain class of our fellow-countrymen, who differ from us in religion and politics, as being our natural enemies? I do not believe it in the smallest possible degree, and therefore nothing is more foolish than to talk like that at this time, especially when County Councils are coming in. Most certainly, if I lived in one of the southern counties in Ireland when County Councils were coming in, the very last thing I should talk about would be about natural enemies. I should rather suggest that such a thing had not existed in the past, and did not exist at present, and I myself for one have not the slightest belief that any natural 446 enmity will be shown when the County Councils have started. It is foolish to prophesy unless you know, but I should be very much astonished if in counties in the south of Ireland, where the population is Catholic, but where there is a considerable Unionist minority, men of good education and position are not elected to County Councils, that is if people cease talking about "our natural enemies." There is another thing I have often heard in the north of Ireland—especially in the most extreme Protestant districts—and that is, "Shall we not stand to our co-religionists in the south and west?" Well, I always found that our co-religionists in the south and west were not a bit afraid of the so-called natural enemies. That remark comes from parts of the country where the Protestants are in an enormous majority, and not from those parts where they are in a small minority. I have a large number of relations in the south and west of Ireland where their co-religionists are in a small minority, and they inform me they have no fear, and have never had any grounds for any fear whatever. They tell me they have never been badly treated by those around them, and if we in the north take up the same attitude, as I trust we shall, and if also the electors in the northern counties take care that men shall be put forward—say in Antrim and Down—of the Roman Catholic religion, if we take care to be fair to the Roman Catholic minority in these counties, I believe the southern and Nationalist counties will act with equal generosity, and if that is done then I am convinced that this Bill will be the greatest boon ever given to Ireland by this House, that it will work splendidly throughout the length and breadth of the land, and that all the fears which have been uttered will be idle from every point of view.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford City)
The speech to which I have just listened I think augurs well for the working of this Bill, and if for one brief moment I recall the fact that the speech and the spirit of it are, indeed, different to those to which we were accustomed from that side of the House a very few years ago, that 447 is not for the sake of making any reproach, but rather for the purpose of emphasising the change that has come over the spirit of hon. Gentlemen who represent Unionist constituencies in Ireland; a change of spirit which I hope will yet bring them completely into line with their fellow-countrymen of all sorts in the furtherance of the welfare of our common country. The speech in which the Debate was opened by the Member for East Mayo was a speech which, I confess, I did not regard in the same way. I think the example which the hon. Member has set is one which it would be well for the House not to follow upon this occasion, because the plan he adopted, apparently, was to take up this long and complicated Bill, and on the occasion of a Second Reading Debate go from clause to clause and produce minute criticisms. The speech, no doubt, was an interesting one from one point of view, because it was another instance of the habit into which, I am afraid, the hon. Gentleman is falling, of speaking against a Motion and voting for it. The speech which the hon. Gentleman delivered was one which, had it not been prefaced by a declaration that he was going to vote for the Bill, would lead anyone to believe that he intended to vote against it. My own contribution to this Debate will be very brief indeed, and it will be of a different character. If ever there was an occasion when, in my opinion, a Second Reading Debate ought to be brief, it is this occasion. What is the function of a Second Reading Debate? The object of a Debate on Second Reading, it seems to me, is to discuss, not small details of the Bill, but the broad principle underlying the Measure, to make that prinicple in the first place clearly understood by Parliament, and, if necessary, by the country outside, and then in the second place to afford those Members who are opposed to that principle an adequate opportunity of defeating the Measure if they choose to take that responsibility, and if they have the power to do so, by voting, not on the detail, but on the general principle. Now, Sir, if that be the true object for a Second Reading Debate, then I say the present discussion ought to be, indeed, a brief one. First of all, no one will say that there is any need of a prolonged discussion in order to make 448 the principle of this Bill understood, either by Parliament or by the country. That principle has already been embodied in Acts of Parliament for both England and Scotland, and on the occasion of the passing of those Acts that principle was thrashed out and discussed fully, not only in both Houses of Parliament, but on a thousand platforms in the country. It was deliberately accepted by both the great Parties in the State; it has now been in full operation for several years, and in its working it has in the main proved satisfactory. This Bill merely extends to the people of Ireland rights and privileges which have already, by universal consent, and after full discussion, been conferred on the people of England and of Scotland. Therefore, Sir, it seems to me that little or no debate is needed to make the principle at stake now understood by this House and by the country. As to the further object of a Second Reading Debate, that is to enable hon. Members who are opposed to the principle at stake to defeat the Measure, it is quite manifest that, though there may be some hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for East Mayo, who object very much to the details of the Measure, yet upon its broad principles Irishmen are practically united, and there is no serious section of English opinion hostile. Under these circumstances, Mr. Speaker, in my view, there is no need for a prolonged discussion at this stage of the Measure, and this Debate ought, in my view, speedily to end, and criticism on the details of the Measure ought to be reserved for the Committee stage, when we can grapple with them, and come to close quarters with the defects of the Measure. But, though this is true, it is clear that there is one section of English Members—perhaps not an important section—and, strange to say, drawn from the ranks of those who are supposed to be friends of Ireland, and who have pledged themselves to commit to Irishmen the control of all their domestic concerns, who, while they shrink, apparently, from openly attacking the principles of the Measure, at the same time evidently view it with jealousy and distrust, and would apparently like to kill it if they knew how. For my part I have no hesitation whatever in saying, Mr. Speaker, that this is a far better Measure than could 449 be conferred upon Ireland by any Liberal Administration, unless, indeed, a Liberal Administration had the driving power of the Land League behind it; and it would be an absolutely intolerable state of things if any section of the English Liberal Members, for any reason whatever, were to be permitted to stand between Ireland and the concession of this boon. Certain rigid economists object to the distribution of the agricultural grant in Ireland, which is proposed by this Bill. I heard the other evening, on another subject, a statement, made by the late Attorney General for England, which filled me with amazement. The late Attorney General for England spoke about the policy of the present Government as that of pouring English gold into Ireland. Now, I think it is well that this matter should be dealt with at once. The grant under this Bill is not a present to Ireland or a favour of any sort or kind. This Bill deals with an equivalent grant. England has already obtained it, and this Bill, so far from pouring English gold into Ireland, as the late Attorney General seems to think, gives us for the future what England got two years ago, and it robs Ireland of her rightful share for the two years that are past. Now let us get rid at the commencement of this discussion, let us get rid, once for all, of the idea that this Bill confers any grant or favour upon Ireland, good, bad, or indifferent. Let it be borne in mind by every Member of this House that no county or district in Ireland will get any single benefit, will get one single farthing of public money, that it would not have got two years ago if it had been a county situated in England. This English grant, Mr. Speaker, commenced in the year 1896. If Ireland had been treated on an equality with England in the year 1896 Ireland would have been in receipt ever since of £750,000 a year, instead of which money has been allocated as her share during these years to the amount of only £150,000 a year. So far from getting any special favour under the Bill at all, by the whole proceedings of this agricultural grant in Ireland, she has been deprived of over £1,000,000, and this during years when the general taxation of Ireland has increased by nearly half a million, and when, admittedly, Ireland's power and capacity to bear taxa- 450 tion has lessened. Let it be borne in mind, therefore, when we hear this kind of talk from the Liberal Benches about the policy of this Bill being to pour English gold into Ireland, let us remember, once for all, that we are only getting now, two years later, what England has already got, and that neither the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland, nor any alleged over-taxation of Ireland, can be affected in the smallest degree by any money paid under this Bill. Now, Sir, these rigid Liberal economists, who take this view, object in addition to the manner in which this Irish agricultural grant is distributed; and I listened with some interest to the remarks made by the hon. Member for East Mayo upon this point. I had thought that, weighing the pros and cons of this matter some time ago, he accepted in the most public and specific way the principle of this distribution, and to-night, no doubt, he is going to vote for the Bill, but he has subjected this portion of the Bill to the most hostile criticism. The objection is that one-half of the grant is to go to relieving the rates of the landlords. Now, Sir, I say to English Liberal Members this is a matter for Ireland. So long as this money is due to us, so long we have a right to decide how it shall be spent, and so long as Ireland is content as to the present distribution under this Bill I cannot conceive by what right or title any Englishman, especially any Home Ruler, ventures to interfere. Sir, the position of Ireland on the matter of this distribution of the grant is a perfectly simple one. Ireland in the past has suffered grievously from Irish landlordism. I am not sure that Irish landlords, or, at any rate, the present generation of Irish landlords, are chiefly to blame. I have always thought that the system of Irish landlordism, its origin and its history, were such that nothing but evil could flow from it; and I believe that Mr. Parnell was absolutely right when he declared war against that system. But, Sir, with some hon. Members—I think they are few, very few—hatred of the system seems to have degenerated into hatred of the individuals, but I believe, even at the worst time, that was not the general feeling of the bulk of the Irish people. After all, these landlords are Irishmen. They are mostly 451 men of education and ability. While we have waged war against a system, I believe the great bulk of the Irish people never at any time desired to drive any class of their fellow-countrymen from the shores of Ireland. So far from desiring to ruin them individually, I do not hesitate to say that I believe it would be a wise and blessed thing for Ireland to agree to any financial arrangement by which they could transfer their estates to the people upon such terms as would enable them to retain sufficient, at any rate, of their nominal income to enable them to remain in Ireland and take their proper place amongst the people. For my part, these are the views that I entertain, and have always entertained, upon this matter, and I do not grudge the Irish landlords this paltry £35,000 a year, or whatever it may be that they will obtain in relief of their rates under this Bill. I say it will be well spent if it has the effect of creating in Ireland a popular domestic system of self-government; above all, it will be well spent indeed if it leads, as I sincerely hope it may lead, to a spread of the spirit which animated the speech of the hon. Gentleman who spoke immediately before me; if it will lead in the future to a better state of things in which the gentry and the people may join together in a common effort to alleviate and to improve the condition of their fellow-countrymen. I commenced by stating that on the details of this Measure I would say but little, and I mean to keep my word. In alluding to one or two matters of detail, it is not for the purpose of discussing them now—I do not believe this to be a proper or convenient occasion—but it is for the purpose of indicating those portions of the Measure which, in my view, will need amendment in Committee, and for the purpose of directing the attention of the Government to the strong public sentiment which has already been created in Ireland on this point. The central governing authority which will work this system of local government in Ireland has been alluded to by the Member for East Mayo. It is sufficient to say that the Local Government Board in Ireland is not representative in the sense that the Local Government Board in England is. What do I mean? The Local Govern- 452 ment Board in England, which is the central authority for your system of local government, here, is responsible through a Minister sitting in this House to this House, which means, in other words, responsible to a majority of the people of England. That is not so with regard to Ireland. The hon. and gallant Member opposite, Colonel Saunderson, interrupts me by saying it is so. He must excuse me for saying I believe it is not. I know the Chief Secretary is head of the Local Government Board. He sits in this House. But is he responsible to the majority of the people of Ireland? No; he is responsible to the majority of the people of another country, as I was going to point out. Of course, he is responsible to a majority of this House, which is a majority made up of people who are not the people of Ireland. Therefore, as I was going to point out, I do not exactly see what the Government can do under the circumstances until they agree to extend to Ireland a system of national government. This defect, I believe, cannot be entirely removed, except under a system of Home Rule. What I would suggest would be that the Local Government Board in Ireland, which will be the most powerful Board in the country, and will have its powers enormously increased, should, by the addition of suitable individuals, be strengthened in such a way that it will more completely, more fully than it does at present, command the goodwill and confidence of the people, whose affairs it will decide in the future. There are one or two matters, which are, no doubt, matters of detail, that I desire to mention, because they are of very great importance to the capital of Ireland and the city of Dublin. As I understand this Bill, there is considerable doubt, at any rate, whether the municipality of Dublin will have power under its provisions in any way to extend her municipal boundaries. My excuse for mentioning this matter is that it is one of the most grave importance to the citizens of Dublin. The way the matter at present stands under English Acts is that English municipalities have power to extend their boundaries if they obtain an order from the Local Government Board, but Clause 62 of this Bill declares that so much of the English and Scotch statutes shall be extended to Ireland as the Lord Lieu- 453 tenant shall declare applicable. Inasmuch as the townships which it is sought to include in Dublin are all constituted under separate statutes, I am not sure that the Lord Lieutenant would consider that these clauses in the English Act were applicable to Dublin. There ought to be no question or doubt in the matter. What is simpler than to declare what the Government means? That is all we ask. This question is one which is pressing very closely on the city of Dublin. The circumstances of Dublin are most peculiar. Dublin is surrounded by a ringed fence. The whole area of the city is under 4,000 acres, and is all built over. The wealthy portion of the population have long since commenced to go out and live in the adjoining townships, which is the experience of large towns in this country. The extension of these townships has been extraordinary in its rapidity. Of course, by their extension they have increased the general expenses of the city of Dublin, while the city of Dublin has not been able to increase its revenue to the extent of a penny; and what is asked on behalf of the city of Dublin is that, under this Bill, they should have powers given to them, subject, if you will, to an Order by the Local Government Board, to extend their boundaries so as to include the various townships. This is a matter that has been reported upon both by a Committee in 1878 and by a Royal Commission in the following year, both of which unanimously recommended that this power should be given to the Municipality of Dublin. There are other matters connected with Dublin which I can only allude to in a few words. The Chief Secretary will bear me out when I say that the principle underlying this Bill is that in each district or administrative county there should be one authority for the collection of rates. Now, in regard to the city of Dublin, there was in 1890 a private Bill before Parliament, and, owing to opposition of one sort and another, a compromise was come to on the question of rating. Up to that time the entire rate was collected by the Collector General. In 1890 the collection of the rates was divided, but the poor rate was still left to the Collector General to collect, and the other rates were left to the Corporation to collect. This dual system of rate col- 454 lection is objectionable and expensive, and still exists in the city of Dublin. I do not understand that the Bill as at present drawn will meet that case. [Mr. GERALD BALFOUR: The rates will be collected by the Corporation of Dublin.] So far as the poor rate is concerned, I am glad it is made clear that that in future will be collected by the Corporation. There will remain, however, the question of the police tax, and some other taxes, which will continue in the collection of the Collector General. Therefore, under this Bill, the two collecting authorities will be maintained in Dublin. What for? Why should Dublin pay the expense of two collecting authorities? The police tax should be collected by the citizens. It is an absurd thing to say that this 8d. in the £ on the valuation for the police tax should be collected by an Imperial officer and not by the Corporation. As to the question of the control of the Royal Irish Constabulary, I will say nothing now; but with regard to the Metropolitan Police in Dublin I think they should be governed by the Municipality of Dublin. Is it not ridiculous that, whereas every great municipality throughout England controls its own police, the Lord Mayor of Dublin has not even the authority to order a policeman to keep clear the traffic Outside the Mansion House or City Hall? I cannot understand why that absurdity is preserved in this Bill. I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend opposite and my hon. and learned Friend behind me will not stick at a small matter of this kind—a small matter to them, but one which means a great deal to the Corporation of Dublin. I am not going further into details. All I will say, in conclusion, is that this Bill will confer on Ireland a very broad and democratic system of government. It is assented to by practically all parties in Ireland, and I believe that when the division comes, or when the time comes for the calling of a division, it will probably be found that hon. Members who have screwed up their courage to put these Amendments on the Paper will think better of it and not challenge a division. With regard to the points of detail upon which differences of opinion have arisen, I have mentioned that I have every hope that in Committee we may be able to obtain some equitable solution of them. This Bill is, of course, no substitute for Home Rule, and I hope 455 I will not be alarming hon. Gentlemen opposite when I say that I for one welcome it as a step in that direction. Whatever influence my friends and I have in Ireland will certainly be used to obtain for this scheme a fair and successful working. Our desire will be to work this Bill on fair and tolerant lines as far as we can. No man's politics or religion will be allowed to be a bar to him, if he desires to serve his country on one of the new bodies. If this spirit prevails in Ireland generally, numerous benefits must certainly ensue from the passing of this Measure, and men, who have been long estranged, men of different creeds who have had an almost impassable gulf between them all their lives, will be brought together for the first time in the working of this scheme of local government and, under these circumstances, I scarcely think it is altogether rash to express the hope that this Bill may mean the beginning of a process whose end will be the creation of a really united Irish nation, whose national liberties will then be easy of achievement.
