§ MR. MURPHY (Kerry, E.)
rose to call attention to the position of Sir Horace Plunkett as Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, and to move the following Resolution standing in the name of the hon. Member for South Tipperary:—"That the position of Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland was intended by Parliament to be and in fact is a Ministerial and Parliamentary office, properly vacated upon a change of Government, and that the retention of that office by a political opponent of the Government of the day is undesirable as a permanent arrangement." The hon. Member said that all his colleagues regretted the illness of the hon. Member for South Tipperary who was to have proposed this Motion. In consequence he had to take it up at very short notice, but while it was a subject on which much could be said, very little ought to be necessary in the present House of Commons. The Motion dealt with the occupation of a purely Ministerial and political office in Ireland by an ex-Unionist Member of Parliament, and they asked the Government to deal with the question constitutionally and without further delay. In the year 1899 an Act was passed by the Tory Government creating a Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland. With that Department and its work this debate had nothing 137 to do. Some people would say the work was good and the results satisfactory. Many others would say that the work was great only as far as the expenditure of £500,000 a year was concerned, but that the grass grew no greener or thicker nor did the hens lay more largely or more quickly in consequence. With these different views, however, the Motion did not deal; it referred to the occupation of a political and Parliamentary office by Sir Horace Plunkett— the Vice-President of the Department. Who was Sir Horace Plunkett? He hid written a book for the advantage of these who wished to criticise him, in which he told the people of Ireland all about their lack of moral courage, independence and self-reliance, their excessive and extravagant church building, and their anti-economic religion; but these things could be passed "by to-day as he had no desire to say anything to injure the literary skill that was strong enough to inspire the Rev. James O'Donovan, from London, W. to fill the Daily Chronicle of yesterday with his recollections of Loughrea—though in part only. Sir Horace Plunkett was a Unionist Member of the House of Commons from 1892 to 1900. He was still a Unionist, and it was not his fault that he was not a Member also. He was defeated in South Dublin, in 1900, as a Unionist candidate, and a few years later even the ancient city of Gal way, so varying in the character of its political affections, would live nothing to do with the philanthropic Unionist, and elected a gentleman, who, if he had acted more consistently, might now be in the running for a position in Ireland that had already been secured by his confederate General Botha in the Transvaal. Anyhow, with all the power of the Department behind him, and used by him, with his way paved with good intentions, smoothed by the attentions of the uncles and friends of his staff, and guarded by Scottish professors, he remained without a seat in Parliament when the present Government came into office in 1906. He was then a Unionist and was still a Unionist. He subscribed to the funds of the Unionist candidate for South Dublin. No doubt he still thought of the way to make the Irish people cease to dream of Home Rule, and 138 within the last few days the mischief-makers of the daily press—the Daily Mail, the Globe, the Pall Mall Gazette — had all joined their voices with the Tory Belfast Chamber of Commerce, the Ulster Liberal Unionist Alliance, the Sien Fein newspaper in Ireland, and the Rev. James O'Donovan, now in society and no longer of Loughrea, to keep the Unionist politician in a Ministerial office in a Liberal Government. In the absolutely united opinion of the Irish Nationalist Members the Liberal Government had kept him there too long. He often heard it said at home that whatever Government was in office in this country, the Tories were in power in Ireland. This transaction and some others gave colour to that statement. When Sir Horace Plunkett accepted the position of Vice-President in 1899, Mr. Gerald Balfour and everybody else down to the London Times declared that it was a Ministerial office. Sir Horace Plunkett himself, in his speech after the defeat in South Dublin and also in his book, declared the office to be a political and Ministerial one. He should have gone therefore with the Tory Government in 1906; and the mysterious correspondence with Mr. Bryce, the setting up of a Committee of Inquiry that nobody asked for, and the introduction on it of Mr. Dryden from Canada, outside the jurisdiction, as Mr. Birrell had said some time ago, were all acts of a most objectionable kind to retain a Tory politician in a Liberal Government. What would the Liberal Party think of an arrangement to retain Lord Halsbury in office on the ground that his work for his family was not yet completed, or that a Committee of Inquiry was sitting to inquire into the intellectual capacity of his successor? They would not stand it, and the Liberal Member for Bow and Bromley would never dream of putting on the Notice Paper, as he had done on this matter, a defence of Lord Halsbury. When on March 13th, 1906, Mr. Bryce was asked about the retention of Sir Horace Plunkett he stated that the arrangement was a purely provisional one, and he hoped to give it some thought within the next few months. While Mr. Bryce was thinking he asked Sir Horace Plunkett to be silent in the expression of his political opinions; 139 but when six months had gone by, Mr. Bryce changed his ground somewhat, and in reply to a Question stated that no decision had yet been arrived at and the whole question was under the consideration of the Committee of Inquiry. The question could never be under the consideration of a Committee of Inquiry, and when Mr. Bryce sailed away over the waters of the broad Atlantic he trimmed his sails peculiarly and left behind him a variety of Commissions, a pious opinion about the Irish language, a plan for a University, and a Unionist politician in the person of Sir Horace Plunkett in a Ministerial office, to which no claim or title could possibly be made lot him. The Prime Minister, who was always can did and courteous upon Irish; matters, said at the end of last year that there never was any intention of converting an office of one character into an office of another character. The present Chief Secretary quoted this approvingly in the discussion raised by the hon. Member for East Mayo the other day, and he added that the Committee of Inquiry had nothing to do with the matter whatever. What Irish Nationalists wanted to know was when was it to be disposed of? Sir Horace Plunkett might be all that his; devoted admirers and most expectant followers claimed him to be, but he was as much a Unionist as the Member for North Armagh or Trinity College; he had only a different style. Technical education, co-operation, agricultural organisation, and all these other things were very nice sounding, but they could proceed on wrong lines. They lost much of their attractiveness for Irishmen when they saw that public money was used in connection with them, professedly not to drain the Bann or the Harrow, but to drain the national sentiment of the people. They knew, of course, that that was impossible, but they took their stand on the principle that the industrial revival could only go hand in hand with the national movement. It might be very fine to fall up from different parts of Ireland a large council, but they wanted them when they were called to I engage in some better work than when their day was occupied by Professor Campbell, at the suggestion of Sir Horace Plunkett on a recent occasion, lecturing 140 them on "The Abstract Merits of Tillage and Grass." If money was to be spent on education the Irish people we reclaiming that the primary system should be first dealt with before they could have the proper ground work for technical training;. But that evening they asserted, and it could not be contradicted, that Sir Horace Plunkett was a Unionist ex-Member of Parliament, and the occupant of a Parliamentary and Ministerial office in a Liberal Government, and they asked with a united voice and with some feeling, how long was this anomaly to be continued They expected and they demanded a definite statement from the Chief Secretary to the Motion which he begged to move.
