LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
, in rising to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying Her Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire whether the Irish landlords have sustained any loss owing to the working of the Irish Land Bill of 1881; and, if so, the amount of such loss; and to report whether according to legal precedent and justice they are not entitled to compensation for such loss,said, he must ask the indulgence of their Lordships while he stated the reasons why they should agree to the Motion. At the same time, he thought that no apology was necessary on his part for bringing this important subject under 1391 the notice of the House. The subject was one of the greatest importance, and of vital interest to many of the most loyal of Her Majesty's subjects. To begin with, declarations made, both by the Prime Minister and the Bessborough Commission, made it clear that the landlords of Ireland came forward with clean hands in this matter, the former having given it as his opinion that "the landlords of Ireland have been on their trial, and, as a rule, have been acquitted;" while the latter had placed the fact what in England would be considered upon record that "it is unusual to exact full and fair commercial rent." The landlords, therefore, were free of any accusation of taking an unfair advantage of their tenants and exacting a rack rent. That the Act of 1881 had involved substantial loss to the landlords there could be no doubt. In the course of the discussions on the measure two years ago, the Prime Minister, the Lord President, and the Lord Chancellor, and other Members of the Government, had, indeed, most distinctly stated that there would be little or no reduction in rents; but these anticipations had not been realized, though he did not question the honesty of the opinions at the time they were expressed. When this question was brought before the House last year, the Lord President stated that the reductions would not continue, as they had taken place on a few high-rented estates; but, there again, the opinion of the noble Lord had not been realized. It was on these unfulfilled anticipations that the Bill of 1881 was passed; and their Lordships would see, therefore, that in all fairness and justice there was a legitimate cause for inquiry as to whether compensation was not due to the landlords. The Prime Minister, in referring to Mr. Parnell's claim that substantial reduction should be made in landlords' rents, stated "he could not distinguish between substantial reduction and public plunder." He would show that substantial reduction had taken place, and he asked for the inquiry to prevent public plunder. The Return of the action of the Land Court during the last three months of 1882 showed that there had been an average reduction, over all parts of Ireland, of 21 per cent; and when they remembered that that was a redaction from the net income of the landlords they would see how serious 1392 was the loss, because their taxes, payments, and other charges, continued exactly the same as they were before. But the loss did not end here, because a Return of the Lauded Estates Court showed that property in Ireland was very unsaleable at present; so that if a mortgage was called in it was impossible to borrow money. Thus it was quite certain that many unfortunate families, who had committed no crime, would be reduced to absolute penury and want. With regard to the claim to compensation under these circumstances, the Prime Minister, in 1870, said this—The Legislature has, no doubt, the perfect right to reduce him to that condition" (that of a rent charger) "giving him proper compensation for any loss he may sustain in money.… if it think fit."—(3 Hansard,  351.)And only last year he used this expression—"Landlords have aright to claim to have the loss that may be proved to be caused by the change in the law made good to them at the public expense." He was sure the State would not wish to act on any other principle, or take away the property of any one class without giving compensation. In all Bills dealing with private property for public purposes, a clause was inserted obliging the promoters to pay for such property under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act; and it was only owing to the acceptance of the repeated assurances of the Prime Minister and other Members of Her Majesty's Government that no loss would accrue to landlords under this Act that a similar clause was not inserted in this Bill. All that he asked their Lordships was to press Her Majesty to grant an impartial tribunal by which the losses sustained by the landlords of Ireland could be ascertained and redressed; and he did not see, looking at the precedents, how the Motion could be refused. What were the precedents in this matter? There was the Act of 1833, by which slavery was abolished, and regarding which Mr. Gladstone had said that while slavery was opposed to all English feeling, yet, as slavery had been accepted by law, it was only just and fair that compensation should be granted to the slave owners. £20,000,000 were granted in that case as compensation, of which the family of the right hon. Gentleman received £100,000. That was in respect