§ The QUEEN'S SPEECH reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ LORD BRASSEY (who wore the uniform of an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve) said
My Lords, I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in reply to the gracious speech from the Throne. The task which has been assigned to me is usually allotted to one of the younger Members of your Lordships' House. It affords an opportunity, and it will be remembered how well that opportunity was used last year. My Lords, I deeply regret that among the independent sup-porters of Her Majesty's Government in this House I see so few young men coming forward. To express regret is not to lay all the blame and all the responsibility upon those who have left us. Reconciliation is mulch to be desired not upon the narrow grounds of Party advantage, but in the public interest. We need on both sides of politics, and in both Houses of Parliament, an adequate-representation of all orders, all classes, and all interests. And now, my Lords, I turn to the subjects more directly connected with Her Majesty's gracious Speech. The Irish question stands foremost in the scheme of legislative labour proposed for the ensuing Session. The wisdom of Parliament has never yet failed to grapple with any of the tasks which the progress of events has from time to time imposed upon us. Are we now to confess before time whole civilised world that it is impossible to make Ireland at once contented and orderly? Two alternatives are before us: There is the present system which I may de- 7 scribe as democracy, tempered or qualified by coercion, and there is the alternative of concession within the limits of prudence to the demand of Ireland for local self-government. Local self-government has been tried in many parts of the Empire, and nowhere yet has it failed to give contentment to the people and a sense of responsibility to the rulers. In the hands of so able a statesman as Mr. Balfour, of whose services in maintaining law and order in Ireland a political opponent may speak with acknowledgment, it might not be impossible, by the Jinn exercise of authority, to secure many of the objects of good government; but if you fail to lessen the burden of the people, how can you reconcile your system with those democratic institutions which you are not prepared to give up even in Ireland? With a free Press, with a full—nay, an excessive representation in Parliament, and with household suffrage, how is it possible to carry on for a long period of years a mode of government against that local opinion and sentiment to which you allow such full and unchecked liberty of expression? It seems to me it is inconsistent with the representative institutions which you have given to Ireland to conduct the Government in total disregard of the opinions of the great majority of the people constitutionally expressed. It was a wise saying of Marcus Aurelius—A prudent ruler will not offend the prejudices of his people. He may well wish that they were wiser.
§ There have been occasions when the truth of this maxim might have found its application near at hand. My Lords, does not the main objection to any plan of Home Rule he in a deep-rooted distrust of the political capacities of the Irish people; and may it not be pleaded in their Poverty that they have suffered from more miserable than have perhaps befallen any people? They have suffered from miserable poverty; they have suffered from much oppression; they have suffered from uncertainty of purpose on the part of their rulers. In the hands of every writer, whether a Froude or a Lecky, a Burke or a Swift, the history of Ireland contains more dark pages than are to be found in the history of any nation within the pale of civilisation. The faults of the Irish people are the faults of a nation which has lived in serfdom. The first stage 8 of emancipation may be difficult. We are passing through that stage now: let us not despair of the future. My Lords, these are the considerations—they are only some of the considerations—which have induced those sitting in this circumscribed quarter of the House to follow Mr. Gladstone in the adoption of the principle of local self-government for Ireland. Of the statesmanship with which that principle has been applied we shall be in a position to judge when the Bill of the Government has been placed before Parliament. I trust that my right hon. Friend will have prepared a plan which prudent followers may cordially accept, and which even the Opposition may be able to entertain. It would he idle to expect that any plan on a question bristling with difficulties, coming front one side only, can he so perfect as not to he susceptible of improvement by the patriotic labours of the other. My Lords, with a sense of relief I turn to subjects in wit happily Party divisions are little felt. The country will learn with satisfaction from the assurances conveyed in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech that we hold friendly relations with all foreign Powers. The able administration of foreign affairs by the noble Marquess opposite (Lord Salisbury) has been acknowledged by both sides. I am not in the confidence of the successor of the noble Marquess; but when my noble Friend was called to the Foreign Office, not only by the Party with which he acts, but by an unanimous public opinion, it was anticipated that he would go there to preserve the continuity of our foreign policy. And what is that policy? We cherish no designs of aggression or annexation. An Empire upon which the sun never sets is vast enough to satisfy the widest and loftiest ambition. The maim aim and concern of every foreign Minister of England must he to preserve the links which hind the Mother Country to her sons and daughters in her colonies, and to her noble dependencies in every quarter of the globe. We are bound to keep in view at all times the defence of India, and the defence of our line of communications with the East. In war the safer and surer route to the East must be by the Cape; but our interests in India gave us an interest in Egypt, which eventually, on the refusal of other Powers to act, imposed upon us 9 the responsibility of restoring and maintaining order after the suppression of the rebellion of Arabi. Before retiring from Egypt we are pledged to establish a firm and stable Government in that country. The capacity of Englishmen for such a task has been once more illustrated in the success which has been achieved by Lord Cromer and those acting under his directions. The Government may be congratulated on the results which have followed his prompt action taken to prevent the good work begun in Egypt being undone by hasty and ill-considered changes in the local administration. Passing from foreign policy to colonial affairs, we in the Mother Country are watching with the deepest interest the progress of the great work of Australian federation. We look forward to the completion of the task by the able statesmen engaged in its consideration as tending not to draw us further apart, but to Lind its closer together. Pride in the colonies and affection for them are growing sentiments in this country. I will now turn to the paragraphs in the Speech dealing with those social and economic questions on which the piddle interest is, happily, firmly fixed, and which deeply affect the interests of those whose lot it is to labour. The prevention of conflicts between capital and labour; the relaxation, within the limits of prudence, of the conditions under which the bounty of the State is administered to the poor; age pensions, State colonisation, regulation of the hours of labour, popular control of the liquor traffic, bi-metallism, Protection, Fair Trade, Free Trade within the Empire, with differential duties on foreign importations —those are some, anti only some, of the questions which are now being debated. Most of these questions have been, or are now being, considered by Select Committees and Royal Commissions. It is an obvious remark upon all these questions that it would be fatal to the interests of labour to do anything by meddlesome legislation to weaken that spirit of self-reliance which is a characteristic virtue of the British workman; lout whenever the State can with advantage interfere, the Government have shown themselves ready to assist in the development of trade and the improvement in the condition of the workers. For the mass of 10 the population it must be the main concern to obtain good wages and regular work. These are blessings only to be enjoyed when trade is prosperous. Unfortunately, in late years, demand has not kept pace with the extraordinary development in our power of production. The best remedy for congestion in the old markets through over-production is to be found in the opening of new outlets; and in the pioneering stage the Government can render valuable aid. Attention has of late been specially directed to Africa, as a new outlet for our enterprise and trade, and au agreement has been authorised by which a subsidy would be given by the Crown to the colony of Bechuanaland in aid of the construction of railways. Sir Gerald Portal has been sent on au arduous mission to Uganda. The action taken by the Government in both these cases will command general approval. It is an appropriate exercise of the functions of the State to see that due regard is paid in all factories and workshops to sanitation and the safety of life. The Employers' Liability Act, which it is proposed to extend during the coming Session, rests on that principle. On the same ground the State may most properly interfere, as it is proposed to do in one of the Bills mentioned in the Speech, to Inuit the hours of duty-of railway servants. Much evidence has been given before the Royal Commission on Labour with reference to the insufficiency of inspection in factories, and especially in small workshops. The staff of Inspectors under the Home Office has been recently reinforced, and operatives, both men and women, have been appointed to posts for which they are The collection and distribution of information bearing on the prospects of trade and the state of thee labour market is one of the best services which a Trade Union can perform for its members. In this useful work the State may lend valuable co-operation. A beginning, and more than a beginning, has been made by the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade, under Mr. Giffen, and by that distinguished representative of our cultivated working men, Mr. Burnett, the Labour Correspondent. The work will be extended, and the results more widely made known, through the Labour De- 11 partment now being established under Mr. Mundella. Much loss and much suffering, borne with unavailing fortitude during prolonged strikes, would have been spared to the working people if they had been more amply possessed of that essential information, as to the state of the trade in which they are employed, which it is the business of the new Department to get together, and to diffuse. It would be ungracious to pass from this subject without acknowledging the painstaking labours of the members of the Diplomatic Service in gathering information on the trade of the countries in which they reside. It may be possible for the new Labour Department to supplement the admirable work done by the Boards of Arbitration and Courts of Conciliation which are now being established in every centre of business and every branch of industry. Witness after witness before the Royal Commission on Labour has borne test-money to the value of Courts of Conciliation. Employers and employed are brought face to face, and each side learns better to appreciate the circumstances and the difficulties of the other. My Lords, we are passing through a time of extreme depression for the agricultural interests. Occupiers and owners alike deserve and will receive the sympathy of the country, and the fullest consideration at the hands of Parliament. Landlords have furnished with a generous and even with a lavish hand capital for improvement of the soil. The skill and enterprise of our farmers are attested by the high quality of their stock, unsurpassed in any other country, and by the excellent cultivation of the soil. It may be safely affirmed that little has been left undone in this country to bring arable cultivation to perfection; but we can not compete at present prices against growers of wheat who have the advantage of a virgin soil of exuberant fertility and a certain climate. The recent fall in prices was mainly due to a reduction in the cost of transport, amounting to 20s. a quarter, between London and Chicago. We cannot look to Protection for a remedy. We may, perhaps, be able to lighten the burden of taxation; and Parliament has a right to insist that railways shall not by undue inequality of rates give an 12 unfair advantage over the British farmer to the importer of foreign produce. The Government will see justice done in this respect, and other remedial measures may doubtless be considered. Remedies for the present depression may be found in a return in many districts to smaller holdings, in increasing the area under pasture, in securing for the farmer a larger share of the price paid for his produce by the consumer, and in the extension of the factory system to dairy farming. The country will be glad to learn that a Parliamentary inquiry is to be held into the causes and the remedies for the present state of agricultural distress. My Lords, as an old Admiralty official, I cannot conclude without reference to the Navy. Public opinion in this country is firmly resolved that our maritime supremacy shall be maintained. The important part which the Navy has filled in building up the Empire, and the extent of our dependence on the Navy for our influence abroad and our safety at home, has been lately set forth in the able writings of Captain Mahan, of the United States Navy. The work of reinforcement was begun under Lord Northbrook, it was vigorously carried on by the late Government, and they may rest assured that the interests of the Navy will not suffer under Lord Spencer. Whenever naval questions are again debated in this House we shall deeply feel the loss of my lamented friend, Lord Elphinstone, who, under the late Government, so ably represented the noble profession to which he belonged. I must not trespass longer on your Lordships' indulgence, and I will leave to my noble Friend who will follow me many interesting questions suggested by Her Majesty's Gracious Speech. I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,—
We, your most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer you our humble Thanks for the Gracious Speech which your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(The Lord Brassey.)
