§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND (Lord ASHBOURNE)
My Lords, in asking your Lordships to accord a Second Reading to this Bill, I present for your acceptance a measure which has been before the public in Ireland, and to which the public opinion of Ireland, has been addressed, for a considerable time. The Bill and its provisions have been discussed by the Press, and it is, I think, regarded as an interesting and important measure calculated to promote the material prosperity of that country. I, myself, entertain no doubt that the measure will develop and foster the resources of Ireland, and by that means work out its material prosperity. I would naturally and reasonably expect that the expenditure which is contemplated under this Bill would be largely reproductive expenditure; that is to say, that it would so foster the industries and the resources of that country, and the habits of thrift of the people, as to soon produce a return which may fairly be called reproductive. The Bill comes to your Lordships accredited by a close criticism and examination in the House of 800 Commons, where, speaking generally and broadly, I may say the Bill was most favourably received on all sides. On none of its stages was it challenged in. principle. There was no Division taken against its introduction, or against the Second or Third Reading. Some of its clauses were criticised, but I think I am entitled to say that it passed through the ordeal of the House of Commons and the examination in the Standing Committee in a way which clearly indicates that it was framed in a manner which, in the opinion of all competent judges, was likely to result in benefit to Ireland. The objects of the Bill are to promote, foster, and encourage agriculture and all the kindred industries that are connected with that great pursuit, and also to promote, foster, and encourage technical education. I need not tell your Lordships, for I know there are many here who are closely connected, either by family, property, study, or official life with Ireland, that Ireland is very largely an agricultural country, and that anything which tends to improve its agriculture, and to foster and develop the many industries connected with agriculture, must have a great effect in the development of the resources of the country. Nor is it necessary for me to inform your Lordships that there are many parts of Ireland which lend themselves most favourably and encouragingly to the fostering of fisheries. I do not see why the sea fisheries round the coast of Ireland should not be fostered so that they could do great good to the inhabitants of Ireland. This is a matter which has attracted great attention for many years past. People connected with other countries are acquainted with the value of the fisheries in the neighbourhood of the Irish coast, and it is important that the Irish people themselves should be encouraged to work those fisheries. With regard to technical education, the people in Ireland yield to none in intelligence, in quickness of wit, and in the power of adapting their keen intelligence to everything that goes to learning and acquiring a knowledge of what is called technical education. We have not, however, had, up to the present moment, as much to encourage and develop technical education as was desired, but this Bill makes a very large and substantial advance in that direction, and I am sure there is not one of your Lordships who will not look with 801 pleasant anticipation to the prospect of an increase in technical education in Ireland which may result from this Bill. We have an example of what can be done in Ireland to foster and develop the great industry of agriculture and all the kindred industries in the working of the Congested Districts Board. I know nothing more encouraging to anyone who takes an interest in the well-being of Ireland, than to read the Reports of the Congested Districts Board. They show solid, interesting, useful work all round. The Board has applied itself, with, I think, a very earnest purpose and a very steady effort, to accomplish the object for which it was created—namely, to encourage the population in the congested districts to adopt better systems of agriculture, to improve the breeding of cattle, to improve the fisheries, and in other ways to develop the poorest and most populated part of the whole of Ireland. The proposals and the idea of this Bill are not new. In the year 1891, on the motion of the late Lord Waterford, a Return was obtained of a Correspondence with the Land Commission, going to show the work which was done by the Commission which might be worked up into an Agricultural Board. As recently as two years ago a Bill, largely on the lines of the one which I am now asking your Lordships to read a second time, was introduced in the House of Commons by my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary. But that Bill was not proceeded with, because it was indicated then that it was desirable, in the first instance, to postpone that Bill until the passing of the Local Government (Ireland) Bill. As the latter Bill has since become an Act of Parliament, this Bill has now been introduced, with the knowledge that there is in Ireland a local government administration with a real and earnest desire to accomplish the great objects that I have shortly indicated. This Bill sets before itself three large and substantial objects, every one of them entitled, I venture to think, to sympathy—firstly, to concentrate in one Department the functions in relation to agriculture and kindred industries that are now scattered amongst five or six Government Departments and offices; secondly, to extend to all Ireland the principles and tasks that are set before themselves by the Congested Districts Board; and, thirdly, to extend, develop, and foster technical edu- 802 cation. The mechanism that is sought to be applied to carry out these important practical objects is the creation of a Department, composed of the Chief Secretary and a vice-president, who shall be given the power, as is usual in such offices, to sit in Parliament, and they will have the main executive and administrative authority. To them is transferred the power of dealing with diseases of cattle, etc., which are now in the hands of various authorities and Government departments. The Bill also transfers to them everything in Ireland which goes to make up the present technical instruction and education, and also transfers to them and makes them responsible for the work of the fishery inspectors. The list of powers transferred is considerable; but, without going into detail, I think I have indicated in broad outline the nature and the character of the powers and authorities that are so transferred. It is important to note, in connection with the powers transferred, the financial resources that are placed at the disposal of the new Department to work out the results that are intended by the framers of the Bill. In addition to moneys that are voted by Parliament for the keeping up of the Department and other purposes, it is calculated that the total income from all sources at the disposal of the Department will be something between £160,000 and £170,000 a year; and that income is to be applied to aiding and encouraging agriculture and other industries, and also technical education. This is, of course, a very substantial and real sum, and it is made up from the following sources. They will receive £78,000 of the money now paid to the Commissioners of National Education out of the beer and spirit duties. That is selected, because it is an exact analogy to what is done in England and Scotland to provide for the spread of technical education in those countries. It is not intended that this shall result in any loss to the Commissioners of National Education, because Parliament will no doubt make due provision for the money taken away. The Irish Church Fund will provide a sum of £70,000, and £12,000 a year will be received under the Irish Judicature Act of 1887. This latter sum is calculated to be the