§ 2. £2,797, to complete the sum for Household of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
I do not intend to divide the House on this item, although it is essential that I should say a few words upon it. I wish to point out that not a single sovereign out of this large sum which we are asked to vote goes to any purpose of public utility. It is expenditure of an unproductive kind. From first to last this sum is simply voted away as a kind of outdoor relief for hangers-on at Dublin Castle; in other words, for the idle and lounging classes of society. The recipients are younger scions of Unionist Peers. It is only necessary for me to quote one item to prove what reckless extravagance it is. Thank God, the Irish Church has been disestablished, but still in the Castle, which is the refuge of all things base and bad, we have an Irish Church Establishment, and no less than £769 is asked for the purpose of keeping up the services in Dublin Castle chapel. These services are not attended by the Lord Lieutenant. The chapel is used simply as a garrison chapel, and the military chaplains have their expenses and salaries provided for under another uote. The Chapel Royal is one gigantic job for the purpose of giving money to a gentleman who does not earn it—Dean Dickinson. In this villainous Vote we are asked to grant a sum under false pretences—we are asked to give a certain amount as a house allowance to the chaplain. Under the old system the chaplain used to have rooms in Dublin Castle. He does not have them now. He is Vicar of St. Anne's Church, Dublin, the parishioners of which have raised a very fine, commodious, and comfortable parsonage house for him, and for the use of that he does not have to pay one farthing rent. Yet we are asked to give him £150 as an allowance for the rooms 1158 in Dublin Castle which he does not use. This may be a pious fraud, but it is a most nefarious one. Has the right hon. Gentleman any excuse for it? Can he explain away this gross and villainous job? This is another of those transactions which we so often find in connection with that sink of impurity—Dublin Castle. Why should Dean Dickinson have £150 for nothing? I should like to ask, further, for some explanation of another paltry sum—a charge of £100 for travelling and incidental expenses. We have no information given us as to who travels, or why the travelling is done, or why the charge is put upon public funds.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. G. W. BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
The hon. Member has expended a very great wealth of eloquence on this subject. He has selected a particular item, and he has described it as gross, villainous, and nefarious. I trust that the English and Scotch Members who may have heard his language will be able to judge from it what importance they are to attach to the strong words of hon. Members opposite. This charge has come down from time immemorial. This gentleman has held the office of chaplain for a large number of years, and the remuneration attached to the office has always been a salary and house allowance. In the present instance the house is not required, the premises are therefore utilised for another purpose, and, according, to common practice, a money allowance is made in lieu thereof. The criticism of the hon. Member is paltry in the extreme. If there is to be a Court at Dublin Castle it is only right and proper that there should be a clergyman attached it. Considering that the entire cost of the Castle establishment is only just over £4,000, in addition to the Lord Lieutenant's salary of £20,000, and that every Lord Lieutenant in turn finds it necessary to spend another £20,000 out of his own money, I think that these attacks are paltry in the extreme. If the hon. Member wishes to attack the system, let him move to alter it entirely, and do away with the office of Lord Lieutenant, but as long as there is a Lord Lieutenant, and as long as there is a Court attached to the Lord Lieutenancy, I think it is really unworthy of hon. Members to make such attacks as that just delivered by the hon. Member for South Donegal.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
To show the depth of the right hon. Gentleman's ignorance of Irish transactions, let me point out that, although I have attacked but one item in the charge for the spiritual welfare of the Castle establishment, we had a distinct pledge that this ecclesiastical establishment is not to be revived. I therefore say it is nefarious that we should be called upon to vote this money. Here is Dean Dickinson, a most respectable man, asking for £150 for a house which he does not occupy in order to pay the rent of a house which he holds rent free. In 1878 a distinct pledge was given that when Dean Dickinson goes to another sphere of influence, Dublin Castle will cease to exist as a spiritual institution.
§ MR. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman assumes that the people of Ireland are desirous to maintain the institution of the Lord Lieutenantcy. I wish to assure him, from my knowledge of popular feeling in Ireland, that he is labouring under a very great mistake. I should be very glad to see this institution, and the English Rule, bag and baggage, leave Ireland to-morrow, and that is the overwhelming sentiment of the great majority of the Irish people. I venture to think that if the £40,000 now wasted upon these head-quarters of social snobbery in Dublin were expended in promoting Irish industries or technical education, it would confer far greater benefits on the people of Ireland.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 3. £1,229, to complete the sum for Charitable Donations and Bequests Office, Ireland.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
In regard to this Vote, I wish to ask attention to a case which I brought before the House a year and a half ago, in connection with a certain bequest in my own constituency. I have to complain that the Commissioner of Charitable Donations and Bequests has not shown due diligence in attending to the matter. It has relation to a bequest of £5 or £6 a year, which is supposed to be administered by the Protestant rector and Roman Catholic priest jointly. A few years ago a gentleman responsible for the payment of the sum refused to pay it any longer, on the ground that some property 1160 on which it was a charge had been sold. But it has since been discovered that the sum was charged on the entire property, and not merely on that portion which has been sold. We are therefore anxious that the Commissioner shall do what he can to recover this charity, which is for the benefit of the very poor.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 4. £3,900, to comple the sum for Public Record Office, Ireland.
MR. SWIFT McNEILL
This is another Vote on which I should like to say a few words, although it is not my intention to divide the Committee upon it. I think, indeed, the point embodied in it could be better raised on the Vote for the Chief Secretary's salary, and I will therefore only now give a general outline of what may be the purport of my attack if we are permitted to have a Parliamentary fling at that interesting individual. This is a Vote for the keeping of State papers. The late Keeper who, I am sorry to say, is dead, was a very admirable and courteous official, and displayed the greatest enthusiasm in his work. Now, I submit that it is of very great advantage that the important historic documents in Dublin Castle should be seen by the public. They are already seen by members of the public whose political credentials satisfy Dublin Castle. I submit that for historic purposes I ought to have had access to some of these documents. In the usual course I applied to see certain documents and State papers which had relation to the Rebellion of 1798, and the passing of the Act of Union. There is a general rule that these documents after 1793 should not be seen without special permission. I wanted to see them for purposes of historical research, and I was particularly anxious, for reasons which are perfectly obvious, to find out about some of the corrupt transactions which occurred in reference to the Act of Union, and the precise sums which were paid. I also wanted to get the briefs held by Counsel for the State prisoner who was bribed with Government cash to betray his clients' secrets. I knew that these documents were to be found at Dublin Castle. How did I know that? Because it is stated in the history written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University that he was permitted by the 1161 Government to see these documents. I therefore applied to see them myself, but to my astonishment permission was refused me. I publicly accuse the Chief Secretary that, while he is asking for money for the preservation of State documents for the public use, he is only allowing such documents to be perused by his own friends, who will use them gingerly and not against the Act of Union or the vile establishment of which he is only temporarily, and only very temporarily I hope, the head. I will go further into the matter on the Vote for the right hon. Gentleman's salary, and when we reach that I can promise to give him an uncomfortable half-hour.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I am sure that any speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman against me will entertain me very much, whether it lasts a quarter or a half-hour, or even one hour. But as this is only a kind of preliminary skirmish which he intends to develop in battle array on a later occasion, I will only say now that I had no intention of depriving him of any privilege to which he was properly entitled. As far as I recollect the circumstances, they were these. The hon. Member referred specifically to two papers, and requested that he should have permission to see them. It was granted in the usual course. He then made a further request that he should be given power to examine any of the State papers up to the latest date that anybody else had examined them. As this was not a request to see specific papers, but was for permission to rummage among the archives at large, I inquired if there was any precedent for granting it. I was told that a request of that kind was unusual, if not altogether unprecedented.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I made inquiries from the officials, and was told that no such request had been made in the past. I informed the hon. Member that a vague permission of the kind could not be granted.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
It appears to me, from the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, that he is raising a technical point in order to justify his refusal to my hon. friend of permission to examine 1162 these papers. I know it is the custom in regard to State documents to fix a date, beyond which such papers are not allowed to be examined, and I understand, from the statement of my hon. friend, that up to a certain period that date was supposed to be 1793. Yet it is clear that others have been allowed to see papers of a later date, and that no limitation has been put upon researches up to 1803, and later; for in the histories of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University and Mr. Froude, we find copious extracts from these copious secret State papers. All my hon. friend desired was to have the same facilities granted him as were given to these other writers. His distinguished researches in the history of the period of the Union surely entitle him to make that request. As a matter of fact, the hon. Member has done good service in publishing some of these papers, among them two very extraordinary and interesting documents referred to in Mr. Lecky's history, which he explains in a footnote he did not publish because they were of a very revolting and horrible type. I repeat that my hon. friend ought surely to have the same facilities granted to him as are given to other writers.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
What passed between myself and the hon. Member for South Donegal was prior to the publication of the papers referred to by the hon. Member for East Mayo. It is true that no one has a right to see these papers after a certain date, and the permission to see them after a certain date is strictly by favour. Before giving a general permission to inspect the papers it is desirable to know for what purpose the search is to be made. The right hon. Member for the University of Dublin and Mr. Froude are historians of very great repute; and the reserve and caution of the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin was shown by the fact that he did not think it desirable to publish the papers afterwards published by the hon. Member for South Donegal, after he had found from a footnote in the right hon. Gentleman's history that the papers existed. The hon. Member asked to see them; the permission was granted; and the hon. Member immediately availed himself of it to publish the documents. To judge from the action of the hon. 1163 Member, he wished to study the documents from the point of view, not of the impartial historian, but of the partisan. Under these circumstances I can only say that the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo will make me think twice or three times before granting any general permission asked from me in the future.