§ *MR. W. E. H. LECKY (Dublin University)
I hope very much that the Unionist Party in Ireland will recognise that in face of the pledges that have been given by all Parties since 1886, and of the manifest trend of opinion, both inside and outside this House, it has become absolutely necessary to establish a system of local government in Ireland on a broad democratic basis, corresponding in its main lines with local government in England and Scotland. The thing has plainly become politically necessary, and the success of the experiment will depend very largely upon the frankness with which the Unionist Party accept the situation and the degree in which those who have hitherto directed local government in Ireland come forward and offer their services to assist in starting the new work. I cannot say that I am one of those who, if the question could be looked upon merely on its merits, and apart from all pledges and political necessities, would have supported the change. Individually, I believe that Ireland is as little suited for democracy as almost any country in Europe. I 456 do not believe in the common doctrine—I should almost call it the common craze—that the same institutions are adapted to countries so profoundly different as England and Ireland—to countries differing in the three most essential conditions of the loyalty of the population, the relation of classes, and the existence and power of the middle class. I do not hold the opinion which seems now to be treated almost as an axiom, that it is no defence of an exceptional and anomalous institution that it works well, and I believe that for a very long period the Grand Juries of Ireland have been perfectly free from jobbing, and have done their duty economically, efficiently, and fairly. I find, indeed, that the opinion of most good judges seems to consist of two propositions. The first is that the Grand Juries have been discharging their duties exceedingly well; the second is that, as far as concerns their most important prerogatives, they should be abolished. I am myself much inclined to agree with one of the truest patriots now living in Ireland, that "there can be no sufficient safeguard for the due exercise of popular power but one—that it is placed in the hands of a loyal and law-respecting people." But, Sir, all Parties are so committed to a different policy that it is perfectly useless to resist it, and I think our great object should be to see that this great and perilous experiment is accompanied with safeguards that are few, simple, efficient, and reasonable, and not by a number of petty restraints which can never be permanent, and which would only contribute to irritate and perpetuate dissension. The present Bill is much more a Committee Bill than a Second Reading Bill. Much of it can hardly be understood except by a lawyer, and its character may be much modified by the Orders in Council referred to in Section 64. But, as far as I can judge, it is most skilfully constructed to avoid the great danger of local government being worked as a means of plundering and oppressing one class by another. The financial clauses dividing the Imperial grant between landlord and tenant, giving the larger share to the tenant, but throwing the responsibility of the payment of rates on the occupier, seems to me one of the simplest and most efficient means that have yet been devised for preventing 457 the matter from being worked in the interests of class warfare. It is not a bribe, for it simply extends to Ireland what last year was given to England and Scotland, but it is undoubtedly a protection. The grant, however, ought certainly not to be deferred, but ought to begin at the same date as that to Great Britain. The power of veto lodged with the Local Government Board on increased expenditure for roads furnishes a very real protection against excessive extravagance. The transitory arrangement that in the first County Council each Grand Jury should have the right of choosing three Councillors seems to me admirably adapted to render it in some degree probable that the new system of government will be conducted on substantially the same lines as the old one, and will be at least influenced by men who have a real experience in local government. The clause placing the compensation for malicious injuries in the hands of the County Court judges seems to me a better one than that of the Bill of 1892, which left it in the hands of the Grand Juries, and I, of course, approve of the police being kept out of the control of the new bodies. To place the police, indeed, after the experience of the last 20 years, under bodies elected on a Parliamentary franchise, would, to my mind, be as near political insanity as anything that could well be found beyond the precincts of Bedlam. I also cordially agree with the clause which, by excluding ministers of religion of all denominations, perpetuates the rule that has hitherto existed in Ireland. No one can say that clerical influence is not sufficient in Ireland, and that we want a larger admixture of theology in our secular affairs. Let us try, as far as we can, to keep these new bodies clear of religious, class, and political quarrels, and if we succeed in doing so they will probably do fairly well. After all, the making of roads and bridges, and the other functions thrown upon them, have nothing to do with our religious or political differences, and they are the common interest of all classes. The clauses protecting existing officers are evidently drawn up with much care, but they will require to be carefully looked into. There are classes who have well-established prescription rights which 458 are not defined by positive law, and in the complete transfer of patronage that is to be effected they may be seriously injured. Hitherto the assistant medical officers in lunatic asylums have been invariably promoted to be medical superintendents. They have had to give a special study to mental disease, and to give up all other kinds of practice, but under the new Bill there is no obligation to promote them. There are officers of corporations who are not sufficiently protected. They have rights to superannuation recognised by law, but dependent upon the approval of the governing body. When that body is totally changed if is possible that through vindictive or other notions these rights may be withheld. They are, they say, less protected than corresponding officers in England and Scotland. There are county surveyors who wish to be placed in the same position as secretaries of Grand Juries. Considering, indeed, the great importance of these officers, I regret that the Government does not for the present keep their appointment in its own hands. It seems to me that the gravest objections to this Bill are mainly concentrated into one head. It is that the larger cess payers are not sufficiently protected. It is impossible to doubt that a very serious alarm has arisen among them, and I do not think it is without justification. The disproportion between the very small ratepayers and the larger ones in Ireland is enormous. It appears from a Return that was made in 1892 that in 308 out of 327 agricultural baronies from 10 to 70 per cent. of the rates was paid by from two to five per cent. of the ratepayers. Mr. Jackson, the Chief Secretary, stated in that year that 46 per cent. of the ratings were under £1 a year, and 72 per cent. under £10. Out of 486,865 holdings in Ireland 369,502 are valued, for purposes of taxation, at less than £20, and 127,098 at less than £4. Many who will obtain votes under this Bill pay no rates; others are habitual defaulters, and to multitudes the gain in wages by extravagant public works would far more than compensate what they pay in rates. All over the world, where Local Government rests on a democratic basis, the growth of local extravagance and local indebtedness is one of the most serious facts with which 459 we have to deal. Can it be said that with wholly inexperienced bodies, and such a disposition of classes as I have described, it is not a serious danger? This is not a question between landlord and tenant, or between Protestant and Catholic, or between Unionist and Home Ruler. No section of opinion has a real interest in extravagance, and we are merely asking for a close connection between taxation and representation which used to be considered of vital importance in every sound constitution. I hope the Government will keep their mind open on this subject, and will recognise that this is the weak point of their Bill, and that there is a real and growing uneasiness about it among the larger farmers throughout Ireland. I think there ought to be some stronger protection for the larger cess payers than the veto of the Local Government Board. To most of us a Joint Committee, elected partly by the County Council and partly by the larger cess payers, seems the best remedy. But the danger might be met in more ways than one, and I hope the Bill may not pass from this House without something being done to obviate it.
§ *MR. G. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
The hon. Member for Waterford seemed to imagine that Members on this side of the House are hostile to the principle of this Bill; but, Mr. Speaker, speaking on my own behalf, I entirely disclaim any hostility to the principle of this Bill. In fact, I think it is so reasonable, so necessary, and so just that there is no need for the large annual sum of £730,000 to be paid in order to quell opposition to it. The hon. Member was good enough to say that he spoke on behalf of Irishmen when he said that this money should be poured into the pockets of the landlords of Ireland. For my own part I cannot believe that the Irish people, if they were appealed to, would consent to Vote a large annual sum of English gold or Irish gold to absentee landlords, who get their rents from Ireland and live in England. I do not take exception to the principle of local government contained in the Bill, but entirely to the financial provisions therein. It does seem to me strange that among the numerous pledges 460 that were made by the present Government there was not a single reference to the fact that they intended to give this enormous sum of £730,000 a year for the relief of Irish rates in order that local government might be established. There was not one single word said about such an idea, although the Unionist Party a few years ago committed themselves to the principle of equal local laws in Ireland as in England. Now, Mr. Speaker, the Government, when an Amendment was moved by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derry to extend the Rating Bill to Ireland in May, 1896, rejected that Amendment, and said they would not, under any consideration, extend the Bill—of which, I presume, this is some sort of a counterpart—to Irish landlords and tenants. Well, in May, 1897, exactly 12 months afterwards, they came down and adopted the very policy which they had rejected. Such, I suppose, is the great consideration they have given to this subject that within 12 months they affect a complete turn-round upon the financial provisions which they themselves intended to apply, and which they now are going to apply to Ireland. Now, Mr. Speaker, I have read the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I find that the Leader of the House said that there was no unjust incidence in local rating in Ireland, and he gave that as one of the reasons why rates should not be relieved in Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also raised an objection. He said that in Ireland they had never given money in relief of rates, but that they had always gone towards developing the industries of Ireland. For my own part, Sir, if this money could be devoted to developing the industries of Ireland my opposition would cease, but I do protest that this money should go into the hands of the landowning classes, and that it should go to relieve their rates, when they have done absolutely nothing to deserve such a great boon from the British taxpayer. The First Lord of the Treasury, in his speech at Manchester this year, said there was no debt due from England to Ireland. If this is not a debt to Ireland, I can only regard it as a bribe to the Irish landlords to accept a Measure of local government which is just and necessary. Now, Mr. Speaker, in my opinion bribery has been much too common in the deal- 461 ings of England with Ireland. A century ago we had a shameless system of bribery to betray the liberties of the Irish people. Now we are to have another large sum poured into the pockets of a certain class in Ireland for the purpose of winning their consent to giving back the Irish people only an instalment of their lost liberties. I do think that it is degrading to the Imperial Parliament that they should have to bribe any interest in order to enact just and necessary laws. But when discussing this matter of £730,000 a year, my mind goes back to the Home Rule Bill of 1893. We then had a proposal to give something like £480,000 a year for six years to Ireland. Why, Sir, that proposal was seized upon by the Unionist Party, it was twisted into all sorts of shapes. I remember, Sir, just as those proposals were made public, going down to the Hereford election. The Secretary of the Local Government Board was also there, and he estimated how much it would cost the people of Hereford to give what he called this "gigantic bribe." Well, Mr. Speaker, I have calculated that this sum of £730,000 a year will be a tax upon the people of Great Britain—including every man, woman, and child—of something like fivepence or sixpence per head. Now, Sir, if the Unionists were so strong against giving £480,000 a year for six years to Ireland why do they now want to give £730,000 a year for ever to the Irish people to set up local authorities, which, by the bye, Lord Salisbury says are—More exposed to the temptation, and had more facility for enabling the majority to be unjust to the minority, than was the case where the authority derives its sanction and extends its jurisdiction over a wider area.That was Lord Salisbury's dictum in 1885. What a prospect for the loyal minority in Ireland! Loyalty, however, in Ireland seems to me to be greatly a question of price. It is a very interesting rule of three sum that if £730,000 a year will purchase the assent of the loyal minority to local government in Ireland, what would be the price of their assent to a large central authority, about which Lord Salisbury said that, "the wisdom of several parts of the country would correct the folly or the mistakes of one?" Now, Mr. Speaker, I said that I would not follow the example of the hon. 462 Member for Waterford and the example of the hon. Member for Mayo in entering into the details of this Bill. I know little or nothing about the details of Irish local government, and I am not ashamed of my ignorance; and I have not the smallest doubt that there are a large number of British Members who know no more about it than I do. It is one of the sacred traditions of our system that an English Member should have to vote upon and settle matters of detail in Ireland, about which we practically know nothing. Mr. Speaker, what I am going to talk about to-night I have some knowledge of, for I do know something of local government in England; and I say that the finance as regards this Bill does not at all compare with the finance of the Bill that created County Councils in England. When the County Councils were set up in England, £3,000,000 were given to them for various purposes at one time or another. But in the case of Ireland, no money is to be given to the County Councils, but is to go direct to individuals. I agree with the hon. Member for Mayo that if local authorities are going to justify their existence they must spend money. And from whom are they going to get this money? In England the local authorities have enormous resources. In Ireland they will have to rest for their rates entirely upon the earnings of the poor peasantry, upon whom any future increased rating will fall. Well, Sir, in this country we have plenty of money for all necessary public purposes. I should have thought if any country in the world wanted development Ireland wanted it. The Chief Secretary himself, in introducing the Irish Industries Bill, said—He was convinced that the road to prosperity for rural Ireland lay in the improvements of her methods of agriculture, now wofully backward, and in the encouragement of home industries, which could hardly be said to exist.Mr. Speaker, a greater confession of the failure of British rule in Ireland I have never read. Then, again, the hon. Member for South Dublin, speaking only recently, said that the welfare of Ireland depended upon the agricultural industry, and that that industry in Ireland was in a semi-barbarous state. I should like to see the agricultural methods improved, 463 but will this dole to the landlords improve it? Will it drain a single bog, or make a single railway? The education of Ireland, moreover, is sadly neglected. Nineteen and a half per cent. of the children over five are unable to read or write. This dole to the Irish landlords will not develop the resources of Ireland. It will merely go into the pockets of individuals. If the Government had given this money, by some means or other, to the Irish local authorities, which they intended to set up in Ireland, these new authorities might have done something to develop the resources of Ireland; but now, in many parts—or in some parts, at any rate—the local authorities will have to rely for their rates upon the poor peasantry, for whom this House the other day voted a sum of something like £23,000, to keep them from absolute starvation. These are the "wealthy" ratepayers the County Councils of Ireland will have to resort to to develop the resources of their own country; but, whilst the County Councils will be starved, you are going to pour money, with both hands, into the landlords' pockets. The Congested Districts Board spent £40,000 a year, and that was a remarkable success, but you are now going to pour nearly 10 times that amount into the pockets of the Irish landlords, many of whom live in England, and some have not visited Ireland for years. We are told this is equivalent to the English Rating Act. That Act was said to be an experiment; but this is not an experiment, it is a settled policy, and goes on for ever. In England relief went ostensibly to the occupier, but in Ireland no such formality is gone through, as a large portion of the grant goes direct into the landlord's pocket. In England land was differentiated, and rated at one-half; in Ireland land will be rated on the whole of its value. There are 22,000 occupiers in Ireland of over £100 a year rental. Why are these people not entitled to protection from any increase of rates, as well as the Irish landlord? The Irish landlord you protect, but for the working farmer you have no regard. I protest against the owner being exempt from all the obligations of ownership, as he will be if this Bill passes. Then, Sir, when the Rating Bill was passed for England the Government appointed a Commission 464 in order to inquire into the incidence of rating in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Now, only a few days ago I read that, having regard to the fact that a number of witnesses had still to be called in London, and that both Ireland and Scotland had yet to be visited for the purpose of obtaining information, it is impossible to say when this inquiry will terminate; but while this Commission is sitting, and just at the time that they are going to visit Ireland to inquire into the incidence of rates, the Government are going to transfer these rates, to be paid out of the Imperial taxes. We never heard of such a proposal before. You first transfer a burden, and then inquire about it afterwards. If this Commission is not a sham, do not pass the legislation till the Commission has reported. If it is a sham, why, dissolve the Commission, and save the country the expense and obviate the farce of Commissioners, going to Ireland to inquire into the necessity for legislation which you are just about to pass, and will probably have passed before their Report is presented. If temperance legislation were proposed for England, the answer would be a Commission is sitting, but temperance is not so dear to the heart of the Government as the dictum of the Indian Secretary, that to protect and safeguard the interests of their own friends was the policy of the Government. Now, Sir, I will not go wholly into the subject as to how this will affect the purchase of land in Ireland. The dual system of ownership in Ireland is one of the most wasteful institutions that can possibly exist. But how will this gigantic sum affect it? If property is sold the whole of the money that will be given to the relief of rates must go into the pockets of the landlords, because, if there are less rates paid, the land will be worth more, and the buyer will have