amount of the saving of the abolished judgeships, and in the various legal Departments in Dublin. A novel clause was introduced into that 803 Act, providing that any of the savings that could be worked out under that Act should be applied in a way that should be sanctioned by Parliament. Then there is a sum of £6,000 a year, voted money, for the Albert Agricultural and Dairy Training Department at Glasnevin, and for the Munster Dairy School and Agricultural Institute; one gets £4,000, and the other £2,000. That works out to a total of £166,000. The Department to whom the duties are so transferred, and to whom these moneys are so devoted, will not be left to its own unaided intellect to carry out the duties which are cast upon it; because it will be aided, and it is contemplated that it should be aided, by the advice and assistance of certain popular bodies. Three of them are called into existence. There is, first, a Council of Agriculture; then there is an Agricultural Board, and a Board of Technical Instruction. The clauses in relation to those bodies are rather long, and I do not think it is necessary for me to read them, because it will be found on reference that they are bodies that are to a large extent popularly elected. I may as well state, as an instance of that, that the Council of Agriculture itself will consist of the following members:—Two persons to be appointed by the county council of each county (other than a county borough) in each province; and a number of persons resident in each province equal to the number of counties (exclusive of country boroughs) in the province, to be appointed by the Department with due regard to the representation on the council of any agricultural or industrial organisations in the province. The Agricultural Board is naturally a much smaller body, and will be constituted as follows: Two persons to be appointed by the provincial committee of each province, and four persons to be appointed by the Department. The Board of Technical Instruction, as will be seen at a glance on reference to Clause 10, is to be composed of a considerable number of persons appointed and elected by popular authority, and of four persons to be appointed by the Department. These bodies have very wide and important duties. The money is proposed to be divided in the following manner. The sum of £55,000 per annum will be devoted to technical instruction, and it is intended that the portion allotted to the county 804 boroughs shall be administered by the local authorities, subject to the approval of the Department. It will be found that very substantial powers with reference to the distribution of the whole fund for technical instruction are given to the Board. The sum of £10,000 a year is to be given for the assistance and development of sea fisheries, and the remainder is given for agriculture and other industries of a rural character, and also sea fisheries. Many people have said that they would like to see the funds larger; but I am afraid that it is a common Irish desire, and I, myself, as an Irishman, always feel an intelligent sympathy with the suggestions on the subject of fair expenditure in reference to Ireland. These sums, contrasted with what has been done by other Departments and in other countries, are very large and considerable, and if properly applied can work out very great and beneficent results. The Department will be assisted by the two Boards I have mentioned in their several spheres, and, although the executive and administrative authority, in reference to the matters I have referred to, is vested in the Department, the two Boards—the Agricultural Board and the Board of Technical Instruction—have wide powers of approval and dissent. Their functions are primarily of an advisory character,. but they have real influence and real power, as the concurrence of one or the other Board is required in most cases of their expenditure. A rating power of a limited character is given to county councils and to urban district councils, and thus it may be stated, and I think it is a wise provision, that, as a general rule, no money is to be spent by the Department on any local object without some contribution from local sources. A moderate power of rating is given for that purpose,. and no doubt the Department will be able to see that the local rating authority exhibits an intelligent interest in what they suggest, by coming forward with a moderate contribution to aid in the proposals they present to the Department as worthy of their acceptance. There are other clauses in the Bill, but I think I have mentioned the main objects of the measure in broad outline. I hope I have done so in sufficient detail and sufficient clearness to enable your Lordships to understand them, and I earnestly trust that the Bill, when it becomes law,. 805 as I hope it will within a very few days, will achieve the good results we all anticipate from it.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Ashbourne.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY:
My Lords, I do not think I need apologise to your Lordships for trespassing on your indulgence on the present occasion, for I venture to think I was the first person who pointed out the absolute necessity for creating a Board of Agriculture for Ireland similar to that proposed in the Bill which is now before your Lordships. I advocated the establishment of this Board, in a speech I delivered five years ago at Portadown, in order to develop the resources of the country which at the present moment are undeveloped, and which can only be developed by means of a system of instruction of a technical character. I ventured to point out on that occasion what should be the duties of the Board, and the great advantages which, in my humble opinion, would accrue were such a Board created. Therefore, I need hardly say that I rejoice most sincerely in seeing a measure introduced somewhat on the lines which I indicated five years ago, and which my noble and learned friend has informed us will in all probability be the law of the land in a very short time. I am convinced that if this measure is supported and taken up by the Irish people as it ought to be, we shall see an entire change in Ireland, and in certain parts of the districts which are now poor we shall see, if I may use the term, a reign of prosperity. In dealing with this question, I should like to point out to your Lordships, as I have often done before, that, although Ireland may appear to be a small island on the map, there are, in reality, several Irelands in in it. We have, in the north-east, the prosperous and industrious city of Belfast. In the counties in the south of Ireland there are grazing lands of an excellence almost unknown in England; while in the poorer districts on the west and south coast there exists a state of pauperism which has been alleviated to a very great extent by the efforts of the Congested Districts Boards, but which I think this Bill will go a long way to still further 806 alleviate. You must remember that, from whatever point of view we regard Ireland, she must be considered as a poor country as compared to England. Except in the north-east, to which I have alluded, Ireland has no great industries, and, as the noble and learned Lord has told us, her main industry is agriculture. Consequently, we should do everything in our power to enable Ireland to make the most of her chief industry, and in that way to improve her own position arid also her relations with England. Holding these views, and recognising that this measure must do a great deal to develop the resources of the country, I need hardly tell your Lordships that I shall do all in my power to enable the Bill to become law as soon as possible, and I shall endeavour, in Ireland, to prove to the people of that country that it is in their interests, and in the interests of the country itself, that they should make the Act a success. I am sure my noble and learned friend will believe me when I say that any criticisms I may make on the measure will be made in no unfriendly spirit, but