§ (14.) £6,383, County Courts.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
Mr. Courtney, there is one remark I desire to make, and it arises from the note at the foot of this Vote. The sum asked for additional salaries of the officers of the County Courts is £6,383; and the note at the bottom of the Vote is as follows:—The salaries of the officers of the Courts vary with the business. The number of actions brought in the Courts has exceeded anticipations. The extra receipts will, from the same cause, exceed the Estimate by about £23,000.Now, this seems to raise the question to which I have alluded on former occasions—namely, the question that certain portions of the fees received in Courts of Justice require some revision. I believe it would be found, if we had any means of estimating the relative amounts received from the business of the Courts, and the cost of carrying on the business, that there is a very large surplus in some branches of the Legislature, while other branches do not pay. Some County Courts, as appears from this Vote, pay a large surplus to the State. I think the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler) concurs in the view which I have previously expressed—that the fees of a Court ought to be so re arranged that they will not produce more than the sum necessary to carry on the business of the Court. If the fees received in any particular Court largely exceed the cost of carrying on the business of that Court it is quite evident that in that Court we are really selling justice. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, who is so well acquainted with matters of this kind, is prepared to throw any light upon the very extraordinary discrepancy between the £6,383 asked for in the form of salaries and £23,000 which it is estimated will come in by way of extra receipts. I think this is a subject which is worthy of some attention. If it is not possible to obtain a satisfactory explanation at the present moment, I shall be glad to refer to the matter again on a future occasion.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) 776 that the additional charge of £6,383 for County Court justice is a somewhat remarkable one. In Ireland we have not one-third or one-fourth the County Court business which you have in England, and yet there is an amount of increase in the Irish Courts far greater than that in the English Courts. I hope we shall have some explanation of the difference between the two countries.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. H. H. FOWLER)
I quite agree with the view of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) that Courts of Justice should pay their own way as far as possible. Whatever may be the case in regard to the Superior Courts, the County Courts of the country have, to a great extent, been self-supporting institutions. The reason why it is necessary to ask for this additional sum of £6,383 is this. The Estimate made at the commencement of the financial year contemplated the County Court business being very much at the same ratio as it was in the preceding year, and the business had been decreasing rather than increasing. The amount of litigation or the amount of money spent in the recovering of debts it is impossible to estimate with anything like accuracy. During the present financial year there has been a large increase in County Court litigation in this country, and the result of that litigation is that the extra fees—ordinary fees—which will accrue to the Treasury will amount to something like £23,000; while, as stated at the foot of the Vote, the extra expenses, in the shape of the salaries of the officers of the Court, will only be about £6,000. I can assure my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Tomlinson) that there has not been much profit on the year. I find that the entire amount paid into the Treasury in 1883–4–1 have not got the Return for 1884–5— was only £404,000, while this year it is £440,000. There will be an amount added to the £404,000 which may bring it to the other amount. I may suggest to my hon. and learned Friend that this question might be raised with greater advantage when we shall have all the facts more correctly before us, when, for instance, the whole of the County Court expenditure is brought under the notice of the House. This sum has been paid; 777 but, practically, it imposes no burden on the taxpayers. There can be no loss to the public Exchequer, because fees will come in which, will more than cover the amount. Of course, it will be for my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. J. Morley) to answer the question of the lion, and learned Gentleman the Member for South Derry (Mr. Healy) in reference to the County Courts of Ireland, in regard to which Courts I am in entire ignorance. The English County Courts pay their own way, and I wish the Superior Courts did the same. I am sorry to say they do not.
§ MR. MOLLOY
What is the meaning of the words at the foot of the Vote—"The salaries of the officers of the Courts vary with the business?" The complaint which has been frequently made in the House is, that this payment of the officers by way of a kind of commission upon the business done in the Courts has been the cause of a large increase of litigation, amongst the poorer litigants, in cases which might be settled under very easy circumstances. When officers of a Court receive commission upon the business done in their Court there is a distinct inducement held out to them to cause a prolongation of litigation either by the advice they gave or by the action they took, say in adjourning a case, or arranging that there should be something in the way of an appeal. We have had several discussions during preceding Sessions upon this question; and the opinion generally expressed has been that the officers of these Courts should not be paid by way of commission upon the business done, but that they should be paid fixed salaries like the officers of other Courts. I must confess that I am not very well instructed in this subject; but, as far as I remember, nearly all the officers of the Superior Courts are paid fixed salaries, while in the County Courts the system of which I and others complain still obtains. It is easy to see, not to use too polite language, that these officers do induce business, not for the benefit of the litigants, but for the benefit of their own pockets. I cannot expect the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler) to say that he will introduce a Bill on the subject; but I would like to get from him some expression of opinion which would strengthen 778 the hands of those who, like myself, have Session after Session drawn attention to the point, and asked that some reform take place in this very unsatisfactory County Court system.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. H. H. FOWLER)
I quite admit that the principle of payment by fees is radically unsound, and ought to be altered. It has been in process of discontinuance in County Courts now for a great many years. When County Courts were originally established—in 1846—most of the principal officers were paid entirely by fees levied on the suitors; but that system was abolished in 1855, when a Royal Commission, which sat on the question, recommended in substitution of that mode of payment the system of payment by salaries. But the salaries were fixed according to the amount of business done; and my hon. Friend (Mr. Molloy) will see exactly how the amount of salary may vary even if an officer is not paid by fees, but by the amount of business. The scale fixed in a large number of Courts is that a Registrar is paid £120 for the first 200 plaints entered in the year; £5 for every 25 plaints beyond that number, and up to 1,000; £4 for every 25 plaints from 1,000 to 6,000; and then, if the plaints exceed 6,000, a net salary is paid to him of £650. If the plaints exceed 8,000 a net salary of £700 is paid, and so on. So there is a graduated scale, although officers are paid by salary. Of course, it would be impossible to have a uniform scale of payment, because there are some Courts in which there are not more than 2,000 plaints entered in the course of a year, while there are other Courts in which there are as many as 12,000 plaints entered annually. And so there is a sliding scale, regulating the salaries according to the business done.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
I am not sure that I put my point as distinctly as I ought to have done. My point is that the excess of stamps in one Court is made to pay the deficiency in another Court. For instance, I believe it was almost demonstrated two years ago that the Chancery Division pays a large proportion of the costs of the criminal business of the country; and I would ask my hon. Friend that] attention may be given to this point.
§ Vote agreed to.779
(15.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,327, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Courts of Law and Justice in Scotland, and other Legal Charges.
I should like to ask for some information in regard to the larger item in this Estimate. I regret the absence from the House of the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. Trevelyan) and the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour); but in their absence perhaps one of the Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench will be able to give us some information. There is a suspicion that legal expenses in connection with Crown business in Scotland are very often heaped up; and it appears to me that it would be more satisfactory to know something of the cause of our having to vote this rather large sum in connection with a matter which, perhaps, may not be deemed of great importance in a Democratic House of Commons.
