§ £113,817, to complete the sum for Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, Ireland.
§ *The VICE-PRESIDENT of the DEPARTMENT of AGRICULTURE for IRELAND (Mr. T. W. Russell, Tyrone. S.)
said that, owing to 160 circumstances which required very little explanation at his hands, the Vote for this, in some respects, the most important of all Irish State Departments had not been frequently discussed in Parliament. The Minister responsible for the expenditure and for the conduct of the Department was not in the House. The Vote had, therefore, to take its chance with others, and, being of doubtful parentage, was jostled out of the arena. Now, after barely two months experience, during which he had been largely occupied in disposing of arrears of work due partly to the disturbance caused by the labours imposed by the Departmental Committee on the principal officer of the Department, he was called upon not only to defend the Vote— which he was quite ready to do— but to meet suggestions for a new policy which, if advisable, would require legislative sanction, and to apply fresh methods, which he certainly did not shrink from, provided fair time was given for their consideration. The debate would probably be largely occupied with the consideration of the majority and minority Reports of the Departmental Committee of Inquiry. That Committee sat for over a year. It sat at the request of the Government, and discharged its onerous duties with great care, with unsparing labour, and with great ability. It held sittings north, south, east, and west in Ireland, and also in London. A vast amount of evidence was taken from all sorts of people— from county committees, municipal bodies, education authorities, stock-breeders, farmers, and officials. For over a year the Committee turned everything in the country upside down so far as the work of the Department was concerned and examined it most thoroughly. In the result there were two Reports, a majority report and a minority Report. It was not to be greatly wondered at in the nature of things and in the nature of the task imposed upon them that these two Reports, full of interesting and suggestive matter as they were, did not add much light to that already in possession of the Government. In almost every particular save one the Reports differed from each other. The one particular in which they agreed was significant, and he would dwell upon it later on. They both agreed in declaring that the present funds of the Department were inadequate for the work, and they both agreed in recommending that these funds should 161 be immediately increased. He would refer to this point again. The majority Report found that, on the whole, the work of the Department was good; that it was suited to the requirements of the country; and that it ought to be allowed to continue and develop as it had been doing. They recommended, in fact, no change in it. Evidence was received in criticism of the Department's methods, but it was declared that the weight and volume of the evidence was overwhelmingly on the other side. In short, they recommended leaving things pretty much as they were. Against the minority Report, at any rate, nobody could bring the charge of hesitation to recommend change. It was a very interesting document from many points of view, and one in which remarkable industry and ingenuity had been bestowed. A good deal of it was given up to criticism of the Department's methods, and ho would deal with that part of the Report in the course of the debate. Its positive recommendations, however, might be summarised thus. It recommended that the Department should be broken up and a great deal of its present functions taken from it; that its Representative Boards, the Agricultural Board, and the Board of Technical Instruction, should be abolished; and that three Departments should be established in place of the one which now existed. Those three Departments would be, first the remains of the existing Department reconstructed on lines which Mr. Micks suggested. Secondly, a new Development Department consisting of four Commissioners elected by the Irish Members of Parliament grouped according to provinces, and a fifth Commissioner nominated by the Irish Government. This new Department would have an endowment fund of £1,000,000 a year, and would be "altogether detached and free from the control" either of the Imperial Government or of Parliament. The third of the three Departments suggested was a Forestry Department, which would be also an independent body, separate from the others, and of course possessing an endowment fund of its own, and those three would be in the place of the one that now existed. Whatever view might be taken of these proposals they were, to say the least, not characterised by timidity. In the region both of destructive criticism and 162 of constructive criticism they were certainly comprehensive. But they had that day to view the matter as practical men; and without expressing any opinion as to the merits of these positive recommendations of the minority Report it was enough for him to say on behalf of the Government that any such changes as were suggested would require legislation and an amount of consideration such as it had been impossible for the Government to give to them up to the present. Before coming to the one recommendation on which both the Reports agreed, perhaps it would be well if he took up one or two of the points of criticism in the minority Report which had come under his own ken since he had been in the Department. On this matter he wished to say just two things. The first was this. A great machine of administration like the Department in its motion through seven years must necessarily have generated friction at certain points. Moreover, as it was intended, in the words of the Recess Committee, "to make experiments and see some fail," it had made various experiments and had seen some of them i fail. Hon. Members would find that in the minority Report every one of those cases of friction and all those instances of failure, whether of remote or recent date, was taken up, and examined with the greatest minuteness and detail. He did not know whether hon. Members would care to go into these cases. If they did he would try to answer them to the best of his ability. But he would point out that his ability was limited in the matter, and that for what belonged to the past he could not accept any responsibility. A second thing he wanted to say was this. The Report of the majority of the Committee in more than one place, and especially in its concluding paragraph, paid a tribute to the devotion to duty j and the ability of the officers and staff. He had not been long enough in office to speak with full authority on this point, but he could speak of the readiness to help and the ability of which he had been witness, and he felt pleasure in paying this tribute to a body of hard-working officials who thoroughly deserved it. He would now like to call attention to some points in the minority Report which asserted that the public interest had suffered by a lack of business-like methods. 163 In regard to this three serious cases were set out by Mr. Micks. The first related to the headmastership of the School of Art in Dublin. By the death of the headmaster a vacancy occurred some two years ago or more. For some reason or other that vacancy was allowed to extend over a period of two years. It was quite impossible that the school should not have suffered by the long vacancy. The vacancy was caused by the death of Mr. Willis— an extremely competent man. The defence of the Department for the delay was this. A Commission was appointed to consider the position of the Hibernian Academy and the Metropolitan School of Art. It sat for a considerable time, and like a good many Commissions planted on Irish soil within the last few years, it had produced two Reports, but it was not considered possible while it was sitting to appoint a headmaster. The view he took on coming into office was this. The Commission disagreed. Their Report had been printed, but no one had paid the slightest attention to it, and he did not see why he should maintain the vacancy an hour longer. He was extremely fortunate in getting an Irishman by birth to fill it. This gentleman had served his apprenticeship at this work in Belfast, and was well able to discharge the duties. He had accepted the position and would enter upon his duties very shortly. This disposed of the School of Art. The second question to which Mr. Micks devoted his attention was the now Veterinary College. Under the Act of 1899 £15,000 were allocated for the erection of a Veterinary College in Dublin and the Department was given discretion to add to that statutory grant. When he reached the Department the £15,000 had been paid with an addition of £5,000. The college had asked for £10,000 more, had asked for a considerable time, and there was a complaint of the delay caused by the Department. He was not going to enter into the question of the delay for which he was in no way responsible, but the fact was that he settled the matter by giving, not £10,000 but £5,000 and a balance of £1,640. That matter was now definitely closed. Thus the second case was settled. There was another matter about which there had been serious friction between the Department and the City Corporation 164 — he referred to the grant under the Act of some £50,000 to the city of Dublin for a technical school on the north side of the city. Long before he became Vice-President of the Department he took part in that controversy, and, whoever was to blame, the city had undoubtedly suffered for five or six years by being deprived of this school, and so far as he was concerned he was determined the city should not suffer a day longer than he could help. He knew that the Technical Education Committee of the Corporation had had quarrels about a site, but they now agreed, and, as representing the Department, he now said that that £50,000 was at the disposal of the corporation when it decided to proceed. The Department would take no further responsibility for delay. Another and still more serious matter was the relations of the Department to the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. That was a burning question, and it bad given rise to great trouble in this House, in Ireland, and in the Department itself. He wanted to make a plain statement on that matter, and he wanted the attention of hon. Members below the gangway especially in regard to his personal attitude on the question. The Department — that was to say the late Vice-President, the Board of Agriculture, and the Council— had alike been parties to a subsidy— for the present year it amounted to £3,700 —to an outside body called the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. That society was founded before the Department came into being by Sir Horace Plunkett, whose work in this connection deserved grateful recognition, and claimed, indeed, to have been the pioneer and forerunner of the Department. The society existed mainly for the purpose of organising and developing agricultural co-operation, than which nothing could be more necessary not only in Ireland but elsewhere. He observed from the Bill now before one of the Standing Committees relating to small holdings in England that there was a great deal about co-operation. For some time, however, the grant to this society had been the cause of great division and friction in this House and in Ireland. Anyone who desired to know the history of this feud would find it admirably summarised in the minority Report, pages 54 to 66. [A laugh.] The hon. Member for 165 North Londonderry smiled, but he said it was an admirable summary of the controversy. The grant to this society was given after a full debate and a division in November, and it was made for one year. The Council would meet again in November next, and he presumed that the matter would then come up for consideration. Indeed it must do so, the grant being for one year only. Personally he held the same view as his predecessor in regard to the value of, and the necessity for, agricultural co-operation. He understood and fully appreciated the necessity in a country like Ireland, where they were literally engaged in the remaking of many things, of an active organising propaganda, and he was prepared to encourage such a policy; but when the real issue came to be covered, as in this case, by the proposition that the State should subsidise an outside organisation whose income had naturally shown a strong tendency to diminish just as the State subsidy increased, and which more or loss came to rely on the State crutch as the principal source of its income —when a condition of affairs like that arose, there was certainly something to be said. To meet that very point the arrangement made last year in acccordance with the resolution passed by the Council of Agriculture fixed the Department's subsidy on a pro rata basis, the Department's grant being given in a fixed proportion to the income obtained by the society from other sources. But, of course, if these co-operative societies were to become general trading bodies, as distinguished from purely agricultural societies, competing with ordinary traders in the country, and not only competing in agricultural implements, seeds, and things of that kind, but competing in general merchandise, then still further reasons might legitimately be required why public money should be voted to prosecute operations of that kind. He understood and approved of co-operation, or even the organisation of co-operation, but co-operation by means of a State subsidy was a wholly different thing, and must be considered on its own merits. He should make it his business to hear fully the arguments of the representatives of the Agricultural Organisation Society and others. He had received a deputation from the manufacturers and traders, and as this important question must be 166 considered at the next meeting of the Council of Agriculture, he would be prepared to state then the views he held and the policy that should in his judgment govern the Department in the matter. Now he came to the actual work of the Department in the West of Ireland. There was some difficulty about this matter. Some hon. Members had the idea that the Department was responsible for the distress that might arise in that part of the country, but he would point out to those who held that opinion that the Department was not responsible for the relief of any distress that might arise in the West. When the Act of 1899 was passed the Department was expressly precluded from spending its money in relief of distress in the congested districts or to do any work in those districts. A change in the law occurred in 1903 under the great Act passed by the right hon. Member for Dover in that year. That restriction was removed, and by arrangement the Department took over from the Congested Districts Board those duties in those districts so far as they related to agricultural education. But, unfortunately, when the right hon. Gentleman transferred these duties he transferred very little money with them. All the Department received from the Congested Districts Board for undertaking these duties was £2,000. They had spent, or proposed to spend, that year some £9,700, and instead of that sum they really wanted £30,000 for the work. At present they were obliged to take the £9,700 out of the reserve fund. But instead of £9,700, they urgently required £30,000; and both the Reports said that there was an urgent demand for a grant of something like that sum. It might be asked what they were doing inland.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)
asked if the Minority Report did not ask for £8,000 for the Congested Districts Board and £30,000 in addition.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he would come to that later on. It might be asked what work they were doing in the congested districts of the West of Ireland. Well, here was the Agenda Paper before the Agricultural Board in Dublin last week. They required for the agricultural overseers' salaries and expenses, £2,500; administrative expenses, £1,500; premiums on bulls, £1,830; cost 167 of allocating land, £600; maintenance, salaries, depreciation, and cost of improvements, £1,150; expenses of purchase, railway charges, etc., £250; contingencies, spraying potatoes, etc., £850. Take the question of the potato crop. A fortnight ago they were in despair. The season was the worst and most inclement since 1879, and so far as the prospects of the potato crop were concerned, the people in the West of Ireland were in despair. The rain came down day by day and the turf was floating about. Indeed, the state of affairs was very bad. But now the weather had changed; they had had something like a fortnight of exceedingly fine weather, and the effect of that was a change from possible disaster to something like comparative safety. He must confess that had the bad weather continued and distress ensued he would have rather dealt with anything than with such a calamity as that, and it was an absolute relief to him personally that at the present time there was a brighter outlook. They had done all that they possibly could in the way of inducing the people to spray the potatoes. Of course they could not send instructors to every field to do the work; but short of that they had provided every facility for spraying the potatoes, and brought the facilities to the doors of the people. They had authorised the County Committees to purchase sprayers and hire them out at 6d. a day. They had supplied them with the materials — sulphate of copper and washing soda— at cost price; they had published placards and leaflets; and had interested every man in a public position to bring his influence to bear on the people to spray their potato crop There were a large number of people who would not spray at all even when the benefit of it was thrust upon them, and there were some who could not afford to purchase machines but who were doing the work by primitive means. They had done their best. They had drawn from the agricultural colleges and agricultural schools every available man who had the necessary training and sent them to the West of Ireland; and he was happy to say that more spraying was done this year than ever had been before, and that there was every prospect of a great disaster being averted. There was one point which he would like to mention to the Committee. A great deal of money was wasted in administration. He hap- 168 pened to be an ex-officio member of the Congested Districts Board, and had done his best to attend its meetings, with the result that he should like to see something like co-ordination in this work and that of the other Departments. There was a great deal of overlapping. Let him give a sketch of what he would like to do. During his journey to the West the other day he visited eleven holdings which had been purchased and resold by the Estates Commissioners. They were sold to eleven sons of neighbouring tenant farmers. Personally he called that an excellent thing, although it did not relieve congestion in the ordinary way. If, however, those eleven stalwart men had been left on their fathers' farms they would all have been in America in a couple of years. They were now each on a thirty-acre farm; they would be married in a year or two, and, as one of them told him, they would get a bit with their wives, so that they would be able to stock their farms, and in a few years rising and prosperous families would be the result. That seemed to him a very excellent way to stop emigration. But let him point out that the Estates Commissioners planted these men down on their thirty acres of laud, but there was no provision for a house or for stock. Here the Department came in and opened an Agricultural Bank which would lend money to put stock on the land; but still when this was done houses and out-offices had to be built and provided. How was this to be done? He thought there was great deal of overlapping which might be avoided, and if the work could be done scientifically, money would be saved. He did not know whether the Members below the gangway realised it quite, though right hon. Members on the Front Opposition Bench did, that every Department in Ireland was willing to take over all the work they could get hold of. He had had some experience of these matters at the Local Government Board, and what he wanted to secure was a scientific co-ordination of this work. He wanted to make an appeal to the Committee— not only to Irish Members— on this subject. This was a work which ought to be done. He was speaking, fortunately, that night in the presence of three right hon. Gentlemen who had held the office of Chief Secretary, and he was sure that they would admit that it was work which ought to be done. He 169 knew that he would have their sympathy when he said they ought not to be "cribbed, cabined and confined" to the use of a. few thousands from an Irish fund which they had no technical right to spend. He said that they ought to have a fund at their disposal which would enable them to set about the work in earnest and put the people on their feet by starting them in their holdings, which at present they could not stock and could not work. He thought that for this work they would require at least £30,000 per annum. He would not go fully into the question of income and expenditure now, but he might say that there was a general idea that with their income the Department had a gold mine in Merrion Street, and that they had money for anything and everything and were hoarding it up. When the Department was formed it was quite true that for the first two or three years they were not able to spend all their income; they required experience, and for a few years the fund accumulated to a large amount. To-day the endowment fund gave an income of £180,000 and Parliament voted £191,000. He had heard it said that this was an extraordinary amount of money for the Department to get, and he hoped the House would allow him to give some details of this £191,000 and how it was spent. The sum voted was spread over various science, art, and other institutions not strictly connected with but which were transferred to the Department. The Accumulated Fund in July, 1906, was £395,230; on 31st March, 1907, it amounted to £353,296, and of this £53,318 belonged to technical schools, and £42,040 was taken up by fixed charges. On 31st March, 1907, there was a clear Reserve Fund of £134,335, upon which all kinds of raids were attempted. It could easily be disposed of if the Department listened to all the applications made. There were people in Ireland insane on the subject of peat, and who had an idea that, with the expenditure of a little money and the use of their services, Ireland might be turned upside down and made a happy country for all time. A good deal of money had been sunk in the bogs of Ireland, and the Department had sunk some, but he would sink no money in an Irish bog until he could see further. All sorts of other proposals there had been— the 170 drainage of the Bann and Barrow districts, for instance —work that undoubtedly should be done, but he refused to give a penny from the Reserve Fund for such a purpose. These, like the distress in the West, were matters that should be dealt with by the State Treasury, and he claimed to keep a tight hold of the Reserve Fund for departmental purposes. If hon. Members would make suggestions as to how the £134,000 should be spent, he would be glad to hear them. There was an idea abroad that the Department ought to promo' e, subsidise, and even start new industries, but that the Department was forbidden to do by the Act of 1899.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
