§ Order for Second reading read.
§ Motion made and question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. G. W. Balfour.)1516
§ * SIR CHAS. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
Those of us who are strong Home Rulers and would give the Irish people, through their elected representatives, the power of dealing with questions of this kind for themselves by legislative or administrative action, are placed in a certain difficulty by Bills of this nature—such a difficulty as would also arise in connection with a proposal to establish a Roman Catholic University in Ireland by a vote of this House. The only general observation I will allow myself to make in regard to the general nature of the Bill, which undoubtedly mainly concerns the Irish representatives, is that it seems to be part of the policy which has been described as "killing Home Rule by kindness," but which, unless it is carefully watched, may lead to schemes for "killing Home Rule by jobbery." But the particular objection I have to the Bill is one which is common to several Measures which have from time to time been proposed in this House, although not one has passed during the last five or six years. It is that it adds to the number of Ministers having seats in this House by the creation of a vice-president who will be the Parliamentary head of the new Department. The view I entertain on this point is not perhaps a very popular one. But I do believe that we have far too many Parliamentary Departments at present. The ideal at which we ought to aim is a smaller number of Ministers with great powers and large salaries—persons who would hold a position of considerable importance in the State and form a small governing Cabinet, rather than the multiplication of Parliamentary Departments with less powerful Ministers, who are not able to make their views prevail with their colleagues. I am afraid that the ideal of many hon. Members is exactly the opposite, and while resisting the payment of Members—the principle of which is peculiarly applicable to the case of Ireland, they look forward to the time when almost every British Member would be at the head of some Department administering his own particular hobby. We have only to look at some of the existing Departments in order to realise the difference between the two ideals. We have three hard-working Members in this House representing the Admiralty, and two the War Office, while in the other 1517 House there are also three gentlemen representing these Departments. But these gentlemen are doing administrative work of a kind which could be far better done by permanent officials under the general control of a Parliamentary head. We are face to face with this difficulty. If each time a new complicated problem of modern society comes up to be dealt with you are to create a fresh Parliamentary Minister, you will pack this House with Ministers having no real power either with their colleagues or with Parliament, and they will be doing less efficiently work which could be better done by permanent officials. This matter was discussed a few years ago in a very interesting debate, on which occasion Lord Randolph Churchill, in his last important speech, laid down the principle, which was concurred in by the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife, that new departments ought not to be multiplied. The noble Lord declared that the country was over-ridden with new Ministries, and he pointed out how preferable was the system under which great Ministers with real power as Members of the Cabinet directed the general political concerns of the State and gave a general impulsion to their particular departments, leaving the mere departmental work to be carried on by permanent officials. We have already in this country far more political Ministers than any other country in the world. There is no country, however centralised its administration may be, and however much it interferes with the affairs of the people, which has anything like the number of Parliamentary Ministers that We have already, and yet this number is continually increasing. The other day I asked the Leader of the House to give a return of the number of Ministers in different countries, but he declined on the ground that the circumstances of this country were different from other countries; but I contend that the circumstances of this country are in favour of a smaller number of Ministers than the number in other countries. Some years ago there was a Committee which inquired into this matter and prepared a return. There is a general impression that the number of what may be called place-men in this House is decreasing. That is true if you count the sinecure offices and the offices connected with the Army and Navy, but the Report of 1518 the Committee shows that there was a far smaller number of men holding political office at that time than is now the case. They laid down the sound principle that it is the duty of the Parliamentary head of a department not to work the department himself, but to see that it is worked. Not only have we largely increased the number of Parliamentary Ministers, but we have had proposals, more or less popular, for creating new Ministries for Justice, Commerce, Health, and Labour, and unless we check it we shall soon reach the ideal which some hon. Members appear to have in their minds. While I strongly entertain these views, I believe that this Bill is one which the Irish Members desire to pass, and I, of course, yield to that view. One point I object to. This new Vice-President is to have a seat in Parliament, but he is not to vacate his seat when appointed. The words are not very clear, but I think there can be no doubt as to the meaning. This is a matter which has been frequently brought before Parliament, but the proposal that Members on accepting office should not vacate their seats has never met with approval. The last division taken on it was in 1869, when Lord Bury had moved for leave to bring in a Bill to abolish the system of vacating seats on taking office. Mr. Gladstone made a powerful speech against that motion, and the unusual course was taken of rejecting the Bill on the motion for leave to introduce it. What were the arguments which then met with the approval of the House? The main one used appears to be specially applicable to the case of Ireland and her peculiar Parliamentary position. It is a rather delicate matter to speak on, but we all probably have certain cases in our minds which were then fresh in the mind of Mr. Gladstone. It was pointed out, in that debate, that it was undesirable to give the slightest opening to political or Parliamentary treachery, and that a Member elected as a Nationalist Member should not be bought by the offer of office, when he did not dare to face his constituents, because he was acting, in defiance of their opinions. This particular provision increases my general objection to the measure, but as the Amendment which I have on the Paper might tend to limit the discussion I will not propose it, but will content myself with having made a protest, which I frankly admit is less applicable to the case of Ireland.
§ * MR. DRAGE (Derby)
I rise to support this Bill, and I protest at the outset against the innuendo of the right hon. Baronet, who last spoke, that it has been introduced by the Government in order to kill Home Rule by kindness. It is rather brought in by the Government in answer to the demands which have come from Dublin, Belfast, Waterford, and indeed from every portion of Ireland, a demand made by Protestants and Roman Catholics, and I support the Bill because it is a practical recognition of one of the most remarkable movements which the present century has witnessed in Ireland, I mean the movement initiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin. I am sure we all regret the absence of the right hon. Gentleman on the present occasion. If there is one reason why we do not regret it as much as we otherwise should, it is because we can say in his absence some of the things it would be impossible for us to say if he were here, with regard to the self-denial and self-sacrifice with which he laid the foundation of this remarkable movement, which has united men of all parties and all creeds in Ireland. In the report of the Recess Committee he set forth very clearly the difficulties which surround the labour movement in Ireland at the present time. He showed that Ireland was a poor country, without manufactures, except shipbuilding and linen in the North, and brewing and distilling in Dublin, that the soil was imperfectly tilled, and that the population was without industrial habits or technical skill. He referred to the restrictions imposed by the English Parliament on Irish manufactures, and I think there is nothing causes one greater pain than the contemplation of the action of Parliament in that direction last century, or the action in the present century of the English Treasury in reference to the limitations it placed on the National Board of Education, which seemed to have anticipated the modern development of social and technical education in Europe by something like half-a-century. Ireland has not only had these great difficulties to contend with, but it has also had to face practically unlimited foreign competition. This Bill is the more remarkable because it seems likely to introduce into the system of Great Britain some of those institutions Which have done such wonders for agriculture and technical educa- 1520 tion in Denmark and Wurtemberg. It is interesting to notice that in Denmark, at the end of the last century, the population was poorer and in a more miserable condition than the population of any other country in Europe, whereas at the present day the national wealth of Denmark, in proportion to the population, is second only to that of Great Britain. This remarkable change is due to the organisation of industry by co-operation, the representation of industry in the Government, and also to the increased intelligence of the people of Denmark, and those who have had to deal with the Irish people are confident that with the facilities for technical instruction which this Bill would afford, they would soon rival the people of Denmark in respect to their intelligence and industry. The one item that Denmark lacks is provided by Wurtemberg, namely the institution of "people's banks," and that the right hon. gentleman has successfully introduced into the West of Ireland. What was the problem which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin set before him? It was to prepare the ground for legislation, to unite all parties in Ireland, and to foster the independence of the Irish people, which had been so long undermined by the lamentable system of doles of money from the public treasury, so badly expended in many cases, in the west of Ireland, by means of the organisation of agriculture on co-operative principles. Why is it that we on this side of the House so cordially congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary upon the efforts he is making to push forward this measure, and why do we urge him to carry it through? It is because we believe it to be based on the foundation of a self-reliant people. A people able to deal with agriculture in its modern forms is already there. Hon. Members on this side of the House are, perhaps, not so familiar as hon. Members opposite with the work that has been done during the last five years by the Irish Agricultural Organization Society. The problem which they have set themselves, and which they must sooner or later solve, is this: the transition of agriculture from production on a small scale to production on a large scale, co-operation on a large scale, the establishment of creameries and the sale of their produce on co-operative principles, and the 1521 provision of machinery, tools, seeds, and manures on a large scale, in order that producers may have the benefit of them at small cost to themselves. All this has been done. But there are four items on the programme which need the help which the right hon. Gentleman is going to give in the present measure—viz., the introduction of home industries, the promotion of technical education, the circulation of good information, and the establishment of a system of co-operative credit and co-operative purchase in Ireland. These are all items in the programme of the Member for South Dublin which can only be carried to a successful issue if the present Bill is passed into law. I know that some objections may be urged against the Bill, but if it is passed into law I contend that it will give the Irish farmers an enormous advantage over the agriculturists of England. It may be regretted that the Congested Districts Board has not been adopted as the nucleus of this new department, that no provision is made for transport and cold storage as recommended by the Recess Committee——
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. G. W. BALFOUR,) Leeds Central
Yes, there is.