of property in slaves. Looking at that prece- 1393 dent, he did not see how compensation could be refused to the Irish landlords. In the matter of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, full compensation was also granted to the clergy for their life interest; and again, on the abolition of Purchase in the Army, compensation was ganted to the officers to the amount of £12,000,000 or £14,000,000. In the matter of the changes which it was proposed to make in the licensing system, the principle that compensation should be granted to those who fairly sustained loss was accepted by the President of the Board of Trade. Again, in the case of change in the collection of the Income Tax, those who would be deprived of their situations were to receive compensation, though they held their places only during pleasure. Compensation had been, or was to be, granted in those cases because it was honest and just; and why should it be refused to Irish landlords? Another case in which compensation was paid by Government was that of the Alabama Claims, for the injury which that vessel did to American commerce. For a long time the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and his Predecessor altogether repudiated the principles of International Law on which the claims were made; but the American Government insisted on the abrogation of all former rules, and under new rules the case was referred to arbitration, with the result that a sum was granted by the Government, which exceeded, he believed, by one-half the sum that the American Government received claims for. The American Government had force behind them; the landlords of Ireland had not, and they must trust in the justice of Parliament. Under the circumstances, he would ask their Lordships and the Government to decide fairly and justly, and to deal with the landlords of Ireland on the principle that they had observed in dealing with the property of Her Majesty's subjects in every other part of the country. He hoped the Government would put aside all considerations of Party, and would assent to the Motion which he now begged to move.Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying Her Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire whether the Irish landlords have sustained any loss owing to the working of the Irish Land Bill of 1881; and, if so, the amount of such loss; and to report whether according to legal precedent and 1394 justice they are not entitled to compensation for such loss."—(The Lord Oranmore and Browne.)
THE EARL OF LONGFORD
said, his noble Friend had proved his case, in so far that he had shown that the landlords of Ireland had suffered much loss under the operations of the Land Act; but he was afraid his noble Friend was kicking against the pricks in asking for anything in the shape of direct compensation for an interest which had been injured by the Liberal Party. There were, however, public charges which pressed heavily and unfairly upon some classes in Ireland, and which ultimately came upon or affected the landlords, that should be dealt with. These charges included the interest paid on advances for the construction of railways and the instalments of drainage loans and land improvement loans, and they might be more equally distributed among the different classes, or reduced without serious loss to the Revenue. Since the Act of 1881 these charges, which were formerly distributed, now fell upon the landlords—that was, the improvements went to one class, and the charges to another. With regard to the minor drainage of the country, the so-called "improving tenants "—who were, it was said, going to do so much when they were relieved of the heavy hand of the landlords—had, in fact, ceased to make improvements, and were ruining their neighbours and themselves by neglect of ordinary works of maintenance. Lately, a case was before the Land Commissioners sitting at Naas, and it came out in evidence that lands were becoming deteriorated in consequence of the tenants neglecting the drainage. It was there stated, not by a landlord or agent, but by two Sub-Commissioners sitting in Court, that one of the most serious problems would be how they were to keep open the drainage of the country; and if some means were not found, the drains would be choked up, and lands would become worthless. He feared that with many tenants reduced rent would mean reduced production, to the loss of the community. The idea that rent was not a fair and just obligation, and was rather to be regarded as an odious tax, had been industriously circulated in Ireland, and the seed had fallen on such good ground that the opinion was now generally adopted. Country shopkeepers very often also held 1395 farms; they managed their trade concerns on commercial principles, but would not understand the rent of their farm to be met as a bill at six months. Even religion took side in this unfortunate controversy. He did not speak of the action of certain authorities in the Roman Catholic Church; but other forms of religion sympathized in the movement. He had heard of a case where a new valuation upon a large estate was unfavourable to the tenants, and the local preacher the next Sunday addressed his congregation upon the text—"The rent is made worse." There were certain conditions which were essential to the success of small farming; they were, good markets, good communications, and an industrial population of skilled agriculturists ready to work long hours; and all these conditions were wanting in Ireland, except in certain special localities. They must, therefore, fall back upon emigration, not the cruel banishment that had been described, but emigration judiciously promoted and encouraged by the Government; a judicious movement from places where it was now impossible to live, to places where the conditions of life were more favourable, and they must look for compensation more to indirect than to direct results.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
