HC Deb 01 April 1903 vol 120 cc822-46

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.) in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of the Consolidated Fund, of an annual sum not exceeding £185,000 for providing a special grant to be used for the purposes of the Development of Ireland."


The Resolution just read from the Chair invites the Committee to say that it is expedient to institute an annual grant to Ireland of £185,000, charged on the Consolidated Fund. That grant will be devoted to certain purposes, the full nature of which will be explained when the Bill following upon the Resolution is brought in. But the proposals of the Government contain certain features which we admit to be novel, and which we believe to be important; I therefore feel it only due to the Committee to explain the nature of these novelties, and the reasons which have led to their adoption. This sum of £185,000 will be devoted to three purposes. In the first place, as I explained on introducing the Land Bill, the grant will be a guarantee against all contingencies of loss attaching to the flotation of stock issued in order to raise cash for land purchase in Ireland. I spoke at some length on this point last week, and I do not think I need repeat what I then said. During four years there will certainly be a charge of £50,000 a year, and there will be a charge of £20,000 a year in respect of the Congested Districts Board, leaving a sum of £115,000 a year. We may therefore, say, in view of the losses due to floating stock at a discount, that there will at once be available from this grant a sum of nearly £100,000 a year, and that in four years' time there will be available a sum of about £150,000 a year. The second purpose for which this project is mooted is to have a fund from which the educational demands of Ireland can be met. Last year the House authorised the expenditure of nearly £1,400,000 a year for the purposes of education in England. We hold that this grant is the due set-off to that, and that it belongs to Ireland in equity really quite as much as the Irish Church Surplus Fund belonged to Ireland. In the third place this grant can be used for the promotion of economic development and of transit facilities in Ireland. May I say to hon. Members who have not addressed themselves very closely to this question that we hold that the system of equal individual taxation throughout the whole of the United Kingdom must be maintained? But when, that being the case, a large sum is allocated to an exclusively English purpose, it has always been the practice of the House of Commons, for which there are several precedents in recent years, to allocate an equivalent grant to Ireland and Scotland. Parliament has recognised the obvious truth that equality of individual taxation does not by any means secure equality of fiscal treatment unless some regard be paid to the objects to which the sums raised by taxation are devoted.

I now come to the first novelty in the proposal of this year. On other similar occasions, in 1889 and 1890, I think, the equivalent grant to Ireland and to Scotland was calculated upon the proportion of taxation coming from Ireland or Scotland to the common Exchequer. That leads to results which all must hold to be illogical, and results which everybody in Ireland holds to be unjust; because the greater the increase of the taxation the less is the proportion that comes from Ireland, the poorest partner in the business, and so the less is her equivalent grant. As the evil increases the remedy diminishes, and you have only to force up taxation to a sufficiently high point to extinguish the remedy altogether, or to give it in what may be called homœopathic doses. Therefore we make this new departure. We say that the set-off to Ireland shall be calculated not upon the quota coming from Ireland as compared with the quota coming from England towards common purposes but shall be calculated on the populations of the two countries as revealed by the last census. Grave objections have been taken in this House by many economists, and notably by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, to laying down a rule that an equivalent grant was always to be given in one country for precisely the same purposes to which the money had been devoted in the other countries. You cannot force what is sometimes called the doctrine of cy-près very far in this connection. It by no means follows that because a purpose in England is important, urgent, and matured, and can be dealt with, that exactly that same purpose, or a purpose as like to it as can be found, is at the same moment of time equally important, urgent, and ripe for treatment in Ireland. What has been done in the past has been really to offer Ireland the option of voting money on the Estimates for a certain purpose, if she could devote money to that purpose with any profitable result. Take for example the subject of technical instruction. I would ask the Committee to consider how different were the conditions in Ireland and England at the time this House determined to render large sums available for technical instruction. England had an established system of local Government. Ireland had then no such system and did not obtain popularly-elected bodies till some years later. In Ireland, again, the number of towns is small, and their poverty relatively to English towns is very great. What is the result? In the nine years in the case of England between 1892 and 1900, sums amounting to £6,276,404 were devoted to technical instruction in England and Wales. Ireland lost two years altogether in that period; but in the remaining seven years she was only able to spend £71,900 on technical instruction, and out of that comparatively insignificant sum no less than £55,000 was expended in the last year. Ireland did not exactly lose her equivalent grant in that period, but the money had to be dashed down on some ill - considered project or lost altogether. At that time £78,000 a year was devoted to increasing the salaries and pensions of the national teachers in Ireland and the balance was devoted to intermediate education—if it could be earned, on the results in examinations forming part of the grammar-school curriculum. Money has been lavished on intermediate education in Ireland, and those who have had charge of it have most patriotically and without reward devoted themselves to turning it to the best account. But how can such expenditure be turned to good account when elementary education is not levelled up to the necessary standard, when only 55 per cent. of the children attend school at all, and when continuation schools do not exist? Money devoted to intermediate education in such circumstances is money thrown away; and then it is made a reproach that the cost of education in Ireland and the results obtained are not adequate. On the plan of putting money on the Estimates to be dashed down or lost there is no possibility of efficient or economic administration. It must not be supposed that I am blind to the services of those in charge of education in Ireland. The national teachers of Ireland have nobly sacrificed many of the ambitions of manhood in order to provide opportunities to others to win prizes which they deny themselves the opportunity of seeking. But it would be better in the interests of Ireland that this grant should not be flung down before any attempt has been made to correlate education in Ireland. The money would be wasted if Ireland were bound to spend forthwith what she could on education and leave the balance. So that while this grant of £185,000 a year is to be an indemnity to the Treasury against future demands on the score of education, and a promise to Ireland that such demands shall be met when they mature, the whole of it cannot now be profitably spent on education. In my opinion, some part of it may profitably be devoted to the development of evening continuation schools and to the promotion of technical instruction; but Ireland ought not to have to choose between the alternatives of wasting or losing the money. Therefore, the grant must be put in a Bill and held up, that it may be expended on proper Irish objects as the opportunity occurs. In the meantime, what is to be done? In a country that is mainly agricultural, and comparatively deficient in private capital and initiative through no fault of her own, the Government believe that the grant may very well be devoted in the interim to economic development, and above all, I should say, to facilitating transit.