§ MR. DILLON
I am glad that this Debate has taken place. The question has now assumed a surprising shape and colour, which certainly satisfies me as to the real attitude of the right hon. Gentleman. He charges my hon. friend with a desire to use these State papers for a partisan purpose.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
What I have said now I say simply in consequence of what I have heard to-day. The permission I gave the hon. Member, and the permission which I refused to him, were given and refused before I knew anything of what papers he wished to see.
§ MR. DILLON
I will now deal with the position the right hon. Gentleman has taken up, and I venture to affirm that he will find it to be an absolutely untenable and indefensible position. He charges my hon. friend, who I beg leave to say is an historian of repute, although he may not be so in comparison with Froude and Lecky, with wishing to use the papers for partisan purposes. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that my hon. friend has written important works. And let me also ask him if he thinks that anyone who has read Froude's "History of the English in Ireland in the 18th Century" will deny that that is a most outrageously partisan history. There never was a more violently partisan book than that. I say that, although I believe there is not in this House to-day, or in this country, a greater admirer of Mr. Froude than I am. The history of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University is infinitely more fair, but yet his later volumes cannot be read without seeing in them evidence of partisanship, although I admit he struggles against it. At this time of day is a Party Minister to attempt to judge who shall deal with the history of a period, and who shall be disqualified 1164 from doing so? The irresistible and logical consequence of such a position would be that under a Liberal Government none but Home Rule historians and under a Tory Government none but Unionist historians would have access to the records. Was there ever in the history of literature such a principle laid down? The right hon. Gentleman finds fault with my hon. friend with regard to the publication of the two documents to which I have referred. But they were specially interesting as clearing up a suppressio veri as to the character of an important person. The right hon. Gentleman is practically undertaking a censorship. The right hon. Member for Dublin University thought it prudent not to make known some of the evils and crimes of the class with which he sympathised, so he suppressed these letters; and the hon. Member for South Donegal, who naturally had no such prudential considerations to study in this particular case by publishing the documents, simply left it to the public to form a judgment. This is not a question of authenticity; it is rather a case of the right hon. Gentleman sitting in judgment, and declaring that Mr. Lecky, the historian, exercised a prudent reserve in suppressing certain discreditable documents. If such principles are to be accepted, then the writing of history becomes a fraud. The right hon. Gentleman has refused to open these records in Dublin Castle to my hon. and learned friend, which he has opened to Mr. Lecky and Mr. Froude, because he says these gentlemen have exercised a prudent restraint. That is no way to deal with public documents. I venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman has taken a position which it is absolutely impossible to maintain.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
The hon. Member for East Mayo appears to charge me with taking up the position, that while I am perfectly ready to open these records to anybody who will write history from my point of view, I will not open them to anyone with whose opinions I do not agree.
§ MR. DILLON
My point is that you open these records to men who are Unionists and not to men who are Nationalists.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I see no reason for the hon. Gentleman's inter- 1165 ruption. Supposing that these documents are not open to the public up to a certain date except by the special permission of the Lord Lieutenant or the Chief Secretary—although I believe the restrictions are greater in some offices than in others—it is clear that the Chief Secretary or the Lord Lieutenant in giving permission to any individual to see these papers must be guided by certain general principles. And if anybody applied, for instance, to inspect these papers from a purely historical point of view, unless for very special reasons, he would be allowed to do so. My right hon. friend the Member for Dublin University desired to inspect these papers on that ground, and he was permitted to do so; and if the hon. Member desired in a historical way to deal with them, in all probability the Chief Secretary for the time being would not have withheld his permission any more than he had done to Mr. Froude and Mr. Lecky. But when the hon. Gentleman asked for an inspection of these two papers he immediately proceeded to publish them, not in an essay or in a historical work, but in the Freeman's Journal, and he made use of these papers in order, not to throw light on the events of a previous period, but so as to inflame men's passions in this present year. If I had reason to believe, as I had, that the aim of the hon. Member was not so much historical as partisan, I should think twice before I gave permission to inspect all the records.
§ * MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
There is nothing we want more in Ireland than a true history of Ireland, which has never yet been written and can never be written without access to some of the documents in Dublin Castle. Now, no country can be prosperous and no country can hold its position until its history is known—a history written, not by a partisan, not written on false evidence, but on documents that cannot err. I should like very much to know—as it will assist the House very much to form an opinion on this episode between the Chief Secretary and the hon. Member for South Donegal—the date of that Order which drew the line at 1793. I can understand why the public should not have access to anything in the nature of modern documents which would involve living men, who, perhaps, might have no opportunity of clearing themselves; but the further we recede from 1793 1166 the less reason is there for excluding any responsible member of the public from access to these documents. That rule was made, I believe, thirty years ago or upwards. It strikes me that any document from 1793 to say 1820 might be published in perfect safety so far as living persons are concerned. We want to know exactly what the history of our country has been, and how the country has been brought to its present position. Therefore, I think, when a gentleman filling the position of my hon. and learned friend, one of Her Majesty's counsel, who for some years has been in the honourable and responsible position of professor of Constitutional Law in King's Inn, Dublin, who is a writer of considerable experience and repute, applies for access to papers of this character, I do think that it is rather unreasonable to make it a condition before granting that permission: "Tell me for what purpose you want these papers? "Of course, the man in the street should not have the right to go into Dublin Castle and ask permission to poke over all these old records, for we do not know how that right might be abused. But it was rather hard on a man holding the high political and literary position the hon. Gentleman does, to ask him to give a pledge that if he looks at these papers he will not make any use of them—the more especially when the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor admitted these famous literary characters, Mr. Froude and Mr. Lecky to have access to the papers. For my part, I think everything ought to give way to truth and light in dealing with the past; and whether these documents were to be published in the shape of a letter to the Freeman's Journal, or in a more elaborate form in a chapter of a work by my learned friend opposite, the cause of justice would be served by giving access to these papers to any gentleman whose antecedents were a guarantee that the privilege would not be abused.
§ * MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I have no desire to prolong the discussion on this Vote, but I venture to say that the claim of censorship by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is constitutionally unsound. His two speeches were to the effect that my hon. friend, whose qualifications have been referred to by previous speakers, wished to inspect the records in Dublin Castle not so much to throw light 1167 upon past events in the history of Ireland as to inflame men's passions. What is that but saying that these documents are of such an extraordinary nature as to inflame men's passions. I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman was anxious for the truth, and that he would have given the hon. Gentleman access at once to these documents. I am old enough to remember that when Father Burke was lecturing in America, Mr. Froude got possession of documents in connection with the occurrences in 1641, and published a most virulent and inaccurate pamphlet, which was calculated to inflame passion in America, but Father Burke completely shattered the position of Mr. Froude. That was at the time Mr. Froude was drawing from the archives of Dublin Castle his weapons with which to assail the National cause. After all, the right hon. Gentleman is only a temporary occupant of the office of Chief Secretary, and he has no claim to set up in the position of censor, and to say that all fruitful and useful inquiry into these documents shall be debarred for ever. The right hon. Gentleman speaks about partisans. But I want to know if it would have been possible for the "Rise of the Dutch Republic" to have been written, or the "Life and Character of Philip II. of Spain," had the custodian of the archives at The Hague said to Mr. Motley, "You are a Protestant historian, and you are going to write on a bigoted Catholic monarch, and I will not allow you to examine our records." The claim of the right hon. the Chief Secretary is one which cannot be constitutionally, politically, or historically sustained.
§ MR. LECKY (Dublin University)
In considering the way in which archives of this kind should be treated there are two things that ought to be thought of. One is the distance of period—and it should be remembered that a great portion of these archives deal with people who are the grandfathers of people now living. The other is the spirit in which they are approached. No man, of whatever political opinion, ought to be denied access to these documents of whom it can be said that he is a genuine student of history, who intends to use those documents for real historical and not for mere political purposes, who is sincerely desirous to bring out the lights and shades on both 1168 sides. There is another class of persons, however, who would merely use those confidential documents for the purpose of exciting passion between two nations by selecting facts on one side and leaving out all facts on the other, and who are above all things anxious to wound and hurt those now living who differ from them by raking up some scandal which occurred in the days of their grandfathers. I think the Government are quite right in discriminating between these two classes. I believe that a discretionary power is necessary and that it is very properly put in the hands of the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
The right hon. Gentleman has a wonderful memory. He has repeated almost word for word his own criticism of Mr. Froude in his second volume of "England in the Eighteenth Century," when he said that he only threw a light on everything that was favourable to his own views, and suppressed facts which were not, and that that was not the way in which to write history. In 1886 I went for the first time to the Irish Record Office, accompanied by the late Dean Liddell, and saw for the first time the place where these manuscripts are kept. Sir Bernard Burke showed us over the premises, and of one of the rooms said, "It's here that Lecky and Froude worked, but I never let them in together, because I was afraid they would box."
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
Probably not, but I want to know why was permission given to Froude, a partisan writer on one side, and refused to me, a partisan writer on the other, although I declare I have never suppressed the truth, and I have never, so far as I am aware, acted unfairly and, what is more, have never been accused of doing so.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
It is the spirit in which these documents are approached. (Laughter.) I do not know why hon. Members laugh, for that is a simple statement of how the matter stands.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
The right hon. Gentleman lacks one essential requisite for a Chief Secretary, and that is a good memory. What occurred was this. For several months before this transaction I had written day by day a series of articles in the Freeman's Journal entitled "A Diary in the Irish Rebellion," and it was my wish to show, as far as I could, to the Irish people the events which were taking place 100 years ago. The 18th of November was the date of Wolfe Tone's death, and I found in the work of Mr. Lecky, from which I had derived enormous assistance, that there were two heartless letters connected with the incident which I desired to get hold of. So I went to the Castle, and was, to my surprise, referred to Sir David Harrell, who is a personal friend of mine. He was out, and I called next day, but instead of seeing him I was ushered into a little ante-room, where office-hunters are, I suppose, usually shown. Then one of the clerks or under-strappers, with an expression of half-cunning awl half-stupidity in his face, came and asked me what I wanted. I informed him, and asked him to say that if I did not see Sir David I would address a letter to the Lord Lieutenant and give him two columns in every paper in Dublin. So in came Sir David. The requests that I made in a formal letter were to see the two documents referred to, and a general statement of my desire to see general documents up to a certain date for a literary purpose. Sir David told me that I would get an answer within one hour, and, sure enough, an answer came saying that I was entitled to see the documents of the 18th of November, 1798, but as regards the second request it would receive further consideration. I went to the Castle, took copies of the documents, and incorporated them in the articles which appeared in due course in the Freeman's Journal—articles which were really an historic study of the times, and which I intend eventually to publish in book form. I did not use them pre-eminently for a political purpose. I was most anxious to show what occurred, because we can never understand the present without thoroughly and properly understanding the past. For three weeks 1170 I heard no more, and then my further request was refused. It is a shame to show documents to political supporters, and refuse them to those whose bias—if there is a bias—is in an opposite direction. It is a pretty exhibition that the Chief Secretary now makes on the floor of the House in defence of such action. I am sorry to have detained the Committee so long, but I think the discussion will have done good if it has unmasked Dublin Castle, and proved the Chief Secretary to be one of the most incompetent and indiscreet of Ministers.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.),
who was very indistinctly heard, was understood to say: There are one or two points which are worthy of the consideration of the Committee. We all agree with what was said a few moments ago, that there is a limit of time, for obvious reasons, beyond which documents of this kind should not be accessible to what I may call, for want of a better phrase, "the man in the street"; when they ought to be kept under lock and key under a responsible custodian, and access given to people who are honestly engaged in bonâ fide historical research. I was surprised to hear from tile right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that the custodian of these documents might and ought to use his discretion according to the view which the executive of the time take of the partisanship of the person who applies for access to them.