to pay more for it. It will disincline the landlord to sell also, because he will have an income fixed by the court, and the tenant's interest may be confiscated if it is not paid. The landlord is going to be exempt from any increased payment for rates in the future. These things must have a very deterrent effect upon the purchase of land by the tenantry in Ireland. To give this enormous sum to increase the value of land in Ireland, this £730,000, is a very tall order indeed. The rateable 465 value of Ireland is something less than £9,000,000, and you are going to increase that by about 8½ per cent. I do strongly and strenuously protest against such a wasteful use of Imperial funds. The Financial Relations Commission's Report that Ireland was overtaxed must have had weight with the Government. I will not enter into that question, but if Ireland is overtaxed it must be because her people are poor, and you are not going to remove that grievance by pouring money into the pockets of those who are the richest class of the community, and many of whom do not live in Ireland at all. We are told by the Member for Waterford, and other hon. Members who have spoken, that they regard this £730,000 a year as no set-off against the overtaxation of Ireland. That being so, Sir, I say that to pour it into the pockets of the Irish landlords is not only giving no satisfaction to the people of Ireland, but it is a waste of public funds. In my opinion these subventions have demoralised, and not developed Ireland. Ireland now is only a paradise for lawyers, pensioners, and general hangers-on. The cost of government in Ireland is 19s. 7d. per head of the population, whilst in England it is only 11s. 5d. This is gross extravagance. As an English Member, I am in favour of Home Rule, one reason being that I regard this continual taking of money to subsidise this grossly extravagant policy in Ireland as being very detrimental to the British taxpayer. Why, Sir, Ireland's contribution to the Imperial Funds is now about £2,000,000 a year, but if this Bill passes it will only be £1,250,000 a year, whilst Lord Farrer, in his Report, said that the contribution of Ireland to British expenditure should be something like one-twentieth, or £3,000,000 a year. I regard with absolute dismay this continued decrease of the Irish contribution to Imperial expenditure, whilst more and more money is grossly wasted in the government of Ireland. If this kind of thing goes on Englishmen will soon have to pay for the privilege of governing Ireland against her will. The "predominant partner" may be slow, but such a ridiculous state of things cannot survive exposure. If Irish Members are able to extract more than £620,000 a year, which the First Lord of the Treasury 466 said Ireland had no claim to, from a Tory Government with a majority of 140, I shudder to think what they would be able to extract from a similar Government with a majority of 40 only. I expect soon that we shall find that the British taxpayers will have to pay for the whole of the government of Ireland. The rack-renting of the landlords, in my opinion, brought about one great reform: they involuntarily precipitated the repeal of the Corn Laws in this country; and I have not the smallest doubt that, when the lucrative character of their loyalty is discovered, it will be a very strong argument for Home Rule. Meanwhile I do refuse to support a proposal to bribe the Irish landlords to give back to the Irish people a long-deferred instalment of Irish justice, and I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ *MR. J. W. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)
I feel sure that there are very few men in this House, and I am certain that there are fewer still in the country, who have dispassionately reviewed the legislative record of the present Government, who are at all surprised that the chief legislative Measures of the present Session should contain a further application of the unjust and iniquitous system of granting doles out of public funds to a favoured class of the community. Yesterday the English landlords were given outdoor relief for five years on the plea of exceptional and extreme distress in agriculture, a plea which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture, and the noble Lord who was Chairman of the Commission to inquire into agricultural depression have one and all declared has not since been justified by the circumstances of the case, for they have stated that agriculture is in a very prosperous condition to-day. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No, no!] I should be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman would read extracts from the speeches on this subject. The noble Lord said—There were very few businesses into which men could enter at the present time with more prospects of making a profit than farming.That being so, I say that the plea for exceptional relief has gone. But I have 467 yet to learn that our "splendid paupers" are refusing to accept the relief, and to-day, Sir, it is the turn of the Irish landlords. The hon. Member for Waterford, in the lecture with which he favoured some of us, suggested that because this was an Irish Bill we English Radicals had no right whatever to talk about it. Well, Sir, I may tell the hon. Member that I am proud of being a Home Ruler, and it is because I am a Home Ruler that, until Ireland has got Home Rule given to her, I prefer to look upon Measures which affect the taxpayers of this country as a Member of the United Kingdom, and not as one in favour of separation. Well, now, Mr. Speaker, this idea which the landlords in this country have of trying to shift their just burdens upon the shoulders of the community is no new idea. But, Sir, I am astonished at the way in which the great British democracy in this country are content to have these burdens continuously placed upon their shoulders. I say it is no new idea, but it is a very serious matter to the general taxpayers of this country. I am going to prove, by one or two extracts, that it is no new idea. Professor Thorold Rogers, speaking in this House in March, 1886, said—Since the year 1831, down to the last Session of the late Parliament, scarcely a single year has passed in which some Act bearing upon Local Taxation has not been added to the Statute Book; while during the last fifty years there have been constant Debates in this House on the same subject, generally, indeed, from one aspect of the question—the relief of the landed interest at the expense of the Consolidated Fund.Then he said, continuing the same subject—They have certainly been successful with the last three Parliaments, for during the last fifteen years the efforts of the landowning interests have been incessant in the direction of the transference of local burdens from the occupier to the Consolidated Fund, and with marked success, especially in the Parliament of 1874, when they pushed their opportunities vigorously.And then, Sir, he went on to tell the then Chancellor of the Exchequer how he would have to meet these deficiencies by fresh taxation, and amongst the causes which led to the imposition of fresh taxation in this country—and, Sir, it is a serious matter for men barely able to keep body and soul together to have fresh taxation constantly put upon them 468 —always has been the result of opulent landowners. Professor Rogers said—But they always have the remedy of screwing up the Income Tax by a penny or two in order to meet the deficiencies, whether they are due to a declining revenue, to an increased expenditure, or to the relief of opulent landowners.I want to attract the attention, if I can, of my countrymen to the way in which the opulent landowners of this country are perpetually shifting their burdens on to the shoulders of the poor community of this country, and I am astonished and amazed at the apathy of people out of doors and in this House. £2,000,000 a year in doles were given the other day to opulent English landowners, and now £730,000 a year is to be sent across to gentlemen of the same profession on the other side of the Channel, whilst old age pensions for the desrving poor have been consigned to the limbo of forgotten promises. Out of our total population in England to-day of people above 65 years of age, three out of every ten are compelled to seek parish relief during the year, whilst of our wage-earners three out of every seven, or nearly one out of every two, after the age of 65 years become paupers. Now, Mr. Speaker, what is the ostensible object with which this Bill is brought before the House? Is it not to do an act of common justice to the Irish people, by allowing them to do that which is done by nearly every country in the world, whether civilised or uncivilised—namely, to manage their own local affairs? I say, Sir, that if it be right that the Irish people should be allowed to manage their own local affairs; if it be just that the men who have been exercising exclusive power in the country in the past should now be deprived of a certain portion of that power, then I ask, in the name of common justice, why cannot that be done without buying the consent of the Irish landowners? I shall be told, Sir—in fact, we are told—that it is not safe to give the people of Ireland the power of increasing the rates so long as the landlords pay half the poor rates. Now, Sir, what a miserable excuse that is! We are to suppose that many of these poor wretches in Ireland, to whom life is itself now an absolute burden, owing to the lack of the necessaries of life, will be anxious to increase 469 their liabilities, and render themselves more poverty-stricken than ever, for the mere sake or purpose of getting a few additional shillings out of the pockets of the landlord. The hon. Member for one of the Dublin Divisions said it needed a lawyer to understand this Bill, and I do not profess to understand it; but if I understand this Bill rightly, when it becomes law the landlord's share of the poor rates in Ireland will be paid for him out of the Imperial taxation, and from the time of the passing of the Act the amount of his contribution will be a fixed quantity, so that, should the local governing authorities find it necessary in the interests of the community to raise the rates, then the landowner will not have to contribute a single penny piece, although he will reap any advantage accruing from an increased rental, or from an improved condition of affairs, whilst not contributing towards that improvement. It is admitted by most that the principle of charging half of the poor rates to the landlords is absolutely right and just, and if justice had had anything whatever to do with the Rating Bill passed in England the English landlords would have had to pay half the rates on land instead of the taxpayers, who derive no benefit by it. But there is not the same excuse in Ireland that there was in England. In England the rents have fallen by about £12,000,000 from 1880 to 1896, according to income tax assessment, whereas in Ireland, during the same period, rents have remained practically the same, according to income tax assessment. I have no fear of my action in this matter being misunderstood. Personally, I am willing to give a much larger measure of local self-government to Ireland than is done by this Bill, but I doubt very much whether the main intention of the Measure is to give local government to Ireland. I believe, Sir, the Bill has been introduced largely for the purpose of subsidising the friends of the Government in Ireland. Local government is the pill, and £730,000 is the jam in which the pill is enclosed, in the hope and belief that Members on this side of the House will swallow it. I am quite justified in making that assumption, because I remember the Bill that was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House, I 470 think, in 1892. That Bill contained no dole, and there was no trust of the Irish people, and very little of local self-government. I can quite understand the Irish landlords' anxiety and desire to have a share of these doles which are being given by the present Government to their political supporters out of the public money. The Irish landlords have been just as faithful to the Tory Party as have the English landlords, and they have as great a right, or as little, to their share of the bribe. But, Sir, I opposed the giving of these doles to the English landlords, and consistently, therefore, I oppose the giving of these doles to the Irish landlords. Have the members of the present Government ever reflected on the example they are setting to the people of this country?—an example which I hope an enlightened democracy will not follow. It is a very bad and dangerous example indeed—namely, making use of the power obtained at the polls to subsidise their political friends. And, Sir, when the pendulum swings back, as swing back it will, the people of this country will have as much right to reward themselves and their friends as the Party now in power have and are exercising. If at that time, when the pendulum swings back, it is proposed by the people to strengthen the funds of trades' unions out of public money—for instance, a suggestion might be made to rehabilitate the funds of the Associated Society of Engineers—there would be a considerable panic amongst hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. But the people, Sir, would have as much right as the Party now in power to use the public funds for the purpose of subsidising their friends; indeed, I say the people would have a greater right, because I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he said—Whatever you do, the pressure of taxation will ultimately and in the long run fall upon the poor.That was not said in the right hon. Gentleman's Radical days; it was said at Stepney, on February 6th, 1895, and I am pleased to think the Stepney people took it well to heart. That is the example yon are setting the people, and you need not be surprised if the people profit by it. Sir, I protest, on behalf of these who sent me here, against the 471 principle embodied in this Bill, not only on account of its inherent injustice, but because I am opposed to class legislation, and this is class legislation of the very worst possible type. It favours the rich at the cost of the poor, at the cost of those who by their labour enable other people to live without labour. Under this Bill, and all Bills containing this principle, the toilers and the producers of this country are taxed for the benefit of those who are mainly non-producers and consumers; and when hon. Gentlemen charge the Governments of other countries with being corrupt I should like to tell them that in my judgment Measures which I have seen passed in this House during the last three years for plundering the poor and giving money to the rich would disgrace even Tammany. The principle of this Bill is thoroughly bad. But it is surprising how virtuous hon. Gentlemen who propose these Measures can be upon occasions when the interests of the landowning class are not in question. During the present Session we have been told from the Front Bench opposite that to spend the money of the nation in providing harbours of refuge for our fishermen was bad in principle; and the idea that public money might be used to help the employers or the men in the tinplate trade in South Wales, to tide over a great crisis was scouted by the very men who have subsidised English agriculture, who are proposing to subsidise agriculture in the West Indies, and who to-night ask for £730,000 to subsidise landlordism and agriculture in Ireland. But, Sir, if the principle is bad, the policy is worse. No one knows better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I am pleased he has done me the honour of listening to me to-night—that fat years are invariably followed by lean years, and there are signs now that lean years may be upon us very soon. In the first two months of this year the exports of British goods were less by £4,000,000 than in the first two months of 1896, and the importation of raw material was also less by—
§ *MR. LOGAN
Sir, I only wish to point out that the time may come when the Chancellor of the Exchequer will want this money which is now being given in doles—£2,000,000 in one direction, £700,000 in another, and £730,000 in a third. I feel certain that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he thinks the subject over quietly, will feel that sooner or later the storm will arise in this country that will overwhelm him and the Government when he has to propose some increase in taxation to meet these bribes to political supporters. This is a very serious matter for the people of this country. The Government seem to have adopted what must be regarded as a very convenient method of legislating—convenient so long as the people will stand it. They seem to have adopted a sort of commercial basis for legislation. For £2,000,000 a year to the English landlords half the workers of this country get a compensation scheme; and for £730,000 a year to the Irish landlords the Irish people are to get some control of their local affairs. Ireland may, or may not, be paying more than her fair share of Imperial taxation; of that I am not able to judge, although I believe the country is paying more than its share. But I have yet to learn that the Irish Members look upon this dole as in any way an adjustment, or a step towards the adjustment, of the over-taxation of Ireland. I do not even understand that the Government look upon it in that light. I should not have mentioned the matter but for the fact that one of the papers which strongly supports the Government has been telling its readers that they are not to look upon this dole in that light, and another paper which, I believe, is run in the interests of the Party so ably led by the hon. Member for Waterford is delightfully frank on the subject. It says—Mr. Logan well knows that without the proposed gift to landlords the English and Scotch system of local government will not be extended to Ireland.That is an admission by a friend of the Government that "no dole to Irish landlords, no local self-government," is the policy of the present Government, and it 473 to some extent corroborates my opinion that no local government for Ireland would have been introduced except as a peg on which to hang a gift to the political friends of the Government in Ireland. I doubt if the Government will appreciate the advocacy of so candid a friend. But, whatever may be the reason for the gift, a gift it certainly is, and, in my judgment, it is a gift to the least deserving class of the community in Ireland. Under absentee landlordism Ireland has been slowly bled to death, and to-day it is as true as it was in 1847 that the failure of the polato—all that is left by the landlord—means famine. In my judgment, what Ireland wants is a system of local self-government that will ensure that every man who claims sway over a single aero of land in the country shall be compelled to find it to his interest to remain there to assist in improving the material condition of the country. But, instead of that, under this Bill the Government go out of their way to ensure that the landlords' interest in the well-being of the people shall be less than it is now. If the Government have money to spare, money to which they think Ireland is justly entitled, let them give that money to the representatives of the Irish people to buy land to hold on behalf of the Irish nation, and to let it at a fair rent, to be periodically revised, to some of these poor starving wretches on the western coast, who to-night are facing death, who to-night are without visible means of subsistence because they are denied access to the land. Sir, in the name of the toilers of Great Britain, I enter my protest against giving this money, or any portion of it, to the
§ descendants of men who have such a record as the Irish landlords. I am not going to rake up the misdeeds of the Irish landlords; let it be sufficient to say, in the words of the Times newspaper: "It is useless to go on abusing the Irish landlords." And, if the hon. Member for Waterford had been present I should have reminded him that the Times also said, that for cruelty and selfishness the conduct of the Irish landlords had no parallel, and never had a parallel, in the history of the civilised world. But I do not wish to rake up old grievances by abusing the Irish landlords; all I wish to do is to protest against any additions to the burden of the people's taxation for the purpose of providing money to give to one class in order to buy their assent to what is an act of justice to the Irish people.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That the Bill be now read a second time.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House disapproves of any scheme of Irish Local Government which necessarily involves a large permanent grant out of Imperial funds for the relief of one class alone."—(Mr. Lambert.)