§ MR. JACKSON
As there is no Scotch official Representative here, perhaps I may be allowed to say that, with reference to this Supplementary Vote, the increase in the expenses under Sub-head B is entirely due to the accounts of the agents for services in connection with the Lauderdale and Lovat Peerage cases. I know that this account was most carefully criticized by the Treasury; and I believe that every item has been most carefully taxed by those whose experience justifies them in expressing an opinion as to what amount ought to be paid. The account has received the most careful attention, and each item has been vouched for. The expenses incurred are expenses which ought to have been incurred, and they were not in excess of the services rendered.
§ MR. JACKS
I have no doubt that the items were carefully taxed; but it seems to me that there is a higher question than that, which is this—What possible interest could it be to the people of Scotland how this process was carried on? I may say that unless I have some proper explanation as to how the money of the community is being paid, in a cause in which the people of Scotland 780 have no interest whatever, I shall most certainly oppose the Vote; and if it is not against the Rules and custom of the House I will ask to report Progress.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. H. H. FOWLER)
There were Crown interests raised in regard to these two Peerages, and these items are the expenses of the agents attending to the interests of the Crown. What the Treasury have to do, and what they have done, is to see that this expenditure is reduced to the lowest possible amount, and that has been carried out. The account has been passed by the Treasury.
After the extremely lucid explanation which has been given to the Committee, and the evident sincerity with which hon. Gentlemen on both Benches had avowed their personal conviction that not a halfpenny has been uselessly spent in this case, I have only to say that, of course, there is "a divinity that doth hedge a King;" and it would, perhaps, not do for a private Member to inquire too minutely into what really are the rights of the Crown and what are the interests of the people in this particular case. But it does seem to me to be rather hard that if two or more claimants to any particular Peerage crop up and tell us that so many hundred years ago, in consequence of their ancestors having committed some murder or other, they were obliged to fly and work as colliers, or some cock-and-bull story of that kind, the community should find themselves taxed to the extent of £1,000 or so for defending the interests of the Crown, and not get some less unintelligible, though possibly not less satisfactory, explanation of the account than we have now.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
I quite agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) that the taxpayers of the country should not be asked to vote £1,200 in the interest of the Crown, in a case of this sort, without a single word of explanation as to what the interest of the Crown or the interest of the people is. Without wishing to divide the Committee, I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. Trevelyan) will give some explanation as to what the interest of the Crown is in these Peerages.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. TREVELYAN)
I regret exceedingly 781 that I was not here when this matter was first brought up; but I do not know whether my presence on that occasion would have been of any benefit to the Committee or not. The entire Business of Scotland — the administrative Business — has been handed over to the Scottish Office; but the only Department which has been retained in the hands of the Home Office is that of law and justice. The Vote that is now before us undoubtedly concerns law, and possibly concerns justice; and I am unable, therefore, to contribute anything to the deliberations of the Committee on this matter. I am bound to say that I think those Votes should be examined extremely carefully. We have been in Office only a fortnight, and I take it that the Home Office, which is concerned with law and justice, is responsible in a very small degree for the Vote now before us. This is one of those occasions on which every hon. Member must make up his own mind, and I cannot contribute to the mode in which ho will make it up. If hon. Gentlemen think that by voting for this Estimate they are voting public money for an object upon which public money should be expended, I should strongly advise them to vote for it. The money has undoubtedly been paid, and therefore that is a very strong reason for voting it. I am bound to say, however, that from my knowledge of what took place on a previous occasion I do not blame hon. Members who make a protest of this kind.
§ MR. M'CULLOCH
I can scarcely allow this Vote to pass without entering my most earnest protest against any such expenditure of public money. It is of no interest to the people of Scotland which particular member of a family comes into a Peerage, and I cannot see what are the interests of the Crown. I think we should have some assurance from the Front Bench that such an expenditure shall not be entered into again. If that assurance is not given I shall certainly vote against the item in question.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Vote be omitted."—(Mr. Jacks.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT)
I do not know whether the money would be paid by the Secretary for Scotland; but I think the Committee ought to know really what the Vote is. I think there seems to be some idea that it is for the purpose of promoting the claims of people for Peerages in Scotland; but that is not so. On the contrary, it is the reverse. There were certain Peerages which were in abeyance or in doubt, and people put forth claims to these Peerages. Of course, if they had it all their own way, the public would very likely believe that they had a good claim. The view of the Constitution, however, has been that when a man claims a seat in the House of Lords there ought to be a judicial investigation as to whether or not he is entitled to it; and for that purpose it is necessary that there should be a Queen's Proctor to examine whether or not it is a well-founded claim, and it is necessary that counsel should be instructed and agents employed by the Crown to examine such claims. That really is the character of the Vote now before the Committee. Of course, the Committee may decide that they will have no such charge; but, in that case, some claimants to Peerages will not be opposed at all.
§ MR. RYLANDS
If this was a question on which our Scotch Friends were exclusively interested I would have apologized for interfering. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has put the case as well as it can be put; but it is none the less very lame. I wish to relieve the mind of the hon. Member from Scotland—
§ MR. RYLANDS
The hon. Member for Warwickshire. I beg his pardon; I thought he came from Scotland. I wish to relieve the mind of the hon. Member 783 who had some doubts as to what would happen if this Vote was not passed. It would make these proceedings in Committee a perfect farce if it were to be said that because the money had been spent the Committee was bound to vote it. The explanations which we have received have been very lame indeed. Clearly the public may very naturally say that these gentlemen, who apply to be admitted into the ranks of the Peerage, should defray the expenses, or that the costs of litigation should be charged to the parties in the ease. Because my Lord Lovat, or some other worthy, excellent gentleman, thinks that he is entitled to a particular Peerage and goes to law about it, then we, who have no interest in the matter at all, have to pay the costs. We have nothing to do with it; and I can tell the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Johns) that if we refuse this money my impression is that we shall never have such a Supplementary Estimate again. Do not be alarmed as to where the money has to come from. I can promise the Committee that neither my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. Trevelyan) nor the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to pay. I will guarantee the Secretary for Scotland that he shall not have to pay it, and I will guarantee the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he will not be called upon to pay it; and I think we might put a stop to what is a most objectionable Vote by rejecting it. If we do refuse to vote this money I really think we shall have made a step in the right direction.
