§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY,
in rising to call attention to the multiplicity of duties in respect of different Departments that are imposed on the Ministers holding from time to time the Office of Chief Secretary for Ireland; and to move—That it is desirable that the Irish Law Officers, or one of them, having seats in this House, should represent in this House one or more of the numerous Departments now represented by the Chief Secretary,said, he wished to preface the remarks he had to make with the statement that he and those who sat with him regarded as imperfect any attempt at solving Irish difficulties which did not provide for the management of Irish affairs in Ireland; but after laying down that proposition, by way of protest, he would pass to the subject to which he desired to specially call attention. That House had certain duties, two in number, to perform. It had first to make laws and arrange institutions to administer the country, and then it had to see that the laws were properly administered, and that the institutions were carried out in such a way as to administer the laws of the country well and judiciously. He considered the second duty of the House, perhaps, to all practical intents and purposes, more important than its legislative powers. He wished to draw attention to the contrast which existed between the manner in which the discharge of the latter duty was insured in the House of Commons for England and the official manner in which Irish Business was transacted. In that House for English Business they had the Representative of the English Local Government Board; a Representative of the matters connected with English education in the person of the Vice President of the Council; they had the Home Secretary to discharge the enormous duties pertaining to his Office; 1507 and then they had the Office presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. Adam), who also undertook largo and important duties. Now, when an Englishman undertook the duties of one of those Offices, he went down and took care to learn, or at least endeavoured to, the merits of all questions likely to arise in it; he endeavoured to become acquainted with the policy of his Predecessors; if reforms were proposed, he gave his opinion as to them, arrived at after deliberation; and if reforms in his Department were necessary, he proposed them. In these English cases there was perfect Parliamentary representation, and the Minister came down to the House, not to reply to Questions by reading answers which he had received from a clerk, but to speak directly from his own knowledge derived from actual interference in the affairs of the Office. The Gentlemen who represented the English Departments had all qualified by serving as Under Secretaries, and some of them had gained their experience by holding the Office of Irish Secretary. Perhaps there was no Office that would furnish better general training; but it was rather hard upon Ireland and the Irish people that the Irish Secretary ship should be treated as a kind of apprenticeship for English statesmen, and that the one man lacking experience should generally be the Chief Secretary. Each English Department was represented, not merely by a tried Leader, but also by an Under Secretary who undertook a great portion of the work. Another important fact was that there were certain branches of English administration which were largely under the control of local authorities. That was not so to the same extent in Ireland. In England the local authorities to a large extent managed the Police Force, and they also managed educational affairs through the School Boards; but in Ireland all these matters were under the hand of the Central Government, and that Central Government, so far as administration and representation in that House were concerned, consisted of one person who had to bear the burden of all the local authorities who existed in England. Having pointed out how things stood in England, he wished to say a few words about the traditional character and capacity of the Gentlemen who were 1508 generally appointed to the Office of Chief Secretary in Ireland. He was generally an inexperienced man, and the late Mr. O'Connell had used language respecting him which he (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) would not now like to repeat. As he had said, he was generally an inexperienced man, who had never before held Office. At this moment, it was true, he was far from being an inexperienced man; but nothing showed so well the inexperience of the general run of the holders of that Office as the utter astonishment of the people of Ireland when it was announced that the Office of Chief Secretary was to be assumed by the experienced and responsible statesman who now held the position. It would be hard to say what had hitherto, in past times, been considered the qualifications for this Office. Sometimes there was no apparent qualification whatever, and sometimes one was driven to suppose that a certain hilarity of manner, or the being addicted to certain sports and pastimes which were supposed to be in accordance with Irish tastes, were the qualifications. But whatever the qualification, or absence of qualification, one person's shoulders had hitherto borne the management in that House of all Irish matters. He would now call attention to the number of those Departments, the various duties they had to perform, and the difficulties they had to contend with. The Irish Chief Secretary had, in the first place, to discharge for Ireland all the numerous and