rather with a desire to make the Bill a thoroughly useful and practical one, and one which in years to come may be looked back upon by the people of Ireland as the turning point, or, I may say, the starting point in their career. I shall not give my own opinions only; I shall give the opinions of gentlemen with far greater experience than myself. I have only this morning returned from Ireland, having had an opportunity of spending a week in Belfast, where I invited suggestions and hints from gentlemen whose names are household words in connection with all efforts to promote the welfare and prosperity of Ireland. The first point to which I would allude is the amount of money to be granted to the proposed Board. I sympathise most sincercely with my noble and learned friend when he states that he is always anxious to see money from England pour into Ireland. I endorse that view, and consequently I should like to have seen a larger sum placed at the disposal of this Board. As far as I can gather, the amount the Board will have at their disposal, including the amount voted and now used by the Congested Districts Board, will be about £230,000 a year. My noble friend thinks that is a large and substantial sum. I confess that I should like to 807 have seen it larger. We have to cope with other countries, and where competition is very keen we ought to be furnished with every advantage, and one of the greatest advantages is the sinews of war. Let us compare the position of Ireland as an agricultural country with that of other agricultural countries. The sum proposed to be voted to the Board of Agriculture is £230,000 a year, or at the rate of 1s. per head. Let me turn to Hungary. For agriculture alone the sum of £1,700,000 is given, but in addition to that, £1,800,000 is given to industries, making a total sum for the two purposes of £3,500,000 a year, or 3s. 9d. a head. In Austria £915,000 a year is given for agriculture alone, or 10d. per head; but, with the amount given for industries added, the total is £1,550,000 a year, or 1s. 6d. per head. These sums are made up by local contributions. I will not weary your Lordships with further statistics, but Switzerland has the largest grant of all, and Belgium, Berlin, France, and Bavaria all follow the same principles as those I have quoted. It will therefore be seen that the sum of £230,000 for agriculture and industries in Ireland is not by any means a large or exorbitant one. I know the difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I sympathise with him in not desiring to give more; but I hope evidence will prove that he or his successors will be justified in increasing this sum, and that they will find that the money will be of a reproductive character. I trust that, after this Bill has had an opportunity of working, Ireland will be in a position to contribute considerably more to the general British Exchequer than she has been able to in the past. I wish to say a few words with regard to the establishment or constitution of this Board, and I note that in the constitution of this Board it is proposed that the Chief Secretary should be the president. My friends in Ireland whom I have consulted do not approve of this suggestion, and I agree with them. I would not say one word derogatory of my right hon. friend the present Chief Secretary. I think if he were going to be the permanent Chief Secretary we should be glad to see him at the head of this Board, but we object to the principle of the Chief Secretary, whoever he may be, being at the head of the Board of Agriculture and Industries. We object to it on this ground. If the 808 Chief Secretary is the head of the Boards, it must be, and will be, considered an offshoot of Dublin Castle. As it will be the most important Board in Ireland, it should be presided over by a Minister of Cabinet rank in the House of Commons, responsible to Parliament and to nobody, else. England is not so dependent on Agriculture as Ireland, and yet you have, a Cabinet Minister as President of the English Board of Agriculture, who is responsible to no one but the Prime Minister, and is, therefore, responsible only to Parliament. I cannot but think, and my view is shared by a great many of those who are thoroughly conversant of Irish affairs, that the mere fact of the Department not being presided over by a President, will act very detrimentally to it in the future, and will not give that confidence in the creation and the work of the Board which would be the case if it had a gentleman presiding over it of equal rank with the President of the English Board of Agriculture. If the Chief Secretary, as President, is to exercise supremacy over the Board, if his supremacy is to be real, there is no independence for this Board, which will be merely, as I have said, an offshoot of Dublin Castle, and will inspire no confidence, as it will be considered to be a subordinate Board, and under what is called the Castle influence. On the other hand, if the Chief Secretary is to be merely the nominal head, why, in order to allow the Chief Secretary to be the nominal head, are you to diminish what ought to be the popularity of the Board, by taking away from it that confidence which ought to exist, but which will not exist if you have the Chief Secretary at the head? It is possible that you will have a very strong Chief Secretary and a very strong Vice-President. If a difficulty arises, what is to happen? The Vice-President must naturally go to the wall. That cannot happen in England. You will understand why it is that we feel that a Board of this importance should be presided over, as in England, by a Minister of Cabinet rank, responsible directly to Parliament and to nobody else. As I have said before, if the present Chief Secretary held that position permanently, we should be very glad to see him the permanent head of the Department, but you must remember that this Bill is not intended to come into effect until April next. I do not suppose the present 809 Government can stay in office more than two years longer, and it does seem to me rather hard that the Chief Secretary, who thoroughly deserves to reap the reward of his efforts, should be placed at the head of the Board, when he will be so soon succeeded by somebody else who may not increase, but, perhaps, diminish, the prestige of that Board. In Clause 6, I see that it is the intention of the Government to employ a secretary and two assistant-secretaries—one in respect of agriculture, and the other in respect of technical education. I have discussed this clause closely with my friends in Ireland, and we are somewhat in the dark. We should like a little explanation as to the position which these two assistant-secretaries are to hold. I gather that they are intended, one for the purpose of disseminating technical education from an industries point of view, but I am at a loss to understand what their position will be. The Chief Secretary, in the Committee stage of this Bill, said, in the House of Commons, speaking upon an Amendment:He could not see his way to accept the Amendment, having regard to the fact that the administrative capacity of the officers was so important an element when considering their election.And, later on, he says:—A large part of the duties will be administrative, and a man might be well able to do that, and might not have the whole of the qualities which would be considered necessary in an expert.My friends in the north of Ireland and myself differ from the Chief Secretary on this question. We do not consider that these gentlemen need have administrative powers. We are of opinion, considering the enormous importance of the duties entrusted to them, that they ought to be experts in the education of the people. To our minds, it is absolutely necessary that the very best men that can be obtained should be appointed to disseminate this knowledge. The responsibilities cast upon these gentlemen will be very great indeed, and, consequently, to discharge those duties, the very best men should be selected. Of course, we recognise that