§ MR. JOHNS
What has been said by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) hardly satisfies me. What I want to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer is this—What will happen if we refuse this Vote? It appears to me to be a debt incurred while hon. Members opposite were in power. ["No, no!"] Then it must have been paid very recently—within the last fortnight in fact. If it was not paid within the last fortnight, then it is quite clear that it must fall upon the shoulders of the Front Bench opposite. What I want to know is, what will be the result? If the hon. Member who spoke last is right, the result of our refusing to pass the Vote will be a very happy one.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT)
After 784 the statement of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), who appears to have guaranteed everybody, the hon. Member need not have any fears of the result, for the hon. Member for Burnley had clearly backed the bill. I am sorry, however, that I cannot say when the money was paid, or what would happen if the Vote were not passed; but I should recommend hon. Members to be satisfied with what might be called the moral lesson read to-night, and which I venture to say the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and everybody else connected with finance on this Bench, will bear in mind. I regard the hon. Member for Burnley as a very valuable ally of the Treasury Bench in the matter of economy; and no amount of invective which he may hurl at the Treasury Bench on that score will be taken ill by me. The more these Votes are criticized the better I shall be pleased. However, it is no use crying over spilt milk, and I think we might pass the Vote.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I do not think that the statements we have received on this subject have been at all satisfactory, considering that this is a matter in which we are taking money out of the pockets of the poor people. I would ask whether the claimants to these two Peerages were successful in their suits? [Mr. JOHNS: One was.] If one was, it is clear that he would have money enough to pay the costs of the case. If one was not successful, then, by the ordinary rule which renders unsuccessful litigants liable, he ought to be condemned in costs. Now, few of us on this side of the House wish to see additions made to the Peerage in an authorized manner, much less in an unauthorized manner; and, therefore, we are opposed to seeing anyone go into the Gilded Chamber at the expense of the taxpayers. The sum of £1,286 is a large sum; and when it is known that the greatest distress exists amongst the poor, who are already overburdened with taxes, we have a right to insist that those who like the amusement of trying to get Peerages should pay for it.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
If the Committee is going to vote on this matter it is as well that I should state what are the facts of the case. These Estimates were certainly prepared by the late Administration; but the costs in question were not incurred during their tenure of 785 Office. I would qualify that statement, however, by saying that the proceedings in one of the disputed Peerages did not conclude until after the Marquess of Salisbury came into power; but in each case the proceedings were initiated under the auspices of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). I do not say that with any idea of throwing discredit upon the proceedings now under discussion and supported by the Government, but rather in order that the Committee may be informed as regards the fact. As to the ground upon which the Crown appeared, I would explain that the grant of Peerages flows from the Crown; and they confer not merely privileges, but a share in public duties. It has been the invariable and necessary practice of the Crown that whenever a Peerage is in dispute the Crown should interpose in an impartial character, in order to see that the Peerage does not get into the hands of some person unauthorized to assume it. The proceedings in which the Crown takes part are before the Committee of Privileges, and the part the Law Officer plays before that Committee is to watch the proceedings, and at the close to give such assistance to the Committee as may enable them to decide according to the rights of the case. These are not merely duties which relate to one of the important Prerogatives of the Crown, but they are absolutely necessary so long as the right to a Peerage confers not merely privileges, but public duties, which ought to be secured to those alone who ought to exercise them. Accordingly, I venture to think that the expenditure which has been incurred is a very necessary portion of the due administration of a by no means unimportant part of the right and duty of the Crown. I regret the absence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour) and the Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. Asher); and I have only risen, as one of the late Law Officers, to furnish the Committee with an explanation of the ground on which the Crown appears in such cases.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
We have heard from the Treasury Bench that this discussion will act as a moral lesson to the Government. Well, I do not believe in Platonic moral lessons, and I think the 786 proper way to teach the Government a lesson is by recording our votes for the Amendment.
§ MR. MOLLOY
I will put it to the Committee what this Vote really amounts to. As a matter of fact, the sum is for fees for the two legal Gentlemen who represent Scotland in this House. ["No, no!"] If hon. Gentlemen deny it I will ask the Government, does not this sum represent the fees paid to the two legal Gentlemen in the Government who act as Attorney and Solicitor General in the Scotch Department?
§ DR. E. McDONALD
There is one point of view from which this matter can be regarded that has been lost sight of up to this. I would ask where are the Gentlemen holding these Peerages at the present time? Are they not able to defend themselves against other claimants; and is it necessary to ask the people to pay the expense of such measures as are necessary to enable them to keep their titles? It seems to me it is the business of those who hold the titles to defend them.
§ MR. BAKER
The Committee should not lose sight of the question of justice in this matter. I hold as strongly as any Gentleman sitting below the Gangway the feeling that we should not defend the hereditary right of Gentlemen to these hereditary Peerages; but so long as we have, as part of our Constitution, to uphold the hereditary principle, then I must admit that is the duty of the Government to see that litigation on the subject of a Peerage goes in the right direction. So long as we are to uphold hereditary Peerages, I hold that the Government have been right in the expenditure of this money. Though I hold a strong opinion on the subject of these Peerages, I shall feel bound to vote for the Government.
§ MR. MOLLOY
I have asked a question of the Government, and I mean to get an answer to it, as it is a very reasonable one., There is a sum of £1,200 that has been paid for Government agents to attend the examinations into these Peerage questions. I have stated that the money has gone in fees to the Crown counsel or their representatives. We know that in English cases the Attorney General does not always attend the inquiries himself; but I think he ought to do so for his salary—and the Irish Law Officers in Irish cases as well. 787 I maintain that this money is paid to the Law Officers in fees. It has been denied in a general sort of way from this side; but before we go to a division I intend to get an answer to my question. I wish to know whether this money has or has not been paid in the nature of fees to Crown counsel?
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I am not quite in a position to answer the question put by the hon. Member; but certainly, judging from my own experience, nothing like such a sum as is here putdown as having been paid to the agents of the Crown for services in connection with the Lauderdale and Lovat Peerage cases has reached the hands of those who were at the time the Officers of the Crown in Scotland. When the Lauderdale Peerage case was before the House of Lords, it so happened that during its course there came a change of Government; and as my right hon. and learned Friend the present Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour) was unable any longer to appear on behalf of the Crown, according to the usages of the State and Parliament it was necessary that the new Lord Advocate and other counsel should take his place. I am not here for one moment to defend the ordinary practice which takes place in these cases, the Lord Advocate or Solicitor General for Scotland being employed, as distinguished from other Crown officials. If the Lord Advocate is instructed to appear in such a case he has to do the work; and as long as it is the practice that the Lord Advocate should appear and attend these cases for the Crown I think everyone who knows what the salary of that functionary is for the duties he has to do—everyone who remembers that he is the Public Prosecutor, having to take charge of the public prosecutions in Scotland, and that he is expected, as part of his duties, to find a seat in this House, and to be in London for a considerable part of the year—will agree that he is not a highly-paid official. I think that even the most economical of my Friends the Scotch Members will not deny that. But as regards the fees that were paid to the Lord Advocate—or rather the Gentleman who was the late Lord Advocate until about three weeks ago—I am not in a position to speak. I can speak for myself, however; and I say this with perfect certainty from my recollection— that not more than one tithe of this sum 788 reached the Lord Advocate of the late Government.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It appears to me that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) and the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) have taken a very un-Radical view of this Vote, because, I understand, these Gentlemen object to a genuine House of Lords, and much more to a bogus one. As I understand it, they would be anxious to prevent any fraudulent person going to the House of Lords—any person who had no business there. For myself, I object to the House of Lords in toto as a real institution, and much more as a sham one. I would call attention to the fact that in the Corrupt Practices Act there was inserted a clause requiring the Attorney General or his representative to attend inquiries under that measure to see who are the individuals properly elected, and, if necessary, to prosecute anyone acting illegally. It appears to me that the same duty devolves upon the Law Officers of the Crown in regard to the House of Lords. It is necessary that they should see that that House is not filled by persons who have no claim to be there. At the same time, I think the amount of the charge on the Votes is extremely excessive. I would recall to the mind of the Committee the fact that this is a Scotch Peerage case; and that in an Irish case, when Mr. Villiers Stuart prosecuted a claim to the de Vesei Peerage, which was rejected on the ground of bastardy, there was no charge made for the attendance of the Irish Solicitor or Attorney General. I do not see why it should be costlier for Scotch gentlemen to appear in London in connection with legal matters than for Irish gentlemen to cross the Channel and come to London for the same purpose. I think it would be reasonable to object to the extreme charge proposed in the Vote, and to oppose the Vote if a reduction in the amount were proposed.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
I desire to call attention to a point which, I think, has escaped notice. It is now proposed that this Vote be rejected as a whole; but there is a portion of it to which no one has offered any objection, and that is the expenditure in regard to Eection Petitions. By refusing this Vote we shall be rejecting not only the sum for the Peerage cases re- 789 ferred to, but also that which has reference to Election Petitions. I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite really intend to do that. It is hardly worth while to go to a division unless the point at issue is put properly before the Committee.