§ MR. BALFOUR
No, Sir, I did not mean that. I was trying to explain that that was a misapprehension, and that that was not the case.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I am glad we have had that explanation, because I was going to say that if that doctrine was going to be laid down it would be very dangerous. I do not believe there has ever been an historian who has not exhibited some amount of partisanship; it is a common infirmity of the tribe. With regard to my hon. and learned friend, in respect of whom this particular question arises, knowing him as I do, I say that he does come within the class of bonâ fide historians; that he has contributed valuable works towards the elucidation of the History of Ireland, and that he should have the same facilities of access to these documents as other historians.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (York)
I am sure the Chief Secretary tries, so far as he can, to bury the rancorous feeling which obtains in all matters connected with Ireland. Hon. Members on that side, and we on this, feel very strongly on various matters, but a great deal of this feeling of rancour is due to the feeling on the other side of the House, that there is a want of fair play on the part of the Government. I cannot help thinking that the explanation of the Chief Secretary under these circumstances was most unfortunate. Either these papers are meant for the public or they are not.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
Then it lies with the Chief Secretary to say who shall have access to them and who shall not. People who want access to these papers want it for the purposes of making an historical account, and I think it is a little unfortunate that the people who have access to them should sit on this side of the House—
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD
And not upon the other. I am not going into the rights or wrongs of the case, but as an Irishman I desire to see this rancorous feeling buried. I do not think it is right that the Chief Secretary should allow his own supporters to see these papers, and not allow the same privilege to those Gentlemen who happen to oppose his political views.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
These papers are not public, and the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary have cast upon them the duty of saying who may see them and who may not. There certainly ought to be no distinction whatever between an historian holding the political views which we hold on this side of the House and one holding opposite views. I should never dream of refusing access on that account. The question is, for what purpose these papers were going to be used, and in what spirit—[loud laughter from the Irish Benches]. Hon. Members opposite laugh, but I express exactly the same view as was expressed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I certainly demur. I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's expression, "in what spirit."
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
I do not wish to suggest that anybody genuinely occupied in historical research should not have access to these papers, and that is exactly the sentiment expressed by my right hon. friend.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I really must say I much regret both the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Dublin University, and I will begin with the latter first. The reason I regret that speech is that the right hon. Gentleman is a man of letters and a well-known historian, and for a man of letters to get up in this House and defend the position taken up by the Chief Secretary with regard to the control of these State papers is distressing. The second reason why his speech was unfortunate is that he would deny to another man of letters the facilities given to himself. I am a great admirer of the right hon. Gentleman's works, and I know nothing more entertaining than his pages on the secret history of Ireland immediately preceding the Act of Union, where he produces McNally the barrister, who sold his secrets and briefs to the Government. He was counsel for Robert Emmett, and embraced him just before his execution, after having by his treachery handed him over to the gallows. The secret papers of McNally, the informer and spy of the Government, appear in the right hon. Gentleman's work page upon page and add greatly to the effect, and yet the right hon. Gentleman gets up and defends the attitude of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman's proposition is that the matter depended a good deal on the spirit in which the papers were to be used, and also whether they were to be used for inflaming party passions. The right hon. Gentleman may make a speech in the most passive and subdued language, which, in my opinion, is calculated to inflame the party passions of gentlemen who agree with him and with whom I disagree. Such definitions are untenable. I should like to have a definition of the word "spirit." The Chief Secretary went on to suggest as his 1173 definition that my hon. friend was refused these papers because he was going to print them in the columns of the Freeman's Journal. Is the Freeman's Journal an indecent organ because it does not happen to agree with the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman? One of the most honourable traits of the journalism of to-day is that the daily Press deal with great literary and historical questions, but the mere fact of their being daily papers with political views does not deprive them of the right of dealing seriously with historical questions. Would the right hon. Gentleman say that the Daily Express should get these things, but that they should be refused to the Freeman's Journal? I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say the documents were refused to my hon. friend because they were to be printed in the Freeman's Journal—a partisan paper.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
No; I did not say I refused them for any such reason, but because there was no precedent.
§ MR. T.P. O'CONNOR
No precedent! Can any documents be more confidential, more secret, or belong more to the category of papers which ought to be kept under lock and key, except in exceptional circumstances, than the secret reports of a spy and an informer of the meetings of a conspiracy? Such secret documents were actually supplied to the Member for the Dublin University, and yet, in the face of that fact, the right hon. Gentleman says the reason of the refusal to my hon. friend was that there was no precedent. The law is now laid down that the desire to publish in a Nationalist newspaper constitutes an unfitness to be entrusted with documents which are open to the gaze of a Unionist historian for the purpose of advocating his principles. If the people of Ireland come to the conclusion that, not satisfied with his partisan administration of to-day, the right hon. Gentleman extends that partisan administration to matters of literature and history, the right hon. Gentleman has only himself to blame.
§ MR. ARNOLD - FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
I do not know which particular paper it is that has been refused, but it has been suggested that it is a matter of refusing to members of one political party 1174 something which is given to members of another political party. That is not quite the case. Suppose the documents related to 1798, and dealt with the avowed rebellion against this country. It could not be said that that policy had been entirely abandoned. We have heard over and over again that the policy of 1798 was the policy of hon. Members opposite to-day, and that the only thing which prevented their carrying an armed rebellion to a successful issue was lack of opportuntity. It is not unreasonable to make a distinction in this or any other country between those, to whichever party they belong, who desire to see the Government of the country carried on successfully, and those who openly challenge the very existence of the Government, and would destroy the Government if they had the chance. There must be some discretion in regard to these documents when we know that there are members of a party who undoubtedly would make every effort and use every means necessary to carry out the policy to which I have alluded. If there is any doubt felt as to the policy of an armed rebellion against the Crown being the policy which is not only adopted but openly avowed by certain hon. Members opposite, I am perfectly prepared to prove my statement. This is not a question of denying to Irishmen things which ought to be given them, but it is a question of safeguarding the primary interests of the State, and I should certainly support a policy which reserves to the Executive Government of the country some right of discretion. It may be that if there was a change of Government an absolutely opposite view might be taken, but I have very strong reasons to think the contrary would be the case. I remember when this very question of documents came up one of the first things Sir George Trevelyan did was to give an assurance that these documents should not pass into the hands of the Government it was proposed to set up, and I think that that principle would always prevail with British Ministers from whatever section they were drawn, or to whatever party they belonged.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
As regards the general principle of granting facilities to both parties to inspect documents, I could not add anything to what has been said with force and truth by my 1175 right hon. friend the Member for East Fife. But on the general question of keeping documents secret there is no country in Europe which is so scrupulous and so old-fashioned in imposing secrecy upon its public documents as is this country. I remember an instance in which a distinguished American scholar applied for permission to see some public document relating to the outbreak of the American War, but was refused, because, he was told, they were still considered secret. Really it seems a little absurd that at this time of day we should suppose that anything which happened so far back as, say, 1776 could possibly injure this country in any way. It would be to the general advantage of historical science and to the general satisfaction of all parties in this country if the period during which documents are to be considered as being secret and confidential was brought much nearer down to our own time than at present is the case both in Ireland and in England. What reason can he given for keeping these documents secret? Not, I think, that their publicity would hurt the feelings of persons now living with regard to their grandfathers; we cannot carry the application of the respect of persons so far as that. Nor that they relate to events which still are discussed on political platforms. We might discuss political events relative to the great Civil War, but that is no reason for making these documents secret. I would submit that there are only two grounds on which it is right that we should keep secret documents relative to events of the past. I agree there are exceptions. Those grounds are, firstly, if there is anything in the papers which is going to put us at a disadvantage in our negotiations with foreign States; and secondly, if there is anything which will interfere with the efficiency of the existing Government or which will expose any secrets or reveal methods which it would not be in the interests of the public service to make known. But surely these grounds cannot possibly be made to apply to the documents relating to the Irish Rebellion of 1798. We know all about that rebellion, and we know enough for the purpose of making up our minds as to the conduct of the principal actors in that great struggle, and the historical inferences to be drawn from it. I believe that the more historical facts are known the better it is for all parties. It is well, I think, that par- 1176 ticularly in the case of Ireland these facts should be made known. I do not think that there is any danger in this respect. With regard to historians I think if there was ever anyone who wrote with a distinct political bias, and tarnished his name by importing political malignity into his writings, it was Mr. Froude. And yet his book has had the very opposite effect, and no facts that can be published now about the Irish Rebellion of 1798, or Roman Catholic emancipation, can really affect the politics of this country or the policy of the Government. I submit, therefore, that my right hon. friend opposite would do well to consider whether there might not be a relaxation of these rules, and whether the period ought not to be brought down much nearer the present time, so that these difficulties will no longer arise.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
I think the Chief Secretary would be wise in allowing these papers to be published. What we want to know is the truth, and the only way in which the truth can be arrived at is by publishing the correspondence and State papers for the period in question. The objections raised to the publication of these papers would lead one to suppose that there is something we are afraid to have published. If that is so, it is all the more reason why we should persist in our demand.