§ * MR. DRAGE
Well, that had escaped my notice. I hope hon. Members opposite will not, on account of the regrets which they may feel at any omissions, or at what they may consider the unsatisfactory financial provisions of the Bill, stand in the way of its passage through the House. I believe it is a Bill fraught with the utmost benefit to Ireland, and one which will certainly, as far as agriculture is concerned, place Ireland at very great advantage over the agriculturists of England. Before I sit down I should like to offer my warmest congratulations to the Chief Secretary on his success in carrying this Bill to its present stage, and to express the hope, which I am sure is shared by every man on these benches, that he will leave no stone unturned to carry it through all its stages. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, in what I think was a mischievous hint, implied that this is part of the policy of killing Home Rule by kindness. I submit to the House, and especially to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the Bill has been introduced in response to appeals 1522 made to the Government from every part of Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman had not brought the Bill forward, there are many Members on this side who would have left no stone unturned to induce the Government to take action in the matter, and, if I may once more appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, it would be to ask them to remember the state of Ireland at the present time, to remember that the work of the organisation of Irish agriculture and industry which has been so successfully begun is only wanting this necessary help to carry it to a triumphant issue, and therefore I ask them to lay aside their political differences, and help us on this side, who are honestly trying our best to improve the condition of the poor of Ireland—I ask them to lay aside their differences and join with us in forwarding this measure, which I honestly believe is fraught with the utmost benefit to the people of Ireland.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
It was interesting to me to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean speaking here, as he announced, as a Home Ruler, and then proceeding to argue this point about Ministerial representation in this House entirely from the English point of view. There was not a single argument against putting a member of this department in this House which he did not draw from the experience of England. He left Ireland entirely out of consideration. Possibly there are too many Ministers in this House, but that is not the fault of Irish representation. The Chief Secretary occupies an extraordinary position. He is a regular Pooh-bah. He is President of the Local Government Board, he is President of the Board of Works, and he is president of half a dozen of the different boards in Ireland. It is absurd to think that in the creation of a Government Department, such as I hope this will be, enormous good will not come to Ireland front the presence here of a Minister directly responsible for the work of that office. As to the vacation of a seat by a Minister on accepting office, I am inclined to agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the principle of not vacating is a vicious one; but I put that aside as a matter which can be dealt with elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be oppressed with the fear of the policy of killing Home Rule with kindness. I do not care 1523 a row of pins about the motives of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. If they propose a measure for the good of the Irish people I shall support them, and as to the fear that Home Rule will be killed with kindness, I think it comes very badly from anyone who has a genuine faith in the national movement. The more prosperous, the better educated you make the people of Ireland, the more united and the more irresistible will be the national movement, and the view that this measure is objectionable because it springs from a desire to undermine the Home Rule Movement has no influence with me. I rise for the purpose of giving to this measure, speaking of it broadly, a hearty and thorough support, and to urge upon the Government most earnestly to see that it is passed into law this session. I do not mean that I pin myself to every detail of this Bill, or that I am in any degree satisfied with its financial aspect. Those who know anything about the financial relations of the two countries know how objectionable many of the financial proposals of this Bill are. But I believe there is not a defect in the measure which cannot be dealt with adequately in Committee, and the principle underlying this Bill and the main provisions have my cordial approval. I support this Bill for four main reasons. First, I regard it as a measure introduced in obedience to a popular demand from the Irish people of all classes and all parties. Secondly, I regard it as in the main satisfying that demand, and as having received practically, indeed I may say the unanimous support of public opinion in Ireland in regard to its main provisions. Thirdly, I regard a measure of this kind as absolutely essential to the future of Ireland if she is not to be hopelessly handicapped in her competition with other countries. Fourthly, I regard it as a measure drawn on broad democratic lines, and an enormous advance in the direction of popular self-government of Ireland, and as embodying a principle which must have an enormous influence on those centralised and irresponsible institutions which have been the ruin of Ireland in the past. Is it true that this measure has been introduced in obedience to a public demand? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is, I think, correct in tracing the origin of this proposal to the Recess Committee, and I must be allowed to express my deep regret 1524 that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, who was mainly responsible for getting that Committee together, is unable to be present to witness the fruition of his labours, and especially through such unfortunate circumstances. The Recess Committee was composed of the most experienced men in Ireland on this subject. It is true that the hon. Member for East Mayo and some of his friends declined to act on the Committee, but some gentlemen holding similar views did serve, and it is absolutely true to say in these circumstances that every shade of political thought in Ireland was represented. This body instituted an exhaustive inquiry into agricultural industries and technical education in Ireland, and the effect of foreign competition, and, after an extended inquiry abroad, it recommended a scheme which, in many respects, was somewhat similar to the scheme of this Bill. That recommendation was discussed all over Ireland, and I have no recollection of any public bodies condemning the report, but I know that an overwhelming majority of them, including chambers of commerce, all the corporations of the country, and numberless boards of guardians, unanimously supported the recommendations of the Recess Committee. The result of that was that two years ago the Chief Secretary introduced a Bill to meet that demand. That Bill failed, and it failed because it did not meet some of the essential portions of the demand. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for it. One of the things we asked for was that the elective principle should be recognised in the measure. The Chief Secretary was in a great difficulty, because he had practically no constituency to go to. But the great measure of Local Government last year created a constituency, and from that constituency the right hon. Gentleman, I am happy to say, has been able to draw an effective elective feature in this Bill. Has this Bill received the sanction of public opinion in Ireland? What are the facts? It has been discussed widely by nearly all the public bodies in the country. The other day a conference of chambers of commerce from all the great cities of Ireland was held in Dublin, and while they recommended amendment of details, they unanimously approved the main features of the Bill, and urged the Government to pass it into law this session, whilst no 1525 single municipality in Ireland has declared against it. I have received an enormous number of requisitions from boards of guardians asking me to be in my place to-day to support this measure. No public body, large or small, important or insignificant, has passed a resolution against this measure. In addition to that, the press of the country has been almost unanimous. In the face of these facts I think I am justified in saying that public opinion in Ireland is unanimous in support of the Second Reading of this Bill. If that be so, I say it would be a monstrous hardship if a Bill so introduced, in obedience to public demand, and supported, as I have shown, by practically unanimous public opinion, were to be endangered by any action taken in this House at this stage. As to the necessity for such a Bill, it is not necessary for me to speak of Ireland as a poor country, as it country which practically has no manufactures. Ireland depends, broadly speaking, upon its agriculture. Admittedly, the soil of Ireland is badly tilled, the area of the land under cultivation is diminishing, her population has gone down, and practically there is no system whatever of agricultural or technical education, and practically no aid whatever is given by the State for these puroposes. If the same amount of money were spent on agriculture in Ireland as is spent in Denmark at the present time, in proportion to her population, you would have to spend £230,000; and if the same amount were spent on industries and agriculture, in proportion to population, as is spent in Switzerland, you would have a sum of £2,000,000 a year spent for those purposes. This Bill only proposes to allocate a very small amount, and grave will be the responsibility of any man who delays for a single year a remedy for the appalling state of things which exists at the present moment. This Bill proposes to establish in Ireland for the first time a democratic board, two-thirds elected by the County Councils of Ireland, and one-third nominated by the Government, which board will have absolute control of the expenditure of this money, and if the money is not expended in any year, it will accumulate from year to year, and none of it can be spent by the department without the concurrence of this board. Some people have spoken of this as another Castle board. What does this Bill do? It very largely disestablishes 1526 several Castle boards. It takes away from a number of these Castle boards a large portion of their powers, and it transfers to the elected authority the control now exercised by these Castle boards in some matters, and it transfers absolutely the control over science and art now exercised by South Kensington. I was reading this morning a summary of the Bill. This summary is as follows:—It introduces a completely new departure into Irish administration—a machinery of government for developing the agricultural and industrial resources of the country. This machinery is so constructed, after careful study, as to possess all the advantages of the most approved State department of the kind on the Continent, and to remove from Ireland at last the heaviest handicap under which she has laboured in the struggle with her foreign competitors. The Bill introduces the representative principle into economic administration; it creates elective councils of the classes whom its work concerns, to whom the Department must come for advice, and elective boards who are given the power of the purse. It brings over and places under an Irish authority all the powers that are now exercised in Ireland by the Science and Art Department of South Kensington. It provides for the establishment in Ireland of a comprehensive system of technical education and for the endowment of scientific research as applied to agriculture and industry. It provides the State, under the direction of the people, with the means of stimulating our agricultural and industrial production in every form, and defending and pushing our products in the markets of the world. It entitles the Government to take up the grievances of traders and farmers against the railway companies, and appear on their behalf before the Railway Commission. It gives power to the department, in connection with the county councils, to undertake schemes for reafforesting the country, for reclaiming its waste lands, for developing its inland fisheries, for laying down its disused oyster beds, as France, who learned oyster culture from Ireland, has laid hers down within the last thirty years. It is, in many respects, a supplement to the County Councils Act, and just the measure which is needed to give these new bodies substance instead of shadow to work upon.That is not an exaggerated summary of the provisions of this Bill. It is a correct summary, and if that is so I am justified in regarding this as a measure based on democratic lines. As to the financial aspect of the Bill, the defect we see is that any of this money is drawn from Irish sources. We base our demand that it should all come from Imperial sources upon the case we make as to Irish financial relations. This is not, perhaps, the best opportunity for discussing that question. I have asked myself whether 1527 if we accept the Bill as it stands we shall weaken our position with regard to the general financial question in the future. I believe this Bill will give us a platform from which in the future we shall be even better able to argue that question. The money provided by this Bill is only to enable a beginning to be made; no one suggests it will be, sufficient for the future. There are two motions before the House, one for the Second Reading of the Bill, the other to refer the Bill to a Grand Committee. In my opinion it would be a great misfortune if we occupied the whole of the sitting discussing the Second Reading, and left no time to discuss the second question. My suggestion is that the principle of the Second Reading should be discussed for two or three hours, and then the House should consider whether the measure ought to be referred to a Grand Committee. We certainly ought to do nothing which can afford an excuse to Ministers to withdraw the Bill. It is, perhaps, just as well that the views of an Irish Nationalist Member should be heard in support of the Bill.
§ MR. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)
I do not propose to say anything with regard to the details of the Bill, but, with regard to technical education, I think this is the first step that has been taken to give Ireland the advantage of competing on equal terms with the manufacturers of other countries. The hon. Member for Waterford says there are no manufacturing industries in Ireland, but certainly in the North there are some very large ones; but that is no reason why the manufactures of Ireland should not be very much increased, and there is no reason why districts like Waterford should not do the same as we have done in the North, and a Bill which will encourage these matters by technical education in Ireland is one which will be supported by every Irish Member in the House. Although there are many details which will have to be carefully considered in Committee, I certainly agree with the principle. In my opinion it would be more satisfactory to have two experts on this Board—one to look after technical education and the other agriculture. With regard to technical education you cannot engage in that until you build your institute, and I see no power in this Bill under which that expense can be incurred.
§ MR. WOLFF
Yes, we may have power to borrow, but that is not the way in which this matter ought to be carried out. Then I do not see what the Board of Technical Education has to do except to advise the Chief Secretary when he seeks its advice. I think under those circumstances the Board might be clone without. But, of course, all these matters are matters for the Committee, and I shall not detain the House by discussing them. I will only say I heartily concur with what has fallen from both sides of the House so far, and I look forward to the passing of what I consider is the best Bill, so far as Ireland is concerned, that has been introduced for many years past.
§ SIR THOS. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
I think the treatment of this Bill, on the whole, has been somewhat unfortunate, having regard to the importance of the measure. It would have been more in accord with tradition if the Irish Members had had some instruction with regard to it. But, although the manner of its introduction may not be considered satisfactory, at the same time I am one of those who think it should pass into law with as little delay as possible. I am quite sure that the Chief Secretary is also anxious that it may become law. Speaking broadly of the measure, I approve the principle, but I am not tied to the details, and I think that in Committee we may be able to effect such amendments as would seem to be desirable. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman whether, having regard to the peculiar composition of the Technical Education Board, Sub-section 3, Clause 1, might not be modified. The money required for this scheme is to be taken from the fund for national education, and is to be replaced from another source. I should like to see the allocation of that money retained as it is at present, so that the teachers of Ireland should have their interests safeguarded. Of course, it is well known that the Bill is wanted. Our agriculture is in a deplorable state, and although the amount of assistance given by this Bill is not so much as we should like, it is a step in the right direction, and when we want further amounts we shall get them. One fortunate 1529 feature of the Bill is the additional power it gives to the county councils, thus recognising the right of Irishmen to govern their own affairs. The Bill is a recognition of the claim for Irish management of Irish affairs, and an admission that the people best qualified to know the needs of Ireland are the people living in the country and practically concerned in the working out of the administration. It is a very important thing that the staple industry in Ireland should have the recognition and assistance of Government. As far as the Bill lays down a framework for the development of agricultural and technical instruction, it affords very important and valuable service, and when the county councils understand the working of the measure and how to work it to the best possible advantage, it will be productive of enormous good to the country. On the question of finance, I naturally should like to see more money given to Ireland, but at the same time £168,000 is worth having, and now that it is promised I hope we shall secure it. It does not matter where the money comes from so long as we get it. The main point is that we should have the administration of the money. An important consideration is that by the passage of this Bill we shall clear the way for other legislation for Ireland. It is now practically an admitted principle that each session there ought to be an Irish Bill, and if this Bill is passed this session there is no reason why nest session a Bill should not be brought in to deal with some other pressing question in Ireland. This Bill will be of great advantage to my constituents, who are very much interested in the fishing industry, for, although the Congested Districts Board have done us great service, they have not been able to do all that was required. The people of the North of Ireland, who have great interest in the passing of the Bill, are wrong in supposing they have a greater interest than have the people of the South; the interests are identical, But I, as a southern member, am glad to support the Bill if only as an assurance that we are not so irrevocably hostile to the North as some people seem to imagine, and that we realise that living in the same country we have very much the same interests. It would be an advantage if the North and South pulled together more than they have done hitherto. I 1530 hope the Bill will be read a second time, this afternoon and referred to a Committee, as that, I believe, is the only chance we have of securing its passage this session.