I omitted in my observations the point the hon. Member who has just sat down referred to. As I read the matter, it would be sufficient to move the reduction of the Vote by the amount of £1,286. The hon. and learned Member for Monaghan—["No no!"] — I bog the hon. and learned Member's pardon—he has a choice of so many seats that one cannot always remember the place he represents—the hon. and learned Member for South Derry (Mr. Healy) says he does not know why there should be a heavy charge in connection with a Scotch case, when there is none at all in regard to Irish cases. He evidently could not have listened to the arguments of the ex-Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) just now, because he told the Committee most distinctly that it is expected that the Lord Advocate for Scotland shall find a seat in this House; and the hon. and learned Member knows perfectly well that no such thing is expected or necessary in the case of the Irish Attorney General. It is as well to disabuse the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind on this subject. If that had been put forward as a reason why we should vote this sum I should not have objected to it. The hon. Members who have argued the question have not obtained a satisfactory answer from either side of the House. The late Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson) said the expense incurred was necessary for the due administration of the law in Peerage cases; then his Colleague gets up and says he does not know where nine-tenths of the money went, as it did not go into his pocket. The Secretary for Scotland (Mr. Trevelyan) told us, in his most candid speech, that he had once been of opinion that such sums should not be voted; but since he has taken his present place in the Government it seems that his views on the matter have undergone a modification. Ho admitted that those who object to the Vote are justified in voting against it; and, that being so, I think the best way of marking our objection to 790 this extravagance is to vote for the reduction.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £41, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Courts of Law and Justice in Scotland, and other Legal Charges." —(Dr. Cameron.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT)
I think what the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Healy) has said is very fair. He said that so long as you have a House of Lords it is proper to take pains that it should be kept for persons who are entitled to sit there; and that, therefore, we should not object to proper precautions being taken for that purpose. I understood him, however, to say that the charge in this Vote might be excessive. With regard to the employment of the Irish Attorney General in cases of this kind, I am not able to state any particular instance; but I should say that, as a matter of principle, a man claiming an Irish Peerage may be on a different footing to one claiming a Scotch Peerage. There may have been something peculiar in the cases under discussion. I do not know how that is; but, as a general principle, you ought to have someone to see that improper persons do not sit in the House of Lords. You ought to have a proper tribunal and Law Advisers to take care of that, just as you have to see that improper persons do not sit in this House. That must be provided for, and any charge it necessarily involves is, in my opinion, a proper one to throw on the public funds. No one will deny that proposition, I think. It would be improper, it seems to me, to argue the question of the desirability of having a second Chamber on the Vote for Courts of Law and Justice in Scotland. Whenever that question is raised it should be raised directly. If you are to have a House of Lords, you ought to have some properly constituted public tribunal fittingly furnished with advice to determine whether a claimant of it is legally a Member of it or not. That is a reasonable and a fair way of looking at the matter; and no prejudice against the House of Lords as an institution ought to be al- 791 lowed to influence our minds in arriving at a decision. If you want to abolish the House of Lords raise the question directly, and let it be discussed by people according to their opinions, and do not express your objection to it by throwing overboard charges for the services of persons who have been employed to see whether certain individuals legally are, or are not, Members of that House. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Healy) fairly admitted the force of this argument, and then said that the charges made in the Vote, though sound in principle, were excessive in amount. I cannot express an opinion on that matter. It has not been my practice to examine into these matters, though, no doubt, they have been inquired into by the late Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson). It was the duty of those who were at the Treasury at the time these Estimates were prepared to see that they were properly prepared. I do not think we can come to the conclusion, without more information on the point than we have yet received, that these charges are unreasonable and unfair; and to strike out a large part of them, according to the suggestion of the hon. Member (Dr. Cameron), would not, I think, for the reasons I have stated, be a business-like proceeding on the part of the House of Commons. Therefore I again would say that I think the Committee might very well remain satisfied with the appeal which has been made to allow this Vote to pass. I would, at any rate, make that suggestion. I trust hon. Members will remain satisfied with the strong expression of opinion they have given, and allow the Vote to pass.
§ MR. HALDANE
There is at least one reason, if there were no other, which would induce me to support the Vote. I am under the impression that if a Peerage is once vested it cannot be devested; and, therefore, if it were the practice of the Crown to allow claims like that to the Lovat Peerage to go uncontested the result would be that there would be two Lovat Peerages instead of the one there was before. ["No, no!"] Well, at any rate, that is my impression as to the state of the law. If I am right, I appeal to the collective sympathy and collective wisdom of those who sit on this side of the House, whose feeling has been so great on 792 this subject, and whose desire I do not doubt is to allow the matter to go, not as a question of principle, but as one of detail.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I took part in the debate rather hurriedly, having only just entered the House, and not having heard all that had been said. I gathered, however, that part of the objection to the Vote on the part of the hon. Member for Glasgow is with regard to the largeness of the amount. Is that so? ["No, no!"] I heard the word "extravagant," which [implies an over-charge. It should be understood that in this case the charge was higher than it would have been under ordinary circumstances for the reason I explained before — namely, that owing to the change of Government it was necessary that new officials should be instructed. It was hardly to be expected that new officials would go through the work of getting up a case for which other gentlemen had been paid without receiving remuneration for their services. I understand the Motion of the hon. Member goes to the cutting down of the whole of this Vote. Well, I think we are bound, in justice to a public official like Sir Theodore Martin, to say that such a course would be in every sense extravagant and unjust. Unless Sir Theodore had refused to do the business he was entrusted with, the outlay must have been made by him. He could not possibly have performed his duty without a considerable expenditure of money. As he was bound to do it and incur some outlay, I say it would be an outrage upon justice if the whole of the amount of the charges he had to meet were struck out of the Estimates.