Can the right hon. Gentleman make some statement as to the drainage of the Bann?


That is one of the many projects which may be considered. If this Bill is carried, it will be far more easy to carry out projects on which the opinion of Ireland is generally agreed than it has been in the past, when, after prolonged investigation, a Bill was introduced. It will be possible in future to consider what is necessary for the development of transit facilities in Ireland, or to save large agricultural areas from being destroyed by flood, and to arrive at some fair apportionment of benefit between all parts of Ireland. Last year £100,000 was allocated to harbours in the West of Ireland, and some jealousy was aroused in other parts of the country. It will be only fair, under such a measure as this, to consider favourably a scheme benefiting the north-east corner of Ireland, though I cannot give an absolute undertaking that any one scheme will be dealt with. All these schemes have been put very ably before me, and I only regret that it has been impossible for me to take them up in a business-like manner. It will in the future be far more possible for me to deal with them than in the past. Ireland has now the advantage of popularly - elected bodies, which will inform the Government as to the real needs of the districts. There is too, I believe, a genuine industrial revival in Ireland at the present moment. The schemes which are proposed will have to be examined in their financial aspect by the Treasury, and will then be laid on the Table of the House, and the Report upon them will be issued to Parliament at the end of every year. It may be objected that that does not give a proper or adequate opportunity for discussion in this House.


Hear, hear.


I have given a great deal of time endeavouring to find a fitting solution, but is there any other solution? There is the old method of the past. The old method involved the introduction of a Bill every seven years; and every one imagines that a dole is being given to Ireland. That is not the case. The money belongs to Ireland, and can, in conformity with the opinions of all classes in Ireland, be devoted to these projects. I abandon the method of a separate Bill for each separate object, and I must abandon procedure by Estimates. There is, then, no other procedure known to the House except that of framing schemes and rules and laying them on the Table. Many great purposes have been effected by this method; and any defects in it are to be remedied, not by legislation, but by alteration of the Standing Orders, or by an understanding like that in regard to the Estimates, by which a certain number of days are devoted to certain subjects.


There is the question of a Provisional Order.