§ MR. DILLON
There are still remaining one or two other points which I desire to raise which appear to me to be of great importance. The hon. Member for West Belfast has laid down a doctrine which is the guiding principle and Irish practice in this matter, and which was laid down by the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his first speech, namely, that these are matters historical in one sense, but still political, and that you must decide who shall have access to these documents on political principles.
§ MR. DILLON
The Chief Secretary had laid down that the authority in Dublin should consider the object for which access to these papers was sought, and the spirit in which they would be used. Now, when we import such a consideration as that into the question, who 1177 is to be the judge? It must be manifest to all that if the Chief Secretary is to be allowed to judge of the spirit in which the investigator is to use the documents before he gives his permission, there is no freedom whatever in the matter.
§ MR. DILLON
Discretion ought not to exist in regard to the spirit of the investigation; it ought to only exist an regard to the general qualification. When a man who has done bonâ fide historical work comes and makes a demand to see these documents, then, I say, discretion ought to cease. If you allow discretion in such cases as that, you establish a censorship which does away with all investigation. Now, what is the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin? He defended the position of the Chief Secretary on the ground that these papers were such a character and of so confidential a nature that the granting of permission to see these documents requires reserve, prudence, and judicious treatment. Now in what regard is the judicious spirit to be exercised in the judgment of the investigator? The condition laid down is that he must be a man whom they can trust. The Chief Secretary practically set up in his speech this proposition—that he would deny access to these papers to the man who was a political partisan, and would only grant the right to the man who could be trusted to approach the study of the papers in a fair, impartial, and calm spirit. That is a very curious condition indeed. I do not know where there is a man living to-day who can be described as a man of "a fair, impartial, and calm spirit." Why, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University has himself written some of the strongest and almost fierce articles and made speeches in support of the Union, and what right has he to claim a fair, impartial, and calm spirit any more than I have? What right has the Chief Secretary to sit in judgment upon such a question, for he would be inclined to hold that my right hon. friend opposite is impartial because he is in favour of the Union, and that I am not impartial because I am against the Union. That is what this discretion will practically amount to so 1178 long as human nature is constituted as it is at present. What is really the grievance of my hon. friend? It is, that he applied by letter to the right hon. Gentleman to get the same privileges as were given to the Member for the University of Dublin, and he was refused them. Now, I ask, is it fair, or is it good policy, to refuse my hon. friend because he is a Nationalist those facilities which were freely given to the Member for the University of Dublin because he is a Unionist and an historian? Unfortunately it cannot be denied that these facilities have always been granted, so far as I know, to men who supported the Unionist Party, and have always been refused to Nationalists.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 5. £12,113, to complete the sum for Registrar General's Office, Ireland.
§ G. £7,071, to complete the sum for Valuation and Boundary Survey, Ireland.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE
I wish to ask what is the reason of the delay in the publication of the documents with reference to the survey of Ireland. Some of them were published in 1837, and I desire to know if it is on account of expense that the publication has not been continued. The material for the continuation of the series for the whole of Ireland has been collected, and the expense of carrying it out to a conclusion would be nothing like the initial expense which has been incurred. Several Irish county councils have already moved in this matter, and there is a general desire all over Ireland that some steps should be taken to publish these papers. I do not know whether the Government would see their way to starting the publication with a small grant, or, in the event of an Irish County Council bearing half the expense of the publication of the documents relating to its own county, would the Government be prepared to pay the other half?
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HANBURY,) Preston
These Ordnance surveys are not Ordnance surveys in the strict sense of the word at all. In 1837 they were called "Memoirs," and their publication was confined to a particular part of the country. They are on an entirely different footing from the Ordnance Survey, and, although I quite admit there is some- 1179 thing to be said for their publication, it is an entirely new subject, as far as the Vote is concerned.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE
These "Memoirs' relate to the whole of Ireland, and the material for them has already been collected by very eminent men, and there is nothing to be done now except to publish them. I raised the question in the hope that the Government might see their way to help the County Councils in the matter.
§ * MR. FLYNN
A great deal of interest is taken in the question which has been raised by the hon. Baronet. There is another point, however, which I should like to bring under the notice of the Treasury and the Irish Office. It is in regard to the complaints which are made as to the somewhat peculiar and unbusinesslike manner in which the Boundary Commissioners act with regard to revaluation. A short time ago, at Mill Street in my own constituency, a portion of the Great Southern and Western Railway Company's property was revalued and the local body complains of the extraordinary manner in which it was carried out. No intimation was given that the valuation was to be made, and the local authorities consider that it was a great injustice to the general body of the taxpayers that the valuation of a great portion of the land should be lowered, thereby of course increasing the amounts to be paid by the other taxpayers. It would appear that the revaluation should be the other way, because the property of the company has greatly increased in value, and the local authorities were greatly surprised to find that its valuation was reduced by £3,000 or £4,000. There was a somewhat similar case near Kilkenny, where the same procedure appears to have been followed. The Valuation Office gave no notice to the local authority, and the valuation of the property was decreased, thereby throwing a greater burden on the other ratepayers. Surveyors appear to have been sent down to revalue house and land property without any reference whatever to the locality or to the individual concerned. A case came under my own observation a short time ago, where a large merchant in Cork, having made certain alterations in his premises, found that his valuation was considerably 1180 increased without any notice, although he proved to the satisfaction of business men that the alteration in no way affected the value of the premises. The surveyors come down almost in the dark, nobody knows who they are or what they are doing, and probably the ratepayer does not know until he receives a demand from the rate office that his valuation has been increased. Under these circumstances, it is only fair to the locality and the individual concerned that some intimation should be given by the Valuation Office to parties interested as to the date the premises or other property would be inspected, and that the interested parties should meet the valuation commissioner and discuss the matter with him. I think that is a very fair request. Surely the Valuation Office owes something to the public by whom they are supported. They ought to transact their business in a courteous and business-like manner, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will make a note of the point.
§ SIR JAMES HASLETT (Belfast, N.)
As far as valuation in Ireland is concerned, I think we ought to have an absolute change. I have a case before my mind which occurred within the last few days, in which certain premises were revalued. A shop window was put in, and the internal part of the shop was somewhat changed, and that gave rise to a fresh valuation. The old valuation was £115, and the new valuation was £450 on the same premises. I would also point out that our Ordnance Survey maps are exceedingly incomplete. So far as Belfast is concerned, we cannot get one complete Ordinance map of the city, and we have to patch it up in sections. I earnestly urge the right hon. Gentleman to give the matter some attention.