§ Loup THRING (who wore Court uniform) said
My Lords, I must, like the Mover of the Address, begin by expressing my extreme regret that the 13 duty of seconding the Address has fallen on an old man like myself rather than on a younger and more vigorous Member of your Lordships' House. I have no plea to advance but one in extenuation of my offence, and I have only one suggestion to make why I have been selected. I suppose that I have been selected to discharge this duty because circumstances have compelled me to study, more closely perhaps than any other Member of your Lordships' House, the vexed question of Home Rule. Forty years ago I began to give attention to the subject, for it then became my duty to plan a scheme of self-government for some of our colonies, and it was I who drafted the Home Rule Bill of 1886. During the whole time I was in office I had to consider Irish affairs over and over again, and I had to learn every detail both of Irish law and of Irish administration, and to deal with what I cannot help but think are dark scenes of Irish politics. Therefore I assume that I have been selected on account of my knowledge of the subject. Then, besides that, I have the merit, or perhaps some of your Lordships may think the demerit, that I had arrived at the conclusion, before I received instructions to prepare that measure, that Home Rule is the only remedy that can be applied with success to Ireland. And now, my Lords, I do not pretend that I can say anything new upon this subject, and I am quite sure it is the case that I cannot say anything old which has not been suggested by abler men; but I cannot help saying in a few words what are the reasons which, to my mind, have carried the conviction that Home Rule is the only remedy for Ireland. Consider the case of Ireland; it is, happily, unique in the history of nations. She has possessed a monopoly of misery, and has known a continuity of restlessness and discontent such as it has not fallen to the lot of any other nation to know. What is the cause of this? In advocating the Union, Lord Clare pointed out that Ireland had been three times conquered: by Elizabeth, by Cromwell, by William III., and it is a fact that her lands have been confiscated three times; indeed, in some parts the land has been confiscated over and over again. Such treatment was hardly likely to make the conquered very willing to submit to the conquerors, and naturally fostered that noblest of all 14 aspirations—a general desire for self-government. Ninety years have passed away since the Union; of the first thirty of those years only three were free from restrictive legislation or coercion, and of the remaining sixty there was hardly one in which such legislation has not been passed. It has been said over and over again that the day had come when Ireland was happy and contented, and the statement has been falsified every time. Ireland's discontent is in the main caused by her wish to govern her own affairs, as far as is consistent with the maintenance of the unity of the Empire. Let us remember that Canada, at one time in a rebellious state, was quieted by the granting of Home Rule, and that a similar policy brought peace and contentment to Hungary, thirty years ago. What are the objections to the policy of Home Rule for Ireland? In my opinion, the views of the opponents of that policy are exaggerated beyond all measure. They first say that the gift of local self-government to Ireland will not satisfy her aspirations; but what shadow of proof is there that it will not? In every other country where the policy has been tried the gift of responsible government has resulted satisfactorily. Then it is said that the majority will oppress the minority; but there are no grounds upon which to found that charge. Why impute to the majority in Ireland conduct which no one has ever dreamed of imputing to majorities in our colonial dependencies? The last of the chief objections to the Home Rule policy is the objection that it will lead to the disintegration of the Empire; and the followers of the noble Marquess opposite (Lord Salisbury) declare that the supporters of the Government are hostile to Imperial unity. This is the wildest supposition, for the policy of the Liberal Party has always been to preserve the Imperial powers of England intact. Precisely in the same way as the Imperial powers in the United States are vested in the Federal Government. How, under any circumstances whatever, the Empire can be injured when all the Imperial powers remain precisely the same I cannot understand, and I would venture to recommend noble Lords who wish to study the question to be good enough to refer to the American Constitution—to read through the Federalist and other books on that subject, and 15 then tell me how it is within the sphere of human probability that the Empire will be endangered or disintegrated? The Act of 1888 disintegrated the Local Government of England, but nobody has been injured by it. If Home Rule is granted to Ireland the Imperial power in this country will not be affected. My argument, shortly put, is this: I believe that the history of the past, the experience of the present, and the probabilities of the future warrant the expectation that the measure proposed by the Government will promote the tranquility of Ireland, the honour of England, and the consolidation of the Empire. And now, my Lords, I come to a much plainer subject, and one which has this great recommendation: that noble Lords opposite are quite as anxious to amend the Registration Laws as noble Lords on this side of the House. I am told that there is a keen sense of wrong entertained by the working man because he never knows how he is to be put on or taken off the register. The truth is, there is a sort of struggle which goes on between the registration agents and the several officers who are engaged in registration. I am not in the least suggesting that they are fraudulent or careless; but the fact is that no one knows how the register is made up. Many of our working population are very nomad in their habits. They migrate from one constituency to another, and they get disfranchised by change of residence, though they have all along held the proper qualification. That is an obvious defect and injustice which ought to be remedied. Then, owing to the curious mode in which the Registration Acts are worked, the period of residence requires to be dealt with. Though the law requires a years residence only, practically a man very often cannot get his vote under two years or 18 months. Those, of course, are not great constitutional defects, but they are defects which our working men feel very keenly, and which I trust will be removed. Another matter in which I take the keenest possible interest is the question of Parish or Village Councils. I can only regret that Mr. Goschen's Bill of 1871 was not carried. I believe that the parish in which he lives is the one spot in the world about which the labourer cares. Everyone is now lamenting that the 16 labourer is leaving the country and going into the towns. Why is that? It is because he finds that in the towns he forms a part of society and obtains a social status. If he could find the status in the country, it would induce him to take an interest in the things going on around him and to remain upon the soil. I am convinced that one of the most potent reasons why the labourer leaves the country is that he has no social status there. It is said by some that the labourer is a stupid man, and would not be able to carry on the business of the village. Gentlemen go down and talk to Hodge in a language he does not understand, and Hodge answers them in a language they do not understand, and then they declare he is stupid. Hodge is not always willing to open his mouth; but if once his affections are attached, he will be found, as a general rule, a keen-witted man perfectly alive to what is going on in the world around him, and fully capable of conducting the affairs of his parish. I look with great joy upon the announcement of a proposed measure on this subject, and to the return of the days when village communities had power to make themselves by their own efforts comfortable and happy. Then there is the question of local option. The Liquor Law is the most defective law we have. It is a case of tot homines quot sententiœ but I think one principle is perfectly clear, and that is, that the man who is the most intimately concerned in the liquor traffic is the working man. It is the working man who desires to see the law regulated, and it is only right that he should be allowed to have a voice in regulating the traffic. I beg to thank your Lordships for the patience with which you have heard me, and I will now second the Motion for the Address.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, in yielding the customary tribute of admiration to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address, which in this instance I can do with the most perfect sincerity and justice, I cannot fail to take notice of the circumstance to which they have both alluded, that they are not of the standing of those whom we usually find performing this somewhat nervous duty. Though the pleasure which their eloquence gave us was considerable, it was not novel, as we have 17 often had the opportunity of admiring it before. With respect to the noble Lord who moved the Address, I think I may say what I believe all your Lordships will agree with, that we have seldom heard a more temperate, moderate, forcible statement of opinion in this House. With respect to the noble Lord who spoke second I feel great delicacy in venturing to offer any observations. I feel there is a certain presumption on my part in tendering to him any eulogy. I have been hitherto more accustomed to look upon hint with veneration as the father of that copious, abundant, and vet abstruse vocabulary in which our Statutes are written. I therefore feel a delicacy in dealing with him upon a lower platform; but yet he has a right to those good wishes which we always tender on these occasions, and I hope this will be the beginning of a brilliant oratorical career, and that we shall hear his voice in our Debates more often than we have done hitherto. My Lords, the noble Lords who moved and seconded the Address have not followed strictly the order of the Speech. I think perhaps it will be more convenient that I should do so, and therefore my first remarks must apply to the questions of foreign affairs with which the Speech