multifarious duties that fell upon a Home Secretary in regard to England. The very mention of the Home Office would call to mind very numerous and various duties; but in Ireland the duties of the Chief Secretary, acting as Home Secretary, were rendered more difficult by the fact that there were Party difficulties and agitations there which were sometimes deemed sufficiently formidable to call for the interference of the Executive. There was a multitude of peculiar circumstances that required to be watched carefully and grappled with by the Minister who had to deal with them. Take, for example, the question of education. There was a Board of National Education. It administered primary education all through Ireland, and administered it, not as the Central Board in England, with the aid of the local boards, but to all intents and purposes autocratically, 1509 and without any assistance from the various localities. They had the Local Government Board of Ireland, of which the Chief Secretary was nominally President, and to which the Chief Secretaries, no doubt, had always paid great attention, and which it would be hard to remove from their immediate sway. The duties of the Local Government Board embraced all sanitary questions; and at this moment, and for some time to come, its duties would be increased and rendered more difficult, in consequence of the carrying out of the measures for the relief of the distress. There was another Department to which he wished to draw particular attention. They had a Police Force in Ireland which in numbers, constitution, and in every other respect, was in reality an army. If they wanted to have the Force properly represented in that House, and made responsible to the House, they would want something little short of a Secretary for War for Ireland. This Department, too, was largely under the control of the Chief Secretary, and was represented by him in that House. Yet it was a Force that ought to be as thoroughly responsible to the House as the English Police Force was; but if they demanded anything like a reform of that Force, an inquiry into its internal constitution—if they laid a finger on it, they were met by a refusal to inquire into its organization. The Force had fallen into the hands of two or three officials of Dublin, probably military men, who administered it according to military traditions, and the Department was quite as free from representation in that House, and the Irish people were as devoid of any control over it, as they were over the internal management of any regiment in Her Majesty's Service. There was another matter which the Chief Secretary had to administer, and he (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) trembled when he thought of the amount of work he had to do, and the careful judgment he must tiring to bear on it, and the long, weary nights he must pass in consequence of the number of applications he must have received with regard to it. He had to manage the entire patronage of Ireland, although offices were in the gift of the Lord Lieutenant. He could only say that if there were any ratio between the duties which fell on the Irish Chief Secretary as to patronage, and the duties which fell on a popular Irish 1510 Member, as a supposed dispenser of patronage, his duties must be great indeed. Then, again, the New Royal University was constantly brought before this House, and for that institution, too, the Chief Secretary was responsible. He had also to answer for the Intermediate Education Board. There was another Board which he observed did not fall under the eyes of the Chief Secretary, and he believed the Board was utterly unrepresented in Parliament. He referred to the Irish Board of Works. The freedom of that Board from representation and responsibility in that House might be best stated by saying that it had, to use a common expression, "run to seed." The Board was out of harmony on the most critical matters with the Irish Local Government Board, and the result was that the two Boards had got quite beyond Parliamentary authority. They had answers respecting it in that House, it was true; but they were stereotyped and sent over by telegraph to the Chief Secretary. The House should have regard to the opinion of these Boards entertained by the people of Ireland. It was well known that the great body of those Boards utterly disregarded public opinion. There was another feature connected with the subject to which he would call attention. Lately, in order to get over the incapacity of the Irish Secretary with regard to Irish legislation, it had become the practice to hand over the legislative functions to the Privy Council of Ireland, which consisted largely of the Judges and some superannuated Generals. Why was the Irish Privy Council to say whether a particular law should be applied to Ireland, and keep the matter in their own hands? Chiefly because the Irish Secretary had not time or capacity to understand the questions which he was forced by his Office to take in hand. Where they had got a good Irish Secretary—which, he wished to state, with great respect to the Gentlemen who had held the Office, was not a frequent occurrence—he was soon promoted, and his place was generally taken by a Gentleman who went to Ireland to learn statesmanship. Again, the Irish Chief Secretary spent the greater part of his time over here; and they sometimes saw extraordinary results, one of which was that many times in that House during the 1511 short period in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) had held Office he had heard him say, in