§ MR. MOONEY: (Newry),
in seconding, said that the Motion was put dawn by the Irish National Party and could in no way be taken as a personal attack on Sir Horace Plunkett. What; they were attacking was the retention of his present office by Sir Horace Plunkett. Since the Motion had. been placed upon the Paper they had noticed with curiosity but without surprise a very carefully engineered newspaper campaign on behalf of the present occupant of the office of Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland. There was a curious similarity about the articles, and they were all careful and skilful pieces of special pleading. They were all most eulogistic defences of Sir Horace Plunkett and his policy., with which the Motion had nothing to do. The Motion made a clear and definite statement that this was a Parliamentary office. The answer that appeared in most of these newspaper articles was that it was not a Parliamentary office and that the gentleman who now occupied it was not a. Minister of the Crown. It was not often that Irishmen relied on such authorities as he would presently quote, but in this case he thought they must be regarded at all events by the official opposition as standard authorities. The first authority was The Times., and the second the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City. The origin of the position now held by Sir Horace Plunkett was to be found in the Report of what was called 141 the Recess Committee, which recommended that this department should consist of a Board with a Minister of Agriculture and Industries responsible to Parliament at its head, assisted by a Council. On that recommendation Mr. Gerald Balfour brought in the Irish Agricultural and Technical Industries Bill. That Bill distinctly exempted the Minister appointed to this position from seeking re-election if he were a Member of the House, clearly showing that this was to be a Ministerial appointment. And. so it was considered by Sir Horace Plunkett, who on the result of the South Dublin election made a speech in which he admitted, and in fact stated distinctly, that his political career as regarded that constituency was at an end as well as his public career as head of a public department. The next day The Times, commenting on the election wrote—Mr. Plunkett's position as Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture is not one which can well be held permanently by one who is not a Member of Parliament.During the Parliament of l900–l960 the position of Sir Horace Plunkett was vigorously assailed by Trish Members, not of the Party to which he had the honour to belong. There seemed to be some doubt as to whether Sir Horace Plunkett was or was not a person who ought to go out with a change of Government, and the lion. Member for South Donegal put a long question on the Paper asking for a definition of Sir Horace Plunkett's position. The first Question asked was whether the Vice-President would go out if the Ministry retired, and the answer was in the affirmative. It was undoubtedly the desire of the Government that the Vice-President should be a Member of the House, and he thought that it would be more convenient that it should be so, seeing that the late Government had undoubtedly recognised what they had maintained all along, that the moment that the late Government went out of office Sir Horace Plunkett, ipso facto, ceased to be a Member of the Government. That also proved that he was a Minister of the Crown. And there was another person who recognised it, and that was Sir Horace Plunkett himself. The Government went out of office in December last, and Sir Horace 142 Plunkett issued a letter to the officials of his department stating that in consequence of the retirement from office of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, he would meet the officials of the department on a certain day and say "good-bye," as he would have to vacate his position. Shortly afterwards they learned with some astonishment that Sir Horace Plunkett had been reappointed to the position of Vice-President. Questions were asked in the House about what his actual position was. Sir Horace Plunkett was not a Minister nor was he an ordinary civil servant, and what they wanted to know was how it came about that a statutory office had been turned into a non-statutory office, and how a Minister of the Crown became a permanent official who yet was not a civil servant. They had been asked, "why bring forward the Motion? "The answer was very simple. In 1900 Sir Horace Plunkett intimated to the Government that he recognised that he had to resign. Hut that was shortly after the passing of the Act in 1899, and Sir Horace added that, owing to the confusion which would exist in the change he was quite willing to help the Government—it was the Government of his own Party—to take them temporarily out of the difficulty. He took them out of that difficulty for six years. Then a Liberal Government came into power, and they were told that Sir Horace Plunkett had resumed office to take the Liberal Government out of a temporary difficulty. And the suggestion was now made, alter the Government had been in office for a year, and had on the stocky a Bill dealing with Irish Government, by which it was quite possible that the Department over which Sir Horace Plunkett presided might be abolished, that he was going to retain his position temporarily until the Irish Bill was introduced. When were these temporary appointments going to be made permanent, or when were the permanent appointments going to be made temporary? This had now been going for seven years, and each time there was a change a new reason was put forward by somebody why the office, should be held temporarily. The next point, was that Sir Horace Plunkett, from the nature of his office, ought to be in that House. The Agriculture Department was not a small 143 one; its ramifications in every division of Irish life were extraordinary. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had yet had time to become acquainted with all the numerous Boards of which he was the head, but when they asked questions about the Department of Agriculture, the right hon. Gentleman was merely, he did not use the word offensively, the gramophone of some clerk in a back office in Dublin. They were entitled to have before them, as was intended by the Act of Parliament, the Government representative of the Department sitting on the Treasury Bench to respond to questions. Sir Horace Plunkett, if he chose, might seek a seat in that House, if he could find a constituency. He was perfectly certain that Sir Horace Plunkett was now and would remain a politician and a strong opponent of the present Government. Sir Horace Plunkett could seek election, and if returned there were two courses open to him. He could sit on the Treasury bench and answer questions as a Member of the Government, and make speeches attacking the Liberal Party. As a Unionist, he could, as a responsible Member of the Government, rise in his place beside his colleagues and denounce their policy. He could sit on the front Opposition bench, between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin and the right hon. Gentleman the member for Dublin University, and from there answer questions on behalf of the Government. He did not think that such a situation of things was ever contemplated; it would be ridiculous. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt in his reply would refer to articles and Resolutions with reference to Sir Horace Plunkett. The articles were principally in such papers as the Daily Mail, the Globe, and the Spectator, and the Resolutions in his favour came from such strictly non-Party organisations as the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, who were non-political in the sense of the Tariff Reform League, and the Ulster Liberal Unionist Association. He wondered if the right hon. Gentleman knew anything about that association, or had ever seen a representative of that august body. He understood that this representative body consisted of about half a dozen gentlemen, eminently respectable, who met together for lun- 144 cheon, and when they had finished it, had their coffee and cigars in the smoke room and, suffused by a feeling of general good-will towards all men, drafted their resolutions and spoke as the Ulster Liberal Unionist Association. The only other point was that unless something was done at once they were afraid that this office, intended by Parliament to be a Parliamentary position, would become merely another of these Irish Boards out of which they could get no information, and from which the Chief Secretary was not able to get any adequate explanation. They feared that instead of having a Department identified with the whole country and responsible to that House, there would simply be added another to that large number of costly and extravagant Boards at work in Ireland, responsible to nobody, and over whom nobody had any real control. He begged to second the Motion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the position of Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland was intended by Parliament to be and in fact is a Ministerial and Parliamentary office, properly vacated upon a change of Government, and that the retention of that office by a political opponent of the Government of the day is undesirable as a permanent arrangement."—(Mr. Murphy.)