That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 167; Noes 20.475
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ MR. D. H. COGHILL (Stoke-upon-Trent)
As an English Member of this House I must offer my congratulations to the Chief Secretary for Ireland for the excellent and comprehensive Measure which he has brought in for local government in Ireland. I cannot help remembering that six years ago a Measure was brought in 476 for this purpose, which was not brought in under such happy auspices as the present, and, although we voted and spoke upon the Measure when it was before this House, it came to an untimely end. It is said that this Bill is too Radical in one or two matters, but I do not think it is. I have accepted it so far as it goes, and in Committee I shall be willing to extend its provisions, because I believed that the Unionist Party in opposing Home Rule would be willing to give Ireland local government as fully and freely as it had been given to 477 England, and for this reason I support this Measure. In this local government Measure there must be no going back, and there must be no mistrust on the part of our fellow-subjects. One objection that has been taken to this Bill is that the bodies proposed to be set up may be extravagant and wasteful in their management and their pecuniary acts. That is a very unworthy remark to make; we are not so miscalculating in this country that we can afford to throw stones at our Irish neighbours with respect to it. I am sure, without going outside the limits of this metropolis, you can find gross mismanagement and extravagance, and the worst forms of jobbery and corruption, and we need not go to Ireland to find that. We need only look at home to rind it in the local bodies of this country. There is one complaint which is well founded with regard to this Bill. The hon. Member for East Mayo reminds us that it is 12 years since this Measure was promised. We remember that the Unionist Party all along, while opposing Home Rule, promised to give local government to Ireland, and I regret that it has not been more rapid in the fulfilment of that promise. I should like to remind the House of what the history of this question has been. In 1886 we had a General Election, which was decided on the question of Home Rule or Local Government for Ireland. One naturally expected when the Unionist Party should be returned to power that the Government would have taken the earliest opportunity to introduce a Local Government Bill for Ireland in this House. In the autumn of 1886 the Lord Chancellor made a definite promise on behalf of the Government that such a Bill should be brought in in a short time, but the Sessions of 1886 and 1887 passed away without that promise being fulfilled. In 1887 we had the Crimes Act and the Irish Land Act, but that was all. In 1888 no such Bill was brought in, but we had a Bill introduced for England. In 1889 the same concession was voted to Scotland, but, again, there was no sign of any Bill for Ireland. 1890 and 1891 also passed without any attempt to bring in any Bill, and it was only in 1892 that a Bill for the local government of Ireland was introduced, but it was brought in with no real intention of its going through. It was not introduced to the 478 House until the end of February, and the Second Reading was not taken until the day following, and, although the Bill was then passed by the magnificent majority of 1892, it suddenly disappeared and we heard no more about it. I think the Members of the Unionist Party have considerable cause for complaint against their leaders with regard to this matter, for they had been very badly treated by them. When the Measure was brought, in in 1892—I do not say whether it was a good or a bad one that was brought before the House in 1892—but the Unionist Party were asked to vote for it, and we did so, and we passed it with a magnificent majority. It was them allowed to drop, and we are sent to the country with our pledges unfulfilled, and all our sins and imperfections upon our heads, and if we had been beaten at the elections we could not have been surprised after our conduct in the past. After 1892 three years of darkness and conflict supervened, and we heard no more of local government for Ireland. A. much wider and more comprehensive Measure was brought in by the Government then in office, which, however, met with an unkindly fate. Another election took place in 1895, and again the Unionist Party put before the country a policy of local government for Ireland, and the elections were fought very largely upon that policy. It was a battle of Local Government against Home Rule, and the Unionist Party succeeded in carrying the day and were returned to power with a large majority. Well, after that election, one would naturally have thought and have expected that a Local Government Bill would be at once brought in and would have been placed in the front of the Unionist policy; but the Sessions of 1895, 1896, and 1897 passed away, and it was not until this year, 1898, after 12 years of waiting, that any attempt is made to fulfil our promise, or to redeem the specific pledge we gave upon this subject. It is truly, said that everything comes to those who wait, and so it is with regard to this Measure. If people only live long enough, they find that attempts are made to redeem promises given in the past, but I regret that the Government was not of opinion that local government ought to have taken priority over all other legislation. It would have commended itself 479 to the country if we had done so, and although the actual results of the election in Ireland might have been the same, I feel that, so far as England is concerned, a great deal of the sympathy which was manifested for Home Rule would not have been existent if Local Government had been given to the Irish people, as it ought to have been, 12 years ago. With regard to this Bill, I have received complaints from some of the landowners of Ireland who are of opinion that they have been betrayed, and there is one very pathetic paragraph in a letter I received from one gentleman, who said that they had appealed to us for aid because they had been deserted by the gentlemen to whom they looked for protection; that they had been deserted by their leaders, who had left them for the Treasury Bench. I do not think this Bill is too revolutionary; I should have liked to have seen it go one step further. There is one thing I do not like to see in this Bill, and that is the position held by the Lord Lieutenant with regard to it. I am aware that I should not be in order if I discussed that question, but I am sorry that the Government did not include in the Bill some clause relating to it, so that there might not be the least semblance of any difference between the treatment of Ireland and England in this matter. We have preached so often equality of treatment to our fellow-subjects in Ireland; let us now do all that we can to carry out our views, so that when this Bill is passed there may be no legitimate grievances against us. We have an opportunity now, and if we do not make use of it a great responsibility will rest upon the shoulders of the Unionist Party. With regard to the grant of £150,000 to Ireland, I really hardly understand the figures given by the Chief Secretary, but I have no doubt when the Bill is in Committee we shall have further explanation upon that subject, and the difficulties which I feel upon the matter may be removed. Now, as an English Member, I do not wish to intrude into this Debate. I only wish once more to congratulate the Chief Secretary upon the excellent Measure he has produced, and upon the courage he has shown in facing the difficulties which beset his path. I believe the Bill will prove beneficial in the highest degree to both countries; and I hope that in the future, when this Bill is 480 passed, England and Ireland will tread the same path, and be able to walk side by side in harmony and peace, and there will be found between the two countries a more friendly and charitable feeling than has existed in years past.
§ MR. J. DALY (Monaghan, S.)
I do not intend to take up the attention of the House except for a few moments, and the point I wish to direct attention to is the financial portion of this Bill. When the right hon. Gentleman who is now First Lord of the Treasury stated he would bring in a Local Government Bill, he made certain proposals which I hope he will keep in view now. If the year 1896 is accepted as the standard upon which the relief of the rates is to be taken, the proposed yearly allowance of £750,000 in aid of local rates and the county cess would result in the annual loss of £53,711 to the ratepayers of Ireland. I hope the landlord party, as well as the tenants, will see that the Government do not grant a smaller sum than will pay off the poor rate and half the county cess. We only want justice, and I do not think it would be just for the Government to take the year 1896 as a basis, having regard to the fact of its being a bad year and the great fall in prices of agricultural produce and the small yield and the difficulty of the farmers, not only in the district of Monaghan, but the whole of Ireland. The result of that year was that a rate was struck which was insufficient to carry on the workhouses of Ireland. It was £3,239 short of the amount required. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say that he was not aware that an insufficient rate was struck, because in half an hour he could have obtained that information. It seems, to my mind, that 1896 was taken as a basis in order to save the Treasury £53,711 annually. With regard to the county cess, I find also, whether by accident or design, that the year 1896 is taken as a basis of calculation; the loss in the year was £1,350 so far as the county cess is concerned. It may be that that year was taken accidentally by the Government, but it is an extraordinary coincidence that in each case a year should be taken which would, upon the calculations, seem to save the Treasury a large sum of money. The right 481 hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I challenge him on that point. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland shakes his head, but the authority I quote from should not be doubted, as I received the information from the Secretary to the grand jury, who is a Unionist and a major in the Army. I am sure he is a gentleman whose statement will be accepted by the Government. I submit, Sir, that you should never accept one year as a standard. As in assessments for the income tax, the Government ought to take the average of three years. The fact that the Government have accepted the year of 1896 is very unfortunate for the ratepayers and taxpayers of Ireland. The question is: Are the Government going to stick to this year of 1896? So far as I am concerned, I think it would be an everlasting disgrace if the Government, who have kept Ireland two years behind England in regard to contributions in aid of rates, did accept 1896 as a standard. The English ratepayers got the grant-in-aid of rates in 1896, two years before Ireland, and by that means Ireland has lost the sum of £1,500,000, which they will not now get. The Government can have no excuse for not taking an average of three years; and, in my opinion, even if the Government did take an average of three years, it would hardly be a fair average. We have to take into consideration the difference in the position of the Irish ratepayer as compared with the English ratepayer. In Ireland the tenant has to pay all the rates, but in England the landlord pays all the rates. [Mr. GERALD BALFOUR: That is not so.] I am informed that that is so, but if the right hon. Gentleman says it is not the fact I accept his statement. I was under the impression that during the discussion on the Agricultural Rating Act it was stated that the rates on agricultural land were largely paid in England by the landlords. Even if they were paid by the landlords, it comes to the same thing. I have heard hon. Members in this House object to people who are rated at under £4 having a vote, but it makes no difference whether a man is a ledger or not if he pays rent, because by so doing he contributes towards the cess in rates. In the 482 same way, if a landlord pays the rates in England it really comes out of the rents. The Local Government Board, since this Bill was brought in, have been compelling Boards of Guardians to carry out great improvements in Irish workhouses. There is in Ireland an association for improving workhouses, and what with the pressure that is being put upon Boards of Guardians by the Local Government Board and by this association, the workhouses in Ireland will shortly become private hotels. The last move of this association is to compel the Guardians to provide separate apartments for men and women. I consider that there is a good deal of faddism in that. I should be very sorry to see the poor in any workhouse treated badly, but, at the same time, I think there is a good deal of faddism in the programme of this association, which is forcing the hands of the Local Government Board in a way which should not be allowed. I now wish to say a word about the officers. While under the Scotch Bill the County Councils have charge of the officers, under this Bill there are certain officers the County Council will not have charge of. When a County Council or a District Council has power to elect an officer they should also have the power of dismissing that officer if he misconducts himself. The withdrawal of this power will bring about inefficiency in officers. It will make them impudent and careless, because they will say to the District or County Council "You are not our masters. We have the Local Government Board to protect us." It will make officers most incompetent if the Government does not allow a free hand to the Councils in this matter. It seems most extraordinary that if County Councils and District Councils are capable of selecting an officer, they are not given the power to dismiss that officer. To let the Local Government Board step in between the Council and its officers is not fair, and will cause a great deal of difficulty. With regard to the Treasurer to Boards of Guardians, I see that under this Bill the Treasurer will be an officer, and it will, be very awkward if the Treasurer is given the power of charging any rate of interest he likes. Recently, a sum of £12,000 was wanted by a Board of Guardians in the neighbourhood of my constituency to 483 carry out drainage and sewerage works, but the Treasurer refused to grant the money unless five per cent. interest were paid by the Guardians; he also wanted to mortgage the rates of the Union. The Board of Guardians thought the terms too high, and appointed a deputation to wait upon four banks in the same town to see if they could get better terms, with a result that one of these banks offered to supply the money at three per cent., and no mortgage on the rates required. The Guardians thought there would be no difficulty in appointing a new Treasurer, but when they sent a notice of their intention of doing this to the Local Government Board, that body replied stating that the Guardians had not the appointment of the Treasurer in their hands. The Guardians, therefore, could do nothing but protest at the hardship put upon them of having to pay five per cent. when they could have got the loan from another treasurer at three per cent. Under Section 55, Sub-section 4, of this Bill it is stated that no District Council can move a Treasurer without the consent of the Local Government Board. This will be very hard upon District Councils or County Councils who may want to borrow money from time to time, and will inflict a greater hardship on the ratepayers and cesspayers of the district. I will ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland to remember this when an attempt is made to amend this Bill when it comes before the Committee. I will not delay the time of the House now, but I wish to call attention to certain points, so that the Chief Secretary cannot say that he has not heard of them when they come before the Committee. I also notice that there will be 30 members of each County Council under the Bill. [Mr. GERALD BALFOUR: What I said was that 30 would probably be the average. I could not give the number.] If the right hon. Gentleman states that it will be a population limit, I agree that it will be fair, but I think there is a clause in the Bill where 30 County Councillors are mentioned. [Mr. GERALD BALFOUR: No, that is not so.] There is one matter I regret the right hon. Gentleman has not included—namely, the amalgamation of workhouses. When lines were being laid down under this Bill it would have been one of the easiest and best opportunities 484 the Local Government Board could have of amalgamating the workhouses. At present, great expense is incurred in consequent of so many separate unions existing. I know a small union of £70,000 property valuation, where it takes 2½d. in the pound on the rateable property to pay the salary of officers in this workhouse. Coal and light, and other things, have to be added, to this, and if unions were amalgamated a great saving in the rates would be effected. Seldom, Sir, will a better opportunity than this be afforded for amalgamation. It would have been very difficult before now to have got the amalgamation of the workhouses in Ireland agreed to unanimously, because in every town or county where there is a workhouse established you get contractors making money by the establishment of the workhouse, and you would also have chairmen and vice-chairmen and other officials of the board who would not like to travel outside their own town. Under this Bill no person would be aware as to who would be the new chairmen, and contractors, would not know whether a workhouse would be removed out of their town or not. It would be a great saving, as I have said, if workhouses were amalgamated compulsorily, and when the Government were laying down their lines for District Councils they should have provided for the amalgamation of the workhouses in Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to introduce a clause to bring about this desirable improvement, I think he will be supported by every Member in this House, as it must be evident that the whole of the present workhouses, which were built when the population of Ireland was 8,000,000, are not now required when the population has been reduced to 4,000,000. As the population has decreased by one-half, it is reasonable to suppose that half the workhouses, would be sufficient. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this matter carefully. I venture to give this Bill my hearty support. I heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman for North Armagh praise the management of affairs in Ireland under grand juries. Well, Sir, if every county in Ireland has been managed by the grand jury the same as county Monaghan, it is a very sad state of things 485 indeed. In county Monaghan the grand jury is a close borough. No one would have the slightest chance of getting an appointment from the grand jury unless he belonged to a certain class. Not alone might a Catholic not apply for an appointment, but even a Protestant might not apply unless he was an Orangeman. What happened was this: the grand jury of county Monaghan managed their affairs in an incompetent and ridiculous manner, because they allowed the landlords of county Monaghan to pay out of the county cess placed in their charge the cess on their own evicted farms. The landlords of county Monaghan have not been very sparing in evicting their tenants. Well might they evict them with a light heart so long as they pay no taxes on the evicted land. Comparing the conduct of the Board of Guardians of Carrickmacross with the action of the grand jury, I might say that the same collector collects the county cess and the poor rate; and while the Board of Guardians insist that the poor rate must be collected from the landlord on evicted farms, the grand jury (of which the landlord is a member) takes the money out of the pockets of the cesspayers, and pays it into his own by paying out of the money of the cesspayers the cess on his own evicted farms. The right hon. Gentleman informed me a few days ago that a landlord, drawing £20,000 of rental out of county Monaghan, had the great audacity to enter the grand jury room and pay, out of the money placed in the hands of the grand jury by the cesspayers of the county, sums, during the last four years, amounting to over £74. For the purpose of preventing this state of things in the future I am inclined to accept the Bill, and the people of Ireland will accept the Bill, if only to get rid of the grand jury. I am sure there will not be a dry eye in Ireland—I mean a wet eye—when the grand jury is dead and buried. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman not to hamper the Bill by restrictions, but to give the people of Ireland a fair chance. If he does that I am sure the people of Ireland will manage the affairs of their country in a manner which will be satisfactory to this House, and will not disappoint the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. G. WHITELEY (Stockport)
Mr. Speaker, holding very strong views upon the subject of these grants-in-aid of rates upon certain and peculiar classes of property, and having had some little experience of rating matters generally, I venture to trespass upon the time of the House for a few minutes to urge upon the Government one, and only one, particular point. The sentiments of the hon. Member for South Molton, if they had been incorporated in an abstract resolution having no bearing upon the Bill now under the consideration of the House, would have had my entire support, and if hereafter, in the Committee stage of the Bill, they are embodied in Amendments moved, I should certainly vote for them. But apart from its financial clauses, the Bill, as a whole, has my strong support and approval. Everyone must favour the grant to Ireland of the same benefits and advantages of Local Government in counties which we have enjoyed for so long in this country. The financial clauses are, however, a continuation of the policy which underlay the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896. I am quite ready to allow they were a natural corollary, a sequitur and complement to that Act. Now, either the Act of 1896 was a wise or an unwise one; the step then taken was either in the right direction or it was false. If a wise and desirable action, then I could understand hon. Members arguing that the same boons, benefits, subsidies, and grants which they had already given to land in England must logically be also extended and granted to land in Ireland. On the other hand, if the step was unwise and false, it is often the case in affairs of this world that you are obliged to cover up, or, rather, to fortify, such erring steps by others of even greater moral turpitude. I have consistently opposed the Rating Bill of 1896. I did so on the grounds that, speaking as a borough Member, it was an act of injustice and wrong to the towns. I have not departed from that opinion, nay, rather, I hold it now, perhaps, more strongly than ever. I cannot help regarding all rates as annual charges upon property; they are an annual debt, payable directly, perhaps, by the occupier, but indirectly by 487 the owner of property. They are a charge on the property itself. I quite agree that it is inequitable that rateable property should be obliged to bear such a large share of local burdens, and think some means should be devised, as such are easy of discovery, to place upon non-rateable or personal property a larger share of the local charges now borne by rateable property alone. But, broadly speaking, it is my opinion that you have no right—no Government has a right—it is wrong in principle, just as it will prove injurious in practice—to take national moneys out of the nation's Exchequer, contributed by all taxpayers alike, and, as a matter of fact, found as to three-quarters of the amount by boroughs and urban districts, and devote those moneys in paying the annual rating debts of one part of the community interested in a certain class of property, while you refuse to treat all property alike, much of it requiring assistance in a greater degree than that upon which you are showering your blessings. As a digression I might mention that the salt trade in Cheshire is in a stagnant and depressed condition, while it was proved in the Debates upon the Rating Bill of 1896 that land in Cheshire had risen in value during the last 20 years. But the land is bonused to the extent of half its rates, while not only do salt-work owners receive nothing, but they have actually to contribute their taxable share to their better-circumstanced neighbours. I will not go into the question of the burden of rates. It has been shown in the House that while, upon an increasing assessment in boroughs, rates have for years gone up—until now an average borough rate was from five to six shillings in the pound—in the counties, upon a declining assessment, rates have become year by year lower. What, however, is the present position? The Government, in 1896, very wisely, I think, in response to representations and protests from their side, introduced a time limit into the Rating Bill of that year, while at the same time they appointed a Commission to inquire into the whole question of urban and rural rating, and that of the relative burdens upon rateable and non-rateable property. That Commission is now sitting. Yet under this Bill it is proposed 488 to make a second and irrevocable grant to landlords in Ireland without waiting for the Report of the Commission, thereby prejudicing the matter so far as the interests of the towns are concerned, if not entirely prejudicing it. Such a course of action might land us into great difficulties. I do not wish for a moment to anticipate the findings of that Commission. But supposing it were to report that in its opinion all property had a right to be treated alike, so far as the alleviation of its local burdens is concerned? Supposing it were to say that all property should be relieved, not of half its rates, but to the extent of 1s. or 1s. 3d. in the pound, as land was, what might be the situation? It might be what the hon. Member for Mayo called "a lean cycle of years"; the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be unable to find the money. He might urge that though it was true the sums already devoted by previous legislation to land relief would, if distributed as all grants-in-aid had previously been given,, have relieved all property to the extent of 5d. or 6d. in the pound, still, what had been done could not be recalled, and though he acknowledged the justice of the towns' demands, still, he was unable to meet them or deal with them, and they must wait for a future and, he hoped, a better day. I venture to urge upon the Government, and this is the purpose and burden of my speech, to deal with this Bill as with the Bill of 1896—to introduce a time limit into it. The House will then be able to wait with equanimity the Report of the Commission with absolutely a clean slate, starting de novo and without having stereotyped or made permanent and irrevocable any of these grants to property Speaking as a Unionist, I strongly urge this upon the Government, and I am sure that thereby difficulties will be avoided which otherwise might be very hard to overcome or reconcile.