accordance with his well-known candour and integrity of purpose, that when he went to Ireland next he would make inquiry into the matter. He (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) knew perfectly well that that inquiry would be judiciously conducted, and that he would be as free from subordinate official influence as any person who could hold the Office; but it was not satisfactory to those who represented Ireland to find that even a man of such capacity and experience as the right hon. Gentleman was obliged to give such a reply to pressing Irish questions. A candid answer like that must be taken as an admission of the necessity of reform. It was very different from, and contrasted most favourably, to the people of Ireland with the answers which were given formerly by the late Government, which were generally to the effect that everything was in a satisfactory state in Ireland, and that it would be a pity to disturb it. He would say nothing of the jobs perpetrated in consequence of the want of responsibility. The other day, when it was urged to be necessary to increase the staff in certain Public Departments in consequence of the growth of the distress in Ireland, there was a selection of gentlemen made; and though he would not say his remark applied to all those appointed, yet he must say that some of these gentlemen could only have been appointed for their incapacity. The worst feature in the matter was that when any great and grave question came on it was impossible for the Chief Secretary, however experienced and able he might be, to give the attention and consideration which he ought to do to such questions to master them. The right hon. Gentleman who now had charge of the Office must receive scores of letters every day on all sorts of subjects. Perhaps he might hand them to the Under Secretary. At any rate, he had no doubt he gave everything his best attention; but, if he did so, how was it possible for him to cope with such great questions involving intimate and largo interests, such as the question now before him—the Irish Land Bill? It must be the case that great Imperial questions like that would suffer when associated with all the Departmental matters to 1512 which he had referred. The subject was not one of his (Mr. O'Sbaughnessy's) initiation; it was brought before the House of Commons originally by his lamented Colleague, the late Mr. Butt. He had a great belief in Parliamentary institutions; but he believed that Parliamentary institutions, whether carried out here or in Ireland, could not be really beneficial to the people unless they were made real, and the people of Ireland had yet to learn that Irish matters were subject to that House, and were not perfectly independent of it. The late Government proposed to appoint an Irish Lord of the Treasury to manage the Board of Works. There was no Irish Lord of the Treasury now, and, as far as he knew, there was no prospect of there being one, because the number of persons from whom the Ministers had to recruit their ranks was small, and was daily growing beautifully less. He had no desire that there should be any increase of officers in consequence of any reform on that question. He did not think it was desirable either that there should be any increase of offices; but, at the present time, when they had a right hon. and learned Gentleman in the House who understood legal affairs, why could he not take charge of some of the Irish Departments? He knew perfectly well from his knowledge of legal affairs that the legal transactions of the Irish Attorney General and of the Solicitor General, although, no doubt, they required some amount of attention, yet he knew that they were not of that engrossing character that those hon. and learned Gentlemen might relieve the already overburdened Chief Secretary, who had very great duties to discharge. He thought that to them might be referred the burdens of the Local Government Board. He did not know whether his suggestion would be approved of; but he knew that something of the kind must and ought to be done without further delay, if the Irish Department was really to be responsible to that House. The object of his Motion had not been so much to suggest what he moved, but really to call public attention to the matter, as he hoped he had said nothing derogatory or unbecoming to the present occupant of the Office of Chief Secretary. He believed everyone in the House would recognize to the full 1513 his capability and goodwill, and his endeavour to do what was right for Ireland. There was one feature about his appointment that was peculiarly gratifying to the people of Ireland, and that was the fact that a man of experience and tried capacity was appointed to that important Office, which was looked upon as a tardy recognition of the fact that Irish affairs were of importance to the country. But they were all the more anxious, now that a Gentleman of such distinction had been appointed to the Office, that he should be placed in a position in which he could thoroughly discharge his duties and be able to turn his attention from the thousand and one minutice which at present occupied his attention to the more grave and important matters which must come under him at the Irish Office. He begged to move the Motion which was down on the Paper in his name.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is desirable that the Irish Law Officers, or one of them, having seats in this House, should represent in this House, one or more of the numerous Departments now represented by the Chief Secretary."—(Mr. O'Shaughnessy.)
