§ (1) From and after the appointed day the Congested Districts Board for Ireland shall be a body corporate, bearing the name of the "Congested Districts Board for Ireland" with a capacity to acquire and hold land, and to sue and be sued by its corporate name.
§ (2) The Board shall have an official seal, which shall be officially and judicially noticed, and such seal shall be authenticated by the signature of a permanent member of the Board, or of the secretary.
§ (3) In the execution or performance of any power or duty conferred upon or transferred to the Board, by or in pursuance of any enactment, the Board shall adopt and use the style and seal of the Congested Districts Board for Ireland.
§ (4) The powers and duties of the trustees of the Congested Districts Board for Ireland under any enactment shall, on the appointed day, be transferred to the Board.
§ (5) Sub-section (3) of Section thirty-four of the Act of 1891 and Sub-sections (2) and 2099 (3) of Section two of the Congested Districts Board (Ireland) Act, 1893, shall cease to have effect as from the appointed day.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
I presume that we shall be allowed some little latitude in discussing this Clause, in order that we may deal with the whole question of the proposed new Congested Districts Board. If there is one thing more than another which would give us the impression that the Government did not seriously propose to pass into law the provisions contained in the Clauses with which we have now to deal, it is the fact that they have allowed a bare five hours for the discussion of the whole of the immense question involved in the setting up of a new Congested Districts Board. Anybody who has even the most superficial acquaintance with the question of congestion in the West of Ireland must agree that it is absolutely ridiculous for the Committee to attempt properly to deal with the matter in the time allotted. But the Chief Secretary has gone further. He has not even given us free scope to choose for ourselves what portion of these Clauses we would discuss; he has insisted that at nine o'clock the first ten Clauses shall be submitted to the guillotine, and, as we on these benches are absolutely opposed to these proposals, the result will be that we shall have to vote against the whole ten Clauses, thus probably occupying the remainder of the time available this evening. If any excuse were needed—I think I shall be able to show that it is not—for another place dealing drastically with these proposals, none better could possibly be given than this curtailing of discussion. Few Members opposite, unless they have made a more or less intimate study of Irish affairs, can realise the extent of this problem of congestion and the far-reaching character of the proposals contained in these Clauses. I daresay some hon. Members opposite have heard of the Dudley Commission, They may possibly have read portions of the Report, though I will guarantee they have not read the whole of it. The Report and the documents connected with it fill three bulky volumes, and very few Members, unless they are personally interested in the matter, are likely to have waded through all that material. The Dudley Commission was a Royal Commission—not a Viceregal or Departmental Commission, 2100 not a Commission like that appointed by the Treasury to consider the question of raising the tenants' annuities and of lowering the price which landlords could receive for their land.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
On a point of Order. I submit that this discussion at the present stage is not relevant. Upon this Clause the only matters that can be discussed are the constitution of the Congested Districts Boards as a corporate body, whether it shall have an official seal, the style and seal of the Board, whether certain powers and duties shall be transferred to the Board, and the repeal of certain enactments. I respectfully submit that on this portion of the Bill it is not relevant to discuss the Dudley Commission Report.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
On the point of Order. I submit that before we can properly discuss whether or not there should be an entirely new Congested Districts Board set up—and that is what this Clause does—it is necessary to go somewhat fully into the necessity for the new Board, into the way in which the present Board has done its duty, and also into the Report and evidence of the Dudley Commission. Without going into these matters, the Committee cannot be in possession of sufficient information to make up its mind whether or not a new Congested Districts Board is necessary.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Caldwell)
There is no doubt that the policy of the transfer of the powers of the Congested Districts Board from the present Board to the Board sought to be set up by this Clause is a matter of policy which enters into the discussion of this Clause.
§ Mr. J. B. LONSDALE
Would it not be for the convenience of the Committee that on this Amendment we should go into the whole matter of the Congested Districts Board, having regard to the fact that the discussion must close at nine o'clock, and that it will be quite impossible to do justice to the clauses in Part III. unless they are discussed in the way I suggest?
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I was comparing the procedure adopted by the Government in the matter of these two Commissions which have sat on important questions dealt with in the Bill, and pointing out how very different has been the treatment in this case, where the Government propose 2101 to fall in almost absolutely with the wishes of Members below the Gangway. They have made up their minds in this case by means of a full-blown Royal Commission; but I propose to show that the evidence on the subject, which has been published at great length, was collected and collated by a body which neither the House of Commons nor the public at large can regard as in any sense of the word an impartial Commission. The Dudley Commission was composed of nine or ten members, under the chairmanship of Earl Dudley. It consisted of Sir Antony (now Lord) Macdonnell, Sir John Colomb, Sir Francis Mowatt, Bishop O'Donnell, and three Members of this House—the hon. Members for one of the divisions of Inverness, for Carlow, and for North Mayo—together with Sir Angus Sutherland. If it had been the intention of the Government to deal with this question of congestion, and they had said that all that remained for them to do was to settle, the details as to how they should tackle the job, I could understand them appointing such a Commission as that. But if their idea was—as we were all led to understand it was—to have an exhaustive examination, and after hearing the evidence of a large number of witnesses as to really how the question of congestion stood, and what it was necessary to do in order to deal with it, then I say that the appointment of such a Commission as that was futile, and all that that Report contained is of no more value from an impartial point of view that the contents of an A B C Railway Guide. Let me examine the personnel of this Commission a little more fully. In anything I say on the work of the Commission, I cast no aspersions on any of the members. I say from its inception the majority of the members had preconceived ideas of congestion, and it was a Commission from which an impartial verdict and impartial Report was absolutely impossible. Lord Dudley—well, we know his sympathies with hon. Members below the Gangway. Lord Macdonnell, as everyone knows, is a Home Ruler and is sympathetic to the policy pursued by the right hon. Gentleman opposite at the dictation of hon. Members below the Gangway. The only person out of nine representing, or supposed to represent, the views of the Conservative and Unionist Members—as a matter of fact, he did not do it—was the late Sir John Colomb. There were on that Commission five per- 2102 sons of strong Home Rule and Nationalist proclivities, one Unionist, and two what may be termed independent persons. I suppose the latter have no political opinions. If they have they are not supposed to give expression to them. I refer to Sir Angus Sutherland and Sir Francis Mowatt, public servants, who were, I think, not retired at the time of the Commission. I submit to the House that to consider a Report of that Commission as anything but a biassed Report would be absurd. Therefore it is the height of folly for the right hon. Gentleman to come down here and tell us that one of the reasons, at any rate, that he has only given us five hours to discuss this very large subject is that the whole matter has been fully dealt with and reported upon by this Commission. I say, as I did before, that the Report of that Commission, owing to its biassed character, is a Report upon which the House of Commons cannot place any reliance as to what the true state of affairs is in the West of Ireland. I do not say that the Report of the Commission does not contain a great deal of very useful information. There is-a great deal of matter which is very well worth reading, even by hon. Members who are not so deeply interested as we from Ireland. But I reiterate that the House of Commons must not take that Report as gospel truth. It must look into the matter for itself, and must try to come to a conclusion upon a vast amount of conflicting evidence which is contained in the Report, and evidence which Members may have the opportunity of finding elsewhere. The Chief Secretary has, in the main, followed out the recommendations of that Commission. I think I may from that Report claim that the question of the relief of congestion and poverty in the West of Ireland can be best dealt with by migration. The Commission has given up the idea of emigration, although the existing Congested Districts Board never favoured that policy, and the Commission condemned it also. But while the Commission claim that migration is the remedy, the true solution of the difficulty, they show over and over again in their Report that there is not the slightest possibility of it ever being carried into effect. I could read extracts from the Commissioners' Report to show that very clearly. If that be so, then I say that the Report, to a very large extent, falls to the ground, because it advises one thing on one page which on the next page it shows it is 2103 utterly impracticable to carry out. One of the extracts—I wish hon. Members below the Gangway would not be so impatient. They always—
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
It says:—Paragraph 42…Section 75 (of the Act of 1903), moreover, contained a provision that materially affected the Board's progress, namely, the power it gave to the Board to give surplus untenanted land to the sons of tenants in the neighbourhood. This created a new body of claimants, the satisfaction of whose demands would undoubtedly prevent the Board from fulfilling their functions of relieving congestion. In point of fact, the Board has never had any surplus land available for distribution among the sons of tenants; still, the legislative recognition given to the claims of landless men has hampered the Board in bringing in migrants, and apparently some of the claimants think that they will eventually obtain part of the land bought by the Board if they succeed in making the introduction of migrants sufficiently difficult.Paragraph 43.—The seriousness of this situation has been intensified by the fact that the Act of 1903 introduced a new feature into land purchase all over Ireland.…The new Act empowered the Estates Commissioners to buy estates whether tenanted or untenanted, and to divide the untenanted land amongst the tenants on the estate and their sons and small landholders in the neighbourhood. The result has been to create a feeling that all untenanted land should be earmarked for farmers in the neighbourhood, or for the sons of those who live on the estate, and other landlessmen.…We shall refer later to this question, as it goes to the very root of the possibility of relieving congestion.Paragraph 96.—The remedy that seems to us to contain to the greatest extent the necessary element of permanence is the resettlement and enlargement of the majority of the small holdings.…Such a resettlement will involve the acquisition of large areas of grass land and an extensive scheme of migration.Paragraph 123.—.…We cannot, however, disguise from ourselves that 2104 until there is a radical change in public opinion it will not be easy to relieve congestion within the Board's area by means of migration to land east of the Shannon. This makes it probable that the Board will be forced to rely for some time upon such land as can be acquired within its own area. So far as can be judged by the figures available, this is not quite adequate for the relief of small landholders, and consequently every holding given to the son of a tenant, or to any other person not at present a landholder, will to that extent perpetuate congestion in the West.Paragraph 125.—During the last few years the Board have encountered a stronger and, we think, a less justifiable objection to the introduction of migrants from a distance on the part of the sons and tenants and other landless men living in the neighbourhood of the grass lands.I think these are very significant passages that I have read; they go far to show that the very cure suggested for those evils are in themselves impracticable, and I venture to say if you ask the officials of the present Board, or even of the Estates Commissioners, or any other officials throughout Ireland, they will tell you the same—namely, that where this scheme of migrating persons from the congested districts to other places has been tried it has failed most miserably. The Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners have bought estates in several places for the purpose of settling upon them persons brought from the congested districts, and the experiments have failed miserably; we have nothing but evidence to show that the system of migrating people from one part of Ireland to another is growing more impossible from day to day. These Clauses setting up the Congested Districts Board are open to very grave objection, first as to the constitution of the Board itself, and secondly as to the total area of land in Ireland they propose to bring under the control of the Board. The constitution of the new Board is as follows: The Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary, the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, five members to be appointed by His Majesty, nine members representing the Congested Districts Counties, and two paid members to be appointed by His Majesty as permanent members.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Is it in order, Mr. Caldwell, for the hon. Member to discuss not only Clause 40, but subsequent clauses which are to be closured without any chance of Amendment?
§ Mr. GEORGE WYNDHAM
On the point of Order. May I be allowed to put this question? As I understand your ruling, the Clause now before the Committee abolishes the existing state of affairs and creates a new state of affairs. What you abolish is the constitution of the existing Board, the powers with which it operates, and the powers with which it is endowed. It is almost impossible to discuss any one of these subjects without dealing with the staff and the persons who constitute the Board. It is almost impossible to criticise the constitution of the Board unless you knew where they are to operate, what they are to do. I would prefer to see the detailed criticism with regard to land purchase reserved until the Closure has fallen—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
In considering the question of the policy of the change from the existing Board to the new Board which arises under this Clause, one cannot very well exclude general observations as to how the new scheme will work, having regard to the constitution of the new body and probably other matters. Such matters as are dealt with in future clauses must not be discussed in detail, but only incidentally as regards their bearing on the proposed change. It is only the general principle of the change which is involved in the discussion of the question that Clause 40 stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
We are upon the first Clause now of Part III., and if a general discussion is allowed upon that Clause, would it not be open to every person who apprehended that the Clause he desired to have discussed would not be reached before the Closure fell, to raise it upon the first Clause?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Oh, no. I connect Clause 40 as raising the policy of the abolition of the existing Board and the constitution of the new Board.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I do not think it would be possible for anybody to properly discuss Clause 40 without referring in some way or other to the subsequent clauses. The constitution of the new Board is one of the main objections we have to this whole Scheme. The present Congested Districts Board has worked very satisfactorily 2106 —I do not say it has done an immense amount of good, but it has done a considerable amount of good, and the outstanding fact about that Board is that none of its members are elected. They are all appointed, I think, by the Lord Lieutenant, or by the Government of the day, and I maintain, from what I know of the working of the Board, it is absolutely necessary that the men who are at the head of that Board should be independent officials appointed by the Crown. To put large sums of money, such as are proposed by this Bill, into the hands of a Board, nine members of which should be elected by the Congested Districts, would be to open the door to a large amount of friction, and I do not think I am going too far when I say it would lead to an amount of jobbery and corruption which would render the Board the laughingstock of the whole world.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I hope the hon. Member will not go into the details of the constitution which are involved in Clause 41.
§ Mr. DILLON
I understood your ruling to be distinctly that we were to go into the details of the constitution of Clause 41. If your ruling is that the details of the constitution of the Board should be excluded from this Debate I would urge upon the hon. Member for Antrim to drop this discussion and let us get on to Clause 41, and take the discussion upon that.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I am afraid if we pass Clause 40 we might be ruled out of order when we tried to discuss the principle of the new Board, which is contained as much in Clause 40 as in Clause 41.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
What I said was that the policy of the abolition of the existing Board and the constitution of the new Board is included in Clause 40. After that question is settled, then the details of the constitution of the new Board which arise under Clause 41 will come on for discussion. Meantime, a general reference to the constitution may be made so far as involved by Clause 40,. but not detailed criticism.
§ Mr. JOHN DILLON
To clear up this ruling, I ask: How is it possible to approach the question of the policy without considering the constitution of the new Board, because the whole policy consists in departing from the constitution of the old Board in order to adopt a new constitution and a new Board?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is so, and a general reference to the constitution of the new body as set forth in Clause 41 has not been excluded. All that has been said is that the discussion which arises under Clause 41 as regards the details of that Clause must not be anticipated and entered upon in discussing Clause 40. It is the general policy of the proposed change which is involved in Clause 40. Clause 41 deals with the re-constitution of the Congested Districts Board.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
With reference to that, does it mean we cannot move Amendments to the various sub-sections of Clause 41?
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
Amendments would be in order, but the discussion would be strictly limited to the specific Amendments, and not re-open the general discussion of policy which takes place on Clause 40.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
Without going into details as to the constitution of the new Board, I think I can deal with the policy of the setting up of the whole new scheme. I can deal with the conduct of the Board which is to carry out the objects of this Section and with the number of elected members. I think I am in order when I discuss the question whether or not an elected element should be admitted to the Congested Districts Board. We maintain on the Unionist Benches—at least, I maintain it—that the admission of any elected element, and especially so large an elected element as that contemplated here, is wrong ab initio. The matters that have to be decided by the Board are extremely delicate ones. The effect of this new Clause is to practically set up Home Rule in nine counties in Ireland. To hand over, as is done by this Clause, nine counties to a Board, a large portion of the members of which are elected by those nine counties, and which will naturally in a very short time have a preponderating control of the policy of the Board is grossly unjust. There are provisions which say that no land in the whole of those nine counties can be sold by a landlord without the consent of the Congested Districts Board. The Committee can quite well realise from what they know of Ireland that the representa- 2108 tives of the counties concerned will invariably be individuals of the same politics, and the same way of thinking as hon. Members below the Gangway. The Committee will readily understand that not one single part of the elective portion of the Board will represent those who own nearly the whole of the land of those nine counties. As a matter of fact, the main object of hon. Members below the Gangway is to dispossess these landlords of their land. Practically you are setting up by this Bill a court which will act as judge and jury in its own case. You give to this Board a predominating elective character owing to the fact that you include amongst its members the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the President of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, and other officials, who will not always be on the spot and able to attend the meetings. I say, therefore, it is inevitable that the elective members will in a very short time obtain almost complete control of this Board. It was urged on the first and second reading of this Bill that the elective members would have no control over the finances of the Board, but that argument will not really stand any examination whatever. If the elective section of the Board obtain control of the finances it will be impossible for the other section to withhold their consent in regard to the expenditure and use of the money which is in their hands. Already the elective section of the Board has decreed that the money should be used in this or that particular way. This Board has the most far-reaching powers in reference to a large tract of Ireland amounting to almost one-third of the entire country, and to embark upon a scheme which puts into the hands of this Board the power of dealing with such an enormous quantity of land without any proper representation of the landowners on the Board is, I submit to the Committee, a suggestion would could only be made by this particular House of Commons and the Chief Secretary for Ireland. It is a suggestion which, if put to any impartial tribunal, would be laughed out of court in five minutes. The scheme is unworkable and grossly unfair. Looking at it from the point of view of the counties, in a very short time there is bound to be the greatest friction, because one county will claim more than another, and, quite apart from the injustice to the landowners, the finances of the Bill will be far better administered by an independent Government control than they can pos- 2109 sibly be by any elective members being put on the council. The object of this provision is supposed to relieve poverty and congestion in the West of Ireland. I submit that the relief of poverty, if not of congestion, has already been brought about by the action of the Old Age Pensions Bill. I think hon. Members will be surprised when they hear the figures as to the amount of money which has been distributed as old age pensions in the West of Ireland. I think this has an extremely important bearing upon congestion, and in this connection I wish to state that all the attempts we have made this Session to obtain full and proper particulars as to the distribution of old age pensions in the West of Ireland have failed. The Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury from the very first have both refused to give us any Information with regard to this question, and I submit that we should have been treated in a more courteous manner in that respect. The subject of old age pensions bears very closely upon this question, and I think we are entitled to have a full statement as to the extent to which the payment of old age pensions in the West of Ireland affects the question. But, in spite of the refusal of the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chief Secretary for Ireland to give us information, we have been able to get some figures on the subject, which I will put before the Committee, and which I think hon. Members will agree have a very important bearing on this question.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Would it be in order to discuss the effect a good harvest would have upon the operation of this Clause?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have been watching the hon. Member, and I do not think the figures relating to old age pensions have any bearing upon the question of policy. I think the hon. Member is going too far in discussing the question of old age pensions.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
If we can show that these new provisions are unnecessary from the point of view of relieving congestion and poverty by reason of the fact that congestion and poverty have already been materially relieved by old age pensions, I submit that we are perfectly entitled to put such information and statistics before the Committee.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is going too far. This Clause proposes to 2110 transfer the powers and duties of the present Board to the new Board, and the point raised by the hon. Member is not involved by this question.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I submit that the Bill goes further than you, Mr. Caldwell, have laid down. It is not merely a transfer of powers and duties, but there is a very large increase in the amount of money to be expended. There is also an addition to the area to be administered by the Board in Ireland equal to seven or eight times the area which is controlled by the present Board.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I regret, Mr. Caldwell, that you have taken that view, because it will be quite impossible to produce these figures at all. The fact that we are going to be prevented from placing these facts before the Committee renders these proceedings far more farcical than they would otherwise have been. I trust the Committee will very seriously consider the position it finds itself in. We are solemnly asked to set our seal in a few short hours to an undertaking of gigantic magnitude, and an undertaking which I guarantee that few hon. Members on the Liberal Benches in the House at the present time have probably very inadequately studied. I am quite certain the vast majority of the Liberal Members who are not in the House know practically nothing about it. I sincerely trust that these Clauses, although they may get through the House of Commons, will in a very short time receive that treatment in another place which they most undoubtedly deserve.
§ Mr. JOHN DILLON
By your ruling we must avail ourselves of this opportunity to discuss the entire policy of Part III of the Bill, and, as regards any attempt to subsequently raise the same question on Clause 41, I think the fall of the guillotine will effectually relieve you, Sir, from any difficulty on that point.
§ Mr. DILLON
No; I said we may. If I said must, I only meant in the sense that that we should have no other opportunity.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
On one very important section of this policy, I have been called 2111 to order by the Chairman and have been refused permission to produce most important facts in my possession.