§ * MR. BROOKE (Tower Hamlets, Bow and Bromley)
moved as an Amendment "That, in view of the continued confidence expressed in the policy of Sir Horace Plunkett by the Council of Agriculture, two-thirds of whose members are directly appointed by the county councils of Ireland, it is inadvisable, before the House has had an opportunity of considering carefully the Report of the committee of inquiry into the organisation and working of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, to make any change in Sir Horace Plunkett's tenure of the Vice-Presidency. "He said that he did not bring this Amendment forward in any spirit of hostility to hon. Members sitting on the Nationalist Benches. He had been a Home Ruler longer than many hon. Members opposite, and although the mover of the Resolution seemed to think it was somewhat extraordinary 145 that a Liberal Member should have a conviction different from that of the general body of Nationalists, he would not be at all surprised if the Nationalist Members upon some Subjects held an opinion different from that of the general body of Liberals. Therefore he thought he had a right to express his own convictions. He congratulated both the mover and seconder upon the moderation with which they had stated their case, and he hoped to state his views with equal moderation. He opposed this Resolution on two grounds. The first was that Members of Parliament, whether Unionist, Labour or Liberal, were being asked to pledge themselves to a certain course of action before a Committee which was inquiring into the subject had reported to the House. There had been a change since his Amendment in the form of words put forward in the Resolution, and instead of being asked to agree to a speedy termination of Sir Horace Plunkett's present tenure of office they were only asked to pledge themselves that it should not be a permanent arrangement. Why should all Members of Parliament be asked to pledge themselves to a definite conclusion on this question now? Why should they not be allowed to consider the Report first? He always understood that Blue-books were meant to be read and were intended to influence the minds of these who read them. Why should they not be allowed even to read this Blue-book which would go into the whole j question of the working and organisation of the Department of Agriculture, before they came to a definite conclusion? He thought that proceeding was a little high-handed. Sir Horace Plunkett was no more figure head, for he permeated the whole Department, and though the Report on his great work would be issued in a very short time, this Motion had been brought forward now. He protested against such action. He would protest against it even if Sir Horace Plunkett was out of the question, or even if a Liberal Government brought forward such a Motion when a Blue-book dealing with the subject of their Motion was ready to be issued. Under other circumstances; he was sure Nationalist Members would make the same protest. After listening 146 to the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Resolution he failed to comprehend why hon. Members opposite were in such an extreme hurry to deprive the House of the right of fair and free consideration of this question. No one denied that the Act of 1899 provided that the Vice-President should not be incapable of sitting as a Member of Parliament. But to say that he might sit was not the same as saying that he must. And, whatever the intentions of the framers of the Act were, they had certainly exercised no compulsion on either the present or the late Government. Both had transgressed their intentions lightly for nearly seven years. Was it not a little odd that a Party, which had fought so often against British Acts, should now be displaying such unwonted zeal for this Act — or rather its declared intentions? After all, Acts were often modified in practice and by special circumstances. His second objection to the Motion was that the county councils of Ireland to whose representatives on the Irish Council of Agriculture Sir Horace Plunkett was responsible, had never asked for his dismissal from his post. These councils were ardently Nationalist, yet they seemed satisfied with the position of the head of the Department. Why, then, should Liberals do what the county councils had never asked should be done? The Resolution proposed that they should get rid of him as a political opponent of the present Government. That was scarcely a proposition that should commend itself to Liberals. The county councils were represented on the Council of Agriculture in the proportion of sixty-eight to thirty-four nominated members, thus outnumbering the nominated members by two to one. So that, if this widespread dissatisfaction really existed, the Council of Agriculture could make it plain whenever they pleased. As the county council representatives had never asked him to resign, he assumed that they had not looked upon this as a political appointment, but they regarded it as a business appointment, and looked upon him as, on the whole, the right man in the right place. On a recent occasion, when there was a desire on the part of Sir Horace to embark more fully on the co-operative principle, his policy had been strikingly confirmed. At that 147 meeting in November last there was an opportunity for the Council of Agriculture to Vote against Sir Horace Plunkett and his whole administration if they had wished to do so. They had a majority of two to one over the nominated members. The policy had been declared six months before, during which time they could have consulted every county council and taken instructions and could then have come back in November to overwhelm Sir Horace Plunkett and the nominated members together. What was the result? The result was the triumph of his policy by a Vote of fifty-two to twenty-five. He was told that that triumph would still have taken place if not one of the nominated members had voted on the Resolution. The Council of Agriculture had not asked for the dismissal of Sir Horace Plunkett for political or any other reasons. That was a. matter which this House should take into consideration. He was one of these Liberals who were very jealous of the rights of local authorities. He thought they were restricted and hampered by the Imperial Parliament far too much. He was in favour of Home Rule for Ireland and also Home Rule for the local authorities. Therefore, he did not think the House should be rushed to declare itself in a matter about which the county councils had not yet spoken. Let the councils have a chance of deciding first as to Sir Horace Plunkett. They had not declared against him and his administration. Why should they, as Liberals, overpower the local authorities? Personally he regretted that this Motion had been brought forward. He thought it was obvious enough that the whole question must come up on the Devolution Bill which the Government had promised. He failed to see why the question was not left over till the Bill was brought forward. The Motion having been made. he. as one who had a warm regard for Sir Horace Plunkett and his splendid work, had nothing left for him to do but to protest against it. He begged to move.
* SIR F.CHANNING, (Northamptonshire, E.)
in seconding the Amendment, acknowledged the exceedingly temperate tone of the speeches made in support of the Motion, and especially that of the lion. 148 Member for Newry. who based his argument on constitutional grounds. But what they had really to consider was not so much a string of political perplexities based on elaborate hypotheses, but the plain fact that this was a Motion to humiliate and practically to order the immediate resignation of. perhaps, the one man who had been the best friend of Ireland — [cheers and NATIONALIST cries of "No "]—in his endeavours to bring together the best minds of Ireland. of whatever political complexion and of whatever creed, to work for the common good of the country. He contended that a man who had done that deserved well of his country and of the House, and his fellow-countrymen should not insist on inflicting on him such an uncalled-for humiliation. Rightly or wrongly, Sir Horace Plunkett had been invited by the responsible Minister of the Crown to continue in his office, because his genius and enthusiasm had. created the office and the work it was doing, and would materially help in completing the inquiry now in progress and in helping the Government to secure the best results from that inquiry. It was impossible for any Government not to recognise the services rendered by Sir Horace Plunkett in initiating agricultural and social reforms, and the man who had shown his qualities deserved the full, kindly, and generous consideration of the House. He said that with a full heart, because a small handful of men in this country, of whom he was one, had studied Sir Horace's ideas and reforms and had endeavoured in their own way to introduce similar methods of organisation in England. They had tried also, as Sir Horace Plunkett had, to banish from the discussion of agricultural and social reforms that hateful and detestable spirit of political and Party animosity which paralysed the best energies of men for usual objects. It was plain from the faces within their knowledge that Sir Horace Plunkett's conduct was absolutely correct. He had offered and expected to withdraw, and it was in the face of these facts that Mr. Bryce in explicit terms invited, Sir Horace Plunkett to set aside the usual considerations of Party and to retain his office, and,. indeed, insisted on his. doing so, in order 149 that the Government might have his support and help in the completion of their work. No one could challenge his sincere and resolute support of the Irish cause. He spoke as a convinced Home Ruler whose opinions had in no way changed. He welcomed the project of a Devolution Bill with all his heart, but he hoped the Government would not assent to this Motion. He thought it would be well for them to consider that it was an ill-omened prelude to the policy of devolution, a policy which would only bring good to Ireland and the United Kingdom if it was entered upon in a spirit of mutual consideration and fair play as between the different political sections and religious creeds in Ireland. It was only by the adoption of that spirit of conciliation which Sir Horace Plunkett taught and tried to carry out that the best results could be obtained, and he thought the Government would be ill-advised when starting on their policy in joining with lion. Members opposite inflicting humiliation on a man who had initiated the principles which should govern such a policy.