agreed that as regarded rural industries they might, but as regarded other industries they might not. The policy might be right or wrong, and he expressed no opinion upon it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
inquired whether the hon. Gentleman could not follow the precedent set by the President of the Board of Education.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he was not going to take any responsibility for things for which he was not responsible, and which could only be dealt with by way of legislation. He was not there to administer the Report of the Recess Committee, but to administer the Act of Parliament. He was there, not to administer the speeches of Members, but the Act of 1899, and under the Act the subsidising of all industries other than rural industries was forbidden. As the debate went on, the Committee would, no doubt, have a great deal of information from hon. Members representing Ireland, who knew what had been done, and who would suggest what should be done. He could only say he would listen attentively to the debate, and attempt to do what was right. He would say in conclusion that, quite apart from its being the work in which he was most interested, money spent in the West was well spent. He remembered when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition went there 171 twenty years ago. He and the right hon. Gentleman were political opponents now, but were not then, and he sympathised with what the right hon. Gentleman did then. They could not expect machinery like this to act all at once, but anybody who went to the West of Ireland twenty years ago and knew what it was like then, and saw it now could not fail to see the enormous change that had taken place, and was still going on. He wished to impress on the Committeee the necessity for spending money in the West of Ireland, and, of course, other parts as well, but principally in the West. The profit that England would gain by doing its duty there would be enormous. Money spent there was well spent, and he hoped the Committee would not allow machinery like this to stand idle for the sake of a few thousands of pounds.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)
congratulated the hon. Gentleman on the statement he had made, and the Committee upon having the chief officer of this administrative Department in the House to speak for it. The Department had been in existence for seven years, and the present was the first time they had been able to have a debate of this character. When the Department was created one point insisted upon was that the chief of the office should have a seat in the House of Commons. Circumstances arose which prevented that, and for seven years the Irish Party had been pressing the Government which brought the Department into existence to make some arrangement to enable the head of the Department to be in the House. The hon. Gentleman was there at last, and the Committee had had the advantage of hearing from him a most interesting speech. This subject had been selected by the Irish Members for discussion, because of the disastrous effects of the weather this year, and the possible effect of it on the harvest. They looked forward with the greatest anxiety to a possible failure of the harvest, and desired to press on the Government the necessity of taking steps as early as possible, to prevent a calamity. The hon. Gentleman in charge of this Department recognised the necessity of doing something, and had taken such steps as were thought within the power of the Department of a preventive character. The 172 hon. Gentleman had spoken of the Western problem. There was not a Member of the Nationalist Party who was not more or less interested in the problem, because while it was true it related particularly to Connaught and the Western counties, what was called the Connaught problem was applicable to the whole of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman as an illustration of the-urgency of this question had referred to a district in which a number of young men had been planted on a large holding, which had been divided among them, but which previously had provided support for no human being. One of these young men he knew personally, and some of them were making arrangements before this holding was divided to cross the Atlantic and join the millions in America. These men were now settled on the land, and the hon. Gentleman had said the work of the Commissioners was finished when they planted them there. He found now that the work of the Department commenced in assisting them. So far as assisting agriculturists planted on economic holdings was concerned, the Department should devote itself in a special manner to those portions of the country where the occupiers were the owners of their land. One of the reasons for the suspicion which existed with regard to this Department was that men who had long experience of agriculture in Ireland believed that its work would lead to the increase of the rent which landlords wrested from the tenants. But no such feeling of distrust and suspicion could arise in the case of occupiers who were the owners of their holdings. Such men had every incentive to industry, to develop the land, and in those cases there was a full, fair, and free field for the work of the Department. He, therefore, as a matter of policy, suggested that the Department should devote itself in a particular manner to every portion of the country where the occupiers had become the owners of the land, but more particularly to the eases of those persons who had got new holdings, where the untenanted land had been purchased and divided and new holdings created. It was felt in a most particular manner that it was obligatory on a Department such as this to follow up the work of planting the people on the land by using every possible means of education and assistance for cultivating the land in a 173 manner profitable to themselves and the community. Apart from the peculiar circumstances created by the condition of the crops during the present year as a reason for having this matter discussed, there was also the reason that the Report of the Committee of Inquiry had recently been issued. The Department had been in existence seven years, and when this Government came into office about a year and a half ago one of the first things they did was to appoint a Committee to inquire into the working of the Department. That Committee had investigated the subject fully— many thought too fully. There again the suspicions of Irishmen and their representatives were justified, because the inquiry was not called for by public opinion, and it was rushed to such an extent at the start that, before the assembling of Parliament, or before the matter could be ventilated in the House, it was believed that there was an ulterior object in instituting the investigations. One effect it had was to leave the Department without a representative in that House for a year and a half, and some people thought that that had something to do with the appointment of the Committee of Inquiry and also with its prolongation. At the time the inquiry began the Department had been scarcely six years in existence. Two Reports had resulted — the Majority and Minority Reports. The Minority Report also justified the feeling which existed, that the Committee was intended to be one of a whitewashing character. As the hon. Gentleman had remarked it was one which showed that very considerable industry and ingenuity had been used in its production. It was the one Report which was of real interest in connection with a debate of this kind, and for all practical purposes, except as a matter of duty, it would scarcely be necessary to refer at all to the Majority Report. Indeed, it was noteworthy that the hon. Gentleman himself had referred solely to the Minority Report, which contained a very interesting summary of Irish history so far as related to the economic condition of the country. The late Vice-President of the Department issued a work on the same subject, not in the form of a Blue book, as this was, and both he and Mr. Micks traced the reasons for the uneconomic condition of Ireland. The late Vice-President attributed many of the evils in Ireland to causes inherent in the Irish people which could not be 174 dealt with or cured. He attributed it to the religion of the majority of the Irish people, to the existence of priests in the country, and to the fact that they spent too much money in building churches. The form of thought in Ireland, according to this philosopher and economist, might have been suitable for Eastern countries a couple of thousand years ago, but was not suitable for Western lands in the twentieth century. The late Vice President also thought the evil of Ireland arose from the fact that the Irish people rather looked to the hereafter to than the present. Mr. Micks, on the other hand, in the minority Report, also proceeded to trace the reason for the present state of Ireland, and he had found the real reason. It was not the particular form of religion or religious thought which accounted for the condition of that country, but, in the opinion of Mr. Micks, the true reason was to be found in the Statute-book of this country. Mr. Micks showed that hundreds of years ago, and down to very modern days, there were industries upon an extensive scale in Ireland, and the people of the country were prosperous. But the people of this country, wishing to raise themselves into a position of prosperity and preponderance in the industrial world, by Act of Parliament passed at the instance of manufacturers of this country suppressed the industries of Ireland, and suppressed them with as little compunction as in these days they suppressed the right of public duty and free speech. Sometimes, when they said that Irish industries had been suppressed by Act of Parliament, Englishmen replied that it could not be the fact. He would recommend Members carefully to read the Report, as was their duty, since they undertook the responsibility of governing Ireland, and they would then find the causes of the uneconomic state of things which existed in Ireland. Many Members perhaps regarded the Report merely as a Blue-book, but sometimes there were to be found within the pages of a Blue-book matters of very great interest, and no more tragic story could be found in the books of the libraries of this great city than was contained in the pages of the Blue-book signed by Mr. Micks. Who was Mr. Micks? He had asked several of his colleagues whether he was an Irishman, and for his own part he did not know whether he was or not, and he 175 had not come across anyone who could tell him whether he was an Irishman or an Englishman. This much they did know, that all the years of his manhood he had been an official of the English Government in Ireland. His politics were unknown to any of the Irish Members, and they took his work absolutely for what it was and upon its merits. Mr. Micks spoke with regard to Ireland not as a strong and extreme Irish Nationalist politician but as a Government official of long experience of various portions of Irish administration. He had been an inspector of the Local Government Board, in which capacity he travelled a good deal over Ireland. He had been secretary to the Congested Districts Board, in which capacity he was brought into contact with what the hon. Gentleman had truly described as one of the most interesting and important problems connected with the life of Ireland or of any other country. For some years he had been a member of the Local Government Board, which, as most hon. Members knew, was a completely unrepresentative, irresponsible, and autocratic body who largely ruled the country. It was this man, not a demagogue, not an agitator, who had traced back the uneconomic condition of Ireland to its real cause, and that was the hostile legislation of England in, not discouraging, but suppressing by law and making illegal the woollen industry and industries of that character which existed in Ireland. They were sometimes asked why was a portion of the North of Ireland more prosperous than the rest of Ireland. The one industry which existed in the North of Ireland in those days when Acts of Parliament were passed to suppress industry was the linen industry. There was no rival to the linen industry in England, and therefore the linen industry in the North of Ireland was not suppressed, but was encouraged and subsidised. Of the industries of the other portions of Ireland, the principal was the woollen industry. In the Blue-book they found that the manufacturers of Bradford and elsewhere, jealous of the growth of those industries, petitioned the Sovereign to get his Parliament to enact laws to suppress those industries in Ireland which came into competition with the industries of this country. It was remarkable that these Acts of Parliament which dealt with the industries of foreign countries enacted 176 that for the purposes of those laws Ireland was to be regarded as a foreign country. It was the duty of every British Member who had assumed, and continued to assume, the responsibility for the government of Ireland to study documents of this character and take action upon them. There were many matters connected with the Department dealt with in that Report, but there was one remarkable fact or idea running largely through it which for years had been in the minds of hon. Members in that part of the House, and it was that the Department dealt largely in theory and very little in practice. It was true that by law it was prohibited from entering into the industrial domain in towns. His opinion was that it could do a great deal in practice as well as in theory under the present state of the law. The hon. Member for North Dublin had said it was not forbidden in connection with rural industries, but there was in the evidence of Sir Horace Plunkect a statement that the conception of duty which existed in the minds of the Department and its officials was that it was entirely advisory and educational, and could assist so far as advice was concerned but not otherwise. This Department had been the means of spending something approaching £450,000 a year. That was a large sum, and naturally they had been looking for some results. They had allowed this Department considerable time to show some results, and even in seven years of educational work some results ought to be apparent. In his opinion no results were apparent, and the country certainly had not got value for the money spent. The Irish people were sometimes charged by Englishmen with being a sentimental race, and sometimes with being of a rather material character. An instance of that might be found in the Irish Council Bill, when the general opinion was that the Irish people would be willing to swallow that measure on account of the money attached to it. The rejection of that measure showed that when dealing with hard facts they were as ready to face them as hard-headed Englishmen or Scotsmen. Here was nearly £500,000 of their own money being spent every year, and he wished to know if the hon. Member or his officials could show any real value for it. The answer would probably be that there had been an 177 improvement in the breed of cattle, horses and poultry, but he would like to have some facts and figures as to that improvement. A great deal of money had been spent upon officials, of which there was a huge army connected with the Department. Some years ago a Return of those officials was published, and he would like to ask that that Return might be brought up to date. When that Return was issued on the last occasion it was quite a revelation to many of them to find what a vast army of officials existed, and he understood that the number had been largely increased since. He urged the Chief Secretary to give an order for the issue of that return up to date as a Parliamentary Paper. Mr. Micks, in his Report, referred to some questions of great importance, and one of them was winter dairying. With that there was connected another question of great importance to every part of Ireland, which bore upon the subject of emigration. Tillage on a much larger scale must take place, and that would involve a great deal of employment. One of the most important agricultural industries undoubtedly was the butter industry. In past years Ireland held a high place in the butter markets of this and other countries, and it was recognised that in order to hold the market they must be able to supply butter all the year round. Their supply in Ireland was very largely a summer supply. They had now been brought into competition with Denmark, where they were able to hold the market because they gave an all the year round supply. This question had engaged the attention of the Department, which had consulted, debated, advised, and resolved, but had not acted. Everybody connected with the Department recognised the advantage, if not the necessity, of winter dairying. The matter was brought before the Agricultural Council in April, 1904, and a resolution was unanimously passed in favour of winter dairying, and urging the Department to take immediate action. For over two years there was nothing to show that this matter had been discussed by the Department or by the Board of Agriculture. This Committee of Inquiry came into existence, and evidence relating to the necessity of winter dairying was given by a Limerick merchant. Then for the first time the matter was brought by the Department before the Agricultural 178 Board. Since then nothing had been done, although they had had pious expressions of opinion in favour of winter dairying. He thought £450,000 a year was a little expensive for the expression of pious opinions. The Agricultural Council was simply a debating society, and had no power to act. He thought this was a matter which ought to be taken into serious consideration by the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
was understood to say that he had brought this question before a meeting of the Agricultural Board, and that the question was not being lost sight of.