§ Mr. DILLON
I will deal with the Chairman as best I can, and endeavour to observe his ruling. I do not think his ruling amounted, for instance, to a permission to discuss the bearing of the cost of "Dreadnoughts" upon the problem of the congested districts. From my point of view, this part of the Bill is the most important and the most satisfactory. I am speaking now as a representative of the West of Ireland, and there is no part of the Bill which is so important and so far-reaching in its character as this part, so far as the population of the West of Ireland is concerned. In the second place, it is most satisfactory, because it is that part of the Bill with which we Nationalist Members have fewer faults to find. We have, no doubt, Amendments on the Paper, which I consider to be absolutely vital to the Bill, but they are not of a very large or far-reaching character, and I think I have fair grounds to hope that the Government may be induced to adopt them, although we may have no chance of discussing them in the present stage of the Bill. As it stands, this part of the Bill is, in my opinion, the first really large and serious attempt to deal with the great problem of poverty and congestion in the West of Ireland. The Congested Districts Board, as we have known it in the past, has done a great deal of good work. The Congested Districts Board has up to the present been admittedly in an experimental stage. Owing to its lack of funds and power, it has only been able to nibble at and to take small and extremely limited areas in the West of Ireland and operate upon them. The result of its operations, where it was in a position to carry them out, has been such as to fully justify the action of the Government in making this further attempt to develop that power and the scope of their work.
I say that the Government, by the way in which they have dealt with this problem, have undoubtedly earned the recognition and the gratitude of these unhappy people in the West of Ireland, who, under previous attempts to deal with the land question, have been shamefully overlooked. I do not think there is anything in the recent history of Ireland more shameful and more disgraceful to the Irish Government than the way in which the West of Ireland has been 2112 treated under the Act of 1903. There cannot be the slightest doubt in the mind of any man who took part in the Debates on the Act of 1903 in the House, and more especially in the negotiations and discussions which preceded the introduction of that Act into this House that we never would have got the bonus nor many of the good provisions of the Act of 1903 bad it not been for the profound impression made by the condition of the Western districts upon the House of Commons, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day, the late Lord Ritchie, and the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), whose sincerity in the matter I really do not impugn in the slightest degree. I believe he was deeply impressed, and everyone will remember the eloquent and successful appeals he made to the then House of Commons to give this bonus, and to make the great sacrifices, as they were called, for the settlement of the Irish Land Question in order that he might enable the Irish Government to reconstruct these wretched and rotten communities in the West of Ireland, and redeem these people from the misery and poverty which had been, by universal admission, not of their own creation, not due to any fault of their own, but had been the direct results of political oppression in the past. I am not now entering upon any debatable ground, because that has been universally admitted by men in all quarters of this House and by historians.
The moment the Act of 1903 was got through this House, largely by appeals to the sufferings and poverty of the Western districts, it was so administered that it brought little or no relief to these very districts. On the contrary, it is hard to say how in many districts in the West the balance falls, whether the benefits of the Act or the evils produced by the Act are the heavier, because, throughout the Western provinces, the rise in the prices of land has been greater than in any other part of Ireland. The landlords, excited by the extraordinary prices produced by the bonus and by the reduction of the annuity, raised the prices to an outrageous extent, with the result that these vast sums of money voted by this House for the purpose of putting an end to dual ownership in Ireland, and redeeming the West from its poverty, have hardly operated in the Western districts at all, but mainly in the wealthiest portions of the country, in those districts in which they were least re- 2113 quired. Therefore, I must say, as a Western Member, that I thank the Government for introducing this portion of the Bill I desire, first of all, to take up the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Antrim. The hon. Member might fairly be asked to confine his attention more to those districts for which he can speak with some knowledge; he cannot speak of the Western district. All these districts have ex-cited the sympathy of every responsible Minister who has come over to Ireland, and has taken responsibility for the government of that country. I think the hon. Member for South Antrim might leave us to deal with the Government in regard to this matter at any rate. He objects most vehemently, first of all, to the elective element on the new Board. But why should he object to that element? He did not give many reasons, but he did advance one which struck me as very remarkable. He said that the moment you introduced the elective element you introduced friction and corruption. Why did not Sir Horace Plunkett take that view when he was advocating the formation of the Department of Agriculture in 1899, under the Administration of Mr. Gerald Balfour and the Tory Government That Department was formed for one purpose, among others, to divide public money among the counties of Ireland; and I have been accustomed to hear Sir Horace Plunkett and Mr. Gerald Balfour boast and brag in this House that one of the most magnificent features of that reform was the introduction of the elective element. The county councillors —the very men described by the hon. Member for South Antrim as the tools and instruments of agitators and cattle-drivers—were introduced into the Department of Agriculture, and why? Because that Department was to distribute public money; and I say, so far as that policy is concerned, it is exactly on all fours with the present proposal. I see the Vice-President of the Department (Mr. T. W. Russell) is in his place, and I would like to ask him whether the introduction of the elective element in his Department has led to friction or ill-will? It has been admitted that the introduction of the elective element has been one of the means by which the Department of Agriculture has been enabled to work; but for that introduction it would have been a total failure and could not have worked at all. We are told that the only thing that has enabled the Department to be a success, 2114 so far as it has been successful, is the very fact that, by the introduction of the elective element, it has been brought more or less into touch with the people. That is my first answer to the objection of the hon. Member for South Antrim to the introduction of the elective element. I support that element on two distinct grounds. First, because of the peculiar character of the government of Ireland. If we had to deal with a Government in Ireland similar to that which you live under in England I might be inclined to reconsider my position towards the elective element. If you had a Board of Agriculture in Ireland directly responsible day by day to this House as representing the Irish people, I do not know whether I should be so eager for the representative element as I am. But you have in Ireland a most vicious form of Government. I do not think any language I could use would be too strong to describe it. It is a Government which is cut off from the people, with a gulf dug between the administrative bureaucracy in Dublin and the administrative bodies in the counties. When you are setting up any board or department whose chance of doing effective and good work for the people depends on winning the confidence of the people, how is it to win that confidence except by the introduction of the elective element? That is the first ground on which I say it is necessary to admit some elective element which will, without going so far as to give complete control to that element, constitute a channel of communication between the people themselves and the Board who are supposed to be doing their work and improving their conditions. If you do not do that, in the present position of the Executive Government in Ireland, you are probably only adding one more to the numerous failures of Irish administration. That is my first reason for supporting this alternation in the constitution of the Congested Districts Board—the nature of the British government. My second reason is based upon a matter which has given rise to a good deal of discussion in this House, and that is what is known as the "landless man."
The other day I heard a remarkable speech by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Butcher), in which he dealt with this question, and presently I will quote a short extract from it. I know that in the West of Ireland I have watched intently the whole development of this problem during the last five years. I 2115 would be the last man to attempt to mini-mise the enormous difficulties which have been created by this problem of the "landless man." I quite admit that the difficulty of curing congestion in the West of Ireland has been rendered ten-fold more difficult by it, and I am afraid that, do what you may, At will not be possible to undo the work of the last five years and settle this problem of congestion as successfully as it might have been settled had our advice been taken 10 or 15 years ago—advice that the Congested Districts Board should be strengthened and vested with compulsory powers. These powers were demanded for the Board in 1895, and both Mr. Gerald Balfour and Mr. Arthur Balfour signed a Report demanding the grant of these compulsory powers. They were aware they could not hope to solve the problem of congestion, especially in the West of Ireland, without the grant of such powers. That induced them to sign this Report, and we on these benches have since again and again pressed like views on this House. By the problem of the "landless man" the agitation has been complicated to a terrible extent, and I find it difficult to discover language which will adequately describe the situation. When Ireland is at all quiet our voices fall upon deaf ears in this House. Consequently nothing has been done. Fifteen years have passed, and now we are faced with this new Frankenstein of the landless man. I will here read the short extract from the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge University. He said:—I own that I think the Act of 1903 went dangerously far in promoting the sale of land to the suns of tenants on the estate who were not themselves farmers. That opened up what has turned out to be a very dangerous agitation. I do not know how it slipped into the Act of 1903. I do know that it has been certainly most fertile in mischief since.That reference is to the famous Clause 2 of the Act of 1903, which, for the first time, allowed untenanted lands to be divided among the sons of farmers on the estate and in the immediate neighbourhood. It was couched in language which, I think, was far more mischievous than anything contained in the present Act. It set up and directly put into the minds of the people this doctrine, that untenanted, unoccupied lands should be reserved for men in the neighbourhood and for the sons of farmers on the estate. I think the vague words contained in Clause 17 of this Act are a great improvement, because they set up no such doctrine of the right of people 2116 living in a district to acquire these lands. What has been the result of the working of that Clause with the other faulty machinery in the Act of 1903? It has been that there has gradually arisen in the country a spirit which I have watched with the greatest possible alarm and uneasiness. You have had confederacies in different districts claiming that no strangers shall come in and occupy these untenanted lands, but that they shall be reserved for those who live on the estates—the sons of farmers and others in the immediate neighbourhood. That is what has undoubtedly been put into the minds of the people by the Act of 1903, and it is largely responsible for the agitation of the landless men. If we had been listened to before the Act of 1903 was passed these unoccupied lands would have been acquired by the Congested Districts Board compulsorily, and would have been planted with tenants, which would have gone far to relieve the congestion and have left no room for this agitation. But we have now to face this new problem, and I say deliberately, and with a deep conviction on every matter that touches the actualities of Irish life and of responsibility for the administration of these Acts in Ireland, that your one chance of dealing with this movement, formidable as it is, is still, at this eleventh hour, to do something for these poor people in the West of Ireland by strengthening the Congested Districts Board, so that it may be able to deal with the problem. I know of no better mode than bringing in the elective element. It is all very fine to talk about friction. There is sometimes friction in this House. Will any Member get up and say that because there is friction in: this House, therefore the House should be disbanded, and the Executive allowed to carry on the Government of the country without it? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] I am delighted to find that there is one Member at any rate in this House who is really orthodox on this Question. He is carrying the argument to its logical conclusion. But to tell me that as friction may arise because of the introduction of the elective element, therefore it is better that that element should be kept out is, in my mind, to give expression to arrant nonsense, because the whole experience of mankind has been in favour of bringing in the elective element. There are movements in the country, stirred up by the legislation of this House, which, unless you bring in this elective element, may prove so strong that no bureaucratic 2117 Government in Dublin will be able to deal with them. I am, therefore, anxious to see the Board invested with these greater powers and strengthened by the introduction of the elective element. I do not anticipate that the evils which have been suggested as the result of the introduction of the elective element will prove to be well founded. On the contrary, the county councils of the West, like those in other parts of Ireland, have defeated all the prognostications of evil which were originally uttered against them. They have done their work well, to my amazement. In 1898 I viewed the experiment with great alarm and distrust, because I feared that people without experience in the management of local affairs, unchecked by public opinion created and influenced by a great national Legislative Assembly, which is denied to us in Ireland, might disgrace themselves and bring discredit on the country. But they have done nothing of the kind, and the testimony of even hostile witnesses is that they have done their work exceedingly well. We are to be told now, that in carrying out this great work, broad as it is and with the promise of a broader future in regard to the condition of these people, that those who are elected will come to Dublin for no other purpose than to blackguard one another and see how much money they can get out of the State. I do not believe it. These men would disagree, as we do, and no doubt would hotly debate these questions, but I believe that the result of bringing in this element on the Board would be that it would be brought in touch with the actualities of the position in the West, and the Board would be enormously strengthened to deal with this problem. There is another change in the constitution of the Board which is absolutely essential if this problem is to be tackled at all, and one of the characteristics of the speeches delivered above the Gangway is that hon. Gentlemen there do not seem to have any alternative to propose. They propose to postpone this problem to the remote and distant future, but if we consented to the postponement of this problem and the passage of other measures, when would it be taken up? Never. It would be laid upon the shelf, and until the West of Ireland commenced another agitation, and shooting and outrages were contemplated, you would never hear of the problem again.
2118 If this matter is to be faced now, there is the difficulty, which I think has arisen and in regard to which those on the spot will agree with me is, if not the entire, the main cause of the agitation in the West of Ireland of these landless men, and which has caused the enormous difficulty of settling this problem. It is, that the whole of the West of Ireland is worked by two competing authorities, who are dealing with land purchase. I cannot describe how strong my conviction has been of the evil which has been wrought by having the merits of the Congested Districts Board put into competition with the merits of the Estates Commissioners, although I would be the last man to say one word against these Departments, because I believe, in spite of the criticisms which have been hurled at them, that they have done their best in the face of the most enormous complications to deal with this problem. But I say it would not be human nature if their inspectors and the men under them did not desire to win public approval for their own Board and their own methods against each other, and the consequence was that, taking parish by parish throughout the whole West of Ireland, the common subject of debate was this, "Who will do best for us, the Board or the Commissioners?" and the two Departments were thus in competition. Of course, when you have that condition of things, you create an atmosphere absolutely poisonous to the settlement of this question. Down come the inspectors of the Commissioners, and they find that the most influential men in the district are the landless men. They take an estate in the county of Galway, where the Board is unpopular, because they would not give grazing land to the landless men and the Commissioners would, and, therefore, the North of Galway is strongly in favour of the Commissioners. Why? Because the Commissioners came down, took large farms, divided them up, and gave a great many of them to the landless men, and as the landless men were the sons of the leading farmers in the district, naturally the Commissioners were very popular.
I do not grumble at that—it is human nature, and the greed for land in Ireland, which was always strong, has now become a frenzy, and I rejoice at that, in some respects, because there is no passion more beneficial in some ways to the human race than the greed for land. But that competition, unconscious as it may be, between the Commissioners and the Board on this question of the landless men, has been 2119 most fatal throughout the West of Ireland. Therefore, if we want to solve this problem at all, we must make up our minds to deliver over the whole of the West of Ireland to one Department, and let that Department do its best, with proper resources and proper authority. The problem, then, presents itself in this way: The Board has struggled long, as I have said, for many years now—for 15 or 16 years—nibbling at this problem of congestion, doing very little, because it was not allowed to do anything but very little; its resources were inadequate and its powers ineffective, but in many cases it did succeed in getting land and was enabled to tackle the question. The work it has done, in such cases, is perfectly astonishing, and I assert, without fear of contradiction from any man who has been over the districts and looked into the details, that no Department ever set up by the British Government in Ireland for the benefit of that country has done so much practical work, in proportion to its resources, as the Congested Districts Board, and that it has done, in spite of the most enormous difficulties. Now it has been surrounded by enemies, who, from all sides, are trying to destroy it—enemies actuated by various motives; some who are determined to destroy it, because it is not part of the bureaucracy of the Castle, and because it has some element of independence, and because some men who sympathise with the National movement have been placed upon it. It is, therefore, to be wiped out in order that Castle Boards should be supreme, and the very cause which makes it so hated by those who support Castle rule in Ireland has made me more indulgent to it.
Therefore, if you really seriously want to face this problem of congestion in the West, you must first of all strengthen the Board. A proper way of strengthening it, to my mind, is to give it first of all a constitution which will bring it into touch with the people for whom it is working; and, secondly, to give it the necessary powers and the necessary resources. All this the Government propose to do in the Bill; and, thirdly, and this is as essential as anything else, I hold you must give one control over these Western districts, undivided, and that control must not be shared with any other Board which could walk in there and take away the very lands most wanted in order to relieve congestion, and which should not be devoted 2120 to any other purpose. You must give this Board complete control over these Western lands, while safeguarding the interests of the proprietors, whom I am quite certain would get a most ample price for any land they desired to sell. Let me say this word to Dublin before I leave this question. We are told here about the novelty of putting popular representatives on the Board. What is the novelty? It is said that they are to have the control of public money, but they are not to do so Everyone will see that the control of public money is reserved for the administration committee, who are by two to one officials, but I would ask Ministers and hon. Members to recollect the proposals of the Councils Bill, which was a Government Bill introduced two years ago. What was the proposal of that Bill? It was proposed to put the whole of the Congested Districts Board under the control of the Council, and the Council which was to be constituted under that Bill had an elective element which was rather more than the elective element which is proposed in this Bill. Therefore, there is no novelty in putting the elective element on this Board, but that is a proposal to which the Government have already committed themselves.
I have already stated that I admit, nobody more so, the difficulty of the scarcity of land in these Western provinces, and of the struggles and incitements to agitation about landless men. I admit that, absolutely and purely owing to this agitation, it is idle to suppose that any measures that this or any other Government can take, will ever raise the whole of the small holdings in the West, or half of the small holdings in the West, to the level of the economic holding. It cannot be done. The land available is not very much, and a good deal of it which was available has gone, and every year makes the problem more difficult. The land is not there, but much may be done in that way if we act at once, and act boldly, to secure what land is there —thousands of holdings can be made larger, but there remain also a large number of holdings, which it is impossible to enlarge and put them in an economic position. I trust hon. Members will dismiss from their minds any idea that you can transplant these poor people across the Shannon. It is impossible. All the forces of the British Government would not be effective in taking these men across the 2121 Shannon and planting them elsewhere, and we have to look for the solution of this problem to ourselves.
You have allowed, by delay, a large portion of the land which would have been available for the solution of this problem to pass away from your control, and it is now closed to you under this Bill; and I put this as a practical point, that with the resources which the Government propose to put at the disposal of the Congested Districts Board, it would be possible, even in those districts where no land is available and the holdings cannot be extended, to immensely raise the status and the comfort of the occupiers of those holdings by proper schemes of drainage, by opening up large bogs and waste districts in the West which are now uncultivated, to reclamation—by opening them up to the constructive industry of these people, who will make themselves a home out of the wilderness, as they have done in the past. You could in this way redeem tens of thousands of these people without adding any grass lands at all, and that is what the Board has been doing on a large and extended scale, and that is what it will do on a much vaster scale, if the operation of the Bill is put into force and the measure is allowed to pass. What is the alternative which is suggested by those who criticise this measure? The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Butcher) speaks in sympathetic language of the condition of these people, but he takes up this position, that this is a retrograde step and that it will injure the prospects of these poor people.
§ Mr. DILLON
I read the hon. Member's speech very carefully, and I have not seen one single argument in support of this view.
§ Mr. DILLON
It has been discussed already, but when the hon. Member does come to deal with it I hope he will give us his alternative.
§ Mr. DILLON
I shall be very much interested in that, and I shall be still more interested to know when he proposes to put it into force, because every hour and every day makes it more difficult, and the 2122 delay which has already taken place has been almost fatal. Our experience, moreover, is this, that if we do not take occasion on the hop, so to speak, when other interests are involved, in passing a Bill like the present, we may whistle for a measure to deal with the congested districts problem, unless we are driven back to Mayo to start a new land war. Therefore, I say it is of the essence of the matter when he is going to settle this question, as well as how he proposes to settle it. I maintain that this proposal of the Government is, with one or two Amendments, which are essential, a large and a fair and a working proposal, and is the first attempt on a large scale to deal with this problem; and I say, with all the solemnity I can, that any hon. Member who endeavours to destroy this proposal without putting in its place, not in the remote and uncertain future but now, some better proposal, is taking a most grievous responsibility, both as to the future welfare of these unhappy people and as to the peace of Ireland.
§ Mr. S. H. BUTCHER
I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member in more things than I have ever been before, though my main conclusions differ profoundly from his. There is no one in the House who does not wish to do something for these congested districts. There you have a barren strip of land along the Atlantic coast where you have the worst soil and the worst climate in the most inaccessible regions of Ireland. You have families crowded together on patches of rock and bog, hardly attaining to the barest level of human existence. That extreme and acute form of congestion is limited, I think, to a rather narrow field, but poverty does extend a good deal further inland. No one who has been through the country and seen the lives of the people can help feeling that it is one of the most urgent, I think, perhaps, the most urgent, of all the questions in Ireland, and also, I regret to say, the most difficult of all the problems to be dealt with, and the difficulty has increased in the last few years. I agree also with what the hon. Member said as to the work done by the existing Congested Districts Board—a Board with small resources and limited powers, and working in many ways under great difficulties. I have been quite amazed at the transformation that has been effected in some of the most wretched congested distrists by the enlightened work—paternal work, it is true—of that Board, and all who work with it, and in particular I 2123 should like to mention here the splendid work which has been done by the Chief Inspector of the Board.