commences. But in doing so I would say at once that in respect to both the matters mentioned it appears to me that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government has been founded upon sound principles and carried out with judgment and with skill. I am speaking, of course, only of what I know. No Papers have yet been laid before us, and everything must be said with reserve. I only make this observation to show that in what I am going to say I do not wish in the slightest degree to question any of the acts of the Government in this respect. I desire to make one observation in regard to each of the important subjects to which this part of the Speech relates. My Lords, with respect to Uganda, I do not think it is sufficiently appreciated how closely our future efforts for the suppression of the Slave Trade are mixed up with our treatment of the territory of Uganda. We do not sufficiently recognise the change that has come over the condition of that great enterprise in which this nation has been so long engaged—namely, the extermination of the terrible trade in men. The 18 maritime blockade has been only partially successful, and its success does not seem to me to increase. And there is a good reason for this; a reason which operates even now, which will operate more as time goes on, and which to some extent weakens the hands and frustrates the efforts of our gallant commanders on that coast. It is well-known that we have Treaties with till the nations of the world except one, by which there is a mutual right of search—that is to say, we can go into their vessels and they can come into ours in order to see that this trade is not carried on in any vessel sailing under their flags or under ours. The French Government, for reasons which I do not wish to comment on or to examine into—I have no right to assume that attitude —I am merely dealing with a historical fact—have always refused to allow this examination, and therefore in the case of any vessel sailing under the French flag—if any Arab dhow, any native Arab vessel can float the French flag—no English officer can go into the hold of that ship to see whether any slaves are there or not. Of course, if French men-of-war be on the station, they will exercise that police search themselves, but it is not necessary to say that that is not at all so effective a security as if the power were given to other nations to do it. There is no doubt that French trade is increasing in those seas, and, as French trade increases, I fear that this abuse of the French flag, at all events, is a danger to which we must look. This consideration leads me, as I think it has led many people, to believe that the maritime repression of the Slave Trade will not in the end enable us to put a stop to the hateful traffic. If we wish to grapple with it we must take it by the throat. We must go to it in the country where it arises; and if we are able, as I trust we shall he, to establish our beneficent sway and influence in these great districts which have come legally under our rule, I believe that one of the first and greatest results will be the accomplishment of that grand task to which England, now for a century, has devoted all her energies. With reference to Egypt I will only say this: I quite concur in the observation that is made in the Speech that the measures which have been taken do not indicate any modification of the assurances 19 given by the Government. Undoubtedly these assurances retain all their strength. But the situation is very different from what it was. The state of things to which these assurances apply has been materially altered by the events which have taken place. The assurance we have given is that we do not desire to remain in Egypt longer than is necessary in order to secure it against certain dangers; but what has happened shows us that those dangers are more numerous, more lively, more difficult to deal with than some years back we had a right to believe. I think, therefore, that what has taken place, though it does not modify the assurances of Great Britain, has made the prospect of early evacuation much more difficult and hazardous. My Lords, the next subject to which the Speech refers is the question of agricultural distress. I confess I do not quite understand the proposal which is made, that this should be the subject of Parliamentary inquiry. There was a very exhaustive inquiry conducted under the auspices of my noble Friend behind me not many years ago, and I much doubt whether any 'further inquiry will reveal any new facts for our guidance. But when it is said that it is hoped that among the causes of the present depression some may be temporary in their nature, I do not quite follow the idea which dictated that sentiment, at all events in connection with an examination into the best means of getting rid of it. I take it agricultural depression is due to two causes; bad weather and low prices; and the Government cannot get rid of the one if they would, and would not get rid of the other if they could. I think they are quite right not to attempt to interfere with prices, but it is quite true that that division disposes of what may be called the causes of agricultural distress. Yet I should be sorry to say a single word to discourage the Government in an attempt to palliate that distress by removing some of the evils under which agriculture labours. I hope they will devote themselves to that task. I believe that in the burdens which are now imposed upon land there are circumstances of extreme injustice; and though I cannot believe that to that unjust taxation agricultural depression is due, there is no doubt it aggravates the condition both of the and of the occupier of land, 20 and as a matter of justice those grievances ought to be removed. I am very glad, therefore, to hear that the matter is occupying the attention of the Government. Then we come to the question which is in all our thoughts—the question of Ireland. It is very difficult, until we have heard the explanation of the Government on the subject, to comment on the conduct which they have pursued, but it appears to me that during the last winter the fault of Mr. Morley, of the Irish Government, has been an attempt to cast too widely for the sources of political support. They have aimed at getting the support of a class of men whom hitherto no politicians have thought it necessary or possible to conciliate. We know that politicians will do a great deal in order to get support. We know that they will conciliate anti-vaccinationists or teetotalers, or any other extreme body of that kind; but nobody has yet thought of politically capturing the class in Ireland who sympathise with crime. And that appears to me to be the keynote of Mr. Morley's policy during the last five months. A circumstance stated in this Speech is an instance. He has paralyzed the Crimes Act by withdrawing the proclamation which put it in force. But the only part of the Crimes Act which was in force was that part winch gave the power of secret inquiry into crime, which exists in Scotland, and the power of changing the venue, and those are the things which noble Lords opposite have constantly declared to be very reasonable measure,—but for the purpose of obtaining the support of those men whose excesses the Crimes Act was intended to control, they have repealed useful and necessary provisions which were required for the administration of the law. And now at this moment, though it is quite true that agrarian crime is not generally prevalent, where it is prevalent, as in Clare and Kerry, their hands are paralyzed because they do not possess this power of which they deliberately divested themselves. Then we come to the Evicted Tenants Commission. The great object was to show the sympathy of the Government with persons who had combined together to defraud their creditors. The evicted tenants—the tenants on the Campaign estates—were simply people who could pay their debts, 21 but who would not, and who preferred to combine together to defraud those who had a right to the money which was due to them. The way in which those people were to be dealt with was a legitimate matter for consideration, but unless they wished to obtain the sympathy of the criminal classes, I can see no advantage whatever in proposing a Commission of which the main object was to force the landlords to forego the debts which those persons had conspired not to pay. Then we come to the murderers of Inspector Martin. Was it, except on the assumption that you desire the sympathy and support of that sort of people—was it a wise thing the moment the Liberal Government comes into power to announce by political acts that the murder of a policeman employed by a Tory Government was not such a great crime after all, and that the prerogative of the Crown would be used to shield the men who had been guilty of this very modified kind of offence? I will not go further into the question of the dynamiters who have been released. I do not know precisely what the facts are with respect to their crimes, but the point on which I wish to insist is that all these separate acts must not be taken or judged of by themselves. They are part of a policy, they interpret each other, they reflect light on each other, and taken together they indicate one settled aim and intention. The measures which a Government takes on corning into office, where they differ from the measures of the Government that precedes them, are an announcement of their policy. They are the stamp of the principles on which they desire to act and the measures which they desire to pursue; and the result of this steady favouring of all who have broken the law is to impress on the minds of the people of Ireland that whatever other merits or demerits the Government of Mr. Morley may have, at all events it has much more sympathy with criminals than the Government which went before it. Now I come to certainly one of the oddest announcements of revolution I have ever seen in a public document—A Bill will be submitted to you, on the earliest available occasion, to amend the provision for the government of Ireland.In the first place, what does "the earliest available occasion" mean? It does not 22 mean immediately or promptly. Does it mean the first occasion after everything else has been done—after all they have promised has been fulfilled and all other measures have been gone through? But, then, what is the meaning of that very mild expression—"to amend the provision for the government of Ireland"? That is a description which would adequately indicate a proposal for abolishing the Lord Lieutenancy. And I am rather led to believe that the forthcoming measure is something of that very mild character by the speech of the noble Lord who moved this Address. The noble Lord (Lord Brassey) who moved the Address, among other merits which ought to be noted in the eloquent speech which he made, spoke under the gravest personal difficulty. It is all advantage which a young man has in making the Motion for the Address that he has not pledged himself beforehand, and is not in danger of having former speeches brought tip against him. But Lord Brassey had been led into eloquence on the Irish question no further back than last July, and he expressed himself with his usual calmness and moderation. Some great change must have come over the spirit of his dream, or else the Bill must be something very different from what any of us expect. He dealt with the question of how far it was possible to make so large a change without adequate popular public support, and said—It is a very difficult question. No great change can be attempted by the Liberal Party without a commanding majority on this side St. George's Channel.Your Lordships will observe that the two quantities are balanced; "a great change" is to be supported by a "commanding majority." If there is only a small majority. of course there is to be only a small change. But what is to happen if there is no majority at all?