To leave out from 'that,' to end and insert 'in view of the continued confidence expressed fn the policy of Sir Horace Plunkett by the council of Agriculture. Two-thirds of whose members are directly appointed by the county councils of Ireland, it is inadvisable, before the House had an opportunity of considering carefully the He port of the Committee of Inquiry into the organisation and working of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, to make any change in Sir Horace Plunkett's tenure of the Vice-Presidency."—(Mr, Brooke.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said there was no one who would not recognise the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire as a consistent and faithful friend of Ireland. When the hon. Member made such a strong appeal to the Nationalist Members to consent to the retention in office of a man who, no matter what else could be said of him, was a Minister of the Crown and yet belonged to a Party opposed to the Ministry, he would ask him to apply the same method to his own Party. The hon. Member and himself 150 had been colleagues in the days of strain and storm and stress, but great as was his admiration for him he slid with all respect that even he assumed the habit, somewhat irritating to Irishmen, of lecturing them from the high and lofty pinnacle of British intelligence without ever applying the same principles to himself. Conciliation no doubt was a noble principle. But on the same principle. why was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin not sitting on the Treasury Bench?He was a respect able and honourable man. They were all honourable men in this House. They were all as honourable as Sir Horace Plunkett. Why was not the hon. Member for Dulwich, if the Liberal Party carried this argument to its logical conclusion, at the Board of Trade? In spite of all the eulogies poured upon Sir Horace Plunked from the Liberal Benches, the fact remained that he had searched all over Ireland for many years and had been unable to find one constituency to accept him. He tried first as a Unionist, then as a politician of no colour at all, but it had the same result. If his services to Ireland had been so magnificent as represented, then no more ungrateful people than the Irish people could be found. He would not discuss the work of the Agricultural Department on that occasion, but he held that it had been very far indeed from being a complete success. He would go further and say that the comparative failure of the work of the Department had been in a large measure due to the personality of Sit Horace Plunkett as well as to the constitution he forced upon it. Since its foundation £2.000.000 had been spent upon it. but the amount of practical work which the Department had to show for that vast expenditure was positively ludicrous. If the Irish people controlled the management of their own affairs a Department to take care of agriculture would be of incalculable value to the Irish people. But the present Department had made a stupendous blunder in undertaking too much. In a practical administration of such a Department far grater value could be obtained for the money spent. The question was simply whether a Parliamentary pledge embodied in a statute was to be observed or 151 set aside in the interest of an individual, or whether Sir Horace Plunkett was to be allowed to continue to use the vast machinery of patronage at his disposal as a means of carrying on a political propaganda hostile to the national movement. They were not pleading for the observance of an English statute because it was an English statute, but for the observance of an English statute as a pledge given them at their request as a Ministerial bargain. It had been said that Sir Horace Plunkett had kept aloof from politics and that he enjoyed the confidence of the Irish people as against the confidence of the Irish Party, in proof of which it was said that he obtained a Vote of confidence from the Agricultural Council. As to the first statement, there was not a shadow of foundation for it; and no question of confidence had been submitted to the Council. The question was submitted whether a Vote of money should be given to a body called the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, and out of the fifty-two who voted for it thirty were the nominees of Sir Horace Plunkett, and it was proposed and seconded by men who had a financial interest in the transaction. Of the independent men present an overwhelming majority were opposed to the grant. It would be ludicrous to accept the voice of such a body against the voice of the representatives of Ireland. It was said that Sir Horace Plunkett had never been a politician. That was an absolute falsehood. If it were true, as stated by the hon. Member opposite, that Sir H. Plunkett was a man who, apart from all political motive, had given a long life to the welfare of the unhappy people of Ireland, what ground or motive could the Nationalist Party have for making this Motion, or raising this question at all? Sir Horace Plunkett was appointed to his present post as a politician. He first met the hon. Gentleman in 1891, when he had just returned from America. Sir Horace sent him a message asking permission to call upon him. Previous to that he had never heard of the gentleman. He came and spent two hours with him; he told him that though he had been long absent from Ireland, and belonged to the landlord class, he was absolutely without political feeling, that he loved the Irish people and wished 152 to devote his life to them, and to keep aloof from political Parties. He told Sir Horace that to keep aloof from Irish politics was an impossible task, and that he could not expect that he could in any great degree alleviate the condition of the people of Ireland until he became a politician. He said to him that if he could keep clear of politics he would have his best wishes for his success. That was in 1891. Afterwards Sir Horace Plunkett got himself nominated by Mr. Balfour as a Member of the Congested Districts Board, as a non-politician, and obtained admission to their circles, which included Catholic priests and Nationalists, and within one short year after Sir Horace Plunkett had given him that pledge he made his famous campaign in South Dublin and stole from the Nationalist Party one of their most valued seats as an avowed Unionist. That was a memory which was not likely to fade from his mind. Sir Horace Plunkett then appeared as the Member for South Dublin and made some bitter and sneering speeches in the House against the Nationalists. In the course of his campaign he made a speech in Belfast in which he said that he was agitating for this agricultural department and declared that his mission in Ireland was to disinfect Irish life of politics, and he (Mr. Dillon) supposed of politicians too. What he meant by disinfecting Irish life of politics apparently was to disinfect it of Nationalist politics. That was indeed the only sense in which the word politics was used in Ireland. The Unionist politics were not politics apparently. Then Sir Horace Plunkett's next step—and it was a scheme which he had always admired as a politician for its extreme astuteness— was to enter into an agreement with Mr. Gerald Balfour to kill Home Rule with kindness. It had been alleged that it was in order to do that that the Department of Agriculture was placed under his control. It was also alleged on the other side of the question that at the elections he was attacked by the Orange Party and consequently lost his seat in Dublin through that attack; but that was not true, because his hon. friend the Member for Newry on that occasion did great service to his country by winning the seat for the Nationalists. There was. however some truth in the 153 statement that the political career of Sir Horace Plunkett was cut short by the Orange Party; but why did the Orange Party attack him? Because the Orange Party in Ireland was invariably the stupid one. They were unable on that occasion, as they always were, to recognise their true friends, and when they rejected Sir Horace Plunkett they threw away a wise Unionist statesman and one of the most formidable Unionist statesmen of the present time. It was not members who interrupted him in that House that they had to fight against, but men like Sir Horace Plunkett, who had some ideas in their heads. The Orange Party were stupid, because they failed to recognise that he was the best friend to the Unionist Party that they had had in Ireland for the last half-century. The next step in Sir Horace Plunkett's career was his attempt to get back to Parliament as the representative of Galway. On the day before he started for Galway, in an interview with the Dublin correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette, he said—I have in my power large patronage in Ireland; I have been attacked by the Orange Party because I gave the Nationalists a share, but I intend to pursue that course.That was the substance of Sir Horace Plunkett's statement. While Nationalist seats were attacked he deliberately stated that he had large patronage, and would see that the Nationalists were not left out. He had never attributed mean or sordid motive to Sir Horace Plunkett, as Father O'Donovan insinuated; he believed he was a man of large means, who spent his salary on his work. He had the greatest possible admiration for his ability—he would go further, and say for his motive, too—for he was a Unionist, and had consistently pursued for years the only policy which had a gleam of hope of defeating Nationalist policy in Ireland. But his ambition was to weaken and destroy the Nationalist Party, who stood for the Nationalist cause and liberty to Ireland. [Mr. LONSDALE: A very good work too.] A very good work, too, said the Member of Mid. Armagh. That brief speech was of value to them. Sir Horace Plunkett had been throughout his career a politician; he was a Unionist, and an implacable enemy to the Nationalist 154 Party and the cause they stood for. It was a scandal and disgrace, now that a Government were in power who were friendly to the cause they were fighting for, that they should retain such a man in office at the head of vast machinery in Ireland, and that he should be at liberty to maintain, as he did, a band of agents going through Ireland, paid by the taxpayers, to blackguard and abuse the Members on these benches, and to subsidise out of the taxpayers' money a scurrilous newspaper, whose chief business was to sneer at Home Rule. These were the grounds on which they objected to Sir Horace Plunkett's retention of office.
§ * MR. BUTCHER (Cambridge University)
said the debate began with a high constitutional argument on the part of Members below the gangway — it exhibited their love of correct Parliamentary precedent. The House was assured that the debate was to be continued on these lines—the insistence on full Parliamentary control, on which they knew the hearts of the Nationalist Party had always been set, and the observance of an Act of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman, however, who had just spoken, had imported an entirely different tone into the debate; they had heard a most impassioned denunciation of the whole career of Sir Horace Plunkett. The only good word that had been said for him was that he was a man with ideas, and that he was, therefore, one of the most formidable enemies of Ireland. It would seem that he had entered into some dark conspiracy against the liberties of Ireland,. and that he was simply a bitter politician under the guise of a social reformer. The hon. Gentleman, in support of this view of Sir Horace Plunkett, pointed back to sixteen years during which he had know him. He himself had known Sir Horace Plunkett for a much longer period; he had watched his work with quite as much impartiality as the hon. Member for East Mayo, and was amazed at the description of this "bitter, sneering Unionist." Ho would not at that hour go into questions which after all were not connected with the Motion before the House, but would confine himself to the most relevant issues in a discussion which had covered so much ground. There were two 155 governing facts m the situation. The first was that Sir Horace Plunkett, at the express desire of the Government, still held office; and, secondly, that ho held office pending the result of an inquiry into the constitution and working of the Department instituted by the Government themselves. The Report of the Committee was expected in a few weeks. The motive, therefore, of this debate would seem to be to pledge the Government before they had seen the Report of their own Committee to a certain course of action from which they could not afterwards recede. The Government had already made a pronouncement on another matter of large policy before the evidence of their own Commission had been published, and he did not believe they would again commit so great an error. He fully admitted that the constitutional question whether the Vice-President should or should not be a Member of the House was a proper question to raise. To his mind very strong arguments could be brought both for and against. But was it not reasonable to say to the Government: "Do not pledge yourselves to-day; wait for the evidence; read the Report; review the situation in the light of that Report; and do not make a binding promise because of the Parliamentary pressure which has been put upon; you this evening?" He was perfectly free to admit that the position of the Vice-President was an anomalous position. There was no doubt that the intention of the Legislature was that the holder of the office should have a seat in Parliament. On the other hand, the words of the Act did not make it obligatory, and when the Member for Mayo spoke of the violation of the statute he did not think if he had the words before him he would have used such a phrase.