the services of the very best men cannot be obtained unless they are provided with very large salaries. My friends in the north of 810 Ireland would not consider even £1,500 a year too much to be paid to these gentlemen, provided you get the best men that can be obtained. In other countries the very best men are appointed, and paid large salaries, and I do not think we ought to grudge the money necessary to obtain the services of the very best men. To have these duties properly discharged, the men appointed should be experts. They will have to develop the resources of the country, which at the present moment are not sufficiently developed. I would not say one word detrimental of any official, because I have the highest opinion of them; but I do not think an official, no matter what his capacity may be, is the class of person to discharge these duties. He has not had practical experience in making experiments. He has had no opportunity of dealing with questions of a tentative character. Moreover, the officials, whoever they may be, would be all tainted with the Castle brush. Let me point out what the duties of the experts are. Their duties are to study closely the industries of those different parts of Ireland to which I have alluded, and which require the greatest attention and knowledge. There is no part of Ireland, no matter how poor, but, if the details of this measure are properly discharged, will not have the opportunity of bettering its present position. By that I mean that they have industries in all parts of Ireland which, if properly cultivated and properly ministered to, should do something to supply some article which at the present moment England buys from foreign countries. Let me turn to the poorer districts. The poorer districts have the opportunity of supplying a demand for which England annually pays an enormous sum to foreign countries. I refer to the supp'y of eggs. I have not got statistics of the money paid last year, but I have the Return for 1897. In that year, England paid no less than £4,356,849 for foreign eggs imported into this country. That is an industry which should be cultivated in Ireland. Ireland should be able to produce a large proportion of those eggs which at the present moment are bought from the foreigner; and, if Ireland were taught to produce them, I do not hesitate to say that England would gladly buy the eggs from Ireland instead of obtaining them from the foreigner. The egg industry, to a rich country like England, may seem a paltry matter to talk about, but an 811 industry which might bring several millions a year into Ireland is a very important item to that country. I was told yesterday, by a practical friend of mine, that he himself had seen at Dieppe a train containing nothing but eggs brought from the furthermost part of Italy and consigned to London. It would be necessary for the people of Ireland to be instructed by experts as to the manner in which those eggs can be supplied. They should be taught, in the first place, to improve their breeding of fowls; and, in the second place, when they have collected their eggs, they should be instructed as to what to do with them, whether to send them off at once to England or retain them; and, if they retain them, how to preserve them so that they would arrive in England in an eatable condition. With regard to grazing land, I think Ireland has advantages of dairying such as are unknown in England. Great strides have been made in improving matters connected with dairying, by the untiring efforts of my good friend, Mr. Horace Plunkett, than whom no man has done more in this direction to promote the welfare of Ireland. He has started co-operative creameries, which are already doing enormous work, but a great deal more requires to be done. In the year 1897, England paid very nearly £16,000,000 for foreign butter, and nearly £2,500,000 for margarine, all imported from abroad. England could get a large portion of its supply from Ireland if the system of dairying in that country was improved. Denmark is a very poor country. It has a population of only half that of Ireland, and yet no less a sum than £6,748,000 has been paid to Denmark by this country for butter alone during the past year. There is another very important industry with which I, myself, am to a certain extent connected. Your lordships know well that the linen industry is one of the most important industries in Ireland, and to make linen the very best flax is required. I live in apart of the country which years ago produced an enormous amount of flax, but I am sorry to say that a great deal of that has disappeared in later years. In 1864, no fewer than 130,000 acres in Ireland were under flax; but, in 1898, that number had been reduced to 34,889 acres. That means that the great linen mills in Belfast and the surrounding districts are obliged to buy their flax from abroad. I 812 know that one of the explanations of this decrease is that flax takes so much out of the land that it is seven years before another crop can be obtained; but I contend that the experts to whom I have alluded can prove, from chemical experiments, that the land can be so treated that it can grow a good crop the following year. When I tell your Lordships that the price of flax varies from £90 to £6 a ton, it will be seen how necessary it is that good flax should be grown; and it can only be grown by the best instruction of a technical character being given to the owners of the land. The egg industry, the dairy industry, and the flax industry have, to a certain extent, languished in Ireland, and in those three industries alone England paid, in 1897, no less a sum than £25,500,000 to foreign countries. Surely, when you see this large sum going to other countries, it is a proof of the fact that it is absolutely necessary that something should be done to develop the resources of Ireland. These articles could be produced in Ireland, but they have not been produced because Ireland has not received proper education in their production. I am constantly told by people in this country that the people of Ireland do not support this Bill, and that Mr. Dillon seems to have done his utmost to prevent the Bill passing through the House of Commons. I say that Mr. Dillon, in this matter, does not represent the views of any lovers of Ireland. Mr. Dillon, in the manner in which he has approached this Bill in its various stages through the House of Commons, has been willing to wound, yet afraid to strike. I am glad to think that he has not succeeded in inducing the Chief Secretary to drop this measure. I have yet to learn what policy has ever been originated by Mr. Dillon which has tended to promote the general prosperity of Ireland. On the contrary, he has kept aloof from everything we have done to promote the prosperity of Ireland. He kept aloof from the Recess Committee, from the Irish Agricultural Association, from the Industries Association, and from the Tourist Development Association, and in future he will be handed down to posterity as the man who is responsible for the most disastrous policy ever adopted in Ireland—namely, the Plan of Campaign. At the time I sketched, some five years ago, what should be the policy of the Government in regard to this Bill, Mr. Dillon had just addressed 813 a gathering within a few miles of Portadown, where I was speaking, and he predicted that if the Tories ever got back into power before Ireland received Home Rule, there would be one of the biggest land agitations that had yet been seen. That is the policy of Mr. Dillon, which I think accounts for his endeavouring to damage this Bill in another place. He knows that if the Bill is taken up by the Irish people, as I have every reason to think it will be, there will be no more agitation in Ireland, and then Mr. Dillon's occupation, like that of Othello, will be gone for ever. I believe this measure will be the death-knell of agitation, and the commencement of a new era for Ireland. I believe that you will find that this measure will be taken up by the Irish people, who are sick of agitation. They require to be told that, if they receive assistance from the British Government, they must assist themselves; and no better words of advice were ever given to the agricultural classes in Ireland than were given by Mr. Horace Plunkett, when he said:—Self-help is required by mutual help".That should be the motto of the Irish people when they take advantage of this Bill. I believe, as I have said, that this will prove the starting point in a new career for Ireland. I believe, by teaching the people, you will enable them to supply England with goods which England now buys from abroad. Once that money is diverted into Irish channels, Ireland will become a prosperous and contented country, and this Bill will be looked upon as having opened up a new vista to that country, and made her a true and loving sister isle.