§ MR. HAYDEN
said that was a most satisfactory statement. That in itself was a proof of the necessity of having the Department represented in the House. Under the circumstances he thought he need not further urge the subject. As to the question of transit, he thought it would be hard to find a matter of greater national importance to all parts of Ireland. What was the Department doing in connection with that subject? The Act of 1899 conferred upon the Department certain powers of a limited character, but such as they were they had never been used. The Department had failed up to the present to realise the vast importance of the subject. The railway charges in Ireland had hindered the development of industries, and certainly they had prevented the creation of many. The Department was divided into several sections, but there was no section specially charged with the supervision of matters relating to transit. The transit question was treated in a sub-department of the veterinary Department. Men who were called veterinary inspectors were sent out to fairs in the country, but in most cases they knew absolutely nothing of veterinary science; while cattle were being loaded they stood on the railway banks to see that the boxes were clean. That was very important work, but it was not work for which a veterinary inspector should get £350 or £400 a year. In his opinion it was work which could be done by a good class of labouring men at £1 a week. He admitted that, though the veterinary inspectors knew little about veterinary work, they knew something about railway work. As showing the red 179 tape character of the Department he said that the inspectors' reports had to go through several channels before they reached the Vice-President. He suggested that the Vice-President should consider whether or not all officials, even those holding minor posts, should be brought into immediate contact with himself. It was a matter of satisfaction that a representative of the Agricultural Department in this House could now he asked for information at first hand by the representatives of the country on such a question as the subsidy to the Agricultural Organisation Society. He had no doubt that this debate would have a beneficial effect on all concerned in the agricultural development of Ireland.
§ *MR. BUTCHER (Cambridge University)
said the Report of the Departmental Committee had been looked forward to with exceptional interest. It had now appeared, and included a Majority Report signed by four members of that Committee, and a Minority Report signed by Mr. Micks alone. The evidence, indeed, had not yet been issued; that they must regard as the habitual method of the Government in such inquiries. But the Report as it stood shed great light on subjects on which light was most needed. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Roscommon declared that the Committee was appointed merely in order to bring out a "whitewashing" Report, and that the majority had now discharged this duty. The names of the gentlemen who formed the Committee were a sufficient answer to the suggestion that they could lend themselves to such a service. The Department of Agriculture in Ireland had been vehemently attacked in certain quarters. It came into collision with two sets of persons—on the one hand with representatives of trade interests, who were hostile to the cooperative movement; on the other hand with Nationalist politicians. In the course of the inquiry, which was publicly held, one of the interesting facts which had come out was that in all parts of Ireland the weight of public opinion had been east in favour of the Department. The Report of the Committee endorsed and fortified that favourable opinion. He would rapidly run over some of the points in the Report. First, the conclusions reached as to the constitution of the Department and scope of its 180 powers testified to the sound and far-sighted judgment of Mr. Gerald Balfour, who set it up. Only slight modifications were here recommended. Next, a remarkable tribute was paid to the work done by the Department in the last seven years. The magnitude of the task was sometimes forgotten; it was nothing less than to build up from the foundations the whole system of agricultural and technical instruction. The results achieved were striking; but, still more important, the methods pursued were pronounced to be the right methods, and special praise was given to the elasticity and variety of method which had marked the Department's policy. Some mistakes had admittedly been made, but these did not detract from the main conclusion, that the Department was working on true lines of development and progress. Moreover, not only was the central work of the Department approved, but the Report bore witness to the harmonious relations between the offices in Dublin and the local Committees of Agriculture and Technical Instruction. This deserved to be emphasised, because the hope of the future lay largely in enlisting local interest and effort. One word, too, as regards the staff. Sir Horace Plunkett had been sharply criticised for importing aliens from England or Scotland in order to act as expert advisers of the Board. But most Irishmen were now agreed that he had done rightly in bringing in the best men, wherever they were to be found. These experts from outside were each year turning out a large and well-trained body of Irish men and Irish women to carry on the work of education. The whole staff of the Department were spoken of by the Committee in these terms of striking recognition—In point of zeal, devotion to duty, and practical good sense and ability, the staff of the Department, so far as we have had an opportunity of forming a judgment, is entitled to a high place in the records of the Civil Service.The Majority Report of the Committee was surely a final and authoritative answer to the carping criticism levelled against the Department for several years past. The hon. Member for East Mayo had spoken in the House not long ago of—the comparative failure of the work of the Department, which had been in a large 181 measure due to the personality of Sir Horace Plunkett;and he added—that the amount of practical work which the Department had to show for this vast expenditure was positively ludicrous.Similarly the hon. Member for North Camberwell had declared that—the Department had spent nearly £200,000 a year and its whole function had been to teach hens how they ought to lay eggs !They could have no better illustration of the unfair manner and mind with which some hon. Members approached this question; but such irresponsible talk was no longer possible.
There was one point of special interest on which the two Reports were in agreement; it related to the position of the Vice-President of the Department. The Majority Report recommended that the Vice-President of the Department should henceforth hold a non-Parliamentary office; experience had shown that his proper place was in Ireland rather than at Westminster. In the Minority Report there appeared to be no dissent from that view. Here he could not help reminding the Committee of a, statement made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland in April last. The right hon. Gentleman then said that—the position was intended by Parliament to be, and in fact is, a Ministerial and Parliamentary Office. … It is the fixed intention of the Prime Minister that the office should be a Ministerial Office. … From that view and that intention we do not intend in any way to depart.But not many weeks afterwards the Irish Council Bill was introduced and it was there provided that the post should no longer be a Parliamentary one. So rapid was his conversion when once Sir Horace Plunkett had been got rid of! What was the upshot of it all? The late Vice-President had been dismissed from office for having committed the sin —the unforgiveable sin in the eyes of some Nationalist politicians—of having diverted the minds of the people from politics to industry. He had been re-placed by an hon. Gentleman who had played many political roles, but had never deviated from party politics on the one side or the other. This was all that had been gained by yielding to the envenomed attacks made on Sir Horace Plunkett.
But to pass to the two alternative policies which the two Reports repre- 182 sented. The policy supported by the majority of the Committee was the policy of the Department, namely, that technical and agricultural education in its largest sense was the main agency on which they must rely for calling forth self-reliance and personal initiative, and so leading to the promotion of industries. The other alternative, represented by the Report of Mr. Micks, was to take certain short cuts to prosperity by the direct subsidy of industries. The policy of the Department had been to train skilled workers in schools and in workshops and also to provide expert advisers in the preliminary stages of industrial development. They believed that given well-trained workers with industrial aptitudes, capital would be attracted into various localities. It was true there were certain marginal cases in which it was not easy to say whether State aid for technical instruction did not pass into State aid for a given industry. Educational work on its practical side might sometimes be of a definitely trade character. No unvarying rule could be laid down. The Department had sought to judge the cases each on its own merits. Now and then they had in the opinion of the Committee exceeded their powers by financing such an industry as the Kilkenny Woollen Mills; but this was contrary to their usual practice, which was not even indirectly to aid any enterprise so as to bring it into rivalry with existing trades. The Vice-President referred to that part of Mr. Micks' Report in which he condemned the Department for granting a subsidy to the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. But in so doing the Department had not subsidised a trade concern, but had merely given money for the teaching of the principles of agricultural co-operation.
Yet Mr. Micks, who held this strict view about the use of public funds in a particular instance, propounded a vast scheme for creating and fostering State-aided industries. A million of money a year for twenty years from the Imperial Exchequer should go to Ireland for this purpose. The State was to start industries and build factories. No more unwise or dangerous policy could be proposed. If the subsidised industry failed, the public money spent on it would be wasted, and if it succeeded, there would be an outcry from 183 all the unaided industries, and trade jealousies in England and Ireland would be aroused. England did indeed owe reparation to Ireland. She owed her large amends for the past. How could she repay the debt? Englishmen had shown that they desired to make all reasonable amends. The simplest way, no doubt, was for them to put their hands in their pockets and ladle out money—the simplest way, but also the worst. It was not unnatural for people in Ireland to say, "England has ruined our industries; let her repair the injury; let English gold flow in and give us salaried employment." But surely that method was the wrong one. England could make lasting restitution in one way only—by encouraging self-help, self-reliance, and the habit of industry. This itself meant money, but money was not the main necessity. What was needed was that Ireland should be put in possession of all the intellectual instruments by which she might revive old industries or create new ones. Let her receive the best industrial education, the most skilled advice that experts could furnish. Let no form of scientific experiment be grudged her. But no more fatal kindness could be done her than to give direct subsidies to set. up ready-made industries. Instead of restoring industries it would merely paralyse the industrial spirit. Above all was this true in a country with a past like that of Ireland, where it had become only too habitual to look to the State for everything. That policy of doles was a policy of pauperisation. It was bad enough to have killed Irish industries in the past by selfish greed; still worse would it be, with mistaken good intentions, to kill out the newly-born spirit which Sir Horace Plunkett and his Department have fostered—the spirits of self-reliance, self-respect, and self-help.
§ MR. CLANCY
said that listening to the hon. Member they must come to the conclusion that he was not so much a statesman as a University don addressing University students. The more they heard of him the less they liked him. He wished to protest against one or two expressions which the hon. Gentleman used which involved a gross misrepresentation of the facts of the present situation. 184 The hon. Member had spoken of the policy of Sir Horace Plunkett having had the effect of developing the will power and helping the self-respect of the Irish people. The Irish people had far more self-respect than England had been able to destroy, and if she had not more to-day it was due to the system of Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was so enamoured. The hon. Member spoke of doles having been made to Ireland by this Parliament.