That is much the same thing, because you have to pass an Act of Parliament to make it valid. That, at any rate, is a matter which can very well be considered in Committee. I ought not to detain the Committee at any greater length, but I should like to add one word, if I may be allowed to do so, which is strictly germane to the subject matter of this proposal, and which may meet the criticism which is sometimes passed upon similar proposals. It is sometimes asked, "Why is it necessary that public money should be devoted in Ireland to purposes which in England and Scotland are carried out by private enterprise?" There are many reasons. Ireland is comparatively deficient in private capital and private initiative, though not wholly deficient; and if the projects under the Bill are carried out the matter will not end there. Private capital and initiative will add much that is necessary to such works as may be carried out by public money. I have been authorised to say that two most patriotic Irishmen—two captains of industry—in view of the happier social conditions now prevailing in Ireland are prepared to take up the question of transport in Ireland on business lines—not with the object of making money, but of giving facilities for organised transport to the remote agricultural districts in Ireland, and of considering what possibilities there may be of aiding industrial and agrarian enterprise. I think it is a matter of deep significance and hopeful augury when I say that Lord Iveagh and Mr. Pirrie, of Harland and Wolff, are prepared themselves to put up all the capital which is necessary, without going to the public, to assist the districts to see what results can be obtained, and in the light of those results to do what they can to develop the transport facilities of the country in the light of modern invention. Nothing so hopeful, nothing so patriotic, nothing so business-like has been done in Ireland since the time of her industrial prosperity towards the end of the eighteenth century. That two captains of industry from Belfast and Dublin, recognising that Ireland is their country, should make an effort throughout the whole of Ireland, east and west, north and south, and should come forward with their wealth, business ability, and command of expert assistance to help the whole country without regard to political divisions, is a matter of hopeful significance, and goes a long way to justify what we are attempting to do on a small scale with public money.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

The announcement the right hon. Gentleman made at the conclusion of his speech is, as he rightly said, an important, significant, and hopeful one, and it is an indication of the changed condition of Ireland at this moment which creates the greatest opportunity for statesmanship which has existed in that country for a century. I think it is important that the House should clearly understand exactly the business on which we are engaged. It was right and it was necessary, I think, that the right hon. Gentleman should have made the interesting speech which he has just delivered, but the Motion which is before the House is one simply to allocate £185,000 to Irish purposes. That sum, we are told, is a fair equivalent for the money obtained by England and Wales under the Education Act last year. The passing of the Resolution which is before the House does not in the smallest degree bind us to agreement to any of the propositions put forward by the right hon. Gentleman as to the particular allocation of this money. In the first place, let me say that I regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not explain to us more in detail how he arrived at the figure of £185,000. He pointed out that in past times the sum of the equivalent grant for Ireland was based on the proportion of Ireland's contribution to the general Exchequer, and he has most properly pointed out that that was an utterly fallacious test. He has said that in this instance it is calculated on the basis of population. On the basis of population we ought to receive about as much as Scotland, but I find from the Scotch Estimates, over which I have just been looking, that Scotland is obtaining £106,000 for the half year, so that that country is obtaining as an equivalent grant £212,000 for the year. On the basis of population we ought to be entitled to £212,000. That is a criticism which may be met at once by some one speaking from the Treasury Bench with greater knowledge than I possess. That is a criticism that may be met on the spur of the moment. If that sum is equivalent to the grant Scotland is getting, then I say she is getting a great deal more than we are getting


The right hon. Gentleman speaking for the Treasury will explain more fully than I can, but I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is in error in supposing that any preferential grant is to be given to Scotland. The sum of £1,222,000 is given to England, but the explanation may be that that is the full amount, and that it will not be payable this year, and it has been felt that neither Scotland nor Ireland ought to have the full equivalent. Ireland will only get two-thirds of that amount. I think that the amount mentioned for Scotland would be the amount payable in the half year. There is no intention to differentiate between Scotland and Ireland, and I do not think it has been done.


All I can say is that the Scotch Estimates provide for a general aid grant—half a year's grant, £106,000. If it turns out that that is so, if on investigation it turns out that Scotland is to get £212,000 a year, then on the basis of population, which the right hon. Gentleman has stated to be the basis of calculation, we are entitled to the same amount. I take it for granted that the right hon. Gentleman, who I am quite sure is anxious to get as much as possible under that grant, will press his claim to get practically the same sum as is given to Scotland. Now, let me say two or three words in a general way about the suggestion as to the allocation of this money. The right hon. Gentleman has repeated this afternoon what he said in introducing the Land Bill the other day, that a first charge upon this money is to be in connection with the Land Bill, to meet certain possible loss on the transaction. Now, I must say that I do not think this a convenient or proper opportunity to discuss that question. There is no question before the House at the present moment as to the allocation of money, and it would be both premature and improper now to express any settled feeling as to the propriety of putting any charge upon that at all in connection with the Land Bill. That must stand upon its own merits, and must be discussed in connection with the Land Bill. There is nothing in this Resolution to bind us on that matter. There is nothing in the Bill. The allocation of a portion of this money to the purposes of the Land Bill will be by a clause in the Land Bill itself, and that will be the proper opportunity of discussing whatever arises upon it; and, therefore, I content myself with saying upon this occasion that I am not to be taken as expressing my acquiescence at all as to the suggestion that there will be any lien for the purposes of the Land Bill upon this £185,000. That must be left an absolutely open question so far as this Resolution and its effect upon this Bill is concerned, and it must be left open for discussion when we come to the clause of the Land Bill dealing with the matter.