—Because that is the circumstance with which we are confronted now. Then I presume the Bill must be reduced to something very like zero. No doubt we have not to complain of any similar contraction or restriction in the views of the noble Lord who seconded the Address. He went in for pure federation. He quoted to us Austria, Canada, and the United states; and if there were any persons who were so obstinate or so blind as not to see the force of his argument, he told them to 23 go and read the American Constitution. But is it the American Constitution which is to appear in this measure "to amend the provision for the government of Ireland"? My Lords, I will not attempt to discuss that of whose nature I am absolutely ignorant; nor is it worth while to go through the arguments the two noble Lords adduced upon the subject of Home Rule. Both the noble Lords seemed to have forgotten the existence of the Ulster mid Protestant minority. (No, no!) Yes, the noble Lord spoke of the minority, but he spoke of it as if it was like no other minority, as if there was no particular reason why it should differ from the majority. He seems never to have heard of the Meath elections, and to have no notion that the real question in issue in Ireland is whether you are to give the party which dominated the Meath election the right to put its foot on the Protestant population of Ireland. That is the real Irish question with which we have to deal. The whole question really turns upon this; it is not only coloured by, but it is absolutely conditioned by and entirely consists in the fact that Irish society is divided to its base; and the differences between the two sections—differences of race, tradition, long history, and mutual ill-will—remove them from the category of those other populations where the majority and the minority alter in their constitution with each passing question of the day. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into the very large number of measures which are mentioned at the end of the Queen's Speech. Nobody believes that a half or a tenth of them will ever find their way to the Table of this House. They constitute the Newcastle Programme; they are the whole Newcastle Programme. What is the Newcastle Programme; what amount of time ought it to fill ill the probable activity of Parliament? I will again appeal to the high authority I have already cited. The noble Lord who moved the Address said of the Newcastle programme—"That programme gives a sketch of work which will occupy at least a generation." Well, of course, if the question were one, I will not say between Philip drunk and Philip sober, but between the noble Lord speaking in uniform in the somewhat perverted atmosphere of the House of Lords and the noble 24 Lord speaking on the breezy beach of Hastings, I prefer him in the more healthy circumstances in which he stood last summer, and I believe we can better trust his judgment then than now. If these measures are to occupy a generation, I do not feel much interest in discussing matters which some of the younger Members of the House when they are grey-headed old men will probably be fighting over. Therefore I will not follow the observations of the noble Lord opposite with respect to the charms of parish councils and local option. My impression is that if you adopt both those measures, the results will be very different from what the devisers of them expect. If you adopt parish councils, the result will be nobody will attend them; if you adopt local option, the result will be the brewers will have it all their own way. But it is not worth while dwelling upon these subjects more fully. I was disappointed that, in speaking of registration, the noble Lord seemed entirely to fail to see what in our present state of society the real object of the registration law is. Some residence—I do not say how much—but some considerable residence is absolutely necessary in order to prevent that which is a rapidly-growing evil in our constituencies, the evil of personation. It is only when people are known to their neighbours that it is possible to guard against the dangers of personation. I believe it is well known that in those constituencies which enjoy a large Irish element every Irishman on the register is always polled out, no matter how many may have died or gone away. I think that Ireland already enjoys an excessive weight in our Parliamentary system; and I should be very sorry to give that additional weight which would be furnished by an ineffective registration system. There are two matters mentioned by the noble Lord the mover of the Address that are not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, on which I should like to say a word. The noble Lord dwelt upon agricultural depression, and insisted upon the application of capital to the land in a variety of ways which he indicated. I believe he is right, and that if it were possible to insure a large application of capital to the laud very many of the effects of agricultural depression might be averted. 25 But in respect to that and all other depression I Only entreat your Lordships to beware of remedies which affect to deal with depression, but only do so by shaking the belief of men in the sanctity of contracts and the security of property. What we really suffer under is want of confidence. I do not say that most of it comes from political causes; it comes from causes of great variety; but one of the elements, and one which I fear will last the longest, is the apprehensions which are being caused in the minds of the owners of capital and the owners of property, partly by legislation which has been already adopted, and very much more from doctrines which are freely published by the partisans of those who have rule in this country at this time. There is no country in the world where property is now so insecure against legislative attack as it is in England; and depend upon it you will feel the evil results of such a state of things in a gradual diminution of confidence and in a gradual withdrawal of capital producing an aggravation of the depression under which we labour. I am sorry the Government did not notice in the Queen's Speech a step for which I gave them great credit, and that is the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the working of the Poor Law. They were quite justified in taking that step. The Poor Law has now been in operation some 60 years. When it was passed it was by no means welcomed by the Conservative opinion of that day. It was strongly opposed by many Conservatives, partly on account of the great severity of its provisions and still more on account of the severity which was to be expected from those philosophers in whose hands the administration of the law was placed. Well, the Poor Law was a great success; there is no doubt about it. It remedied tremendous evils which were bringing the prosperity of the country to the ground. But it is a very fair question for doubt whether there was not something in the protests that were made in this House and elsewhere at the time that the severity was carried to an excessive point. The Government have wisely limited their investigation in the first instance to the question of dealing with old and infirm people in workhouses. I believe that is the first question that ought to be examined. 26 I am not sure that it is the whole. I think there are other parts of the Poor Law which are more severe than it is necessary they should be, and that they may with advantage be modified. It would be a tremendous evil if by maintaining provisions of undue severity we were to disgust our people with a system which undoubtedly has contributed to the security and prosperity we have hitherto enjoyed. There can be no doubt that some of the dangers which in 1834 were menacing and real have ceased to have the same character at present. In 1834 you had the terrible fact to deal with that the masses of the population felt it no disgrace to receive the aid of the Poor Law; rather they thought it the natural end and condition of their being. An enormous change has taken place in the opinions of the working classes on that point. Their sense of self-respect and their dislike to receiving parochial relief have greatly increased, and thus the dangers of an abusive use of Poor Law relief have in that proportion diminished. We had to escape from enormous evils in 1834. I hope we shall run no risk of incurring those evils again; and after due consideration of the need for this dominant caution there is much in the present Poor Law the alteration of which may well be the subject of investigation. I do not enter upon further questions that are mentioned in the Queen's Speech. I do not know how many of these Bills we shall have to deal with. My impression is that many of them have been put upon the paper with a very moderate amount of belief on the part of the Government that they will come to any practical end at all. Therefore I prefer to wait until they have been introduced and come practically before us, before offering any remarks upon them.
*THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (The Earl of KIMBERLEY)
My Lords, before I address a few observations upon what has fallen from the noble Marquess, I wish to tender to my noble Friends behind me my thanks for the very able manner in which they have executed the task they have undertaken. I really can add nothing to what has been said on that subject by the noble Marquess opposite, but I think the circumstances are such 27 that we must feel a great amount of gratitude to my noble Friends for having undertaken to perform that duty. My Lords, I have nothing to complain of in the tone of the speech of the noble Marquess. He has agreed upon some of the topics, and on others he has expressed in temperate terms the disagreement which we know he feels from our policy. The first point to which the noble Marquess referred, and upon which he expressed his entire approval, is the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in foreign affairs. It is a source, I am sure, of great satisfaction to Her Majesty's Government and to my noble Friend (the Earl of Rosebery) behind me to know that in his administration of the Foreign Office during the time he has held time Seals, that in the conduct of that difficult and delicate business he has shown an ability which demands and has received time respect and confidence of the country. It is no small advantage, not merely to the Government but to the nation at large, when Ministers are able to continue the foreign policy of their predecessors, and that questions of foreign affairs should not be used for Party purposes. There may be occasions when differences may be acute, but it is a great matter of congratulation when we find ourselves upon the same ground. I have only to remark upon two of the topics referred to in his speech that I agree with the noble Marquess opposite that the suppression of the Slave Trade by measures taken in East Africa is certainly one of the objects which should be most clear to the English people. Our long course of exertion in the cause of humanity must convince everyone that this nation feels keenly upon that subject, and I therefore wish to re-echo the opinions which have been expressed by the noble Marquess. With regard to another and very important matter—the paragraph in the Speech from the Throne referring to Egypt. I think it will be agreed on all sides that any Government which holds office in this country should have no hesitation whatever in maintaining our power and the position we have taken up in that country for insuring the safety of our troops and securing peace and order in Egypt. That is a practical and paramount duty which no Govern- 28 ment could for one moment neglect to perform. The noble Marquess has commented, and I was not sorry to hear his remark, upon that portion of the Speech which speaks of the augmentation in the number of British troops stationed in Egypt, and states that—This measure does not indicate any change of policy or any modification of the assurances which my Government have given from time to time respecting the occupation of that country.He remarked with, as I thought, great force, that whilst the assurances remain the same no change of policy can be indicated by what has been done. So far I re-echo what the noble Marquess stated, and I cannot but hope that the Khedive of Egypt, who is young and inexperienced in government, and who may on that occasion have been moved by unwise advisers, will take to heart what has happened and will see that such aspirations as he is supposed to entertain will not be furthered by any course which may cause disorder in Egypt, or cause in the minds of the European Powers a doubt whether the Egyptian Government has made much progress towards maintaining itself alone. We have in no respect changed the position by sending a reinforcement of troops, and we feel that we shall have the universal support of the country as long as the occupation continues in doing all that is necessary for maintaining our authority, with due regard to the interests of this country and of Egypt. My Lords, time other point referred to by time noble Marquess is one of great interest to us all, and is a matter of universal regret—I mean the depression under which our agricultural classes stiffer. The noble Marquess has approved of our announcement, that there should be au inquiry upon this subject, although he said he did not anticipate any large results from it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hardly went so far as that—as to approve of it. I cannot approve of an inquiry until I know what it is to be. What I said I approved of was that Her Majesty's Government should have the matter under its consideration.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
The noble Marquess approved of our drawing attention in the Speech from the Throne to time state of agricultural, affairs. More than that I do not wish to impute. It 29 is not in a matter of this kind necessary to consider only whether you have immediate measures to propose; but when so great an interest as that of agriculture is suffering severly, I think it is right and due to that interest, even if you have no specific measure to propose at once, that it should have mention on an occasion like the present in order that the country may know that the Government is sensible of the state of affairs, and is anxious to pass the necessary measures, if there be such possible, for dealing with the depression. The noble Marquess alluded to temporary causes and to the weather; and, with regard to that, I sincerely trust that the very bad weather from which agriculturists suffer is temporary. There may be other causes which are temporary also, but undoubtedly some of the causes wear the appearance of permanence. But, though we are suffering from some causes which it is impossible to hope may be quickly removed, there is no reason why we should not take some notice of the matter. The late Government proposed a measure for increasing small tenancies with that view. I will say at once that I have no belief in heroic measures for the relief of agriculture. Measures for enhancing the price of food in this country, I believe with the noble Marquess, do not come within the bounds of practical politics. For my own part, I sympathise deeply with the distresses which have befallen our agricultural friends; and, if any inquiry takes place, I shall welcome with the greatest satisfaction the suggestion of any method by which they may be palliated or removed. I now come to matters of a more controversial kind, and upon which the noble Marquess did not, as might have been expected, express agreement with Her Majesty's Government. The first point to which the noble Marquess referred was with regard to the measures taken by the Government in Ireland during the last five months. He enumerated the prominent measures which have been taken by my right hon. Friend, Mr. Morley, and he came to the conclusion that we were endeavouring to obtain the support of the criminal population. I think that was the phrase. Now, my Lords, I wish to put the matter front a very different point of view. We are accused by the noble Marquess of having lightly put 30 aside what remains of the Crimes Act. He referred to the Proclamations, and said that we had without sufficient cause released the Gweedore murderers; that we had issued a Commission with regard to the evicted tenants, of which he does not approve; and there was a fourth matter, which I do not remember at the moment. I think noble Lords on the other side cannot be ignorant of the fact that we have consistently opposed the policy of coercion pursued by the late Government; and is it surprising, therefore, that having throughout the country stated that we disapprove that policy, the policy pursued by a former Parliament under the auspices of the late Government, we should take the earliest opportunity of showing that we are preparing to carry into effect the policy which we believe to be the best, and that our disapproval is not confined to mere speech? That is the keynote of my right hon. Friend's (Mr. Morley's) policy. It is not the need of support front, or sympathy with, the criminal population. It is a policy which does not sympathise with, but condemns, and wishes to reverse, the coercion policy of the late Government. But I ant not prepared to say that we are not bound to justify every particular measure which we may take. The noble Marquess did not go into particular cases, and, therefore, I will not attempt to justify them now. Whenever our acts are condemned and attacked, we shall be perfectly prepared to meet the attack upon us, and to state the reasons why we believe we are thoroughly justified in the course we have pursued. My Lords, the next point is the cardinal point upon which I say at once the policy of the Government hinges, and upon which our fate no doubt will depend. I mean the measure which, as you all know, is the measure which will in a certain form give Home Rule to Ireland. The noble Marquess was dissatisfied with the description given of it in the Speech from the Throne. But it has, at all events, this merit: that it follows the description of the Bill brought in in 1886, and, so far it may be taken to indicate, the continuity of our policy. With regard to the measure itself, the noble Marquess does not anticipate, no doubt, that I should describe it. But it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to bring it at the earliest opportunity—and by 31 that I mean the first opportunity that may be available for the Government in the House of Commons. I think when it is brought in the noble Marquess will find that it is by no means of a milk-and water description. The other matters of the Speech are not of a very controversial kind. I will not follow the noble Marquess into the dry question of registration; all I will say is, that I believe in both Houses, on both sides, there is a general desire that our system of registration should be simplified and improved. All who know anything of its working must feel that it is extremely defective; and I fully believe that when the measure is produced, though there may be differences of opinion upon particular clauses, both Parties will co-operate to place our legislation in regard to that system upon a more sound and satisfactory footing. Reverting to Home Rule, I am reminded of au observation which was made by the noble Lord behind me (Lord Thring)— and which before I leave the subject of Ireland I ought to notice. The noble Marquess hardly appreciated the argument of my noble Friend. He referred to the American publications on the subject of Federation, and brought forward Canada and Austro-Hungary as examples which might be taken as precedents in the Irish case. I think the noble Marquess hardly gave fair weight to what my noble Friend added: that he did not pretend that there was any precise analogy between the two cases, and that he only quoted them to show that in cases where local self-government hail been granted it had led to popular content. Further than that he did not desire the argument to be pushed. I think it right, in fairness to my noble Friend, to refer to that matter. Then the noble Marquess made another observation. He said—When you talk of the minority you speak of the majority not oppressing the minority, but you forget it is a question between the priests in Ireland and the Protestant population.Now, I maintain that if this country is going to govern Ireland upon the principle that it is our duty to maintain the Protestant population against supposed aggression on the part of the priests and the Roman Catholic population, then we should He going back upon the principles which dictated the Act of 1829, and we should be introducing into 32 our policy towards Ireland the most fatal of all principles—namely, that we are to base our policy upon the perpetuation and strengthening of the bitterest religious dissensions. It is because we believe that by the policy we advocate we can pave the way towards healing all those dissensions, and it is because we believe that until that bitter antagonism ceases to exist between the different sections of the population Ireland will never be content, that we propose that the Local Government of the country should be placed in the hands of the Irish themselves. I had some experience in the government of Ireland some time