Now we come to the Government policy for remedying this congestion. I need not go into it in detail. We all know what it is in its main outlines. First of all, the area of the congested districts is to be, roughly speaking, doubled. It embraces now about one-sixth of Ireland. It is to embrace hereafter one-third of Ireland. The funds at the disposal of the new Board are to be, roughly speaking, trebled—raised from £86,000 to a quarter of a million a year. I do not grudge the funds. My objections are of another kind. Then we come to the question of the constitution of the new Board. The old Board was a nominated Board with some ex officio members. The new Board is to be entirely re-modelled. The question at once occurs as to the elective element on this Board. The Board, as a whole, is a semi-elected Board. There are nine members out of 19 who are the direct representatives of localities which will be concerned in the distribution of this money, and surely it is primâ facie some objection that while this whole transaction is to be carried out by State funds on a very large scale, funds which are to be supplied by the general taxpayer, yet that the general policy of the Board is to be largely, and, some of us think, mainly, controlled by a body representing local ratepayers, the farmers of the district. We have been told in the speceh we have just heard that the financial control is reserved to the Administration Committee. Whatever you say as to financial control being reserved to the Committee, if you give the Board as a whole, as you do, the complete control of policy, of course they will have ultimately financial control also, and the Board, subject to this financial control, "shall be empowered to determine all matters arising in relation to the purchase or resale of land or the aiding and development of agricultural industries and fisheries under the Congested Districts Board Acts as amended by this Act." You do have here, in a way for which there is no parallel in any Board I know in the United Kingdom, public money without any real public control. The hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) has brought forward as a parallel case the elective element in connection with the Board of Agriculture as at present constituted. Might I point out some very material differences? First of 2124 all, the elective element in connection with the Board of Agriculture is sifted through a treble process. They are not the direct nominees of the county council. Secondly, what is far more important, that elective element has no financial control whatever except in the form of veto. It has no right to administer public funds at all. All it can do is to veto expenditure. Thirdly, the elective element there is really a consultative element. It is not an administrative Board, and it has no administrative powers in the proper sense; least of all has it such powers as are given to this new Board in the form of compulsory purchase of land. I do not think you could have brought forward a more infelicitous instance to justify the constitution of this Board. I would add that I believe the elective element on the Hoard of Agriculture has been part of the main secret of its success. These committees have, I believe, made the whole thing a working and going machine, and I shall be only too delighted if in connection with the future new Board for the Congested Districts there were committees framed on a similar model to those which are now in existence in connection with the Board of Agriculture. Out of the 19 members who form the Board there are three ex officios, who include the Chief Secretary and the Vice-President of the Department, and many of us believe that these right hon. Gentlemen cannot, with their duties here, attend to the meetings of that Board, which will be more numerous than ever, because the work has more than doubled and the funds have more than trebled. The answer to a question to-day throws some light upon this point. Last year there were 13 full meetings of the Congested Districts Board and 54 committee meetings, and the hard worked Chief Secretary was unable, I think, to attend more than three of these meetings and the Vice-President only attended one. That surely supports our contention that the working majority of the Board will be the elective members of the Board.
I would ask another question: Is this Board so constituted a strong and impartial body—and by impartial I mean a body fit to hold in an even balance the claims not merely of landlords and tenants—the claims of landlords and tenants are the least difficult part arising in the congested districts—but the claims of rival claimants for land? This Board is not a State Department of officials, but a Board 2125 representative of all Ireland. The elective members are representative only of the most backward parts of Ireland and of practically one class in those backward regions—the tenant-proprietors. They will be naturally the local nominees of the United Irish League in those regions. This elective element will have a controlling voice in deciding what lands are to be taken and broken up and who is to be put out and who is to be put in. That is to say, the men who want the land either for themselves or their friends come to those who have the land and say, "We compel you to sell. If you do not sell to us you shall not sell at all, and it is for us to choose who the new owners are to be." That is the question: Who are the new owners to be? What is the intention of Parliament as regards who the new owners are to be? The speeches which are made in this House are certainly to this purpose: Vote money for these wretched congested districts of the West. The Bill speaks a different language. The terms of the Bill and the constitution of the Board say: "Vote money for land for the landless men." These two policies are not merely different; I believe them to be irreconcilable. The Chief Secretary, I fancy, thinks, and I am sure the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) imagines, that you can in some way compromise between these two conflicting interests. That was not the opinion of a single man who sat on that Commission. The only thing perhaps in which they were absolutely unanimous was that you are here in the face of two rival, discordant, and irreconcilable interests. Lord MacDonnell said it would be for the Government to decide in limine, the crucial question whether they are prepared to reserve the land for migrants from congested districts or distribute the surplus among the landless men. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) himself admits that resolutions have gone out from various branches of the United Irish League in the West and from county councils condemning beforehand those migrants as aliens, intruders, and land grabbers, and all the words belonging to that vocabulary. Mr. Fitzgibbon, chairman of the Roscommon County Council, has said —it is a phrase which has been often quoted—that the people of one parish must get all the land for that parish. I notice from yesterday's papers that speaking at a meeting he said—
§ Mr. BUTCHER
You will find it in all the Irish papers. On 23rd August, 1909, there was a large and enthusiastic meeting held at Ballintubber for the purpose of protesting against the action of the Congested Districts Board in bringing migrants into the district. Mr. Fitzgibbon addressed the meeting and said some very strong things, which I need not quote. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: "Read what he said."] It is really not worth while as the time is short, but I will read it if you wish. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: "Read just one sentence."] Mr. Fitzgibbon said:—So far as Roscommon was concerned, they had introduced their compulsory measures, and their tactics had been successful, because he knew and had it on reliable authority that at the present moment there was scarcely a single untenanted farm in the county Roscommon that was not waiting for either the Congested Districts Board or the new Board that will be created under the new Bill to be distributed amongst the people. What had brought about that state of affairs? He had not the slightest hesitation in saying that if it were not for the cattle-driving campaign such a state of things would not exist. He hoped that they would not have to resort to cattle-driving again, but if they had to do so, it would not be the fault of John Redmond or the Irish party, or of any men in that district, but the fault of the House of Lords. If the Bill was mutilated by the Lords, the people of other counties were waiting, and were prepared to adopt Roscommon methods; and if the House of Lords did not pass the compulsory clause, the people of Ireland would pass it themselves. In reference to the migrant question, he concluded by saying that the people of the district would get prior claim to the land from the Congested Districts Board.
§ Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR
I read that speech in yesterday's "Times." The hon. Gentleman is quoting wrongly.
§ Mr. DILLON
I do not want the hon. Gentleman to read all that Mr. Fitzgibbon said, but I would point out that what he has read is not quite what the hon. Member represented him to have said. Mr. Fitzgibbon said that the people of a district should have a prior claim to the land. He did not say that all the land of a parish should be reserved for the people of that parish. I do not say that I agree with what Mr. Fitzgibbon said. I pointed out the difficulties of the situation, but Mr. Fitzgibbon's words, as reported in yesterday's "Times," do not appear to bear out the first quotation made by the hon. Member from a speech of the 9th April, 1908, that the people of one parish should get all the land of that parish.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
The second quotation was made from a speech delivered two days ago, and reported in the "Irish Times." What it really comes to is this. 2127 The House of Commons votes money for one class of men, and the funds are, I fear, almost certain to be given to another class under local and political pressure. The irony of the situation is that the controlling power on this Board is to be put into the hands of people who will have distinctly hostile sympathies to those congests whom the House wishes to relieve. And that is the Government cure for congestion! I believe that Board to be the doom of the congest. I would like also to add that the constitution is bad now, but I do not think that it will be made any better by simply cutting out the elective element, for this reason. You will then have, instead of the elective element, a nominated element—an element nominated by the Chief Secretary—and we know the kind of men whom he thinks ideal men. It is just as easy for him to nominate them as for the county council to elect them, so that will not mend matters.
Now, I do feel that we ought to have some explanation from the Government of their view of those rival claims of the congests and the landless men. All through these Debates, on the first reading, the second reading, and the Committee stage, we have only had from the Chief Secretary one contribution, as far as I have noticed, on this subject, and it is rather an ominous one. He says that it is impossible to do good at the point of the bayonet, and that we cannot guard the migrants by means of armed police. I would invite the Chief Secretary to tell us what is his conclusion from these facts. Is it a conclusion that the migrants and the congests are to be thrown over? The Bill attempts somehow to provide for both. He cannot openly throw over the congests and the landless men, and both are mentioned as if he could make some compromise. I am afraid that the compromise is quite illusory. In response to the appeal of the hon. Member for East Mayo, I will say what I personally think on this point. I do feel that the situation created in the last few years, by cattle-driving in particular, has made the whole problem immeasurably more difficult than it ever was before, and the only way I can see for reasserting again the claims of the congests is that the Bill should make it quite plain that land is not to be given to landless men, but to the congests, and to carry out in that respect the unanimous recommendation of the Commission, and also to make equally 2128 plain that it will follow as a necessity of your administration that landless men must make up their minds to find their fortunes otherwise. I do not think there is any other solution for it, unless you are prepared to throw over the migrants altogether.
§ Mr. DILLON
Will the hon. Member answer another question? When does he think this problem ought to be settled?
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I will come to that in a moment. I pass from the personnel of the Board to another very important question. It affects the dual administration to which the hon. Member for East Mayo has already alluded. My conviction is that the dual administration ought to cease altogether, and that there ought to be only one authority in Ireland which has to do with the purchase and resale of land. There, I think, the hon. Member for East Mayo is of my opinion.
§ Mr. DILLON
No, I distinctly said on the contrary that that is what I strongly oppose. What I said was that the districts mentioned in the Bill should be handed over absolutely to the Congested Districts Board, and that there should be two authorities—one to deal with the Western districts, and the other to deal with the rest of the country.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I thought the hon. Member said that there were two competing authorities—the Estates Commissioners and the Congested Districts Board—and that he would like to have only one purchasing authority.
§ Mr. DILLON
I said that the authority in the Western districts should be the Congested Districts Board.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Then you get two competing authorities. I think I go further than the hon. Member. My view is that you should only have for purchase one body, and that that should be the existing body of Estates Commissioners. I think they should be the authority for purchase over the whole of Ireland, congested and uncongested. I should apply a similar remark to the other form of dual administration. At present agricultural development, industries, and fisheries are divided between two Boards—the Congested Districts Board on the one hand, and the Board of Agriculture on the other. I am convinced that this immense work now to be undertaken can only be carried out by a strong and impartial authority, and that authority must 2129 be a State Department. Therefore, I would do away with the Congested Districts Board, admitting the value of the work it has done in the past, but regarding it as having been in the nature of a temporary expedient to carry out a difficult work. I would have these two Boards divide between them those great functions of land purchase and agricultural development. But what does the Bill do? It cuts Ireland in two, and makes a sharp division between East and West—one-third of Ireland congested and two-thirds uncongested—and each has its own separate machinery for purchase, and also for agricultural development. Of course, the answer is, "Yes, because there is now that dual administration." It is a mere accident. This Congested Districts Board was set up prior to the existence of the Board of Agriculture. The whole thing was altered by the creation of that Board. We have a Government now in office that has sharply criticised the system of overlapping and duplicating Boards, and now that they have a favourable opportunity for giving unified control instead of duplicated Boards they refuse to give it. The new Congested Districts Board will carry on on the lines of benevolent paternalism. The existing Board of Agriculture—I speak now of agriculture alone—will carry on on a different line—namely, self-help supplemented by State aid. I believe it to be a great mistake to perpetuate and stereotype these two distinct methods. I think there ought to be one Board, but a Board sufficiently capable of adapting its action to special needs, together with special treatment in the case of the Congested Districts Board. It is a mistake, I think, to have a dual administration with a sharp dividing line, because, after all, the backward parts of Ireland do tend to become progressive, and congested districts become uncongested, and we see before our eyes certain patches are toeing reclaimed, so to speak, from benevolent treatment, and brought under the influence of self-reliant and independent industry. The Government by this partition of Ireland as regards agriculture not only perpetuates the congested districts, but also doubles the area within which the Board works. It doubles the area of paternalism. I feel strongly that Sir Horace Plunkett is right in saying that this is a great discouragement to self-help, that it is a demoralising spectacle, that there will be on the one side State money ladled out plentifully, and on the other side funds dis- 2130 pensed on the principle of the State aiding local endeavour; and there will necessarily be unrest and dissatisfaction created across the Border, and the work of the Congested Districts Board on its paternal side must react outside this scheduled district of Ireland. Even if dual administration must remain, even if the Government is wedded to that project, surely they might at least consider whether they would not try rather to restrict than expand the area in which the paternal system is to work, and give fresh scope for organised effort and for self-reliance. And now, in reference to the question put by the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), my answer is simply this: I would not, as he said I proposed, put off to a remote and indefinite future the reform of the congested districts. I would myself treat the thing to-day, if I thought the thing could be done on the right method. And the method I propose to him, and which, I think, is the right one, is—
§ Mr. BUTCHER
The substitution for the work of the Board that of two Departments which embrace all Ireland—the Estates Commissioners on the one hand, and the existing Board of Agriculture on the other. The only other thing I say is just this one word as regards the main position. Part III. of the Bill, in my opinion, does nothing to solve the economic problem of poverty in Ireland. The policy of migration is difficult, and it is, I fear, killed by the Government. They dealt it a sharp blow by their administration already, and they have now given it the finishing stroke by establishing a Board on which the influence of the landless men is dominant, and which is given power to divide the untenanted land among the landless classes. It has been a conflict between politics and economics, and politics has won. The Bill is a mockery of the congests' hopes. It perpetuates their misery, and if passed it destroys the last chance of doing anything on an extensive scale for the alleviation of want and misery in the West of Ireland, because it is a Bill not for the relief of congests, but for the endowment of the landless.
The VICE-PRESIDENT of the DEPARTMENT of AGRICULTURE (Ireland) (Mr. T. W. Russell)
I shall not enter into the general policy of Part III. of the Bill, but I think I can contribute some information in regard to this popularly 2131 elected element that is proposed, which may be of some use to the Committee; and all the more so because the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Butcher) has fallen into some mistakes unintentionally as regards the position of the elected element in the Agricultural Department. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) asked me to say what I thought of the popularly elected element in connection with this body. I say distinctly here now that we of the Department are able to do things because we have that popularly elected element behind it that we would not dare to do if we had not got it. The next thing I should like to say is that neither at the Board nor at the Council have I ever known one atom of friction. We have had debates on policy, upon specific subjects, but nothing like friction has ever occurred either at the Council or at the Board. The constitution of the Department is this. There is a Council consisting of 103 members, in addition to the Chief Secretary and myself, who are also members. Two-thirds of this body are directly elected by the county councils. The remaining one-third are nominated by the Department, that is by myself. That body has no executive power; it is an advisory body; it meets twice a year, and discusses questions connected with agriculture. It makes recommendations to the Board, and it makes recommendations with regard to public questions, which I am happy to say find embodiment in Bills in this House. But I wish to state at once that that body is an advisory body pure and simple, and has no executive function whatever. The Board, consisting of 12 members, has functions different from those of the Council. Eight members of the Board are elected, not, I will agree with what the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge said, directly by the county council, but by the members of the Council for each province. That is to say the Members for Leinster assembled in the Council at the meeting for elections elect two; Munster elects two; Ulster elect two; and Connaught elects two; and the Department nominates four. Now the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge went wrong when he seemed to think that the functions of this Board are limited to a veto. The Board discusses the whole policy of the Department. No expenditure can be incurred without its sanction; it cannot initiate expenditure, but it has far greater powers than have been suggested. It has to con- 2132 cur with every atom of expenditure, and, as a matter of fact, it discusses the whole policy of the Department, and, if it agrees with it, concurs in the expenditure necessary. I have never known it to veto anything, but it has the power to veto undoubtedly.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I think that is not inconsistent. I said it had the power of veto. Does not that mean, it can concur, but it also can dissent?
§ Mr. T. W. RUSSELL
I want the Committee to understand that this is no mere power of veto. This is a matter of discussing the whole policy of the Department, every item of business, and every expenditure of money. When the Budget meeting is held, and the amount of the money to be divided between all the counties under different schemes is submitted, it discusses the whole policy and concurs or vetoes as it thinks fit. I have never known the Board to veto anything. It has concurred in all the recommendations made; but it would be a total mistake to think that this is merely a body which has the right of veto. It discusses the whole policy and concurs with every item of expenditure. It is impossible to get away from the fact that this popularly elected element in the Department of Agriculture has been a tower of strength to that body. I do not believe it would have, been possible to carry on the work of the Department and to secure the confidence of the country, as I venture to say the Department has secured it. without that popularly elected element. In every district in Ireland our instructors and inspectors are hard at work, and the county committees are giving their assistance all over the country; and we never could have secured that result without this popularly elected element. There is another matter as to which the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed a little astray, and that was in ^reference to the dual authority of the two authorities, the Congested Districts Board and the Department of Agriculture. He speaks as if the Minute of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), passed, I think, in 1903, has never taken effect. As a matter of fact, for some years past the Department has taken over the entire agricultural work of the Congested Districts Board, and has been doing it at a great loss of money belonging to other parts of the country; but all the strictly agricultural work that was formerly done by the Congested Districts Board was handed over, under the 2133 authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, five or six years ago. It has been done since by the Department, and in this very Bill it is proposed to continue this procedure.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Allow me to explain. I am perfectly aware of that, but my point is this, that a certain amount of agricultural work is done by the Department. There is also a large amount of agricultural development done by the Congested Districts Board —I said agricultural development.
§ Mr. RUSSELL
Of course such things as the laying out of farms and the dividing of estates they buy are done by the Congested Districts Board. What I want to point out to the hon. and learned Member is this, that so far as agricultural work is concerned, apart from the rearrangement of estates that are purchased, and apart from the industrial work which the Congested Districts Board are doing, and are doing well, the whole work of agriculture has been taken over by the Department five or six years ago, and there are provisions in this very Bill for continuing this arrangement between the two bodies. If the hon. Gentleman will turn to Clause 45 he will see these words: "The powers and duties of the Congested Districts Board under any enactment so far as they relate to any of the following matters, namely: (a) the provision of seed potatoes or seed oats; (b) agricultural instruction or practical husbandry; or (c) the aiding and development of forestry, or the breeding of live stock or poultry." All that work has been done by the Department for the last five or six years.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what there is to be reserved under Sub-section 3 of Clause 43 by which the Board is to have power to aid and develop agriculture? What is the definition?
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
As the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to define these matters I will ask him how much is transferred or regularised under Clause 45. It has been alleged that there is other agricultural work to be done by the Congested Districts Board, and that the Board will have power to determine all matters arising in relation to the purchase of land, or in aiding and developing agriculture. I ask for a definition of the transfer under Clause 45.
§ Mr. T. W. RUSSELL
The Congested Districts Board purchases an estate; they rearrange that estate; they have power to divide the land into economic agricultural holdings, which, no doubt, is aiding in developing agriculture. All I wanted to point out to the hon. and learned Member opposite is that this is work that the Department never had anything to do with. For example, take the whole of the operation of spraying potatoes in the West of Ireland. That is work which has been taken over from the Congested Districts Board. Take the whole of the live stock; that, too, has been taken over. I wish to say emphatically that there has been no collision between the work of the Congested Districts Board and the Department of Agriculture; both are working in strict harmony, but we are now taking over under this Bill the whole of the agricultural work that the Congested Districts Board formerly did.
§ Mr. T. W. RUSSELL
I repeat that the popularly elected element has been a toWer of strength to the Department, and will be a tower of strength to the Congested Districts Board, and I believe that just as the Board of Agriculture control the finance of that Department, so the administrative council of the Congested Districts Board will control the finance of that body. The party opposite nine years ago constituted this popularly elected Department, putting at their disposal vast sums of money, the whole endowment fund amounting to £300,000. That has worked well, and I cannot understand how it is going to compete with the work of the Congested Districts Board. I believe that difficult work lies before the Board in the immediate future—so difficult that I do not think the hon. Member has the slightest idea of what it means. I think it will be an enormous source of strength to have these nine elective Members representing the people directly and in close touch with them. I believe the Congested Districts Board, with their help behind them, will be able to do things that a merely non-elective body would never be able to accomplish.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The Committee has listened with interest to the explanation given by the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture of the constitution of this body and of its council, and I am far I from denying that it sheds some light on 2135 the problem which we have to discuss this afternoon—of this new constitution of the Congested Districts Board. But the light does not apply very directly upon the problem with which we have to deal. The Board of Agriculture, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Butcher) said, merely has a veto on the proposals initiated by the Departments. It has always been so; they cannot initiate anything.