§ COL. SAUNDERSON (Armagh, North)
I rise to urge upon Her Majesty's Government, in the name of the party with whom I act, and also on this occasion in the name of the majority of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the necessity of passing this Bill this session. If the measure is not passed into law the effect will be disastrous, as the Bill has been anxiously looked for, and embodies principles which have led to its universal acceptance by all classes and creeds in Ireland. It gives to Ireland what she really wants to enable her to compete successfully with any other civilised nation in the world. All that the Irish require to achieve that object is instruction. I am happy that on this occasion no burning questions have been introduced, but whether a man is a Home Ruler or a Unionist he likes good butter, he likes to be taught how to pack eggs and how to make bacon, and the proper way to make machinery. In matters of technical instruction and work the Irish are particularly adaptable to learn and succeed, and if this instruction is carried out all over the country, in a very short time Ireland will prove conclusively that she can compare favourably with any other nation in the world. The only thing I regret with regard to the financial part of the Bill is that the whole of the money does not come from the Imperial Exchequer. Seeing that the financial relations between the two countries have not been very satisfactory up to the present, this country, as a salve to her conscience, ought to have been only too glad on this occasion to give the whole of this small sum which she considers necessary to develop the material resources of Ireland, without taking part of it from the funds which were secured by the despoiling of the Irish Church. I earnestly hope no loophole will be afforded for shelving this question. There are parts of the Bill which may require to be altered, but there will be an opportunity to do that when the Bill is before a Committee, and to take any other step now would be to preclude the possibility of carrying the Bill this year, a contingency which I should regard as absolutely disastrous.
§ MR. DAVITT (Mayo, South)
Instead of the opportunity to discuss this measure being an obstacle to the passing of the Bill, as seemed to have been feared, the Debate which has taken place will convince the Chief Secretary that it will smooth the passage of the measure from the House to the Committee. When the hon. and gallant Member opposite speaks as an Irishman he is always interesting, but when he expresses his views as a Unionist he is speaking with the encumbrance of an English feeling weighing down his better nature and sentiments. The hon. Member for Waterford said he would support any measure for the good of the people of Ireland, no matter with what motive such measure was brought forward by an English Minister. That is all right so far as it goes, but there is a corollary necessary to the general acceptance of the proposition, and that is that every such measure should be jealously watched and criticised by Irish Nationalists. We are all familiar with the saying, "Beware of the Greeks when they bring gifts," but that is far more applicable to the position between Ireland and England. Beware of any Minister when he proposes something which he alleges is solely for the benefit of the people of Ireland. The hon. Member for Derby, who generally shows much interest in measures of this kind, gave us a good lecture about the measures we should adopt in cases of this kind. But when he deals with Irish matters he generally falls into a mistake. He referred us to what had been done in Denmark and Wurtemberg in helping agricultural industries in those countries and placing them in the position in which they stand to-day. But, surely, he overlooks a very obvious objection to his argument, for the first and all-important condition in those countries is the national form of government which exists there. I think he will be ready to admit my contention that, if we had not been robbed of our right to look after our own industries by the Act of Union, we should, a generation ago, have done for our agricultural workers in Ireland all, and probably more, than he has found has been done by the national Governments of the two countries to which he has referred. The general opinion in Ireland is entirely in favour of the objects which this Bill intends to promote. There is no doubt, and rightly, a jealous feeling 1532 as regards one of the purposes which lie behind the introduction of this measure. The main objection I have to the Bill is in regard to its machinery in setting up another Dublin Castle Board, and I say this notwithstanding the views which have been expressed by my hon. friend the Member for Waterford. Such boards as these are obnoxious to the national sentiment in Ireland, for they are regarded as centres of jobbery and extravagance, and I will not use any stronger language than that. These boards are over-officialled in every single instance, and exist mainly, in my opinion, for the purpose of providing berths for men who are to be enlisted into the service at Dublin Castle against the popular aspirations of Ireland. This new board promises to have all the bad qualities of the existing bodies, and this is why some of us on these benches look with disfavour upon any proposal to increase this obnoxious system. There is no necessity for this board, even for the carrying out of the admirable objects sought through the machinery of this Bill. There is nothing proposed to be done by this Bill for the agricultural industry or for technical education which could not be carried out just as well by the existing machinery. For instance, it could be carried out by the Congested Districts Board, which would be the least objectionable of all the boards, and which would be very preferable to the one which is now to be called into existence. Why go to the expense of organising this new department if my contention rests upon facts? The Bill has a two-fold purpose: Beyond the main object of creating posts and offices for hungry Unionists in Ireland, it is intended to encourage better methods of agricultural industry and to promote technical education both in town and country. This is the extent of the work generally which is to be done by means of this measure. Now, what is there in such a programme which cannot be carried out by the Congested Districts Board? It is already engaged in encouraging better methods of cultivation, better breeding of stock, better schemes for promoting fisheries, and so on. Now, why not enlarge its powers, increase its revenue, and add to it expert knowledge by placing upon it a few more competent men, rather than have another expensive board, which is not necessary for the real and actual needs of the country? The 1533 real underlying object of the Bill seems to be to multiply posts and offices in Ireland, in pursuance of the general policy of this Government, which has been one of political jobbery from the moment it came into office until the present day. Its general policy has been to dole out grants to landlords, and grants to parsons, and to shareholders of the Niger Company, and this is the policy which is really underlying the proposal of the Government in this Bill. As to technical education, surely the proper and rational way is to begin with the schools and build upwards to the university. That is the scheme which has been adopted in foreign countries, and the existing educational machinery would serve this purpose. That is what ought to be done if the real motive of this Bill is to help Ireland in this matter. I wish to say a few words about the finance of this Bill, which has been so much lauded by the hon. Member for Waterford. It is, I think, clear that the sum of £78,000 which, with other sums, is to finance the working of this measure, is the only amount which is to go to Ireland from the Imperial Exchequer. The other sums mentioned are to be deducted, I believe, from the grants already made for various Irish purposes. Presumably this £78,000, now paid to the Commissioners of National Education, which will be taken for the purposes of this Bill, will be replaced by an additional grant from some Imperial and not from Irish sources. I cannot commend the generosity of the English Exchequer in financing this question, because this £78,000, which is to be the contribution of this great and wealthy Empire for this laudable purpose in Ireland, will amount to about one penny per acre for every acre of cultivable land in Ireland. That is not very generous treatment of a poor country which you persist in robbing every year of £3,000,000 in taxation over and above what the Royal Commission has declared to be its fair share. I have now said practically all I intend to say upon this measure. We are called upon in various ways to contribute most generous and general advice to this new department; the whole of Ireland, in fact, is to be organised in a very systematic manner in order that this advice may be tendered; but I do not find in my reading of the Bill that the county councils, the district councils, or the Chambers of Commerce, 1534 or any other body in Ireland is to have any deciding voice as to the way in which this Irish money on the one hand, and this miserable dole from the Imperial Exchequer on the other, are to be expended. It is all very well to be liberal with the money which costs you nothing, but my contention is that if you are sincere in your desire to help Irish agricultural industries, and to promote technical instruction in Ireland, you should not only give an elective voice to the people of Ireland, but you should give power to the bodies to be called into existence under this Bill to distribute this money to the best advantage, and in the interests of the various counties and localities in Ireland. I hope when we get this Bill into Committee upstairs, we shall be able to persuade the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the Bill is defective in this respect. If he will only show a disposition—which I regret to say he does not often show in this House—to give way to Irish feeling in this matter, he will find that, instead of having to look to these benches for opposition, he will receive encouragement from all sections of the House.
§ * MR. ARCHDALE (Fermanagh, N.)
As a representative of the agricultural interests in this House, I may say that it is my earnest wish, and the wish of the constituency which I represent, that this Bill should be passed into law, and I wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chief secretary for Ireland upon having brought it in. I cordially agree with the views of the hon. Member for Waterford which he has expressed in his speech, and I congratulate him upon that speech, which I am sure will be regarded with great respect in the North of Ireland. With regard to the Bill itself, I think the Government is to be congratulated upon the very liberal conditions which it contains, although I am sorry to say that the North-West of Ireland has been left out in the cold. In the North-West of Ireland we shall get nothing at all, although that section of Ireland contains many counties where the population is dependent upon agriculture. Therefore, I hope we shall receive some further advantage than is now provided under this Bill. As regards the proposal of the hon. Member for South Mayo about the Congested Districts Board, I do not think any practical farmer would favour that proposition. Every agricultural board that I 1535 know in Ireland is in favour of the construction of this new board, and they do not desire the powers of the Congested Districts Board to be extended. I will not occupy any more time, and I again congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon this Bill. I hope he will use his utmost endeavours to pass it into law this session.
§ MR. ARTHUR J. MOORE (Londonderry)
I should like to make one or two remarks about several points which were raised in the speech of the hon. Member for South Mayo. I think anybody who looks at Ireland as a purely agricultural country cannot fail to see the great advantage of having a representative of the great staple industry of Ireland upon the floor of this House, and one to whom we can address questions and receive information. The hon. Member made one other remark about this Government being a Government of grants and doles to parsons and landlords. I think, however, the hon. Member ought to accept this Bill in a more grateful way, considering that the dole to be spent here will reach absolutely the people for whose benefit it is intended. I do not wish to take up the time of the House any longer, because I have been associated with this movement in Ireland, and, therefore, I do not think it is necessary for me to express my opinions at any great length. I feel grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, for the way in which he has persisted in this Bill, for he has been liable and subjected to a great deal of misrepresentation, and I am glad to say that he has borne the difficulties thrown in his way with great patience, and he has now arrived at the fruition of his labours. This is a Bill not merely calculated to benefit Ireland, but it is positively a necessity, especially in view of the progress made in foreign countries, particularly Denmark. We are being absolutely ruled out of the market completely by foreign countries owing to the organisation and better instruction which prevail in them. Look at the position of Denmark. Twenty-five years ago Denmark, with its cold, poor and inclement climate, sent £100,000 worth of butter to this country. At that time Ireland controlled the market, and Cork butter regulated the price throughout the world, and we had almost a monopoly of the butter 1536 trade. Last year Denmark exported £5,000,000 worth of butter. How has that been done? In two ways—by technical education and instruction, and by the organisation of the industry itself. Itinerant instructors are sent round to show how better butter is to be made, and how new machinery and new methods are to be adopted. The interests of agriculture are carefully fostered in the schools, large shows are organised, and surprise competitions between different dairies are established. The number of dairies entering these competitions is listed, and on a given day a telegram is despatched calling on them to send forward their produce at once for competition. The staffs do not know when they may be called upon, and they are kept at an even and continuous pressure. Let me follow for a moment this system of organisation in Denmark. The organisation follows the butter not only from the factory but to the steamer and on to London, and the exact hour at which it will arrive in London is known before it leaves Denmark. I am glad to note in this Bill a clause enabling the department to approach the Railway Commissioners. I hold in my hand a photograph of packages of butter smashed to atoms in transit, but the Danish importers have not to suffer in that way. Even after their butter arrives in London, it is not left alone. It is met by one of the most qualified representatives that any country could have. He has a net-work of representatives throughout the country, and if low class Danish butter is attempted to be sold he prosecutes the vendor in a British court of law. I should like to refer to a matter which is of great interest in the North of Ireland. I refer to the question of flax. Year by year the production of flax is falling off. We are told by gentlemen in Belfast who hold very high positions in the linen trade, that it is falling off from want of proper skill in treating the crop. Continental countries, with their elaborate systems of organisation, are now putting flax of high quality upon the market, which fetches from £61 to £74 perton, as against £56 perton in the North of Ireland. In my own constituency some 10,000 girls depend on the shirt industry of Derry, and that industry must depend on the manufacture of the raw material at the cheapest possible price and in the best condition. There is only 1537 one more question to which I will refer, that is the question of agricultural credit, which has been taken up with such conspicuous success by the hon. Member for Chester. It is a question of enormous importance to relieve the people of Ireland from the toils of the "gombeen" man. The system of agricultural credit has spread over the whole of the Continent, and when I tell the House that in Germany alone the transactions in these credit banks amount to £150,000,000 a year, the importance of the subject to agriculture will be realised. No objection has been raised by the existing banks and institutions in Ireland to the full development of the agricultural credit system, and I am glad to say that the Bank of Ireland, one of the most doggedly conservative institutions in Europe, has offered to lend at a very low rate of interest to any legitimately constituted society. There is a doctrine in Ireland that this measure or similar measurers ought to be delayed until Home Rule or some measure of compulsory purchase is passed. I am perfectly in favour of compulsory purchase if it be for the benefit of the farmers, but that is a question for them to decide. There are differences about it, but for my own part I believe that it is the true lasting and final solution of the land question in Ireland. I wish to protest against this doctrine that we are to have delay. If it be adopted we shall have nothing left to fight for. I only wish to express once more my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for having persisted in this measure, and I am exceedingly glad that he has brought the county councils into it. When in Ireland I found up and down the country a feeling of general hope and sympathy with the progress the county councils were making, and much satisfaction was expressed that the right hon. Gentleman had given them an opportunity of exercising an influence on agriculture. I hope the influence of popular control will be extended in the Committee upstairs.
§ * MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I think it is generally agreed on all sides of the House that we are in favour of the principle and objects of this measure, but there may legitimately be some difference of opinion as to the methods by which it is sought to carry out these objects, and whether the machinery provided in the 1538 Bill is or is not satisfactory. I do not think that the machinery is the best that could be devised for the purpose in view. I find that the department is all-powerful and bureaucratic, as all departments of Dublin Castle are. The Government had a unique and unrivalled opportunity of setting up a popular department, which would command popular confidence. Two years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman brought in a similar Bill, he had not that opportunity, but now, owing to the creation of district and county councils, it would have been quite easy for the Government to have set up this new department on an elective and representative system which would still be in touch with the executive Government. With reference to the Vice-President, it would have been quite simple for the Government to have given the provincial councils or the new Agricultural Board a voice and vote in his election. Of course the right hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding his untiring industry, has more than enough to do, and it would be practically impossible for him to supervise the work of agricultural reform in Ireland, or do more than be the Parliamentary mouthpiece of the department. But is there any reason why the Vice-President of this department should be a Member of Parliament at all or a prominent politician? Would it not be better to adopt the suggestion of the Technical Instruction Committee and appoint a couple of Commissioners who should be experts? The Vice-President is to be appointed and is removable by one of the Secretaries of State. I fail to see why that provision was introduced.
That does not diminish my objection. In the interest of technical instruction you should have a couple of experts appointed by the Lord Lieutenant with the approval of the bodies to be set up under the Bill. I think the most satisfactory part of the Bill is that dealing with technical instruction, and I think it will be a great step in advance. The large council which the Bill sets up, and which consists of nearly a hundred members, will be nothing more nor less than a glorified farmers' club. They have only to meet for the purpose of discussing matters of public interest once a year, 1539 and representatives of farmers' clubs and agricultural associations would do and that just as well. The Agricultural Board may advise the department on matters submitted to them by the department, but they have no power of initiation or of control. The department is omnipotent. It only can initiate expenditure, and that is a very grave and serious defect in the measure. I can remember the right hon. Gentleman, when introducing the Bill two years ago, said that it was generally recognised that the success of such a Board as is proposed to be set up would largely depend upon its getting into real and close touch with the people whose interest it was intended to benefit. But how are you to get into close touch with the people by means of a consultative council? I should have thought that it would have been a simple matter for the Agricultural Board and the department to act together, and to provide that the Agricultural Board, on which the popular element should be represented by two-thirds, should have a voice in carrying out any scheme.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I have already pointed out that the concurrence of the Agricultural Board will be required to any scheme. If the hon. Member will look at Sub-section F of Clause 16, I cannot see how he can say that the department is omnipotent.
§ * MR. J. C. FLYNN
I maintain that it is not only the concurrence of the Board that should be required; the Board should be called in at an early stage, should have the power of consultation with the department, and have a voice in initiating reform. As to the allocation of the surplus money, I find there is a capital sum for the Veterinary College, £10,000 for the Munster Institution—a most useful institution—and £10,000 for sea fisheries. That is a very small sum for the sea fisheries. At present a sum of £4,000 is voted for the inspection of fisheries in Ireland. Will that sum still be voted?
§ * MR. J. C. FLYNN
That is so far satisfactory. I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters, but I have seen correspondence from fish merchants and curers in Ireland, and they say that there should 1540 be a separate Board for Sea Fisheries, or at any rate a kind of sub-department. Beyond all doubt the fishing industry is largely on the increase in the west and south of Ireland, and I believe that if a proper sum of money were placed at the disposal of the department, the sea fisheries of Ireland could be developed to an almost unlimited extent. £10,000 is a very small sum, and with that I am afraid very little can be done in the direction I have named. Another point is that the Government should institute a Government brand for mackerel and hake, the same as is done in Scotland with regard to herring. In regard to the financial portion of the Bill I contend that though it may appear on the face of it that the Treasury is advancing a sum of £78,000, when the subject is carefully examined it amounts to considerably less. Of course the right hon. Gentleman on the First Reading said that the £78,000 will be devoted to education; but it would have been more satisfactory had that been clearly stated. The Treasury officials are so expert, so smart, and sometimes so unconscionable in regard to Irish money, that it will be the duty of Irish members to watch very carefully how they treat this matter in the future. The sum at present voted by Parliament for science and art instruction is £42,300. I contend that when this department takes over the administration of the grants for science and art instruction, it should be separated entirely from the Science and Art Department in England. The proportion of the probate duty which should fall to Ireland is nine-hundredths. The total of Science and Art votes is £996,000, and nine-hundredths of that would be £89,000, instead of £42,300, a difference of £47,000 in favour of Ireland. A great deal has been said in the course of the Debate that nothing shall be done to delay the progress of this measure. We are all in favour of the principle of the Bill, and wish to see it pass this session, but it is our duty to criticise every measure concerned with Ireland, and I am one of those who do not believe that the Bill should be rushed through without fair and moderate discussion. No one can be said to be responsible for the Bill being brought in so late in the session but the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chief Secretary. This measure was mentioned in the Queen's Speech, and it was only 1541 six months after that the Bill was brought in and thrown on the table, and we were asked to pass it quickly, and discuss it upstairs. Complaint in this respect did not come from Nationalists alone. Lord Farnham, the Orange Grand Master, spoke quite as strongly some little time ago. He said:He could not help regretting the announcement made by the Leader of the House of Commons in reply to a question put to him with regard to a measure immensely to the benefit of their country, and which had been mentioned in three different Speeches of the Queen. They were, in brief, told that they were to take it without discussion or leave it alone. That was not the attitude, he maintained, which should be observed in regard to a measure of great and far-reaching importance, and which concerned the prosperity and welfare of their country. He regretted most deeply that a man of Mr. Balfour's position and ability, and a man who they in Ireland all so much admired, should be content to dismiss the question as to the fate of the Agricultural and Technical Instructions Bill with such a discourteous answer. A Bill like it was not a Bill to be rushed through the House of Commons, and he hoped they would be given an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the measure.That showed that there is a very strong opinion In Ireland, outside the National Party, of the scant courtesy with which a measure of this importance has been treated by the First Lord of the Treasury. If proper facility had been given, and the Bill had been brought in earlier in the session, we would have had adequate discussion of its principles, and the details might have been referred to a Committee of the whole House.
§ * MR. MICHAEL AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)
As a supporter of this Bill I may be allowed to make a few criticisms upon it. That those criticisms are different to those of other Irish Members I cannot help. I think the Chief Secretary will recognise the force of my suggestions. This Bill has raised great hopes in the minds of the Irish people, and it is no wonder, although they have not studied it, that many public bodies have passed recommendations in its favour. But while we accept this measure, we are far front accepting it in the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman, and we shall endeavour to considerably amend it in Committee. It is a poor recognition of the keenest needs of Ireland, the evidence of which is apparent in the poverty of the agriculturists and the decay of the manufacturing industries and skilled 1542 trades of the country. How is the state of things to be met? Primarily by recognising the distinctive features of the agricultural as contrasted with the manufacturing industries, and providing the means by which the workers in those industries may be better equipped for their work in technical and manual skill. I contend that this measure does not sufficiently recognise the distinction between the two classes of industry, nor provide for the direct encouragement of either. I put a question to the Chief Secretary on this point a few weeks ago, and he pointed out that I could raise the question on the Second Reading, and that opportunity I gladly take. The powers and duties supposed to be conferred and exercised relate not only to those connected with aiding, improving, and developing agriculture; but with horticulture, forestry, dairying, breeding of horses, cattle, and other live stock, home and cottage industries, the cultivation of and preparation of flax, inland fisheries, and other industries. Beyond this they relate to diseases of animals, destructive insects, statistics relating to agriculture, prices of produce, and the weighing of cattle; besides this to the inspection and encouragement of sea fisheries, the construction of piers and harbours, the supply of fishing boats and gear, the enforcement of bye-laws relating to sea fishing and beyond all these technical instruction, which should be a separate department. Technical education is a subject to which I have paid great attention, and I find that although the Duke of Devonshire, then Marquis of Hartington, declared, in 1889, that technical education was a scandal to this country, and an amendment of that Act was made in 1891, which undoubtedly was of immense advantage, still no improvement has been made which is of material benefit to Ireland. The object of technical education is to familiarise the young lad with all the processes and details of the trade he intends to follow, and to show him how the knowledge he has acquired may be applied in the practical performance of his business. It is found in England that the lad who possesses this advantage is now in greater demand. Other countries lay claim to their technical schools as the great factor in developing their industries, and this shows the still greater necessity of tr eating Ireland more generously in 1543 this matter, But over and above all these multifarious powers and duties, the Bill proposes to transfer to the new department any of the powers and duties exercised and performed by any Government in Ireland, and proposes to deal with these manifold and complicated duties by assisting it with a Council of Agriculture, an Agricultural Board, and a Board of Technical Instruction. The word I take exception to is "assist." The Council of Agriculture is only supposed to meet once a year for the purpose of discussing matters of public interest in connection with any of the purposes of the Act. It is not an arduous duty, and it seems to par-take of a figure-head body, without any appreciable purpose for effective good. Under Clause 12 the Agricultural Board is only enabled to advise the department when any question is submitted to them. It is simply created to advise, and are unable to see that their advice is carried out. But it seems to me such an extraordinary thing to put such a clause in this Bill. The Board of Technical Education is to consist of three persons appointed by the County Councils of each of the City boroughs of Dublin and Belfast, one representing the Urban City districts of the City of Dublin; one each by the County Councils of Cork, Limerick, Londonderry, and Waterford, one by each of the Chambers of Commerce of Dublin, Belfast, and Cork; one by the provincial committee of each province, one by the Commissioners of National Education, one by the Intermediate Education Board, and four persons by the department, but there is no direct representation by the people it will most affect. Is it for one moment to be assumed that such machinery can adequately deal with these interests in Ireland? The department to which all these matters will go will consist of the Chief Secretary as President, and a Vice-President, aided by the transference of the officials already connected with the various departments affected. The Agricultural Board and the Board of Technical Instruction, though bearing the semblance of popular bodies, have no power whatever. They are merely to advise. It is essential to the interests of both the agricultural and manufacturing industries that the powers and duties of the department should be so far separated as to secure adequate provision for technical 1544 instruction being distinctly encouraged. With regard to a agriculture it should include principles underlying the manual operations of husbandry, the principles and application of new methods and new machinery in connection with dairy operations and so forth, following the lines of England, Scotland, and Wales. Out of the Parliamentary divisions of Ireland not more than six or eight constituencies can be expected to return representatives specially concerned in or conversant with manufacturing industries or skilled trades. It is to meet the wishes of the mechanics and artisans of Ireland that I venture to put forward these few points with the hope that in Committee the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will pay some attention to them. The Associated Chamber of Commerce in Ireland have put forward certain suggestions for the improvement of the Bill, which I want to see embodied. Those suggestions are that the Technical Instruction Board should be strengthened by certain additional members, especially representatives of the Trades Councils of Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Londonderry and Waterford, and that the Agricultural Board and the Technical Instruction Board should have power to initiate and act in certain matters. As at present constituted the Bill affords no ground for hoping that the immediate future needs of the people of Ireland in regard to agriculture and technical instruction will be met to any great extent. It will be my duty in Committee to move such Amendments as I have suggested, and, if necessary, to take a division upon each one, believing that in so doing I shall be best serving the interests of those I represent.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
This Bill was introduced on the 8th May under the ten minutes' rule with a very brief and imperfect statement by the Chief Secretary, and since that date the conduct of the Bill by the Government has been such that an impression began to spread throughout Ireland that there was no real intention of passing the Bill this session. Day by day the Bill was put low down on the Notice Paper, and, in spite of repeated questions, the Government refused to give that reasonable and fair notice to which any group of Members are entitled on any important 1545 measure in which they are interested. No Bill of even second-rate importance has hitherto been treated in similar fashion. The debate to-day fully justifies my action in pressing the Government upon the point, as it is manifest that the time now given is certainly inadequate to the importance of the measure. The course pursued has been unjust to the Bill, and unjust in a special manner to the Irish Members. Subsequently, having fallen down from the position they originally took up, the Government sent minatory and threatening messages that if we did not give certain pledges the Bill would probably be dropped. So far as I am concerned, I sent back a message to the Government to conduct their business with proper decency, and that I would give no pledge whatever. The Government have finally abandoned this preposterous and childish attitude, and put the Bill down as First Order for to-day. All I can say with regard to that is that an ordinary night ought to have been given. The policy of the Government in regard to this and other Bills seems to indicate an intention to turn the conduct of Irish business into a perfect laughing-stock and farce.