ago, and I do not believe that the Roman Catholic population will oppress the Protestant population. Even if it has the desire to do so, the Protestant minority is, I think, well able to take care of itself; and although I quite admit that the priestly influence is too great at elections, I believe there is no reason for saying that there will be any general oppression of the Protestant population by the Roman Catholic majority. That feeling has grown up year after year out of political conditions and from political reasons; but after the political reasons have disappeared, that bitterness will disappear with them. Now, my Lords, I turn to much less exciting topics, and I wish to notice some remarks which the noble Marquess made about the number of Bills. He will forgive me for saying, in the time of the late Government, it not unfrequently happened there was a large programme of Bills which did not always pass into law. I can quote an occasion when there were some six of these promised in the Speech, which did not even see the light. That was in 1887; and there were some four others which did not pass into law. Therefore, the example of promising measures and not passing them has not been set by Her Majesty's Government. But I indulge in the sanguine anticipation that, whit the assistance of the noble Marquess opposite, we may reap a goodly crop from the measures we now propose. One of them, I think, the noble Marquess treated rather too cavalierly. I mean that relating to Parish Councils. I do not look upon them as a very extraordinary expedient, but as a simple matter of local government. It seems me that 33 will not he complete until you have a scheme for District Councils, and also a system of Parish Councils. There is nothing so very new in the matter; for the old system of parish government by the Parish Vestry was, in fact, a system of Parish Councils; and I believe the time has come when it will be of advantage to strengthen our system—when that old system should be revivified, and that there should be a real and active scheme of parish government which may give a certain amount of contentment to the labourers in the parish. As my noble Friend behind me has said, it would be in consonance with the principles of our Government, and would tend to give the villagers an interest in their affairs—affairs which they are able to conduct without any injury whatever to anybody, and with advantage to themselves. Then the last topic which was alluded to by the noble Marquess, in, I think, unduly solemn tones, was the agricultural depression. He warned us that one great cause of the agricultural depression, and of the depression generally throughout the country, was a feeling of insecurity. My Lords, I do not deny that some people do entertain a feeling of that kind. But I confess I have more confidence in my fellow-countrymen than the noble Marquess appears to have. It has always been the case in this country that all kinds of changes have been advocated —some of them of an extreme kind. But we have not therefore been alarmed, or imagined that every extreme proposal put forward on the platform in loud tones would necessarily pass into law. It is the nature of our people; and it is only natural that after having given a large extension of the franchise, enabling them to exercise a direct influence on the Government of the country, that a greater number of questions should he put forward and discussed than formerly. I myself believe that schemes will be adopted by the country where sound, and rejected where unsound; and that the result will be that property will be even more secure than before, because I conceive that the security of property depends upon a feeling of general contentment among the people. The noble Marquess made one further observation which I was extremely glad to hear. He concurred with us with regard to the Poor Law; 34 and I do not think there was anything that he said in which I do not agree. I believe that the general principles of the Poor Law are sound, and that the measure when introduced conferred great benefits upon the country. I agree with the noble Marquess that it would be a great misfortune if, by pushing sound logical principles too far, you were to cause general discontent in the administration of the Poor Law, which would prevent you maintaining its main principles intact. But I think it is extremely desirable that we should have a thorough examination of the present Poor Law system, with a view of seeing whether there cannot be some amelioration made in the lot of those who are obliged to have recourse to State assistance without weakening the sound principles on which the Poor Law rests. I think the noble Marquess will agree with me, that in any inquiry of this kind, which is one of the most important nature, and of great difficulty, it is not desirable to make it too extensive. In the first instance, the Government limit the inquiry to old age. But I agree with the noble Marquess that there are other points which will have to be considered; and that it may be found necessary to extend the inquiry to further subjects. I do not know that there is any other point touched upon by the noble Marquess which needs observation; and I can only say if there is any point upon which I have not touched, my colleagues will be able to answer it.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I have listened with some curiosity, and I am bound to say w some disappointment, to the answer which has just been given by the noble Earl the Leader of the Government as to the multiplicity of measures which have been referred to in Her Majesty's Speech. I understood the noble Lord's answer to be that on former occasions a considerable number of Bills had been promised which had never been passed, and many of which had not even been introduced. I ant perfectly aware that all Governments are in this matter inclined to take a rather sanguine view, and to exaggerate their powers of legislation in any particular Session; but I do not think that it has ever been the practice of any Government to introduce in Her Majesty's Speech a list of measures 35 which they must know, judging by past experience and by the character of those measures themselves, it is absolutely impossible under the most favourable circumstances which can be conceived that they should be submitted for the consideration of Parliament. I was astonished to hear the noble Earl express a confident hope that any considerable number of those measures could by any possibility be passed into law during the present year. A great many of them relate to subjects of a highly controversial character, and though it is possible that one or more of them may make their appearance again in this House, I think we may say with absolute certainty that if they do make their way up to this House they will not be in the company of the Irish Home Rule Bill. They relate to subjects of the most controversial character, and every hour which is devoted to the debates to which they will inevitably give rise in any place will be subtracted from the not excessive amount of time which can under any circumstances exist for the discussion of a Bill so complicated as the Irish Home Rule Bill must be. I admit I have not looked upon this list as a practical programme of legislation at all. I have regarded it rather in the light of perhaps a necessary and certainly a frank recognition of the tenure under which the present Government holds office. This list, including every part of the Newcastle programme, is a sort of homage to the various sections by the combination of which the present Government have been placed in power. What remains to be seen is whether this act of homage and tender of allegiance will be accepted by the Members who represent those sections in another place in full satisfaction of their claims; and what remains still further to be seen is whether the electors who have returned those representatives to Parliament on the face of promises that the Liberal Party would devote its most strenuous efforts to carry into law the particular project in which they are interested—whether they will find their claims altogether satisfied by the inclusion of a similar measure in the list which it certainly will take several Sessions, mid probably will take several Parliaments, to consider and discuss. Well, my Lords, under those circumstances I think it is not necessary to spend any time in the 36 consideration of the other paragraphs of the Speech which contain an enumeration of the various other measures which are proposed to be introduced. I will, with your Lordships' permission, devote a little more time to that paragraph in the Speech which refers to the legislation on the Government of Ireland. I am bound to say that the tone of the Speech upon that subject is such as almost to disarm criticism from its modesty and from the extreme moderation of its language. "This is not a great measure," it seems to say; "it is only a measure to amend the provisions "—whatever that may mean—" for the Government of Ireland." No one can complain of the recital of the desires which have inspired Her Majesty's Government in its preparation; but I venture to think that great constitutional changes such as we have been led to expect have not been very much influenced by the desires however humble of whatever body of men, however respectable. Those desires are not the elements with which we have to deal in the consideration of the question of Irish Government. The elements with which we have to deal are, on the one hand, no doubt discontent, which has extended over a long period, and which is not due altogether to disorder, and on the other the presence in the other House of Parliament of a large body of irreconcilable Members who have made both administration and legislation nearly, if not altogether, impossible. We have also to deal with an agrarian agitation which has from time to time broken out into outbursts of crime, and we have to deal with a powerful priesthood, who desire to make themselves dominant in the government of the country. We have further to deal with a sympathy which no doubt is felt for a national movement by large masses of Irish people in many parts of the world. On the other hand, we have to deal with the feelings and passions of a not inconsiderable minority in Ireland, who are bitterly opposed to any considerable disturbance of the relations at present existing between Ireland and this country and between Ireland and this Parliament. We have to deal with a deep-rooted distrust on the part of the majority of the people of this country as to the justice or expediency of intrusting the lives and fortunes of the minority in Ireland to the control of an Irish Parliament, and we 37 have a not less deep-rooted distrust on the part of the same majority in this country to any disturbance of the sovereign power of Parliament, or of the Parliamentary Constitution under which we live. These are some of the elements with which we shall have to deal when we come to consider this question. I enumerate the desires which have prompted Her Majesty's Government in the preparation of this measure which take no account of any of those fundamental problems which ought never to be ignored in the discussion of the question which we are invited to discuss. But, my Lords, we are told so much that we arc naturally inspired with a desire to know more. We are informed that this measurehas been prepared with the desire to afford contentment to the Irish people, important relief to Parliament, and additional securities for the strength and union or the Empire.That is a statement which can hardly be held to apply to the people of Ulster. While we are told so much it should have been possible to give us some indication of how this measure will afford contentment and protection to the people of that and the other parts of Ireland. There are other points also upon which we should have desired information to be given. No doubt we shall be told that on such au occasion as this we should disregard details, but there is one point which I think in every previous declaration on the subject has occupied a conspicuous place, but which is now conspicuous by its absence. We are told that the measure has been prepared "to afford general relief to Parliament." We have in every former official declaration on this subject been assured that it has been prepared