The second question the right hon. Gentleman dealt with was the question of education; and I confess it came to me as somewhat of a relief to find that, notwithstanding he anticipates taking £50,000 for the first four years and £20,000 a year for congested districts out of the fund, and putting upon it other expenses, there will still be about £100,000 available for Irish purposes. Education in Ireland is put rightly in the forefront of these purposes, and although the right hon. Gentleman has put before the House a most ingenious plea that the whole of the money could not be spent immediately on education, still I must for my part reserve my view altogether as to how much of that sum ought to be devoted immediately, without any reservation, to the purposes of education in the country. I know that the question of transit to which he alluded is as important as any in connection with Ireland, but it is impossible for us to consider at this moment, or to express a settled opinion as to whether a proportion, and what proportion, should be spent upon transit, and in what way it should be spent; therefore I desire to put my position upon this matter perfectly openly on the passage of the Resolution and in acquiescing with the introduction of this Bill. I am not, and, in so far as I am speaking for my colleagues we are not, expressing any opinion whatever as to the desirability of charging this fund with any risk whatever in connection with the Land Bill and with other objects than that of education.

The real question that we are called upon to decide at this moment is whether this novel procedure of putting this money into the Bill instead of into the Estimates is one that we can approve of. There was great force in what the right hon. Gentleman said about the money being constantly devoted to this or that purpose on the Estimates, but there is one advantage that the voting of money in that way has over the plan that he suggests, and that is that money on the Estimates is subject to discussion and criticism in this House. He said that he desired that the money should not be put upon the Estimates, so that we shall be able to consider and decide in Ireland how it shall be spent. But who are we? When we speak of "we" in connection with this House, although there are only 100 Irish members out of 670 members of this House, I still remember that there are 100 of them, and that they make themselves heard and understood in this House. But when the "we" means Dublin Castle, without any opportunity of revising and discussing Dublin Castle upon the Estimates, naturally we feel a little anxious upon the matter; and I for my part must say at once I am candidly not in favour of any plan which withdraws absolutely from the cognisance of this House, from the criticism and examination of the Irish Members in this House, proposals for the allocation of money for Irish public purposes. I gather from his speech that what he intends is that the plans by which this money will be spent will be submitted to Parliament in the sense that these schemes will be laid on the Table for thirty or forty days, and if they are not objected to at the end of that time they will be effective. But they can be objected to during that period only under the Standing Order, which provides that after twelve o'clock at night, and then only, can any Member move an Address to the Crown disagreeing with what has been done. We know from our experience of the House that that is an utterly ineffective means of criticism. We know that it is not a means of submitting a proposal to the criticism of the House; and so long as the present system of centralised government exists in Ireland it is a most objectionable thing that money which is to be spent should in this way be withdrawn from all opportunity of examination by the representatives of the Irish people At the same time I concede that the right hon. Gentleman has made out a fairly strong case for dealing with this subject otherwise that on the Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman says there is no solution except by changing the Standing Orders of the House, which I do not suppose he would find easy, or the time, to do. But I do not agree with him. It does seem to me that a provision should be put into this Bill saying that these schemes should be placed on the Table of the House, and that they should not have effect until a Resolution of this House has been passed in their favour. There are provisions of that kind in connection with other matters. As far as I recollect, proposals for the expenditure of money for mail contracts at sea are obliged to be laid on the Table of the House, and they cannot take effect until a Resolution of this House approving them has been passed. I do not see why a similar course should not be adopted with regard to these schemes. That would mean that the Government would give an opportunity of discussing the allocation of this large sum of money once every session, and I think that it would be only fair that the necessary time should be devoted to that purpose. I venture to express my views and my reservations on the various points, and that is all that I feel called upon to do just now. I deprecate at this moment the allocation of this money, and I desire to reserve my opinion upon it. I, however, will not feel satisfied unless some arrangement is come to whereby the allocation of the money is subject to the discussion of this House. The passing of this resolution is merely a preliminary stage. When it is passed, the right hon. Gentleman will introduce his Bill and we would see what it proposes. I do not think that it would be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to get his Bill through the House before Easter, and he would have to consider, in the meantime, very seriously this question of giving an opportunity for the discussion of the schemes in future.


said that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford had suggested that this Resolution was of no great importance in itself, but he thought that it had very great importance.