§ MR. DILLON
The Local Government Bill is the only Irish Bill since the commencement of this Parliament to which anything like adequate time has been given, and even in that case, on the ground of insufficient time to discuss the questions, powers and matters of detail, and more than detail, were left to be settled by Orders in Council and General Orders of the Local Government Board—a process against which I protested at the time, and of which the local bodies are now beginning to tire. If this system is to be carried much further, it would be better at once to look upon Irish public Bills as Provisional Orders, draft them in Dublin, and lay them on the Table of the House, to be taken or left, without any right to propose Amendments or to criticise them. With regard to this Bill, in its principle and the objects aimed at it is most distinctly not contentious. All sections of the Irish people are agreed that something should be done for the development of agriculture and other Irish industries, and that this important subject has 1546 been neglected far too long. But undoubtedly some of the details are highly contentious. The Bill deals with a department of Irish life which undoubtedly touches the very life blood of the Irish people, and if it is badly administered, terribly evil results will be produced, while if well administered excellent results will follow. It is therefore very necessary that full and adequate discussion should take place. At present the Bill seems calculated to set up another purely "Castle" Department or Board, of at least as objectionable a character as any of those of which Ireland is at present possessed. While I am prepared to support any Bill brought in by any Government which is calculated to benefit the people of Ireland, I shall at the same time look with suspicion upon any such measure. Any criticisms of mine will, perhaps, not carry much weight, but the principles embodied in this measure have been adversely criticised by such authorities as the Irish Times and Lord Londonderry. Some hon. Members speak of the large number of resolutions they have received in favour of the Bill, but I have received altogether only about half-a-dozen.
§ MR. DILLON
That may be. Take, for instance, the Louth County Council:We, the Louth County Council, hereby record our disappointment at and disapproval of the financial proposals of the Agriculture and Technical Instruction Bill, which we believe to be entirely inadequate for the accomplishment of the objects in view, and we are of opinion that the representatives of the people should have a more direct voice and responsibility in the control and direction of this department.I entirely agree with that expression of opinion. Then I have another communication which may throw some light upon the so-called popular movement in favour of the Bill. This resolution comes from the Irish Agricultural Society, Limerick, and is signed by Mr. Anderson, the Secretary of the Society. After endorsing the principles of the Bill the resolution goes on:they would, however, point out that the salary named for the Vice-President is entirely inadequate.1547 Now listen to the remarkable reason why they think the salary is inadequate:As the salary of the virtual head of the department must regulate the salaries of all the officials under him, it is of the utmost importance that it should be at such a rate as to enable them to obtain the services of experts of eminence, as the whole success of this department will depend on having the advice to carry out the work of men of real capacity and knowledge, and not persons of the usual routine and job-seeking type.That is a kind of criticism which does not very seriously affect my mind; but, while admitting that such salaries should be paid as will attract good men, it is not to be wondered at that, with the expepience of past years before us, we should look with a certain amount of anxiety at any fresh proposals to create an enormous number of salaried officials in Ireland. No doubt it is true that the case of Ireland, in respect to its number of salaried Ministers, is different from that of England, and must be judged on different principles; but that difference exists in more respects than one, and in considering this proposal to increase the number of salaried Ministers for Ireland sitting in this House we cannot avoid taking into account the peculiar condition of Irish representation in the House. That representation is very peculiarly circumstanced. There are twenty-two Unionists and eighty-three Nationalists, the latter by their pledge and the principle of their party being debarred from taking any office, no matter what Government is in power. In the present Parliament, out of those twenty-two Unionists eleven have received either offices or emolument or honours of some sort. Such a state of things undoubtedly is not calculated to improve the morale of any party. If we turn from the Irish Unionist Party to the general composition of the House, we find that, roughly speaking, in the history of the present Parliament about one in ten of the hon. Members from Ireland who support the Government have received offices or emolument or honours of some kind. The Irish Unionist party already hold 50 per cent. of the official positions in Ireland, and I suppose that under this Bill another hon. gentleman will be made happy. I daresay that, in spite of the remonstrances of Mr. Anderson, it will not be difficult to find a man willing to 1548 accept £1,200 a year. This is an unwholesome condition of things which we cannot shut out from our minds, for the Irish Unionist party, in the course of a short Parliament, have obtained for themselves honours and emoluments for half their number, and that is certainly to be regarded as a danger to the political virtue of the party. That is one consideration which arises in my mind when I consider this proposal to appoint a new Irish Minister. There is another point to which I desire to draw attention. One of the advantages put forward by the hon. Member for Waterford, and a point which he laid great stress upon, and which was also emphasised by the hon. Member opposite, was that this department was no longer to be one in connection with Dublin Castle, nor was the work to be thrown upon the already over-worked Chief Secretary, but this work was to be done by a Minister directly responsible to this House. Now, I venture to point out that the vice-president under this Bill has no independence whatever. He will be the mere servant of the Chief Secretary, and the hon. Member for Waterford will find, on examining the Bill, that after the vice-president is appointed the Chief Secretary will be just as much responsible to this House for all the proceedings of the new board as he is at present responsible for the proceedings of the Board of Works, the Local Government Board, or any other of the boards which are now strictly Castle Boards. I wish to draw particular attention to this feature, because the vice-president will be simply a servant of the Chief Secretary, and will only be able to speak here when the Chief Secretary is away at his dinner. He will have no independence whatever, and the Chief Secretary will still have to answer for all that this new department does. These are points which I think are worthy of consideration, and I should regard it as a strongly objectionable departure if any Member of this House, not at present receiving a salary, is appointed to this post at £1,200 a year, and should not be called upon to face his constituents. There seems to be a sort of opinion in connection with this measure that it proposes a thing which ought to have been done long ago, and that if this measure, which has for its object the promotion of the agricultural industries of Ireland, is passed Ireland will at once become a prosperous and a wealthy 1549 country. But we have to consider what the nature of this measure is. I desire to say at once that this Bill differs in one very important particular from the Bill of 1897. In the first place, the Bill of 1897 did not include provision for technical instruction, and the Chief Secretary, upon introducing that Bill, stated that he intended, in the same session, to introduce a further measure dealing with technical instruction by a separate administration. In the Bill of 1897 the sum of £150,000 was set apart for agricultural loans, and that sum, which was set apart from imperial resources, was denounced at the time as being altogether insufficient. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech in 1897 said that a portion of the surplus was ear-marked for the purpose of technical education in Ireland. Therefore, under that Bill, we had £150,000 set apart, and also a promise of a further grant for technical education. It is my opinion that it would be better if the board for technical education was separated from the agricultural board. I think the necessities of towns and the country districts in regard to technical education are very different, and greater efficiency would be secured if the two departments were kept separate. The total sum placed at the disposal of the department in this Bill is estimated to be £166,000. It is made up as follows: There is £78,000 from the spirit duty, and I should like to know why that sum is not given direct by a Vote. This complication of matters has excited great alarm among the teachers of Ireland, which is not without some foundation, because they are afraid that in the change consequent upon this transfer to the new department some fresh conditions will be attached which may interfere with their present salaries. Why could that assistance not have been given direct without this round about and complicated process? Then there is £70,000 set down as the estimated amount to be paid out of the Church Fund. I think that is a very uncertain estimate, and I doubt whether this much-plundered Church Fund will bear that large amount. I press upon the Chief Secretary to let us have the memorandum of the Treasury showing the effect of the Tithe Rent-charge Bill upon the Church Fund. We want to have the figures, for I remember that so long ago as the year 1894 the First Lord of the Treasury solemnly declared that there was no money left in the Church Fund for any 1550 purpose, and I think now we ought to be able to examine the state of that fund. En any case I do object to this proposal as a precedent of great danger in the future, because it is pursuing a policy which has been recognised from the date of the disestablishment of the Church, when certain grants which were provided for out of the Church fund were utilised to support the Imperial Exchequer, and from that hour the Church fund has been used to relieve the Imperial Exchequer of this country of burdens which it ought to have borne. Then there is £12,000 a year from the Judicature Act, and £6,000 from the Agricultural Schools. Of this sum of £166,000 the sum of £55,000 a year is to be allocated to technical instruction in the towns, which is not a very large sum after all. Then there is £10,000 a year to sea fisheries, which I do think is enough, and this leaves £100,000 a year for the agricultural branch of the department. That is to say that the Agricultural Department under this Bill obtains £50,000 a year less than the amount allotted to it under the Bill of 1897. And yet even the proposals of the Bill of 1897 as regards finance were denounced as entirely inadequate. So much for the financial proposals of this Bill, which I think are altogether inadequate shabby. I come now to the machinery of this measure, and I think some of the statements which have been made on this subject are quite foreign to the question, because if the machinery is bad the Bill will be a failure, and it will either do no good at all, or will do positive mischief. Therefore, it is of vital importance to consider whether the machinery of the Bill is such as is likely to work well, and it is all the more important that I should upon the Second Reading of this Bill draw attention to the faults of its machinery, because if it is sent to the Grand Committee I may not be allowed to be on that Committee. I have already dealt with the question of the Vice-President; I have shown that he will have no independence at all, and that he will be nothing more nor less than a secretary or clerk to the present Chief Secretary for Ireland. I hold the view expressed by the hon. Member for South Mayo that it would have been fax better to have constructed this new department on the lines of the Congested Districts Board rather than give power to the Lord Lieutenant to absorb the Congested 1551 Districts Board into the new department. We all know that the Government have a clear majority on the Congested Districts Board, and that if the Chief Secretary cared he could completely sweep that board and all its work into this new department. I think the Congested Districts Board, with all its faults, should be allowed to continue its existence, and instead of any demand being made to bring it to an end, it ought to be placed upon a more democratic basis. We have heard a great deal of the Agricultural Council which is provided for in Section 8, but that council will have no functions or power whatever under this Act. They are to meet once a year to form a debating society, to express their views, but they will have no power at all and may be disregarded. Now I come to the Agricultural Board. I desire to ask what is the function of the Agricultural Board, because it appears to me that the whole of this Bill is really very much of a delusion. It is called the Agricultural and Technical Instruction Bill, but I notice that this has been somewhat altered, and it is now described as a Bill for establishing a Department of Agriculture in Ireland. Now what are the powers of the Agricultural Board under the present Bill? They are these: If they are asked by the Department they can give advice, but that advice may be treated with contempt. They have no power whatever of initiative.