§ MR. DILLON
I did not speak of violation of the statute; I spoke of the violation of the Ministerial pledge—a very different thing.
§ * MR. BUTCHER
begged the hon. Gentleman's pardon; he had understood him to make both statements. However, i it was true that there had been, not indeed a Parliamentary pledge, but a Parliamentary understanding that the 156 office was to carry with it a seat in Parliament. But they all knew what had happened. In 1900 the Vice-President lost his seat and was retained in office by the Government of the day. He was so continued with the practical assent of all Parties in Ireland, and; after a memorial had been signed by 15,000 or 20,000 people, expressing the hope that he would not be deposed I from office. The House ought to understand that at the time Sir Horace Plunkett definitely said, and had repeated it several times during the I past six or seven years, that he would not retain office one single day after he had ceased to retain the confidence of the representative bodies through which and with which he worked. The hon. Member for East Mayo had made very light of the Agricultural Council. He (Mr. Butcher) could only say of that. Council that, like other boards with which Sir Horace Plunkett worked, two-thirds of it was composed of members who were popularly elected or represented popularly-elected bodies, and that Sir Horace had been supported by these bodies in every important matter of policy which he had brought forward. It had been said that the retention of Sir Horace Plunkett in office during the last six. years was all wrong. He maintained the very opposite. It had turned out. to be to the great public advantage of Ireland. In the first place, the office was a new one. The Department had to be created. Its work, its method, its plan of operations—everything had to be organised. No permanent officials existed; there were no precedents to follow; and it seemed advisable that during these experimental years the man in whose brain the whole idea originated should be responsible for controlling, directing, and guiding the movement. Moreover, after the initial stages there was a very great expansion of the work. All kinds of new problems arose, and it became almost necessary that the whole time and thought of the Vice-President should be devoted to his duties on the spot. It was very doubtful whether the work of the Department would not have suffered if Sir Horace's time and attention had been distracted by attendance in the House of Commons. There was a distinct gain in the titular 157 head during these years being also the real head of the Department. That, was one reason in favour of his retention. In the second place, everybody in Ireland, excepting the hon. Member for East Mayo, admitted that if Sir Horace Plunkett was a politician, he was of all politicians the least political. Beyond doubt he had held the scabs evenly, and very often to his own disadvantage as a party man. He had shown impartiality in the manning of his office. He had alienated the sympathy of his friends by putting in Nationalists. Throughout his administration there had been the same absence of party bias. His own party popularity had suffered, but the cause of Ireland had gained. It was to that impartiality, that marked impartiality, that the success of the Department had been in large measure due. Any taint of political favouritism would have made it impossible for him to carry on that work with all that great network of technical and other committees with which his Department was concerned. The truth was that everybody in Ireland knew that Sir Horace Plunkett had no Party or personal ends to serve —that he was detached from everything except what he believed to be the welfare of his country. In Ireland there was no lack of political speech, there was a lack of economic thought. Men there were in plenty who would talk about Ireland; hut these who were working for Ireland were but few. Sir Horace Plunkett was one of the few—the leader of the few; he was not talking, but doing, or lather he had done great work already, though it was small in comparison with the promise that lay within it of future achievement. He was teaching the people the lesson of self-help and self-reliance; the lesson that even a little which they could do for themselves was worth far more than a great deal which was done for them by Government. He had to face the opposition of various interests. He had gone on his way fearlessly and steadily, heedless of praise or blame, strong in the conviction of a true idea, and looking forward to no reward beyond the hope, of leaving his country a little better than he found it. The group of men he had gathered round him in that 158 work was remarkable. His office staff was composed of men of different politics, but all were inspired by the same zeal and devotion as himself. They had caught the spirit of their chief, and were animated by a common ideal. Here, then, they had one man who, not by talking but by doing, had proved himself to be eminently fitted for a particular non-political work. Was he to be made use of? Or was he to be cast aside because he was not enough of a politician? The question was not a personal question. It was one of economics and industry versus politics. Which was to prevail? That was the ultimate issue. There was in Ireland a growing body of thoughtful men who desired to build up the economic life of the people on a non-party foundation. They asked that one Department at least, whoever was in office, Sir Horace Plunkett or a successor, should be rescued from politics and conducted on broader and more hopeful lines. The reasons why he opposed this Motion and supported the Amendment were, first, that the Motion prejudged the questions now before the Committee of Inquiry. It. left no freedom to the Government. It pledged them beforehand to a certain course of action. And, secondly, it must, under existing circumstances—emphasised, moreover, by the strange speech they had heard from the Member for East Mayo—be taken as a censure, or at least a slur, on the conduct of a very distinguished public servant. If, on looking at the matter all round, and after due inquiry, the Government came to the conclusion that the Vice-President should henceforth be a party man, responsible directly to that house, many of them would profoundly regret the decision, but they would still recognise that the case had been considered on its merits. It was quite another thing to foreclose and prejudge the matter in the way now proposed. The case was too grave for that, and the interests involved were too large;. On the personal point, however, once more let it be said that Sir Horace Plunkett did not cling to office. He held office for two reasons—first, at the express desire of the Government; and, secondly, because he had had, and still could claim, the unbroken support of the Irish representative bodies with whom and through whom he worked. The more 159 emoluments of office he did not covet. Indeed, he gave back, he believed, to Ireland, for the purposes of his Department, every penny he received as salary. Doubtless he had been bitterly assailed, and they had had a specimen of it that night. But many quiet observers in Ireland, and many more in this country and in America, had watched Sir Horace Plunkett's work with silent admiration, and recognised him to be the most single hearted and disinterested of politicians, and the greatest public benefactor that had arisen in Ireland in our generation.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said he regarded this debate as one of so serious a character that he thought it ought not to close without his saying something. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had said that this Motion was designed with the object of getting the Government to prejudge the issue, but the only issue raised was as to whether the post of Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture was or was not a Parliamentary office, and no such issue as that was submitted in the reference to the Committee which was now sitting. Unless something extraordinary happened— as was often the case in Irish affairs— when the Report of the Committee was issued it would be found that to this question there would be no reference whatever made by the Committee. This was not a Motion to attack Sir Horace Plunkett's work or his personality, and there was not one word in the Motion censuring him as an inefficient officer or declaring his work to be bad. The Motion raised the clear and simple issue whether this post was a Parliamentary office which ought to be vacated upon a change of Government, and whether it was expedient that an opponent of the Government should hold the office. His hon. friend the Member for East Mayo was able to speak with a freedom upon this matter which he could not claim, for this reason; he was one of these who associated themselves with Sir Horace Plunkett at the time of the formation of the Recess Committee, from whose Report the scheme of this Depment sprang, and he thought Sir Horace Plunkett himself would be the first to admit that, in all probability, that Recess Committee would never have met at all if 160 he and his friends hid refused to associate with him in the project. And, further, it was very probable that when the scheme came before that House for the creation of a Department of Agriculture, if he had opposed that scheme instead of supporting it, it would never have passed into law. Why did he approve of the Report of the Recess Committee and accept the measure for the creation of the Department of Agriculture? Upon certain essential conditions, the first and most essential of which was that the Minister appointed at the head of the Department was to hold a seat in that House and to be responsible for the Department as a Minister of the Crown upon the Treasury Bench. The hon. Member who had just spoken said that the Act constituting the Department used the word "may" sit in Parliament and not'' shall."