§ Mr. T. W. RUSSELL
I admit there is the veto, but what I insist upon is that the Board has power practically to discuss every item of policy at their meetings.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Nobody says that the Board exercises its veto as the Crown does without offering any reason. The Board discusses a thing and approves or disapproves of it; it says it does not like the thing, and, if it does not like it, it does not become operative. The whole initiative power is with the right hon. Gentleman himself. He says such and such things ought to be done, such and such lectures ought to be given; and those persons who are to be elected by a complicated process may say, "No; we do not want any of your assistance." That, however, is a very different matter from what we have to consider this afternoon. I wish to hear from the Chief Secretary a general explanation and defence of this policy. It is perhaps impossible for me to bring a quite impartial mind to bear on the business before us this afternoon. The happiest recollections of my life attach to the old Congested Districts Board, and I am sorry it is going to be abolished. That is the policy of the Government; the Board goes; and what we have to consider is whether the new one will be as successful as was the old Board. The Government must explain and define what the constitution of the new Board is. It is a very complicated constitution. It is not enough to say that the elective element is a capital thing. The problem which is before us is one of an administrative, economic, and social character, and we have got to consider what is the best instrument with which to deal with that problem. The old Board began largely as an experimental body, with a wide area of operations, but very limited powers at any point in that area, and very small resources. It dabbled in fishery questions and in land purchase, but, as time went on, it was found that no real progress could be made 2136 unless the land-purchase question was settled. And then the Congested Districts Board was endowed by degrees with further and further powers in respect of land purchase, but really it was only acting as an intermediary agent in respect of what was the general policy of the Government of the day, and had limited resources. The Board had no power outside the general powers of the Land Purchase Act of the day—beyond, it may be said, of saying, "This is the estate which we buy."
Will the elective element assist in the operation of buying the right kind of estate? That is the first question on which we are entitled to a perfectly clear answer from the Government. So far as I know, the Board has never been prevented by the absence of compulsory powers from purchasing land; it has constantly been prevented from buying land owing to the absence of resources. The introduction of the elective element makes the instrument very complicated. Having considered the question of land purchase as much as any man in this House, I believe that in making the instrument more complicated and in introducing the friction which must accompany compulsory powers, you will not expedite, but will hamper, progress. I think we are entitled to hear from the Government some reasoned grounds for believing that the contrary will be the case. How will your elective element help you? We are not really able to say exactly what the allocation of powers to the respective elements on the Board will be. I have considered the matter closely, and I cannot see how much power is reserved to the Lord Lieutenant in Council, how much to the administrative body, and how much to the representative element, but this I do know: that a great deal is expected of the representative element. The representative element will be there in order to carry out the policy which the Chief Secretary disclaimed the other night. The other night the right hon. Gentleman disclaimed, on his behalf and on behalf of the Government, that they were going to sanction or embark upon a policy of giving land to landless men.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Gentleman, if he had listened to the cheers he received in the Debate, would have understood that in the minds of many hon. 2137 Members who sit below the Gangway there was a belief that this change in the constitution of the Board meant a change of policy. The Government say it does not. If it does not mean a change of policy, then you are complicating your instrument and hampering land purchase.
§ Mr. DILLON
I said the reverse. The grounds on which I supported the strengthening of the hands of the Board was to deal with this very formidable movement. I infer that the hands of the Board will be strengthened to resist the claim of landless men and to prevent their monopolising land.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I leave it at that. I am entitled to say that these complications in the constitution of the Congested Districts Board is not likely to expedite the work of that Board. Land purchase is a business operation. You want a business body to deal with it, knowing exactly how much credit it can use, and knowing how much staff it has at its disposal. Do you suppose these new operations will be helpful if you have a number of meetings and a large number of persons who are not called upon or allowed to have a voice in any of these operations? The Chief Secretary has to defend this change by argument which hitherto has not been adduced. He has got to show that the Board will deal quicker, that it will cover more ground, buy more estates, and cure more congestion than it has succeeded in doing in the past in their absence and also in the absence of necessary funds. Funds are really at the bottom of this whole question. Give the Board credit and it can buy; give it an income, and it can administer the estate which it has bought and put it in the proper place of becoming the permanent property of the tenant purchaser. So much has been said about this elective element that I have found it necessary to say those words upon it.
It would be quite impossible and improper for me to go into a detailed criticism of the complicated constitution of this Board. I shall not attempt to do so, but that it is complicated more than any Department of which we have ever heard will not be denied even by those who have cast their eyes over the pages of this Bill. We are also entitled to consider that this Board so constituted has to exercise compulsory powers. I think we must take that into account. Compulsory powers have never, I think I am right in saying, been exercised in this country except by a 2138 judicial body or after judicial process. In this case they are to be exercised, not by a judicial body or after judicial process. The day has long gone by to speak in the abstract against compulsion or in favour of it. What we want to know is which is the best working method for solving the very difficult problem which confronts us in the West of Ireland. Upon that point some hold—and I am one of them, and I have given my views before the Dudley Commission—that whatever may be said in the abstract in favour of or against what is called the principle of compulsion it is a mistake to introduce compulsion into a plan which by its essence is a voluntary plan, and that that mistake is greater and more obvious when you are able to deal with the problem presented to you under a voluntary system, either from the point of view of administration or from the point of view of finance. I put that to the Committee as a view which may not be lightly dismissed. If it were true that you were unable to go ahead as fast as you wished under the voluntary system, then I agree an argument might be brought forward for compulsion, but it is not true.
Purchase goes on now at a pace which exceeds both the capacity of your staff to administer it and the capacity of your Treasury to find credit for it, so that that practical argument for compulsion does not apply to this case except for one reason, which is sometimes urged. It is sometimes urged that in dealing with congestion the point is, not how much land you buy, but whether you can get a particular portion of land at any one time. That is the argument. They say you may be able to buy a million acres this year, but that you cannot cure congestion unless you buy, say, 500 acres at a given spot. I think that is an argument which has to be met, and I do not think it is difficult to meet it. Why cannot you buy that particular plot of land? Probably because it is needed for some other purpose, otherwise it is easy to get it. Therefore you bring your compulsory powers into conflict with what are, at any rate, held to be the interest and the legitimate interest of some members of the community. That is not a thing that can be lightly done if you can go ahead with your cure of congestion to the full extent both of your administrative resources and your financial resources. If you could not you might have an argument, but, if you can, why should you select a particular piece of ground which 2139 people are unwilling to sell, while here and there and everywhere you can cure congestion of its intensive character by buying land which people are willing and anxious to sell? Never, when I was at the Congested Districts Board, have we had any difficulty in acquiring untenanted land. Has the difficulty arisen since then? I do not believe so.
I believe that for one reason or another it is thought desirable to deal with this particular spot and this particular area. If that is to be the case the body which selects the area in which compulsory power is to operate ought to be a body of an official nature, with a Minister who is directly responsible to this House. The two operations of an elective element and compulsory powers are not compatible. I hope that the Chief Secretary will deal with that. If he will concede the premises on which I base my argument that you can buy as much untenanted land as you want by the voluntary system, then if you assert that you have to buy a particular plot of ground you are taking a great responsibility on yourself, and if you do take that responsibility on yourself it must be a real responsibility, and one for which a Minister should be directly responsible to this House. That responsibility is one which he at any rate has to indirectly impose upon a composite body partly elected, partly consisting of officials and of ex-officio members. Under this plan I believe that your policy, even if it were successful otherwise, must fail. A large policy of curing congestion must operate over wide areas carefully selected for that purpose. The initiative must rest with the Government. The choice of the locality must rest with the Government who are responsible to this House, and whose officers may be criticised by this House. That policy will not succeed if you allow the initiative to rest with popular opinion, swaying one year on the side of the migrants, the next year on the side of the landless, or, apparently from what we have heard this evening, swaying equally at this moment in both directions. No, the congested districts present a great problem it is true, and that this House ought to devote time to the solution of it is true, but that you can initiate a new policy not only as part of a Bill, but a separate measure of the gravest magnitude, and rush it through this House in a few hours is really asking this representative institution to do more 2140 than any representative institution could effect. We shall not have the opportunity of examining these Clauses in detail, and there are grave criticisms which could be offered. I do say that for a work of this character what is necessary is a businesslike Department with a responsible Minister, whose actions can be criticised, without the compulsory principle at all, but I say that if you adopt that compulsory element then the argument against having a composite Board, and in favour of a businesslike Department is far stronger.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
However much we may lament the restriction of time inflicted by these Resolutions, whatever length of time was allowed for Debate, you cannot in Committee make second reading speeches, and discuss the whole policy. You cannot do two things at the same moment of time. You cannot have detailed criticism of machinery, and you cannot wander at large over the whole problem. I quite agree that it is an enormous problem, and I quite agree that nobody other than the Irish Members who have been brought up to it can take part in it, and no English Members could take part in it who have not carefully studied at all events the Report of the Dudley Commission. I am not insisting that they should read all the volumes of evidence, but certainly they must be, unless they have personal knowledge of their own, strangers to the problem if they have not taken that trouble. I certainly already have had several opportunities, particularly on the introduction of last year's Bill, of expressing my general opinions on the problem, upon its extent, and upon the enormous difficulties of it. I do not propose now to repeat anything that I have said or to expand anything I then said, but to confine my remarks to the machinery of the newly constituted Board. The problem is admitted by everybody. It is a problem which lies, and ought to lie, very near to the heart and conscience of this House. By past legislation we tried to do all that we could to settle things over an area rather limited, no doubt, but still large, having regard to the size of Ireland, and which is indeed unique in the whole of Europe. There is nothing like it to be found anywhere else, and we are bound by our past action and by our present convictions to deal with it as best we can. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that funds lie at the bottom of this question. Whether they 2141 lie at the bottom or the top or all through it, they are, I admit, the pulse of the machine. Without money you cannot do anything at all of the kind of work that is necessary in order to make these holdings as economic as possible, and to acquire the untenanted land which must be acquired if these holdings are to be improved.
This Bill does increase the finances of the Congested Districts Board enormously. There is nobody here now representing the Treasury, but I am bound to say in this matter the Treasury has behaved, may I say, generously. At all events it has come unstintedly and ungrudgingly to the relief of the problem of the West. Therefore at first this Board started, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wyndham) told us, and truthfully said, tentatively and experimentally, with small powers and with still smaller resources. But, from time to time, having secured confidence to some extent of the country and the good sympathy of this House, those powers and those revenues have been alike enlarged. We make an enormous addition to the funds of this body, and, also, in accordance with the Dudley Commission, which, although it was criticised by the hon. Member who initiated this Debate in a manner which I think he might have spared us, reported unanimously in favour of the extended area of the Congested Districts Board. We, therefore, have doubled its area, as the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Butcher) said, and trebled its funds. And then here comes the gravest charge. We have remodelled its constitution. We have remodelled its constitution partly in consideration of the facts that we have doubled its area and trebled its funds. These are very good grounds for remodelling the constitution and for introducing into it some other element than that of a mere bureaucratic, nominated organisation. I do not think there is anything surprising in that, that we should have selected this occasion, having adopted the advice of this remarkable Commission, and having trebled the funds of the Board, that we should have remodelled its constitution. We are being told that this new constitution is one of the most appallingly difficult things, impossible for anybody to understand; I pass over that as simply ridiculous. We have had to decide between what is called "Dublin Castle Boards"—I say that without offence to Dublin Castle—and some measure of representation of the people living 2142 in the districts which are within the jurisdiction of the Board. Having done that, if you are ever entitled to have a hybrid Board of this description, if ever you are to introduce any elective element into the Board at all, you must of necessity—you cannot avoid it; even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover could not—have a distinction between the ex-officio members, the appointed members, and the representative members. Then we have a feature to which I attach very great importance. We have two paid members, referred to as permanent members. My experience of the Congested Districts Board, I admit, has not been very great. I am very sorry that my duties should confine me here so much. I would far rather be in Ireland than in this House. But such experience as I have had has shown me that its form of working was most lopsided and ineffective. Mr. Doran, for instance, to whom I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Butcher) pay a just tribute, is the hand, and to a very large extent the brain, of the Board. When I say "brain," I do not mean that the other members of the Board have not brains. All I suggest is that Mr. Doran goes about day by day doing the work, becoming acquainted with all the details of the various estates that come before the Board, seeing the agents and the tenants, and being brought into personal contact with them all; his brain, which perhaps is no better than that of other members of the Board, has the opportunity of operating on the real matters affecting the business of the Board; and it was simply ridiculous that a man doing his work should be in the position that he was. I think it is necessary—and here I may be advocating bureaucracy—that you should have two paid members, whose business it would be to look after the business of this Board, to consolidate it, to maintain it, to preserve its traditions, and to keep it up as a going concern from day to day, in order to carry out the great work of the Department. We have ex-officio members; we have appointed members; we have representative members—not elected by the people at large, but nominated by the county council—and two paid members. We are told that this is the most difficult and impossible-to-understand Board that you could have. I see nothing difficult about it at all.
Now we come to the constitutional criticism that it is a shocking and wrong thing to vote public money to be spent by people 2143 who are not responsible to this House, but who are the representatives of the ratepayers, who seek an opportunity of spending money to which they do not contribute through the rates, and that there must be control exercised over expenditure of money voted by Parliament. I agree, and I think we have secured that. Any suggestion that may be made to me at any time as to strengthening that part of the Clause I shall be perfectly willing to consider. I am not fond of the word "finance," because I used at one time, until I became acquainted with Parliamentary draftsmen, to be rather a purist in the English language, an attitude which I have since abandoned. The words of the Clause are, "The administrative committee shall control the finance of the Board." I looked up the various dictionaries to find out what finance in that sense means. I find that the various definitions are all very much to the same effect, namely, that it is the system or science of public revenue or expenditure—the art of managing and administering public money. This administrative committee will control the system or the science of expending the £250,000 which this Board will have. That is to say, the representatives of the county councils will have no voice in the Budget of this Congested Districts Board. The administrative committee, where the official element are in a majority of two to one, will alone have the power and responsibility of saying, "We have this amount of money; so much of it this year may be allotted for the purchase of estates; so much for the administration of estates; so much for parcelling out estates; so much for looking after congests, for roads, and for the parish committees," which have done a most excellent work. Their work has often been criticised, but I think I can say that if self-help is to be regarded in this matter, the work done by the people themselves far exceeds the value of the small allotments made to them from time to time for various purposes. The administrative committee every quarter or half-year have to budget or make their estimates, and show how much money they have for particular purposes. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wyndham) said that these nine gentlemen from the county councils would get everything. "You start with financial control, but how long will you keep it? The control will follow the sacred personages of these nominees of the 2144 county councils." I do not think so. My notion is that the man who has the purse is the man who has the last word; and I see no reason to suppose that that principle will not hold good with regard to these nine county council representatives, whose interests are not identical; who will not always say the same thing; who, being Irishmen, will differ not more than nine Englishmen, or nine Scotchmen, or nine Welshmen, but they will differ because they are men representing different parts of the country. And even if they do all agree, they will have no control over this matter, unless the administrative committee abandon their duties and are false to their trust. To the end of time, if this Board should remain so long, you will find that the real power is the control of the purse. Therefore I dispute altogether the statement, having regard to the nature of this particular kind of work, that these nine county council representatives will ever be able to control the expenditure, or to decide how much money is to be spent in any given direction.
But the right hon. Gentleman asks, "Why do you want them?" With regard to the Board itself, I think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wyndham) does not agree with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Butcher), whose contribution to this machinery discussion, I understand, was "Get rid of the Congested Districts Board. It has done good work in the past, but it is time that it went"; and he sees in my right hon. Friend (Mr. T. W. Russell) and the Agricultural Department the true body to deal with the problem of the West. I do not understand that to be the argumentation of the right hon. Member for Dover. He has pleasant recollections of the Congested Districts Board, and—I suppose he will admit that its area should be increased, at all events, to some extent—he says, "Having increased its area and trebled its funds, leave it alone. It is an excellent Board; it has done as much as could possibly be expected of it by anybody; and this new element will only be a source of danger. Instead of increasing its powers it will lessen its authority and the excellence of its work." He challenged me to give well-considered reasons why I thought the introduction of this representative element was a good thing. He did not give me any particular well-considered reasons why it should be a bad thing; but nevertheless I accept the onus which he devolved upon me of showing why it should be there. Quite frankly, I think it should 2145 be there, because the problem with which we are face to face in the West of Ireland is of such a character that it is impossible for anybody who has not some weight, some authority, and the opinion of the locality behind it, to accomplish its solution. The right hon. Gentleman may know non-representative men, nominees of the Minister of the day, seven or eight perfectly just and impartial men whom he and his friends could nominate, men never connected with any view as between this estate or that, as between landless men and congests, who would be able to do this work. But I do not believe in the existence of these men. They may possibly exist, although I have never met them, but even if they do exist I am certain that Ireland would never regard them as being so impartial and so certain always to be right as to dispense with the necessity of a great transaction of this kind, having behind it some weight of popular opinion.