said, he believed that it was at first the honest conviction of the Government that no injury would accrue to any fair-minded landowner from the operation of the Land Act of 1881; but he did hope that before the discussion closed they might have from some Member of the Government an admission that their expectations as to that had been disappointed, and that they had been mistaken. He ventured to say that outside the Government there was not a single Member of the House who had the slightest acquaintance with Ireland who was not convinced that the effect of that Act had been to work serious wrong in almost every part of Ireland. He was not going to discuss whether it was right or wrong to pass such an Act; but he wanted to point out, whatever was the intention of the authors, what had been the actual effect of the Act on the class who owned land in Ireland. The fact that there had been a very general reduction, and in some cases a most serious reduction, of rent could not be disputed. He would give the case of a considerable 1396 landowner in a Western county, in which the rents had been reduced 40 per cent, and yet those rents were very much as he had found them when he succeeded to the property. He also found charges on the property, and the result was that he was left absolutely penniless. Surely that was a case in which Her Majesty's Government should come forward and endeavour to afford some relief, either by paying off the charges or otherwise, so as to enable some portion of that estate so situated to be saved for the owner. In his case, the effect of the Act had been, so far from doing him no injury, to deprive him of every sixpence he had. He would give another case from a Southern county in which the estate had descended in the family from generation to generation, and in which the rents had had a character for being low. The tenants demanded a reduction of 30 per cent, and the landlord sent over the estate one of his tenants from another part of the country, and the result of his investigation was that, in his opinion, the rents were actually below the fair letting value at the present time; and yet the result would be that that landowner would also be left without one single farthing to live upon. It was exceedingly difficult for any landowner to know what to do. He had known cases in which valuers of practical experience had been sent over the properties by the owners with the simple instruction to put a fair letting value upon the land, and the owners had interfered in no sense whatever; and in every single instance the decisions of those practical men had been utterly upset by the Sub-Commissioners, and a large reduction had been made. Cases had also come before him in which rents which had been paid since the commencement of the century without any remonstrance had been cut down 20 and 25 per cent by the action of the Commissioners. That might or might not be right. But it was utterly impossible that the owner of that property should not consider that he had been injured by that Act. Another injustice was that the value put upon the tenant's interest in his holding was very often out of all proportion to what the actual value was. Within the last month a case had been decided by the Sub-Commissioners in which a farm had been let between four and five years ago at 1397 the rent of £50 a-year to a stranger, and had come into the hands of the landlord because of the insolvency of the former tenant. Within four years the tenant had appealed to the Sub-Commissioners, and they had decided that the rent had been and was a fair rent; but when they were called upon to fix the tenant's interest in the holding, they had fixed it at £250, which was exactly six years' purchase. Upon what principle, he asked, was that man, who had only been in the farm four years, entitled to six years' purchase, if the landlord wished to take possession of the land? A third reason for the deterioration of the property was the enormous sums paid by incoming tenants for possession. It was impossible, as everyone knew who was acquainted with the subject, for tenants to farm profitably under such an incubus; and the result generally was that they started considerably in debt for the money expended in purchasing the outgoing tenant's interest. That was his own experience; but he had also qualified that experience by the authority of one of the most experienced land agents in the North of Ireland, a gentleman who managed property, the rental of which amounted to £80,000 per annum. He had