§ MR. DILLON
I wish to know why the six-inch maps in Ireland are not brought up to the same level as similar maps in England. I received a complaint within the last few days that the six-inch maps in Mayo are now being drawn up at such a rate that it will take forty or fifty years to complete the whole survey of the 1181 county. Constant complaints on the matter have reached me from Ireland, and there is no sign of the Ordnance Survey coming to an end. What is required is not a diminished staff, but, on the contrary, a stronger staff, which will enable the work to be grappled with. The operations of the officials have been enormously increased, owing to the action of the Land Commission.
* THE CHAIRMAN
The Ordnance maps are not included in this Vote. The question should be raised in Class 1, Vote 9.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ £24,739, to complete the Public Works Office, Ireland.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE
There are a number of items to which I should like to call the attention of the Financial Secretary. The first has reference to the rates charged by the Department for waterworks and other loans. There is one loan from the Board of Works which presses rather heavily on a part of my constituency. That is the loan made to the Kerry Grand Jury for the construction of a pier at Fenit. The charge on that loan is £5 1s. per cent., which seems to me to be a very high rate of interest.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE
No; interest and repayment. But interest and repayment can be had much cheaper than that.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE
I cannot say that. The Kerry County Council passed a resolution calling the attention of the Commissioners of Public Works to the fact that the rate of interest and the sinking fund amounted to £5 1s. 10d. per cent., which they regard as very high, considering the large amount of capital borrowed for the Fenit Pier, and they desire to convert the balance of the loan into a new loan at 2¾ per cent. I also wish to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that the rates charged for advances for labourers' cottages are not the same in all counties. Wexford and 1182 Kerry are two counties in point. I do not know what is the exact number of cottages in Kerry, but in Wexford there are 1,100, some of them built under the earlier Acts, the result being that Wexford has to pay more for them. I now come to a matter of great antiquarian interest which is under the control of the Board of Works. I allude to the preservation of ancient Irish monuments. I have taken a very great interest in this matter, and I have considerable knowledge of the condition of some of these ancient historical buildings in various parts of Ireland. I think the preservation of these monuments is very much to be desired. The Board of Works has, I understand, inspectors who see that the monuments are kept in proper repair. But to keep a very ancient church in proper repair is a matter requiring great discretion and wide discrimination, and it is not improbable that some of the inspectors are not as qualified for the task as they might be. If the Board of Works found that the local quack who was entrusted with the work was not discharging it satisfactorily it would be very easy for them to communicate with the local secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, or some similar society, and be advised by him. I wish to put a concrete case. There is an interesting old abbey in the island of Inniscaltra, in Lough Derg. The structure is surrounded with bushes, ivy, weeds, and so forth, and the work of clearing them away ought to be done very carefully indeed, as otherwise it is quite possible that some of the stones may be removed. On that island there is also a very ancient burial ground known as the Saints' Yard. It is very antiquated, and there are a large number of monuments with Celtic inscriptions lying about. Not very long ago the remains of some person who had died in the neighbourhood were buried in the Saints' Yard, where nobody is supposed to be buried, and great local displeasure was manifested. I hope steps will be taken to prevent a similar invasion of this holy place in the future. One other point. It appears to me that some of the locks on the canal up to Limerick require looking after. One of them appears to be very much in need of repair. It also would appear to be desirable that these locks should be fitted with a short iron ladder to enable people 1183 to get into the boats in safety, whereby the danger which now exists would be avoided. These are the only points I wish to raise on this Vote.
§ * MR. MICHAEL AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)
I desire to call the attention of the Chief Secretary to a matter affecting the development of the tourist traffic on the Lower Shannon. About two years ago a steamer service commenced to run between Kilrush and Tarbert. I put a question then as to whether this service should not be extended to Glin and Foynes to meet the train coming from Limerick at mid-day, in order to have a through circular route to Tarbert, Listowel and Killarney, which would be much appreciated by tourists. It would also be of great advantage to the people of Glin, which is nine miles from Foynes, and has no means of communication except by road. There is a large industrial school in Glin, and I think it is of importance to the three Unions which support it that this service, which could be easily extended, should not be kept back on account of the slight additional expense attaching to it. On the 15th of July last year I put a question on the subject to the Chief Secretary at the instance of the Grand Jury, and the right hon. Gentleman then stated that the Government had no objection to the Kilrush and Tarbert steamers giving a service to Glin and Foynes, that they were most anxious to have this service put into operation, but that the railway and steamship companies must make their own arrangements. Then I put myself into communication with the Waterford and Limerick Steamboat Company, and to my amazement they stated in reply to my letter that, while anxious at all times to meet the public convenience as far as possible, they felt that in the present condition of the Glin pier it would not be safe for their steamers to call at it, as the ebb tide set on to the pier with such strength as would carry the steamer with great force upon it. Considering that the sum of £10,000 was expended on that pier, I thought it a rather serious reflection on the Board of Works in Ireland and the County surveyor; and I put myself in communication with the County surveyor, who said—I have no hesitation in giving you my opinion. The pier is quite suitable for the steamer traffic. I may add, a new land- 1184 ing stage was erected to my satisfaction by an experienced firm of iron workers. You are correctly informed that some years ago a vessel called regularly there, although the old stage was then worn out and worm-eaten.Further correspondence with the steamship company elicited no more satisfaction to myself, and I left the matter over until I put a question to the Chief Secretary on the subject. This year when a complaint was made, that the railway and steamship companies did not put a service on a certain route, the right hon. Gentleman answered me that the contract between the Commissioner of Public Works and the Waterford Steamship Company was limited to the transit between Tarbet and Kilrush, and that it would not be competent to ask that the steamers should call at Glin, as requested. To a supplementary question I put to him, as to whether the Board of Works would assist in promoting this service, the right hon. Gentleman said that we should have their good-will in the matter. We require more than good-will. The Chief Secretary will admit there is a great discrepancy between his answer last year, and that of a couple of weeks ago.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
What I said was that the contract between the Board of Works and the Steamship Company was for a service between Tarbet and Kilrush. They were perfectly agreeable that the service should be extended to Glin, but they had no power to compel that extension.
§ * MR. MICHAEL AUSTIN
The scenery from Tarbet to Glin and Foynes is splendid. At present the steamer lies at Tarbet for six hours, and it would only take an hour and a half to go from Tarbet to Glin and Foynes, and the same to return. It is principally on behalf of the great institution at Glin that I plead that this service shall be extended to Glin and Foynes.