§ MR. CLANCY
said the hon. Member had referred to doles, and if he did not refer to this Parliament he referred to other Parliaments. He denied that the British Parliament had ever given doles to Ireland. Doles implied something given out of the funds of England, and through the generosity of England, to which Ireland had no right. From the Act of Union down to the present time Ireland had not obtained anything of the sort, and every penny she had obtained was money of her own; and not only that, England fraudulently retained from Ireland millions more to which she had no title. It was a strange thing to hear such statement seven from an Anglicised Irishman, when the late leader of the Unionist Party, Colonel Saunderson, and the majority of that Party and MR. Lecky repeatedly endorsed the view which he had expressed. It was an insult to the Irish people to have such statements launched at them as were made by the learned professor to whom they had just listened. He resented the often repeated statement, that there was local government in the Department, and that the expenditure was in the hands of the Agricultural Board. The truth was that there could be no expenditure without the approval and consent of the head of the Department. If he did not agree with an estimate the money went back to the reserve fund. The Board had no real authority at all in the matter of expenditure, and it was humbug to talk of their having it. They were always treated once or twice a year to a grand discussion which was fully reported in the papers at the meetings of the Agricultural Councils, but in: those Agricultural Councils, which might be attended with useful results, there had been a procedure which he hoped the 185 present head of the Department would not continue. As he had said, these meetings might be useful if members of the body were allowed to discuss matters fully. But, first of all, they had a long address from the President, Sir Horace Plunkett, which he had previously prepared at the expense of the Department, and then instead of allowing the Councils to discuss the subjects mentioned in that address, what did the President do but put up one of his underlings, whom he had previously inspired, to read a paper on an abstract subject, such as tillage versus grazing, upon which discussion was invited, but the really useful matters were scarcely touched upon, and there was no time in which to discuss them. The fact was that the Agricultural Department had become an annexe of Dublin Castle, and ought in its present position to be wiped out. One would imagine that local committees like that of County Dublin would be able to discharge their own business without the assistance of these great and mighty authorities set up in this Agricultural Department and overlooking the whole sphere of agriculture. Such committees were not, however, allowed to decide upon such matters as the salary of their own secretary, and the whole idea of the Department entertained by the hon. Gentleman seemed to be absolutely wrong. The main ideas of the Department appeared to be co-ordination and education. After they had co-ordinated, however, they would not obtain the object of the organisation. The first idea seemed to be that they should have a complete staff in every Department with telephones in every room, complete command of the telegraph and means of instructing their subordinates, and then gather back the network into one organisation. That seemed to be the end and aim of the whole organisation as far as he could gather, but at present so long as they had inspectors appointed to go round and report on something which they did not understand the effect was futile. He did not accuse Sir Horace Plunkett or anybody else of insincerity, but the fact seemed to be lost sight of that the real object of the Board should be to provide employment for the people. They might do it directly or they might do it indirectly, and the Act allowed subsidising of rural industries. What was the use of Irish technical education and nothing 186 else? He was in favour of education, but the result of the technical education now given was that those who received it left the country because they could not find employment. When they had educated the people they had no work for them to do, and they took their technical knowledge to America and elsewhere. It was said that they wanted education and coordination, and no doubt they did, but above all the one thing that was necessary was to provide employment in the country, and the Chief Secretary ought to be very careful indeed how he employed this £30,000. Let him point out at the same time that it would not do to be merely educating and spending money on education. The hon. Gentleman said he was not allowed to do anything more in the region of technical instruction, because that was the law. If that was the case, then the sooner the law was altered the better. But apart from that, it was a fact that the law did not extend to the region of agricultural and rural industries, and what he wanted to know was, would the hon. Gentleman inquire why there was not more solid work done in that region in the way of creating, and, if necessary, subsidising industries? He agreed that the hon. Gentleman ought to be very careful not to compete with existing industries. That ought not to be done. It had, however, been done by the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, which had most audaciously attempted to become the rival of certain branches of trade in the country. But apart altogether from those doubtful experiments and inexpedient devices, there was room for good, solid real work, not merely by education, in helping the agricultural community in Ireland to save itself. He thought the hon. Gentleman would probably do more to recommend his administration to the good will of the Irish people if he changed the system inaugurated by Sir Horace Plunkett, and devoted more money and time to creating industries, where ho was allowed by law to create them, provided he did so within proper limits, and less and less time in training people for foreign countries.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said that, though an English Member, he was not debarred from taking some part in this debate. He had the deepest interest in those economic 187 questions connected with Ireland which were, or ought to be, primarily the subject of discussion on an occasion like the present. He frankly doubted, interesting as was the statement of the hon. Member in charge of the Department, whether the debate, so far, had shown very clearly either what was the policy of the Government or what hon. Members below the gangway believed should be the Government policy. Some time had been devoted, and devoted very ill, to criticising Sir Horace Plunkett. He did not mean by that the hon. Gentleman had done anything in that direction to which he raised the smallest objection. [AN HON. MEMBER: We did not first introduce his name.] It was quite true that his hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University had first mentioned the name of Sir Horace Plunkett, but if all the references to that gentleman had been in the tone and temper of the observations of his hon. friend he certainly should not complain of the tone of that criticism. He thought himself that most scant justice had been done by Irishmen to the work of an Irishman, undertaken undoubtedly in the most unselfish spirit, carried through with the most persistent energy, and directed, at all events, by a perfectly clear idea of the ends to be attained and the means of attaining them, through many years of consistent work. The policy which Sir Horace Plunkett and the Board of which he was so long the distinguished head endeavoured to carry through was a policy of education, which should direct the energy of the Irish agriculturist in channels through which a wider experience than was open to the ordinary Irish farmers and agriculturists, as shown in other countries, could bring great wealth to an energetic and instructed population. No one would deny that Sir Horace Plunkett had striven consistently to carry out that aim. This policy had undoubtedly been successful in other countries, not only prosperous industrial communities, but actual rivals of Ireland in the markets of Great Britain and Ireland in the very products with which Ireland ought to establish her position. That plain and undoubted fact was borne on the face of the majority Report which had been referred to. How anyone could lay down that education in that sense was not a most hopeful way of increasing agricultural wealth and prosperity in 188 Ireland passed his comprehension. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just addressed the House was indignant with his hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University because he advanced the proposition, surely not a dangerous one, that it was better for the ultimate interests of Irish agriculture that they should be promoted by a system of education largely conceived than by a system of doles. The hon. and learned Gentleman had immediately got up and said that it was a monstrous suggestion; there never had been such a thing as a dole by England to Ireland, because England had always owed Ireland a great deal more money than she had paid to her, and, therefore, though the British Chancellor of the Exchequer might open his purse strings, England would never be able to liquidate the debt which had been for centuries accumulating. In other words, the hon. and learned Gentleman, objecting to the word doles, dragged, quite gratuitously, into a debate on Irish agriculture the vexed question of the financial relations between England and Ireland. His hon. friend clearly was not referring to doles from England to Ireland, but to grants of public money generally. His point was that they would not improve the economic condition of Ireland by doles of public money. He wished to know whether the Government differed from him, and whether they agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman below the gangway.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he would drop the word "doles," and use the word "subventions," which meant the same thing, though it was a longer and less injurious phrase which he would use for the remainder of his argument. The Government had not given as clear a lead upon this subject as he should have liked to have from gentlemen of well-known economic views. 'The hon. Gentleman in charge of the Department had tried to give the go-by to the question by saying that, whatever his own views or those of his colleagues or a Committee might be, it did not come before this Committee of Supply, because the Department under discussion was specifically forbidden, by the Act establishing it, from giving a subvention 189 in aid of industries other than those strictly agricultural. That was an ingenious way, and might, a few weeks ago, have been a valid way of getting out of the difficulty. It was clearly not valid now that a new principle and practice had been established. It was well known that the Government were going to give this year £100,000 of Irish as well as of English and Scottish money, directly in the teeth of an Act of Parliament, for the purpose of carrying out an object, good or bad, in connection with education in England. A Government which would do that in connection with the education fund for England were clearly not precluded from giving what they pleased in Committee of Supply in subvention of any industry in Ireland or elsewhere. The legal barricade which the hon. Gentleman sought would have been an admirable protection a month ago, but it had been blown up and ruined by his right hon. friend the Minister for Education. When he heard part of the hon. Gentleman's speech in which he sheltered himself behind this he ventured to make a small interruption indicating the argument which he was now respectfully developing. What said the hon. Gentleman? The hon. Gentleman said the Government was in watertight compartments. How were they to deal with a Government in watertight compartments? What arguments could be addressed to a member of a Government who said, "I agree these are the opinions of a colleague of mine, but in my watertight compartment we have a different principle"? It was perplexing to find consciences so different as those of the Vice-President and the Minister for Education. The one said that in his Department they broke the law, but the other was more scrupulous in his watertight compartment, and was obliged to toll hon. Members below the gangway that it was not even necessary for him to discuss a question they raised, because the law, which was so easily overcome by his right hon. friend, prevented him. He hoped the Chief Secretary would mediate between his two colleagues and tell the Committee in which watertight compartment he found himself, so that it might be known whether he would follow the policy of strict legality favoured by his Irish colleague or the looser principles and the happier and easier methods of the 190 Minister for Education. He was not merely attempting to gain a Parliamentary score. His point was really an important one, because if the legal difficulty raised did not exist, as he had shown it did not, the hon. Gentleman was bound to answer the question, did he, or did he not, think that the policy of giving subventions to industries in Ireland was the way to repair the wrongs which 130 years ago, or earlier, England did to Ireland. He had never attempted to minimise those wrongs, though he was bound to say that the interesting historical preface of Mr. Micks put only one side of the question. Whether Ireland would have been happier had she been separated from England, she would certainly have suffered almost as much from the jealous commercial policy which was in favour in every civilised country.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said it was for that reason that he did not lay down the proposition unreservedly. There were some statutory iniquities, but he thought the chief operative cause of the injury to Ireland was the policy of commercial jealousy universally prevalent at the time. He did not think anybody could fairly understand the relations between England and Ireland unless they studied the relations between England and Scotland. A great many of the phenomena complained of in Ireland appeared before the Union and after in the connection between England and Scotland, and the reason why it was useful to study the question in reference to Scotland was that in Scotland there were none of those religious differences which were such a horrible addition to the inherent difficulties of the situation. It was possible that after the Union Ireland might have suffered by being joined to a free trade country like England when she might have liked protection herself. Many Irishmen took that view and Mr. Micks took it, but he did not know whether that was the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite. At all events Ireland had not suffered since the Union from any deliberate fiscal injury like those of which she justly complained before the Union. He greatly doubted himself whether, Ireland having had the same advantages, broadly speaking, as any other part of the kingdom for 107 191 years, they could attribute so much weight as Mr. Micks attributed to the iniquitous policy which came to an end in 1800. How many countries had developed great industrial prosperity, not in 100 years but in a couple of generations? He thought it was folly to say that there had been anything in the condition of Ireland to make it impossible for her to have done the same; indeed, it had been done in Belfast, and he never could see why that which had been done in Belfast could not be done elsewhere. He did not himself believe that the difficulties from which Ireland had suffered could be attributed simply to the fact that she was an island without coal or iron, and that she was subjected to oppressive fiscal legislation 130 years ago. Did this free trade Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite who represented England think with hon. Gentlemen below the gangway that it was by the subvention of industries that Ireland was to be made prosperous? When they proposed to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas, was that one of the ideas which they proposed to employ? He thought they had a right to know from the Government and the Chief Secretary whether it was so or not. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: "What is your idea?"] His own idea was that Sir Horace Plunkett was probably right when he said that the way to deal with Irish agriculture, at all events in the South and West, was the way in which Danish agriculture had been dealt with—the means by which Denmark was made. for its size, almost the most prosperous community in Europe, a process which was in the main due to education.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I certainly do not see any plan of subventions to aid industries on a large scale.
§ MR. CLANCY
The Act of 1899 authorises subvention in the case. of agricultural and rural industries.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said that that was perfectly true. He thought it was probably right to draw the words of the Act so that the Board of Agriculture might have the freest hand in dealing with these industries, and he supposed 192 providing proper sires was a form of subvention. If he were asked whether they could really turn Ireland from an agricultural community into a manufacturing community, and do that healthily and successfully by means of subventions, he would say that he regarded it as a chimerical project. He asked either the hon. Gentleman who had already spoken or the Chief Secretary to give the Committee a perfectly clear lead as to the intentions of the Government upon what was the only question that interested them for the future— namely, the policy of the Agricultural Board, not as it had been since its establishment, but as it was to be under the new régime.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for the City of London commenced by stating that he had not indicated clearly any alternative policy. Did the right hon. Gentleman imagine that he went to the Department to upset Sir Horace Plunkett'* policy? What reason had ho in anything the Government had said or done to imagine anything of the kind? He would tell the right hon. Gentleman what he had in his mind in regard to policy. He had never been among those who had undervalued the work of Sir Horace Plunkett. The policy of Sir Horace was assailed only once in this House, and he spoke in favour of it, and voted for it, and lost no opportunity of expressing his opinion regarding it. Sir Horace Plunkett's work was an admirable beginning. The Department he established was essentially a great Department, and they were bound to speak of him well for what he had done. He had not become Vice-President for the purpose of upsetting the policy pursued by the Department. His duty was to extend and consolidate its work wherever he found it to be on proper lines, and to amend it where it was not. For example, the poultry scheme had been sneered at by some people, but the difference between the export of eggs from Ireland in 1905 and in 1906 amounted to £355,000. That was not a small matter for a country like Ireland, and it was due to the work of the Department. The breed of poultry had enormously improved, and in a country like Ireland that was a great matter for the small farmer. The Department was now 193 engaged in collecting figures of imports and exports for Ireland. Nothing of the kind had been done before, but he rejoiced that it had been done, and as they were official figures they would carry weight. He had mentioned the poultry scheme in order to show that the Department did help the small farmer. Complaint had been made that the work of the Department was principally educational. He would speak perfectly frankly on the question of technical education. When this Department was started would anyone deny that technical education had practically no existence in Ireland? Surely his hon. friends could not complain of a Department that had done its best with insufficient funds to develop technical education. Let them not run right in the face of facts and knock their heads against a stone wall. In technical education the work done had been invaluable. In many towns technical institutes were to be found springing up. The Department had given an incentive to all these where they had not contributed and they had contributed to many. That work was necessary if the people of Ireland were to hold their own in the battle of life. The agricultural schemes were educational to a certain extent. He instanced the question of horse breeding. There was not much chance of getting unanimity on that subject. At all events he could say that an enormous improvement had taken place in the breed of horses in the last seven or eight years. He could give an example of that. He went to county Mayo the other day and the motor startled every horse they met. He was there twenty years age and then it would have taken an earthquake to startle a single horse. What was true of horses was true of all kinds of cattle. The breed of cattle had enormously improved, and that was due to the Department in supplying sires. All that was absolutely necessary. They had been told that Denmark was Ireland's great competitor in butter, but Denmark owed everything to education.