§ MR. DILLON
But what good will that be to them when they have no power to expend the money themselves? If they did that, the money would only accumulate under the Department until they changed their minds, and it might lie there for ever so far as the power of the Agricultural Board is concerned until the department chose to give way. A great deal has been said about the introduction of the elective principle into the composition of the board, but it has been introduced in a very roundabout way, and the board is almost sure to be composed at least of one-half of the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. When we compare the Bill in this respect with the Act of 1897 we find an extraordinary and amaz- 1552 ing difference. In the Bill of 1897 Clause 12 proposed to transfer to the board control over the money, and the money was to be transferred to the board. In this Bill no money is given to the board; neither is there any control or initiative whatever given to this new body. Under the pretext of popularising the board all its powers are taken away from it and handed over to the department. I say deliberately that in that way the Bill is very skilfully drafted to deceive the unwary, and the elective element is turned into a perfect farce. Under this Bill, for good or for ill, the whole power is centred in the department absolutely, and there is nothing in the Bill to compel them to listen to the advice of the board or of the so-called council. The council is to sit with the Chief Secretary as president and with two vice-presidents; in other words, when you strip the Bill of its embroidery and trimmings you find that the whole machinery is absolutely and solely under the control of the Chief Secretary himself without any restraint or check whatever. That is the machinery of the Bill, and those who see in it an advance in the direction of popular control seem to me to have given but a very slight study to the provisions of the Act. Section 2 provides that all these powers are to be transferred to the department, whereas in the Bill of 1897 all those powers were given to the board. There is only one other point with which I wish to deal, and it is a very important one, because it is a point which is concealed in the drafting of the measure. It is provided that in carrying out the work of this department they may select any public body for the purpose of carrying this Bill into effect: The Bill provides that the department may require that the money shall be applied either directly or indirectly through the agency or with the co-operation of any public body or joint committee, Anyone accustomed to deal with legislation in this country would fancy that in that provision a public body might be taken to mean a body elected by the public. I do not know myself what would be the exact legal definition, but we are left in no doubt as to what is intended by a public body in that sub-section. In the definition Clause it says:The expression 'public body' means any body with the power of levying rates or taxes, and any legally constituted public body, 1553 agricultural society, council, or committee, or any organisation formally approved by the department.The department are to be left at liberty to grant any sums of money they may think fit to any association they like. We may take that as intended to mean that it will be possible to vote money out of this revenue to endow the Agricultural Society of Ireland, and this definition clause is clearly drawn for the purpose of including that association as well as others. I certainly think this is a very large order indeed to introduce into an Act of Parliament, and it is a very vicious precedent to introduce. You first put into the Bill a provision that the money may be distributed through a public body, and then you introduce a definition of the words "public body," so that even a limited liability company can be considered as a public body. If you desire to give power to the department to endow any of these associations or companies, then you ought to bring them in by name, so that we may know what we are doing. If that is not done I do think that this is a very vicious and bad precedent to establish. I think this is trespassing on very dangerous ground, because some of these associations are trading societies, and it is a very large order to give to this department the power to subsidise trade associations. The discussion to-day has entirely justified the view I have taken all along that this is a complicated Bill, and however much Irish Members may be in accord as regards the desirability of carrying out the objects at which the Bill aims, when we come to consider the details I think it will be admitted that there is much which is contentious and highly objectionable, and that it is not at all unreasonable to ask that a fair opportunity shall be given to discuss and alter these details.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
The hon. Member for East Mayo has complained of the conduct of the Government with reference to this Bill. What has been the conduct of the Government? In the first place the Bill was introduced under what is known as the ten minutes' rule, and in the second place we intimated to the House that if this Bill met with severe opposition, and if the discussion on it was protracted, it would be impossible to carry it during the present session. It 1554 was introduced under the ten minutes' rule because it was perfectly clear, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the choice lay between introducing it under that rule or not at all. Then, again, the hon. Member complains that we would not undertake to carry this Bill through the House if it were seriously opposed; but the time at our disposal was limited, and it was preferable to act in the way we did rather than drop the Bill.
§ MR. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting what I said. I never made that complaint. What I complained of was that the Bill had not been put down as the first Order, but no one ever spoke seriously of opposing the Bill.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
If that is the only complaint it has now been removed, because the Bill has been put down as first Order. But the hon. Member goes on to say that he never stated that he would offer that kind of opposition which, although it may not assume the form of direct hostility, still assails the Bill. That is not the impression he has succeeded in conveying either to this House or to the public in Ireland, nor is it the impression which has been conveyed by the journal which habitually supports the hon. Gentleman's views. If our Bill deserves all the hard things the hon. Member says of it I am bound to say it would have been proper for the hon. Member not to assume the attitude he now assumes—the attitude of one "willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike." It would have been more straightforward and honest on the part of the hon. Member if he had frankly and openly opposed the Bill on the Second Reading. Then the hon. Member went on to refer to the statement of the hon. Member for Waterford that this Bill had practically the unanimous support of public opinion in Ireland, and he quoted in the opposite sense the London Letter of the Irish Times written on the day the Bill was introduced. According to that letter the Bill produced a feeling of profound dissatisfaction, and the writer expressed his conviction as to what the hon. Member for Waterford would have said if he had had the advantage of an interview with him, and he also stated what the hon. Member for Dublin University actually 1555 felt on the subject. But why does the hon. Member go back to the date of the introduction of the Bill? If he wants to know what public opinion in Ireland is he should let us take public opinion in Ireland after the Bill was produced, and after the public had an opportunity of fully considering its provisions. What is the use of going back to the date of the introduction of the Bill, before it was exposed to the criticism of public opinion? Then the hon. Member, in order to suggest that this Bill had produced an unfavourable impression on the public, was not content with going back to the date of its introduction, but actually went back to last November, when Lord Londonderry delivered a speech, not on the subject of this Bill at all, but on the Bill introduced two years ago. Really, is the hon. Member so reduced in arguments that he has to go back first of all to the date when the Bill was introduced, and then to last November? I think it shows what a weak case he has got. I shall deal presently with the hon. Gentleman's more detailed criticisms, but passing for a moment to the other speeches, I may say that the general course of the debate has been very gratifying both to myself and to my colleagues, and it has dispensed me, I think, from the necessity of explaining the general principles and objects for which tins Bill has been brought forward. So far as the general objects and principles of the Bill are concerned, there has, I think, been something like unanimity, and therefore, at this hour of the afternoon, I will not delay the House with the reasons which actuated the Government in bringing in this Bill, but I will deal at once with the various criticisms advanced during the course of the Debate. These criticisms have dealt almost exclusively with four points: (1) the constitution of the department; (2) the proposal to give the vice-president a seat on the Board of National Education and on the Intermediate Education Board; (3) the relations between the department and the councils which the Bill proposes to set up; and (4) the financial provisions of the Bill. I will deal with the objections which have been offered on these four points in order. The constitution of the department was objected to by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. He laid down the general principle that it is undesirable to add to the 1556 number of Ministers having seats in this House. As a general proposition, I do not know that I should be disposed to disagree with the right hon. Baronet, but abstract propositions do not take us very far in politics. No doubt it is undesirable to multiply the number of Ministers beyond the necessities of the case. But what we have to consider is whether in any particular instance there is or is not sufficient ground for the creation of a new Minister. The idea of the right hon. Baronet appears to be that there should be very few Ministers, but that they should be very powerful, and that the rest of the work of Government should be carried out by permanent officials. I think everybody must feel the objections which exist to the indefinite creation of new Ministers, but in spite of the right hon. Baronet's objection, we have been slowly but steadily moving in that direction. One of the reasons undoubtedly is the increasing complexity of government in more recent days, and the additional amount of work constantly being thrown on the executive. I might rest the proposal in the Bill on the difficulty which has been felt in many other departments of the Government besides that of the Chief Secretary in coping with the work thrown upon them, but I do not intend to do that. The right hon. Baronet, I think, omitted one of the considerations which weigh with this House from time to time when a new Minister is created. It is that whereas a Minister with a seat in this House is directly responsible to the House, a permanent official is only responsible to his chief, and where the work is of such a kind that it is desirable that it should be carried out by a Parliamentary officer, in such circumstances the right hon. Baronet will admit that the desirability of making that officer responsible to the House is a very strong reason for making him a Parliamentary officer instead of a permanent official. That in a high degree is the case in the present instance. What are to be the duties of the vice-president? The Bill proposes to establish a general council of agriculture, and, in addition, two boards into which the element of popular election will largely enter—a board of agriculture and a board of technical instruction. In order that the working head of the department should carry out his duties in a satisfactory manner it is necessary he should be in close communication. 1557 with those bodies. But it is clearly impossible to impose that duty on the Chief Secretary, who during the six or seven months of the session must be in constant attendance in Parliament. The vice-president whom it is proposed to create under this Bill must necessarily pass a large part even of the Parliamentary session in Ireland. Of course, he will have to come over here for critical and important Divisions, and also when the Estimates for his department are under consideration. But, in constructing this Bill, our intention was that the vice-president should spend a larger part of his time in Ireland than it is possible for the Chief Secretary to do. I do not think, considering the very special character of the duties to be thrown upon him, that they could be wisely or usefully carried out by a permanent official. If it is necessary, in connection with this new department, that there should be Parliamentary responsibility in any real sense of the term, then the head of the department should be a member of this House, and the House will see we had no other way of solving the difficulty except by creating this new Parliamentary officer. So much for the criticisms of the right hon. Baronet. But the constitution of the department has been criticised also from an opposite point of view—the point of view of those who think that the position of the vice-president is not sufficiently strong, as the provisions of the Bill now stand, that his salary should be increased and that altogether he should be an official of a higher rank than is given to him in the Bill. I think this criticism rests to some extent on a misapprehension. The hon. Member for South Mayo read from a document prepared by the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society a plea that the vice-president should receive a larger salary than is proposed, and the argument was based on the assumption that the salaries of the permanent officials under him must necessarily be less. That really is not the case. We have, as a matter of fact, followed as models in the construction of this department the Local Government Board of England and the Board of Trade. In both of these departments there is a Parliamentary Secretary, who occupies a position analogous to that of the vice-president under this Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary of the Local Government Board in England and the 1558 Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade are both in receipt of a salary of £1,200 a year, but the Secretary of each of these departments has a maximum salary of £1,800, and the Assistant Secretary of each has a salary which rises to a maximum of £1,200, an amount equivalent to the salary of the Parliamentary Secretary of the department. Therefore there is nothing whatever in the Bill as drafted which provides that the salaries of the permanent officials shall be less than the salary of the vice-president.