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, I rise to give this Bill my most hearty support. It has been introduced in response to a demand from all classes and all creeds of the Irish people. I will put aside all questions with regard to Mr. Dillon, and what he said upon this Bill, and congratulate the Government on having listened to the demands which have been made. The main scheme of this Bill will be found in the Report of 814 the Recess Committee, and that Committee consisted of representatives of all creeds and of every class and of every shade of politics in Ireland, and it was formed and presided over by my old friend, Mr. Horace Plunkett, who I am sure everyone was, sorry was not in his place in the House of Commons to see his many years' labour brought at last to a successful conclusion by the introduction of this Bill. This Committee inquired into the agriculture, the industries, and technical education in Ireland, into foreign competition as against Irish produce, and the ways in which State-aid was granted on the Continent to agricultural and technical education. When that Committee issued its Report, it was supported by the Chambers of Commerce in Ireland, by the Corporations of all the principal towns, and by many Boards of Guardians. In fact, I know of no public body in Ireland that condemned the Report. Two years ago, the Chief Secretary introduced a Bill in which he endeavoured to meet the demand for a Board of Agriculture in Ireland, but that Bill did not embody the elective principle recommended by the Recess Committee, nor were its financial conditions satisfactory to Ireland. The Chief Secretary was in no way to blame, because he had no constituencies to go to, and the Bill was dropped. The Local Government (Ireland) Act of last session paved the way for this Bill, because it created constituencies, and from those constituencies is formed the Council of Agriculture, from which we have the Board of Agriculture, the administrative body under this Bill. The elective principle is what commends the Bill to us in Ireland. We approve of it also because this Board of Agriculture will have a large voice in the financial expenditure. The Chief Secretary is to be president of the new Department, with a vice-president under him with a seat in Parliament. I should have liked to see a Minister of Agriculture, responsible only to Parliament, for this great Department, independent entirely of the Chief Secretary. I do not wish in any way to say anything personal, but the Chief Secretary for Ireland is, and always has been, President of the Local Government Board, the Board of Works, and, indeed, of so many Boards in Ireland, that one would really think he had quite enough, to do.
THE EARL OF MAYO
Then I stand corrected on that point. However, the Chief Secretary has created this Department, and is anxious to be its president, and he has carried his point. In expressing this opinion, I am not putting forward merely my own view. This view was expressed by the Recess Committee and by every public board in Ireland with regard to the Bill of 1897, which contained the same provision. For the arguments in favour of the Chief Secretary being president, and of there being a vice-president, you have to refer to the proceedings in the Grand Committee, where the Chief Secretary argued that the new vice-president and himself would have more weight in any future legislation than if the Department was placed under the charge of a Minister, who would necessarily be one of the subordinate Ministers receiving £1,200 a year. Seeing that Ireland is a purely agricultural country, and that the new Department now being created will certainly in the future become a most important Department in that country, I feel, with many others, that there should be a Minister of Agriculture, responsible only to Parliament. You have a Minister of this description in England, which is not a purely agricultural country, and what we ask, without any disrespect to the Chief Secretary, who has carried this measure so successfully through the other House, is that a Minister of Agriculture should also be appointed for Ireland. There must be a Minister of Agriculture in the future if this scheme is to grow. It has been said by some that this Bill creates another Castle Board. In my opinion it absorbs a great many of the Castle Boards, and in so far as it does so it is are form. The administration of the grant to Science and Art in Ireland is taken over, as also is the grant in aid of Technical Education, and the powers and duties of the Department of Science and Art in relation to the public buildings in Ireland. I take that to mean that the Science and Art Museum in Dublin is taken over by the new body. I feel that we are in this matter entirely cut off from South Kensington, which has the power of lending many valuable and interest- 816 ing collections to provincial museums and to the museum in Dublin If we are entirely cut off from this very useful provision, the artisans, artists, and handicraftsmen in Ireland will suffer; and if the Government can see their way to keep our museum in touch with South Kensington—the finest museum in the world, and containing the finest specimens of art and handicraft that are known—it would be greatly appreciated. I will now pass to the provisions in reference to the fishery inspectors. The whole of the duties of the Fishery Board are transferred to the new Department, and eventually there will be one inspector instead of three. I have not the slightest objection to this, for I consider one inspector quite sufficient. The Bill, however, says that the sum of £10,000 shall be applied for the purpose of sea fisheries. But, as regards inland fisheries, no money is provided, nor are inland fisheries mentioned except in connection with agriculture. Our fisheries in Ireland have got into such a deplorable state, that it was only last May that I had the honour of introducing a deputation to the Lord Lieutenant on the subject, and his Excellency, Lord Cadogan, has promised to appoint a Vice-Regal Commission to inquire into the whole question of the deterioration of inland fisheries and its causes. One would have thought that this Bill would have provided for our fresh water fisheries. In the Grand Committee, the Chief Secretary stated that, the case of the fresh water fisheries was already covered, because agriculture was defined as including inland fisheries. You might define agriculture as meaning anything, but to say that agriculture means inland fisheries is a most extraordinary proposition. The definitions of agriculture are in Clause 30, and they include horticulture, forestry, dairying, the breeding of horses, cattle, and other live-stock, and poultry, home and cottage industries, the cultivation and preparation of flax, and inland fisheries. Our inland fisheries are worth to Ireland £1,200,000 per annum, and I would ask your Lordships what chance, amongst this host of objects, will inland fisheries have? They are only entitled to rank with all these objects in any surplus of money which may exist. Every Amendment which was put forward for a grant for fresh-water fisheries was resisted by the Chief Secretary, mainly on the ground.