§ *Mr. T. W. RUSSELL
said that he did not know about the government, but he had studied the question of education, and he ventured to say that the position of Denmark was very largely the result 194 of the education given by the State in agricultural matters.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said it was perfectly fair to ask whether itinerant teaching had not been carried too far and whether the education ought not to be given in colleges and schools, but what he said was that this education had been necessary in the past, but it did not follow that that itinerant teaching would be necessary on the same scale as during the past year or two. But education they must have if the agricultural industry was to be a success. He had been twitted because he had not given a very clear explanation of the views of the Department with regard to the question of subsidising industries. The right hon. Member for the City of London wanted to know if he (Mr. Russell) was content to stand behind the legal barricade of the Act of 1899. What would the right hon. Gentleman like him to do? Would he like him to break the law? The Act of 1899 forbade-him to subsidise industries other than rural industries. Mr. Micks wanted a million a year for an indefinite period outside the control of Parliament. Might he ask the right hon. Gentleman if he was in favour of Mr. Mick's scheme.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he should like to ask whether, if a clause in an Act of Parliament prevented the Government from voting a certain sum of money, they ought not to stick consistently to that. If they did not think that the clause prevented them they ought not to quote the Act of Parliament as forbidding them.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said the Act of Parliament forbade the Department to expend money upon the subsidising of industries other than rural industries. He intended to obey that Act of Parliament until it was altered. [IRONICAL CRIES OF "OH!"] Well, he had never yet broken an Act of Parliament, so far as he was aware. [A Member on the OPPOSITION BENCHES: McKenna would not.] He was in favour of getting every farthing from England for Ireland that he could get. And in getting it he did not think that Ireland was getting any favour at all. He 195 held the same opinion as to the question of the financial relations between Eng land and Ireland that was held by the majority of the Irish people and by the Royal Commission. In view of England's past and the way she had strangled Irish manufactures, Ireland had a moral claim upon her. The right hon. Gentle man thought that England had always been right since the Union. The Royal Commission did not think so.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he did not refer to the financial relations between England and Ireland. On that point he knew they held views different from those of the hon. Gentleman. What he referred to was the fiscal relations.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said that he was a free trader himself and he was not in favour of interference with industries. But at the present moment they were engaged in Ireland in more ways than one in absolutely remaking many things. Everything had been thrown down. Everything had been neglected, and now their task was slowly and painfully to re-build it. There had been free traders— notably Mr. John Stuart Mill —who had considered that bounties under certain circumstances were permissible. He personally was a free trader, pure and simple, and he could only say that when-ever he got a chance within the Act of Parliament of assisting rural industries, he would avail himself of it, even at the expense of education. He hoped he should take nothing away from educational funds that was necessary. It was to be remembered that when the Congested Districts Board was established in 1891—the right hon. Gentleman was a free trader then—he gave the Board absolute power to promote and subsidise industries in the West of Ireland. As he had only been two months in office he could not be expected to marshal all facts, but at present there were 320 young men and women in Ireland going all over the country engaged in teaching the people. If there were any abuses they should be corrected. He was grateful to the hon. Gentlemen below the gangway for the fairness with which they had treated him. In this work he would be glad of the assistance of hon. Members, and he would not be deterred from his work 196 because some hon. Members might see him walking through the lobby with Nationalist Members. After all, the Nationalists were the representatives of the great majority of the people, and he would be most glad of their counsel. He had undertaken a great work under very peculiar circumstances, and whatever happened he would do his best to serve Ireland while he remained in office.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
said he wished to say a word on one particular matter in which he was interested. The Leader of the Opposition had stated that they had never had anything to complain of in Ireland since the Union. But in 1831 an Act. of Parliament was passed prohibiting what was then a very promising industry —the growing of tobacco. He contended that that was a gross injustice to Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman referred to the records of Parliament for the year 1830, he would find the proceedings of a Committee composed of gentlemen who were Unionist in politics, and Protestant in religion, in which a strong protest was entered against any interference with tobacco-growing in Ireland. However, that promising industry was crushed by the Act of 1831. He appealed to the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture to give full and fair play to the attempts which were being made in different parts of Ireland to give employment to young men and women in tobacco-growing and curing. He knew that it was a dangerous thing to be seen talking to a Minister, after the speech of the hon. Member for North Armagh, who rated Mr. Bailey for probably asking a Nationalist Member for a cup of tea on the terrace. He himself never saw a Minister in private; but in public he would ask the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone, who had come freshly in his Department, to give every opportunity for the encouragement of tobacco growing in Ireland. He had found in one district between thirty and forty young men and women who had been employed all through the winter months in tobacco curing and sorting. He knew that some hon. Gentlemen in Ireland were rather inclined to look with incredulity on the possible success of tobacco cultivation there, but all he asked the hon. Gentleman was to give it fair play.
§ *MR. BARRIE (Londonderry, N.)
said that he offered his congratulations to the hon. Member for South Tyrone on the manner in which he had a quitted himself in a very delicate duty that afternoon. He thought, however, that the now Vice-President in the course of his interesting statement did not mention that according to the Report recently issued that young Department had already 43,590 students in Ireland. That surely was a record of which any Department might be proud. These students belonged to every class. The technical side had been pursued with success quite equal to that of the agricultural side. Sir Horace Plunkett had always carried out his work on the highest grounds apart from party feeling, and with the one desire of benefiting the country in all he did. There had been complaint as to the appointments he had made, but it must be remembered that at the beginning young men with the qualifications required were not in the country, and they had to go to England and Scotland for them. Let it not be forgotten, however, that even in making these appointments the local committees had the largest share. He might claim to know something of the work done, and he must say he had never known Sir Horace Plunkett, in spite of the great powers he held, override the nominations of one of these local committees. The Committee to which reference had been made was composed of five members, and four of those gentlemen, after careful inquiry, agreed that the Department came through the ordeal to which they submitted it with very great credit not only to the officials but to its chief. He regretted that it was only the Minority Report which had interested Nationalist Members, and he regretted still further that the new Vice-President had found it so much more interesting than the Majority Report, judging by his repeated references to it. The reason for his greater interest in the Minority Report appeared to be that Mr. Micks its author had dealt with nothing but the alleged weak points of the work of the Department. The whole of the Minority Report was carping and ungenerous in tone, and it showed a strong desire to minimise and belittle the work of the Department. He felt that this Minority Report by an unknown man dealing with the work of one who deserved so well of 198 his country as Sir Horace Plunkett was not likely to be long remembered or to have the slightest effect in the direction of weakening the good effects of the seven years of hard and strenuous work which Sir Horace had done. Sir Horace was one of those men who did things without saying much about them. He was surprised that Sir Horace had been so criticised, for no less than ten Nationalist Members had been working harmoniously with him, and had given him great assistance in carrying out the work of the Department. Criticism of the Department implied criticism of those Members. He regretted what had been said about the Agricultural Organisation Society. That Society was the first work that Sir Horace Plunkett put his hand to, and it had now at work in the country 900 co-operative societies with 90,000 members. It was evident that the opposition nominally against that Department was really opposition to the line upon which the Department had been conducted by Sir Horace Plunkett. He was glad that nothing had fallen from the new Vice-President indicating that he was going to tear up the Department's present lines and work it as many of his Nationalist friends would like him to do. He hoped the Vice-President would with that care and discrimination which he possessed think twice and go slowly and cautiously before he altered, even in minor i matters, the present schemes which he had found at work. It could not be doubted that the money at present granted to the Department was not adequate. The use of the present funds could not be criticised. The Department was getting full value for the money. County councils and urban district councils had made contributions towards the work of the Department to the amount of £55,000 a year. That money was raised all over the land. There was not a single county in Ireland that had refused to fall in with the schemes of the Department. There could be no finer tribute to the work which had been done by the Department than the fact that this assistance had been given to it and this large sum of money raised locally.
§ *MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)
hoped that the warnings which the inclement spring had given would not be forgotten by the Department. The 199 authorities were far too apt to allow things to drift for a long time until famine came, and then to rush into ill-conceived relief measures which involved the waste of public money. He trusted that the Department would, therefore, devote itself to the consideration of what measures should be taken to meet the possibility of similar pestilence another year. The Vice-President would do well to keep in close touch with the people of the localities in connection with the matter. It was most desirable to enlist their interest in the work of the Department. As to the position of the Vice-President, it was obvious that unless the Vice-President was in close touch with Parliamentary work many of the most necessary adjustments for which legislation was required must necessarily fall into arrear. But if the Department, as under the Council's Bill, was transferred to Dublin, there was no use in keeping the Vice-President. at Westminster. He was not in agreement with some of his colleagues with regard to the relations between the Agricultural Department and the Agricultural Organisation Society. He was a firm and unrepentant believer in the virtue of co-operation. He entirely agreed with the Vice-President that the work which Sir Horace Plunkett did before he went to the Department as an organiser of co-operation in Ireland was beyond all praise. As a Minister he had never had very great admiration for him; but now that he had become once more a private person he and the Members on both sides would be content to allow personal issues to pass into oblivion. He had always been, although on the committee of the Agricultural Society, against subsidies. He believed them in the long run to be thoroughly bad for co-operation. If co-operation was to succeed it must do so free from Government interference, and free from any suspicion of being used as a political instrument or the tool of a Government Department.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said he rose to call. attention to a point quite foreign to agriculture, but which was at the same time connected with the Department represented by the right hon. Gentleman. Last year a Question was asked with regard to the contribution which was made to Scotland for the protection of the fisheries and the action 200 taken by His Majesty's ships in following the trawlers. The Gentleman who spoke for the Scottish Office said that the Admiralty were going to withdraw the assistance they had given in this matter. He hoped that was not so, because the ships which now did their duty were wanted. The point he wished to press on the hon. Gentleman was that the Irish Members had over and over again asked for assistance to protect the fisheries of Ireland, and that assistance had been refused by the Admiralty. At present the Admiralty had only two gunboats at their disposal for this purpose, but eight years ago they had four, and he asked the hon. Gentleman to press the Admiralty upon this point. He also desired to ask whether the hon. Gentleman charged with the Fisheries Department of this country could not take into consideration the trawling question. It was notorious that during late years the yield of the North Sea had fallen 30 per cent., and great quantities of miniature fish were destroyed by these trawlers which trawled 1,500 square miles every day. At present, line fishing was most unprofitable on the coast of Ireland, and he asked the serious attention of the Government to that matter. The Dutch Government suggested a few years ago that the territorial water limit should be extended to twelve miles, and England appeared to favour that idea, but could not get the other-Powers to regard it as an advantage. But such was the scarcity now of fish in the North Sea and elsewhere, that the majority of the supplies landed in,this country came from the Portuguese Coast, and from as far as Morocco. These were matters of great moment, and could not be decided by the Department over which the hon. Gentleman presided, but at the same time he thought they were subjects that should be gone into by his Department in connection with other questions,, because they were of vast importance, not only to sea fisheries, but he believed also largely to the inland fisheries of the country. He knew that the hon. Gentleman was pertinacious and pugnacious, and he was sure that in advocating their cause the Vice-President would approach the Admiralty in his pugnacious spirit, for there was nothing to be got out of them by obsequiousness; and he ventured to hope that the result of the hon. Gentleman's taking office would be that 201 he would gradually and with success effect the protection and improvement of this industry.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
asked whether the hon. Gentleman was in favour of local colleges instead of itinerant instructors.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
was understood to say that the matter was being considered, and he added that the Government were under an obligation, according to arrangement, to withdraw this Vote and bring on the Chief Secretary's Vote.