assured him that not only did the tenant borrow the money in the first instance to acquire the outgoing tenant's interest, but often had to borrow a second time to satisfy the chattel interests of his brothers and sisters in the land, so that the interest he had to pay for these loans obtained from the bank or the gombeen man frequently, exceeded the amount he paid for rent. Was it possible that a farmer loaded with such a weight at starting could do justice to the land? And, if not, was it not a distinct injustice to the landlord that the custom should be introduced where it never existed before, and where landlords had spent many thousands to avoid it? Was it not hard that the landlord should find his estates deteriorating year by year in consequence of this power of sale? He knew one case in which a tenant, after only five years' possession, sold his interest for three and a-half years' purchase, and left for America with the proceeds, leaving his successor to invest his savings, not in the land, but in the purchase of this right, when, but for the operation of the Act, he would not have been called 1398 upon to pay anything. If the land hunger really were such as the Ministers had described, they ought not to have stimulated it by introducing an enactment which only assisted an unhealthy competition, and benefited nobody except the present tenant. He did not wish to speak of any personal grievance, though he also had his own tale to tell; but this thing was steadily going on, and, for the most part, the small gentry of Ireland were ruined. He would give the House an illustration. Until four years ago a school of which he had some knowledge mustered 60 pupils; there were now seven, and the reason was because the smaller gentry were absolutely unable to give their children a liberal education. If that were the case, the time had come for the Government to take into consideration the position in which they had placed the landowners by their mistaken view of the effects of legislation. If they did not consider the time had arrived for any direct compensation to be awarded them, they certainly had a claim upon the sympathy— he might say, upon the justice—of their Lordships; and he was convinced that the more the matter was investigated by any reasonable and fair-minded man the more ready he would be to admit that the original expectation of the Act had been grievously disappointed, and that the result had been to do injustice to the large body of men whom he was convinced neither the Government nor their Lordships had any intention to injure.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just sat down has been very fair in what he has said of the intentions of the Government in framing and carrying out the Land Act of 1881; but he has just concluded a speech which might have been made on the second reading of the Bill. He thinks that because a very important portion of the Bill—the provision for the sale of a tenant's interest—was thereby enacted and has since been carried into effect, this forms some grounds for a claim for compensation to the landlords. The noble Viscount admitted that he knew little of the Province of Ulster, and I think that was evident from the view taken by him of the sale of tenants' interests there. Now, our experience of the Province of Ulster was, to a large extent, what guided us in this matter. 1399 The noble Viscount seems to think that the right of sale of the tenant's interest implies and produces a low rent, while it also deteriorates farms and injures estates; but anyone who knows Ireland, and especially the North of Ireland, is perfectly aware that the fact is exactly the reverse. Our legislation, so far from being based upon theory—upon mere radical theory, as has been said— was based upon experience and upon the best Irish examples; and we know that the system prevailing in Ulster stimulates the industry of the tenant, and produces a state of things in which the farm is better managed, and the tenants more prosperous and contented than in any other part of Ireland. In spite of the occasional abuse of the tenant's right, the fact that the tenant obtains the value of his own interest, so far from reducing the rental in Ulster, has been, to say the least, compatible with a rental which is higher in Ulster, considering the nature of the land, than in any other Province of Ireland. All these facts were thoroughly within the contemplation of Parliament when the Land Act was passed. It is not for the noble Viscount (Viscount Midleton) or the noble Earl (the Earl of Longford) to quarrel with the consequences and to claim compensation; but in my belief the legalized system of tenant right, so far from doing any injury to the landlords, will increase the prosperity of the tenants, and with that the prosperity of the owners themselves. The noble Viscount mentioned two or three calamitous cases where, no doubt, landlords had suffered; but it appeared to me, as I followed him, that they were all but ruined before the Land Act took effect. These cases remind me of those which occurred at the time of the great Irish Famine, when many landlords were absolutely crushed by the public rates and taxes, and afterwards ruined by the forced sales which took place in