said, that, as a Representative of the Irish Conservative Party, he did not often agree with hon. Members of the Home Rule Party; but on this occasion he cordially endorsed all that had been said by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy), as to the onerous duties which the Irish Secretary had to perform. At the same time, he could not agree that the Departments at present represented by the Chief Secretary should be represented by the Law Officers of the Crown. It would be more satisfactory to have, as was the case in England, a Secretary of State for Ireland, with an Under Secretary, as was the case in the other Departments of State. Such an arrangement would not only meet the requirements of the Irish people, but it would do away with the necessity of incurring any very great additional expense, and, at the same time, secure that the work of the Department would be efficiently performed. Nor did he think that a lawyer was the best person to discharge the duties which would devolve on a subordinate to the Chief Secretary, as, unless he had very 1514 little practice, he would not have the time at his disposal necessary for the discharge of duties. It might also happen that in some of the Departments the Law Officers representing them might have to prosecute their subordinates. That would be an objection. Another objection was that while a lawyer might be transferred from his profession to that of politics, Gentlemen who had been in that House for three or four months, and were then transferred to a Judgeship in Ireland, or some equally advantageous position, were not likely to give as much satisfaction as those who were trained for the duties of the Department, and thoroughly acquainted with the subjects they had to deal with. He rejoiced at the fact that the present occupant of the post in question was in the Cabinet. It was most important that he should be, for it would be detrimental to the best interests of Ireland if the Chief Secretary were not always a Member of the Cabinet.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, with regard to the duties of the Office which I have the honour to hold, it is quite true that the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland may be considered the Home Secretary for Ireland. He is also the President of the Poor Law Board for Ireland; he is President of the Local Government Board; he must be responsible to this House for the management of the police; and he has—I wish he had not—a great deal of patronage at his disposal. He is a good deal responsible for Education, and although there are Boards of Education, so far as I know very capable Boards, and capable gentlemen on them, yet the Chief Secretary is responsible to this House for the Education of Ireland; and, for the matter of that, no Secretary would wish, nor do I think any hon. Gentleman would desire, that he should get rid of that responsibility. Responsibility must be accompanied with power to some extent; and therefore I may state that as I am responsible for the Education of Ireland, I also feel that I ought to have, as I have, some power over its management. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) says there is one important Board about which he is in doubt as to whether the Irish Secretary is responsible for. I wish to limit my responsibility, and I desire to say 1515 that I am not responsible for the Board of Works, but that the Treasury is responsible for it. The Chief Secretary in London, it is perfectly true, has the assistance of the Lord Lieutenant in Ireland just as the Lord Lieutenant in Ireland has the assistance of the Chief Secretary in London; and although in Ireland it is right that we should be able to confer together, and be of great assistance to each other, yet as regards the Business of this House, in the Parliamentary Business, the great weight, of necessity, falls on the Irish Secretary, because he is in London and in Parliament during the greater part of the year. It is quite true that all these things bring very great administrative labour upon the Irish Secretary. The hon. and learned Member says it is difficult to find time for me to attend to the great questions which ought to be decided with regard to Ireland. Well, somehow or other time must be found for all those questions, for they are too pressing and too important to be neglected. We have heard a great deal as to the position of the Chief Secretary; but when I come to the remedy I do not find it exactly in the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend. I do not for a moment wish him to suppose that the Chief Secretary does not receive great assistance from the Attorney General and the Solicitor General for Ireland. We are not making this a personal debate. If I was making it a personal debate, I should state the very great assistance I have received from my right hon. and learned Friend, and I fully expect to receive the same from the Solicitor General. But it is assistance which is useful by those two hon. and learned Gentlemen aiding the Chief Secretary to conduct all the serious business that falls upon him, and I do not think Ireland would gain by a division of the Department between the Chief Secretary and the Law Officers. The fact is we must take things as we find them, and not justify their position. I can only speak of the condition of the Office as I come into it. There is a very centralized Government in Ireland. I do not say it should be continued; but there it is, and, indeed, I do not know whether I could change it. The different offices are intertwined and united one with the other, and I do not think it would be possible for the Chief Secre- 1516 tary to hand the responsibility as to any one of those offices to either of the Law Officers. As regards the Board of Works I do not know whether I should not have less responsibility, if I was responsible to the House for it, than if I was responsible for communications to the Treasury with regard to it. The position is this—we might take these different offices, and we might so far unite Ireland with England as to say that they fell into the English or Imperial offices. We might say, for instance, that the President of the Local Government Board should be President for the two countries. We might say the same of the Home Secretary. I do not say that the Irish Members would like that; at any rate it would involve considerable change. But that state of things does not exist. The Irish Departments are so entwined, one with the other, that I do not see how a man in my position is to get rid of the responsibility of being concerned, more or less, with them all. I confess