What is the problem? It has been stated with perfect accuracy, bluntness, and candour in the course of the Debate. It is agreed on all sides that there is this difficult problem to deal with. The problem may have been made more difficult by recent events. We will not go into that; that is a personal and controversial matter. It may have been due to the gap in the 1903 Act, which let in people who ought always rigorously to have been kept out. The right hon. Gentleman opposite does not agree with that, but the hon. Member for Cambridge seemed to think it was a dangerous gap, which had been widened by subsequent events. However that may be, there is this difficulty between congests and what are called "landless men." The latter is not a very happy phrase; it means, usually speaking, sons of tenants, or it may be shopkeepers in the neighbourhood, who have no land, but would like to have some, whereas the congest is a man who has some land, but not nearly enough to live on economically. If the question was put to me, "Are you a congest man or a landless man," and I had to decide between those two, I would say I am a congest, a strong congest. I am anxious that this Board should be a body for the benefit of the congest, and to do all that it reasonably can, in difficult circumstances, to promote the solution and the settlement of this economic problem for which this money is voted. The hon. Member for Cambridge called attention to certain language of mine when I said that you cannot do good at the point of the bayonet; that 2146 you cannot send people as migrants to a-place which is up in arms against them; and that you cannot ask the British Treasury or the Irish taxpayer to have another body of constabulary foisted upon them and maintained in order to do this good, noble, and pious work. Therefore, you must by some means or another—and it would have to be some stronger means than half a dozen virtuous men—excite public interest and the public conscience in all these counties, because I quite agree in the notion that migration to a great distance is impossible. You cannot do it to any great distance, but the difficulty arises even if you cross a river, and you have got to face it. You have got to meet people who use what, in my opinion, is a weak argument as against the case of the congest, because it is a social problem. They say, "What is a congest as compared with a good, strong, hardy, lusty son of a farmer who has not any land?" That is a view which is capable of being so expressed as to excite sympathy, because you want to give everybody who is willing to work on the land in Ireland a big slice of that land; but, unhappily the land is not there available. Nobody can manufacture it, and consequently there is not enough to go round. Therefore there is this congestion in the very air of this problem itself. You cannot get enough land to do the job that you have undertaken, although you are doing your very best. There the problem is. There is no use throwing it on me. I shall come, and I shall go, but the problem will remain, and it can only be dealt with by the utmost skill, care, and diplomacy. Therefore I am persuaded that you win not be able to provide for the congest unless you have the power within your reach wisely and prudently to deal with the landless men. The right hon. Gentleman will find himself totally incapable of settling this congest problem if he says, "In no case will I tolerate a landless man." He would in that case very soon find himself in the utmost difficulty, and, as a practical and sensible man in his Administration would adopt that policy, would express his sympathy with the congest man, and would recognise that it is the duty of the Congested Districts Board to labour in their interests. It is quite a mistake to suppose that of the nine representatives—even supposing the language of John Fitzgibbon might be ambiguous—he occasionally says one thing one day and another thing another, and in that respect he resembles others —it is 2147 quite a mistake to say that all these nine men coming from nine districts will be landless men, or the advocates of landless men. They also share the sympathies which are widespread—sympathies which are not the monopoly of any party or nationality. They are shared by men in all districts. These men know the districts also. I may be sanguine, but I hope that amongst these men, at all events, there will be found many potent influences, and useful public servants who will labour in the cause of contributing to the solution, or at all events to the mitigation of this great problem. I therefore adhere to my view that you cannot hope to deal with this problem at all successfully, or even with partial success, unless you are able to have power and influence behind you. Then there is the view of the hon. Member for Cambridge,—Sir Horace Plunkett's view. His view is to abolish the Board, and divide the powers between the Estates Commissioners and the Board of Agriculture. That in my judgment is an impossible thing. I cannot do it. I do not think anybody can. And I do not believe if the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends came into power to-morrow and dealt with this problem that they would attempt anything of the kind. It is all very well for hon. Members to talk about economics versus politics, and to say that in this tussle politics wins. I daresay that may be so sometimes. Perhaps it very often is. Nobody can say that you can keep politics out—even out of the Budget. You must have these considerations, because people have their prejudices, passions, feelings, notions, and they are not prepared to look upon this thing, and consider how best they can be instructed; how best they can go to school and be taught by inspectors sent down by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Russell) how to work their farms and to make money out of them. They would not stand it. Therefore we are obliged—I take no shame for myself when I say I cannot look at this question apart from the political point of view. I am not sure that I should be so enamoured of Sir Horace Plunkett's proposals as he is himself. That would be too great a task to throw upon anybody. But I freely admit that in all questions of this sort in Ireland you have to take politics into consideration. It is because I am satisfied that this Board is so popular in the West of Ireland and has done so much good work, as is evidenced and is 2148 recorded in all these various annual Reports, that I feel it is impossible that it should be abolished. There are not enough Boards in Ireland of this character to admit of their being abolished. It is very difficult to establish a new Board in Ireland—as I have discovered. Here we have a Board, even in its attenuated form, with some degree of popular feeling and sympathy behind it. I believe the Dudley Commission did very wisely indeed in recommending, and I think the Government have done wisely in adopting, this policy. Really, from a Tory Government which brought in the Local Government (Ireland) Bill, which was a very rash matter according to some persons—in the opinion of Lord Salisbury some time before it was brought in, it was a greater act of lunacy than Home Rule—we might expect different criticism. Yet here was the grand jury system and everything else swept away, and a number of persons who never had any experience in public affairs before had a most elaborate and complicated Act of Parliament flung at their heads. To the amazement of the Local Government Board, by the time the "appointed day" came all those Boards were set up. The Local Government Board provided a whole emissary of people to tell these unfortunate people what they were to do and how they were to carry out their agendas. They found that the people whom they were going to teach had spent the interval between the passing of the Act and the "appointed day" learning their trade. All these complicated county matters were dealt with with an aplomb and vivacity which was immensely creditable to all concerned. Nobody says now that these poor Irish people, of whom you see photographs—I have often seen photographs of Galway county councillors, and they are not the sort of thing that would pass muster in the county council of Middlesex or any other district. He looks in the photograph a very simple country fellow. You try to get the better of him. You will find it a much tougher job than you think likely. Therefore, I am surprised that at this time of day suspicion is still inherent in certain breasts as to the wisdom of introducing some representation of the feeling of the people in this large and extended area in Ireland. I think that the defence of the representative members is not quite so difficult to discharge as the right hon. Gentleman seems to suppose.
Very well, then, to deal with the question of compulsion. The right hon. Gen- 2149 tleman wanted to know whether it would not be exceedingly dangerous to confer initiative powers of compulsion. We do not fix the price of land which is taken by compulsion. That is a judicial proceeding and established in the ordinary way under the Land Clauses Consolidation Act, which anybody who is authorised by Act of Parliament so to do can set in motion. But, says the right hon. Gentleman, it is the selection of particular estates which have to be acquired compulsorily that is so very terrible. I have two remarks to say about that. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman says there is not much difficulty in getting land without compulsion in Ireland. Well, the difficulty, I admit, is not extended over a large area, but in certain areas, in certain particular quarters, it is extraordinarily difficult—it is, in fact, impossible—to obtain land by voluntary arrangement. I do not want to mention names, or raise any feelings which are sometimes raised when names are mentioned, but, undoubtedly the condition of Ireland would be much quieter than it has been, and many, many a bad spirit, and perhaps even criminal acts, would have been saved had we been able to purchase compulsorily certain estates.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Excepting these particular cases, compulsion has not the terrors for the Irish landlord that the right hon. Gentleman supposes. I am bound to confess that the wisest of Irish landlords was the man who sold early under the beneficent provisions of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, got his money before the rush came, and was able to claim the high price and the bonus at the earliest possible date. I am not at all sure that the next best man is not the one who may sell compulsorily. I do not think he need be under an apprehension for the next half century. I think, for the most part, anybody who sells compulsorily knows perfectly well that he makes a better bargain than when he sells voluntarily. I do not think, therefore, there is any reason for this alarm. There is nothing so very terrible in Ireland in having your land acquired compulsorily. I do not really think you need be frightened. I do not think anyone in Ireland is frightened by this bugbear of compulsory purchase. The game is up. By common consent the policy of land purchase is to be carried out. Half the agri- 2150 cultural land has already been sold or is in course of being sold; it is only in rare cases—but in a sufficient number of cases to be of grave importance—that compulsory powers of this kind are sought to be acquired. So far as compulsory powers are sought to be put into force, the money will only be allotted by the Committee which has financial control. Therefore, there will not be unlimited cash for the purpose of paying landlords. I think, therefore, that compulsory purchase is our only chance of carrying out the policy for relieving congestion in the West. If we adopt the advice given to us by the Dudley Commission, and extend the area of the congested districts, increase their power, and remodel their constitution, it will be well. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Mayo, and I think everybody will agree as to the importance of not having two competing land purchasing powers in one district. We are all agreed it is undesirable to have that. That part of the Bill, at all events, will meet with approval.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
The sound and manly speech which the right hon. Gentleman has just delivered has blown the cobwebs of objection to this Clause sky-high. I do not think I ever heard a speech in this House since Mr. Gladstone's time that I listened to with more satisfaction, and strong as my objections are to some of the Clauses of this Bill, I believe the speech the right hon. Gentleman has made, and the Clause which he has defended will be regarded as the brightest spots in connection with this measure. I did not rise, however, for the purpose of commending the right hon. Gentleman for his Clause. I rose for the purpose of offering some criticisms from the point of view of the extent of the area under this Clause. This Clause now creates an area of nine counties, five in Connaught, one in Ulster and three in Munster, and before I address myself to that question I would like to point out to the Committee what are the fears which hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway entertain and what are the conditions upon which they are based. These Gentlemen pretend that some new democratic and almost revolutionary body is being created for the purpose of administering this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has asked what are the reasons affecting their minds. Well, I might first of all say one sound reason in Ireland is that the people prefer frieze coats to Court suits, and when you take that into consideration I 2151 think the Government are justified in this policy of introducing the popular element of control. But my complaint is that it is too limited and does not in fact go anything like far enough. Will the House believe this, there are to be nine so-called representatives from the popular party with limited powers.
How many representatives are the Government to have? The Government will have on this Board, as I make it out, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Under-Secretary, the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture, five members appointed by His Majesty the King, and two more members to be appointed by the King, who are to be permanent members of the Board, making 10 Government representatives in all, so that on the mere counting of heads the Government will have 10 votes to our nine upon any functions that this body may have to discharge. The first thing you do is that on this entire Board you claim a majority for the British Government of one representative. I am not for the moment doing more than pointing out the fact, but, then, though you have a majority upon the whole Board, when you come to realise what the body does you will find, instead of these nine gentlemen having any real power, the real power resides in this executive sub-committee. It is called the administrative committee, and it is this administrative committee which is to control the funds of this new body. How is this administrative committee to be appointed, and of whom is it to consist. It is to consist of the Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary, the two permanent members of the Board, and two unofficial members. That is to say, there are to be four Government members upon this administrative committee, and it is this administrative committee which is to control the funds; so that you have a majority of one upon the whole body, and you have a majority of practically two to one upon the administrative body, yet it is the Conservative party, who created the Local Government Act, and gave us district councils and county councils all over Ireland without preserving one single landlord by way of ex officio member, which is afraid of a body so constituted. That is my first point.
My second point is this, and I wish to make it emphatically. If this body is to meet in secret, which I strongly object to, there should be an audit of every penny which it expends. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland last 2152 year, in his University Act —and I believe this Clause will be as much to his credit as the University Act of last year—put in a provision with regard to audit which I shall read in a moment. There were some provisions in the University Act that I did not like, but I wanted to see the plant put into the geranium pot: I wanted to see the thing get a start, just as I want to see the body created under this Clause get a start. The right hon. Gentleman created last year a large administrative body who are to have the handling of much larger sums of money than this new body will have. The administration of these funds was handed over to men of eminence and education for the control of educational matters, and the right hon. Gentleman put into his Act one of the strongest clauses of audit which you will find in any recent Act of Parliament, and I want to know if these men on this Board are to spend their funds in secret, why should the public outside not know where the money goes, and how it goes? If the Irish Unionist party and the Conservative party are really serious and anxious for the good of their country, how is it if you look down the list of Amendments on the Paper you will not find any single Amendment of theirs directed to any practical point. The right hon. Gentleman has truly said that this new body will represent different sections of the country. Not only will it represent different sections of the country, but it will represent sections of the country widely divided in area, widely divided in wants, and widely divided in many other ways. The first thing that will come from what I may call the Munster section of the Congested Districts Board which has hitherto been the most neglected, the first thing that will come from Clare, Cork, and Kerry people will be a demand for immediate administrative relief, and unless these men and their constituencies outside see how this money is going there will be the gravest dissatisfaction. Furthermore, let me point out this, I think we have some right to complain that the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with this power as he dealt last year also in the University Act. But here is the Clause in reference to the audit. It is Clause 7:—
"The governing body of each of the new universities and the governing bodies of the constituent colleges of the new universities having its seats in Dublin and 2153 Belfast respectively shall prepare annually in such form as the Treasury shall direct accounts of all receipts and expenditure, capital, and income under their control, and within three months after the expiration of the year to which the accounts relate shall transmit the same to the Controller and Auditor-General to be audited, certified, and reported upon in conformity with the powers and regulations prescribed in the Exchequer and Audit Department Act of 1886, for rendering and auditing appropriation accounts, and the accounts and so forth shall be laid before the House of Commons."
That is a very strong provision, and that strong provision is directed against both the Belfast and Dublin Universities, both of which are manned by men of the highest and best the right hon. Gentleman could get. Is it not, therefore, natural that we should ask with regard to the body which is to be administered largely by the Chief Secretary and the Under-Secretary, and by other paid Members that we should have some account of the money expended?
There is one other matter which I regret. I do not think the Government should be starting these institutions with the huge salaries they are going to pay. Fancy a man in a cabin being shepherded by a Duke at £2,000 a year. That is how the money is going to go. The extraordinary thing about this Bill is the way in which bureaucracy is fitting into it already. You have first a provision that each of these gentlemen is to get £2,000 a year. I worked very hard for 30s. a week one time, and I am sure I did as hard work and as good work for 30s. a week as these gentlemen will do for £2,000 a year, and I think it is an extremely irritating thing to poor people living in miserable cabins all over the country, who will be deprived, as they will say, of moneys and of help, that these huge salaries should be started at the outset of this Board. Furthermore, why should they begin by fixing the salaries? Why should not you leave the payment of these salaries to this new body, as you did in the case of universities? You did not say in the University Acts that the university professor or the university men should have salaries at £2,000 or £3,000 a year; you left the whole thing to be settled by the autonomous bodies you created. Not only are you not doing that in this Bill, but, if you look at another clause of it you will find the most ample provision is 2154 already made for pensions and superannuation. God help us! The whole thing is hardly 10 years in existence, and already gentlemen who have got the jobs are thinking of being pensioned. There is hardly a man in Ireland who gets in office that does not think at once of being pensioned next day, and he almost talks as if it was the pension he had to get. That is the vice of the country, and here the very first thing you are doing under this Clause is providing that these gentlemen may have pensions under this Act. Well, I should like to ask if these gentlemen are to have pensions on the Civil Service scale, as is provided in the 65th Rule to apply? I do not find a word about that. I yield to no one in my ignorance in these matters, but I want to know, is there to be a new Board and an army of well-paid men and overpaid men? The right hon. Gentleman paid his tribute to an imaginary county councillor from Galway, and I humbly join in endorsing what he has said, but why should not he let these cute boys draw their salaries from their local councils and go round doing good amongst them at small wages? That is what I would like to see. That is what I would like to see instead of gentlemen sent down from Dublin at £2,000 a year. Why not let the local bodies of the counties of Galway, Mayo, and Kerry provide their own local inspectors as you do under the Poor Law Acts? These are, to my mind, the practical considerations dealing with this matter, and not the question of the congests and the landless men. It is most unfair and unjust to set up these rivalries between the various claimants for land and then to declare, as you do declare, that you are wholly unable to deal with these matters in the course of a Parliamentary sprint of four hours. It did not take Cromwell many hours to settle the West of Ireland. His policy of fire and sword was not debated in Committee for long, and you cannot hope to undo the confiscations of Cromwell in an afternoon in an English Parliament. I do not care whether these Clauses are good or bad, because I take them as a practical settlement of a most difficult question, just as last year I accepted the University Clauses, which I recognised as a practical attempt by a gentleman who has his heart in the job to settle a most difficult and outstanding question. On behalf of the people of Munster I rejoice at the foundation of this fund, and I heartily thank the statesman who has given us this new Board.
§ Mr. WILLIAM MOORE
I do not pretend to have any practical knowledge from personal observation of the conditions of life in the congested districts. I can, however, quite understand why hon. Gentlemen opposite and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway so cordially and enthusiastically adopt the principle of this part of the Bill. I do not know that those they represent in the United Kingdom will be so enthusiastic about this proposal when the details of this measure are fully explained to them. On precisely the same grounds that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway support this Bill I feel it my duty to oppose it. I do not think any hon. Member will deny that in this measure we have the seeds of a system which is wholly opposed to all the principles of Unionism, because it is setting up Home Rule for Ireland by instalments in the shape of a provincial council for each province. You are taking the county of Connaught, and in some form or other you are constituting a provincial council upon which there will be a certain number of persons who, whether they are elected by the democracy or by the democratic local authorities, will still be to some extent representatives of the people. When you are creating this provincial Home Rule for the province of Connaught, it is not like setting up a body which has the power to levy rates and conduct its own affairs, because such a body has to run the risk of its own policy and be self-supporting. In this case the generosity for which the Chief Secretary has been thanked by hon. Members below the Gangway is one for which he may well be thanked, because the whole income of this provincial Home Rule body is not to be found by the people of Connaught, but by the British taxpayer. I can understand the intense gratitude of Nationalist Members towards the right hon. Gentleman who, at the expense of the British taxpayer, is providing them with Home Rule for Connaught and a quarter of a million a year. This is being done by a Government which professes to be in favour of retrenchment and reform. If you create a provincial council in Connaught which will have the expending of £250,000 of public money, you will soon have a cry in this House for a direct electorate. I cannot See, if you are going to have a provincial council for Connaught, how you are going to refuse to the people of Munster a similar council. Later on, hon. Members from Ireland will be found coming to this House with a demand for four distinct provincial councils for Ireland, and I hope 2156 when that time comes a grant for administrative services amounting to £1,000,000 will be made by the British taxpayer. We heard a great deal when Home Rule for the whole of Ireland was first brought in about safeguarding minorities. Here you have Home Rule for Connaught, and because it is to be fed by public money there is to be no protection for the minorities who happen to live there. There is not a suggestion which protects minorities who are to be placed at the mercy of this Home Rule body in Connaught. What are their powers? They have absolute controlling powers of a compulsory nature to walk in upon the property of anyone in their area who happens to be what is known as "an obnoxious person," and he is to be at their mercy the instant they choose to put their compulsory powers into force. What protection is there for those persons? There probably would be no trouble in Connaught if this body had full sway, and it might be quite simple. The Attorney-General for Ireland said there would be no trouble in the way of evicted tenants, because you would remove "the centre of disturbance." The centre of disturbance consists of those who have been boycotted and the people whom the Nationalist party have been trying to hound out of the district. The province of Connaught will have no centre for disturbance, because those people will have been expropriated. There is not a particle of protection in this Bill for them, and if Home Rule at the public expense is granted to Connaught it will only constitute the seed which must eventually grow into the upas tree of separation. When that tree flourished before it cast its shadow upon the prosperity of Ireland, stocks went down, men were frightened, and I can see no better simile for this case than the upas tree. This system, whether it culminates in the establishment of four provincial councils or one large conned for the whole of Ireland must ultimately and irresistibly end in separation, which we on these-Benches are returned to oppose by every means in our power. Without going into details, and as a matter of principle, I shall certainly support the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
I think the speech of the hon. Member for North Armagh (Mr. Moore) has been satisfactorily answered by the speech of the hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy). The complaint of the hon. Member for North Armagh is that you are giving too much 2157 power in this new body to the elective, element, whereas the gravamen of the charge of the hon. Member for North Louth is that the elective element has no power at all. Therefore, I think we may disregard altogether the violent criticism of the hon. Member for North Armagh and consider the general questions which have been raised. Before alluding to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), I should like to say in reference to what the hon. Member for North Louth said about salaries that if the hon. and learned Member had known what the qualifications were of the two gentlemen it is proposed to appoint he would have admitted that the salaries are very moderate.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
It is not for me to tell the secrets of the Government, and it is for the Government to say who they are. I think, however, that everyone knows who they are. One of them is a man of so great business ability that if he had not devoted himself to the service of the Congested Districts Board, I am sure he would have been able to earn twice the money. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is he?"] With regard to the other gentleman, it would have been impossible to obtain for anything like that sum the services—
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
On a point of Order. I would like to ask if the hon. Member is entitled to tell us all about the qualifications of these few gentlemen when we do not know who they are. If he is going to give us their qualifications, surely we are entitled to ask for their names?