the Encumbered Estates Court. I believe that those were far more serious cases than any which have occurred now. But, although I much sympathize with those landlords, the noble Viscount did not give us any proof that the Commissioners had violated the Act they administer by reducing rents. He only said these were old rents which had long existed. If there is one thing more clearly ascertained than another, both 1400 by the Land Commissioners and by the experience of numbers of Irish landlords, it is that there is many an old rent in Ireland which, although old, is not a fair rent within the meaning of the Act, but a high and excessive one; and, although it may be a presumption in favour of the rent, the mere fact of it having long subsisted is no proof that it is fair and moderate. Some observations were made by the noble Viscount and the noble Earl with which I must feel sympathy as an Irish landlord—that certain concessions or advantages should be given by the Treasury in the way of repayment of public charges. I should be glad to share in those advantages, but I am not authorized to represent the Treasury on that ground. When I come to the Motion of the noble Lord, I must say that I could not help contrasting it with that of the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Dunraven), which came before your Lordships this day week, which was of a useful and practical nature; whereas it appears to me that this discussion is one which can lead to no advantage to those whom the noble Lord represents, or to the House. As I am anxious not to get further than is necessary into the labyrinth of controversy upon this subject, I shall reply to the Motion as briefly as is compatible with respect for the noble Lord. But before I come to it I wish to say that the noble Lord evidently fixes his eyes on one side only of the questions; but does he suppose there are no other sides to it? I am not speaking of the tenants' point of view, on which a great deal might be said, but of the landlords'. Has he ever thought of the losses and evils from which the landlords of Ireland may have been saved by the legislation of 1881? Has he considered what the condition of the landlords would have been if the Government and Parliament had turned an absolutely deaf ear to the demand made on them by the whole tenant class of Ireland and the classes dependent upon them? That demand and movement was, no doubt, stained by outrage and crime, and was made use of for their own purposes by those who represent the cause of separation and revolution; but that demand and movement was a perfectly genuine one, founded, we believe, on good and sufficient grounds, and expressing the feeling of grievance and the desire for change by the whole 1401 tenant class, including the most loyal, orderly, and law-abiding of the Irish tenant farmers—the tenants of Ulster. And that was a movement so genuine, so universal, so strongly felt, so well based upon facts, that if it had been thoroughly Constitutional, as thoroughly Constitutional and orderly as the Anti-Corn Law agitation, or any other great popular movement, it would inevitably have had its effect upon Parliament, and must equally have succeeded. If we had turned a deaf ear to those demands, what would have been the condition of the landlords of Ireland? Does the noble Lord think that if the Government and Parliament had ignored all these facts they could have secured the landlords of Ireland from one end of the country to the other in the peaceful enjoyment of all their legal rights; that any Government in this or any other country could have permanently secured the landlords of Ireland in the peaceful enjoyment of their legal rights under the old and un-reformed condition of the Land Laws? I should like to put that question to the noble Lord, or to any other fair-minded man. If the noble Lord thinks so, I am bound to say I believe he labours under an entire delusion, and it is that delusion which has produced the Motion now before us. As to the Motion itself, he first asks for a Royal Commission—To inquire whether the Irish landlords have sustained any loss owing to the working of the Irish Land Act?I am not quite sure what the noble Lord moans by "loss." If he means to use the word in the way of comparing the condition of the Irish landlords under the Land Act with what it would have been without the Land Act, not comparing their condition with an ideal Ireland, but taking the Ireland of 1881, with all the facts of the case and all the dangers before them—if he means that kind of comparison, or means to use the word "loss" in that large sense, then, of course, it is not a question to be inquired into by a Royal Commission. If, on the other hand, he uses the word "loss" in the mere sense of a reduction of rent, as I believe he does, then I should say to him—"Is it not written in the Blue Books of the Land Commissioners? "The noble Lord is furnished with all the information he wants—he can ascertain what those reductions have been. They have been of 1402 the most varying kind, varying from nothing at all up to occasionally a high percentage. On the whole, the percentage has been steadily diminishing, and is, I believe, at this moment, something like 14 or 15 per cent, on the