What I said was that this Resolution did not concern us except with regard to the allocation of the money.


said that the Resolution was essential with reference to the control of the House over expenditure. If this Resolution was passed it would make for ever a charge on the Consolidated Fund of £185,000. Now, that was a very serious matter. There was another point to which he could not help alluding. The right hon. Gentleman had brought before the House a very serious financial proposal in regard to Land Purchase in Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make Ireland into another Scotland it would be very cheap at the price; but in the meantime the right hon. Gentleman had left him in a somewhat confused position in regard to his financial methods. And here they had a Resolution to bring in a separate Bill dealing with a fragmentary portion of his proposal, and in a most inconvenient form, so far as the Irish Land question was concerned. This £185,000 was to furnish the means for floating the Loan of £12,000,000. It represented the difference between par and the highest price at which the right hon. Gentleman would have to issue his stock. He thought this was a most inconvenient way of dealing with a great financial proposal. All the financial proposals should have been brought into one Bill, and not in this fragmentary fashion. The right hon. Gentleman had told the Committee that this was Irish money, inasmuch as £1,400,000 had been granted for educational purposes in England, and the corresponding sum due to Ireland was £185,000, although he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that on a population basis that was not an adequate proportion for Ireland. But surely it could not be said that because England had got £1,400,000 for education therefore Ireland was entitled to £185,000 for Loan flotation expenses or for railways, and possibly a very small portion of it for education.

It was a principle of sound finance that when a sum was charged on the Consolidated Fund the purpose to which it was to be devoted must be distinctly specified. There were, in fact, very few charges on the Consolidated Fund—such as the salaries of the Judges and of Mr. Speaker, which, in the opinion of the House of Commons, should always be paid every year. The sums were always definitely allocated for a definite and specified purpose. Now, in the present case there was no definite purpose specified. For aught he knew a portion of this sum of £185,000 might be expended on a Roman Catholic University for Ireland. He was not arguing against that, but he maintained that that ought to be left to the House to decide. He re-echoed the request of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford to know who "we" is, or rather what "we" are. He presumed that it was the right hon. Gentleman himself and the Lord Lieutenant. If that were so, it was an extremely dangerous thing to make a charge on the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom and leave the expenditure of it wholly in the discretion of the Department of the Lord Lieutenant. He agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that if this £185,000 was to be paid year by year it ought to be put on the Estimates and not as a permanent charge on the Consolidated Fund. What was the right hon. Gentleman afraid of? He suggested various bugbears and bogies. But if the money were put on the Estimates the amount could be varied from year to year. If the population diminished the amount could be cut down. But once put on the Consolidated Fund no alteration could be made in it.


said he suggested that a clause should be inserted in the Bill stating that the schemes were no to take effect until after a resolution approving them had been passed by the House.


said that he personally preferred that the money should be put on the Estimates.

SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)

said the question at issue could not be dealt with as if it were a mere detail of Irish Administration. It was a very serious matter of finance, affecting the charges on the Consolidated Fund; and, in considering such a question, the Committee ought to have the advantage of the presence and guidance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was the guardian of that fund. Unhappily, under this Government we had got into such a lax method of finance that anybody thought they could raise millions of money by methods utterly unknown to our previous practice. It had been said, and truly said, that the charges on the Consolidated Fund were for a definite purpose. The charges on the Consolidated Fund, such as the charge of the Public Debt, the Civil List of the Sovereign, and the family of the Sovereign, and the salaries of the Judges, were intended to be withdrawn from the control of the House, so that they could not be discussed like the Votes in Committee of Supply. The words of the Motion now before the House were— That it is expedient to authorise the payment out of the Consolidated Fund of an annual sum not exceeding £185,000, to provide a special grant to be used for the purposes of the development of Ireland. Was there ever such a slipshod way of dealing with finance? Really, this happy-go-lucky way of dealing with finance as if it did not matter a straw whether or not the principles by which grants had hitherto been dealt with were adhered to, promised badly for the future financial position of the country. If a new charge was to be placed on the Consolidated Fund, the House ought to be told the purpose for which it was intended, and the manner in which it was to be dealt with. Surely it must have been by accident that this course had been decided on. Surely some more regular method of dealing with the finances of the country ought to be adopted than that proposed in this Resolution.