and inspired with a desire of maintaining intact and unimpaired the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. I cannot revert at the present moment to what has occurred in the past, but I have a strong recollection that in one of the earlier speeches of the Prime Minister, in opposition to a Motion brought forward by Mr. Butt, he laid it down that before Parliament ought even to be invited to consider this question, it ought to be made clear in what way the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was to be maintained. It seems to me that this is not a detail of a legislative measure for which we have no right to ask, it is a 38 declaration of policy as to which we have a right to expect information. Let Inc suggest to your Lordships a not dissimilar case. If this were the case of a colony demanding separation from Great Britain — absolute independence—and supposing there was at the same time a strong party at home which denied the existence in the colony of any genuine demand for separation, which contended that every difficulty might be met by some readjustment of the constitutional relation. Supposing that the Members of the Government had never had an opportunity of making any official or responsible declaration upon the subject, but were strongly suspected from some of their previous declarations and actions of leaning to a policy of complete separation. Supposing them on the occasion, of the meeting of Parliament to announce their intention of dealing with the question, would any Member of your Lordships' House say that the Government would be discharging its duty to the House by withholding from it that information Which the House is entitled to demand? In such a case I say that every Member of this House and the other House of Parliament would have the right to demand at the earliest moment a statement of policy from the Government on such a cardinal and vital question. I ask, is that not the case with Ireland? We demand to know, not the details of the measure, but one of the main principles on which it is founded—whether the Government intend to establish in Ireland a body which shall be absolutely independent of, and not subject to, the control of the Parliament sitting here, or whether they intend, as on a previous Occasion they said they did, to maintain intact and unimpaired the power of the Imperial Parliament over every person, matter, or thing throughout the whole breadth of the United Kingdom. This is a matter of great importance, which we may not have an early opportunity of discussing. I will read to your Lordships one or two passages which were read in the other House last August in the presence of the Members by whom they had been spoken, who did not then take any notice of them. Mr. Chamberlain referred to the authority of one of the legal advisers of the Government. The present Attorney General, speaking 39 only in the previous month of July, had said—What would be the checks upon this Parliament? First, the veto of the Crown in cases of importance or grave impolicy; secondly, the fact that as the Imperial Parliament had made this other, so it could unmake or modify it; and, thirdly, the inherent right of the Imperial Parliament to legislate directly for any portion of the Queen's Empire. It was not contemplated that any of those checks should be used except in case of dire necessity, and he wished to point out the enormous force which would still remain in the Imperial Parliament,I will next refer to a declaration of a right hon. Gentleman, a Member of the Government, who at a previous period was not satisfied with the provisions made for the maintenance of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and left the Government of that day for that reason. He is a Member of the Government now, and apparently, therefore, satisfied on the point. His definition of Imperial supremacy was—If the Imperial Parliament does not continue Imperial I shall never care to sit in it again. By Imperial Parliament I mean, and we all mean, a Parliament which represents in equal proportions all parts of the United Kingdom. We mean a Parliament that is not only nominal or theoretical, but also real, practical, and genuine, controlling every other body and authority whatsoever—a Parliament to which every citizen may look for the safety of his life and for the maintenance of Ins personal rights.Another Member of the Government (Mr. Morley) has referred to this subject in language equally strong, and directly pointing to the possibility in certain cases of actual interference by the Imperial Parliament with the subordinate Parliament to be established in Dublin. In replying to me, he says—But does Lord Hartington men n—I hope this may be the case—that, if the Parliament at Dublin passed unjust, tyrannical, vindictive, oppressive measures against any section of the Irish population, the Parliament of 'Westminster shall be free promptly, by some means or other, direct or indirect, to overrule and so forbid such a law? If this is what Lord Hartington means, there is no difference of opinion ant no difference of aim. I hope we shall not interfere to prevent mere un wisdom and mere mistakes, for the mischief has come because Ireland has not had the responsibility of her own acts. We should not interfere to prevent mere un wisdom; but we should interfere, I suppose and I hope, to prevent injustice and wrong.The last extract with which I will trouble your Lordships is in the words of the present Prime Minister himself— 40Will not the Crown, in a system of Home Government in Ireland, be the Lord Lieutenant? Will not the appointment of the Lord Lieutenant, who must be the head of the Irish executive, effectually afford to the British Crown, and through the British Crown to the British Ministry, and through the British Ministry to the British Parliament, the power of interfering, of which I can only say that. I am certain of its sufficiency for any purpose whatever?The Prime Minister has also contemplated the necessity of interference under certain circumstances. Now, my Lords, let us see, that being the view up to, a recent date of Her Majesty's Ministers, what, I would ask, is the view of the Nationalist Party upon this subject? In the same Debate to which I have referred, which took place last August, Mr. Redmond quoted the declaration made by Mr. Parnell in January, 1891—There can be no mistake about it, we want a Parliament with full power to manage the affairs of Ireland, mill with no English veto, whether on the appointment of your Leader or the laws you shall make. A veto of that kind would break down ant destroy your Parliament-before it had been two years in existence. There must be no veto other than the Constitutional veto of the Crown, as it is exercised by the Crown on the Imperial Parliament.That, Mr. Redmond said, is a definition which' holds good to this day. He said—I assert that no Nationalist in Ireland, or in this House, or elsewhere, will venture to say that the Irish National claims will be satisfied by a scheme one whit less extreme than that which is shadowed forth in the quotation L have read.He went on to explain in more detail what it was, and how this could be carried out. He said—It comes to this—What we ask is that in this Home Rule Bill there shall be a clause specially undertaking that, while the Irish Parliament continues in existence, the power to legislate should never be used; in point of fact, we should require a formal compact with them to the effect that, while that Legislature lasted, it should have a free and unfettered control of Irish affairs.Now, these declarations are irreconcilable, and I assert that in the circumstances we have a right to know now what the intentions of the Government are. We do not ask to be told the details of the measure, but we claim that we have a right to know whether the Government adhere to the pledges which they have given as to the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. I think we call see 41 already some inclination and tendency to reduce and whittle away the effect of such declarations as those to which I have referred. Mr. Asquith, the present Home Secretary, in it letter which he wrote some time ago, declared himself in favour of—The maintenance, intact and unimpaired, of the unquestioned and unquestionable sovereignty of the Imperial Parliament over all persons and in all matters local and Imperial.That was the declaration made by Mr. Asquith as a mere supporter of Mr. Gladstone. But as Home Secretary, Mr. Asquith, speaking at Liverpool on January 20, this year, used language which shows, I think, some falling away front the width and breadth of the declaration in his letter. He said—In the next place, the ultimate supremacy of the Imperial Parliament must be visibly and effectually maintained.And he went on to say—It is very easy to prove upon paper that it is impossible to reconcile the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament upon the one hand with the autonomy of a subordinate Legislature on the other. It could be proved with equal ease in the case of Canada, in the case of the Australian Colonies, and in the case of every one of the Queen's dominions to which in turn self-government has been granted. Nay, I will go further, and I will say that there is not a Constitution in the civilised world which could not be wrecked in a week if all the parties in it were to act upon every occasion to the extreme limit of their legal powers.Now, I would ask whether we are not to read that later declaration of the Home Secretary as an admission that he is now prepared, instead of claiming the unquestioned sovereignty of the Imperial Parliament over all matters local and Imperial, for merely a recognition of the supremacy such as exists in relation to the Government of Canada, to which he refers? I think that the Home Secretary's language justifies that supposition. I think we shall obtain some practical advantage, in the first place, if we can obtain a declaration from any of Her Majesty's Ministers that we have here the whole width and breadth and spirit of this measure, a declaration which will help to draw the attention of the population of this country and the Members of the Legislature to one or two cardinal points which ought never to be forgotten in ensuing discussions on this subject. There is a danger, in my opinion, that in the multiplicity of details and side 42 issues in which we shall be involved when we come to the discussion of the Home Rule Bill, the attention of both the Legislature and the public may be drawn from some of the main, and to ourselves some of the most important, issues. There is a fear that the English people, trusting to the continued validity of such declarations as I have quoted, and finding in this proposed measure some recognition of the principle of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, such as exists in the case of Canada or other of our self-governing Colonies, may be lulled into a sense of security, while the Irish Members, with better reason, trust to the assurance or to the conviction that this nominal supremacy, although it may exist will never be enforced, and never can be enforced. My Lords, it seems to me these are questions which the people in this country ought not to lose sight of, and that their attention cannot be called to them a day too soon, even before the introduction of this measure. I might argue that the problem which this Government has undertaken to solve is one which is insoluble. I do not believe it is to be proved, as Mr. Asquith says it can be proved, upon paper, having reference to the practical working of Government, that it is possible to recognise Imperial supremacy with an autonomous Parliament in Ireland. But I ant not justified in entering into that point now. We are bound to believe that Her Majesty's Government have discovered, or think they have discovered, some solution of the question; but in my opinion we have a right to know whether they still adhere to these declarations, which have been made in terms of equal strength and width by the most responsible among them, and whether they are content, when their measure is produced, to stand or fall by the test of whether it does satisfy, or fails to satisfy, the conditions which they themselves have laid down as essential to any measure which ought to receive the assent of the Parliament of this country.