There is no power vested in me, or in anybody else to compel the hon. Member to divulge the names of these gentlemen if he does not care to do so.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
I am sure all hon. Members who know the qualifications of these two gentlemen will admit that the remuneration proposed is not excessive. With regard to the main questions raised, which were so admirably discussed by the Chief Secretary, the opinion of the Commission which considered this question of the constitution of an authority to deal with congestion with an absolutely impartial mind was that it was absolutely necessary to have 2158 an elective element on that body. If hon. Members below the Gangway had accepted the Irish Councils Bill brought forward by the Chief Secretary in 1907, this question would not have arisen. The decision and administration of this question would naturally have laid with the council to be appointed under that Bill. But that having failed, and it being proposed to give very extensive powers, not only as regards the area but also as regards the money to be spent, to a new body to be created, it was felt absolutely necessary that there should be some representation of the people of Ireland upon that body. That was the more necessary en account of the extension of cattle-driving rendering it more difficult to make this scheme work more smoothly unless you carried with you the feeling of the locality concerned. There will no doubt be great difficulties in getting the details of migration settled as it is. Those difficulties have been enormously enhanced in the last few years. Just at the moment when the grievance had been mitigated, we find fresh difficulty arising from the violence of the local feeling against migration. Surely, under those circumstances, it was absolutely impossible to expect that a nominative body, working from Dublin Castle, would have been able to carry out a scheme on the scale necessary if a settlement of the question of congestion is ever to be effected. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) alluded to the non-necessity of compulsion for the acquisition of estates for the congested districts. Possibly at the time he presided at the Irish Office the difficulties which were subsequently experienced had not become so patent. The operations of the Board in his day were not so large as they became just after he left. They were working with comparatively small sums of money, and in those times it was not possible for them to pick and choose, and so avoid the difficulty of leaving unpurchased particular tracts of land which under a complete scheme it becomes absolutely necessary to purchase. If the right hon. Gentleman will ask some of the old officials he had to do with in those days, he will find that in their opinion it would be absolutely impossible to work the scheme on the scale now proposed unless the authority dealing with it had the power of compulsory purchase. The Chief Secretary said he did not want to mention the names of persons who refuse to sell. I do not either want to mention names, but I could give the names of a good many 2159 estates, the acquisition of which would be absolutely necessary to carry out the schemes of migration in contemplation, and which it would not be possible, so far as it is humanly possible to foresee, to get unless the power of compulsion was given. I think the Government have exercised a wise discretion in those two particular points. They have, first of all, adopted the recommendation of the Commission with regard to the inclusion of an elective element, and, secondly, they have adopted the recommendation of the Commission in insisting upon the necessity of compulsion with regard to the area which is to be dealt with in connection with the problem of congestion. Whether compulsion is necessary or not outside those districts, I do not not profess to say. I should have thought that with regard to the rest of Ireland it might not be necessary, but I am quite certain if you are ever going to carry out in a comprehensive way a scheme of migration, thereby relieving congestion, it will be absolutely necessary to give this power of compulsory purchase.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
It does not rest with me to pity the Chief Secretary, but I could not help thinking of the well-known phrase, "Save me from my friends," when I listened to the one Gentleman sitting on the Liberal side of the House who has intervened in the Debate. He made a statement of the most amazing description. I do not think I have ever heard anything like it in all the years I have been in the House, and I did not wonder at my hon. Friend behind me rising to a point of order. The hon. Gentleman sought to answer the criticism of the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy), who had addressed himself to criticising the amount of salaries which it is proposed to pay under this Bill. The hon. Gentleman, who spoke with all the authority of one of the Commission whose names have been quoted so freely this afternoon, did not tell us, as we might have expected, that the Commission, before recommending to the Government these gentlemen, who will be well paid, had considered the difficult character of their labours, and the immense responsibilities which will fall upon them, or the fact that they ought to be placed on a level with other highly placed officials. What he did tell us was that the justification for the salaries was to be found not in the appointments sought to be created, 2160 but in the gentlemen whom it had been determined to appoint. He told us the salaries had been settled, not in respect of the duties the occupants of the office have to perform, but in regard to the individuals whom it had been decided to appoint.
§ Mr. J. ANNAN BRYCE
I think I should be entitled to explain. I do not think I said that. I presume certain appointments would be made, but I have no knowledge as to who it is intended to appoint, though I cannot help thinking certain persons will be appointed. Beyond that I think I did say that I considered the duties which were to be performed would, under any circumstances, require adequate payment.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I understand the hon. Gentleman said he knew the names of the gentlemen who were to be appointed. I do not know them, and I have never heard them.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
What the hon. Gentleman really said was that the salaries had been settled in consequence of the high character and qualifications of the gentlemen who were to be appointed. I am in the recollection of the Committee, and, when there was some natural expressions of astonishment at this revelation, he told us that we were behind the times. He said, with an air of splendid innocence and astonishment, "Am I revealing a secret? Why, I thought everybody knew all about it!" This is a unique instance. It is, as a rule, left to the Government to reveal the names of those they may appoint, and to make the appointment in the ordinary course after they have got the power. In this particular case, however, the hon. Gentleman, the amicus curiœ of the Government, makes the appointment before the Act is passed, and then fixes the salaries they are to have. This throws a flood of light upon what took place in the Commission. It gives extra authority and emphasis to some criticisms addressed earlier in the evening to that Report. The hon. Gentleman went on to tell the House that there were certain schemes in preparation, and that it was necessary, as far as I understood him, they should have the authority of some of the cattle-drivers. These revelations come rather late in the day to help us in our Debates. The Government, perhaps foreseeing or fearing some of the risks they run at the hands of their own rash supporters, who very often rush in to these 2161 Debates, limit our time so that we cannot make as much use of this startling information as we might have done if it had come earlier. I do not think anybody has been guilty of exaggeration in complaining that we are debating what is really a Bill for the reform of one of the most important problems in Ireland. We are really debating a separate measure under a system of closure which limits our time to a few hours, and makes it impossible to deal with it in all its various aspects and complexity. The Chief Secretary, by the speech in which he sought to justify the remarkable changes he is making in the constitution of the Congested Districts Board, took refuge in some of those methods of defence which we have heard rather too often from him. He indulged in what, I cannot help thinking, was rather a cheap sneer at Dublin Castle. After all, we who have been familiar with the government of Dublin Castle, and who understand it, know perfectly that, whether you approve of it or not, it does not differ in the smallest degree from any other branch of His Majesty's Government in this respect. The work is done by men of the highest character, and I do not think it is necessary in order to justify this new Department to sneer at them.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I cannot admit it was anything but a sneer, and I heard, with still greater regret, that he could not defend these new proposals without a sneer at Sir Horace Plunkett.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
If the Chief Secretary did not intend it as a sneer I have not another word to say.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
It was not a sneer at Sir Horace Plunkett. Surely Sir Horace Plunkett, like any other man, may have a remark made slightly at his expense without anybody getting up and making a fuss about it.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
Sir Horace Plunkett is certainly able to defend himself, but I adhere to what I said. The language the right hon. Gentleman used with regard to Sir Horace was a sneer, and I regret that he cannot defend these 2162 new proposals without using language of that kind. The Chief Secretary told us the Congested Districts Board is extremely popular in Ireland. I agree that to a large extent it is popular, so popular that neither he nor anybody likely to succeed him would be rash enough to seek to get rid of it. There is great force in that remark, but let me point out that, however much he may share in this commendation of and regard for the Congested Districts Board, he is by this Bill destroying it as it has existed since its creation. He has so remodelled and altered it as to remove from it all appearance of the old Departmnet. If he were not doing that, he would not have the approval of the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. What strikes me as being still more remarkable is that to-day we have had from the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture an attempt to show that the new Congested Districts Board is to be constituted on lines similar to those adopted with regard to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Education. There is not the smallest comparison between the two. They differ in principle, and in everything possible in regard to the way in which they perform their duties. But there is something more remarkable about it. It has been very interesting to hear the references made—the very guarded references—below the Gangway to this Department of Agriculture. When the Vice-President talked about the confidence it had secured in the country I did not observe that the cheers of hon. Members below the Gangway were loud or general. We all remember the Debates which have taken place in this House times out of number when we sat on the other side, and since, when Sir Horace Plunkett was at the head of the Department, and when criticism after criticism was levelled at it by Gentlemen below the Gangway; and there was no evidence in existence that the popular element of this Department secured for it the confidence and approval of Members from Ireland. It is not the mere putting on one of these Boards of a certain number of popularly elected gentlemen that is going to secure confidence. It is the belief that the gentlemen so appointed will adopt a policy which will have the approval of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that leads them to approve it. I do not blame them for that approval. Every word which fell from my hon. Friend behind me is, I believe, true. I believe this change is as great and far-reaching as 2163 it is possible for anybody to conceive. I believe it goes to the very root of the work done by the Congested Districts Board. The Chief Secretary, not unnaturally or unfairly, rallied my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) and the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Butcher) on the fact that they differed somewhat in their views in regard to the Congested Districts Board and its continuance, and it is very remarkable that neither the Government—the two Members of the Government who have spoken, nor the hon. Member who last spoke—made even a passing reference to the fact that attached to the report of the Dudley Commission is a separate report made by the one man who had more practical experience and longer experience of the Congested Districts Board and of the question of congestion than anybody else who sat on that Commission. The Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said, earlier in the evening, it was the urgency of this congestion problem which demanded that there should be an authority to deal with it promptly and effectively. Sir Antony MacDonnell, now Lord MacDonnell, gives in a very carefully and closely reasoned independent Report his reasons for believing that the constitution of the Board, as adopted by the Government, is exactly the constitution that will produce delay, and will not succeed in bringing about the result which the hon. Member for East Mayo said he desires, and which, indeed, everybody desires, namely, the prompt treatment of this question of congestion. Lord MacDonnell, on this point, says "You are not adopting a wise course in adding these elective members." Everybody acquainted with the Congested Districts Board must realise, as I do, the difficulty of its work in connection with congestion. What is it the Government are doing? The Chief Secretary has endeavoured to maintain that the appointment of what is called the finance committee, consisting of six members, is so effective that it will control the policy of the rest of the Board. Is that view accepted by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway? Do they believe that the addition of nine elective members is going to be nullified and rendered of no importance by the powers given under that Sub-section to the finance committee? Is it not obvious that there is all the difference in the world between the constitution of the Board of Agriculture and the constitution of this new Board? In the case of the 2164 Board of Agriculture, as the Vice-President has made clear by his own statement the whole initiation of policy in its earlier stages rests with the Vice-President himself, who brings it before the Board. As to this finance committee, the Chief Secretary, in an amusing part of his speech, indicated that he was not quite clear what the precise power to be exercised by this finance committee would be. But is it not clear that the members of this new body will have practically equal powers with the others? Do we not know it is frequently very difficult for the official members of the Department to be present in their full strength, and is it not the case that in all probability the administration will rest in the hands of the elected members? You are to have, out of these 10 so-called official Members, five who are to be appointed members, and there is every reasonable probability that some of these may be found sharing the views of the elected members. It has been suggested, not quite fairly perhaps, for there is no justification for it, that we oppose the constitution of this Board containing popularly elected members because we are afraid of such members. That is not the view we take of the case at all. In order to show that the fears are unjustifiable, the Chief Secretary has quoted the case of local governing bodies in Ireland. I am one of those who think, in regard at all events to the selection of members to serve on this Board, though the exercise of patronage may have been extremely unfair, yet, on the other hand, they have discharged the duties in connection with the county councils of Ireland in a manner worthy of all praise. It is remarkable that they should have grappled with difficult problems with the strenuous determination they have displayed, and that they should have done so successfully. It is not because we are afraid of the copular element; it is not because we believe it may introduce considerations into those discussions which must take place which are likely to cause delay. It is for the reason given by Lord Antony MacDonnell. What are those reasons? It is true that, as he points out, when you are dealing with questions such as those to which the Chief Secretary devoted the latter part of his speech, your choice will be between the congests and the landless. The Chief Secretary said there would be no difficulty in making the choice, which would be in favour of the congests. The House has been deeply impressed with the sufferings of the congests, but not long 2165 ago it was equally impressed with the sufferings of the landless, and it passed a Bill which had for its object the reinstatement of these men to their holdings. When you come to this supreme difficulty —one which has been discussed in Scotland, England, and Wales ten times more than in Ireland —one surrounded by all sorts of social questions which add enormously to the difficulty, anybody who has sat on the Congested Districts Board knows that when you come to discuss questions that affect different localities it is extremely difficult to discuss them on impartial and abstract lines, and to keep out of consideration local questions and local feelings, which only add to the trouble. What is it the Government are deliberately going to do? They have told us to-day that the record of the Congested Districts Board is a good one. I believe it is. I believe that anybody who has made the most elementary study of this problem, and has ascertained the record of the Congested Districts Board, will come to the conclusion that it is remarkable, and even marvellous, what it has done in the time. But the Board are now confronted with this problem in an aggravated form. The Chief Secretary tells us you cannot settle it by a bureaucratic Board appointed in Dublin Castle, but that you must bring to your aid popularly elected people from outside. I believe there is no question which it is less likely a popularly elected body will be able to settle, either satisfactorily or rapidly, than this one of the distribution of land, not only among the congests but the distribution of the land and the settlement where it is to go, whether it is to go to the congests or to the landless. It is a problem which wants knowledge, both local and patriotic. It requires experience, both local and patriotic; it also wants level heads and minds, undisturbed by local differences with which one is faced when you come to deal with such questions. There are not merely abstract questions to be decided, there are individuals mixed up with them, and, as we know, in such cases individuals can bring pressure to bear upon their local representatives to get this particular question settled in their own way. It is no discredit to the men who come from these districts, and who know from bitter experience the extent of the suffering which this congestion involves—I say it is no discredit to them that they bring pressure and influence to bear in order to get the question settled in their own way, and it 2166 is no discredit to those who represent them to say that they may be affected by these considerations. But it does follow that if these appeals are made, and if they have effect, then you are not going to simplify or quicken, or render more satisfactory the administration of the Department which has to deal with this difficult question. That is why we believe that if you want to make the Congested Districts Board better able to deal with this difficulty you must give it more money. I do not know as to the extension of area, that is a question which may call for very grave consideration and discussion, but certainly an increase of the funds is absolutely necessary if the Department is to go on doing its-work. And when you have added to its area and its income, and you suddenly disturb the Board, which you admit has done its work well, and done it, I believe, in the general interests of Ireland, to create an absolutely new constitution for it, for which there is absolutely no precedent, is to run the gravest risk you possibly can. I believe you are incurring such a risk, and you are making it not only difficult for this congestion to be dealt with, but you are postponing the settlement of a question which can be more rapidly disposed of if dealt with by a Board appointed as the existing Board is. It is in support of this view held on this side of the House that I venture to heartily approve of the proposal which the Chief Secretary has told us it is intended to carry out, to put an end to the unsatisfactory character of Mr. Doran's present occupation of office by making him a permanent official. I do not hesitate to say, from what I saw of the work done by Mr. Doran, that he deserves everything which has been said in commendation of him. He has had enormous difficulties to deal with. And now I come to another change which we are making by introducing compulsory powers into this Bill. I admit what the Chief Secretary says is true. There are cases here and there that it is very difficult to deal with without compulsion, but everybody who knows anything of the work of the Congested Districts Board knows that its tables have been clogged with work for a long time past, and that there was any amount of work that they could deal with even if they had no compulsory powers, but if their powers were added to in other ways. You are adding to its work, and giving it a compulsory right to get land, and at the same time you are doing this you are turning the body from a business into a 2167 debating one. These things will be discussed, and the claim of one locality against another will be advanced, as it must be, by the local representatives you are creating. By this means you are far more likely to bring about delay and confusion and to postpone a satisfactory settlement of this difficult question than you are to expedite it. It is in no spirit of unfriendliness that we have criticised these proposals; nobody, however light-hearted he may be, can approach the consideration of this question of congestion in Ireland without being profoundly impressed by its gravity and importance, and nobody can be charged, if only for a short time as I was, with the administration of Irish affairs without feeling that he would be thankful to take any, however small, a part in the solution of this question. Therefore it is, in no carping spirit, that we are opposing His Majesty's Government to-day. We oppose them because we believe they rest their proposals upon an unsound basis, and we believe they are going a wrong way to work to provide a remedy, and that they are destroying a Board which has already done good work. Instead of adding to its powers, if necessary, you are destroying that Board and going to create one of a novel kind, for which there is no precedent. We believe that the Report of Lord MacDonnell is against you, that the experience of the Government Departments is against you, and we believe, from the knowledge we have ourselves, that the experiment is one which is fraught with danger rather than any prospect of good. Therefore, we are offering to it our most strenuous opposition, and shall continue to do so throughout every stage of this Bill.
§ Mr. J. C. FLYNN
While the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was speaking, one could not help wondering whether he or the hon. Member for Antrim is the leader of the Unionist party. Unquestionably, all the speeches from above the Gangway were dominated by one note, distrust of popular opinion and of popular bodies, but one cannot help contrasting the kindly and sympathetic tones with which the right hon. Gentleman referred to this question, and to its great gravity with the non-possumus attitude of those who represented other Irish constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the finding of Lord MacDonnell, but I have yet to learn that a minority report carries such enormous weight, and is of such import- 2168 ance, that it outweighs the Report of all the other Members of a Commission. He quoted Lord MacDonnell, but he did not remind the Committee that on the main points on which this Bill is founded, compulsion and urgency, that Noble Lord agreed with all the other Commissioners. The hon. Member who opened this Debate by moving the rejection of the Clause, referred to the composition of the Royal Commission, and he was hardly fair in alluding to it. I noticed that he very slightly touched upon one Member of the Unionist party who was a member of it, the late Sir John Colomb, and he did not quote anything from him.
§ Mr. FLYNN
The late Sir John Colomb, as the hon. Member must know, was a strong Unionist, and as firm an anti-Home Ruler and as strong a Tory, in popular matters, as any Member who sits in this House, and yet except in a few unimportant points he agreed with all the other Commissioners in framing the Report on the lines on which in the main this Bill is founded. The whole burden of the argument from the time the Amendment was moved up to the present moment, subdued and chastened, and softened though it was by the sympathetic language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin (Mr. W. Long), was utter distrust to the new Board. Why? Because we have infused some popular element of Irish representation into it. They had not the hardihood to dispute the good work which the Congested Districts Board is turning out at present in circumstances of unexampled difficulty, and the only Member who ventured to attack the work of the Board was an English Member, who intervenes, it seems to me, in Irish Debates much more often than is justified. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Butcher) was the only Member who suggested that the Congested Districts Board should be practically swept away. Therefore, the position is this, that the Congested Districts Board, which has been working under great difficulties and surmounting obstacles of great extent, and has an Irishman appointed upon the body who is somewhat m touch with Irish sympathies, now because representatives of the ratepayers most interested in the settlement of his question and in the healing of this festering sore, which has been the 2169 trouble of the Government for a long time past—because the representative of those people who are the most vitally interested of all are to be put upon the Board, though they are in a minority, hon. Members say they will have none of them and none of this Board and none of these reforms, and will not have the reconstitution of the Board in the manner proposed. That is a matter which I would commend to the Committee and to those who would go closer into it. I would refer them to this very report of the late Sir John Colomb in regard to the small points in which he differed from the Commission. The two main circumstances which stand out from the attitude of so-called Irish Members above the Gangway are these. First of all, an utter distrust of the Irish people and of popular representation; and, secondly, that their arguments are 15 years late, because when Mr. Gerald Balfour was Chief Secretary for Ireland and Mr. Horace Plunkett was a member of the Government they recommended the two great remedies of compulsion, and that larger powers and larger funds should be given to this Board. How 15 years after those events, when a Tory Administration, presided over by a distinguished Tory statesman, had said that—how in the face of that fact and of the exhaustive Report of the Royal Commission, which sat for two years and took vast quantities of evidence—how these speeches can be made by hon. Members passes my comprehension, except on the supposition that Irish Tory Unionism is condemned, because it learns nothing and forgets nothing.
§ Mr. MUNRO FERGUSON
I cannot recollect any occasion where a point of so much importance has been discussed on both sides with so much ability and closeness both of speech and of pen. The question before the House is a narrow one, and it is whether upon a body of this kind there ought to be a representative element or not. As to that, I have my own doubts, and I will express them with great frankness. It is no question of trusting the people, with all due deference to hon. Members opposite, still less is it any question of trusting the Irish people in particular, because I do not think that the argument for representation could have been better put than it was by the Chief Secretary himself this afternoon. I thought that his argument, although I did not altogether agree with him, was not only a good one as regards the general aspect of the 2170 question, but it was a good argument with regard to the particular case with which we have to deal. There is no doubt that the enlisting of popular support from the rest of Ireland, through the representative element, is one of the strongest arguments that can be used, but the case upon the other hand is this: I am certainly not undervaluing the capacity of Irishmen for self-government, because I have a settled admiration for their genius and for their conduct of affairs; but it is from the point of view of practical acquaintance with local affairs and local representative administration that I approach this subject. I have been in local administration all my life, longer than I have been in this House, and what I observe in local administration is that its weakness becomes manifest—not in this country only, but in the new-world, in the most up-to-date countries; as well as in the backward countries of the old world—the weakness of representative administration becomes manifest when you have to deal with patronage. The patronage of this new authority will necessarily be enormous, both in the selection of new proprietors in the purchase of land and in the distribution of funds. There must be an enormous amount of patronage, and I do not think that anybody will deny-that. It may be said that the patronage would be shifted off the shoulders of the Board on to the finance committee, but I am one of those who think that the representative principle is so strong that when it is set in motion it must come to the top, and that the representative element must necessarily control. Therefore, in this case, as far as finance is concerned, it will have to follow the policy set by the Board.