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
Mr. Speaker, I think the point raised by the hon. Member who spoke last is an important one, and one which will no doubt receive consideration at the hands of those responsible for this Bill. I am rather anxious to say a few words 489 as an English Liberal Member of Parliament who, a number of years ago, in the early part of my Parliamentary career, gave a good deal of attention to the Irish question, and arrived at decided conclusions upon it. It is a curious commentary on some assertions made by Gentlemen opposite to find ourselves, in the third Session under this Government, returned by a great Unionist majority, discussing as the only measure of great importance a Bill for the better government of Ireland. For the first 70 or 80 years of this century we know perfectly well that the legislative power, the machinery of administration in Ireland, was in the hands of the landlord class, with the support of an uninformed and uninstructed British Parliament. But in 1881 came a great change, and the Secretary of the Local Government Board some years ago put very tersely the object of the Bill of that year when he said that it gave legal sanction to a moral right. We all know that the influence of that Act on the governing class in Ireland has been of a very serious character, but in 1883–84 came a much more potent influence, when this House gave Ireland a wider franchise and redistribution of seats. The consequences of this change was noted at the time by some of the most eminent men of the day. In 1885, Mr. Parnell, backed by a united Nationalist Party, preferred his claim for a reconstruction of the Government of Ireland. The demand was repeated until the British Government admitted it was just. I support now, as I did when Mr. Gladstone's Bills were before the Houses Ireland's claim for a legislative assembly to manage Irish affairs with an executive responsible to that assembly. Now and then—I hope I am not discourteous in saying so—Irish Nationalist Members get up and say things I would rather not hear, but that does not disturb me, neither do the unhappy divisions in their Party influence my views. Members are, after all, but transitory items; we pass away, but the cause remains; Ireland remains, and the government of Ireland is still a problem we have to solve to the best of our ability. Part of the Irish demand is a reform of the system denoted by the expression "Dublin Castle." The House is, if I may use the expression, strewn with ex-Chief Secretaries. Half a dozen right hon. 490 Gentlemen on the other side of the House have filled that position, and there are several also on this side of the House who have been Chief Secretaries. If they could be put through a searching examination as to what they, in their inmost hearts, think of the Dublin Castle system, they would, I am sure, agree that it needed drastic reform. More than 20 years ago, and under Mr. Disraeli's Government, a Bill was drafted by the right hon. Gentleman who sits immediately below the Gangway, the Member for Thanet, for a reconstruction of the system. The noble Lord the Member for York, whose Irish humour has this Session added much to the interest of our Debates, committed himself to the following statement with regard to this subject—The Vice-Regal rule from the Castle at Dublin is hated with all the passionate resentment of a generous-minded but impulsive people.But Lord Hartington expressed himself even more strongly. He said—I am prepared to undertake large reforms in the structure of the Executive Government in Ireland. I would not shrink from a great and bold reconstruction of the Government of Ireland.I should like to know what steps the Duke of Devonshire has taken to redeem that pledge. Certainly these are very strong words from a man whom we all know perfectly well as a man who well weighs his language, and never says anything beyond what he means. On the question of Irish government I desire to associate myself with the attitude which has always been taken up by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Montrose Burghs (Mr. J. Morley). Of course, I do not for a single moment wish in any way to obscure the fact that this Bill does not embrace the wider aspects of self-government. But I would point out that there is a marvellous advance in our position of six years ago. When the First Lord of the Treasury brought in a Bill for the establishment of Local Government in Ireland in 1892, he displayed a hesitating and apologetic tone, and told us that the Bill would be less beneficial than railways or coercion. The tone of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing this Bill could not be in greater contrast. 491 We were charmed with the condensed but luminous speech in which he introduced it, and he concluded with a most eloquent appeal to those members of his own Party who were shivering on the brink to give their support to this great Irish reform, which showed how his heart was in the matter, and how earnestly he believed that it would be a great boon to the people of Ireland. There is, I am glad to say, an absence in this Bill of even some of the marks of timidity which were to be found in certain provisions of the English and Scotch Local Government Act of 1888. As I understand it, the Bill is based on a frank recognition of a democratic principle. It certainly bears out the mode of action in such matters advocated by Mr. Robert Lowe—I refuse to accompany any proposal for extending popular liberty with shabby expedients for taking it away.I recognise, therefore, in this Bill, a most astonishing advance in the last six years, rand I believe it is the harbinger of future progress. I am not one of those who agree with the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment earlier in the evening with respect to the financial clauses. I think in this matter of the financial clauses that not only have we to be just, but we have to be generous, and considering what Ireland has suffered at the hands of this country, I am disposed to favour the provisions of the Bill. I must say I welcome the tone of the observations of the hon. Member for East Down. I remember the hon. Gentleman taking a very different attitude, and I think we may regard his position on the present occasion as a very happy augury of the manner in which this Bill will be received and passed. There are one or two tests which I think we should do well to apply to such a Bill as this. In the first place, has it the approval of those most concerned and best able to judge? I gather that it has their approval and support. Secondly, is it so framed as to offer good promise of securing the end and aim desired? As I understand it, the merit of good local government is to give everyone, whatever his religion, whatever his politics, whatever his vocation in life, an opportunity of taking part in the self-government of the country. It ought to be the means of attracting all the elements that 492 go to make up the real life of the nation So far as I can judge, the Bill meets that test. In my opinion, the Bill will effect an enormous revolution in Ireland. The principle of justice and trust in the people which finds a place in it will work as leaven until it leavens the whole lump. You cannot restrict that principle; it will be impossible to preserve it in local districts and maintain in Dublin an unfriendly Executive and in London an unsympathetic Legislature. We find ourselves, as it seems to me, Mr. Speaker, with a happy opportunity in our hands, and I hope we shall seize it. I hope we shall be able to improve the Measure when it goes into Committee, and so give the people of Ireland the powers and blessings of all that is meant by good government, and of bringing about what will be a truer union between the people of Great Britain and Ireland.
§ COLONEL E. J. SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
One peculiarity about this Bill has struck me very much. It is a Bill not so much to satisfy the demands of the British people—for that demand has never been made, to my knowledge—but it is a Bill brought in by the Government to satisfy the conscience of the British people. Any hon. Member who has taken the trouble within the last few years to follow the speeches made in Ireland by the leaders of Irish public opinion on both sides of politics cannot have failed to be struck by the fact that local government in Ireland never was a question which excited any emotion amongst Irish people. None of the Leaders of the Nationalist Party have ever spoken in favour, as far as I know, of local government; they want something far more than that. The Party in Ireland, to which I have the honour to belong, have been, as far as I know, perfectly indifferent on the subject. Of course, this statement of mine varies from the statement of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Down, who has again mentioned the interesting journey which he made to all the counties of Ireland. I think he has omitted none. All I can say is, that his experience of the grand juries of Ireland, and my experience of the feelings and opinions of those grand juries are entirely different. 493 Now, I cannot conceive the possibility of grand jurors, and I put myself among the number, looking with absolute satisfaction at this or any other County Government Bill, because I happen to know what every Grand Juror in Ireland must know, from his own personal experience and the character of the country in which he lives, that, though in future county government in Ireland may be more exciting than it is at present, it certainly will not be cheaper, and that will be the consequence and the inevitable outcome of giving Ireland county government. The hon. Member for East Down—and other hon. Members have said the same thing—has drawn a picture of Ireland which I cannot even see. You can alter many things; you might alter the constitution of Great Britain, but you cannot alter the nature of an Irishman. Irishmen have their defects, but we are a peculiar people, and you may bring in a thousand Bills, but you will never alter the real characteristics of an Irishman, and make him anything else but what he naturally is, and I am proud of it; and I really think, Sir, when I look back at the history of the last 20 years, I am bound to say that I do not think the House of Commons and the country realise the enormous debt they owe to Ireland. Why, we have been the greatest blessing that this country has over had. What has been the function we have performed? What is the great work we have done in this country during the last 12 years? Why, we have prevented over-legislation, and if it had not been for Ireland there would not have been a fragment of the British Constitution left. Sir, we are going to occupy now a considerable part of your time during this Session. I am afraid it will not be long enough, because both sides are practically agreed that this Measure ought to pass. Whatever that may be, Sir, there is one thing perfectly certain, that whatever the House of Commons may do, or whatever Bill you ultimately frame, you will not alter the character and nature of the authority you are about to call into being. You cannot make an Irishman, as you can make a Scotchman or an Enlgishman, confine himself to the ordinary hum-drum business which he is elected to perform. It is an impossibility, and we know, although, hon. Members may draw 494 a picture of Ireland, and tell you what they think will take place, we know exactly what will happen. Now, the hon. Member for Waterford, in his very admirable speech to-night, informed us what he hoped would take place, and I am perfectly persuaded that, if the hon. Member for Waterford had his way, there would be a fair representation of the Irish minority on the county boards, but he cannot bring it about. On the other hand, we do not hear any of those mellifluous promises from the hon. Member for East Mayo, upon whom the Irish landlord acts as a red rag on a bull, and his great objection to this Bill has something to do with the Irish landlords. If it was left to the tender mercies of the hon. Member for East Mayo very few Irish landlords would appear on these county boards. Now we have got the history of the Irish poor law guardians before us, with which most hon. Members in this House are familiar. We know exactly what will happen. [The CHIEF SECRETARY: I wish I did.] My right hon. Friend says he wishes he knew what would happen, and so do I. I think, however, I can prophesy with absolute accuracy as to the sort of boards we shall have, at any rate for a time, if not for all time. The county boards in the vast majority of the Irish counties will be boards made up of the class now found among the poor law guardians. All the Unionists and those who, up to the present time have been connected with county government and county management in Ireland will undoubtedly disappear. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members opposite say "No, no!" They get their own way now to a certain extent, but not altogether. I am sure they will see that it will be for their own advantage if they can secure, under this Bill, the election of men who have been conversant with county government, but that, inevitably, will not happen, and hon. Members opposite cannot help it. Unquestionably, Sir, when this Bill is passed and when elections come on, the Party that up to the present has had the county government of Ireland in its hands, and has conducted it so cheaply and so well, that body undoubtedly will disappear almost universally from Ireland. That, Sir, is inevitable, and these county boards will be composed of such gentlemen as we now see on the poor 495 law boards in Ireland, and they will conduct the county affairs. I want to know how any Bill that you can frame or pass in the British House of Commons can prevent these gentlemen indulging in those eccentricities which have marked the history of poor law administration over a considerable part of Ireland, if you could confine and make sure of confinement—not imprison—them to the business for which they are elected, it would be a different thing; but their minds will soar to other things, and you will find at these county board meetings that debates will take place on matters far more interesting and important to them than county government, such as Home Rule, the financial relations between the two countries, and the release of the Irish political prisoners. [Nationalist cheers.] From those cheers the House will see that hon. Members opposite will embark willingly, when they are chairmen or members of the county council, on these interesting political affairs for dealing with which they would certainly not have been elected. I do not object to this. I am only saying that it will happen. No doubt some of the Members of the Irish Party will probably be elected chairmen, and no doubt they will discharge their duties in the same admirable manner in which they fulfil the duties of Members of Parliament. These circumstances in the daily life of county councillors will not tend to the carrying out of county business in the best and cheapest way. We see all this going on, we, who live in Ireland and know the Irish people, and all we contend for is this, that if you elect, as you are about to elect, these county councils, these district councils, or these poor law district councils, some provision ought to be made, which I do not see in the Bill, and some effort ought, at any rate, to be made in this Bill before it leaves the House, to prevent the men who pay the principal part of the taxation of the country from being overtaxed by those who pay nothing or who pay very little. Why, Sir, five per cent. of the ratepayers—of the cesspayers of the county—pay five per cent. of the whole cess of the country, and, practically speaking, they have no representation. The men who will be returned as county councillors will be men, the majority of them, who do not pay any rates at all or 496 very little. You will have the men rated under £4, and as was put very clearly by right hon. Friend in introducing this Bill, when he said a man who pays £4 and under, will be able to vote for work carried on in the county on which he himself may be engaged, and the charges which will arise on that work will be five times more—I think it was seven times more—than the cess he pays in one week, that is six times more than the whole cess he pays during the whole year; therefore I say that the Government ought to consider whether some steps ought not to be taken to give the men who pay the greater part of the cess in Ireland a voice in its administration. I do not suggest any particular method to secure this representation on the present occasion. Perhaps the method adopted in Scotland, with some slight changes by the Joint Committee, might possibly effect the changes which I have in view. But do not let the House of Commons imagine that in speaking to-night I am speaking on the side of the landlords. This is not a landlord's question; it is a cesspayers' question, and I am speaking on the side of the cesspayers of Ireland. The landlord does not pay so much cess as the tenants pay. The relief, therefore, which the landlord gets, is not so much as the relief the tenant gets, because the poor law rates do not amount to anything like so much as the county cess, and, therefore, I am speaking to-night, in making these few observations, on the side of the ratepayers of Ireland, and I think, when my right hon. Friend the Member for East Down goes back to his constituency, he will find that the farmers there will not have much enthusiasm for the Bill, although it offers some advantages if the chief ratepayers of Ireland are given no voice in the future administration of the country. Well, Sir, it may be said that Ireland is to be treated exactly as England, Wales, and Scotland are treated. Sir, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, as he very often does say, a very wise thing when he said, "That equality of treatment implies similarity of conditions." Therefore, Sir, it does not follow, because you exactly deal out to Ireland the same measure that you deal out to Scotland and to Wales and to England, that you are dealing with her with perfect equality, 497 because the conditions of the country are absolutely different, and, therefore, I think it will be the duty of the Government to consider carefully whether it, will not be possible to satisfy the demands made now by the ratepayers in Ireland, not Unionist ratepayers alone, but all classes and all creeds who ask that they should have some voice, at any rate, in the direction of the county affairs. Sir, I may be asked why it is that I consented to support this Bill; why I accepted this Bill in its First Reading, and why I accepted it on its Second Reading? I looked upon this Bill as the inevitable sequitur to the policy of the Unionist Party. I do not believe that the Government could avoid, or would have been justified in endeavouring to avoid, bringing in a Bill of this kind. I believe it was felt by the Unionist Party in England, Scotland, and Wales that it was their business on the first opportunity to give county government to Ireland the same as they have given it to the rest of the British Empire. But there was a condition necessary, and that condition necessary was that Ireland should be a peaceful country. At the present moment I venture to say that in the whole of Her Majesty's Dominions there is not a more peaceful part of those dominions than Ireland, and yet that condition of things exists under a Unionist Government. We were told in former years that Ireland was a country that could not be governed unless you gave it Home Rule. The Unionist Government will not give Ireland Home Rule, and yet Ireland at the present moment is more peaceful, and certainly not less prosperous than she has been for many years past. Of course, I do not deny that there has been distress in Ireland; there always has been; but I think that the famine, of which we have heard so much, is an exploded famine—at any rate, it is a very partial one. Taking Ireland as a whole, I am happy to say as an Irishman, that at the present moment Ireland is as prosperous and happy as she has ever been, and yet Home Rule has not been granted; but that is exactly the condition of Irish society, which warranted a Unionist Government in bringing forward a Measure of this kind, and the Government in doing so, I believe, have fulfilled their promise. I hope that in 498 the course of the passage of the Bill through Committee the Government will consider fairly any Amendments that may be brought forward from both sides of the House. I think that the case of the servants employed by the counties will have to be carefully investigated, and generously considered, and I suppose hon. Gentlemen opposite will not oppose it; but, at any rate, Sir, neither during the course of the Debate, nor during the Committee stage of this Bill, speaking for myself and also on behalf of the Party I represent, shall we offer any factious opposition to the Bill. We shall endeavour, to the best of our ability, to make it a workable Measure, and one which will be for the benefit of Ireland. Sir, if I believed for a moment the accuracy of the speech made on the 17th March by the hon. Member for Mayo, I should despair of a Measure of this kind having any beneficial effect on Ireland. The hon. Member for Mayo spoke as he believed. He told us in his speech that practically Ireland, at the present moment, was suffering from one of those intermittent attacks of peacefulness from which she occasionally suffered, but, that in the background there was a thunder-cloud ready to burst over the head of Her Majesty's Government, and over Great Britain. I am sure that the hon. Member for Mayo believes that, and rejoices to look at that thunder - cloud, out of which he hopes to be able to draw a thunder-bolt and lightning, but I do not believe that the hon. Member for Mayo can get the thunder-bolt and the lightning, because I do not believe in the cloud. I believe that the Irish people, notwithstanding the views expressed by the hon. Member for Mayo, have been gradually learning that under the authority of the British Parliament and a rich country like England, they are much more likely to get good government, good measures, and monetary help than ever they would get from a Home Rule Parliament, which would naturally be without credit and without money. Believing that that lesson has been gradually instilled into the hearts of the Irish people, I look forward to the effect of this Bill, not only without any fear, but in the earnest hope and belief that although at first it may lead to the discarding of the class to which I belong, 499 yet it will ultimately, in the end, lead to the union in Ireland of all men of common sense; because, after all, you cannot deceive a man of common sense. Trusting, therefore, in the common sense of the Irish people, and believing that they will continue to learn the lesson in the future as they have begun to learn it in the present, I have consented, and without the slightest hesitation, to support this Bill and vote for its Second Reading.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)
