asked the Prime Minister if he was aware that there is on the Journals of the House a Resolution which declares that the position of Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland was intended by Parliament to be, and in fact is, a Ministerial and Parliamentary office; and whether, having regard to the fact that the present Vice-President has been out of Parliament for more than a year and did not seek election at the recent General Election, he would state what are the special circumstances which have induced him to refuse to accept the resignation of Mr. Russell, and to continue him in office contrary to the Resolution of the House, and to the statement made by the Chief Secretary in 1907 that the Government had definitely and determinately decided that the office should be held by a Member of the House of Commons?
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
The Resolution referred to in the question was framed in the last Parliament but one, and was as follows:—"That the position of Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland was intended by Parliament to be, and in fact is, a Ministerial and Parliamentary office, properly vacated upon a change of Government, and that the retention of that office by a political opponent of the Government of the day is undesirable as a permanent arrangement." The special circumstances referred to in my previous reply are the qualifications of Mr. Russell for a difficult post and the probability at a not remote date of the reconstruction of Irish administration.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reply to the latter part of the question as to his statement that the Government "had definitely and determinately decided that the office should be 693 held by a Member of the House of Commons," and whether, under the circumstances he could not see his way to measure out the same justice in this case as in the case of his predecessor in office when Vice-President and accept his resignation, and so fulfil the conditions laid down by the Government?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
There is a great distinction between the Parliament of 1907 and the present Parliament. The Parliament of 1907 had no power itself to deal with the question which I mentioned in the last part of my answer. We were not in a position at that time to propose an entire reconstruction of Irish administration. We are now in that position. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to state for how many years Sir Horace Plunkett held office when not a Member of the House of Commons?
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Will the right hon. Gentleman say when it is intended to propose the reconstruction of Irish administration?
I beg to give notice that I shall move the adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance.
§ Mr. LONSDALE
Will the right hon. Gentleman say when the Government intend to introduce the Bill for the reconstruction of Irish administration?