There is a British point of view in the matter as well as an Irish point of view. The transfer of the land alone under these proposals means always a very large sum of money, a necessary loss of several millions. If it was a case of the distribution of the grass land and the cutting up of the ranches into smaller grass holdings without equipment, it would be a matter of comparative indifference by what authority the land was distributed; but if the redistribution is to be a success, a great many more millions must be spent upon, equipment. I believe it is generally admitted that the want of capital amongst the new peasant owners will be so considerable that to give them a fair chance there must be a large expenditure on the part of the State in equipping the land. I do not think a house and a cowshed and a stable are sufficient. I think equipment 2171 in Ireland, as carried out by the different authorities, has been rather on the narrow side, and it ought to be on a more generous scale if the resettlement is to be a success. I think it will not be disputed that several millions more will have to be spent upon equipment. The land will always be there, but the equipment is subject to wastage, and the investment in the equipment is rapidly lost unless it is resumed. That is what my argument comes to, that where there is equipment in the resettlement provided by the State, officers of the State must be responsible for the capacity of the new owners, because if there is a general distribution without selection the money invested in the equipment would not be safe. If it is to be safe there must be a selection of new owners. That is my objection to the carrying out of the resettlement by a representative authority.
Then, again, if there is to be agricultural progress in Ireland, there would have to be groups of the more competent owners grouped together, so that they can cooperate in order to make a success of their farms on a small scale and setting a standard by which the general progress of the new holders will be guided. For this purpose a representative element would be unreliable. I attach great weight to the views expressed by the Irish Members, and especially to the arguments which have been addressed to the House by the Chief Secretary, and I should hope some compromise might toe possible under which the occupiers of land, where the equipment is thoroughly carried out, should be selected by a Department of the State. There is no reason why at the same time the distribution of the bare land should not be made by some other authority. But, so far as the equipped land is concerned, I could not support the Clause as it stands at present. At the same time, I should have thought it possible to have at any rata some period of probation before settlement on the land. I am satisfied that it is necessary to have an independent authority representing the State, otherwise I am confident not only will there be inevitable loss on the transfer of the grass lands into farms, but there will be a far greater loss upon wasted equipment, and it will certainly not pay Ireland to have the money wasted, as it will not encourage the British taxpayer to advance money for purposes which we all have at heart. I desire to see money freely spent upon resettlement and equipment. Parliament 2172 cannot but freely grant money for that purpose. But while granting that money freely, it must take every possible precaution that it is not avoidably wasted.
§ Mr. GORDON
There are some things I should like to ascertain more fully than the Chief Secretary has stated them. He has told us that the Congested Districts Board has done its work very well, and I think everyone in Ireland thoroughly agrees with that. I want to know why the Board which has done its work so well that no one has uttered a word against it is to be destroyed? I take the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, and I want to see what value it has apart from something else which is outside his answer, and which he has not conveyed to the House. As I gather, the first thing is that you are doubling the area and trebling the money, and therefore you must have a new Board. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that sensible men will accept that as a good reason? From the very first moment almost the complaint has been that they have not enough money to deal with, and that they could do with a great deal more. It is idle to state that it is necessary to change a Board which has been doing well, in fact to wipe it out altogether and substitute some new Board, because you are doubling the area and trebling the money. It would be laughed at by the members of the present Board. The next point is that you are to get rid of the bureaucratic ideal. Why do you not get rid of it in connection with the Agricultural Department? There it is in full force, and, notwithstanding what the right hon. Gentleman has said, we from Ireland know and understand the true state of affairs. The elective element has no power of initiation and no power of doing anything at all except advising the Board—a Board which consists either of nominated members or of persons who have been through the sifting process which the hon. Member (Mr. Butcher) has described. That is a Board which has done well also, and those who are connected with it and those who know its-work in Ireland will give the greatest possible credit to k for the work it has done. It has done its work well, because it has combined, in a way which does not endanger the working at all and does not create any feeling of distrust, the popular element with the controlling influence of the Board as it exists in Dublin. You have in each county a certain element consisting of members two-thirds of whom are nominated by the county council and 2173 another third by the Department. They consider the necessities of the district, and suggest what ought to be done, and the Board in Dublin finds their co-operation and assistance so useful that they gladly ask them to assist them in matters connected with the Department. Why do you not adopt the Central Body in Dublin if you like, and have your bodies in each county to consult with and ask what are the requirements of the districts and what should be done?
The right hon. Gentleman's third point was the influence of an elective body behind them. Has not the Board of Agriculture all the benefit of that without all the injury which might arise from the body which the right hon. Gentleman seeks to constitute under this Bill? I quite agree that even in the best of local boards there is an element of danger arising from the fact that it must necessarily exercise patronage and deal with matters which affect their immediate acquaintances, the people with whom they are associated and the people who have some claims upon them outside the matter of their public duties. I do not want to put the matter beyond what is evident to every man who knows anything about what is going on in Ireland. I should think the whole of these nine elective members will be members of the United Irish League or their sympathisers and friends. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the United Irish League has exercised its powers of boycotting and of interfering with the freedom of action of individuals because they will not become members of that organisation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where?"] At Riverstown there was one case that we all know of, and hon. Gentlemen opposite know of it very well, so that you will have got members of an organisation who are so much interested in that organisation that they will actually bring its powers of boycotting and interfering with liberty of action to bear upon people who will not join the body. I do not put the case further than this. Do you think it will inspire confidence in the people who are not members of that organisation in the fairness of the mode in which lands will be distributed and the functions of that Board performed when it is controlled, as it will be, by nine members of the United Irish League? It is idle to talk about the other 10 members. In the first place, I do not know whether any of them might be sympathisers or not. The Chief Secretary and the President of the Board of Agriculture will be enjoying 2174 the pleasure of sitting in the House of Commons on many occasions when the Board is meeting. The other members of the Board will necessarily not be present at all meetings, and you will have the nine elective members controlling the Board. Is that what is wanted? The hon. Member for East Mayo stated most distinctly that they must get undivided control over all the Western lands. That is the way in which he put it. The control of these lands will be put into the hands of this Board in which there is a nominated majority of one against nine representatives of the counties, who each and every occasion on which they meet to transact business will have a controlling voice and influence on the Board. Do you think that is calculated to inspire confidence in those on whom they have brought pressure to bear either to join the organisations or to do some other things? The Chief Secretary professes, and I believe sincerely, a desire that the congests should get the benefit of this measure. He says you cannot deal with the congests without having the problem of the landless men also present. I think the right hon. Gentleman is right. You cannot keep them absolutely separate, but I think there ought to be an endeavour, as far as possible, to so constitute the Board, to so arrange the machinery, and to so provide in the Act of Parliament that the congests will get the real benefit. Knowing that those men who will be the representatives of the nine counties will each have pressure brought to bear upon him by the landless men in his own county, does anyone think that a Board so constituted will act so that the result will be for the benefit of congests in the same way as if you had a central body appointed by nomination and acting as the present Congested Districts Board has acted with local bodies whom they can consult and from whom they can get information and advice in regard to various matters? The hon. Member for East Mayo in connection with that says that there is no nobler sentiment in the human heart than greed of land. But whose land? Your neighbour's land or some other person's land? The noble sentiment implanted in the mind of people in a locality is, "If you have no land, we will bring all pressure to bear to prevent congests from being brought in." We know from reports in the newspapers that there is the strongest feeling that the untenanted lands to be acquired should be divided up among the people of the district itself, and not among people who would like to add to 2175 farms that are uneconomic and insufficient in their size. There were two men, members of the Congested Districts Board, who know a great deal about these matters, and who are entirely opposed to what you are doing by this Bill. One is Lord MacDonnell and the other is Sir Horace Plunkett. I was very sorry indeed to hear the right hon. Gentleman uttering a cheap sneer against Sir Horace Plunkett. If there is one man who has honestly, whether we agree with him or not, endeavoured, and as I believe to a large extent succeeded, to do good work for Ireland, it is Sir Horace Plunkett, and I do not think it is worthy of the right hon. Gentleman to sneer at a man who has given his time to this work without expense to the public.
§ Mr. GORDON
I have the right hon. Gentleman's words here. He said he was not so much enamoured of Sir Horace Plunkett's efforts as he was himself. When you have the two men I have named, who have certainly studied the problem as much as any we could mention, expressing the strongest hostility to this proposal, who are unprejudiced, and who have no pecuniary or personal interest in it, believing that it will not work well and will not be trusted by the section of the people with whom we have to deal, I think the Government ought to pause before they force it on the country. There is another matter I would like the right hon. Gentleman to consider. Under these Clauses you are excluding the Estates Commissioners from buying—you are prohibiting any person from buying without the consent of this Board. You are making this Board the sole purchaser over one-third of the lands of Ireland, and you are giving them a million a year. How long will it take before these lands are bought at that rate? According to the right hon. Gentleman's figures, there are still £100,000,000 of lands to be sold in Ireland, and presumably there are £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 of these lands in that portion of the country which you are handing over to this Board. Is it to be said that people in that part of the country who are willing to sell are to be deprived of any opportunity of doing so for the next 40 years? That is what the Bill means. There is to be no other purchaser unless this Board consents. But is the Board going to consent? The Estates Commissioners are prohibited absolutely, 2176 and there is to be no sale to anyone else except the Congested Districts Board. It is not provided in the Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman suggests that a million a year out of the five millions should be given to this Board for the purchase of lands. That means that for 30 or 40 years the lands in this part of the country will not have passed from the landlords to the tenants. I think that is a serious blot. It is a serious matter, not only for the landlords, but for the tenants. I daresay-there are many tenants in the district, not within the definition in the Bill, who have considerable farms, and who would be most anxious to purchase, but cannot do it, I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to devise means by which ordinary farmers who have economic holdings and who cannot buy without the aid and consent of this Board about to be established should be enabled to buy. On these grounds, and from every point of view that one can examine these proposals in reference to the constitutions and functions of the Board, I certainly consider that it will be very injurious to Ireland as a whole, and that it will not affect the good results which the right hon. Gentleman and which we on these benches would like to see in reference to congestion. I think it will lead to perhaps worst evils in future in the very districts of the country which it is intended to benefit.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. JOHN O'DOWD
I wish to correct a statement which was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gordon) affecting the Constituency which I hate the honour to represent (South Sligo). I think it is my duty to give it a flat contradiction. He stated, in the course of his speech, that the people of try Constituency were boycotted because they would not join the United Irish League. I know that there has been a charge of that kind manufactured against respectable citizens, but the charge has not been proven. It has been tried before the local petty sessions and the court refused to convict. It was afterwards tried by a jury, with the result that the persons accused were never convicted. I wish to make one or two remarks as the representative of a congested county. Judging from the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, one would think that they were strong advocates of popular representation on the Board about to be constituted. Let me remind the Committee that during the discussions which took place on the Wyndham Bill in 1903 the Irish repre- 2177 sentatives on these benches pressed this matter of popular representation on the; attention of the House over and over again. They pointed out any measure dealing with the relief of congestion in the West of Ireland would be useless, if there was not first of all an element of popular representation on the newly constituted Board, and unless compulsory powers were given to that body to purchase the ranches in that part of the country. These were the points we urged from these benches in 1903. I regret to say our suggestions were not listened to, with the result that we have still the land agitation in Ireland, north, south, east and west, an agitation which must and will continue if you have not an element of popular representation on the new Congested Districts Board, and if you do not give them compulsory powers for the acquirement of the waste ranches in the West of Ireland. These are matters we cannot get over. It cannot be denied that Part III of the Bill, in the opinion of the people of nine counties of Ireland at least, is the kernel of the Bill, because it deals with the whole question of congestion. If you want to put an end to agrarian agitation in Ireland, if you want to promote peace and harmony between all classes and creeds, deal drastically with the thing once for all. We do not want to prolong agrarian agitation. We have been agitating since we were boys, and we do not want to prolong the thing indefinitely. We want to have it settled to the satisfaction of all parties; but without compulsion and the element of popular representation on the new Congested Districts Board I do not see how the matter is to be settled. I cannot understand for the life of me why fair-minded hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway object so much to the introduction of the element of popular representation on the new Board. As one who has been identified with local administration in Ireland ever since the Local Government Act was passed, as I happened to be chairman of the county council from the first to the present time, I thank the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for what he has said on the subject of local government in Ireland. In face of the statements made by the hon. Gentleman, I think it is not such a tall order at all to ask that one representative of each of the nine counties shall be put on the new Congested Districts Board. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin (Mr. W. Long) has also—and I thank him for it—in the 2178 course of his speech paid a tribute to the county, district and other councils in Ireland for the manner in which they have worked. Therefore I cannot see where the hesitation comes in, and why they cannot trust us. We have worked for the last 10 years a complicated Act, an Act more complicated than many hon. Members perhaps can realise. This Act was forced on us at a time when we had very little experience of local government, and owing to its complicated provisions the man who was a county councillor was also a district councillor, an urban councillor, and a Poor Law guardian all in one. Yet, notwithstanding these various complications, I believe—and I think the House will agree with me—that the Act has been administered well and efficiently all round. If we have any fault to find with the ratepayers in Ireland, it is that they are rather too penurious, if I may use the expression, because they are well able to safeguard the rates; and I believe that the work of dealing with the congested districts under the new Act, if they are trusted so far, will be less of a task to them than the task of introducing and administering the complicated Act of 1898. On these two points—the acquiring of the waste ranches in the West of Ireland and the necessity of popular representation on the Congested Districts Board—there is a unanimous opinion among all those with whom I come in contact, and I hope that the Government will stand firmly by their proposals.
§ Mr. LONSDALE
The hon. Member who has just spoken made a very impassioned appeal to the House with that eloquence which is not unusual from those benches; but, notwithstanding that, I rise to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Mr. C. Craig), and for two reasons, either of which, in my opinion, is sufficient to justify the omission, not only of this Clause, but of the whole of Part III of the Bill which deals with the problem of congestion. The first reason is that by the other parts of the Bill the Government, in my opinion, have made the solution of the problem of congestion absolutely impossible. If that be true, and I propose to show that it is true, it follows that the sum which it proposes to spend on what I may call tinkering with congestion, might be applied to much more useful purposes. The second reason is the machinery which the Government propose to set up is the worst that could possibly be conceived for the 2179 purpose of producing any permanent relief of congestion. Either of these reasons is, I submit, strong enough in itself to justify this Amendment; but, if we consider them both together, there is an overwhelming case for dropping these provisions altogether. I do not know that the Chief Secretary has made any serious attempt to show that there is even a reasonable expectation that the problem of congestion will be permanently settled by the result of these proposals. We have listened to a vast amount of speeches in the House this afternoon and on previous occasions, to a vast amount of rhetoric, about the magnitude of the evil and the need for applying a remedy. There is not an Irish Member and not an English Member in this House who knows anything about the state of the congested district that will attempt to deny the great misery and suffering that exist in certain portions of the West of Ireland. What we want, if we are to deal with this question with any chance of success, is a clear field and a well-reasoned plan of operations. In this Bill, I submit, we get neither one nor the other. That is why, to put it briefly, we think it would be well to drop this part of the Bill altogether, and let the whole matter be reconsidered on a proper and sensible basis. The Committee has been informed by many speakers who have preceded me that this subject of congestion has been inquired into by a Royal Commission, what is known as the Dudley Commission. The inquiry occupied a great deal of time, and a vast amount of evidence was taken. The Chief Secretary gave us some facts about the inquiry when he introduced his Land Bill last November, which I may venture to recall to the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Dudley Commission held 116 public sittings, spent 48 days travelling all over the country with four motor cars, examined 560 witnesses, asked 60,386 questions, and produced 11 volumes of evidence, besides 1,779 pages of memoranda synopses, diagrams, and the like.
I do not know with what object the Chief Secretary gave us all this information, unless it was to impress us with the full and exhaustive nature of the inquiry, and to show us that the findings of such a Commission were entitled to respectful consideration. If that be the purpose which the Chief Secretary had in view, then I confess I am at a loss to understand 2180 how it is that in framing his Bill he should have deliberately ignored one of the principal conclusions of the Commission, the recommendation upon which the Commissioners appear to have laid the utmost stress, that a large scheme of migration should be undertaken as the only solution of this difficult problem. Everyone recognises the immense difficulties in the way of such a scheme. It is necessary in the first place to overcome the unwillingness to move, the inertia of the people in the congested districts. They do not want to leave the place where they have been accustomed to live, where they have been bred and born, even if they are offered better conditions elsewhere. There are other powerful influences at work which I need not specify here to prevent people taking kindly to a policy of migration. This policy has also to encounter the active hostility, as has already been stated this afternoon, of the landless men in the place where it is proposed to settle the migrants from the congested areas. The man from Mayo who is to get a holding in Roscommon will be treated by his new neighbours as an enemy, and they will make his life a burden. It is evident, therefore, that this policy of migration would meet with very serious opposition. It has already been pointed out to-day that in the opinion of Sir Horace Plunkett and others who have made a study of this subject, the attitude of the people towards migration is improving. The people are more disposed now to listen to the suggestion of migration than they were some time ago, and in the near future there is no doubt, it is generally expected by those who know, that conditions will be made more favourable to a scheme of resettlement than they are at present. At all events, the point at the moment is that the Royal Commission reported unanimously in favour of a policy of migration, and as this Bill is supposed to be built upon the recommendations of the Commission, it is difficult to understand the course that has been pursued by the Government. It is not too much to say that by exciting and encouraging the hopes of the landless men, in providing facilities for the settlement of those persons upon the grazing lands they are making it impossible to carry out the larger scheme for migration in order to relieve congestion. The Government cannot say that they have not been warned of the futility of the course which they are pursuing. Over and over again in the Re- 2181 port of the Royal Commission we are told that the division of the grass lands among the sons of farmers and other landless men in the neighbourhood is, to use the words of the Royal Commission, incompatible with the relief of congestion.
I do not really think it is necessary to read extracts from the Report at this particular time. Any hon. Member who will take the trouble to look through the Report of the Royal Commission will find on page after page warnings given in these words:—That every holding given to the son of a tenant o to any person not at present a landholder, will, to the extent perpetuate the congestion in the West.The Government have chosen to disregard these warnings altogether; they have decided to open the untenanted land outside the congested areas to cattle-drivers and landless men; and, on the showing of the Royal Commission and the Report of the Dudley Commission, in doing as they have done they have made the whole of their provisions what I can only describe as a mockery. In fact, this part of the Bill dealing with the congested districts is reduced to a scheme of making the United Irish League supreme over one-third of Ireland, and to give that body the disposal of the very large sum of a quarter of a million a year, with, in addition to that, enormous patronage. That brings me to the consideration of the machinery which the Government propose to set up by this part of the Bill. What are the proposals of the Government? The Congested Districts Board is to be incorporated, and it is to consist of nineteen members. There are to be three ex-officio members —the Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary, and the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture; five appointed members, chosen by the Government, who are to hold office for four years; nine representative members, elected by county councils in the congested districts, and holding office for six years; and two paid members, chosen by the Government, who will hold their appointments practically for life. On the face of it, by this scheme, the official members will have a majority of one over the elected members—that is to say, there will be ten official members and nine elected members; but practically the elected members will have a working majority. The Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary, and the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture are, of course, fully occupied with their present duties for a very considerable time, or at all events 2182 during the Parliamentary Session, and it would be impossible for them to take any part in the work of the Congested Districts Board.