§ * MR. BUTCHER
said he had not quoted' the words of the Act, but the words were these—The office of Vice-President of the Department shall not render the person holding the same incapable of being elected as a Member of Parliament.
MR. JOHN REDMEND
said the— hon. Gentleman argued from that that there was no necessity for him to be a Member of the House. If he applied that doctrine to the gentlemen occupying the Treasury Bench at that moment it would be an absolute violation of the constitutional doctrine of the country that Ministers representing the Departments should sit in that House. He would not have assented to the passing of the Bill except on the distinct understanding that the Minister representing the Department was to have a seat in, and was to be responsible to, that House, and the continuance in office of a gentleman who had not a seat in the House was a breach of faith with these who passed the measure into law and a gross violation, as he contended, of constitutional usage. He did not ask the Government to censure Sir Horace Plunkett or to denounce his conduct in his office as inefficient. He asked them to declare that the position he now occupied was an anomalous, illogical, and untenable one, that it should be speedily changed, and that the pledges they had received from the Prime Minister 161 and others that this was merely a temporary arrangement should be fulfilled.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
Before I say a word about the Amendment, and on the Motion, there is one thing I should like to make as plain as it is possible for words to make it, although I think it has already made itself pretty plain in the course of the debate, for, after all, fair play is a jewel in all parts of the United Kingdom. And that thing is that Sir Horace Plunkett is where he is at the present moment because, of the request of the Irish Government. It may have been a wise step on the part of the Irish Government, or it may have been a foolish step, but it was their step, and not his. Sir Horace Plunkett is, by common consent—I am glad to say we are all agreed on this—a man in whose breast no sordid idea ever takes root, and he is the last man to cling to office. He was not only prepared to go, but it is common knowledge—he has himself told me that I am at liberty to make the statement to the House—that he fully expected that he was going and he would have gone had it not been that his departure was stayed at the request of my predecessor in office. Therefore, it would be impossible for me who have ratified the former acts of my predecessor to consent to any Motion; which seemed to cast the faintest shadow of a suspicion or a doubt upon the right of Sir Horace Plunkett at the present moment to remain where he is. He is, as it were, our guest, and I would as soon think of inviting a man to dinner and then request him to leave the table before the last course was served, as I would of doing anything which would suggest that Sir Horace Plunkett was not perfectly entitled to be where he is at the present moment. Therefore, I think on that part of the case we have that satisfaction. The correspondence has been read before, but, as it is part of the case, I should like to remind the House as to what it was that Mr. Bryce wrote to Sir Horace Plunkett:—I have under consideration the arrangements necessary for continuing the duties of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction. I understand that, regarding your appointment as Vice-President of the Department as being of a political character, you are I desirous of retiring from it at the change of' 162 Ministry. On this point I have consulted the Prime Minister and with his concurrence I conceive that it may be proper to treat the matter as being one which for our immediate purposes is outside considerations of Party. I therefore hope that you will be disposed, seeing that the arrangement is one of a purely provisional character, to carry on the duties of Vice-President. It is the intention of the Government to examine fully into the organisation and working of the Department and its relations to the other branches of Irish administration, and I think your continuance in the office of Vice-President will facilitate such examination. They retain, I need hardly say, entire freedom as to their future action.On 21st February, 1906, the Prime Minister made the following reply to a Question—My view of the case is this—that the present state of things is purely temporary and purely exceptional. There is no intention of converting an office which is of one character into an office of another character with the same official serving in it. That has never been contemplated. But as the whole matter was under review in order to place the Department in many respects on a better footing, it was thought that there was no harm in continuing Sir Horace Plunkett in the position, rather than make a new appointment which would have to be subject to any change found to be necessary.My predecessor was strongly of opinion that it was highly desirable to have an inquiry into into the working of the Department. His reason—he is now a long way off, and therefore one can speak of him with some freedom—was that he had in preparation a measure of what, is commonly called "devolution," and he was naturally very much attracted by the examples of successful devolution which had been carried into effect by the Act constituting this Department of Agriculture, which absorbed a considerable number of existing Boards and bodies, and created a Board and consultative Council, elected in a certain way by the Irish people, who were to exercise control over it. That is devolution, of course. That kind of devolution becomes law. Other kinds of devolution may meet with difficulties in other places. My right hon. friend was anxious to have a careful and searching inquiry into the working of the Department, partly for the reason that it would increase his knowledge and give him a good hint or two for his own measure, and also because complaints had been made in different parts of Ireland as to the working of the Department. My predecessor put upon 163 the Committee certain gentlemen, one of great knowledge of technical education, connected with South Kensington, and another gentleman from Canada— an agricultural country. Unfortunately for that honest man, the first thing he— said, on arriving in Ireland, was that he had derived great knowledge from Sir Horace Plunkett's interesting book, which he had been reading for information. But this Committee is a serious body, and will, no doubt, report in a short time—I hope before many days are over. They are now considering their final Report, and I protest against any suggestion that they arc holding over that Report. They are doing nothing of the kind; but in consequence of the great pressure which I have put upon them, they have hurried their work on as fast as they could, and, before many days are out, I am assured that Report will appear. Then the Government will give it their full consideration. The object for which Mr. Bryce sought to retain Sir Horace Plunkett was that he might gave evidence before the Committee and put it in possession of all the information at his command. The understanding, therefore, was that he was to remain in office pending the result of the inquiry into his Department. It is quite a mistake to suppose that in this question — which is one of administration, and therefore essentially one for the Prime Minister— my right lion, friend was ever in doubt as to the course to be taken, or that he needed advice from gentlemen from Canada or others. It is the fixed intention of the Prime Minister that this office should be a Ministerial office, held by a Gentleman in sympathy with the Party in power, sitting here on these Benches, and responsible to the House for the work of his Department. Therefore, it is a mistake to suppose that we are waiting for the Report of this Committee in order to make up our minds upon the subject, for our minds arc already completely made up and will in no way be affected, in that 164 matter, by the inquiry into the working of the Department itself. As to the Parliamentary bargain, no one who has listened to the two moderate, able, and conclusive speeches of the mover and seconder of the Motion can have any doubt that there is an overwhelming case in it? support, and no one can blame the Prime Minister or blame me for having determined to adhere to that Parliamentary bargain. It took its origin in the Report of the Recess Committee, which I understand is Sir Horace Plunkett's own Report. From beginning to end of that Report there is the assertion that the head of the Agricultural Department should be a Minister with a seat in the House of Commons. Sir Horace Plunkett is a man who was distinguished in this House, and everybody would be glad, apart from politics, to see him back again. And does anybody doubt that if he had been fortunate enough to retain his seat in Parliament he would, as Vice-President of the Agricultural Department, hove remained in Parliament, and would have transacted his duties us a Minister just as admirably here as well as in Ireland? I quite agree that a man cannot be in two places at the same time; but the time which Sir Horace Plunkett would have given as a Minister to Parliament would not have been lost to Ireland. After all, Sir Horace Plunkett would be the last man to suggest, as has been suggested by his friends, that he is the Department. My hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University referred to the body of able and active men Sir Horace Plunkett has gathered round him in Ireland. Quite true; and these men would have done their business all the same though their chief was absent from Ireland in Parliament for a short time. In fact, I believe that if Sir Horace Plunkett had been here during the term of office of the late Administration to answer questions affecting the Department, the Department would not be covered with that cloud of suspicion which unfortunately now envelops it. The Irish Members would have 165 had opportunities of conversing with him in the lobbies and in his room in the way they most cheerfully know how to exercise. My experience is that they are fair minded men, and I think he would have been able to make good his case against them, even though he might give way to them in some cases against his better judgment. If people imagine that the administration of a great Department like this, with the ramifications and operations extending throughout all agricultural Ireland, can be carried on without the head of that Department being in touch with the Nationalist Party, with Irish Members, these sitting for Ulster as well as these representing