817 that, if inland fisheries were specially treated by grant, Amendments might be moved for a grant for horse-breeding, etc. When an Amendment was proposed that a Sub-Committee should be appointed, called the Sea and Inland Fisheries Board, the Chief Secretary said:It surely was obvious to the Committee that when the inspectors of fisheries were transferred it followed that there would be in the Department a sub-department dealing with this branch of industry, Such a course did not require legislation, but followed naturally.This follows naturally with regard to sea fisheries, but there is no indication whatever in the Bill that it follows naturally with regard to fresh-water fisheries. I contend that the Department should be enabled to carry out those duties in as effective a manner as formerly, and that in the Bill inland fisheries should not be classed with numerous forms of agriculture, which will result in fresh-water fisheries being neglected altogether, as there will be no money provided for them. I shall move an Amendment to Clause 5 in Committee to allow of the Department making inquiries, experiments, and research, and collecting such information as they may think important in regard to sea fisheries and inland fisheries. I hope Her Majesty's Government will accept that Amendment. I desire to say a few words with regard to the financial aspect of the Bill. The only defect I find is that all the money does not come from Imperial sources, and that the Irish Church Fund is again drawn upon. This is not the time or the place to discuss the claim we have on the Imperial Exchequer, based on the question of Irish financial relations. I for one do not abate that claim one iota, or think we weaken our position by accepting the financial provisions of the Bill. On the contrary, I consider that the provisions make our case stronger. There is one provision in the Bill which I should like to mention. The Department has the power of appearing before the Railway and Canal Commissioners, and any expense incurred may be paid by the Department. I consider this to be one of the most useful provisions in the Bill, because everyone who knows what agriculturists have to suffer owing to the high railway rates will recognise that if this provision is properly carried out it will 818 prove of the utmost benefit. The Irish agriculturist is at present completely harnessed and overloaded by these railway rates. I will give your Lordships an instance which happened to myself. I ordered some peat moss litter from Portadown to my own station, about eighteen miles from Dublin, the carriage of which was £8. I foresee that this provision, giving the Department power to appear before the Railway and Canal Commissioners, and pay the expenses of that appearance, will be most useful, and I hope the Irish agriculturists and farmers will press the Department to appear before the Commissioners as soon as possible after the passing of this Bill. It is exceptionally pleasant to have to praise an Irish measure, and not to have to divide against the Government upon it, even though we beat them. This Bill, which has passed through its various stages amidst a shower of praises, will, in my opinion, increase the material prosperity of Ireland, and for that reason I give it my hearty support, and I congratulate the Government, and especially the Chief Secretary, upon having brought in a Bill, and carried it so far, which will prove of such great benefit to the people of Ireland.
My Lords, it was my good fortune to have been invited by my friend, Mr. Horace Plunkett, to join in the movement of which this Bill is the outcome, and in a small part, as his follower, I have had special opportunities of observing how that good man is regarded by the agricultural classes in Ireland. I shall not detain your Lordships by urging upon you the merits of this Bill, and the vital importance of according, by means of it, all the assistance we possibly can to the agricultural industry of Ireland, which, though it has under many unfortunate circumstances languished, must always provide the main employment for, and sustenance of, the Irish people. I desire to take this opportunity, speaking from my own experience, of giving the honour of the inception of the policy of this measure where that honour is due, and to tell your Lordships that there are peculiarly opportune circumstances surrounding the introduction of this measure which may fairly lead us. 819 to hope that it will be welcomed with unanimity, and received in a practical spirit to an extent which rarely, if ever before, was accorded to any Act passed for Ireland. When Mr. Horace Plunkett started twelve years ago on his mission of teaching the Irish agriculturists the importance of spontaneous efforts on their part, and the advantage of co-operation, he was considered as an "amiable enthusiast," and failure was very generally predicted for his efforts. But he resolutely pursued his course, addressing lectures here, distributing pamphlets there, pointing out that the technical instruction and supervision given by foreign countries was one of the chief reasons why the Irish farmer was being cut out of the markets of the world. It was weary work enough, at first, particularly as agrarian agitation was rife in the land. But he gathered around him a small band of patriotic Irishmen of all shades of religious and political opinions to help him in what I may call his crusade. Amongst them was the Rev. Father Finlay, a most able and distinguished Irish Roman Catholic clergyman, who very early joined himself to this movement and zealously supported it. Mr. Horace Plunkett succeeded in starting an important agricultural organisation. He formed the Recess Committee, composed of Irishmen of all shades of politics, and he obtained from them a unanimous Report, which, I think, may fairly be said to form the basis of the legislation now before your Lordships. What has struck me most, from my own experience in connection with this subject, is the fact that, though the Irish farmer has generally been found to be suspicious and timid to a degree when he has been individually asked to alter his own bad system of culture—the only one, indeed, which he had ever heard of—when he is associated, as he has been in this movement, with his neighbours, he takes a perfectly different view of the advantages thus offered to him, and is prompt to grasp and carry out the advice he receives. The light which has come from the efforts of the Recess Committee has spread rapidly, and the advantages of improved methods are becoming more and more better known among the farmers of Ireland. There are now over 400 societies, organised by Mr. Plunkett's Committee, all over the land, with over 40,000 members, and these societies have 820 helped large numbers of the people to realise what this measure means, and to grasp the fact that it is not formed for the distribution of indiscriminate doles, but rather to back up their own efforts at selfhelp, and thus assist them to secure again a place in those markets in the world where better instructed and more progressive nations are now supreme. I venture to think the time is opportune for the advantages now offered to them, not only because there exists at the present time a more tranquil disposition in the minds of the Irish people, and a more complete immunity from the curse of agitation, but because the minds of my fellow countrymen have been turned to the practical politics of making their daily lives more prosperous and contented by making more productive the efforts of their daily toil. Therefore, I think we may all hope, not perhaps for immediate success, but for steady and increasing benefits from the passing of this measure, which I feel sure, coupled with the Act which instituted the Board dealing with the congested districts, will greatly help to bring that, prosperity to Ireland which it is everyone's wish she should enjoy.