§ MR. DILLON
I wish briefly to draw attention to a body of men who are under the administration of the Board of Work; that is the Glebe Loan borrowers of Ireland. The money advanced to them has been of considerable benefit to the clergy of the different denominations in Ireland. The Act under which these loans were granted 1185 was passed in 1870 in redemption of a promise which was given by the then Chief Secretary, and by Mr. Gladstone in the coarse of the Debates on the Irish Church Act. Under the Irish Church Act the clergy of the disestablished Church were granted their glebes, which were valued at a million and a half, for the sum of £180,000. That concession was made in order to smooth the passage of the Church Act, and Mr. Gladstone gave a binding obligation to do something towards placing the clergy of other denominations on a footing approaching to equality with the clergy of the disestablished Church. The Glebes Loan Act, founded on that pledge, was applicable equally to the Catholic clergy, the Presbyterian clergy, and the clergy of other creeds. It has been very largely availed of and has worked very beneficially. My hon. friend the Member for Longford reminds me that the clergy of the disestablished Church had a right to avail themselves of the Act, although they had already got a concession to the value of over a million of money. Now, in the course of the speech in which Mr. Gladstone defended this concession, he pointed Out that this was no special advantage conferred upon ministers of religion. The object of the Irish Church Act was to put an end to the religious establishment in Ireland. But another object was to establish the principle of religious equality, and to give all religious bodies a fair start. The principle laid down by Mr. Gladstone was to go as far in the way of advancing public money to ministers of religion who wished to purchase their glebes as it was possible to go without any loss to the Exchequer, and without putting a burden on the taxpayers. I dwell on that point because in reply to the demand which has been made by the Glebe Loan borrowers for some share of the relief recently given to other borrowers of money from the Exchequer, it was said that the principle in granting these reliefs was to draw a distinction between loans which are secured on public rates and loans secured on mortgages on private property. In justifying the denial of relief to the Glebe Loan borrowers, it was said that their loans belonged to the class secured on mortgages on private property, and that there was no collateral security based on rates. But I reply that the Glebe Loan borrowers stand in a totally different 1186 position from other borrowers, whose loans are secured only on individual property. And why? Because the Glebe Loan Act was an Act brought in, not on all fours with other Acts sanctioning loans, but in redemption of a pledge made by Mr. Gladstone on the occasion of an alteration in public policy. These borrowers, therefore, are entitled to claim to be put in a position similar to borrowers under the Land Act, loans under which are made under very generous terms from a Treasury point of view. The principle on which Mr. Gladstone proceeded was to go as far as possible to help the clergy without involving any loss to the taxpayers of the country; but now owing to the great fall in the value of money, the interest fixed upon these loans is manifestly too high, and I think it can be shown that the Treasury is making a large profit on these loans, and therefore the borrowers are entitled to some consideration from the Treasury. In 1897 a very influential deputation waited upon the Chief Secretary in Dublin to represent the views of these glebe borrowers. I desire to emphasise the fact that this deputation was not confined to Catholics, but was largely composed of Protestant clergymen of various denominations. The Chief Secretary, in the course of the very interesting discussion which took place, admitted that the borrowers had, I will not say exactly a grievance, but a strong case, and that the terms on which their loans were granted did undoubtedly throw upon the incumbents who had built their houses an undue burden. It must be remembered that as regards the Catholic Church, as well as some of the Nonconformist bodies, we have had to cover our country with ecclesiastical buildings of all kinds—schools, churches, convents, mission-houses—on a scale which, I venture to say, has never been equalled in any country since the Middle Ages. And that has been done out of the pockets of our own people. Well, the Chief Secretary admitted that there was a strong case, but the Lords of the Treasury, to whom the matter was afterwards referred, argued that these loans were not entitled to the relief given, under the Local Loans Act of 1897, to other borrowers under the Board of Works in Ireland. The Glebe Loan borrowers are entitled to borrow to the extent of three-fourths of the value of their houses, and they pay 5 per cent. on that amount for thirty-five 1187 years in redemption of principle and interest. That involves interest at 3½ per cent. on the sum advanced. They say that that is very high interest at present, in view of the distinct understanding that they were not to be charged more interest than would save from loss and pay the cost of administration. They therefore ask that that interest of 3½ per cent. should be reduced, or, as an alternative, that the same relief as is given by the Land Act of 1896 should be given them—namely, that outstanding balances shall be consolidated and issued as fresh loans with an extended period of repayment. I support these requests on three strong grounds, two of which I have already mentioned. First, Mr. Gladstone's promise; second, the vast expense to which these people have been put; and third, that the Act has been in force for thirty years and there has not been a penny of loss, and practically speaking there are no arrears, and there is no difficulty in recovering the money. It is also a service which, they contend, has given a large profit to the Treasury. On that point I think there is a difference of opinion, because the Treasury say that there has been no profit, and that the expense of administration is great. Of course it is very hard for me, not having all the documents at my disposal, to disprove that completely; but looking at the papers placed in my hands, I fancy there must be a profit, for I am assured that the only expense is, that for a surveyor to go down into the country to certify the work. I am assured there are no legal costs, which are paid by the borrowers, and that a considerable sum is charged against the service for the cost of administration. I do not think that we should deal with this as an exceptional case. No doubt there is a large amount of sentiment at the back of the case; but it is not a sectarian sentiment; it covers the whole population. It seems to me that the one strong argument the Government have for resisting the case is that it may lead to a number of others. On that I have a great deal of sympathy with the Secretary to the Treasury, who I know is open to assaults on all sides. But, still, I think the Government would do a popular thing at no cost if they would grant this concession.
§ MR. HANBURY
I think the hon. Gentleman is hardly correct in saying that the loans made under this Act are remunerative to the Treasury. In fact, I may almost put it that they involve a loss. Considering the number of loans, the expenditure connected with their administration is exceptionally large. The real point in this controversy is that the kind of collateral security required by the Act of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the purpose of reducing the rate of interest on similar loans does not exist in this case, and it would be very dangerous indeed to make a new departore in this particular case. I admit that there are circumstances of some hardship suffered by the glebe borrowers, but we are bound by the Act as it stands, and if we were to alter not only the original Act, but the Act passed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer some years ago, we should be placing ourselves in a very dangerous position. It is, therefore, impossible, without risking the rate of interest which the Treasury is empowered to charge, to make an exception in this case.
§ * MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
I do not wish to occupy the time of the Committee, but I should like to observe that there is hardly any question in which so large a class of Irish people are interested as in the present. It is quite true, as is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, that this is certainly not a sectarian question, nor is it a political one. We can, therefore, talk about it in cold blood. I am informed that the amount of money advanced for glebe lands in Ireland is £545,581, or thereabouts, and that has to be paid for by 1,302 borrowers. Therefore this is a very important question, as my right hon. friend will admit; and it has exercised the minds of those who are interested in the subject for some years. Undoubtedly the rate of interest, compared with the rate of interest charged on other Government advances, is very heavy. For what is it? It is 5 per cent.—3½ Government charge for interest, and 1½ per cent. for the Sinking Fund—and the loans have to be repaid in thirty-five years. So that, in every way it was a very close and hard bargain in 1870, when the rate of interest was considerably higher than it is now. We know now that money has been advanced for various purposes at 1189 3 per cent. and 2¾ per cent. under the Local Loans Act, which has been referred to by my right hon. friend, and which I admit does not apply to this particular case, because it applies only to charges which are secured by local rates, but the spirit of the Act applies. The completely unsectarian and unpolitical character of this question is shown by the deputation which waited on the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in which every denomination was represented. Now, I would press the Government to reduce the rate of interest to a reasonable sum—not in such a way as to prejudice the security of the State—and to extend the time of repayment from thirty-five to fifty years, as has been done under some of the Land Purchase Acts. That would leave the security the same, but it would afford great relief to a very meritorious class.
§ MR. FLYNN
I am convinced that there can be no insuperable difficulty in consolidating the loans and re-issuing them at a lower rate of interest for an extended period. Surely, if a corporation can do that—and it has been done by the Corporation of Dublin—it is not beyond the power and the wit of the Treasury to do the same. The rates of interest are very much lower than when the sum was lent in 1870, and 3½ per cent. is, therefore, an enormous rate to charge.
§ MR. T.D. SULLIVAN (Donegal, W.)