§ MR. JOHNS
I think that what has fallen from—[Cries of "Divide!"] I hope in time to be able to convince hon. Members that I shall not be put down by this means. I think that what has fallen from the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) is a special reason why we should not accept this Vote. If we are to have a double expenditure like this every time there is a change of Government it will be a most improper waste of public money. I most certainly shall always oppose such, and I shall go into the Lobby with the hon. Gentleman below the 793 Gangway (Dr. Cameron), and vote for the reduction he has proposed.
§ MR. JACKSON
From an economical point of view this is a question of some importance. I certainly am surprised at my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) having taken the course he has to-night; because I would remind the Committee of the fact that it is the constant endeavour of the Treasury, as far as I am able to judge of its proceedings, to cut down the Estimates to the lowest possible point. If the Committee adopts the course of cutting down this Vote, it will certainly be doing something towards weakening the effect of the action of the Treasury—["No, no!"] Yes; you will be doing something towards weakening the action of the Treasury in cutting down these items to the lowest possible amount. I would point out that in such cases as this it would be utterly impossible to make a correct Estimate from year to year. I would appeal to the hon. Member for Burnley, in the interests of economy, not to oppose the Vote.
§ MR. O'KELLY
I think, if any reason were necessary to induce the Committee to refuse to vote this sum, the reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be conclusive. What are the statements we receive from both Front Benches? On the one hand, we are told that the Vote has been reduced to the very smallest possible amount. On the other hand, we are told by the late Lord Advocate for Scotland (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) that only about one-tenth of the amount has passed into his pocket; and we have had no explanation of the manner in which the other nine-tenths have been spent. Now, leaving aside the question whether the money ought ever to have been voted—and I am of opinion that it ought not—I would point out that the position of a Peer is a very important one. It is a position which a great number of people desire, and it is one which, if any person wants it, is worth paying for. If anyone, therefore, goes to law to defend his right to such a position—if it is to his interest to go to law either to secure or maintain a Peerage—he ought to be content to pay for it, and ought not to come to this House to put his hands into the pocket of the public for the purpose.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 117; Noes 136: Majority 19. — (Div. List, No. 8.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (16.) £4,069, County Court Officers, &c. Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON
There are two or three subjects in connection with this Vote with regard to which I wish to ask information from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Mr. J. Morley). I desire, in the first place, to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the enormously costly character of the Irish County Courts. There is, first, the original Estimate of £96,316; next, the Supplementary Estimate of £3,000; and then the sum now asked for of £4,069, making a total for the year 1885–6 of £103,385. However, I will not go at length into that point at the present time. I merely draw the attention of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the fact that although the business done in the English County Courts is no less than 20 times as great as that in the Irish Courts, the Estimate for the latter is greatly disproportionate. But, chiefly, I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether he will object to furnish a Return, and give information as to the amount of business done in the Irish County Courts?
I must point out to the hon. Member that the present Supplementary Estimate consists of three items—the salary of the Clerk of the Crown and Peace, Tipperary; the pension of the late Clerk of the Crown, County and City of Dublin; and the charge for additional Revising Barristers. The hon. Member must confine his remarks to these particular items, and refer to other subjects only so far as they illustrate his remarks upon those items.
The hon. Member will see that in the foot-note this is restricted to one particular item.
§ MR. DILLON
Then I ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the reason that the salary of the Clerk of the Crown and Peace is taken in a Supplementary 795 Estimate; and, also, what is the reason for the large pension which is entered here of £1,716 for the late Clerk of the Crown for the County and City of Dublin? Why was it granted, and why is it so large?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The amount charged for Revising Barristers is £4,632. Supposing that these gentlemen were paid 100 guineas a-piece, the amount for the 32 counties of Ireland would be £3,360, to which, perhaps, might be added their railway fares. But I complain that gentlemen were selected by the late Tory Government, some of whom were themselves candidates as Tories for seats in this House. I do not want to take up time unnceessarily; but, undoubtedly, in the case of North Tyrone, we had a Revising Barrister who afterwards stood as Tory candidate for South Tyrone; and I think it is a serious thing for a Government in Office only six months to appoint gentlemen to this office who were admittedly and avowedly political partizans. I see in his place the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Holmes), who will not dispute it when I say that Mr. Kisbey is President of the Tory Constitutional Club in Dublin, and that when that gentleman left the justice seat he started as Conservative candidate for North Tyrone. I will not say that his decisions were not, in many cases fair, and reasonable; but in many others the Nationalists considered, whether justly or not I will not say, that they were unreasonable. But I will say that gentlemen should have been appointed who were above suspicion. There are many men in Ireland who do not attach themselves to either political Party; and I think the action of the Government should have been not to give lucrative appointments of a judicial character to their friends. With regard to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) in the item for the pension for the late Clerk of the Crown for the County and City of Dublin, I think that in that matter the late Government acted handsomely towards the Corporation in paying the salary out of the Consolidated Fund. This, I think, is the first instance in which the English Government have taken a reasonable view of a claim of the kind. With regard to the salary of the Clerk of the Crown 796 and Peace, Tipperary, I do not see why this should become a special item. Again, I observe further on in the Estimates in Vote 6 of Class VII, under the head of Registration of Voters, Ireland, is a total charge, in addition to the charge in the present Vote for additional Revising Barristers, of £17,000 for the remuneration of local officials. The Committee will remember that last year we had a debate as to what ought to be paid for the registration of voters in Ireland; and I am not at all sure that the Government have not been attempting to shunt the payment for additional Revising Barristers, and to divert some portion of the £17,000 which was intended by this House to go in defrayment of local charges in favour of the Revising Barristers. Therefore, I trust we shall have a statement by the Government that the £17,000 voted by this House last year in relief of local taxation will go purely and entirely in relief of poor rates, and that not a single 6d. will go for Revising Barristers, the cost of whose remuneration the House declared should be borne by the Consolidated Fund.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY)
With regard to the inquiry of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), if the hon. Member will give Notice of the Question I will endeavour to satisfy him. With regard to the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for South Derry (Mr. T. M. Healy), I will leave that to be replied to by my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. H. H. Fowler). But one item in the Estimate—namely, that which relates to the Revising Barristers, is explained by the fact that they were paid by the day, and that an under-Estimate was made of the amount of work which they would have to do. The original Estimate was exceeded because the sittings were unexpectedly prolonged. That, at least, is what I understand to be the case.