* THE EARL OF ARRAN
I do not intend to trouble your Lordships with a speech, but I should not like this Bill to pass its Second Reading without embracing the opportunity of expressing my hearty satisfaction at its introduction, and my earnest hope that it will do that good to Ireland which its originator intended. I think we should have a little more information, however, upon the point raised by my noble friend, the Marquess of Londonderry—namely, whether it is a wise thing that the Chief Secretary for Ireland should be the head of this Board. As the noble Marquess said, if the present Chief Secretary were always to remain with us we should have no possible objection to his being at the head of that Board, but the fact that the Chief Secretary is here to-day and gone to-morrow, must destroy that continuity of policy which is so useful everywhere, and which in Ireland is more necessary than anywhere else. I do not see how one man, who has not the strength of Hercules, can possibly do all the work which the Chief Secretary has to perform. 821 I have not gone into figures, but I cannot help thinking that the Council will prove unworkable if this provision is insisted upon. I should like to ask my noble and learned friend, who is in charge of this Bill, whether, under the term "person" in the tenth clause of the Bill, women are included. I ask this because, with the exception of what has been done by the Congested Districts Board, which is comparatively a recent institution, and what has been done by the Earl of Mayo, nearly the whole of the technical instruction given in Ireland has been given by ladies. It was begun and carried out with great success by the nuns over the different parts of Ireland. It has been taken up and carried out by various ladies in the districts in which they reside, and I cannot help thinking that there might be considerable advantage in enabling those ladies to give of their experience on this question. There is another point on which I should like to ask a question. Will the power to raise a poor rate of 1d. in the £ be outside the poor rate as it stands under the Local Government Act and be met by the Agricultural Grant, or will it fall equally on everybody? I am sure no one in Ireland will object to bear their proper share of this additional impost, but I think we should know how the money is to be raised. With these few words, I beg to express the hope that the Bill will pass through your Lordships' House and become law in a few days.
§ * LORD MORRIS
My Lords, if the Chief Secretary for Ireland had been present I think he would have heard with honest pride the universal chorus of approval of the Bill which now stands for Second Reading. That approval was put into language of an eloquent character by my noble friend behind me (Lord Plunket), who shows that eloquence is hereditary, and that the name he bears is one which is likely to revive, at all events in the Debates in your Lordships' House, a recollection of the race from which he springs. While joining most heartily in the chorus of approval with which the Bill has been welcomed, I must say that I am not carried away by any idea 822 that there is to be a sudden change in Ireland, and that this Bill is going to bring about an immediate and extraordinary reform in the agricultural industry of the country. The cause of the failure of agriculture in Ireland depends upon circumstances much deeper than anything that could be done by a grant or education. Everyone will admit that the great falling off in the agricultural industry of Ireland has steadily progressed year by year since Free Trade was adopted. In 1846, 7,000,000 acres of Ireland were cultivated—more than one-third of its area. Now, fifty years afterwards, only one-eighth of the area of Ireland is under cultivation. That is not the result of want of education, nor will it ever be repaired by education. But that is no reason why we should not try and improve the present state of affairs. My noble friend, the Earl of Mayo, has rather suggested a short cut by which we can compete with Normandy in the matter of butter—namely, by compelling railway companies to convey goods not at a rate which would repay them, but at a rate which the noble Earl thinks would be satisfactory to himself. I am not a shareholder in railways, because I have long foreseen that an attack would be made, after landed property in Ireland, upon railway property. Railways are not established for philanthropic purposes, but to pay dividends. Few railways in Ireland pay any dividend at all, and the Midland and Great Western seldom pays more than 4 percent. Therefore, to say that railways are to be selected as being the medium by which the west of Ireland, or any part of Ireland, is to be brought into the same proximity with London as Normandy or Dieppe, is equal to saying that you are going to confiscate the railways. The noble Lord the Earl of Mayo said he was pleased that the new Board of Agriculture would have power to appear before the Railway and Canal Commissioners to contest with railways as to the prices they should charge, but I disagree altogether with this provision. At the present moment anyone aggrieved can lodge a complaint. Why should there be an invitation to this Board to spend public money in coercing companies to carry goods at a price which would not be remunerative to them, but which would satisfy my noble friend and enable him to get his peat 823 moss litter? My noble friend says it is inconsistent not to make a grant to fresh water fisheries. Sea fisheries are public property, but inland fisheries are private property. If there are to be grants for private property I suppose the State will want a share in that property in return for the grants. My noble friend said he agreed that one inspector would be sufficient. If you go on in the direction to confiscate the inland fisheries no inspector at all will be necessary. I also dissent from the noble Lords who have wished that the Chief Secretary should not be the President of this Board. I am very glad he is to be the President of the Board. The argument that has been used is that Parties will change and so also will the Chief Secretary. But will not the Vice-President change also? If the proposal with regard to the President is considered improper because he will go in and out with the Government, does not this also apply to the Vice-President? I do not think anything will be gained by appointing secretaries at £1,500 a year. Very few of the under-secretaries of the great Departments in England get £1,500 a year. I am in favour of the Bill generally as it stands, and, although I think the benefits to be derived from it have been over estimated, I shall give my support to the Second Reading.