average, upon the cases coming before the Courts—not, of course, upon the rental of Ireland. The noble Lord spoke as if the whole rental of Ireland was before the Courts. That is far from being the case. Cases of excessive renting, being most complained of, have probably come first before the Courts, and the percentage of reduction is very considerably less than it was at first. Then the noble Lord asks the Commission—To report whether according to legal precedent and justice they are not entitled to compensation for such loss.That, I submit, is not a question for a Royal Commission. It is one which we must decide for ourselves. The question is, what are the landlords to be compensated for? It is a very obvious fact, though the noble Lord seems to have dropped it out of his mind, that Parliament, when it passed the Land Act of 1881, intended that there should be a reduction of rent in Ireland in every case in which the rent was above the fair rent; and for such eases I do not suppose that the noble Lord intends to make a claim for compensation. How often such cases might occur, and how much of the rental of Ireland was above the fair rental, was a matter which it was utterly impossible to know for certain beforehand. But so long as the Land Courts in Ireland act within the terms and spirit of the Land Act, and there is no violation of its provisions, I submit to the noble Lord that nothing can have been done, no rent can have been reduced, and no loss can have been sustained by Irish landlords which Parliament, when it passed the Bill, could have contemplated as an injustice that would form a rightful subject of compensation. It is on these grounds that I put it to the noble Lord whether this is a Motion which he can expect this House to adopt. I have a very faint hope indeed that the noble Lord will ever be able to agree with me on the merits of this question; but as to his Motion, and to the appeal for compensation in consequence of those effects having followed from the Land Act which were clearly in the contemplation 1403 of Parliament when it passed that measure, I have some expectation that the noble Lord, or, at all events, this House, will be of opinion that such an inquiry as he proposes is absolutely unsuited to the circumstances of the case.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
wished to make one remark on an observation which fell from, the noble Lord the Lord President of the Council in reference to tenant right in Ulster. It was quite true that formerly in Ulster tenants had very often given large sums for tenant right; but in those cases no reduction was ever made from the rent of the landlord.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
But the noble Lord omitted to state that it was only since the Act of 1881 passed that large sums had been cut off from the rent of the landlord. The noble Lord was sanguine that the Act of 1881 would produce great benefits to Irish landlords; but, looking not only to the reduction of rent under that Act, but also to the large slice that was cut out of the landlords' interest for the tenant right, he (the Duke of Abercovn) was sorry that he was unable to concur in the noble Lord's happy expectations.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
, in reply, said, that according, he believed, to the last Returns before the House, the reductions of rent made by the Commissioners were 21 per cent. How, then, could the Lord President state that the reductions were but 13 per cent? The Lord President stated that the Land Commissioners were fair and just men. He did not deny that so far as it was possible in the circumstances in which they were placed; but what were those circumstances? A few days back the Prime Minister stated that they valued about 100 holdings per day. Those holding's might be taken to contain an average of 10 acres each, probably divided into fields of 1 acre each—that was to say, 1,000 fields—two-fifths of Land Commissioners and Valuers—say 30 each day. If they were as fleet as deer and as wise as Solomon, how could they go over, much less value, such an area within 10 hours? Again, these Land Commissioners held Office only during the pleasure of Her Majesty's Government. The Valuers appointed by the Com- 1404 missioners did not please the tenants. Her Majesty's Government discontinued them. With this example before them, how could it be expected that the Land Commissioners would act impartially? Again, the Lord President had asked, what rents would the landlords have got, save from the Crime Act? He asked how had the Crime Act become necessary, and what were the circumstances under which it had been passed? Whence had the agitation been encouraged? In the carefully-prepared speeches of the Prime Minister in Mid Lothian, what did he say to the Irish electors? "It was the Manchester murders and the Clerken well explosion that brought Irish affairs into the area of practical politics." These words were repeated at every Lund League meeting in Ireland. With what intent they were delivered he (Lord Oranmore and Browne) would not undertake to explain, but that they had contributed largely to encourage the organization of "The Invincibles" and the Dynamite Associations no reasonable man could doubt—nor could Irishmen forget that though there had been 50 murders committed in Ireland with entire immunity, the Crime Bill only came into the area of practical politics, when an English nobleman, the friend and kinsman of the Prime Minister, fell a victim! It was only then that Her Majesty's Government recognized the fact that it was their duty to suppress crime in Ireland. It was because they refused to fulfil this duty that Lord Cowper and Mr. Forster resigned. The Land League Conspiracy was a conspiracy, not only against rents, but against law, order, and English connection. Her Majesty's Government were well aware of this; but they valued the Irish vote far more than the fulfilment of their first duty, the preservation of life and property.