§ MR. HOLMES
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Derry (Mr. T. M. Healy) has referred to the gentlemen appointed by the late Government as Revising Barristers; and he made, in the course of his statement, one remark which I cannot agree with. The hon. and learned Member asserted that there were gentlemen at the Irish Bar who were not attached to any political 797 Party. I have a pretty full acquaintance with the Irish Bar, and I think that any gentleman belonging to it of sufficient eminence to be appointed as Revising Barrister is generally found to be of one Party or the other; and it would be very difficult to get 20 or 30 gentlemen to perform this duty without going to those whom I may call political partizans. Of one thing I am sure—that the gentlemen whom the late Government appointed, equally as between both political Parties, endeavoured to carry out their duties in a spirit of fairness. It will be found that they selected, numerically speaking at any rate, no gentlemen who were Conservatives in preference to Liberals. The remark has been made that gentlemen appointed to the office of Revising Barrister were themselves candidates. There was only one such case, and that case has been referred to by the hon. and learned Member for South Derry. At the time Mr. Kisbey was appointed, he had never been a candidate for any constituency; nor, as far as the late Government were aware, had he any intention of becoming-one. I may say that he had no such intention, for, knowing him as I do, I am quite sure that if he had had any such intention he would never have accepted the office; while I believe that Mr. Kisbey's reputation at the Bar was such as to make him very well fitted to perform the duty of Revising Barrister. I recollect that a decision given by him was commented upon very favourably in a journal which is exceedingly ably conducted, and which belongs to the Nationalist Party—The Freeman's Journal. In that paper it was said that Mr. Kisbey had given a decision in support of the view frequently put forward by it, and which, I believe, had been disputed by some other Revising Barrister. The hon. and learned Member for South Derry has referred to Mr. Kisbey as being the President of a Conservative Society in Dublin. [Mr. T M HEALY: Vice President.] If that is so he must have become so within a few weeks of the present time, as he was not so when he was appointed Revising Barrister. With regard to the salary of the Clerk of the Peace coming upon the Estimates for this year, I presume that the reason is that this is the first time the charge has been voted, the salary previously having been paid by 798 the county out of the local rates. The hon. and learned Member has also referred to the excess of the present over the former Estimate. He has referred to the Act of Parliament; and it is admitted on all hands, I believe, that that Act was intended to relieve the City of Dublin of a charge which it was considered ought to be borne by Imperial funds.
§ MR. DILLON
I have a personal interest in the matter of Mr. Kisbey's appointment. It is perfectly notorious why he was sent to revise the lists in North Tyrone; the Tories of that county made a triumph of the fact; and I do not believe there is a man, woman, or child there who does not believe that I was defeated in North Tyrone mainly by Mr. Kisbey. If it be difficult to find men at the Bar in Ireland who are impartial in politics to revise the lists of voters, it is a singular thing that a man who has proved himself to be one of the bitterest partizans to appear before an Irish constituency, and who used language calculated to excite the bitterest feeling, should be selected to revise the list in one of the only three constituencies in Ireland where there was a close contest. It is a fact well known that Mr. Kisbey returned the present Member for North Tyrone. I may mention the circumstance that in Strabane alone 14 minors, some of them being not more than 14 years of age, voted against me.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I wish to point out that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Holmes) has not touched at all upon the jerrymandering of those constituencies in which there was a close contest. It will be remembered that 20 gentlemen were to be appointed to revise the lists in Ireland. It was quite right that they should be selected from both political Parties—that there should be some Whigs and some Tories; but the point I call attention to is that almost every gentleman supposed to be of Liberal leaning was sent down to revise the lists in the wilds of Cork and Mayo, where the Nationalists were known to be 999 to one of the voters, and that a Tory was sent down to revise the lists where the contest was known to be close. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University is himself responsible 799 for that. I do not think he is; but I know one gentleman who is responsible, and that is Sir William Kaye, a member of most of the Orange Lodges, a gentleman who stood for the City of Armagh against Mr. Beresford, the late Member. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University did not appoint Mr. Kisbey to the post of Revising Barrister in North Tyrone, it was Sir William Kaye—it was he who pricked the list, with the result that men who were supposed to be sympathetic in politics with us were sent to places where we were in an enormous majority, while to places where the Nationalists were in a small minority the men who were sent were Orangemen to the backbone.
§ MR. A. BLAINE
In respect to this additional charge of £1,632 for Revising Barristers, I deem it right to say that Mr. Craig, who was sent down to revise the list of voters in Mid Armagh, put a number of Tory youths under 21 years of age on the list, and they voted at the last election. When a Nationalist applied for his vote Mr. Craig suspected he was under 21 years of age, and required a certificate of age, from the Registrar, he being altogether oblivious of the fact that, until the year 1864, there was no register of births kept in Ireland. We have also to complain that Mr. Craig inserted men's names as the occupiers of properties, whereas the properties were occupied by women. Another trick resorted to by the landlords in Mid Armagh was to fill their tenants' receipts "Received from the representatives," so that the total rating divided by the representatives would not give the qualifying quotient required by law. Mr. Craig accepted the landlord's books properly cooked for revision that women and not men were tenants, though the men paid the rent. Mr. Craig winked at this fraud upon the law. I would only be participating in these illegal proceedings if I did not protest against an amount appearing in these Estimates for the payment of services rendered to one particular Party in Mid Armagh—namely, the Tory Party. There is another grievous matter in connection with the Mid Armagh revision of which we have to complain. While Mr. Craig was holding a Revision Court in one part of the division, Mr. Richard Wilson Gamble, Q.C., County Court Judge, was 800 holding a Revision Court in another part of the constituency. While Mr. Gamble was thus engaged, an officer of his Court—a civil bill officer—named Wilson, was giving evidence for the Tory Party of Armagh at Mr. Craig's Court— that is to say, Mr. Gamble allowed his officer to serve objections, and strike off Nationalists from the voters' lists for the Tory Party. I submit that Judges who act in such a manner are altogether unworthy of public confidence. That they have not the confidence of the public I am quite aware. They go about giving long lectures on the state of the country. Instead of sympathizing with the people in consequence of the distress which prevails, they are constantly telling us about the great frauds committed by people who are unable to pay exorbitant rents, and yet many of them connive at fraud themselves. I submit that Mr. Richard Wilson Gamble, Q.C., was privy to the attendance of his civil bill officer at the Revision Session held by Mr. Craig; and, that being so, I would not be doing my duty if I did not challenge this Estimate.