I agree with a great many things that my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down has said—and I confess that it is with no ordinary delight that I hear him from whose lips I have, in less fortunate times, heard so many harsh and vindictive things said of his own countrymen, tell us to-night—that he, at all events, agrees in their common sense. Mr. Speaker, I have no desire whatever, and far be it from me to desire, to recall those Debates of exasperation, in which my hon. and gallant Friend, and I also, took our respective parts; but I cannot but enjoy this evening's discussion when I contrast the language that we hear, not only from my hon. and gallant Friend, but from the hon. Member for East Down, and from other Gentlemen on that side of the House, with the language which we heard for 82 more or less successive nights in the year 1893. When I contrast this language with the language upon which they founded their resistance to the policy which we were urging upon them, I confess that I have need to fall back upon the words of a favourite maxim which I have borrowed: "If you would love mankind you must not expect too much from them." The hon. Member for East Down has told us to-night that he has the fullest confidence, the fullest assurance, that no minority in Ireland will be persecuted or oppressed by any majority. Well, I agree with him; but how was it that for 10 or 12 years we have never heard language of that kind till it suits a Party exigency? The old language, which I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend well recollects, the foundation of resistance to a much larger Measure of self-government than this, 500 was in Mr. Gladstone's phrase: "That the Irishman had nothing human but the form," and that he had "a double dose of original sin," and now my hon. and gallant Friend says to-night that all Irishmen, after all, have the same characteristics—he did not tell us what those characteristics were—but my right hon. Friend the junior Member for the University of Dublin, in his sanguine moments, looks forward to county councils and district councils in Ireland, where there shall be no religious influence, no political divisions, and no class feeling. I hope excellent things from these local governing bodies, but I confess I do not expect in a single county council in Ireland to find religious influence, political division, and class feeling entirely absent. I do not anticipate, in my most sanguine moments, such things. Nobody has greater admiration and affection for the Irish character than I have, but I do not anticipate any such millennium as that, either in consequence of this Bill or any other. My hon. and gallant Friend has said you may now safely bring forward this Bill because Ireland now is tranquil. Here, again, I hope that the House will pardon my faculty of reminiscence, but I do not forget that when I was responsible for Irish administration, I think for five or six successive weeks the hon. Member for South Tyrone and others moved a Vote of want of confidence upon our Irish administration, and were supported by the present First Lord of the Treasury. What was the foundation of it? It was the state of the county of Clare. Well, now, I do not know if my hon. Friend the Member for Clare is present, but I hope that what I am going to say he will recollect—that he and I were champions of the county of Clare together. I only bring this forward for the sake of illustrating what I must venture to call the insincerity of the arguments that were used in 1893, or the insincerity of the arguments used in 1898. The great foundation for any accusation against our administration of Ireland in 1893 was the state of the county of Clare, and these accusations were founded upon judges' charges. I chanced to see the other day the judges' charges at the last assizes for the county of Clare. It was the same judge who used to be quoted constantly against me, showing 501 that I was the partisan of lawlessness and disorder. My hon Friend the Member for the county of Clare will remember that, and, just precisely the value I then placed upon that judge's words, I place upon them now. But, Gentlemen opposite put a different valuation upon them, and I hold them to that valuation now. In his charge to the grand jury in December last, Mr. Justice O'Brien said at Cork, where, of course, all Clare cases go—From the reports of the county inspector, who states to me that the county is, on the whole, in a satisfactory condition, I am constrained in the performance of the duty I have to fulfil to say that he differs very widely from these reports, and I cannot reconcile that statement with the facts that appear from these reports; for, while there is a diminution in crime, I find the most complete evidence that the law is virtually extinct in this county. The information furnished by these reports and other means of information have satisfied me that the county is in a state of almost absolute lawlessness.So much for my hon. and gallant Friend's argument that while a Local Government Bill, apart from a Home Rule Bill in 1893, would have been certainly mischievous and intolerable, yet in 1898, when the state of things in that country of which we heard so much, is just the same, my hon. and gallant Friend thinks himself perfectly absolved from all the language that he used at that time, and that the case is so completely altered—altered because of a political exigency—that he himself and his friends feel that they are obliged to forget the language they used in those days when it was inconvenient to them. I said I sympathised in some degree with the language used by my hon and gallant Friend when he said, from the state of things in Ireland in 1893, a county government Bill, apart from Home Rule, would have been mischievous and intolerable. Does the process show any reform now, when the state of things in that county is just the same? Yet now, the case is completely altered—altered, no doubt, from political exigency—and he and his friends are emboldened to forget the language they used in those days when it is inconvenient to them. My hon. and gallant Friend and I would probably entirely agree now if I thought this was the last effort of this Parliament, 502 but then I should say, "No; I think that from this Bill, unless it is followed by further Measures, mischief will come." And why? Because I follow the view of no less important and respected a person than the Prime Minister in 1885. I do not quote this for a Party purpose, but because—and I put it thousands of times before, both in this House and on public platforms—in my view it expresses the real truth of the situation, and goes to the root of the policy of which this Bill is the expression. Lord Salisbury's words in 1885 were these, and I commend them to the notice of hon. Gentlemen opposite who are passing this Bill with a light heart—Local authorities are more exposed to the temptation of the majority to be unjust to the minority when they obtain jurisdiction over a small area than is the case when the local authority derives its sanction from and extends its jurisdiction over a wider area. In a large central authority"—and depend upon it that in years to come you will remember these words—the wisdom of several parts of the country will correct the folly and mistakes of one. In a local authority that correction is to a much greater extent wanting, and it will be impossible to leave that out of sight in any such extension of local authority in Ireland.I believe that was a most sagacious and profound view; and, if I may say so frankly, my view of Irish government is this: that what Ireland needs more than these local authorities you are going to constitute is a strong central Government. Your present central Government—I am speaking in the presence of hon. Gentlemen who have been responsible for that Government—is what Mr. Disraeli said it was—the weakest Executive in the world. I have no reason to detain the House to-night with considerations that support that proposition. But, whatever good or mischievous effects this Bill may have in Ireland, there is one thing it will assuredly do—it will not make your central Executive stronger, but it will make it a hundred times weaker than it is now. The hon. Member for East Mayo pointed out to the House when he opened the discussion this evening—and there has been no argument to-night more worthy of the consideration of the House—he pointed out the incompatibility of setting up on the one hand a 503 great number of strong local authorities—because these authorities, mind, will be strong, and not mere boards of guardians—and having on the other hand a central board possessing the powers of checking, restraining, and controlling them, which is not in touch with popular feeling which has given to the local bodies existence. I do not think that such an anomalous system has ever worked in any country. I do not think it has worked in the United States or in any country on the Continent of Europe, and it certainly would not have worked here. It is quite true, as gentlemen who are on English county councils will admit, that the Local Government Board in England has a very large authority which is always respected by the local bodies. But why is that the case? It is because we all of us know all about the Local Government Board in England, and because the Minister is responsible to this House. The traditions of that board are the traditions of those who elect the local councils, but in Ireland the whole thing is different. There you have what is practically an alien board, if I may use the expression without offence, and I think the proposition I put to the House goes to the root of the Bill—it is not a Committee point—if you are going to have these local authorities, with their considerable powers, under the check, control, and restraint of the Local Government Board in Dublin, the Government will be well advised to reconstitute that board and to put it on a different footing, and to give us a Minister to represent it in this House, who will be able to answer questions as to the working of these important authorities which the Government are about to create. There should be a knowledge on our part that, when the Minister was answering questions of administration he was giving first-hand, and not second or third-hand, opinions. Somebody said the Chief Secretary is here to answer for Local Government in Ireland. I know, of course, that the Chief Secretary is here to answer for the Irish Local Government Board as well as for other important departments. The right hon. Gentleman is, no doubt, nominally and officially the President of the Local Government Board, but I have filled that post myself, and will anyone who has filled the office—amd I see one Chief Secretary and two 504 ex-Chief Secretaries before me—say that an Irish Chief Secretary, with the mass of business that lies upon his shoulders, police administration, education, etc.—the business of half a dozen departments, each of which in England is entrusted to a separate Minister—will be able to supervise and personally control and check these bodies and give a good account of them to the House? Nothing of the kind will happen, and the House will know that it is not receiving from any Chief Secretary, however attentive and industrious, information at first hand about the conflicts that will undoubtedly arise between these new bodies and the central authority in Dublin. Therefore I hope, if it be not too late, that the Government will consider the suggestion that they should make this board what it ought to be—namely, a board which shall really feel that the business entrusted to it in the supervision of these local authorities is as important, or even more important than the business of any other department of Irish administration. On the substance and merits of the Bill I will not detain the House for more than one or two minutes. I quite agree that upon the Second Reading we ought to look at the general principles that underlie the Bill. I still think the point which I raised upon the First Reading a very good one. The more I have studied the Bill and its probable operation the more I am persuaded that I was at that moment on the right scent. I indicated my suspicion that you were going to give the landlord something more than a mere share of the £730,000 a year. I put the point that, whatever increase of expenditure to be defrayed out of the rates occurs, it will fall upon the occupier only, and that you are not only giving a lump sum to the landlord, who at this moment is considered to be liable to a large and considerable obligation, but are exonerating him from a burden which he has hitherto borne, and from which you are not saying openly you are going to liberate him. Under Clause 12, wherever there is exceptional distress, as there is too frequently in a certain zone of Ireland, the guardians are to represent to the County Council that they require aid or new conditions. The County Council is then required to get the assent of the Local Government Board, and then the local 505 authority is to be empowered, the conditions being satisfied, to grant outdoor relief for a period of two months. Let us see what will happen; the House has probably already seen what will happen. I will take, as an illustration, the district of Lord Clanricarde's property where exceptional distress may occur. That distress will be met by a larger allowance of outdoor relief; that extra outdoor relief will be provided for entirely by a population, a large number of whom by that hypothesis are themselves swamped in distress. They will have to provide this extra rate, and Lord Clanricarde living, as I understand, in London, never seeing his own property, will be absolutely absolved from any part of the burdens in which he now shares. I think I am justified in making that point, and I am curious to hear what the answer to it will be. The Chief Secretary is acute, and he may have some answer of his own, but I cannot see what answer he will have. I cannot see how any arrangement can happen but that the landlord, drawing rents from such a district, shall be absolved from the burdens that now fall upon him, while the Exchequer in the meantime is relieving him from his present burden. But that is not quite the end of it. I am very curious to know how the Chief Secretary will explain the effect of this Bill upon agricultural rents. Everybody must be aware that when you institute local authorities for local purposes that means an increase of expenditure. Whether in England or anywhere else that has always been the case, and I see no reason to doubt that, it will be so in Ireland. The point is this: This expenditure will be upon roads, bridges, and such improvements. Every one of these roads and bridges—constructed, recollect, at the cost of the occupier, that is to say, the tenant—will improve the estate and holdings which these roads and bridges adjoin. These roads and bridges, of course, increase the value of the estate. The Land Commissioners come and revise the rents when the time comes, and they have to take these improvements into account.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
My hon. and learned Friend says it has been decided to the contrary, and I will not dispute a point of law with him.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
It may have been an infamous decision, but we may be quite sure that that infamous decision will be revised, and, if not, that the Chief Secretary will bring in a Bill to set it right. But the Land Commissioners will go round to adjudicate upon the rents of an estate which has been improved by county expenditure, which has come out of the pockets of the tenants, broadly speaking, and the landlord, who has contributed nothing to that expenditure, will himself reap the benefit by having his rents increased. This, in my judgment, unless I misread the Bill altogether, goes to the very root of the policy of the Bill and justifies me in saying boldly, what I only hinted at on the First Reading, that this Bill does give the landlord—both in the shape of rent and exemption from contributions to local burdens—much more than we understand was to be given when we first had the Bill before us. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, I recollect, once wrote that he would vote for a Bill to expropriate Lord Clanricarde. But the hon. Member is now a party to a Bill which, so far from expropriating gentlemen like Lord Clanricarde who so absolve themselves from all their social responsibilities, will, in effect, be a great boon to men of that stamp. I do not want to go into the secondary points of the Bill—that, for instance, of the exclusion from the boards, of clergymen, though upon that point I may, perhaps, make one remark. There is the Congested Districts Board, which we are all glad that the First Lord of the Treasury created, and whose work we watch with great interest. I was able to put upon that Board two clergymen, one a prelate and the other a parish priest, and I understand that there has been no members of that Board since whose contributions to the knowledge and the discussions have been more valuable than 507 those of the two reverend gentlemen. It is from no partiality of mine that I speak, but when I remember that experience, I cannot conceal from myself how undesirable it is that you should ostracise any particular order of men, and you may depend upon it that if you do ostracise these reverend gentlemen, of whatever persuasion, whether Catholic or Protestant, that their influence will be felt, and I think it would be much better if it were felt directly in the council itself than that it should be felt indirectly as it otherwise will be. I will not detain the House longer. I will not resist this Bill, though I have only a moderate enthusiasm for it, I believe hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will do their best to work it fairly. I think they will do their best to get Gentlemen opposite, and those they speak for, to take their part in the administration of those authorities, but I should be saying what I did not think if I led the House to believe that I, for one, suppose that this Bill is going to work without friction and without tribulation. I do not think there are many things concerning Ireland that turn out as you expect. That is characteristic. Hon. Members from Ireland, I believe, from my pretty ample knowledge of them, will do the best they can, but whether hon. Gentlemen opposite will do their best I do not know. I am for the Bill because I believe that though it will lead by a very troublesome and circuitous route, yet it will, I think, inevitably lead to that larger and wider extension of self-government to the self-governing powers and responsibilities which the inextinguishable national sentiment of Ireland and the peculiar circumstances of Ireland require and demand. It will be a troublesome road by which popular or locally elected authorities are to be guided and controlled by an executive board, which has no national sentiment or local feeling at the back of it, which is not in touch with local sentiment or local demand. But, as for extinguishing—hon. Members may smile, and may think that I have made untrue prophecies before—a demand for Home Rule, as my hon. and gallant Friend just now indicated, Home Rule in the sense in which it was demanded by Ireland in 1885, in the sense in which it was accepted by Ireland in 1886, in the sense 508 in which it was deliberately accepted by Gentlemen sitting in this House both in 1886 and in 1893. I do not believe that either the Chief Secretary or the First Lord of the Treasury, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has been an Irish Secretary twice; I do not believe that either of the three dream that this extinction will happen or will be realised. I do not believe that in his heart my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last thinks so; I do not believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who sits next him thinks so. I think they know Ireland far too well. They know that the demand which was first authentically propounded and formulated in 1885 by the Irish constituencies—[Mr. G. BALFOUR: Long before that. An Hon. MEMBER: 1798.] They know that that demand will stand good, and does anyone deny—does my right hon. and gallant Friend assert that, at the next General Election three or four years hence, hon. Gentlemen from Ireland who make this demand will come back with their numbers impaired by a single one, or their authority in Ireland, be it high or low, impaired by one jot or tittle? They know that that will not happen. The Government think—I will not say the Government, but hon. Gentlemen behind them think—that this Bill is to be the end. Well, Parliament, whenever an important Measure has been passed, thinks it has come to the end. Catholic emancipation was thought to be at an end, the disestablishment of the Irish Church by Mr. Gladstone in 1869 was thought to be at an end; then there are the Land Acts of 1860, 1870, 1881, 1887, and 1896, with regard to every one of which, I think—certainly in the case of every one at the discussion of which I was present—this House thought they had come to an end. Take even the purchase policy, of which hon. Gentlemen opposite and many who knew Ireland well thought they had seen the end. There was the Purchase Act of 1885, the Purchase Act of 1889, and every kind of change and variety was made in the conditions of land purchase. And yet every one of you know that you have not touched the bottom in the matter of land purchase. You are always mistaking the opening of questions in 509 Ireland for the close. Sir Robert Peel, when in this House he brought forward his famous proposal for Catholic emancipation, used a very fine image. He said, "You are breaking the seal of the vessel, and a mighty genii is about to escape." Well, to-night you are breaking another seal, but if you suppose that with the opening of the vessel the same geni whom you had sealed up in the meantime is not again about to escape, depend upon it you are making the same error as Sir Robert Peel and all your greatest statesmen have made when they supposed that this or that partial reform would appease what I will call the inextinguishable sentiment of Ireland.