I think it is abundantly evident that there is a grievance pressing upon a large and worthy class of Irish clergyman. They have been asking for relief time after time, and have made a good case, but the Treasury is pleased to turn a deaf ear to it. Now, Sir, the bargain is a hard one. Perhaps at the time it was made it was not unreasonable, but circumstances have considerably changed since then. How is the grievance met? We have heard a good deal lately about money-lenders. It seems to me that the spirit of the money-lender—the "gombeen man"—is very much in the heart of the Treasury. It has been stated, and stated very truly, that those who get the loans possess a special and peculiar characteristic which ought to be taken into consideration. The loans are absolutely safe, nothing has been lost, and nothing is ever likely to be lost. The borrowers are a class of men who are incapable of doing anything un- 1190 fair or unjust in connection with their responsibility, and behind them are parishioners who will not see their clergymen put to inconvenience by their houses being sold and their furniture auctioned. It is therefore a safe transaction, and I think the Government might see their way to meet the case. In the first place, this could be accomplished by reducing the rate of interest—the Treasury are quite capable of arranging that if they thought fit to do so—and, in the next place, by prolonging the time of repayment. If those two measures were adopted great satisfaction would be given in Ireland, not only to the clergy and the different denominations, but to the people who sympathise with them.
§ MR. DILLON
I confess that I am greatly surprised that in making this claim we have received no support whatever from the representatives of the Protestant Party in Ireland. I have in my hand a report of the deputation which waited on the Chief Secretary in December, 1897, on behalf of the glebe land borrowers of Ireland, and I find among the gentlemen who formed that deputation representatives of all the great Church bodies in Ireland. And yet when we bring forward this grievance not one word of support for this most moderate claim comes from hon. Members from the North of Ireland, although we might naturally expect that support from them would have much greater influence with the Government than we can hope to exercise. Local loans should be financed directly out of the funds at the disposal of the Commissioners for the reduction of the National Debt, when the pressure on the market for Consols would, pro tanto, be relieved, and 30 or 40 millions in the hands of the Commissioners used as local loans stock earning more than could be got by redeeming the Debt in a perfectly safe and guaranteed security.
§ * MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
Some few years since I brought this question before the House of Commons and pressed it on the attention of the Government. Although at that time I failed to make an impression, I trust upon this occasion we are all as one as to the need of something being done by the Government to meet the pressing claims of the glebe loan borrowers. There is no 1191 sectarianism or politics in the question, and I hope that the Government will take action in the matter. It seems to me that this is very much a question for Treasury experts. Why not advance to these glebe loan borrowers a sufficient amount of money to discharge the existing liability from some other imperial source? At the present moment the Local Loans Fund Commissioners are advancing money at the rate of a quarter of a million a month at 2¾ per cent. This is the money they are getting from the Post Office Savings Bank and cannot find an opportunity to invest. If the amount of the glebe loan borrowers was paid off and an amount sufficient to enable them to pay them off was advanced to them it might be very easily settled. I think the Treasury might look into this matter and consider whether some relief could not be given in that way so that they might benefit by paying lower interest.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE (Antrim, N.)
Had I known that this question was coming on to-day, or known that anyone in my constituency was interested in the matter, I should have done my best to bring the matter forward. When we are challenged I think we ought to explain our silence. I do not, however, say that in any unfriendly way, and I shall be glad to see the hon. Member for East Mayo carry this matter through.
§ MR. DAVITT
Before this Vote is taken I should like to have some explanation with regard to one item. I find £50 is to be voted for an inspector whose duty it is to inspect ancient monuments and ruins in Ireland. I should like to know who the gentleman is, and what the work is for which he is to get this paltry amount. I do not dispute the amount in the vote, but would rather it be increased. I find in a footnote that a further sum of £200 is given for inspecting national monuments; which money is provided under the Irish Church Acts. I have tried to find some particulars of that £200, but have failed. But I contend that, having regard to the large number of ancient monuments we have in Ireland, a larger sum than £250 ought to be allowed to insure that those monuments should not be allowed to fall into decay. I should like to see some prominent archœological expert appointed for this work, and if such an individual were 1192 appointed, Irish Members on both sides of the House would not object to his being paid a fair sum for the duties which he has to perform. I find that while the inspection of ancient monuments only costs £300, here under this Vote the total salaries for the Board of Works amount to £2,700, and I see that the charwomen employed in cleaning out the offices get more than half the money paid for the inspection of the national ancient monuments in Ireland. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to look into this matter; he may not be so familiar with the ancient monuments and ruins as we are, but if he travelled through the country and saw them he would sympathise with the claim we make, and I trust between this and next year he will make some increase on that account.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE
I beg to support, what has fallen from my hon. friend. We have no fault to find with this gentleman, who is doing this duty, but I think a little more money should be granted for this valuable service. Irishmen take very great interest in this matter, and session after session we bring it forward without any appreciable result; but I hope we shall see some result on this occasion, and that a larger sum of money will be allowed for this purpose.
§ * MR. HEMPHILL
Before this Vote is passed I should like to call attention to a matter which is both unpolitical and unsectarian in its complex. There is attached to the Four Courts in Dublin a very valuable and important library frequented by the Irish lawyers, and through the lawyers the Irish public would be great sufferers by its decay. The Royal Courts of Justice in London, here, also have a library for the benefit of the Bar, and the right hon. Gentleman will hear with surprise that while lighting, firing, furnishing, and cleaning of the library at the Royal Courts of Justice, England, is paid out of the public funds, there is no similar contribution made to the library at the Four Courts, Dublin. I bring this matter forward at the instance of what is called the Bar Council of Ireland, the secretary of which has had a great deal of correspondence with the Dublin Board of Works on the subject; and what I wish to ask is, that a sum should be given to cover the items 1193 I have mentioned. The structure of the library is maintained by the Board of Works, because it is part of a public building, and the sum we now ask for is not large, £200 or £300 would cover it all. Mr. Stephenson, of the Board of Works, tried to draw a distinction between this library and that of the Royal Courts, London, but there is nothing in the distinction, as it was based upon a want of knowledge of what the conditions under which the library existed were. He assumed, because members of the Irish Bar for the most part live at home and transact their business in their own studies, and not in chambers like the Temple, that the library was a sort of chambers and club rolled into one; but that is not the case, and there is no reason why the English Bar should have this contribution made to the expense of their library, and the Irish Bar, which is a much poorer body of men, should have to pay it themselves. The robing room fees is another matter to which I wish to call attention. In the Royal Courts, England, the annual subscription is £1 1s., with a fee of 5s. for the convenience of a peg, and so on. In Ireland, Queen's Counsel have to pay £4 4s., and Junior Counsel £2 2s. The Committee, if I am right, will say, I hope, that this act of justice shall be done. We ask no more, and shall not be content with less.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
I also have been asked by the Council of the Bar to bring this matter before the House. I can prove my case very shortly. We wish to be put on the same footing as the library of the Royal Courts. We have about 400 members, at an annual sub-subscription of £2 2s., which results in 800 guineas a year, out of which we have to provide everything, and consequently there is not much left for buying hooks. The robing room of the Royal Courts in the Strand, again, has a small subsidy, but we in Ireland have to pay for our own robing rooms. I sincerely trust that the Secretary to the Board of Works will see that these grievances are removed.
§ MR. DAVITT
I opposed this proposal last year on general principles. I agree with the saying which is attributed to Peter the Great, that one lawyer is enough for one country. I admit that if that were so, my right hon. friend who sits on the front Opposition Bench would 1194 come first. However, as he has acted very kindly in supporting us to-night, I do not intend to oppose his proposal this year.
§ Vote agreed to.