§ MR. HOLMES
I trust the Committee will allow me to say a few words in reference to the last observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Derry (Mr. Healy). The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to a circumstance for which I suppose he believed there was some foundation, that Sir William Kaye, the Assistant Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, was the gentleman who sent the Revising Barristers to the different counties. It would be entirely unworthy of me, as a Member of the Administration, to allow any blame such as that to rest upon a permanent official. It would not be the duty of a permanent official to undertake such a task, and it certainly was not undertaken by Sir William Kaye. The responsible Government of the time, the Chief Secretary, with such assistance as he could get from the Lord Chancellor, sent the various Revising Barristers to the counties. At the same time, it is right the Committee should understand that the Government, and no officer of the Government, no one belonging to the Government of the day, and no permanent official connected with the Government, had anything to do with sending Mr. Kisbey to North Tyrone. By reason of 801 the extent of county Tyrone it was necessary to have in the county four Revising Barristers; and four were selected, two being Liberals and two Conservatives. It then rested with the Chairman of the county to allocate the various divisions amongst the gentlemen selected. So the Government of the day had nothing to do with it—beyond nominating the four gentlemen for the county, they had nothing whatever to do with the sending of Mr. Kisbey to North Tyrone. In reference to what the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Armagh (Mr. A. Blaine) said with respect to Mr. Craig, I think it right to say that Mr. Craig is a member of the Irish Bar, who has been a well-known Radical for many years. He was sent down to revise in Armagh, being a gentleman very competent to do so, as far as his legal knowledge was concerned, and he was engaged in revising the lists in Mid Armagh, it being supposed at that time that the contest there would be between a Conservative and Liberal?—that it was one of the constituencies? which would not be contested by a Nationalist. I cannot see how a Conservative Government can be responsible for the action taken—assuming that there was anything wrong—by a Radical barrister of position, sent down to revise the lists in a constituency in which it was supposed the contest would take place between a Radical and Conservative. I must add that, from what I know of Mr. Craig's character and legal knowledge, I am sure all the decisions he gave were given conscientiously, and in accordance with law.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Holmes) has certainly let the cat out of the bag. What is his confession? His confession is that the Government did take political considerations into account, because in the case of Mid Armagh they, in September and October, considered the political complexion of the constituency, believing that the contest there would lie between a Tory and a Liberal.
§ MR. HOLMES
The hon. and learned Gentleman is certainly, though unintentionally, misrepresenting what I said. The result was that the contest lay between a Conservative and a Nationalist; but unquestionably the Government did not take the matter into consideration. In the case of Armagh, as in the case of 802 Tyrone, the Government selected the necessary number of Revising Barristers, and the divisions were allocated amongst them by the Chairman of the county.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
As I understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I did not see how his argument lay unless the Government gauged beforehand what the nature of the contest would be. Anyhow, as he has repudiated my interpretation of his words, I pass the matter by. He has attempted to relieve Sir William Kaye of responsibility. I do not accept his defence of Sir William Kaye; but I will deal with that gentleman in a moment. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the appointment of the Revising Barristers was settled by the late Lord Chancellor, Lord Ashbourne, a well-known political partizan, and by the late Chief Secretary (Sir William Hart Dyke), another well-known political partizan— in other words, that these Gentlemen had the power of thimble-rigging as to the gentlemen who should be sent down to revise the voters' lists. I entirely repudiate that view of the matter. Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that as between the county and the divisions of the county the Chairman of the county had the power of allocating the divisions in which a particular barrister should sit. That is not at all the provision of the Act of 1885; because that Act provides that the Revising Barristers are to settle the matter between them, each gentleman having just as much power as the other. And with regard to Sir William Kaye, I know of my own knowledge that Revising Barristers who had to go down to counties which it was expected would be closely contested were summoned to the Castle, were met by Sir William Kaye, and were bull-nosed by him as to the divisions of the county they should go to. Of course, if I were to mention the counties it would soon become known who my informant was, and that gentleman would have little chance of any future employment from Sir William Kaye. Upon a future occasion, when a number of gentlemen are picked out as suitable to act as Revising Barristers, they should be sent to the different counties by ballot, or by the casting of lots. If such a system were observed there could be no complaint whatever. I think that is the provision of the Act of 1868 with regard 803 to the Judges who have to try Election Petitions; and surely the revision of voters is a matter of as much importance as the trial of a Petition. I trust that for the future, when the Government select gentlemen who appear to be capable to conduct Revision Sessions, those gentlemen will be sent impartially; and the only way in which they can be so sent is by ballot.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
The distinguishing feature of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Derry (Mr. Healy) has been the use of two extraordinary terms—thimble-rigging and bull-nosing. I confess I do not know what the latter term means. I never heard it before; but I know this—that the hon. and learned Gentleman has recently been admitted into the Profession—the grand Profession—of the Law. He is a barrister; but the whole of his speeches are calculated to leave an impression on the House that there is no such thing as an honourable barrister to be found in Ireland. I appeal to everybody whether this kind of parochial criticism, contemptible and miserable, this saturnalia of opportunity, this casting of imputations upon men as honourable as the hon. and learned Gentleman, is to be tolerated in the House of Commons. There has been introduced the name of Sir William Kaye, a man of the most distinguished eminence, a man whose character stands too high to be blackened by the jeers of hon. Gentlemen opposite. What is the issue which is presented to us? You would suppose that whoever is selected as a Revising Barrister in Ireland must necessarily be a blackguard. A Revising Barrister is called upon to perform a judicial duty; and if his decisions are erroneous—and it does not follow that a Revising Barrister is always correct—there is an appeal from his decision. Why did not hon. Gentlemen opposite appeal against the decisions of which they now complain? They prefer to come here to blacken the character of men who stand high in the estimation of all those who know what honour is; and they do not scruple to cast imputations, if only they can be unanswered, upon the Profession to which many of them belong, and to which others of them are aspiring to belong. I trust that the House of Commons, which now comprises a great 804 number of Members who are new to their duties, will understand that the criticisms of hon. Gentlemen who profess to represent a great nation — the Irish nation—are of the most contemptibly parochial character. I hope the new Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Morley), who is supposed to be peculiarly favourable to hon. Gentlemen opposite, will take note of the kind of criticisms which is resorted to by them. If there has been any wrong done by the Revising Barristers in Ireland, let them appeal to the law, as people in England and in Scotland do. That is the advice I always gave to them when I was the Representative of an Irish constituency. ["Oh!"] Certainly it is; and the reason why I could no longer represent an Irish constituency was this—that by violence and intimidation those who ought to have given their votes freely were not permitted to do so.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Mr. Courtney, I rise to a point of Order, and I ask you to require the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat while I state it. I wish to ask you whether the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Mitchell Henry) have any relevance to the Vote now before the Committee?
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
I quite admit they did diverge; but I will say this—that when I was an Irish Representative I took exactly the same line I take now. I told hon. Members, who were then my Colleagues, that they were simply degrading their own country, and preventing the promotion of their ends, by showing they had no notion of fairness in their criticisms. It is perfectly well known that the Revising Barristers in Ireland were impartially selected. Surely the Nationalists, who have returned 86 Members to this House, might in decency be contented with their success. But they actually grudge the representation in this House of any who differ from them, and they do not care what imputations they cast upon honour, upon truth, upon justice, upon the Profession to which so many of them belong, and to which many others desire to belong in future if only they can pass the examination; they do not care what imputations they cast upon 805 their own Profession if by any chance they can give pain to honourable men who have not an opportunity of reply in this House.
§ Vote agreed to.