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University remarked to-night that this Debate was taking almost a millennial character. I had hoped that it would retain that character till the close of the evening. But, Sir, I must say, with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, that he has succeeded in introducing a jarring note which was absent from all the other speeches. The right hon. Gentleman has been combative from the very beginning of his speech; he referred to the accents of peace which had been heard from this side, especially he referred to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Down. That was not the only speech that the right hon. Gentleman might have remembered in which the accents of peace have been heard tonight. A similar speech was delivered by the hon. Member for Waterford, and I do think that it was unnecessary for him to say that, he never heard the accents of peace from the Unionist Party until it suited them as a Party to use such accents. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that this Bill, if not followed by other Measures, was certain to be mischievous, and be quoted from a speech of Lord Salisbury to the effect that greater dangers attached to the establishment of local authorities, who had sway over large areas, than to the establishment of local authorities who had sway over smaller areas. I have not got the speech at the present time in my recollection, but I cannot help fancying 510 that Lord Salisbury was referring not to the establishment of local government, but to the establishment of Home Rule.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Without the reference at hand, I am unable to say how that may be; of course, I am perfectly ready to accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but when the right hon. Gentleman uses Lord Salisbury's authority in that way I think that he should, at all events, have reminded the House that the Home Rule, which he considered so much less dangerous than the establishment of local government, was something totally and entirely different, not merely in degree, but in kind, from that local government. We have had at least two discussions on the subject of Home Rule during the present Session. In the course of one of those discussions the hon. Member for Waterford impressed upon the House that by passing a Local Government Bill we should in no way satisfy the desire of the Irish people for Home Rule. We, on our side of the House, have never said, and never professed, that by passing a Local Government Bill we should satisfy the desire for Home Rule. We have not brought it forward with a view to satisfy that demand; we have brought it forward because we thought the Measure was one which was in itself desirable. But I am totally unable to agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the dangers which we see in Home Rule are at all likely to attach to a system of local government. How could they do so? The local bodies that will be established by this Bill, and the local bodies that have been already established in England and Scotland, are "cribbed, cabined, and confined" in every direction. They are not legislative bodies at all. The utmost they can do is to pass bye-laws, and even bye-laws they can only pass with the consent of the Local Government Board. They are not legislative bodies, but administrative bodies. They are absolutely bound by the laws of the body which creates them—namely, the Imperial 511 Parliament. A Home Rule Parliament would be entirely different. It would be a legislative body, and the power given to that body would necessarily be of a kind that would derogate from the power of the Imperial Parliament. Therefore, whatever may have been in Lord Salisbury's mind, it seems to me that the two things are not in pari materia, and that it is impossible to make the comparison between Home Rule and local government which the right hon. Gentleman has made to-night. The right hon. Gentleman also said that these local bodies would prove unruly unless they were controlled by some strong central authority—[Mr. J. MORLEY: Might]—might prove unruly. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the Local Government Board is not so strong a body as to be able to exercise that control. The Local Government Board in Ireland has been criticised in more than one speech this evening; but I have not been able to form a clear idea as to the changes the various critics of the Board would like to see introduced. Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to see a representative element introduced into the Board, or would he be content merely with the appointment of a Minister, who should be at the head of the Local Government Board, with a seat in this House? I will not say that that is a plan which might not with advantage be adopted; but I am bound to say that I should be sorry to see it adopted within the next two or three years, and for this reason: I, as Chief Secretary, have been responsible for a considerable share in the framing of this Measure. I am perfectly aware that the success of the Measure must depend, to a considerable extent, on the start it receives in its earlier years. At the present time I have the honour of being President of the Local Government Board in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman has drawn a picture of the relations between the Chief Secretary and the Local Government Board, which may possibly have been true in his time, but which, I venture to say, is not true in my time. I altogether repudiate the suggestion that since I have been Chief Secretary I have been merely the nominal head of the Local Government Board, without any knowledge of what passed between the Local Government Board and the local bodies over which it has 512 control, or that I have no power of control over the action of the Local Government Board. Being responsible, as I have said, in a considerable measure for the framing of this Bill, I must say that I should be very sorry not to remain myself at the head of the Local Government Board so long as I am Chief Secretary for Ireland, in order to start the Bill fairly on its way, to be responsible for it should it fail, and to get some credit if it succeeds. The right hon. Gentleman went on to criticise some of the provisions of the Bill which, however, in his judgment were not mere details but went to the very root of the Bill. He said the landlord would, according to the plan laid down in the Bill, be relieved in the future from all taxation as landlord. That, of course, is perfectly true. But I am astonished that the right hon. Gentleman should imagine that in this he has made a discovery. The policy of the Government in this respect is analogous to that which was announced nearly a year ago by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, and it forms the fundamental part of our proposals. Well, if the right hon. Gentleman says that this question lies at the root of the Bill, and if he quarrels with the particular provision referred to, is he prepared to oppose the Bill? What is the use, then, of saying that this proposal lies at the very root of the Bill? This is, undoubtedly, a provision of great importance. We have undertaken to bring in a Bill by which certain dangers which we have always foreseen in connection with a scheme of local government for Ireland would be avoided; and we saw our way to securing that end by uniting with our local government proposals these proposals for changing the incidence of the rates, and at the same time relieving the agricultural rates by means of a grant from the Imperial Exchequer. Then the right hon. Gentleman brings another criticism against the financial proposals of the Bill. He says the whole of the cess will in future fall on the tenant. [Mr. J. MORLEY: The whole of the rate.] He says that the whole of the rate will in future fall on the tenant—that part of the rate which represents the cess, and out of which roads are constructed—and that that will improve the value of the land, but that that improvement will not be taken into 513 consideration by the Commissioners in fixing the rent (I think I am accurately stating the right hon. Gentleman's point), and that, he says, will be a great unfairness. Now, the right hon. Gentleman's argument, in the first place, depends entirely on the assumption that rates will rise. If, on the contrary, rates fall, the whole gain would go to the occupier, and, of course, it is a necessary corollary of that, that if rates were to rise, that rise would fall on the occupier also. But I see nothing unjust in that, even if you assume that in all probability rates will rise.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman for a moment? My point was this: that this is a roundabout way of reproducing that rental on the tenants' own improvements, which it has been the aim of all Land Acts, the right hon. Gentleman's included, to put an end to.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I think the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. He confined his argument entirely to the works which are provided for at present out of the cess. That does not include what are called in the Bill "excluded rates." They are those rates which in general may be said to confer an improved value on the property; and we have separated them from the poor rate and the county cess. We do not direct in the Bill that they should be subject to the same provisions as regards the fixing of rent by the Commissioners. But it must be obvious to the House that if our fundamental policy is, as far as possible, to relieve the landlord from the payment of local taxes in future, we could not have adopted any other plan than that which we have adopted; and the result of our proposals will be—and it seems to me a perfectly equitable one—that those who have the power of voting expenditure will also have to pay the rates. If they can make economics they will gain by those economies; if they are extravagant they will have to suffer for their extravagance. I may also remind the right hon. Gentleman that to some extent the system which he condemns as unfair exists in England also, where the rates are paid 514 by the tenant. Of course, it is true that when rents come to be refixed, the tenant will be able to throw some portion, perhaps the whole, of the burden on the landlord; but, in the meantime, he will have to bear these rates himself, although the value of the tenancy may be increased. Now, Sir, I pass from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I turn to the general course of the discussion. The Government certainly have no cause to complain either of the tone or of the matter of the Debate which has taken place. With the exception of the hon. Member for the South Molton Division, who moved the Amendment, and the hon. Gentleman who seconded it, there has hardly been any difference of opinion in the House as to the general principle of the Bill. The hon. Member for East Mayo made a long speech criticising a number of details in the Bill, and I hope that on the present occasion I may be excused from answering him point by point, because his criticisms lasted for quite an hour, and it would take me as long to reply to them; but there is one matter to which I should like to refer, and which may, perhaps, be regarded as something more than a mere detail. It is the question of safeguards. During the First Reading of the Bill I stated that we had provided safeguards, against the dangers foreseen in 1892, of a more satisfactory kind than those contained in the Bill of that year. What were the dangers which my right hon. Friend, in introducing the Bill of 1892, foresaw might occur, and what are the dangers which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh, and, I presume also, the right hon. Member for Dublin University, foresee now? They are that the minority will be oppressed by the majority, and that oppression they anticipate will take the form of financial oppression. I do not see, indeed, in what other way it would be in the power of county or district councils to oppress the minority, except by ruining them by means of excessive taxation. In the Bill of 1892 these dangers were guarded against by a variety of proposals, some of which by no means found favour with the House, and which, I need hardly say, have not been recommended by my right hon. Friend to-night; but there were also two other safeguards in the Bill which have been pressed very strongly on my attention in 515 numerous resolutions of grand juries in Ireland, and which have also been mentioned to-night. Those safeguards are the establishment of a Joint Committee to control new expenditure, and some system of representation of minorities. Now, we have not inserted either of these provisions in our Bill, and the reason is that we believe ourselves to have found other safeguards which are certainly quite as effectual for the purpose in view, and also less irritating. The nature of these safeguards is, of course, well known to the House, and, as I mentioned them in introducing the Bill, I need not explain them again. But what I wish to point out is this: the minority who my right hon. Friend considered in 1892 especially required protection was the landlords, not merely the large cesspayers, but the landlords as such. I do not think anybody will deny that in our Bill we have thoroughly and fully protected the landlords, and, therefore, those who complain that our safeguards are insufficient, no longer profess they are insufficient for the protection of the landlords, but that they are insufficient for the protection of the large cesspayers. But I would point out that in passing from the landlords to the large cesspayers, on the analogy of the Joint Committee in Scotland, my hon. and gallant Friend is cutting the ground away from himself. In Scotland rates are divided between landlord and occupier, and it was in order to protect the landlord as such that the Joint Committee was established in Scotland. The moment the landlords as such no longer require protection, the only persons requiring protection are the large cesspayers, and the analogy of the Scotch Joint Committee falls to the ground. I am not prepared to admit that the large cesspayers as such form in any proper sense a class by themselves or that they require as a class special protection. I do admit quite frankly that there might be a danger that the very small cesspayers may find it to their advantage to press for the carrying out of public works, especially of roads, which would bring them in more in the form of wages than they would have to pay for cess, and that is a danger which will have to be guarded against, but have we not fully guarded against it? Does not that provision in the Bill, which provides that the Council shall not sanction 516 expenditure upon roads, exceeding by more than one-fourth the amount spent in any year, amply protect the large cesspayer? It does not appear to me that the Scotch system affords any true analogy at all. Then there remains the question of minority representation. Minority representation by means of the cumulative vote was also one of the safeguards in the Bill of 1892, but my right hon. Friend, in his opening speech, expressly explained that he did not regard the provision as affording any real protection to minorities; he admitted that it was no protection, but still he thought it desirable that as far as possible the minorities should be enabled to make their voices heard on the new councils. I entirely agree that it would be desirable, and is desirable, that the voice of the minority should be heard on the county council and especially that the voice of that class from which the grand jury are now drawn should be heard and should be able to make their influence felt. But I am afraid I have not the same confidence in the effect of minority representation that some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House have. On this point I am in substantial agreement with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for East Down. What I feel about it is this: if you establish minority representation, it may be that at first—I think only at first—you would get upon your council a larger number of men representing the class from which grand jurors are drawn than you would under the system adopted by the Bill. I doubt whether that state of things would continue, and what I fear about it is this: that, if you establish minority representation, you can only do so by admitting that there is a minority that requires special protection, and I am anxious as far as possible to obliterate and do away with all class distinctions. I wish no longer to keep up, so far as local government is concerned, anything that emphasises the distinction between landlords and tenants, between large and small cesspayers. My own belief is that if you succeed by a system of minority representation in getting a larger proportion of the landed gentry of Ireland on these councils you would do so with the accompanying disadvantage that those who by this means secure seats on the 517 councils will not have the influence on the councils they would otherwise possess. [Mr. TIMOTHY HEALY: Do you insist on single-member districts?]. We have introduced the principle of single-member districts in the Bill, but if we were strongly pressed to introduce two-member districts instead, I admit the suggestion would be worthy of consideration. As at present advised, I must confess that I am not in favour of it, for this reason. The argument is, that if you have two-member constituencies you might leave the Nationalist representatives where they are, and have grand jury representatives side by side with them. That I understand to be the argument. Well, that might, to some extent, be the case, but the advantage could only be obtained by doubling the number on the council. As we take the Parliamentary electoral divisions as the unit of District Council constituencies, the result would be that your District Council would consist of about 40 members. That is rather a large number for a District Council; I think that 20 would form a very much more workable council. It is on that ground, and practically on that ground alone, that I feel inclined to view with some disfavour the proposal of two-member constituencies. Sir, I ventured, in introducing this Bill, to make an appeal to grand jurors to meet the new system about to be established, not in any spirit of—I was going to say sulkiness, but perhaps that is too strong a term to use—but to throw themselves cheerfully into the new system, doing their best to get elected, as my belief is many of them would be, on the new councils. I have been reproached with having addressed that appeal to the wrong quarter, and told that I should have addressed the appeal, not to the Party represented by my hon. Friends on this side, but to the Party represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite. If I should have addressed an appeal to them I do so now, and I hope that those who represent the popular Party, if I may call it so, on the District Councils and on the Boards of Guardians will be prepared to welcome to the new councils the assistance and help of those who have hitherto carried on county administration in Ireland. But I think the appeal I made was not in vain, and I do not think I addressed it to the wrong quarter. If a 518 constituency is to be won it must be wooed, and, as every Member of this House knows, wooing a constituency does involve a great deal that is not always pleasant. It is certainly laborious, and it involves the sacrifice of a certain amount of leisure and comfort. No doubt it is the greater sacrifice for those into whose lap the ripe fruit has hitherto fallen with no exertion of their own. I have been upbraided, not, I am glad to say, to-night, but in some Unionist papers, with having added insult to injury, the injury being in depriving a class of privileges they have hitherto enjoyed, and the insult being in advising them to seek election when they would surely be rejected. I think I need hardly tell the House that either insult or injury was far from my mind when I made that appeal. I made it in all good faith. I appealed to the patriotism of the landlords, and I do not see how an appeal to patriotism can be looked upon as an insult. It may have been superfluous, and if it was superfluous, so much the better; but, superfluous or not, I rejoice to see that it has been responded to in many quarters, and if the educated and leisured classes of Ireland are prepared to take their part in the new system in the spirit of the resolutions which have reached me from many parts of Ireland, if they are determined to take their chances at the polls, and to persevere, although their efforts may not be successful at first, then I repeat the conviction I have already expressed—that they do hold the future in their own hands, and that the gain to themselves and to the country from the mutual confidence and goodwill among all classes that will be the result of this action on their part will be far greater than anything they can possibly lose from the deprivation of their privileges by any provisions of this Bill.