§ MR. J. P. NANNETTI (Dublin, College Green)
said that, as Lord Mayor of Dublin, he wished to express his feeling of satisfaction at the statement which the hon. Gentleman had made in reference to a matter that had been in dispute between the Dublin Corporation and the Agricultural Department of the Government. He welcomed that statement, and on behalf of the corporation he begged to thank the hon. Gentleman for the manner in which the matter had been dealt with.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said he understood that the Government -were under an obligation to withdraw the Vote. He wanted them to understand that he was not under any obligation. He protested last year against this being done, and insisted on the closure being moved, and he wished to renew-that protest. He did not agree with this practice, which was adopted for the first time last year. He would not, however, stand in the way of the Government's carrying out the arrangement they had made, although he must safeguard himself by protesting against this practice which had been established against his protest, and certainly must not be allowed to grow into a precedent.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
said he must raise his protest against the hon. and learned Member for Waterford's attitude. The Members from the North of Ireland, though of different politics from those of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, were entitled at all events on one occasion during the year to have their grievances considered in Committee of Supply, and he was quite sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman would see that they had some right 202 to consideration, and should be allowed at least one occasion for discussion of the questions they desired to bring forward.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said that of course hon. Members from all parts of Ireland were entitled to bring forward their grievances. Nobody objected to that at all. On every occasion when Irish Estimates had been discussed Members from the North of Ireland had taken a very large part in the debate. The custom which was invariably carried out by the right hon. Gentleman himself when he was Chief Whip of his Party was to allow them to fix a particular Vote to betaken. That arrangement had been broken for the first time last year. The Government were under an obligation this year, and he would not stand in the way of their carrying it out, but it must be understood that he was not a party to it.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £17,750, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1908, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Chief Secretary in Dublin and London, and of the Inspectors of Lunatic Asylums, and Expenses under the Inebriates Acts.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
said the hon. and learned Member for Waterford had raised his protest against time being given to Unionist Members from Ireland. A total of three days he believed was allocated under the Standing Orders to Irish Supply, and he desired to enter his emphatic protest against what had been advanced by the hon. and learned Gentleman. It seemed to him laughable to hear any Member of the Nationalist Party trying to criticise the Government in this matter. It was true that Nationalist Members until last year bad selected what Votes were to be taken in the three days allotted to Irish Supply, but the Committee must realise that the situation had altered between then and now. A Unionist Government was then in office, and the Nationalist Members were the Opposition; it was, therefore, 203 natural and perfectly proper that the Nationalist Party should have every opportunity of choosing what Votes should be discussed. A Radical Government was now in power, and was in close alliance if not fusion with the Nationalist Members, and for the Prime Minister, the Chief Secretary, or anybody else to tell them that hon. Members below the Gangway were in Opposition was absurd. The true opposition to the Government's policy came from the Unionist Members for the North of Ireland, and from a purely mathematical point of view, they were entitled to at least one of the three days during the session. In almost every division throughout the session Unionist Members for Ireland had voted against the Government, while Nationalist Members had voted with the Government. In these circumstances it was perfectly futile and absurd to say, as the Prime Minister did the other day, and as no doubt the Chief Secretary would say to-night, that the Nationalist Members were the real Opposition, and were the persons who had the first claim to say which Votes should be discussed. He protested strongly against that view, and he would renew his protest on every occasion until Unionist Members from Ireland had a fair share of the allotted three days. Having entered that protest, he would submit that the most important of the Irish Votes was that for the Chief Secretary's Office. The questions which had been raised that day did not in any way approximate in importance to the questions which could be raised on the Chief Secretary's salary, and in former days, he thought he was right in saying that that Vote was given a full day according to the invariable practice which had existed for fifteen or twenty years since the system of allotted days came into force. But now, on the third of the three allotted days, more than one half had been given up to subjects which no doubt were important, but which could not be considered as of anything like the importance of the Chief Secretary's Vote. It was too late apparently this session to do anything, but he hoped that next session hon. Members opposite would be impressed with the reasonableness of the claim of Unionist Members for the North of Ireland. So important was the Vote they were about to discuss that every year there should be a day for the 204 discussion of the Chief Secretary's salary without the necessity of asking anyone to put it down. The Prime Minister indicated the other day that he could not move from the decision he had come to in regard to this Vote. Up to that time he had the idea that the administration of the Government in Ireland would form a definite vote of censure, but today it appeared very doubtful whether they would get that opportunity at all. Ho had been expecting to have the opportunity of placing his grievances before the House on that occasion, and he confessed that, so large was the field to be covered and so many were the details, he was not now in a position to enter into the subject in the way he should have been ready to do had they been given a whole day for the purpose. He wished to protest against the very short time which had been given to them to discuss these matters. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: You have the House to yourself now.] For a long time they had been laying up bad marks against the Government which they hoped to be able to deal with more fully than was possible at Question time. The serious indictment they wished to bring against the Government could not be put by one Member. He wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the question of the Bann drainage. This was a question which had been brought before the Committee repeatedly for the last fifty or sixty years. To Louth Neagh and the Bann and the counties affected the flooding was a very serious matter. Lough Neagh was the largest lake in the United Kingdom and its basin was of immense size. It was eighteen miles long and twelve miles broad. Around the lake there was a large quantity of low-lying land and there was only one river to carry off the water, whilst no less than twelve rivers flowed into Lough Neagh. In the year 1847 Parliament consented to carry out considerable works intended to remedy the undoubted damage done by the serious flooding which occurred in the low-lying districts around the banks of the lake and along the banks of the river Bann. That work was carried out by the Board of Works,, but unfortunately the estimate of £109,000 was very much exceeded, and the time of carrying out the works coincided with the famine. Consequently much of the work was carried out as 205 relief work, which was not economical, and instead of costing £109,000 no less a sum than £109,000 was spent. It was true that the Government remitted the difference between the original estimate and the actual cost, but whereas the work was estimated to take three years it took twelve years, and the amount of interest largely increased. Since that time no less a sum than £170,000 had been paid in respect of these works. For the first ten years those works were successful, but after that the damage from flooding began again, and it was now as bad as ever. The people who lived in those low-lying districts were led to believe that the large amount of money spent would cure the flooding, and they consented to pay the money, but subsequent investigation had shown that the works wore not carried out as originally designed, and many obstacles still remained which impeded the free flow of the water. For the last twenty years they had been pressing the Government to remedy this state of things. Sir Alexander Binnie had reported that a complete cure of the existing state of things could be effected for £76,000. The Report which had recently been issued from Mr. J. D. Bell appeared to be rather against the claims which they put forward, because he said that if the original works were carried out completely the value of the land would only be £750 more. But the mere increase in money value was not everything, for he could produce extracts from medical officers' reports and others showing that the prevalence of this flooding caused very great injury to the health of the people in the counties affected, as well as to the crops of the farmers. He had seen at certain periods of the year about 7,000 acres under water. It was very fair tillage land, and only a few trees and the upper portions of cottages were to be seen above the water. A large number of people suffered severely every year from this cause. It was complained that on the Southern end of the Lake in counties Antrim, Tyrone, and Deny, and on the banks of the Bann itself a very considerable amount of land was affected in the same way. They had been buoyed up for years with promises of all sorts. It was impossible to collect statistics as to the annual losses affecting crops of hay, and it was equally impossible to get accurate figures as to injury 206 to health, but that there was a very great injury to health especially in the autumn and late winter there could be no doubt. He trusted that the Chief Secretary would give the matter his very careful consideration in the hope that the Irish people would not see another Government coming in and going out of office without having done something to remedy a condition of things which all classes of Ireland wished to see improved. It was a pressing grievance, and if the right hon. Gentleman really wished to do what he could for the North of Ireland he would quickly attend to it.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said that no one could be Chief Secretary for Ireland without hearing of the Bann and the Barrow. But past history did not always encourage one to indulge in expenditure on a drainage scheme. The hon. Member had pointed out that in 1847, £170,000 was spent on the drainage of the River Bann, in the hope that it would get rid of the damage occasioned by flooding the low banks, and that the Bann would thus recede from the dreams of succeeding Chief Secretaries. These works were comparatively successful, but for the last twenty years things were as bad as they were before. There had been engineers' reports on this subject, and Sir Alexander Binnie's had mentioned the sum of £170,000. The Government could not, however, be satisfied that this figure was in any way to be relied upon. Then there was Mr. Bell's report which was a little bit dispiriting. Mr. Bell made a careful survey of the land in the immediate neighbourhood of this river for whose benefit the work would be done, and he came to the conclusion after most careful inquiry that even if the money had been spent the total increase in the annual value would be only £750 a year. That would be a miserable return for the capital sum that would have to be expended. He did not consider that Report to be in any way conclusive on this matter, or as forbidding the Government if they got the money, from considering whether it could be usefully expended.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
stated that the area of the land amounted to 130,000 acres. The neighbourhood was thickly populated and the question of health was certainly important.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said he had no doubt that the question of health did come into consideration. It would undoubtedly require a very large expenditure of money, and he did not think £100,000 would be an adequate sum for the carrying out of Sir Alexander Binnie's Report. His tenure of office had not yet reached six months, and his difficulty was to get money from the Treasury, and, if he got a promise of money, to be perfectly satisfied that this was the best way to spend it. He did not wish to raise false hopes in the minds of hon. Gentlemen. It was not a Party question. It had nothing to do with religion. If he were addressing millionaires who wished to spend money usefully and agreeably he really honestly believed that they could not spend their money better than by employing it on the drainage of the Bann, and he hoped also the Barrow whose claims were just as great. It was also difficult to decide in Ireland between 100 rival schemes which was the best way to spend the money provided the Treasury granted it.
§ MR. J. DEVLIN (Belfast, W.)
said he wished to know whether the Chief Secretary had received any information from Belfast in regard to the progress of the strike there, and also in regard to the rather sensational incident which occurred last night when a meeting of the Royal Irish Constabulary was called and when there was a chance of mutiny. There was considerable feeling in Belfast in regard to the position of those on. strike in their relationship to the police. The police had been instructed, he understood, to put every obstacle in the way of those engaged in the entirely legal occupation of picketing. He thought that the revolt which had taken place among the police was an indication that really the right hon. Gentleman would have to take some practical step to see that the forces of the Crown were not used entirely in favour of one of the parties to the dispute, but that they were called upon to act impartially. He wished to call attention to the appeals which had been made to the right hon. Gentleman to do his best. He was quite sure of the interest which the right hon. Gentleman had not only in the general welfare of Ireland, but in the progress and development of the great commercial and industrial capital of the north of Ireland. He would urge upon 208 him with all the intensity he could the essential need for someone in a reasonable position to exercise his influence in order to avert this crisis becoming greater and more intense and to bring about a settlement of the unfortunate situation now existing. The strike seemed to be developing as it was allowed to continue. He understood that arbitration would be accepted by the men engaged in the dispute. He did not propose to discuss the merits or the demerits of the strike. He simply wanted to say that not only were employers and employed suffering, but the general trade, and even people who were not directly or indirectly associated with the strike, were suffering. Widespread misery was caused to the masses of the people and great injury was being done to the industrial progress of the city itself. He knew that the Chief Secretary had most generously offered himself as arbitrator if both parties would accept him. He would like the right hon. Gentleman to try to devise some means by which the strike could be brought to a close. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would endeavour to think out some plan which, apart from the interest of the men and the employers, but in the interest of good government, would bring the strike, the continuance of which would be of the greatest danger to the city, to a close. He did not wish to prolong the discussion on the Chief Secretary's salary. The hon. Member for South Antrim had stated that the Ulster Unionists represented one-third of the inhabitants of the country. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would explain with that marvellous accuracy for which he was famous, the foundation for that statement. How could ten be a third of a hundred?
MR, CHARLES CRAIG
said he could explain. The Irish were divided into two parties—one-third Unionists and two-thirds Nationalists.
§ MR. J. DEVLIN
said that that was a most magnificent and profound explanation. It was only another example of the splendid powers of clear exposition of the hon. Gentleman. There were 103 Members for Ireland and there were ten Unionists from Ulster. He supposed the hon. Gentleman spoke for the ten, but none of the Ulster Unionist Members were present except the hon. Gentleman 209 himself. Oh! yes; the leader of them, the right hon. Member for South Dublin, was present. That right hon. Gentleman had transferred his attractions from Bristol to South Dublin. The Ulster Members wanted not three hours but three days to discuss all the malversations of the Government, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary came there to meet his assailants they heard nothing but a cold, if useful, speech from the hon. Member for South Antrim. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not the sensational Member of the Ulster extravaganza. He supposed the sensation was confined to the morning performance. The hon. and learned Member for North Armagh was formerly one of the Members for North Antrim, but the Unionists there found that his sensational attacks on the most vital public interests of the country were not the best form of representation they desired, and so he was transferred from an impartial arena to the more obscure arena of Portadown.