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I am under some apprehension, in rising to say a few words on this Bill, lest I should seem to introduce a discordant note. I welcome the Bill, although I cannot bring myself to believe, like the, noble Earl opposite, that it will create a new era in Ireland. I think it will be a very useful Bill, but I agree with what has been said that what we have to look to is self-help. At the same time, that self-help may be supported and strengthened by the action of the new Department. I think that one of the most encouraging things I have seen a long time—since my connection with Ireland—is the movement set on foot by Mr. Horace Plunkett and his friends, and, so far as I can learn, the societies established by them are really producing successful results, and stimulating the agriculture and industries of that country. Although I think there may be more for the Board of Agriculture in Ireland to do than in England, judging from my experience of the Board of Agriculture in 824 England, I must say that I believe that the power of the Board which is to be set up in Ireland will be very limited. The Board of Agriculture in England has never been able to come up to the expectations of those who advocated it. It has not been able to do much, except deal with diseases of animals, and if there was any justification for a Minister of Agriculture it would be in the most successful operations of Mr. Long in suppressing that terrible disease, hydrophobia. I hope the new Department in Ireland will show the same perseverance and courage in dealing with this disease. It is intolerable that a disease should be allowed to exist, when it can be proved that by sufficient precautions you can prevent it. The noble and learned Lord who has just spoken has truly said that the great change in agriculture in Ireland dated from the introduction of Free Trade, but I would point out that that change has consisted principally in the diminution of the corn area in Ireland. The riches of Ireland in agriculture consist in its extensive pasture land, and there has been a great and marked improvement in the production of cattle. I speak for the county in which I live, and which is mainly dependent on Ireland for the cattle which it fattens, and over and over again I have been told by farmers, with the greatest admiration, of the remarkable improvement which has taken place in Irish cattle. In fact, there are no finer cattle produced anywhere than in Ireland. That shows what can be done in one class of produce, and there is no reason why Ireland should not supply as good dairy produce as any country in Europe. The noble Marquess pointed out with truth that the egg industry is not one to be despised, and that Ireland is a country in which that industry might be increased. Lastly, there is flax culture. I agree with the noble Marquess in regretting the diminution in flax culture; and if the cultivation of flax in the north of Ireland can be revived, it will be of great benefit to that country. As to the contention that the new Department should be under a Minister of Cabinet rank, I consider that would be a very dangerous innovation. I am very glad that the Government has placed the Department under the Chief Secretary. As the noble and learned Lord pointed out, the Vice-President, by this Bill, may sit in Parliament. He will, 825 no doubt, and will change with the Government. Therefore, in point of fact, no advantage would be derived in placing the Department under a Vice-President. The present Cabinet consists of nineteen members—the largest Cabinet that has ever existed in this country—and to add another would bring it up to twenty. If you go on adding more members you will break down the system of Cabinet Government altogether, and with Cabinets of such a size you run the risk of repeating with respect to the Cabinet the history of the Privy Council, which became so large that a smaller body had to be carved out of it. I object, also, to the principle that is contemplated to be laid down, that no one can be an efficient head of a Department unless he is a member of the Cabinet. I deny that entirely. I am not so well acquainted with all that has been going on in Ireland as to know what is the origin of the very complicated provisions of this Bill, but I am very much struck by the proposal for the creation of a Board to which matters are to be referred by the Minister, and upon which he is to receive their advice. This is another instance of what appears to me to be the commencement of a new system of government. The noble Duke opposite has created a Consultative Committee for the Board of Education, and now you are about to create another Consultative Committee of a more remarkable kind, because the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education is appointed by the Minister himself, but this Consultative Committee is to be appointed by local bodies. I believe this is the first time in our history that we have had san Elective Committee taking part in the administration of one of the Departments of Government. I confess that I prefer to see this new and somewhat daring experiment tried first in Ireland. If it works well there it will no doubt come over to this country, but I do not think it will work well. It is evident that the Bill has large support in Ireland, and therefore it will have a fair chance of success. I sincerely hope it may be more successful than I anticipate it will be.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
My Lords, I have listened, as I am sure we all have, with interest to the discussion which has taken place on this Bill. The various 826 speeches, I think, reflect truly the opinion entertained out of doors. They indicate the feeling which prevails in Ireland, and which found a voice in all parts of the House of Commons. I agree with the noble Earl who has just spoken that it is not wise to expect from any legislative measure that it will at once work a miracle; but this is an honest effort to develop what needs development in Ireland, and to improve agriculture and the fisheries, and to enlarge technical education. If the nation applies itself loyally to co-operate with the intentions of this Bill, there is no reason why the expectations of those who framed it should not find ample realisation. I entirely agree with the views pronounced on the part of the Government with respect to the proposal to put the Chief Secretary at the head of the new Department. It will strengthen the Board, give it greater authority, and give unity to the general administration of the country; and I am glad that this view had the general concurrence of the noble Earl (Lord Kimberley), and of Lord Morris. The administration will be largely left to the Vice-President, who must, with the Chief Secretary, leave office when there is a change of Government. The new Government which will come into office will then have the responsibility of working the mechanism which is called into existence in this Bill. I can see no advantage in endeavouring to make in Ireland a dual system of authority, which would happen if the Vice-President was placed at the head of the Board. It would be an entirely new departure to call into existence a Department which would permeate a great part of the general legislation of Ireland, in reference to which the Chief Secretary would be only in touch as President of the Congested Districts Board, and to deny him a right to take the responsibility of the administration in Parliament. The point raised by the noble Marquess as to the two assistant secretaries is a matter more for Committee. I anticipate that as good men will be obtained for the Assistant Secretary ships as can be secured—a man probably well acquainted with technical education for one, and a man thoroughly acquainted with agricultural affairs for the other. If they wanted expert assistance funds would doubtless be available for 827 procuring it. My noble friend, the Earl of Mayo, spoke in favour of giving further aid to inland fisheries. The inland fisheries are grasped in the Bill abundantly. I heard with very great pleasure my noble friend, Lord Plunket, take part in the Debate, not only for the valuable observations which he made, but for the manner in which he showed that he can maintain the traditional power of speaking which belongs to his name. I am sure we all heard with sympathy his reference to Mr. Horace Plunkett, with whom we all feel such deep sympathy. We all know the great interest he has taken in this subject, and there is not one of your Lordships who does not wish that he may soon be restored to health. I do not think it desirable at this stage to go into other matters more in detail, but I trust that it will be for the convenience of your Lordships that I should name the Committee stage of the Bill to be taken to-morrow.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I will look into it by to-morrow. I have not had my attention directed to the point before.
§ On Question, agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House Tomorrow.