§ *MR. M. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
I do not intend to detain the House with any prolonged criticism of this Bill. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was the inevitable reply to be expected from a British Minister to the remarkable pronouncement made earlier in the evening by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. I am 519 glad the hon. Member is in his place, for I listened to that speech with considerable astonishment. If he will allow me to say so it is a speech which ought to have been delivered by a landlord sitting on the Ministerial Benches, instead of coming from an Irish Nationalist sitting on these Benches. I also find fault with the spirit which marked that remarkable pronouncement. It was a spirit more worthy of a half-emancipated slave, accepting doles of justice as a beggar accepts alms, than the speech of an Irish Nationalist. Sir, I give no thanks to the Irish Government for this lame and halting and dishonest Measure. There is one principle in it only which appeals to my approval, and that is the principle of county government, but beyond that I find nothing within the four corners of the Bill to which I can give any hearty support. The hon. and learned Member, as is his wont in this House, began by sneering at my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo for some peculiarity of which he alleged the hon. Member was guilty. I wish to say to him without offence that he has been in the habit of appealing to and receiving the plaudits of the enemies of Home Rule whenever he rises in this House by his attacks on the one Party in Ireland which, with all its faults, is really entitled to the thanks of the Irish people for this Bill. I say that thanks are not due to the enemies of Home Rule, but to those who, by offering the Irish people a Measure of national government, which included the county government, have compelled their political opponents to bring forward this Measure. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, to whom we are always delighted to listen in this House, made what I think was a despairing speech. I think he has "fought his last ditch" in this House against Home Rule by his acceptance, in a grudging spirit, of this Measure, which is now before the House. He said in his speech that the Nationalists of Ireland had made no loud demand for this particular Measure, and in a sense he was right. The representatives of the mass of the Irish people have demanded what they were justified in demanding, and what would be a more natural and logical demand to make, namely, that there should be a central national government of Ireland from 520 which might proceed, as was the case in this country, the subsidiary government of County Councils, which are now to be created by this Bill. I feel certain that before long we shall have the hon. and gallant Member going a step forward in the direction of our demands and desires. He has shown now by his attitude that the class which he represents can be got to agree to what may be called Rural Home Rule for Ireland on a cash basis; that is, given a certain sum as a bribe to the class to which he belongs, they will agree to County Councils. It only now remains for some courageous English Minister to come forward and offer the Irish landlords enough money, and they will come to this House and accept the Home Rule Bill in that spirit.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
May I remind the hon. Member that Mr. Gladstone offered that bribe, and we refused it?
§ *MR. DAVITT
That was 12 years ago. Many things have happened since then. We have heard speeches in this House to-night about confidence in the Irish people—about a belief that the majority would not oppress the minority—but we did not listen to sentiments of that kind from the landlords of Ireland when the Bill of 1886 was under discussion. Sir, I do not intend to go over the line of criticism which was followed to-night by my hon. Friend beside me, with reference to this Bill. I agree with a good deal that has been said by the hon. Member behind me, but these criticisms will be more in order when we get into Committee. But, Sir, before we reach that stage I must be allowed, as an Irish Member representing a division of Mayo, to register my strongest possible protest against the financial part of this Bill. I take exception entirely to the proposal to give to the landlords of Ireland, as a bribe for accepting this Measure, an annual subsidy of something like £400,000. This Bill may be called a Measure for increasing the incomes and decreasing the burdens of the Irish supporters of Her Majesty's Government. I want to know—no case has been made out by the Chief Secretary upon this 521 point—I want to know on what ground of justice, or equity, or fairness the artisans, the cotters, and the farmers of Ireland, aye, and the workers of Great Britain, are called upon to pay every year for all time this enormous sum to the class represented by the hon. and gallant Member, simply because a miserable instalment of justice is offered to the people of Ireland. [Mr. J. E. REDMOND: Will you vote against the Bill?] If the hon. and learned Member will go to the other side of the House, where I think he ought to sit and address that question, to me, I will answer it. I have said already that I support only the principle of this Bill. I shall vote against every part of the financial proposals. [Mr. J. E. REDMOND: That is the principle of the Bill.] I beg pardon; that is not the principle of the Bill. The principle of the Bill is not bribery, but county government, and I am not prepared to buy even an instalment of liberty by a bribe. Those who buy may be induced to sell. That class which the hon. and learned Member has invited to-night to accept this money—the landlords of Ireland—are the very class who sold the Irish Parliament a hundred years ago for so much money, and they would sell the County Councils to any English Party that would give them their price. I say the landowners of Ireland are not entitled to one penny of this money. They have not suffered to anything like the extent that the English landowners suffered, in consequence of agricultural distress. That can be proved abundantly by reference to the abatement that has been made in Ireland and in Great Britain respectively in the valuation of those in the occupation of land under Schedule B in the last 15 years. Then again I want to know, from the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, what the Irish landlords as a class have done for Ireland, for its people, for their moral, or material, or educational advancement, that they should receive this enormous sum of money from the working classes of Ireland or of Great Britain? If he can make out a case for them, if he can show me that they are entitled in justice, or even in gratitude, to any of this money, I would willingly join in giving it, but I fail to find any justification of that kind 522 for the claim put forward by the landlords of Ireland. Under the financial clauses of this Bill the landlords are to be relieved of half the poor rate. I believe I am understating the case when I say that the average poor rate in Ireland over the whole country would be 1s. 6d. in the pound; in some cases in the west and in the south it is 3s., 4s., or 5s. Even if it is as low all over Ireland as the hon. Member says, £100 of rental in the future will bring relief to the landlord of something like £2 or £3 a year. £1,000 rental will bring relief amounting to about £30. I find that the Marquess of Clanricarde, whose valuation amounts to about £20,000, will be entitled to, and will receive from the generous bounty of the Member for Waterford, £600 a year for the remainder of his existence. I cannot congratulate the hon. and learned Member upon his generosity in that respect. Take the Duke of Devonshire whose property in Ireland is valued at something like £30,000 a year. He is a Member of Her Majesty's Government. Under this Bill he will receive an addition to his income of about £1,200 a year. So, right through the landowning class, the supporters of Her Majesty's Government, you will find that they will receive from the people of Ireland, and from the people of this country, money to which they are not entitled. Now, I would respectfully submit that the hon. Member for Waterford and his friends on the Ministerial Benches, if they wish to distribute this money in a way that will really be beneficial to Ireland, to its material interests, and its, future welfare, should adopt a different method. Instead of giving this £400,000 a year to the Irish landlords they might have arranged to give £100,000 of it to the Congested Districts Board. They might have given another £100,000 to the support of technical education in Ireland, and they might have given another £100,000 to the relief of those towns and cities in Ireland, one of which is represented by the hon. Member, which will get no relief whatever in the rates under this Bill; and the fourth £100,000 might, I think, have been given, with the approval of the whole of the workers of Great Britain and Ireland, towards the better housing of the working classes in that unfortunate country. I venture to 523 say that if this money had been distributed in that way under this Bill, it would be more in consonance with what is right, and with what the country is entitled to. [Mr. J. E. REDMOND: What is this to do with the Bill; what is the hon. Member dealing with?] I am dealing with the speech of the hon. and learned Member who has poured bucketfuls of benedictions upon this Bill, and whose pronouncement will be carefully studied in the House of Lords. [Mr. J. E. REDMOND: I hope it will.] He will find that when the Bill goes into that assembly they will retain the cash for the hon. Member's Irish landlord friends, while they will whittle down the Bill as much as they can so far as regards its other provisions.
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
I did not intend to take any part in this Debate, but the speech that has just been made I think calls for some remarks from me. It is some seven years since the split took place in the Irish Party, and in that time it has been my duty to be in constant conflict with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Waterford, for which I have been continuously assailed by hon. Gentlemen who have declared themselves opposed to anything in the nature of dissension or conflict. But this is the first time in my recollection when the British House of Commons has been favoured with an attack by one Irish Member upon another in relation to a matter of this kind. I desire to ask the hon. Member for East Mayo, if his views are so strong in regard to this Measure and with regard to the support which it gives to the landlord class, why did not he vote a couple of hours ago for the hon. Gentleman for South Molton? That gave him his opportunity. The hon. Member for South Molton had the courage of his convictions. He put down an Amendment, declaring in express terms the undesirability of an Irish landlord getting any fraction of this money. If the hon. Member for East Mayo has so strong a feeling as he declares against Irish landlords receiving anything under this Bill, why did he skedaddle out of the House? The hon. Gentleman was not found in the division lobby, that is all I have to 524 say, and as he is a man of strong feeling I am sure it was not his dinner that kept him away. The hon. Member asks are you going to vote for Lord Clanricarde getting £500 or £600 a year out of the Bill? Suppose it was put the other way. Suppose the landlord party said, "Are you going to pay half the county cess for the tenants; some of these are the Maamtrasna murderers, some are informers, some are moonlighters—are you going to vote for the relief of the Maamtrasna murderers and to give them half the county cess?" As I understand it, we are supporting this Bill, not because Lord Clanricarde might take some of the money, or because A, B, C, or D might take some of the money; we are supporting it as a great measure of peace and reform for the country. The hon. Member for South Molton said an hour ago if the Irish Party can extract a Bill like this from a Tory Government with a majority of 140, what might they not expect from a Liberal Government with a majority of 40? Well, we supported a Liberal Government with a majority of 40 for three years and got nothing out of it.
§ *MR. LAMBERT
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I said, if they could get this Bill from a Tory Government with a majority of 140, what will they get from a Tory Government with a majority of 40?
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY
I do not know. I know what the hon. Member for South Molton got from a Tory Government; he got the payment of half his agricultural rates, and having got that money—my money, Irish money—in his pocket, he comes here as a bluff British agriculturist to object to a poor Irish hillsider receiving the same relief that he has got himself. Now, I would beg to say that if there is one thing in politics that the Irish people pride themselves in above all other things it is in being practical. Why did not we get Home Rule? Because the House of Lords rejected it. We carried it in this House. Why did not we carry it elsewhere? Because it was necessary that a Measure of that kind should be accompanied by satisfaction to the gentlemen who command what is really the predominant partner in the British Constitution. You 525 may object to giving £400,000 a year to the landlords, but would anybody in Ireland, or in this House, pretend that a Bill of this democratic character would pass the House of Lords unless it were accompanied by such safeguards as are in this Bill? The hon. Member calls it bribery. If it be bribery, I am willing to pay the price. And what are we paying it for? We are paying it to get in every town in Ireland a democratic constitution; we are paying it in order to give the people the power to build artisans' dwellings in the town; we are paying it to get in the counties, instead of jobbing grand jurors, honest men applying their own rates; we are paying it to get bodies of guardians who will be able to give their labourers decent houses and decent plots. And, forsooth, I am told that because Lord Clanricarde may get £500 a year out of it, I am to refuse to Ireland a democratic constitution. I decline to do so. I say the money is well spent, and, for my part, will vote it with the utmost satisfaction. I decline to listen to attacks on this Bill under the pretence that it is not a great and valuable and a useful Measure. I say it is everything that we have a right to expect from the Government; that they have faithfully fulfilled their pledges to the Irish people in regard to this Bill. There are a number of details that we have to consider at the proper time, but I will say this: that we have got from this Government, from the Tory Party, ten thousand times a better Bill than ever we could have got from the Liberal Party.