other parts of Ireland, then they are greatly mistaken. Therefore it was that Mr. Gerald Balfour, whose absence from the House I greatly deplore—the more ex-Chief Secretaries there are in the House the better pleased I am; I always look to them for sympathy at least, if not for support—Mr. Gerald Balfour contested this very point in the House with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, and pointed out—I have the passage here, but I do not wish to read it—that as Chief Secretary lie was a shadow or shade of the Department, but could not undertake its work. Now Mr. Gerald Balfour has left the tradition in the Chief Secretary's Office that he was the most hard-working and conscientious Minister in matters of detail the office had ever known. I am afraid I shall not interfere with the reputation he enjoys. He declined to make himself responsible for the work of the Department, and insisted that the intention was that the Vice-President should be a Member of the House. To that decision the present Government adhere. It is all very well for my hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University, who spoke so highly of the personal qualities of Sir Horace Plunkett, irrespective of Party, to refer to him as "the least political of politicians "— was that the phrase? I did not quite catch it, but I know it means something 166 discreditable to politicians. I am not quite so sure that my hon. friend would be quite so satisfied with Sir Horace Plunkett's retention of office, if, instead of sharing so many of his opinions, he held a diametrically opposite opinion on one important subject. The "sweet reasonableness" of my hon. friend would scarcely swallow such a bolus as that; and he must not be surprised to find men on these Benches not quite so exalted in their views as my hon. friend, who would prefer that a great Department like this should be represented in the House by a Minister with whom other Members of the Administration have personal relations, and with whose views they sympathise. Well, the effect of it all is this. We wish it to be distinctly understood that Sir Horace Plunkett is where he is at the request of the Government, and that there is not a thought or a shadow of blame to be attached to him, for he would have gone, but for our action and interference. We are waiting for the Report, which soon we shall get; but we have definitely and determinately made up our minds that the office shall be held in accordance with the original intention with which the Act was passed, not only by a Member of the House, but by a Member of the Administration, and from that view, and that intention we do not intend in any way to depart. We have, therefore, no difficulty in supporting the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite, which states the exact facts of the case. After all I would remind hon. friends behind me this is a Prime Minister's question. It is a question of administration. If he thinks his Administration will be strengthened and supported by the Parliamentary obligation being carried out, the House should wait to censure it until it has been done. We cannot support the Amendment of the hon. "Member for Bow and Bromley, but we can support the Motion of the hon. Member opposite.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
As one of the ex-Chief Secretaries who are the delight of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I think I ought to say one word in this debate, especially as I was the ex-Chief Secretary who, in another capacity, was primarily responsible for assenting to the arrangement by which Sir Horace Plunkett continued out of Parliament the work he so admirably commenced in Parliament. This question has two aspects, an historical aspect and a personal aspect; and on the historical aspect I think there can be no dispute amongst hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House. It is perfectly true that this office was intended to be a Parliamentary appointment. It is also true, in my belief, that, as the present Chief Secretary for Ireland has said, Sir Horace Plunkett would have continued, during the tenure of office of the late Administration, his work on the Agricultural Board in this House had he succeeded in obtaining a seat in this House. He failed to obtain a seat in this House, and the question which arose and had to be decided by His Majesty's late advisers, was whether it was, or was not, for the interests of Ireland, and for the interests of the great industry of Ireland, that Sir Horace Plunkett should continue out of Parliament the functions which, no doubt, it was originally intended should be carried out by a Gentleman in this House. I believe that which is in fact the account of the historical situation given by the Chief Secretary, and I believe also by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, to be perfectly accurate. Why did the late Government decide that Sir Horace Plunkett should be asked to continue his work? They came to that decision because they were of opinion 168 that there was no man in Ireland of any politics—politics did not enter into this particular part of the question at all— so qualified by his knowledge, by the aspirations which had guided his life, by the ideals which he always held before him, to carry the work of the new Department to a successful issue as the man who had so large a part—not, perhaps, the whole part—in framing it and bringing it into being. After all, Sir, from a merely personal point of view, from the point of view of the Government which has a great many friends who would like to have office and not many offices to give them, which is the difficulty of all Prime Ministers, it would, of course, have been convenient to have another vacancy to bestow upon some deserving Member of this House; and the reason we did not take that very simple and obvious course, the reason why we persuaded Sir Horace Plunkett to continue his work out of Parliament as he had begun it in Parliament, was that we believed that was for the best interests of Ireland. F am convinced that no man in this House who knows anything about Ireland will deny that the decision come to by the late Government, and endorsed by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, was, in the interests of Ireland, the right decision. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Irish Party described the position of Sir Horace Plunkett as anomalous, illogical, and untenable. I think logic is very improperly and unhappily brought into this question. If by logic is meant an absolute consistency of policy, it has admittedly been broken in this case. It is perfectly true that Sir Horace Plunkett himself never anticipated when he took the office in Parliament that he would hold it when out of 169 Parliament; but if it was for the interest of Ireland, during the years that succeeded the election of 1900, that he should hold the office he has held, and continue to perform the great functions which he has performed to the admiration of everybody, why are we on this occasion to hold this close, pedantic view of continuity of policy, which is, of course, not backed up by any legal sanction, and has not behind it the sanction of any Act of Parliament? I think we were amply justified in the breach of logic of which the right hon. Gentleman complains; and the late Chief Secretary must have been of the same opinion, because he carried out a policy as anomalous, as illogical, as untenable as the policy for which we were responsible, and he did it for the same reason. I fail to understand the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down of his predecessor's policy. The right hon. Gentleman appears to be of opinion that Sir Horace Plunkett was continued in office, not so much to do work for which he was peculiarly qualified, as in order that he might give evidence on a subject of which he knew a great deal. If it is illogical to carry out a policy which is untenable, let us, at all events, do it in a better cause than that of merely enabling a man to give evidence before a Royal Commission. Let us do it in order that we may effect a great reform, may carry out a great material work to the benefit of the Irish people. And I believe, in spite of the evidence of Mr. Bryce's successor, that that was Mr. Bryce's intention when he asked Sir Horace Plunkett to continue his duties. What evidence has come to the present Chief Secretary for Ireland which has made him change the opinion entertained by his predecessor and the predecessor 170 of his predecessor? What view does he take of Sir Horace Plunkett's work which makes him doubt that the work of the Department could not be carried out so well by any other man? He has given us no suggestion, but he has assented— or rather he has, on the part of his Government, given his consent—to a Resolution which, however it is interpreted, is really usceptible of only one interpretation, and that is that the majority of this House, incited thereto by hon. Gentlemen ! below the gangway, have come to the conclusion that, whatever be Sir Horace Plunkett's qualifications for this post, however devoted he may be to the task he has undertaken, however great may be the work he is doing, he has committed one crime which is unpardonable—he has retained his Unionist opinions. I think that a very unhappy conclusion for the Government to arrive at. If when they came into office they had said to Sir Horace Plunkett, "You have always taken your position as that of a Party politician, you always expected to leave office with the Government with whom you on the whole agreed, we regret your departure, as, on a change of Government, the country has often to regret the departure of very eminent politicians, "then their position would have been absolutely unassailable, and the last person to assail it would have been Sir Horace Plunkett. But to ask him to go on not to give evidence—
§ MR. BIRRELL
The last part of the letter says the Government retain their freedom of future action.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Whatever it means, it does not mean giving evidence before the Committee. I do not accuse the right hon. Gentleman of breach of 171 faith; I do not say the Government have broken any pledge they gave to Sir Horace Plunkett or anybody else. My charge, if you call it a charge, is of a different kind. I say they asked this eminent official to go on with his work, irrespective of the Committee, because he was specially qualified to do it, and now, because hon. Gentlemen below the gangway accuse him of no crime but the crime of Unionism, they turn round and say that, as soon as the Committee report, whatever they report, Sir Horace Plunkett is to be relieved of an office in which he continued at their special request. It is an unhappy decision, and, if the Government will allow me to say so, it is a decision of especially unhappy augury in view of those schemes of devolution of which we know but little, but of which one result we know will be that Unionists will meet with an absolute bar in the future, whatever their services may have been.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling Burghs