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not rise to answer the general observations of the noble Lord, who has just spoken; but this is the first time I have heard the assertion made in this House that the Crimes Act was introduced after, and in consequence of, the assassination of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland. That the Bill was actually brought into the House of Commons after that unhappy event is undoubtedly true; but I can assure the noble Lord that not only had the Government de- 1405 cided upon the introduction of that measure—and, if I am not very much mistaken, they had made an intimation to that effect in the House of Commons before that event—but the measure was in course of preparation, and it was as nearly as possible settled with the assistance of the present Lord Lieutenant (Earl Spencer) before he went over to Ireland.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
As this point has come upon us suddenly I can only speak from memory; but I have a strong recollection that Ministers informed the House of Commons that considerable modifications would be made in the provisions of the Crimes Act in consequence of or after the sad event to which the noble and learned Earl has referred.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Certainly, it is not possible to say that no modification was made, because, as I have just stated, the Bill had not been, in all its details, finally settled; but of all the modifications which were made, at all events, there was only one of any serious moment.
THE MARQUESS OF WATERFOED
Mr. Forster, when he made a certain remarkable statement in "another place," said he would not have resigned the position of Chief Secretary for Ireland if the Government had obtained further powers to strengthen the hands of the Irish Executive. I put it to your Lordships whether the very powers which this Bill contained would not have enabled Mr. Forster to remain in the Office of Chief Secretary? However that may be, we in Ireland, at any rate, believed that the Bill was in consequence of the frightful transaction which took place in Phœnix Park. I believe that even at this moment nine people out of every 10 in Ireland are of the same opinion, which is strengthened by the statement of Mr. Forster to which I have alluded.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I have not had the opportunity of referring to what took place; but I should be extremely surprised if my former Colleague, Mr. Forster, were to contest what I am about to say— namely, that the cause of his resignation was not in consequence of the refusal to give him fresh powers. So far as I remember, the point was whether certain persons should or should not be 1406 let out of gaol before further powers were granted. With regard to what fell from my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, I can confirm what he has said. The Bill which was brought in was agreed upon in all its substantial points, and was in print before that terrible murder took place in Phœnix Park. There were two or throe points left open for discussion, as would happen in measures of such importance, and, therefore, in that sense the Bill was not absolutely settled; but I repeat that in all its substantial details the Bill was settled before the murders of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
My Lords, it is very difficult to enter into a discussion of this sort without Notice; but the facts, so far as I recollect, are these. Before the frightful tragedy in Phœnix Park the proposal of the Government was to take the Arrears Bill before any other legislation of a special kind with respect to Ireland; but after those murders took place there was a transposition, and the Crimes Bill then came to the front. Otherwise there could have been no promise whatever as to when that Bill would be brought on. None, I believe, was given to the House of Commons; but, naturally enough, when the murders took place, the order in which those two Bills were to be taken was transposed, though, no doubt, the Arrears Bill was to be considered pari passu with the Crimes Bill.
THE EARL OF MILLTOWN
My Lords, the public were under the impression that, had it not been for the Phœnix Park murders, it was the intention of the Government to go on with the Procedure Resolutions, and then with the Arrears Bill, before introducing the Crimes Bill.
§ On question, resolved in the negative.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.