§ MR. DAVITT
Will no distinction be made having regard to the size and importance of England and Ireland?
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
That is for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but in reply to the observations of the hon. Gentleman, I may say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed to fix the salary of the vice-president at the salary now received by the Parliamentary Secretaries of the Board of Trade and of the Local Government Board in England. If the hon. Member means, when he refers to the sizes of the two countries, that the salaries of Irish officials should be smaller——
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
That is a very different thing. I entirely agree that the salary a Government official should be paid, whether in England or in Ireland, should be proportionate to the difficulty, the laborious character, and responsibility of the duties he discharges.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
Oh, no. The department will not be constituted until April, and I do not possess the information myself. It would be impossible for me to give the information suggested, as absolutely nothing has been settled. In constituting the department we have followed the analogy of the Local Government Board of England and the Board of Trade. I have listened to the speeches of hon. Members opposite in order to ascertain what sort of department they would desire. They apparently 1559 desire to have two commissioners, with a president and vice-president. In other words, they wish to base this department on the analogy not of the English Local Government Board, but of the Irish Local Government Board. If that is so, I am bound to say it is the first time I have ever heard any commendation of the system under which the Irish Local Government Board is constituted. An hon. Member observed that I stated the other night the constitution of the Irish Local Government Board was relatively not satisfactory because the permanent officials were able to override by their votes the Parliamentary head of the department. I believe what I said was that if permanent officials had such power as would enable them to override the Parliamentary heads, of a department, all Parliamentary responsibility in the proper sense of the term would be destroyed. You cannot make a Minister responsible unless you give him power. So much for the constitution of the department. The hon. Baronet the Member for West Kerry raised a question, the importance of which I fully recognise, with respect to the position we propose to give to the vice-president on the Board of National Education and the Intermediate Education Board. This proposal was introduced simply from a desire on my part to secure unity among the various bodies entrusted with the administration of educational matters in Ireland. I find that it has been interpreted in some quarters as an indication of a desire on our part to upset the balance which now exists by statute on the Board of National Education as between Roman Catholics and Protestants, and also to upset the similar balance which practically, though not by statute, exists on the Intermediate Education Board. No idea of the kind ever entered my head. I am bound to say I set considerable value on this provision, and I should be sorry to see it removed altogether from the Bill, but, of course, I do not regard it as in any way vital. What I suggest as a compromise, in order to obviate the fears of those who think such a result might ensue, is that the vice-president should have a seat on the board, should have the right to attend meetings and receive papers, but should not have the right to vote. If that compromise is acceptable to hon. Members, I shall be ready to accept it in Committee. 1560 Now I come to the question of the relations between the department and the boards. Here, again, I have listened very carefully in order to ascertain what hon. Members who objected to the suggestions in the Bill had to suggest in place of our proposals, but I have not succeeded in ascertaining that they have any definite scheme. So far as I can understand, the argument of the hon. Member for North Cork and the hon. Member for South Mayo is that instead of giving, as the Bill does, to these boards power to advise the department and the right of veto, in the majority of cases, they should be entrusted with the expenditure of the considerable sum to be placed at the disposal of the department. I would point out that the provisions in this Bill have been to a very large degree taken from institutions which already exist, and which have worked well in foreign countries, notably in Denmark, Wurtemberg, and France. The proposal in the Bill to give to boards elected as to two-thirds of their number upon a system which gives representation to the people the power to veto any expenditure on any money placed at the disposal of the department is an absolutely new proposal as regards any legislation ever passed for this country or for Ireland. It is a new departure, and it gives more power to a body with an element of popular election in it than has ever been given before. But the hon. Member for South Mayo, not content with that, desires that a body, the majority of which is practically popularly elected, should have absolute control over the expenditure of £166,000 a year of public money. I do not hesitate to say that no precedent for such a suggestion can be found in any institution of this kind. There is absolutely no precedent for it in any foreign country which has started an agricultural department more or less on the lines we now propose. In every case the administrative and executive power are retained by the central Government. I will go farther. I do not think, quite apart from precedent, that a popularly elected body, the majority of the members of which are elected in various parts of Ireland, is a body which could be properly entrusted with the administration of funds intended for the use of the whole of Ireland. Such a popularly elected body would be totally unfit for executive and adminis- 1561 trative functions, apart from the control of a central body. A body of that kind would be representative of the different counties, and the greater part of the money would be spent in disputing over the amount of money to be allocated to each county. Yon can only with safety give the administration of such funds as are provided by this Bill to some body which will not be turned in this direction or that by local considerations. The hon. Member has confounded the former Bill with the provisions of the present Bill. He pointed out that the former Bill assigned to the board then proposed to be set up executive and administrative functions. It did so, but then that board was to be wholly nominated by the Government, and formed entirely on the model of the Congested District Board; and considering the machinery at the disposal of the Government at that time the proposals in that Bill were as good as could be tried. But since then a great measure of local government has been passed for Ireland, and it seems to me to be absolutely necessary to base the present proposals on that Act. It would have been possible to have followed the model of the former Bill, but then the element of popular representation would have been dispensed with, and after devoting a great deal of time and consideration to the problem—this is actually the third Bill that has been prepared—I came to the conclusion that the best system to adopt was that giving to the central body administrative and executive powers, enabling this body at the same time to delegate such powers as they desired to other bodies constituted under the Bill, or such public bodies as would usefully exercise such powers. That proposal has been attacked by the hon. Member for Mayo and others.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I would remind the hon. Member that in most countries on the Continent the bodies to which administrative and executive powers are delegated are voluntary agricultural societies. We have not created in this Bill any voluntary agricultural societies, but I would be extremely sorry if the provisions of this Bill prevented the use of these societies as instruments by which the administration of the funds could be 1562 carried out. Of course, we have carefully reserved the power of delegating the functions, not merely to county councils, but to agricultural societies, or even if need be, to the society which seems to arouse the opposition of hon. Members opposite—the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. While I am speaking of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, I must say I cannot commend the hon. Member for East Mayo on his attempts to belittle that society, which he has described as only a "limited liability company." Does anybody who studies the work of that society accept that as an adequate description of it? The description "limited liability company" usually implies that the work is carried on for the profit of the shareholders; but this society has never made, nor does it seek to make, a profit.
§ MR. DILLON
I did not suggest that. On the contrary, I know that they have lost £12,000 in four years. I guarded myself against expressing any opinion for or against the association, although I have my own opinion. What I said was simply that it was a limited liability association.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
Yes, but the hon. Member seemed to think that that was a sufficient description of the association and its object. I hold it is not a sufficient description. The work done by the society has been most invaluable, and those who have conducted it have been most unselfish men. When the hon. Member speaks of the society having lost £12,000 during the three or four years of its existence, does he regard that money as lost?
§ MR. DILLON
If the right hon. Gentleman conducts the Debate by questions I must needs answer. I have not insinuated that the society has sought to make money. I said it had lost money; but, of course, I do not mean that money expended in the cause of benevolence is lost.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I do not think the hon. Member has made his case any better by his interruption. There could be no doubt I think that the hon. Member from his language meant to disparage the work of the society, and I repeat that the work done by the Agricul- 1563 tural Organisation Society has been most invaluable, that the money spent is not lost, but was expended in the public interest, and there was no intention of its being used otherwise. If I look around the various institutions in Ireland, the one which I should pick out more than another as having done good service to agriculture in Ireland would be the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society; and certainly I will not consent to any modification in the Bill that will prevent the department making use of this society. Now, I come lastly to the question of finance. The hon. Member for East Mayo, and others, have described the financial provisions of the Bill as shabby and inadequate. Well, I am perfectly aware that it is a very difficult matter indeed to satisfy hon. Members from Ireland on questions of the expenditure of public funds in that country. Of course I am not able, as they are, to measure the shabbiness or generosity of the Treasury by reference to the Report of the Financial Relations Commission; and, of course, if hon. Members tell me that Ireland is at the present moment being robbed of three millions per annum, that is an argument which raises questions of contributions from the public funds, and which must naturally weigh with them.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
Probably in such circumstances any contribution which this country may make must appear to them to be inadequate. But we are not in a position to take that view as to what is due to Ireland, and I would remind hon. Members that the House of Commons has twice declined to accept the Report of that Commission as conclusive. I am compelled to measure the benevolence of the Treasury by another standard. I must consider the needs of Ireland, and how far they are likely to be satisfied by the proposals I now make. I know there is a general impression that the money with which the department is being endowed will be altogether inadequate, but I think that that opinion has been largely expressed by those gentlemen, inside and outside of the House, who do not take the trouble to inquire into the facts of the case and as to what has been done elsewhere. The money to 1564 be placed at the disposal of the department is to be divided into two portions—for technical instruction other than agricultural, and for agricultural and rural industries. In England the beer and spirit money, or the residue of it, was appropriated to the purposes of technical education. I have taken the trouble to examine what was the share of that residue which came to be applied in England to the work of technical instruction in towns comparable to county boroughs in Ireland. Bristol, for instance, with a population of 221,000, had during the year 1895–96 as its share £5,735, and Sheffield with 324,000 inhabitants received £5,642, Leeds with 367,000 population £6,470, and Liverpool £17,000 annually. Taking Sheffield as approximating in size and area to Belfast, and Bristol as comparable with Dublin, the result of the comparison shows that under our proposal Belfast, with 300,000 inhabitants, would receive £14,236, a great deal more than twice as much as Sheffield, and Dublin, with £245,000 inhabitants, would receive £11,626, or twice as much as Bristol. On the face of these figures the proposal, so far as technical instruction is concerned, cannot be considered inadequate. The amount to be given to Irish cities in the division of the money on the population basis is more than double that which the English towns receive. I come now to the amount to be given for agriculture and other industries, and here the conclusions to which I am driven are again most remarkable, having regard to the perpetual allegations made as to the inadequacy of the funds we propose to give for that purpose. The fact is that under the Bill Ireland will be most generously treated in that respect as compared with other countries. According to a statistical table published in the report of the Irish Recess Committee on agricultural development, it appears that of the countries mentioned, the central authorities of eight do not spend for agricultural purposes a sum exceeding 8d. per inhabitant annually. On the other hand, there are five countries in which the amount of 8d. is exceeded, viz., Holland, which spends for such purposes every year 12d., Hungary 23d., Austria 10d., Denmark 12d., and France 12d. per inhabitant. However, on investigating the matter more closely by the light of the special reports on the systems of the various countries contained in the same book, 1565 I find that these calculations must be seriously modified and reduced before the calculation can be held as truly showing the amount spent for agricultural purposes by the central authority in these countries. I need not go more minutely into the figures, but when the proper deductions are made, I find that in Austria the amount is 6d. per head, in Hungary 12d., France 2½d. In Switzerland the amount of 12d. is arrived at by the expenditure of the cantons, as well as by the Federal Council. If that allowance is made, there, also, the amount spent by the central authority is reduced from 12d. to 6d. It remains therefore, that there are in the whole world only two countries in which the expenditure for agricultural purposes by the central authority amounts to the sum of 12d. per inhabitant. Let me see how Ireland will be treated if this Bill passes. First of all, let me remind the House that £380,000 will be granted for agricultural purposes. That includes the veterinary and the fisheries department, and £66,000 for the Congested Districts Board. The report of the Recess Committee states that if the sum of 1s. per inhabitant was spent for agricultural purposes in Ireland the total amount would be £230,000 per annum, but if this Bill is passed, far more than that amount will be spent in Ireland on