A direct charge has been made, not only
§ against Mr. Bryce, but also against myself, who am more responsible, in one sense, than Mr. Bryce, of having treated Sir Horace Plunkett in a certain way because he was a Unionist. Such an idea never entered into our heads. My right, hon. friend has explained the circumstances exactly. We were going to have a general supervision and investigation of this Department. We thought it most undesirable, seeing we could not tell what the result of that inquiry would be, that a fresh appointment should be made, subject to all possible changes that might take place, and we asked Sir Horace Plunkett, as a favour to the Government as well as to the country, to continue during the interval to discharge his duties; but we explained to him, and explained in this House, in the clearest possible manner, that it was only a temporary continuation of the appointment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 247; Noes, 108. (Division List No. 142.)175
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Blake, Edward||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Boland, John||Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancras, W|
|Acland, Francis Dyke.||Bowerman, C. W.||Cooper, G. J.|
|Agnew, George William||Brace, William||Corbett, C.H.(Sussex, E. Gr'st'd|
|Ambrose, Robert||Bramsdon, T. A.||Crean, Eugene|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Branch, James||Delany, William|
|Astbury, John Meir||Brigg, John||Devlin, Joseph|
|Atherley Jones, L||Bright, J. A.||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Brunner, J.F.L. (Lanes. Leigh)||Dickinson, W,H, (St. Pancras, N|
|Barker, John||Brunner. Rt. Hn. Sir J. T. (Ches.||Dillon, John|
|Barlow, John Emmott (Som'rs' t||Bryce, J. Annan||Duffy, William J.|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Burke, E. Haviland-||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness]|
|Barnes, G. N.||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Byles, William Pollard||Elibank, Master of|
|Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R.||Cameron, Robert||Esmonde, Sir Thomas|
|Benn, Sir J. Williams(Devonp'rt||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo||Causton, Rt. Hn Richard Knight||Evans, Samuel T.|
|Bennett, E. N.||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Cleland, J. W.||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Billson, Alfred||Clough, William||Fenwick, Charles|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon Augustine||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Ferens, T. R.|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Lewis, John Herbert||Richardson, A.|
|Findlay, Alexander||Lough, Thomas||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lundon, W.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Robinson, S.|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Macpherson, J. T.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Gilhooly. James||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down. N.||Rose, Charles Day|
|Gill, A.H.||MacVeigh, Chas. (Donegal, E.)||Rowlands, J.|
|Ginnell, L.||M'Callum, John M.||Runciman, Walter|
|Gladstone. Rt. Hn. Herbert John||M'Crae, George||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Glendinning, R. G.||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.|
|Glover, Thomas||M'Kean, John||Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)|
|Grant. Corrie||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Scott, A.H. (Ashton under Lyne|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Seely, Major J. B.|
|Gulland John W.||M'Micking, Major G||Shackleton, David James|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Mallet, Charles E.||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Shaw, Rt, Hon. T. (Hawick B|
|Hall, Frederick||Mansfield, H. Rendall (Lincoln)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Halpin, J.||Marks, G. Croydon Launceston)||Sheehy, David|
|Harmsworth R.L.(Caithn'ss-sh||Massie, J.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N E.||Masterman, C. F. G.||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||Meagher, Michael||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Menzies, Walter||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Hazleton, Richard||Mieklem, Nathaniel||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Melteno, Percy Alport.||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Money. L. G. Chiozza||Summerbell, T.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham'||Mooney, J. J.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Henderson, J.M. (Aberdeen, W.||Morrell, Philip||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe.)||Morse, L. L.||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Higham, John Sharp||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Hobart,.Sir Robert||Murnaghan, George||Tomkinson, James|
|Hobhouse, Charles E. H,||Murphy, John||Toulmin, George|
|Hodge, John||Nicholls, George||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Hogan, Michael||Nicholson, Chas. N. (Doncast'r||Ure, Alexander|
|Holden, E. Hopkinsor||Nolan, Joseph||Verney, F. W.|
|Horniman, Emslie John||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Horridge, Thomas Gardner||Nuttall, Harry||Walsh, Stephen|
|Hudson, Walter||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Hyde, Clarendon||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||O'Hare, Patrick||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Jenkins, J.||O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Johnson, John (Gateshead)||O'Malley, William||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Whiteley, George (York, W.R.)|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||O'Shee, James John||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Jowett, F.W.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Joyce, Michael||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Pease, J. A. (Saffron, Walden)||Wiles, Alexander|
|Kelley, George D.||Pollard, Dr.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Power, Patrick Joseph||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Kettle, Thomas Michael||Price, C. E. Edinb'gh, Central)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Kilbride, Denis||Radford, (J. H.||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Rainy, A. Rolland||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Laidlaw, Robert||Rea, Walter Russell (Searboro'||Young, Samuel|
|Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster||Reddy, M.|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||Redmond, William (Clare)||Patrick O'Brien and Captain|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington)||Randall, Athelstan||Donclan.|
|Lever. A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Richards, Thomas (W.Monm'h|
|Levy, Maurice;||Richards. T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n:|
|Acland-Hood, Rt Hn. Sir Alex. F.||Balcarres, Lord||Beauchamp, E.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynel||Balfour, Rt Hn A.J. (City Lond.)||Beckett, Hon. Gervase|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Bignold, Sir Arthur|
|Armitage, R.||Banner, John S. Harmood-||Bowles, G. Stewart|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh().||Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Ashley, W. W.||Barran, Rowland Hirst||Bridgeman, W. Clive.|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Brooke, Stopford|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Hamilton, Marquess of||Roberta, S.(Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Wore'r)||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Cave, George||Helmsley, Viscount||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Cavendish. Rt, Hn. Victor C.W.||Hervey, F.W.F.(Bury S. Edm'ds||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hunt, Rowland||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W||Smith. Abel H. (Hertford. East)|
|Chance, Frederick William||Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Smith, F.E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Lamont, Norman||Starkey. John R.|
|Clark, George Smith (Belfast, N.||Fane-Fox, G. R.||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.|
|Coats, Sir T. Glen (Renfrew, W.||Liddell, Henry||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Collings, Rt. Hn. J.(Birminghm||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Dublin, S||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Tennant, H. J. (Barwickshire)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Cory, Clifford John g||Lynch, H. B.||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Courthope. G. Loyd;||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Valentia, viscount|
|Cox, Harold||M'Calmont, Colonel James||Walrond. Hon. Lionel|
|Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S.||M'Iver, Sir Lewis(Edinburgh W||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent. Mld)|
|Craig, Capt. James (Down, E.)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Mason, James F(Windsor)||Whitbread, Howard|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Davies, David (MontgomeryCo.||Napier, T. B.||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Nicholson, W. G. (Petersfield)||Younger, George|
|Faber, Capt, W.V. (Hants, W.)||Nield, Herbert|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||TELLERS POR THE NOES— Mr.|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Percy. Earl||Lonsdale and Mr. Hugh|
|Fletcher, J. S.||Ratcliff, Major R. F.||Barrie.|
|Forster, Henry William||Rawlinson, Jn. Frederick Peel|
|Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||Renton Major Leslie|
Main Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ And, it being after Eleven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the Business.
§ Whereupon Mr. JOHN REDMOND rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Resolved, "That the position of Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland was intended by Parliament to be, and in fact is, a Ministerial and Parliamentary office, properly vacated upon a change of Government, and that the retention of that office by a political opponent of the Government of the day is undesirable as a permanent arrange ment.—(Mr." Murphy.)