said he could not leave the attack of the right hon. Gentleman unnoticed, even for one moment. The right hon. Gentleman had suggested that this had been brought forward in a happy-go-lucky manner. Whether the right hon. Gentleman had arrived at that conclusion from the speech he (Mr. Wyndham) had made he did not know. He perhaps ought to have made a longer speech, but, at any rate, he thought he had made himself intelligible. He had thought that he had made intelligible in his speech, the purpose for which this grant was to be used. It must not be supposed for one moment that this policy had been hastily adopted. It might be an erroneous policy in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, but it was a policy upon which his heart had been set for two and a quarter years, in order that Ireland in the future should not be defrauded of her fair share from the common exchequer of the United Kingdom. He believed Ireland had been the sufferer, but of this he was quite sure, that the question, whether or not the two countries received as partners in the common exchequer founded in 1817 their fair mutual advantages, was a question that ought not to be involved in obscurity, and it was involved in obscurity now. Hon. Members sitting for British constituencies held—and they may be perfectly right in their opinion—that Ireland was the spoiled child of the national exchequer. On the other hand, Irish Members, Unionists as well as Nationalists, held that Ireland had not always derived the advantages from this partnership to which she was entitled, if the promises of Pitt and Castlereagh were to be carried out in the spirit as well as in the letter. He had come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the method by which not only justice to Ireland but justice to England and justice to Scotland could be secured was, that when a grant was given to one country out of the common exchequer, equivalent grants should be given to the two other countries, the money not to be spent on each country for a common object, but for the particular purpose which would benefit it most.

MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)

said the view taken on the Irish Benches was sufficiently clear to justify the view that where political connections existed such as those which existed between these three different nationalities, as they were called, necessarily involved some special security for fair and just dealing, particularly with regard to those who were the weaker members of the partnership; and when for a purpose local to one partner the common fund was drawn upon, there should be a provision that there should be an equivalent amount at the disposal of the weaker partners for their purposes. But it would never do to say that the purpose must be just the same as that for which one partner had rightly claimed to draw upon the common exchequer. The need might not be the same; there might be as great, or greater, needs on the part of the other partners, but for different objects. The right hon. Gentleman had given one example which he thought would have settled the whole question. £6,200,000 were given to England for education, which was admittedly a local question, and all that was given to Ireland for its so-called equivalent grant was £71,000. That was enough to show that the present system did not produce justice, or give security for justice, but produced, on the contrary, rank injustice. While he entirely agreed with the general observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire that we had, when things were plainer and simpler, a rule which was a wise rule, on the other hand he contended that the present situation had been proved to require that security should be given to the other two partners in the United Kingdom, and that they should have the opportunity, after deliberation, of expending for the purposes most needed by them the equivalent of that grant which the larger and dominant partner demanded for purposes that were most important to itself. That being so, the most convenient way to do it would be to put the grant on the Consolidated Fund that it might appear upon the Statute-book; and it devolved upon those who objected to the adoption of that plan to propound some efficient plan for the remedy of this injustice, and to give that security at the risk of their objections to the grant being put on the Consolidated Fund being disregarded.

The prime thing was to secure justice being done; and as he was strongly in support of this plan, unless some other equally efficient means could be obtained for securing the permanent assistance of the equivalent fund for Ireland, so was he equally firm in declaring that it was absolutely essential that some means should be found whereby the control of the House of Commons might remain over the allocation of the money which, from year to year, was granted for Irish purposes. The right hon. Gentleman proposed that any scheme which the Irish Executive determined was for the benefit of Ireland should be laid on the Table after twelve o'clock at night and unless an Address disaffirmed that view, and another scheme was created, the scheme should remain. It was not necessary to point out what an evasion of the privileges of the House that was. The right hon. Gentleman, who acknowledged the sole and exclusive right of the House of Commons to deal with this money, should devise a plan for giving the House effective power over it, and the effective power should be something analogous to putting this sum on the Estimates. The sum, of course, was voted as a whole, but he thought the disposition of it should come within the purview of this House. We were departing from old Constitutional forms, and the right hon. Gentleman now proposed to depart still further from them in the disposition of this grant. If they were going to depart from the old Constitutional forms of the House of Commons, let them depart as little as possible; and let them, if they were going to travel in new paths, determine that those paths should be in a line with those forms, and that any proposal of the Irish Executive should be a proposal to the House, upon which there could be a debate and a division. That was really the nearest approach that could be made to the absence of the substance of the Constitutional power of this House, consistent with the remedying of the injustice which the right hon. Gentleman was most earnestly seeking to remove.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