§ MR. J. DEVLIN
said that at any rate there did not seem to be anybody troubling himself about the Chief Secretary. It seemed that someone should add to the gaiety of the evening, and why not he? He only regretted that the occasion had not been marked by some characteristic speech from the hon. and learned Member for North Armagh, because some of them had neglected their dinner to listen to such an effusion.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
said that the hon. Gentleman had amused the House as he always did, and had interested thorn with his eloquence. The hon. Gentleman had been good enough to refer to himself as transferring his services from Bristol to South Dublin. He was the victim of that policy with which the Government had been identified themselves, viz., the policy of compulsion. The hon. Gentleman had sacrificed his dinner in order to come and listen to the sensation of the evening, of the year, of the century! The hon. Member had been the victim, as many others had 210 been, of sensational announcements or of his own imagination. He did not think there had been any suggestion of a sensational demonstration on that occasion. There was a general desire, not confined to Irish Members, that there should be an opportunity for discussing the Irish policy of the Government so far as that policy could be discussed. It was necessary that the Irish Vote should be divided into classes, and when they were discussing, say, technical education in Ireland they were limited in scope. The object they had in pressing for a discussion on the Chief Secretary's salary was that it was the only occasion on which they could review the whole policy of the Irish Government for the time being. When this Government came into office there was a considerable flourish of trumpets. The right hon. Gentleman was not then Chief Secretary, and there was considerable doubt as to whether any improvement had taken place in the condition of Ireland, or as to the advantages which would flow from the altered system of administration. They were told that there was to be an administration that would produce contentment and peace, and that such changes would be made as would entirely alter the relations between this country itself and Ireland. He did not think the Irish Government had been singularly fortunate in the efforts made in that direction. They had adopted the view that there was some middle course which might be taken that would satisfy the Irish people, and at the same time be in conformity with the wishes of the people of the United Kingdom. The Government had raised hopes in Ireland that they were going to deal with the government of the country, but when it came to the realisation of those hopes they had produced a plan which had been condemned almost before the ink was dry on the paper on which it was written. For his part his withers were unwrung. He had always held that there was no choice of a course between the two policies—Home Rule and the maintenance of the Union. That was proved by the untimely fate of the effort of the Government in the Irish Council Bill. Further, the Government had indicated their intention of dealing with the Irish University question, and they put an announcement in the King's Speech that they had arrived at a definite policy 211 on the question, and were prepared to put it to the test. They had heard no more of that, except that the Prime Minister had stated that the Chief Secretary was to spend the autumn in Ireland to try and find a solution of the higher education question which would please all parties. In the Irish Council Bill they produced a plan which fell far short of what the Nationalists desired, and in regard to higher education they had to confess that they had to go back to find a solution. That was not a great record for the strongest Government of modern times. His hon. friend had said that there was some ground for complaint at the way in which the Vote for the Chief Secretary's salary had been treated, and he supported what his hon. friend had said in that regard. He did not remember any session in which the Chief Secretary's Vote had not been put forward in the very forefront of the Estimates, and given the fullest time for discussion. Why had the Vote not been put in its ordinary position on this occasion? It was because the wishes of the Irish Party had to be obeyed by His Majesty's Government. The Government had failed utterly to satisfy Nationalist Members with regard to legislation, but they had more than satisfied them by the methods and manner of their administration. The body who had been responsible for the government of Ireland would not hastily or rashly take action in that House which was likely to embarrass the Chief Secretary. He maintained that Mr. Bryce had left to his successor a legacy of trouble. He had left Ireland in such a position as to add greatly to the burden which the Irish Minister had to boar. Mr. Bryce bad shown that there had been a steady and increasing improvement in the condition of Ireland during Unionist administration. He regretted that the present Chief Secretary had not thought it beneath his dignity, and the dignity of the great position he occupied, to make offensive charges against Unionist Members, when all they had done was to bring to the notice of the House, and to the notice of the Government of the day, evidence of the condition of things in some parts of Ireland which they believed was not receiving proper attention from the Government, and which they knew constituted a great danger to the people of Ireland, and to 212 the security of the people who lived in those parts. Nationalists who were naturally at political warfare with Unionists—
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said that they had more often than not been in political antagonism. Nationalists had charged Unionists with seeking to blacken the character of their countrymen because they had asked the Chief Secretary questions regarding events in Ireland the occurrence of which he had not been able in the vast majority of cases to deny. The Chief Secretary had in a few cases been able to show that the numbers of the crowd and the extent of the injury had been exaggerated, and he had taken full advantage of any such discrepancy as that. The Chief Secretary had had to admit that, in nine cases out of ten, the questions asked him had been based on fact, and that the efforts of the Government to deal with the trouble had failed. Could the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee now, what his predecessor told them a year ago, that in all respects the condition of Ireland was better than it was twelve months ago; would he give the figures dealing with the various classes of offences which were peculiar to the part of Ireland involved, and which were no doubt due to those agrarian difficulties with which they were familiar? The right hon. Gentleman had more than once disputed the accuracy of and belittled their statements and treated them with contempt and ridicule. Would he-deny that there was in parts of Ireland evidence of a condition of things which must be a discredit to the Irish Government and productive of the gravest anxiety and alarm to the people obliged to live in that country? Did he not get hundreds of letters from men and women, often in poor circumstances, compelled to live in their own homes or make great sacrifices if they left? Did he not receive letters telling him of the dangers under which they lived, and the dangers to which they were exposed, and begging for the protection of the Government, invariably ending as the letters he also had received with the pathetic and unfortunate prayer that, 213 whatever was done on their behalf, let them not give way to the Nationalists that their condition might not be made worse than it was.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said they were not forged letters. He would undertake that the great bulk of letters which he and other Unionist Members had received described the condition of the country. They were genuine letters written by people who truthfully described the condition of the country. He asked the Chief Secretary with his legal advisers beside him whether he believed the letters which he received were forged letters.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said he did not suggest that there were not a number written of a perfectly genuine character, but as the right hon. Gentleman had challenged him he was bound to say that he was shown a number of letters purporting to be signed by different people and that a close examination showed that one man signed the whole.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to make that reply and everybody knew perfectly well that in matters not connected with Ireland it was not unusual for one person to sign a number of letters or a number of names to a petition But that was not his question to the right hon. Gentleman. His question was, did the right hon. Gentleman believe that these were forged or bogus letters.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said he must decline all responsibility for the correspondence; no doubt many of the letters were genuine, but the right hon. Gentleman must not apply to him to give a character to the whole of them.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he regretted that when the Committee were dealing with a matter of the gravest moment, when they represented what was common knowledge in the United Kingdom and was in the knowledge of anyone who had visited Ireland and seen the condition of things there, the right hon. Gentleman should throw this kind 214 of discredit on the statements he (MR LONG) had made. The right hon. Gentleman must know that men and women in the position of the writers of these letters could not allow their names to be made public, because their lives would be made intolerable. He asked whether there had been during the year an increase in agrarian offences, such as threatening letters, boycotting, and cattle-driving, and in the number of farms surrendered because the occupiers found it impossible to carry them on with safety to themselves and their families. A Minister, if determined to do so, could prevent these crimes, but it required strenuous efforts. Had the Chief Secretary a police force strong enough for the difficult work of the constabulary in. the more lonely parts of Ireland? Was the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the men in the force were sufficiently experienced? He had heard the police criticised in this House, and accused of partiality in the execution of their duties, but nobody who had not studied on the spot these difficult Irish questions could realise how difficult was the task which devolved upon the Royal Irish Constabulary. The right hon. Gentleman had failed to check this class of crime and failed to discover the perpetrators and bring them to justice. If it was shown that the police were insufficient in number or that there was an improper proportion of short service men among them the blame would rest not with the police but with those who were responsible for the disposition of the force throughout the land. If it was the fact that for a considerable period there had been an increase of this kind of crime, ho maintained it was the first duty of the Government to put it down. Had the Government used all the powers at their disposal in order to cope with and put an end to this kind of crime? The Government had taken credit to themselves for not having had recourse to the Crimes Act of 1887, and yet they had availed themselves of a statute of Edward III. The Government at this moment were dealing with the Evicted Tenants Bill in order to remove one of the causes of Irish discontent, but ho ventured to say that, whatever might be the method which they adopted, whatever legislation they passed to ameliorate the condition of the Irish people, there was at the same time a prevalent belief that lawlessness would 215 be—he would not use the word permitted, but at all events that it would not be put down with a strong, firm, and determined hand. All their legislation for ameliorating the condition of the people was so much waste paper and must fail if they allowed the continuance of a condition of things which would of itself bring about the failure of their measures. He knew that hon. Gentlemen below the gangway had denounced their views as to the condition of Ireland, and pointed out that it was freer from crime than any other part of the United Kingdom. He was thankful to remember, as he had done on every occasion, that in the record of those crimes which they usually associated with the word "crime," Ireland was freer than other parts of the United Kingdom, and nobody was prouder than he was to bear in mind that record. Still, that was no excuse or justification for a condition of things in which the liberties of the people were interfered with, in which the ordinary avocation of a section of the people were made impossible, and in which there came the cry which they were compelled to voice on behalf of these people that there should be even-handed justice to all from the Government of the day, whatever might be the demands made on Parliament either for money or for legislation—demands which he believed would always be cheerfully met by Parliament in answer to petitions from the Irish people. Whatever might be the answer to those demands, unless, at the same time, every possible effort was made to secure for the Irish people real law and order, the Government of the day, however benevolent, would fail in their efforts. It was because they believed there was a demand for a stronger interference with those who were themselves interfering with the orderly and peaceful life of the people of Ireland, that they had asked for a discussion on this Vote, upon which alone the general administration of the Irish Government could be considered. In order that he might regularise the proceedings and to mark his view of the present situation in Ireland he begged to move the reduction of the Chief Secretary's salary by £100, and to assure the right hon. Gentleman that in doing so he did not want, far from it, to add to the difficulties that he knew too well that he had to 216 face, nor to add to the burden which he had to bear; but because he believed that it required more determination, more recognition of facts as they were, if they were successfully to cope with and to remove those difficulties which now stood in the way of the peaceful development of Ireland, and which so long as they existed were the curse of the lives of many of the Irish people.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Chief Secretary."— (Mr. Walter Long.)
§ *MR SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said he did not want to take part in the general debate, but simply desired to support the hon. Member for West Belfast in the appeal ho had made to the right hon. Gentleman as regarded the present dispute in that city. They had made this appeal before, and owing to the information they had to hand, they were very anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should do his very best in regard to matters that had arisen in Belfast. The people on strike were doing their very best to treat the dispute in the proper way, but they felt that the police were acting somewhat on one side. That was the feeling they had, and he thought the action of the police on the previous night indicated that the police themselves felt that they were not acting quite impartially. He did. not want to put it any stronger than that. It was a question for the Belfast people themselves. They forwarded information, as the Labour Members had no means of obtaining the information for themselves, and they depended on what was sent to them. They had Englishmen in Belfast, persons whom they could trust, who had given them information which had conveyed to them the same impression as the information sent by the people of Belfast. The trouble being experienced in Belfast was one which was never thought about in this country. What was now occurring in Belfast at the present time was the sort of fight they used to have fifty years ago in this country. The question of recognising trade union officials ought never to be raised now. It ought to have been recognised long ago in Ireland, as 217 every employer of labour in this country with few exceptions, recognised it; it was a matter of every day business in this country, and he was inclined to think that there was something behind the dispute which the public had not realised. When one found that eight of the smaller companies had come to terms with the men and that only three of the larger railway companies were holding out, one was apt to wonder what they were driving at. When one knew that there was an agitation of railway men for recognition—for it was the only point which they were raising at present—and when one remembered that the railway companies of Ireland were fighting this point in Belfast, while the real fight was in this country, and that the weaker body there was having to bear the brunt of the struggle which it could be seen was coming in this country, it would be for the men of England to assist their fellow-workers in Ireland in obtaining a recognition of the principle for which they were fighting. He hoped that it was not true that the fight in Ireland was in anticipation of a fight in this country, but if it was true, then they realised that they must go to the help of those in Ireland who were fighting the big railway companies. The men had offered arbitration, and they would accept the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else chosen by him to act as arbitrator. Surely, they were not standing on their dignity. In the cotton trade disputes were settled by conciliation — six on each side —and they never thought of arbitration. But when arbitration was offered freely, the companies ought to accept it as the next best thing to conciliation. If this was the sort of treatment the Ulster Members were going to mete out to the Belfast people then the trade unionists in England were prepared to back the men of Belfast in their action. In all sincerity, however, they had no object to serve except the peace of Belfast. The men had a reasonable case, they were prepared to give it reasonable consideration, they were prepared to accept arbitration, and it appeared to him that the trouble that was going on ought not to be allowed to continue without protest. It was entirely in the hands of the employers to make peace in twenty-four hours, and when the workpeople were ready to go the length of settling this question it was time some 218 protest was made against the action of the companies.
§ MR. GEORGE CLARK (Belfast, N.)
said he rose to speak for the first time in, that House, in support of the Motion for the reduction of the Vote. It was not because he grudged the Chief Secretary his £100 that he supported the motion, as he was fully alive to the fact that anyone who had anything to do with the administration of Ireland fully earned the salary that he got. Though he had the honour to represent an Irish constituency, he was not an Irishman, but a Scotsman born. Ho often regretted that he was not an Irishman, because ho always envied the Irish people the ease and the fluency with which they were able to give expression to their ideas. He only wished that they had the Chief Secretary more often in Ireland; he wished that the right hon. Gentleman knew more about Ireland, or that he had lived there for some little time, because he was satisfied that he, like every other Britisher of his acquaintance, would become a Unionist. The two peoples they knew had no community of ideals or community of purpose. The Unionists were British to the core, and they were determined that at all costs Ireland should remain an integral part of the United Kingdom; whereas he was sorry to say the Irish Nationalists wished to have Ireland for the Irish alone, and they made no secret, in fact they were accustomed to boast in season and out of season, of their antipathy to Britain and everything British. There was one point on which he believed that the two peoples wore in agreement, and that was in their cordial dislike of the present British Government. The Nationalists disliked him, although it suited them to appear to like him, because he was British, and Unionist disliked him because he was not British enough. They did not seem to have that sense of fair play which was associated with the British name all over the world. To the ordinary man the methods of the present Government in connection with both Ireland and England were past comprehension. They appeared to be trying to please everybody with the usual result that they were satisfying nobody. There was one thing which they were doing well, and that was that in the measures they had passed and were endeavouring to pass they had succeeded in. 219 setting class against class, creed against creed, capital against labour, landlord against tenant, Nonconformist against Churchman, and Protestant against Catholic. When he introduced the Irish Council Bill the Chief Secretary told them that Ireland was fairly peaceful and fairly loyal, and he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in that. He had not the slightest doubt as to the result of English administration and British laws wisely and firmly administered. He regretted that British laws in Ireland were not now being administered as firmly as they ought to be. When British laws were wisely and firmly administered people were beginning to understand each other better, they appreciated each other's good qualities, and they paid less heed to that curse of Ireland, the agitator. The unfortunate strike in Belfast had been referred to by the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Belfast. He could assure the Committee that personally he was as anxious as anyone else that that strike should come to an end, because the suffering in Belfast in consequence of the strike was not pleasant to contemplate. But he failed to see how they could assist in bringing the parties together. Arbitration had been suggested, but before they could do that they had to get both sides to agree to that course. He returned from Belfast last night, and before he returned ho went down to the docks and quays to see for himself the position of affairs. With regard to what had been said about peaceful picketting he saw over 200 men and more than half of them were armed with heavy sticks, and they were going about Belfast in that way at the present moment. [AN HON. MEMBER: "That is not peaceful picketing."] Unless matters were handled differently there would be considerable trouble in Belfast, and he was sure the Labour Members would regret that result just as much as anyone else. He was glad to notice that the Chief Secretary had arranged that the authorities were to have all the help they required in maintaining law and order. If there was one thing which ought to be strictly maintained in Belfast it was law and order, and it was the duty of the Government to see that people were allowed to go about their business without molestation from anybody. The Chief Secretary had told them that Ireland was fairly prosperous and fairly loyal. There 220 might be considerable trouble in Belfast unless the situation was judiciously handled. He was glad the authorities would have all possible help in maintaining law and order. If, as the Chief Secretary said, Ireland was fairly prosperous and fairly loyal, why not leave well alone? Did they want to raise hell again in the country? The Irish were a highly imaginative and excitable race, and it was not fair or just to lead them to expect things they could not possibly get. This might lead before many months were over to serious trouble.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said that, although he was glad to congratulate his countryman on the opposite side of the House on his very considerable gift of lucid speech, he was afraid, as Chief Secretary, he could not recognise in him a recruit who was likely to make his task any the easier: As to his own miserable salary, he could assure the hon. Member that whether they cut it down by £100 or altogether, if any good was to be done to Ireland thereby it was entirely at their service. With regard to the subjects that might fairly be discussed upon the Vote for the salary of the Chief Secretary, these might well occupy the attention of the House, not for a night, but for the six or seven years of a Parliament. There was the question of the health of Ireland. The figures with regard to that were simply terrifying, alike as touching consumption, tuberculosis, and the increase of lunacy. He had already stated the figures, which were they given of one of our Crown Colonies, of the West Indies or St. Helena, the conscience of the House would be so profoundly touched, its sense of duty would be so stirred, that it would, instead of treating them with comparative indifference, set to work to do something at once. It was the same with education, primary, intermediate, and University, the administration of the Poor Law, the position of piers and harbours, industry, and even their old friend the Bann. These were questions which might very fairly occupy the whole of more than one evening.