What would happen in practice, therefore, would be that the work of the Board would be done by the seven appointed members and the nine members representative of the county councils, and, therefore, the elected members would be in a position to control the whole policy of the Board. The executive powers of the Board are to be applied by an administrative committee. But here, also, the county council representatives would be at least in a position of equality with the official element. Nominally, the adminstrative committee is to consist of four official members and two unofficial members. But seeing that the Chief Secretary and the Under-Secretary are two of the six, the committee for all practical purposes would be reduced to four. These four will consist of the two permanent members and two unofficial members. The unofficial members are to be chosen by the nine representative members and the five appointed members voting together. Under these circumstances, of course, it is quite certain that the two chosen would be elected members from the county councils. I think it is established, therefore, that the scheme of the Government has been designed to give effective control of the work of the Congested Districts Board into the hands of the representatives of the county councils in the West of Ireland; in other words, as we say from our point of view, into the hands of the United Irish League. Is this calculated to produce satisfactory results? We say that it is not; we contend that in this matter the balance of administrative authority is opposed to the scheme of the Government. Every person who has had administrative experience of Ireland, at all events those who have been in exalted positions, are of opinion that it is not. What does Lord MacDonnell say? Lord MacDonnell's name has been quoted very often this afternoon. What does he say in the Minute which is attached to the Report of the Dudley Commission? Lord MacDonnell says:—In the constitution of the Congested Districts Board the elective principle would be entirely out of place, because it would increase the Board to an unwieldy size and thereby would make it inefficient; would convert it from being an executive into a political and debating body, and would expose it to pressure of all kinds, not only as regards its policy, but as regards its practice and the distribution of funds and patronage.2183 In another place he says:—While the best hopes of relieving congestion lie in the policy of migration, it is certain that the execution of that policy is beset with difficulties. I cannot agree with my colleagues in thinking it in the least likely that such an undertaking can be carried to a successful end with expedition and economy by an independent semi-elective Board, composed of heterogeneous elements, and subject to political and local pressure of all kinds.If I may be permitted to give one more brief extract, I would invite the attention of the Committee to this further opinion of the late Under-Secretary:—If migration be the real remedy for congestion—and if there be, as there certainly is—an acute conflict between the claims for land of local 'landless' men and of congests, to be migrated from a distance, it follows as a necessary consequence, that it is not a popular Board which should be entrusted with the work, for local feeling will be w favour of the local 'landless' men, and the elected members of the Board must necessarily reflect the feelings and opinions of their constituents.Lord Macdonnell, in a footnote, draws attention to a statement made by the Chairman of the Roscommon County Council (Mr. John Fitzgibbon) at Elphin, in which he used these words:—The Congested Districts Board will have on it one member elected by each county council, who will know-how to look after the people of his own county. There is no need of saying 'that the people of one parish must get all the land in that parish.'Lord Macdonnell's comment upon this utterance is:—How conducive to impartial and effective administration it would be to have a Board with all but half its members animated by these sentiments.I really do not think that the Government can have possibly realised the dangers which these proposals would inevitably give rise to. It is not merely that the relief of congestion would be delayed, but we are bound to consider the serious risk that would be incurred with the Board being swayed by influences which might lead to inefficient, extravagant, and even—although I do not like to use the word—corrupt administration. It is proposed to give this new Congested Districts Board enormous powers and responsibility. It is to have the expenditure—and I think it cannot be impressed on the attention of the House too often—of £250,000 per year.
§ Mr. LONSDALE
And not only to have the expenditure of £250,000 per year, but the supreme control over the purchase and distribution of land which comprises an area of nearly one-third of Ireland. When we consider that this power is to be placed in the hands of men who will be independent of Parliamentary control—because, 2184 bear in mind, Parliament has no control over this Congested Districts Board—when we consider that it will only be responsible to the county councils or to the United Irish League, I think Parliament would fail in its duty if it were to allow thisd angerous experiment to be carried out.
§ Mr. HAVILAND-BURKE
I will only say a few words by way of protest against the line of argument pursued by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and by speakers on his own side before him as regards the county councils and other local representative bodies in Ireland. It is with a feeling that I can hardly express in Parliamentary language that I am able to reply to their repeated assertion of inefficiency and corruption against the public bodies in Ireland. I say deliberately that if, as the result of the Irish people getting all of a sudden their representative bodies instead of having them slowly granted to them, as they were granted to the English people, if they had manifestly broken down I say that would have been the blame of England, and not of Ireland.
§ Mr. LONSDALE
I did not say in my speech that the public bodies of Ireland were corrupt nor even suggest it.
The word "corruption" has been used again and again this afternoon in the course of the Debate, and I say it is simply scandalous. We have no open scandals such as Peckham and West Ham, and yet hon. Gentlemen had the audacity to get up in this House and to accuse the people of Ireland of being guilty of corruption—of the possibility of corruption—when, as a matter of fact, the Local Government Act has worked in Ireland with an exceptional ease and exceptional facility, such as vou in England cannot for a moment represent to the whole civilised world. Passing from that I say more. I say that the whole success of any future movement in Ireland depends upon the representative principle. We do not claim for Ireland any more than you can claim for England, that you are perfect; but we do say this, that in any scheme that you want to get to work in Ireland you must have the local, elective, and representative government in your whole scheme. It is all nonsense talking in this patronising, twopenny-halfpenny way about the poor dear Irish, how they should be nursed, and how they should be taught the right thing to do. We will not take that sort of thing from you, and we will not stand it either. 2185 We claim the right to be governed by ordinary national representative principles. We claim the right by any Act passed by this House that it is to be an Act worked by the will of the people in Ireland. That is all we ask, and it is nothing too much, and it is nothing too little; and we say straight out, if this sort of talk were indulged in towards the people of Kent, it would be rejected with the same insolence with which we frankly reject it with insolence in the case of Clare, Kerry, or any other county in Ireland. We do not want your patronage. We do not want your lecture; we are just the same as you are, and when we are lectured in this way we simply reply that you have national self-government in England, and we claim the same national self-government for Ireland on the same footing and on the same plan of logic and of business. For that reason alone I say I am supporting this Bill, because a few Gentlemen who count for nothing and mean nothing but talk about Ulster, as if they had Ulster in their pocket, whose mission it is to come here and try the dirty game of raising Protestant against Catholic—[HON. MEMBERS:"Order order."] Yes, I say it deliberately, men whose only ambition in this House is to play the dirty game—
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
I do not think it is necessary for me to follow the hon. Gentleman in the speech he has made. I have no desire to lecture him, and, perhaps, I should not be very far wrong in saying he has been endeavouring to lecture us. That is a little beside the point, and I do not wish to pursue it. The time is already too short, in my opinion, which we have given to us to deal with one of the most important portions of this Irish Land Bill. It is rather interesting to think that the Royal Commission which set out to consider this question took two years before they reported. They had 116 sittings.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
There were 500 witnesses, 60,386 questions, and II volumes of evidence, yet we are asked in five hours in an empty House of Commons, at the back-end of the Session, when, most Members are tired out by the ravages of the Finance Bill and have taken holidays, we are asked to pass through the 2186 House of Commons, as if it was sanctioned by the whole opinion of the House of Commons, a measure of very far-reaching importance. With regard to this proposal, which I think is one of a more drastic and far-reaching character than hon. Members have really been able to understand, it is very fortunate we are being allowed on this first Clause to discuss the whole policy of the new Congested Districts Board as it is set out. I think it should be seen clearly that there is a very wide distinction between this present Board as constituted and the Board which has been operating up to the present moment. It is possible to say a certain amount of good for the Board which has been acting, and I have no doubt that the operations of that Board could have been extended to meet the case without altering it in the manner proposed by this Bill. The duties of the present Board are well known; they were to promote the amalgamation of small holdings by aiding migration or emigration—though emigration has not been favourably looked upon—to provide seed potatoes and seed oats for sale to occupiers in congested districts; to aid and develop agriculture and forestry, the breeding of poultry, and the breeding of cattle and horses. Later on their duties were extended, and the Board were given powers to purchase and sell land to enlarge small holdings. Under Clause 45, however, a great many of the duties previously discharged by the Congested Districts Board are handed over to the Board of Agriculture; so that what is left to the new body is the helping of the smaller industries, the promotion of migration, and the enlargement of small holdings. It is proposed to hand over to the new Board an income increased from £80,000 to nearly £250,000. That is a very large sum—I am speaking as an English taxpayer—to hand over to be manipulated, if I may use the word—I do not wish to cast any aspersions whatever—by a Board constituted as is now proposed. In the limited time allotted we are asked to discuss, first of all, the increase in the number of members of the Board and the introduction of the elective principle; secondly, the enlargement of the area over which the Congested Districts Board will act; and thirdly, the conferring of compulsory powers. I maintain that the proposed alteration will to a large extent impair the capacity of the Board for useful work. It means, first of all, that the administration of the Land Purchase Acts over nearly one-third of the area of Ireland is placed in the hands of the Board. 2187 That is a far larger extension than has ever before been contemplated. I would, however, chiefly refer to the increase in the number of members of the Board. It is all-important that the Congested Districts Board should be a practical body, and that they should not spend more time than is necessary in wrangling and discussion. The proposed constitution, in my opinion, is more likely to lead to discussion and wrangling than would have been the case, in a compact body of 11 members. With regard to the elective element, it is obvious that the nine members representing the congested districts will all be actuated by one policy, and the new Board will probably be governed and dominated by representatives of the United Irish League.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
It is a very unfortunate thing that there is more divided opinion in Ireland with regard to the tenure of land than in any other part of the British dominions; but it would be out of order for me to go into that point. It is all-important that on a Board of this description, which is intended to bring peace and prosperity into the congested districts of Ireland, there should be representatives of both sides. I certainly should be in favour of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway being represented, and should do whatever lay in my power to see that that was done; but it is equally important that the other side should be represented also. I am afraid, however, that on the Board constituted as proposed there will be a large preponderance of those who represent the tenant farmer as against the landlords' interest. It is also very desirable, in connection with questions of the kind which this Board will have to decide, that it should not be possible to bring local pressure to bear upon the members. I am all in favour of local knowledge and local experience, but when it is possible for local pressure to be brought to bear on various individuals it is obvious, without accusing any member of the Board of corruption, that a man representing a particular district, human nature being what it is, is bound to try to get the largest amount he can for the locality he represents. For this reason I am opposed to the representative element on the Board. I believe it would have been quite possible to find fair-minded men upon whom local pres- 2188 sure could not successfully be brought to bear. In conclusion, I should like to quote an opinion expressed by Lord Macdonnell, in which he supports the view I have ventured to put forward. He says:—Moreover, in a Board so constituted the elective members would naturally favour the tenant's points of view, and this would lead to procure being put on the Government to use its power of nomination to establish an equilibrium of opinion. In the result the Board would become a partisan board, cease to command confidence and sink into an arena of acrimonious discussions.
§ Mr. CONOR O'KELLY
It appears to me that the importance, of this proposed new Board has been unduly magnified. The Noble Lord who has just spoken sail that the new body would have the control of a quarter of a million of money, and he apparently implied that there would be a temptation for those who had to administer it to depart from the strict paths of rectitude. The fact of the matter is that this Board will have no such authority at all over the income. Under Clause 43 the administration of this £250,000 is to be entirely in the hands of the Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary, the permanent members, and two other members of the Board not being ex-officio members, to be chosen by the appointed and representative members, the meaning of which is that you will have controlling the finance four members of the Congested Districts Board associated with two members appointed by those who represent the county councils. That is only two. The fact of the matter is that the body proposed to be set up will have really no influence whatever upon the administration of this income of the Congested Districts Board. To my mind it will be a Board with far less influence than the Board that advises the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture. Its-functions are purely advisory, and all it can do when local trouble arises in the counties is to assist the Government of the day in bringing about peace. To say that this new body which is proposed to be set up can have any authority, good, bad, or indifferent, direct or indirect, upon the administration of this quarter of a million of money, is to suggest something that is the apotheosis of absurdity. There is nothing in the Bill to warrant such a statement. I do not know why it is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway refer in their speeches to the possibility of corruption. Is there anything in the public-life of Ireland within the last ten years, since local government was given to the country, which justifies any innuendo of 2189 the kind being made? It is unjust, unfair, and indefensible, and hon. Members should really be more cautious before they make statements of the kind. Whatever one may think as to the wisdom or unwisdom of setting up the machinery of this Bill, there is one thing, at any rate, can be said: That there is nothing in the history of Ireland within the last ten years—search the country from end to end, make the most exhaustive inquiry in every single county—to justify even the suggestion that Irish public men cannot show the same integrity, and possibly greater integrity, in the administration of local affairs than they have shown in countries not 60 miles from Dublin. We have no Poplar or West Ham scandals in Ireland! It is quite unfair, and it is also unworthy, especially of Irishmen, to make these insinuations, and I should think specially inappropriate in the Noble Lord—
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
May I interrupt? I thought the speech of the hon. Member was aimed at me, although I was not quite certain. May I say I have made no charge of corruption against anyone?
§ Mr. CONOR O'KELLY
No direct charges have been made, but that is what I complain of. Innuendoes have been thrown out and suggestions of the possibility of corruption have been expressed. It is that we complain of. If there is any foundation for a charge of that kind let us hear it and know it. These suggestions that there is a temptation to corruption, in my opinion, ought not to be made. I am quite satisfied that if there are to be Congested District Boards established, and representatives of various bodies upon them—although the power given to them by this Bill is very limited and their functions are extremely restricted—that at the same time their record in the work they will have to transact will be stainless. Whatever else may be said about them, in that particular no reproach will be made. There is one other question that I should like to put to the Attorney-General in regard to Clause 50. I would like to know whether it is intended to bring all the officials of the Congested Districts Board under a common system of superannuation? Many of these men are not Civil servants. They have been taken on to the Board through influence of one kind or another, and I should like to know whether all of these are to be included in the proposed superannuation scheme?
§ Mr. CHERRY
I will answer that question at once. So far as I understand the object of this Clause—I am not quite sure—it is to bring under a superannuation scheme those who are not entitled to superannuation as Civil servants.
§ Mr. CONOR O'KELLY
I understand that there are only three officials altogether under the Congested Districts Board who are entitled to get pensions.
§ Mr. BARRIE
I have listened closely for the most part to the speeches made this afternoon, and, with reference to what has been said by the hon. Member for North Mayo, there has been no charge of corruption made. If such a charge had been made, I would have felt it incumbent upon me, as a member of various local bodies in Ireland, to have protested against such a suggestion; but I am able to join in the statements which have been made from all parts of the House this afternoon as to the general good government which has taken place under the Local Government Act of 1898. I take the opportunity of reassuring hon. Members below the Gangway that no such charge has been made. We have listened with some attention to the comments of the hon. Member for North Mayo, because he was a Member of the Commission of which we have heard so much this afternoon. He had the personal independence of character to associate himself with Lord Macdonnell in opposition to the electoral aspect of the new Board proposed to be set up. It shows that even amongst our Nationalist Friends that there is at least hesitation in adopting an absolutely new proposition which is put forward in this third portion of the Bill.
§ Mr. CONOR O'KELLY
My objection is not because I was opposed in the least to popular representation for the Congested Districts Board. My desire for the transference of the functions of the Congested Districts Board to the Estates Commissioners was entirely because I was anxious that the work should be done expeditiously and well, and because, in my judgment, after long and careful consideration, the Estates Commissioners were the better body.
§ Mr. BARRIE
Having mentioned the fact, I will leave that matter. I think every Member who has addressed the 2191 House this afternoon has felt that he was dealing with what is a very real and a very grave problem, and we desire, although offering a most strenuous opposition to this third part of the Bill, at once and in the most full and ample manner to admit that this portion of the Bill proposes to deal with a problem of the utmost seriousness, and because of that we venture to suggest it cannot be properly or adequately discussed at this stage of the proceedings and in the very short time placed at our disposal. We have heard a great deal from hon. Members in justification of the new Board which is proposed to be set up. The hon. Member for Mayo insisted we had a parallel for this Board in the Council of Agriculture in Ireland. I propose to examine the arguments which are suggested as a justification for this Board, the Board and Council of Agriculture. The Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture will agree with me when I suggest that the Council of Agriculture is a body dealing with a limited amount of public money.
§ the Board. The Council has nothing to do with the finances or with money. The Board have full control.
§ Mr. BARRIE
I am not prepared to split hairs with the Vice-President. He knows what I am referring to, and he knows no grants are given by the Board of Agriculture or the Council until the counties in Ireland have struck a rate in aid and qualified for the grant. That is an effective check upon any maladministration of the Department. We rejoice in the success of the Department, and all sections of Members of Parliament and public men in Ireland have united in attributing to it that success, but what I want to emphasise is that the expenditure of that Board or Council is held adequately in check because every Council in Ireland can only receive its grant in aid when they have struck a certain amount of taxation. That is the difference between the Board of Agriculture and the Board which is proposed to be set up by this Clause. The hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) pointed out that under the scheme which is now before the House we have no clause dealing with auditing. The Chief Secretary in his reply made no reference to that, and what I suggest is that if this portion of the Bill is to be forced through it is absolutely necessary we should have a proper and adequate public audit of the money spent.
And it being Nine of the clock, the Chairman proceeded, in pursuance of the Order of the House of 15th June, to put forthwith the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 221; Noes, 44.2193
|Division No. 517.]||AYES||[9.2 p.m.|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.)||Brooke, Stopford||Devlin, Joseph|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Dillon, John|
|Ambrose, Robert||Bryce, J. Annan||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Armitage, R.||Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Duffy, William J.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Burke, E. Havlland||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Causton, Rt. Hon. Richard Knight||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Clancy, John Joseph||Elibank, Master of|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Cleland, J. W.||Esmonde, Sir Thomas|
|Barran, Sir John Nicholson||Clough, William||Essex, R. W.|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Evans, Sir S. T.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead)||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Cox, Harold||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Fenwick, Charles|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Crean, Eugene||Ferens, T. R.|
|Boland, John||Crooks, William||Ffrench, Peter|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Crossley, William J.||Field, William|
|Brace, William||Cullman, J.||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Branch, James||Curran, Peter Francis||Flynn, James Christopher|
|Brigg, John||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Gilhooly, James|
|Bright, J. A.||Delany, William||Gill, A. H.|
|Ginnell, L.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Redmond, John E. (Waterfowl)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John||Macdonald, J. R, (Leicester)||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Glover, Thomas||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Maclean, Donald||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Gooch, George Peabody (Bath)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Roche, Augustine (Cork)|
|Gulland, John W.||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Macpherson, J. T.||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Hancock, J. G.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Rowlands, J.|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Calthness-shire)||M'Callum, John M.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Harrington, Timothy||M'Kean, John||Samuel, S. M. (whitechapel)|
|Hart-Davies, T,||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Mallet, Charles E.||Scarisbrick, Sir T. T. L.|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Marnham, F. J.||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Massie, J.||Sears, J. E|
|Hazleton, Richard||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Seddon, J.|
|Mealy, Maurice (Cork)||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)||Shackleton, David James|
|Healy, Timothy Michael||Molteno, Percy Alport||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Mooney, J. J.||Sheehy, David|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Morrell, Philip||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Henry, Charles S.||Muldoon, John||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Hodge, John||Murnaghan, George||Steadman, W. C.|
|Hogan, Michael||Murphy, John (Kerry, East)||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Hooper, A. G.||Nannettl, Joseph P.||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Horniman, Emslle John||Napier, T. B.||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Nicholls, George||Summerbell, T.|
|Hudson, Walter||Nolan, Joseph||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Hyde, Clarendon G.||Norman, Sir Henry||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Jackson, R. S.||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Jardine, Sir J.||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Jenkins, J.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Johnson, John (Gateshead)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Wardle, George J.|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Dowd, John||Waring, Walter|
|Jowett, F. W.||O'Grady, J||Watt, Henry A.|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Kavanagh, Walter M.||O'KOlly, James (Roscommon, N.)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Keating, M.||O'Maliey, William||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Kekewich, Sir George||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||wiles, Thomas|
|Kelley, George D.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wllkie, Alexander|
|Kettle, Thomas Michael||Partington, Oswald||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Kilbride, Denis||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Lambert, George||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Lamont, Norman||Philips, John (Longford, S.)||Winfrey, R.|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Young, Samuel|
|Lehmann, R. C.||Power, Patrick Joseph||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Lundon, T.||Radford, G. H.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain Norton and Mr. Fuller.|
|Lupton, Arnold||Reddy, M.|
|Ashley, W. W.||Craik, Sir Henry||MacCaw, Win. J. MacGeagh|
|Balcarres, Lord||Doughty, Sir George||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Moore, William|
|Baring, Captain Hon. G. (Winchester)||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Fletcher, J. S.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Beech, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Forster, Henry William||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Gordon, J.||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B. S. Edm'ds.)||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, E.)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M.||Haddock, George B.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hamilton, Marquess of||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hill, Sir Clement||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Clark, George Smith||Kerry, Earl of|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt. -Col. A. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir A. Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dublin, S.)|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
§ The Chairman then proceeded successively to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the Clauses to be concluded at Nine of the clock this day, and on any Amendments thereto moved by the Government, of which notice had been given.