said he did not gather that anyone had any objection to the object that the right hon. Gentleman had in view. It was with regard to the machinery for carrying out that object that the discussion had arisen. When the Prime Minister stated that this Resolution would form part of the business of the day he said he did not think it would lead to any controversy, yet, on the contrary, it had involved the House in a great constitutional debate. He agreed with the hon. Member for Waterford that there were two methods which might be adopted—first, the putting of this sum upon the Estimates, and second, a special Bill like the Marine Works Bill. There was a great deal of sanctity about the Estimates, but when it was worked out in the House it meant that one or two only of the Estimates were discussed and the remainder were closured. Had the right hon. Gentleman considered this matter in the light of a Provisional Order in this House? Nothing could be more simple than for the Irish Executive to arrive at a method of allocation, and then to proceed by Provisional Order. He objected to this being left entirely to Dublin Castle. The Irish Executive should produce a Provisional Order Bill, which, if it was disputed, would be sent upstairs, after which it might come down for discussion in the House. That would be a far better method than to lay the matter on the Table of the House and discuss it after midnight. He thought the right hon. Gentleman, instead of choosing the path of least resistance, had taken that which would lead to most discussion.


There was one suggestion that was made by the Member for Waterford as to the allocation of this money to Ireland which, I think, well deserves the serious consideration of this House. The hon. Member suggested that the allocation of this sum should be placed in the Irish Land Bill, just as the sum of £2,200,000 for England was placed in the Education Bill.


The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. What I said was that a certain portion of this money had been provided for in the Irish Land Bill when it was introduced.


In the Bill which will be brought in after this Resolution is accepted there is only a passing reference to charges which may be imposed by another Bill to be passed this session. There is nothing explicit in this Bill.


That is exactly my point. The partial allocation of this money is provided for in certain clauses of the Land Purchase Bill, and not in this Bill at all.


This Bill we have not seen, and we do not know what it may contain. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Irish Land Bill referred to certain moneys which were at the disposal of Ireland for certain purposes, and which would be guaranteed to Ireland by another Bill. But why should it not be guaranteed by the Land Bill itself? There is no difference of opinion in the House on the point that this money should be given to Ireland, and no difference, I apprehend, that there ought to be no rigid restriction. It should be given to objects which are generally for the benefit of Ireland. What we do object to is that the allocation of this money should be withdrawn from the cognisance of Parliament. The question seems to be in the most curious position. Having said we agree that the money should be given to Ireland, and not be necessarily confined to education, the question is: How is it to be done, and how is the amount to be settled? I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman this question. He has, I believe, selected population as the basis as being of more advantage to Ireland: Would not the old system of proportionate payments give a larger amount to Ireland than he proposes to give?


No, we should only then have got £120,000 instead of the £185,000 we get now.


The sum involved is £2,200,000 Under what I may call the Goschen arrangement—because as we change Chancellors of the Exchequer we change our systems altogether, and what is rank heresy under one is supreme constitutional doctrine under another—you would have given to Ireland nine-eightieths of this £2,200,000 a year, which amounts to £247,500, and the eleven-eightieths, which would be the share of Scotland, amounts to £302,500, whereas in the Scottish Estimates we are getting only £212,000. It is difficult to see one's way under this new procedure.


I do not know on what the right hon. Gentleman is basing his calculation The grant in aid of English education is, in round figures, £1,400,000.

MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)

pointed out that the sum in the Estimates was £1,100,000 for the half year.


I think it is very much to be deplored—in fact I might use a stronger word—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not be in the House when a matter is being discussed which eminently appertains to his Department, and on which he ought to advise the House. We cannot help remembering that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer took a very strong view on this subject. First of all we had Lord Goschen who gave to the three countries in a certain fixed proportion. Then we had the late Chancellor of the Exchequer who repudiated that system altogether. As a Scottish Member I have again and again taken part in urging that system upon him, but he has altogether repudiated the idea of an equivalent grant, saying that the granting of money to one country by no means implied that a corresponding sum should be granted to another country. He has said— We will attend to your wants when you explain them to us; satisfy us that you require certain sums of money, and we will be open-handed in giving them to you; but let us hear no more of these equivalent grants. That is the doctrine which has been propounded year after year by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, and now the system of equivalent grants is accepted by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and embodied in the Resolution before us. In these circumstances I think the highest financial authority in the country ought to be here to guide the House of Commons in coming to a decision on this matter.

As to the manner of dealing with this question, I am unable to perceive any objection to doing with respect to this money what was done with respect to the English money last year; that is to say, to state the sum in the actual legislation with which it is involved. The House of Commons can then express its view as to the manner in which the money ought to be applied. But to take it from the cognisance of the House, and leave it to the Irish Government to allot according to its sweet will and pleasure, I think would be an innovation very much to be deprecated on many grounds.