§ MR. BIRRELL
Why only one evening? Because they tried to do in the 221 Imperial Parliament work that ought to be done in Ireland by Irishmen themselves. Attention had been drawn to the condition of things in the West of Ireland. Lawlessness undoubtedly existed there; but it was a very small and limited question as compared with many other questions which he believed to be of greater importance—such as the questions affecting land, which had a sort of pre-emption and perpetual privilege in this House, as if it were alone a matter of primary importance. The reports he received from the police and other persons revealed the condition of Ireland generally as to peace and order as being very satisfactory. More than three-fourths of the country was free from serious ordinary crime—which was the worst crime—and agrarian crime. The Judges in the summer assizes had stated in their charges that they found the state of the country peaceable and orderly save in certain limited areas. He did not desire to underrate for a moment the importance of the question because the area to which acts of lawlessness wore confined was limited. In Galway, Roscommon, part of Tipperary, part of King's County and Queen's County and Leitrim they found a considerable amount of disturbance. It was a mere accident under whose particular rule questions of this kind assumed greater or less importance. It was not due to the personality of the individual Chief Secretary; it was not due to the constitution of the particular British Government in power at the moment; it obeyed other laws and other considerations than that. He disclaimed the right of hon. Members opposite, therefore, to speak to him as if he were responsible for all that had been done in Ireland for the last 700 years, or as the personification of English rule. Nothing of the kind. He had been but six months in the Irish Office, and he had to deal with the situation which had been largely created by the House in the land legislation of the past thirty-seven years. Hon. Members might "motor" into Roscommon, and the sight they would see could not be equalled in any other part of the United Kingdom. Nothing but land for cattle, with a few habitations, and the people cramped into bog land not suitable for the grazing of beasts. He was not saying that the grazing of beasts was not a perfectly reasonable and lawful occupation. But he could say 222 that the legislation of 1903 had imbued the minds of the Irish people with the idea that the desire was to transfer the land from the landlords to the tenants by voluntary arrangements in the first instance, and in 1903 British credit was drawn upon to an uncertain amount for the purposes of that voluntary arrangement. There was a convinced feeling among the people that sooner or later the tenants were to become the owners in fee of the soil which they cultivated. They could not expect that these poor people should be content for ever to live outside these lands which not long ago were tillage land supporting a population while their neighbours were owners of their own holdings. But the condition of things, as far as statistics were concerned, was not, so satisfactory now as in Mr. Bryce's time. From a casual expression ho had dropped some hon. Members seemed to imagine that he did not disapprove of cattle-driving. What was cattle-driving? It must be distinguished from cattle-lifting, so frequent in ancient border story. It was an intimidatory process, and, as such, it received no support of any kind or shape from him. It was not a predatory process. In former days cattle were not only lifted but murdered on the spot, which afterwards reeked with blood. The people did not steal the cattle. When one remembered the discontent in the minds of the people because they believed that Parliament was willing to transfer these lands to them were it not for the action of graziers, these deeds should not cause any great measure of surprise. [OPPOSITION CRIES OF "Oh."] Hon. Members might take a more exalted view of human nature, but he, at all events, did not live in those hyperborean regions, but regarded human nature as it really was. During the six months of the present year there had been forty-one cattle drives. They wore illegal, of course, things to be put down, and the Irish authorities had done and would continue to do their very best to put them down. [OPPOSITION' CRIES OF "OH."] The graziers wore for the most part butchers carrying on business in the neighbouring towns. He did not deny that they were amenable to pressure. As tradesmen, if they were exposed to unpopularity, they would lose their trade. Accordingly, they yielded to pressure, because their trade suffered. But what could the Irish Administration do with 223 people who had feelings of that kind? It was said, "Use the forces of the law." They had used them, and were using them. [OPPOSITION CRIES OF "OH."] There was not a single one of those persons who applied for police protection who had not received it. Wherever the authorities got information of an intended cattle drive, there they planted police. They had sent between sixty and seventy police into Galway, and an inspector and seventy-five men into Roscommon. But it was not possible on dark nights to have a policeman at the head of every one of these beasts. [OPPOSITION CRIES OF "OH."] In the provision of extra police to protect these people the Irish Administration had considerably strained their reserves; but if further police were necessary to be recruited they would be recruited, and the force would be kept up at any cost to whatever strength it required in the discharge of its duties. But these graziers had grown so much into the habit of having police protection that they would do nothing to protect themselves. Often when the police gave them notice of a contemplated cattle-drive from their lands, they neglected to turn up to assist the police even in the most important work of the identification of the offenders. That was not the way business was done in this country. These people had learned to rely on the Irish Constabulary, and had neglected their own powers of defence and their own instincts of preservation. He would not say they should take firearms for their defence, but at least they should be there to assist the police against the ruffians of the neighbourhood and to identify their own property. In these matters the Government had done all they could in the way of protection, and this they would continue to give so far as circumstances would allow. But on a dark night over a wide area it was not always possible to prevent cattle-driving or to identify the people committing the offence amongst sympathising neighbours. It was always cowardly to assail an Administration for not always succeeding in a task in which he was quite sure hon. Gentleman opposite would have been not one whit more successful. Punitive proceedings were being taken under legal advice, and it must not be assumed that, because they did not always succeed, and because sometimes the jury disagreed, 224 they wholly disregarded the evidence, they could not say that unless they were present at, and took part in, the trial. The Government had put the ordinary law in force, and would continue to do so when advised there was a case to go to a jury, and in some cases a change of venue had been obtained. That was all he had to say upon cattle-driving a serious offence he did not deny, not predatory, but intimidatory, and in a considerable number of cases it had succeeded in its purpose, and men had been induced to give up their land. Sometimes it had been because of loss of trade, sometimes from a desire not to run counter to the feeling of the people among whom they lived, sometimes from mixed motives, sometimes it was intimidation, and sometimes it was not entirely so. The fact remained that a number of persons did give up their lands in consequence either of actual cattle-drives or threats of cattle-drives. The cattle were returned. He had no doubt technically they did undergo injury. As to that, he had no evidence and he was not sufficiently acquainted with the habits of animals to say.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said he meant to suggest slight injury. He was willing to admit it did not do the animals any good. But it was an element in the case that these cattle - drives were not for the purpose of gain, but for the purpose of intimidation, though he did not mean to minimise that offence in any way. All that was said on this question led up to the question at the back of the head of the right hon. Gentleman, Why did they not put the Crimes Act in. force? The Government thought that on the whole they were far more likely to do the one thing in Ireland that was worth doing—to make the habits of these people law-abiding permanently—if they adhered to the ordinary law, and they were not ashamed at the same time to recognise the case for the division of these lands as soon as it could properly be accomplished. The Opposition would not hesitate themselves if in office to do what they could to purchase as many grazing lands as possible.
§ MR. BIRRELL
To avoid terrorism. If after 87 Coercion Acts right hon. Gentlemen opposite still believed in coercion, history had been written for them in vain. If the right hon. Gentleman believed that he and his friends could, by the simple expedient of sending a number of men to prison on the judgment of removable magistrates, secure that not a cow would be driven, not a sheep removed, he said their belief was vain. By the courageous exercise of the ordinary law, if they would only give them a little time, he believed they would be able to make the inhabitants of Roscommon and Galway as law-abiding citizens in the matter of the land as they were in all the other obligations of life. There were constantly under police protection fifty in June, 1907, forty-four in 1906, and thirty-three in 1905. The number of cases of protection by patrol was 157, compared with 158 in 1906, and 141 in 1905. He did not think these figures justified any strenuous argument against the present Government. He did not believe the action of the present Government had anything to do with it. He believed these things arose out of the desires and feelings and aspirations of the country side population, and they expressed their feelings in an illegal manner against which the Government strove with all the forces of the police at their disposal. They hoped to persuade these people that in their own interest it was the greatest mistake to take this course, and they wished to do the utmost they could to punish those who engaged in these practices, and to prevent their multiplication, while pursuing the remedial measures which, after all, offered the only method of making this country-side population a law-abiding population. He wished to say a word about the Belfast matter. In the first place, in the matter of pickets, he was satisfied that the police had exercised a perfectly sound judgment. With regard to what was 226 said by the hon. Member for Clitheroe, from his information it was a very difficult task to hold the balance evenly between different contending parties, but he could not but believe that the police had done their part exceedingly well, and he besought hon. Members to remember that the obligation of the police and of the local authority was to secure the general welfare of all parties and the general peace of the inhabitants. They could not go out of their way to consider the rights of one party or the other. Therefore he did not really think that at the present time there was any case to be made against the police. With regard to the small trouble that arose in the force, he had had some further information, and he found that the trouble was smaller even than he had expected. It was confined to about 50 men. Nobody was assaulted, and, though undoubtedly there were some small acts of insubordination, the men readily responded to the appeal that was made to them and agreed to make their written complaint to the Inspector-General. That officer was perfectly satisfied, and the men were now again in perfectly good trim and temper. He would not feel it right to withhold any advice or help he could give in a matter of this sort, but this was not a matter primarily for the Irish Government at all. They were bound, as every citizen was bound, to give assistance to the local authority if they demanded it. Having regard to the peculiar circumstances, he would always be willing to give the House any information which ho received from time to time and which might properly be given. He hoped this affair would be brought to a speedy conclusion by the good sense of all concerned.
§ *MR. BARRIE
said he felt sure the Chief Secretary had every intention to uphold the law in Ireland, but in every speech the right hon. Gentleman made he used qualifying phrases which in Ireland were interpreted into giving latitude for 227 disregarding law and order and which made the position very difficult for people living in certain parts of the country. He had told the Committee that Ireland was peaceable. That could only be so in the light of the right hon. Gentleman's own admission if they left out of count all the reported cases in which no arrests had been made. A large portion of that regrettable result was due to the right hon. Gentleman's lack of acquaintance with the island over which he ruled where there was a prevailing opinion particularly in the disaffected centres, that the Government was not determined to enforce law and order as it should be enforced. The representatives of Ulster constituencies were aware that many sympathised with their views in isolated parts of Ireland who at present felt that they had not the security of life and property which they were entitled to receive from the Government. The duty was laid upon them to ask that there should be a closer determination on the part of the Government to see that this evil which so widely prevailed should cease. He had nothing to complain about as regarded the statement of the Chief Secretary in reference to his action in Belfast. He had acted judiciously, and he hoped the trouble would soon pass away. The matter was exceedingly difficult. He had listened with the utmost satisfaction to the guarded answers the right hon. Gentleman had given to the suggestion that there was any disloyalty on the part of that splendid body the Royal Irish Constabulary. He had known that body for many years. He had come into close association with them and had the greatest admiration for them. [Laughter.] He was not surprised that Nationalists laughed, but he was surprised the Attorney-General should see any humour in that remark.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (MR. CHERRY, LIVERPOOL, EXCHANGE)
I was engaged in conversation with an hon. Member behind me.
§ *MR. BARRIE
I certainly thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman saw some humour in the remarks I was making.
§ *MR. BARRIE
said the matter under consideration was much too serious for any light treatment. He regretted exceedingly that they could not compliment the authorities on the state of the country as a whole at present. Ho hoped as the result of still further failures of justice in certain parts of Ireland the Government would no longer hesitate to order a change of venue to secure convictions; and thus make the law respected as it formerly was under a Unionist Government,
§ *MR. BYLES (Salford, N.)
said he hoped to persuade the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin to withdraw his Motion for the reduction of the salary of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. He thought after the manly, frank, and vigorous speech to which they had listened none of them wanted to reduce the income of the right hon. Gentleman by £100 He would just permit himself one remark on the question of the difficulty the police were encountering. The right hon. Gentleman had drawn a picture of the difficulties to which small police barracks in Ireland were exposed, but it was equally so when the police were many. He bad taken part with Members opposite in proclaimed meetings. There were big battalions of police around the place where they had announced the meeting to be hold, but they went on with their meeting nevertheless, though the police were armed with batons, swords, and he knew not what. In Ire-land the people were not, as in England, on the side of the police London could be goverened by a handful of police compared with Ireland; in this country people of a village could get along with one constable, simply because the people assisted him, whereas, if they were against 229 him the one constable would be of no use at all. He wondered that it had not boon driven home in every way to hon. Members above the gangway opposite that what was wanted in Ireland was a policy of pacification, giving the Irish people power to rule themselves, a policy which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had encouraged by introducing at any rate an instalment of self-government in the Irish Council Bill, which, if it failed, was only because it was not strong enough. They should go on in that direction, trusting the Irish people, believing in their honesty, believing that they knew better how to rule themselves than we knew how to rule them with our miserable century of failure. It was only by such measures as they had passed in Committee yesterday, by measures of pacification and not of coercion, not by police and force, that we should be able to bring the Irish people into harmony, fellowship, loyalty, and cordial friendships with the people of this country.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (DOWN, N.)
said ho was very sorry to join in any criticism of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He admired his literature, but he regretted his position, and he was sorry to say that since he had become Chief Secretary the right hon. Gentleman had given his sympathy entirely to hon. Members below the gangway.
And, it being Eleven of the clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee also report, Progress; to sit again To-morrow.