THE EARL OF WINCHILSEA AND NOTTINGHAM
said, he trusted that the progress of a movement out of doors which might escape the attention of some of their Lordships would excuse his dealing with those portions of the 43 Speech which referred to agriculture. There were some points which appeared to him not to have received in the Speech from the Throne all the attention which they might. One was that in which Her Majesty's Government stated that they had determined upon making some alteration in the number of troops in Egypt in view of recent occurrences in that country. But ought it not rather to have been "in view of recent occurrences at Newcastle," because, was not this a measure which would result in weakening of the imperial power? He had read with great astonishment that Her Majesty's Government were going to send out a Commissioner to Uganda with adequate provision for his safety, but it should not be forgotten that no assurance was given that these provisions might not be made in vain. He had been led to that conclusion by the general benevolent attitude towards the British producer taken up in the Speech from the Throne, and he was glad to find that that benevolent attitude had been carried a step further by the speech of the noble Lord who had moved the Address in their Lordships' House. He was very glad to hear the Mover of the Address say there was an intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to look into the question of the readjustment of local taxation, and that was the more remarkable because it would not have escaped the recollection of their Lordships that not many months since, in the other House, on the Motion of Mr. Provand, the political supporters of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government committed themselves to exactly the opposite view—a statement that the taxation on land ought to be increased. He was very glad that that farce had been accomplished. There were other points in the speech of the Mover of the Address which demanded attention. It was satisfactory also to have the noble Lord's opinion that the railways ought no longer to be allowed to carry foreign produce at rates which were practically prohibitive to home pro-duce. The noble Lord had stated that one remedy for the agricultural distress would be found in laying down land in pasture. They were aware that for every 100 acres so laid down four labourers must be thrown out of employment. It was, therefore, a very serious 44 thing for the labourers of this country if a general policy was to be recommended, either from one side or the other, which would involve the laying down of large tracts of land in pasture. The only effect would be to send the labourers into the towns, where they would seek employment, but would not find it, and would only add to the great pressure already falling on the local rates. He must take this opportunity of referring to the sudden conversion of the other side of the House to measures. which they had often heard advocated before, but which had never been received with favour. It was very like the National Agricultural Union casting its shadow before. None who lived in the country could doubt that landlords had lost their rents, tenants their profits, and the labourers were now in danger of losing their wages. When the noble Lord stated (and in that statement he himself fully concurred) that two of the causes of the agricultural depression were bad weather and low prices, he would ask leave to respectfully indicate a third, which he thought had had an equal effect upon the agricultural interest, namely, dis-organisation. If the agricultural interest had been organised the railway companies would never have dared to increase their rates as they had done. If they had an organised interest the middleman would never have been able to take not only his fair share of profits, but so unjust a share of them as to render it impossible to produce at a profit at all. Not only that, but local burdens had been placed one after another upon their shoulders, because they were not sufficiently organised to prevent that being done. He hoped they would be able to do something for themselves in the direction of organisation, and that they would be enabled to bring upon this question all the wisdom and experience which their members possessed, so that helped by themselves and helped by Parliament they might do something to rescue agriculture from the deplorable state into which it had fallen, a state which was not only dangerous, but was widening its influence to such an extent that it was affecting the income of everyone in the land. He would venture to promise Her Majesty's Government support for any measure of that kind which they might introduce, and no one had a 45 greater interest in these matters than the Members of their Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
thought that before the Debate closed they ought to know upon what grounds the remarks with regard to the steady decrease of crime in Ireland in the gracious Speech from the Throne had been based. He failed to understand where Her Majesty's Government could have obtained such information. There was no question that for the last six years under the late Administration there had been a steady progress in the establishment of law and order in Ireland. There could be no question that agrarian crime had been, for a time at all events, entirely extirpated in many parts of the country. There were, of course, exceptions to the rule, and to one of those exceptions he wished to draw their Lordships' attention—that was, the state of the County of Clare. At the time the lute Government quitted office the county of Clare was one of the few portions of Ireland still subject to the operation of the Crimes Act. The first thing that happened when Mr. Morley went to Ireland was that the provisions of the Crimes Act were suspended throughout the both and breadth of that county. What had been the result? It was perfectly true that crime had not been entirely extirpated by the Crimes Act; and it was perfectly true, because it very singular state of things existed in that county. Crime in Clare was not only agarian, it was a sort of internecine war or vendetta, carried on between rival factions representing secret societies, and perpetuating outrages upon each other. But what was the position now in Clare? Although it was stated there had been a steady progress in law and order, at a meeting of magistrates there, presided over by a Member of that House, as well acquit tired with the state of the country as any man in the three kingdoms, they had given their opinion that the state of the county was alarming in the extreme; that crime had steadily increased; that outrages were frequent; that fires were of constant occurrence; and more than that, that the number of crimes reported to the constabulary was not one-t hint of those which were to committed—sufferers front the outrages being afraid even to report to the police the treatment to which they had been subjected. A statement to that 46 effect was signed on behalf of the magistrates by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and was forwarded to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and also to the Prime Minister. Any one who knew what the actual state of the County Clare was would know that there was no more chance of obtaining a conviction for an agrarian crime, or any crime of a serious character, than there would be of obtaining a conviction for high treason against the Prime Minister, with a jury of his own Cabinet trying him, and the Lord Chancellor sitting on the Woolsack to decide-the case. It was utterly impossible to obtain a conviction in that part of the country. Another part of Ireland which he would mention was West Kerry. Although he was not personally acquainted with it, he had the best means of knowing what was going on there. Castle Island, a name not unfamiliar to their Lordships, had been the centre of all that was turbulent in Kerry. He would ask any one to glance over the public papers, and see what was happening in Castle Island and its neighbourhood at the present moment. He believed the last occurrence that had happened there was entirely devoid of any agrarian character. The parish priest had appointed a very competent person to be teacher in the school. The friends of the former teacher had resented this. A number of houses were visited in the night, shots were fired, and the inhabitants were warned that if they continued to send their children to the school where the obnoxious teacher presided, serious consequences would happen to them. And yet Her Majesty's Government thought it right to put in the Speech from the Throne that there was a steady progress in Ireland towards a better state of things. He could not believe that the two noble Lords, who had each held the Government of Ireland in troublous times, and had done good service in the public interest, could have taken the trouble to look into statistics which they might have obtained from reliable sources before a statement of that kind was put into the Speech. He might say without fear of contradiction that if the state of the country was fairly examined by them, although it was very much better than it had been at many previous periods of its history, it would be found that during the last six months 47 there had been a steady retrogression in the state of the country, and that every month had made it more apparent that the laws which restrained crime in the disturbed districts of Ireland had been relaxed far too soon. Of course, the difficulty of obtaining such statistics was very great, because the moment anyone showed unusual activity in the suppression of crime, or had done so in the past, he was immediately removed by the present Chief Secretary, and, perhaps, relegated to some distant part of the country of which he had known nothing whatever before, and it was pretty generally understood that such persons were not popular under the present Castle régime, and that they would have to suffer for their temerity. That, at all events, was the impression among those who had the administration of law and order in Ireland. Another point was the extraordinary manner in which the Chief Secretary had acted with regard to the Judiciary. When a Judge felt it necessary in the execution of his duty to make a statement about the prevalence of crime in a particular locality he was immediately accused by the Chief Secretary of having spoken with the Parties opposite. That was not very encouraging. But what was still more extraordinary was that the Chief Secretary, who thought that the Irish people were to be trusted in every respect, had thought it necessary to subtract a Judge from the English Judiciary to carry out the investigations he required, because there was not to be found, forsooth, on the Irish Bench a Judge of sufficient impartiality to preside over such a Commission. He could hardly conceive how a greater insult coned be conveyed to a nation than to say that a body of men who had been appointed by Prime Ministers, taken from both sides of the House, who had discharged their duties faithfully for years, were to be held wholly incompetent to conduct any inquiry which the Government saw fit to institute. If there was any answer to all this he confessed he should like to hear it. He would like to hear from some Member of Her Majesty's Government upon what authority these things had been done, why these statements hail been made in the Speech from the Throne, and how they proposed to justify the line of 48 action they had taken in matters so seriously affecting the interests of the country. They had thought fit to issue a Fishing Commission which was more extraordinary than had ever been issued by the Crown before. He was not aware that any precedent existed for such a Commission except that created by Mr. Morley himself in the case of Belfast some six or seven years ago.
THE MARQUES OF LONDONDERRY
said that, as there were a number of Peers connected with Ireland, and well acquainted with the present state of affairs there, who were anxious to discuss this question, and to state their views upon it to the House, he would, in order to affairs them an opportunity of doing so, move the adjournment of the Debate until Thursday next.
§ Moved, "That the Debate be adjourned to 'Thursday next."—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
§ Motion agreed to; Debate adjourned till Thursday next.