During the opening remarks of the right hon. Gentlemen the Leader of the Opposition, I felt, and I think I may still feel, that we were not so much at variance as some would suppose. There is a general agreement, certainly amongst those who are directly interested in Ireland, that it is inconvenient to proceed by a special ad hoc Bill for such purposes as draining a particular river or constructing a particular light railway. There is also a general agreement of opinion, I think, that to proceed by means of the Estimates would not be satisfactory in such cases, that it would leave a doubt as to whether the three partners in the business are treating each other fairly, and that that doubt ought not to remain where one of the partners helps himself on such a liberal scale as is denoted by the sum of £1,400,000 a year. All who have watched what has occurred in the past would prefer that, if it is admitted that Ireland has a claim, she should have that claim satisfied, and agree that she ought not to wait for three, four or five years until site could say, "This is a good educational project," and have the £185,000 placed on the Estimates. We have attempted to find a new method. I am really the last person in the world to desire to treat the established canons of finance with disrespect. I have the greatest respect for the traditions of this House, but I have felt that some new device must be found in order that the evil which has occurred in the past should not occur again. When I dealt with this matter, I made no allusion to bringing in schemes and submitting reports to Parliament, although that has been done in respect of some very important matters—for instance, in respect to the borough boundaries in London. That was not the policy of my speech. I indicated two plans by which discussion might be secured—either by a change in the Standing Orders, or by an understanding, with the leave of the House, analogous to the understanding which exists in regard to the Estimates. I desire that at least as great facilities for discussion as exist in the case of the Estimates should exist in respect of these schemes and proposals. But, as the hon. Member for South Tyrone has pointed out, we may exaggerate the opportunities of discussion on the Estimates. Three or four days are allotted to Irish Estimates. There is often, unhappily, something exciting momentary interest, and the whole of one day, and sometimes the whole of three days, is devoted to that one topic, and a number of important matters, involving large sums of money for the development of the country, have to be passed in silence when the Estimates are run through. Although in practice the advantages are not so great as is sometimes represented, I desire that the opportunities for discussing these schemes should at any rate be as great as upon the Estimates, and I do not at all despair of finding, between now and the Second Reading of the Bill, a satisfactory opportunity for discussion.

SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

understood the right hon. Gentleman to accept the principle that Parliamentary control over these schemes should be preserved, and that the matter should not rest with the Irish Executive. That being so, he suggested that words should be added to the Resolution providing that the money should be used "in a manner to be hereafter determined by Parliament."


said he could not accept so important an Amendment without careful consideration. He had really gone a long way to meet the criticisms which had been made. He undertook not to ask for the Second Reading of the Bill until after Easter, and that a fair opportunity for discussion should be provided.


was glad the right hon. Gentleman had not acceded to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton. The matter ought to be settled after careful consideration, and as far as he was concerned, he was quite satisfied with the undertaking given by the Chief Secretary. He had no doubt that if, between now and the Second Reading of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman would consult the representatives of the various feelings in the House he would be able to arrive at a satisfactory scheme. That being so, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would now be allowed to get his Resolution, and that the great constitutional question, which he to some extent broached but did not describe as such, would be allowed to rest for the present.


thought the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman a satisfactory one. They all agreed that the money should in some way be secured to Ireland, and that it should be secured in such a manner as to reserve and assert the control of the House of Commons over its disposal.


hoped the Leader of the Opposition would be able to convince the Chief Secretary by the calculation he had made that Ireland was entitled to the larger sum he had named. As to the substance of the proposition before the Committee, he agreed with the Chief Secretary, who proposed to adhere to the principle that when money was voted to the stronger partner an equivalent grant should be made to Ireland They might as well argue that when ships were built in England they should have an equal number built in Ireland. That of course would be absurd Ireland wanted the money for some other purpose. He hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland would not change his plan very much. What they wanted first was to have the money voted, and then distribute it according to Irish opinion. The House of Commons would take very good care that nothing would be done contrary to its wishes. What they said was that the Chief Secretary should pay attention to Irish public opinions. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had considerable facilities for knowing Irish wants, and he personally had every confidence in the scheme to be brought forward. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had not put into the Resolution the word suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

said they had been told that Ireland would only gain £150,000 a year by this proposal. They would find on the Estimates that England got £1,100,000 for half a year, and that meant £2,200,000 for the whole year. Anyone could calculate how much nine-eightieths of £2,200,000 were. There was no mystery about the matter. Under the Equivalent Grant system Ireland got nine-eightieths of the amount given to England, and Scotland got eleven-eightieths.


It is in the ratio of nine to eighty.


said that if they added the sums together they would find it came to far more than £150,000.

Resolved, That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of the Consolidated Fund, of an annual sum not exceeding £185,000 for providing a special grant to be used for the purposes of the Development of Ireland.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.