there is a good deal in the suggestion of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney), and I should be exceedingly glad if I had the assistance of Under Secretaries in this House. I think the Irish Department has so much work and so much business to do that it would be quite fair that there should be two men in the House responsible for it, to work together during the Sittings of Parliament in the management of Irish matters. If the hon. and learned Member (Mr. O'Shaughnessy), however, were to carry his Motion, I am afraid, instead of making this work easier, he would make it more difficult, by imposing on me and the Government the additional labour of finding out new machinery. We have got so much to do that we cannot change the machinery. Very much, however, of what the hon. and learned Gentleman said ought to be borne in mind both by this Government and all succeeding Governments; and if I remain in this Office any length of time, I hope I shall arrive at some sort of opinion by which things may be made easier both for the occupants of the Office and also for the Public Service. I do not like to sit down without making a few remarks about what fell from the hon. and learned Member respecting the position of an Irish Secretary generally, and in doing so I beg to acknowledge the very kind 1517 terms in which he spoke of myself as occupant of the Office. With regard to it, he alluded to the stereotyped replies from the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I think however, that, speaking for myself, hon. Members will say that I have taken some care in my replies. I have in some instances read the answers, because I thought the importance of the subjects demanded it, and because I wished to make the answer as short as possible, and wished to answer the inquiries of hon. Members to the best of my ability; but I do not mean to make a single reply in this House unless it is what I think ought to be said in reference to the subject inquired about. I think it only justice to state that I believe there is a good deal of very honest, sincere, and hard work done to the public service in Dublin itself. I have been very much struck with the industry of the Dublin Offices, the Under Secretary's, the Vice President of the Government Board, and other offices; but I only say what any other man in my position would say, being responsible to the House, that be it for good or be it for ill, I shall feel it right to take my own opinion rather than that of any subordinate, although I dare say, as between me and him, his opinion is just as likely to be good, perhaps better than mine. The hon. and learned Member said that when I went to Ireland I said I would try and find out information with respect to several matters of importance. That is quite true. I made that statement just as any one of my Colleagues might have done in the hurry and the rush of Public Business, with the full intention of making such inquiries during the Recess. I think the House will agree with me that it would show presumption and unfitness for discharging the duties of an office of importance if I were to say that I was fully familiar with all matters connected with it within a few days of taking Office. I hope that the hon. and learned Member will not proceed with his Motion. I think that as work goes I have rather more as Irish Secretary than I ought to have; but it would only be now unnecessarily adding to that work if I were to set about to see how it could be changed, and I can only say, as other Chief Secretaries have said, that I will do the best in my power while I hold the Office to serve the interests of Ireland.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that while he was perfectly satisfied of the thorough patriotism and devotion to the interest of Ireland of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy), he yet must confess that he had no feeling with regard to his Motion except one of the most thorough-going opposition. The hon. and learned Member suggested that the difficulty—the almost impossible task—of the Chief Secretary for Ireland might be considerably lightened by the participation of the Law Advisers of the Crown with seats in that House. His (Mr. Donnell's) objection to thus assisting the Chief Secretary was that he should do all in his power to prevent any Attorney General or Solicitor General for Ireland from obtaining a seat in the House, inasmuch as the whole object of the Home Rule Party in Parliament was to render the functions of the Chief Secretary and of all subordinates the very reverse of permanent and enduring. It was hardly worth while to consider any change in the system short of that radical change which it was their whole object and purpose to bring about. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had fairly and practically confessed that the management of Ireland was such that the thing could not be reformed. They had got an over-centralized system, an intertwining of offices, a practically irresponsible bureaucracy. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: I did not admit that.] It would be impossible for a Chief Secretary for Ireland with the high character of the right hon. Gentleman to admit half the evils of the System which he represented. But, practically, the system was a perfectly mechanical arrangement, worked by hand in London, and it depended entirely on the good pleasure of a majority more or less ignorant of Ireland, and generally more rather than less. He did not believe it was worth while to think of improving the system of British government in Ireland. They must get rid of British government in Ireland root and branch. He stood there as a Constitutionalist. He was in favour of the unity of the Empire; but he was not in favour of the provincialization of Ireland. As one of the Irish statesmen had said at the time of the passing of the Act of Union—Almighty God has stamped on this country the form, the dimensions, and the proportions of an independent Kingdom, and an independent 1519 Kingdom in all essentials we are resolved Ireland shall be.They were prepared to work with their English and Scotch co-citizens in the common defence of the common Empire; but, as far as British interference with Irish affairs was concerned, he could only say, using the famous words used by the present Prime Minister in one of his Mid Lothian speeches, when referring to another country, "Hands off." He hoped there would be an end to that system of Jacks in office in Dublin Castle telegraphing instructions to ignorant superior officers in England. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would not take it unkindly from him if he assured him that with all their appreciation of the improvement which he had introduced, they were by no means satisfied with the character of a good many of the answers which he had given. It would not, however, be fair for him to deal with that subject at present. They were in expectation of a great deal from Her Majesty's Government; and he did not think it would be prudent on their part unnecessarily to exasperate them.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he did not intend to make more than a few observations on this question. It was, he believed, a very important subject as regarded the means of allaying one of the mischiefs attendant on the present connection between the two countries rather than as indicating any new remedies for the evils which undoubtedly existed. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) had rather misunderstood a suggestion made by his hon. and learned Friend when he said that he advocated the presence of the Law Officers of the Crownin that House. He did not go so far with his hon. and learned Friend as to advocate their presence there; but merely to say that as they were there, and as they did not seem to have any ostensible employment, it might be just as well to give them something to do by handing over to them one or more of the Irish offices. He recollected that two or three years ago the Chief Secretary made a very able speech, which produced a very great impression in that House, utterly demolishing a Motion moved by the hon. Member for County Cork (Mr. Shaw), calling attention to the desirability of the restoration of the Irish Parliament, and asking for an inquiry into that subject. At that time the 1520 right hon. Gentleman did not probably know as much about Irish affairs as he now knew; but he effectually disposed of that Motion very much to his own satisfaction, at any rate, by pointing out that the consequence of that Motion would involve a change in the Constitution of this country. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman would find that a persistence in the present attempt to govern Ireland by a centralization system through Dublin Castle would involve a very much greater change in the Constitution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland than the proposition then made by the hon. Member for Cork; and he would find also that it would be impossible, even with all the attempts at patchwork from time to time for the purpose of propping up this system of government, to persist in it for many years to come. Now they had at last a statesman as Chief Secretary for Ireland; and he was sure that the conviction would force itself upon him more and more every day that the task which he had undertaken was an impossible one, and that he would have a greater satisfaction than he had ever obtained from the administration of his Office when he handed it over to some Secretary of State chosen by the people who should sit in their own Parliament in Dublin.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
explained that he did not intend to divide, for the reason that the remedy proposed was by no means perfect. His hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) had not represented him quite accurately, because the House would remember that he prefaced his remarks by saying that he was just as strongly in favour of the administration of Irish affairs by an Irish Parliament as any Member of his Party. He had been misunderstood also in regard to what he had said of the Law Officers. He had merely suggested that they should relieve this Irish Secretary while they were in the House, their experience of Law Officers proving to them that their stay in the House of Commons was not usually of a permanent character.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, this discussion had raised a very important point; and perhaps the House, therefore, as he had had some unofficial experience in this matter, would bear with him whilst he said a word or two 1521 in order to point out what he ventured to think the position really was. It appeared to him that there was occasionally some slight misapprehension in the minds of hon. Members as to what were the Constitutional duties of the Irish Secretary, and this was constantly shown by the title which hon. Members gave him. He had noticed continually that hon. Members in putting their Questions addressed them to the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He ventured to say, with all respect, that the right hon. Gentleman was not the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He was the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The fact of the matter was that the real government of Ireland stood in this way: That the Lord Lieutenant, by the terms of his warrant, was the head of the Executive, and responsible for all the acts of the Executive Government—directly responsible for them. The Lord Lieutenant, to assist him in his work, had four Secretaries, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, the Permanent Under Secretary, the Assistant Under Secretary, and the Lord Lieutenant's Private Secretary. These officers, with the Chancellor and the Privy Councillors, conducted the government of Ireland. The Irish Secretary, as he took it—and he offered the suggestion with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman opposite—was really the Parliamentary agent of the Irish Government; and his duty was the preparation of Bills, and the consideration of all the great subjects of Irish legislation, the presentation of those Bills to the House, and the superintendence of them while passing through the House. If the Irish Secretary was to bear the whole burden of the Irish Executive, it was a matter of course that he could not give that time and consideration to Irish legislation which he would otherwise be able to do; but the details of the Irish Executive were really left in their proper hands. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick had made a very natural complaint, that great questions connected with the real prosperity of Ireland were apt to be neglected. He could say from experience that the greatest possible inconvenience and delay arose to the Irish Government in Ireland from their having to send over to London Papers on every subject, though many might be perfectly set- 1522 tled in Dublin, and need not come over to this country at all. Of course, the result of appointing so distinguished a statesman as the right hon. Gentleman to the post of Irish Secretary was that he looked upon himself as the person solely responsible for the entire government of Ireland in every part, and the Lord Lieutenant was merely a dummy. It would be very desirable indeed if the present Government would give them any information as to what was the precise position of the Lord Lieutenant. The high position of the right hon. Gentleman, as one of the foremost men of the Liberal Party, naturally was calculated to give rise to the suspicion, particularly when the right hon. Gentleman was in the Cabinet, that the Government intended to allow the Lord Lieutenant to be let down, and ultimately, perhaps, to do away with him altogether. He had heard these suspicions mentioned in various quarters, and he thought it would be a great advantage if the Government could give them any information as to whether they were correct or not. The condition of the present Lord Lieutenant was certainly likely to be a curious one, because, though a nobleman of great rank and name, and what, was still more important, perhaps a man of great wealth, he was not a gentleman who had taken any very prominent part in public affairs. He also put this question because of a remark which had dropped from the right hon. Gentleman. He talked, if he understood him rightly, of having the responsibility of the Education Department on his hands, and having full power over that Department. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: I did not say that.] He had understood the right hon. Gentleman to make use of that expression, and that naturally led him to put his question as to what was the exact position of the present Lord Lieutenant; whether, by the terms of his warrant, as he ought to be, he was the actual responsible head of the Executive, or whether the real Executive control of Ireland was in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
observed, that he might very shortly say, in reply to the noble Lord, that the present position of the Lord Lieutenant was precisely the same as that which was occupied by his Predecessor, the Duke of Marlborough. 1523 The noble Lord had claimed to have an accurate knowledge of the interior mechanism of that Office; and, therefore, he could now have no difficulty in ascertaining what the exact position of the present Lord Lieutenant was. As to the argument of the noble Lord, it was obvious that if the Lord Lieutenant alone was to be directly responsible for the conduct of affairs in Ireland, and was to carry on the Government in all its various Departments, with the assistance of his four Secretaries, the great object which his hon. and learned Friend had in view, of securing increased Parliamentary responsibility, would entirely disappear. Indeed, all such responsibility would be gone; and they would then merely have a bureaucracy pure and simple. Now, whatever they might think of the particular means suggested for increasing the Parliamentary responsibility of the Irish Government, he would assure hon. Members that the Government had not the least desire to exclude Parliamentary scrutiny or responsibility from any part of their proceedings. He did not think he need carry the discussion further, except to remark that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) hardly gave the Law Officers credit for the amount of work they had to do. If the hon. Gentleman had any spare time on his hands, and desired to occupy himself for a few hours each day, he (Mr. Law) would be exceedingly glad to avail himself of the hon. Gentleman's assistance, and would undertake to provide quite as much work for him as he would find agreeable.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS,
merely with the desire to supplement, and not to correct, the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, wished to observe that, although in practice all matters connected with Ireland were always left in the hands of the Chief Secretary for many years past, yet the whole of the Irish Government was under the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He saw his right hon. Friend smiling; but he was arguing upon principle, not upon practice. There could be no doubt that the Home Secretary was the responsible Minister. Of course, as a matter of practice, the Government of Ireland was left in the hands of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, because he was acquainted with all the Irish questions.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he rose merely to express his entire concurrence in the spirit of the observations made by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell). He was quite sure his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick would not unintentionally do or say anything unpatriotic or unworthy of his position as a Member of the Irish Home Rule Party. He, for one, had no sympathy whatever with propositions for improving the machinery by which Ireland was ruled from that House. The Irish people did not desire to be ruled either well or ill by that House—they desired to be ruled by their own House, and by their own Parliament, of which they had been fraudulently deprived. At the present moment there were Petitions being tried in which allegations were brought against certain Members who had been returned to that House that they had obtained their seats by various fraudulent and false devices; but none of those devices could compare for a single moment with the infamy of the means by which the Parliament of Ireland was destroyed. Therefore, he must point out—["Order! order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member and the House that the discussion is now travelling very wide of the Motion before the House. The Motion before the House simply relates to the functions of the Irish Law Officers. The House has since been discussing the functions of the Lord Lieutenant and the Secretary of State, while the observations of the hon. Member have now no reference whatever to the Motion.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he would merely observe, in conclusion, that if there was to be any division of the duties of the Chief Secretary, he would greatly prefer that the extra work should be put into other hands than those of the Irish Law Officers. For his part, he felt that the business of the Irish Members and of the Home Rule Party was not to facilitate the government of Ireland by that House.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, he felt some difficulty in referring to the Chief Secretary after the debate which had taken place, because, while there was a difference as to his name, even his functions also seemed to be called in question, and those functions appeared to be so multifarious that the Chief Secretary himself did not seem to under stand them or to com- 1525 prehend the nature of his responsibilities. The right hon. Gentleman, admitting the important amount of responsibility on his hands, and that he was overburdened by work, used that as an argument why the work should not be taken off his hand. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: I did not say so.] He did not pretend to give the right hon. Gentleman's words, he was simply trying to present the force of his argument. That argument was simply this—"I admit all the objections made to the present condition of affairs; I admit I am overburdened; I admit that I have so much to do that it is almost impossible for one person to do it; but that is a justification for my not undertaking to reform the confusion, and to place it in different hands who might conduct it better." He thought no stronger argument could be adduced for placing some portion of those multifarious duties in other hands. He knew something of the duties of the Law Officers in England; but in Ireland the Law Officers had other mysterious duties to perform, in which they were assisted by a mysterious official called the Law Adviser to the Castle. He should like to know how those duties were distributed. He thought the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and the Law Adviser to the Castle might so divide their work as to leave some of them time to perform a portion of the duties of the overburdened Secretary. He was quite as strongly as any of his learned Friends of opinion that Irish affairs should be placed in Irish hands; but, at the same time, he must differ from his hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath (Mr. T. D. Sullivan), and must think that as long as the responsibility of the Government of Ireland rested with that House, and as long as there were Secretaries or other functionaries who had the government in their hands, that they should perfect the machinery so as to get as much good out of it as possible. At present those who were responsible made their overwork an excuse for not doing it, and not doing more of it. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: I never said that.] Again, he must say he did not pretend to give the words used by the Chief Secretary; but he did think he apprehended his argument, and those who had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would be able to say whether he had misrepresented him in any way. 1526 He did not undervalue the honesty or the capacity of the present Chief Secretary; but he did agree with his hon. Friend that his duties were too multifarious for one officer, and he should be very glad indeed if they could be divided amongst other gentlemen who would be responsible for their immediate work, and able to answer for the Department which they undertook, instead of making the Chief Secretary dependent upon functionaries in Ireland, over whom the House had no control, even for the answers which they gave.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he had no desire to prolong the discussion, and he should have sat silent but for some remarks from the opposite side. He had not been for years connected with the Bar in Ireland, and, therefore, any observations he might make could not be imputed to him as of a personal character; but as one branch of the Irish Executive had been spoken of as occupying a sinecure office, he, as having had an opportunity of seeing men of all Parties occupying the position of Law Officers, would not allow that comment to pass by without bearing his humble testimony to the ability with which the duties were discharged, not of a sinecure office, but of one of the most important offices in the Irish Government. He maintained that those duties had been discharged with a power and eloquence and a knowledge unsurpassed by those shown by any other Members of the House; and he would say further with regard to the Law Adviser to the Castle that his duties were very different indeed from that of the Attorney and Solicitor General, and were of the greatest importance to the poorest classes in Ireland. They had in Ireland a magistracy not too well versed in law, and it was often necessary to correct their decisions and to keep them straight in their actions. Among not the least important of the duties of that officer were the duties of controlling the magistracy of Ireland in the performance of their duties.
§ MR. DALY
said, he had listened with attention to the observations which had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, who, from his position and tenure in Ireland, might have been supposed to have a much more definite idea of the manner in which that country was governed. But the noble Lord, if 1527 his views had been fairly conveyed to him, had described a form of Government as existing in Ireland which was a complete bureaucracy. Another feature which had struck him in the course of the debate was that he, and many hon. Members near him, having listened to the utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, believed that he was, to a very great extent, the person responsible to that House for the government of Ireland. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) had introduced to the Irish public a mysterious personage in the shape of the Home Secretary as responsible for Irish administration. He could but think that no greater revelation of English misrule had been made in recent times than was conveyed by the observations of the late Home Secretary. He (Mr. Daly) had, in common with other Irish Members, listened to the utterances of the Chief Secretary for Ireland when Irish questions were introduced in the House, and had heard him in some cases plead ignorance of facts, and in others ask time for consideration. The explanation of the late Secretary of State for the Home Department had shed a great flood of light upon the want of knowledge which existed in this country with respect to Ireland, and the question which it raised was of great importance. Did the Chief Secretary himself believe in the utterances made, or did he refer all Irish questions to that mysterious person alluded to by the late Home Secretary?
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the hon. Member had entirely misunderstood the observations he had made. He had stated clearly that there was a Secretary of State directly responsible to the House, and that no bureaucracy could for that reason exist; but that, as a matter of practice, the Secretary of State for the Home Department never interfered in Irish Business, which was carried on by the Chief Secretary.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.