agriculture and industries. Apart altogether from the Bill there is at present a total sum of £214,000 a year spent in Ireland for agriculture by various boards, to which there ought to be added the sums allowed to the National Board of Education, and the Intermediate Board, for the teaching of agriculture. The general result, therefore, is, that Ireland would be as generously treated as any country in Europe, whether Denmark, Holland, France, or Prussia, in respect of the amount spent by the central authority for purposes connected with agricultural and rural districts. I think what I have said will bring to the House the conviction that it cannot be said the present proposals are so utterly inadequate as we are in the habit of being told by some of the Irish Members. I do not think they are inadequate. If we were to increase that sum very largely at the present time, it would almost certainly lead to waste and extravagance, and it is far better to commence on a moderate scale. One other complaint has been made by hon. Members this afternoon. It is that these 1566 funds should be drawn entirely from Imperial sources. Now, I cannot myself understand how it can be wrong to expend money out of the Irish Church Surplus Fund for the purposes of agriculture and industry. I cannot conceive any better destination for these funds. What would the hon. Member for East Mayo propose? Is he going to allow that fund to accumulate until he induces the House to pass an Evicted Tenants' Bill? I know he has proposed that. If that was a proper use to make of this money, surely it is a far more appropriate use to make of it to help the struggling farmer. I have done what I could in this matter, I have fought for the fund. I have obtained £78,000 from the Exchequer, anal am I on that ground to omit to use funds from other sources? I maintain that the allocation I have made in this Bill of the Church funds, anal the funds saved under the new Irish Judicature Act, is a proper and useful allocation until the contrary has been shown. I do not think we are open to the charge that we have derived our funds from improper sources. I think I have met almost all the criticism diet has been put forward, and I have very little to add. The object of this Bill is the promotion of the material prosperity of Ireland. That is a policy which from the nature of the case must be regarded by parties on this side of the House as of the highest possible importance, because we have always maintained that the evils from which Ireland suffers are economical rather than political. But I do not desire to suggest that we on this side of the House have in this policy anything like a monopoly. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean suggested that the motive that actuated the Government in introducing this proposal was to "kill Home Rule by kindness," that our object in this Bill was not to develop and build up the material prosperity of Ireland, but to kill Home Rule in Ireland. I am not ashamed in the least to say again what I did say four years ago, that if we could kill Home Rule by kindness well and good, but whether we can or cannot do so, we are determined to do what we can to build up the material prosperity of Ireland, and that is what by tins Bill we have in view. That is our object inn bringing forward tins Bill. If it does something to reconcile Ireland in connection with this country, so much the better. It is clean, from the 1567 Debate that has taken place, that hon. Members share the view that this measure is one which offers the possibility of very great benefit to Ireland, and I earnestly appeal to the House to allow the Second Reading to be taken, and also to co-operate with the Government to the utmost of their power in passing the Bill through its remaining stages.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I understand that there will be no opposition to the proposal to refer this Bill to the Grand Committee. I should, therefore, like to ask two or three questions upon matters which have not been dealt with this afternoon. In the Board of Agriculture Act I observe that by the 8th Section the office of President of the Board of Agriculture shall render the person holding the same incapable of being elected to, or voting there as a Member of, the Commons House of Parliament. I would like to ask why it is that a departure from the English model is to be entered upon, and why the Irish president is to have the right of sitting in this House.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
The Minister will occupy a similar position to that of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade and of the Local Government Board, and neither of those gentlemen vacates his seat at once.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
As one who is friendly to this Bill and is most desirous that it should be passed, I would advise the Government in the strongest way to conciliate public opinion in Ireland, and make the gentleman who fills that office go to his constituents for re-election. Now, the criticism that I am going to offer—and I offer it as a friend of the Bill and not as one desiring to delay it for a moment—is that the English Act confers a number of powers on the English Agricultural Department which we have not got in Ireland, and I would especially mention the case of the Ordnance Survey Department. Why should we have to go to the Board of Agriculture in connection with matters relating to the Ordnance Survey Department? This is essentially a case of local administration. I think we ought to claim that every power that is given to the English Board of Agriculture by this Act should be transferred to the Irish Board of Agriculture by the Bill. There 1568 is one other point which has been already touched upon, and that is the case of the Congested Districts Board. I believe the evils of Ireland are political, and depend for their removal on political measures. Therefore I am bound to regard all these Bills not with unfriendliness but with more or less pessimism as to their effects. At the same time I should be the last to offer any opposition whatever to what I feel to be a genuine attempt on the part of the Government to pass this Bill. This is not the first occasion that I have had to observe that the right hon. Gentleman has given help in this direction, because when I was endeavouring to pass a Bill some time since I received the utmost consideration and assistance from the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. With regard to the Congested Districts Board, why is not the Congested Districts Board placed under this Department? I think it is a mischievous thing that a body like the Congested Districts Board should be allowed to shovel up hundreds of thousands of pounds, as in the case of Lord Dillon's estate, without a single person knowing why the purchase was made, what has become of the money, whether it was a good bargain or not, who were the persons at the back of it, and without having a chance of getting at the minutes of the Board. There is one other observation I should like to make. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that it was said on this side of the House that there is an improper allocation of public money. I do not think that anyone has suggested that, but we do say that every shilling—every sixpence—spent under this Bill is Irish money, either ear-marked for Irish purposes, or coming out of an Irish fund. Therefore, while I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the care he has given to this subject; and while we owe him something for his action, it is not to British benevolence that we are indebted for the money which is about to be spent. But I would especially draw attention to the sum of £78,000 as to which we are entitled to some more sufficient answer than the right hon. Gentleman has already given. The Nationalist schoolmasters of Ireland are considerably exercised in their minds as to this expenditure of £78,000. The right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to quiet their minds by stating that they would get it back in another direction. I am quite 1569 sure he believes that, but I believe it is a Treasury trick, and I will give the House the reason why. It is perfectly clear that this £78,000 a year, if it is to be made up to the National teacher, must be made up by Bill.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
By Vote? Very well then, by Vote. If it is to be made up by Vote, are there to be new conditions saddling these National schoolmasters because they are fighting the Treasury by Petition of Right in Ireland? At the present moment there is a law-suit pending as to the rights of these teachers and whether they have been properly treated by the Treasury. If it is intended to leave this £78,000 unconditionally in the pockets of these men, why is it taken away from them with one hand only to be given them with another Surely it is the merest financial juggling to say that the annual sum of £78,000 is to be paid out of the local taxation account to be devoted to the purposes of this Bill, if you are going to give them £78,000 by a supplementary Estimate. Why not give it them by supplementary Estimate for the purposes of this Bill?
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
The reason why this proposal is made is to bring Ireland into line with England and Scotland. The beer and spirit money in England and Scotland is devoted partly to general local purposes and partly to technical instruction. We desire that this sum should in Ireland be devoted to technical instruction, and the corresponding sums should be supplied out of a Vote of money to the Commissioners of Education to carry out the intentions of the Act of 1890. I can assure the hon. Member that there is no desire to defraud the teachers in any way.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I do not know whether what is known as the "results" system will be allowed to remain or not. Personally, I think it is desirable to modify it, and that some change may be necessary. I think the hon. Member may take it that the interests of the teachers will not be allowed to suffer.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It would have been most unfair by a side wind to affect 1570 the position of the National teachers via the Agriculture Bill. I accept the statement of the hon. Gentleman, and I think it will be accepted by the teachers that nothing prejudicial to their position will be done. But if it turns out upon examination that such prejudice might arise, I, for my part, will claim that the House of Commons is bound to see that no prejudice is allowed to be committed. That is the observation which I rose to make. I do trust the right hon. Gentleman will remember, in dealing with Amendments in the Grand Committee, that he is dealing with an Irish fund, and therefore that the Irish Members, be they whom they may—and I think in this matter I can speak for Conservative as well as Nationalist Members, because I do not think there will be any division of opinion between them—but Irish opinion in this Grand Committee ought to be supreme, because it is Irish money; and so saying I wish this Bill a prosperous passage through the Grand Committeee.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE (Antrim, N.)
I should like to say a very few words on this subject, because my constituents are much interested in it. I observe a desire on the part of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House to speak, and I shall therefore make very few remarks indeed. But I wish to give an assurance to the Chief Secretary of the acclamation with which the people in the north of Ireland have received this Bill. A very important principle in this Bill is laid down in the section which provides that, except in special circumstances, the assistance which the Bill is going to give for local purposes must be made in the first instance by local money. That is the best way of making people who want help help themselves. But I venture respectfully to differ from the Chief Secretary with respect to certain other points of the Bill. It seems to me that if this Bill is to do any good, it must be for local purposes, and the best judges of local purposes are the local committees which we find in the provincial councils. Suppose a question arises as to the butter-making industry, of which Limerick is the centre, I think members of the committees representing the North of Ireland would have a very poor knowledge of the requirements of the industry. Similarly, the members representing the South would have no knowledge of the requirements of the 1571 flax industry in the North. It seems to me, therefore, that the best way would be to place more reliance on the local committees in these matters rather than on a general board—which I think would be unwieldy—for the whole of Ireland. Let the provincial committees, with a central authority, administer the Act. But if they are to administer the Act, they ought to have control of their own funds, and have sufficient money to spend.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, W.)
I only desire to make one remark. I think the reference that was made to the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society was not just. I myself happen to be a member of the committee of that society, and I know that it is composed of gentlemen of all religions and politics in Ireland. It is strictly non-political, it has done a great deal of good work, and I know many gentlemen connected with it who have spent large sums of money out of their own resources in connection with its work. That being so, I think it is only fair, as a member of the committee, that I should make this statement.
§ * MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, W.)
At this late hour I have only one word I desire to say. We are all unanimous in wishing that this Bill shall be read a second time, and I merely rise, sitting where I do, because it might be supposed that on the one hand I did not sympathise with the objects of the Bill, or on the other, that I gave entire approval to the measure as it stands. While I think the principle of the Bill is good, and while it is desirable to do everything to benefit technical and agricultural education in Ireland, which has been so much neglected, in detail this Bill is highly objectionable, and it will be very necessary, to whatever Committee it may go, that it should be very closely watched, especially by the Irish Members. It is a Bill full of detail which an English or Scotch Member could not properly appreciate, and I would instance one point in the constitution of the department which strikes me as most objectionable. According to the statement of the Chief Secretary we might as well not have a Parliamentary Vice-President at all, because he is to be either in a room at Dublin Castle unless when engaged at St. Stephen's on the occasion of an important Parliamentary Division, or in connec- 1572 tion with Irish business. But there is another absurdity with regard to the department, which I do not think I ever saw creep into any other statute among the many absurdities which we often meet with, and that is the clause to the effect that any power or duty of the department may be performed by the president or vice-president or by any person appointed by the president to act on behalf of the vice-president. By this clause a power is given to the president to delegate important duties to any underling in Dublin, and it seems to me extraordinary that such a power should be placed in the president's hands. But while I disapprove of many of the clauses I heartily endorse the principle of the Bill.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.6
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to a Standing Committee on Trade, etc."—(Mr. G. W. Balfour.)
§ MR. DILLON
I venture to suggest that in referring the Bill to the Standing Committee an addition should be made to the number of Irish Members who are on that Committee. There are a great many of us who are not on the Standing Committee, and I think it would be unfair for this Bill to pass through the Committee without giving the Irish Members a full opportunity of proposing Amendments or of considering the Bill more in detail.
§ Question put and agreed to.