(17.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £7,400, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, for the Constabulary Force in Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON
There are two items in this Supplementary Estimate which raise a question of the very utmost importance, and of pressing urgency to the Irish people. The items to which I allude are the additions of £2,400 for the travelling expenses of the Irish Constabulary, and of £1,800 for the Transport Service. In the first place, I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to the extraordinary—I may say the absurd—figures of this additional Estimate for the Transport Service of the Irish Constabulary, compared with the original Estimate. The original Estimate for the Transport Service was £1,500, and the Supplementary Estimate is £1,800. It is a very unusual and extraordinary circumstance that the additional Estimate largely exceeds the original Estimate. It is also noticeable that under the head of travelling expenses the additional Estimate bears a large proportion to the original Estimate. I think that no time should be lost in asking the Committee to consider most earnestly whether it is not high time to put a stop to the monstrous waste of public money in Ireland in transporting large bodies of Constabulary from place to place, sometimes to where they are not wanted at all, and still more frequently to where they are wanted to do infamous wrong. Now, what is going on at the present moment in Ireland? Why, Sir, there is an army of Constabulary moving about Western Donegal at enormous cost. I suppose that in a short time we shall be called upon to vote further sums for the expedition. In my opinion, a more monstrous parody of government was never undertaken in any country which pretends to be civilized. Let anyone take up The Freeman's Journal, or any other newspaper in which accounts of the expedi- 806 tion are given; and he will admit that, if it were not too tragic, a more ludicrous proceeding could hardly be imagined. The accounts read like quotations from Don Quixote. No one could believe that anything so preposterous could go on in real life. Many Members of the Committee may not have read the details of the expedition. What are the facts? A body of 200 Irish Constabulary, many of them transported from a great distance, and at considerable expense, as one sees from this Estimate, are concentrated at Gweedore, a place well known for its natural beauty and as a fishing resort, to assist in the collection of the seed rate, a rate levied with the object of enabling starving tenants to plant their land with potatoes. These men have been marching and countermarching; and up to the present moment I do not believe they have succeeded in levying a couple of pounds, while, I venture to say, they have spent close upon £1,000. We shall be called upon, at a future Sitting of the Committee, to vote for that expedition £1,000 at least. I put it to the common sense of the Committee, is it wise, is it sensible, is it not downright madness, to add to the embarrassments by which this new Administration is beset by the continuance of such proceedings as this? The people are calling upon the charitable English public to contribute funds to relieve them. We are told by everybody who goes into the district, be he English or Irish, that the people are starving. Anything more pitiable or more absurd than the proceedings as detailed in the news papers could not be imagined. There had been no opposition offered to the Constabulary; but the people, acting upon the advice of their priest, had abstained from congregating. In some instances this army of Constabulary seized broken chairs, tables, dressers, plates, iron pots, in which the people had cooked their food, and piled them in the cart following the army. And in one instance, amidst the screams of an unfortunate woman, a widow, and her children, the Constabulary dragged from a remote corner of the cabin and carried off some potatoes, all that the family had to subsist upon. And I am informed that, as soon as the great expedition comes to a close, another expedition is to be organized, and, perhaps, one of larger dimensions, because we 807 are told that they are to be supported by the military, and they are to evict these miserable people from their holdings. Now, I put it to the new Chief Secretary for Ireland—undoubtedly, he has undertaken a most difficult task; and I am bound to say this—that I do not think there ever came to Ireland a man who had a better chance of making a successful Government in Ireland than the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary. I returned, about a week or two ago, from a journey to a remote part of the county of Mayo, where I found the poor people are expecting something to be done for them, because, as they said to me, they had been told that Mr. John Morley was a good man. Undoubtedly, there is a feeling spread in Ireland that the Government are going to do something for the relief of the people, and, undoubtedly, that feeling will be a strong factor in helping to keep the country quiet; and believing, as I do, that the Government intends to turn over a new leaf, and to deal with the people in a kind spirit while they are maturing their plans, I think it my duty to bring under their notice the pressing danger that attends the employment of the Constabulary in those insane expeditions. Now, I have pointed out these two uses to which the Constabulary are put, and which are not only utterly fruitless and absurd, but swells the cost of the Constabulary to a state which is utterly monstrous and absolutely useless, and, at the same time, constitutes a serious public danger. Now, there is a third way in which the Constabulary transport is increased, and which, I am free to admit, is a subject on which arguments can be advanced on both sides. The two first matters I have spoken of are so plain that no argument can be advanced on one side. I do not think, for instance, that any man with a knowledge of the facts of the case could defend the expedition to Gweedore. The third way I have mentioned is the important question as to whether the armed Forces of the Crown are to be employed as well as the Constabulary in enforcing evictions in Ireland. Without inquiry as to the condition of the people, we have heard the statement made the other night that the Government will not use these armed forces to carry out evictions in the Western Highlands and the Islands of Scotland. We have been ap- 808 pealing in this House for five years—appealing to the Government of Ireland to use some discretion in the use that is made of this police force; and there are many who think that, if our appeal had been listened to, much bloodshed and disorder would have been prevented. Are we to be told, and are we to tell the Irish people, that in Ireland, on the contrary, there is to be no inquiry even, and no expression of opinion on the part of the Executive Government, as to whether the landlords are acting harshly and unjustly, and driving men to absolute desperation? Are the Irish landlords to have the whole force of the Crown at their backs? I make these remarks, as I said before, from a desire to enable the Government to take time to settle the Irish Question. We believe that this Government desire to come to a settlement of this question in a friendly and honest spirit, and it is our desire to do our best to smooth their path. But I am afraid that, whatever may be our desire to smooth the Government's path, it will do but little if these ruthless evictions are to be allowed to continue. In conclusion, on this point I will only say that I have travelled through the western part of Donegal lately, and I can say I have listened to the greatest exaggeration in this House as to the resistance which is given to the payment of rent in that district. There has been absolutely no resistance at all. I can say that, in East Mayo, rents have been better paid than they have in many parts of England; but, unfortunately, there was a large tail of tenants in all those places, who assured me they could not get the rent; and I am perfectly convinced that nothing will allow this armed force to evict them. I wish it were in my power to take the Chief Secretary to see these peasants; and, after having seen them, I believe that on no condition would the right hon. Gentleman sanction the use of the Forces of the Crown to recover rent. There is no combination amongst these people to resist the payment of rent; but, unfortunately, there are a large number of families, who are at this moment with a rent decree in their houses, utterly unable to pay the rent asked of them or to borrow money; and many of them, having paid their rent, are left in a starving condition, and will soon be living on the rates. I therefore feel that I 809 ought not to lose this opportunity of making an earnest appeal to the Chief Secretary not to pursue this ridiculous and senseless course, nor to raise up obstacles which Heaven knows are sufficiently numerous for him already. I do not believe that any Englishman ever undertook a more difficult task than that of ruling the Irish people. I am bound to say that if I thought the right hon. Gentleman came here to rule us for long I should put every obstacle in his way. I believe, however, that the right hon. Gentleman honestly desires to do his best in this respect; and, holding this opinion, I honestly desire to remove every difficulty from his path, because I think the right hon. Gentleman wishes to get out of the country as soon as possible. That is the reason why I have a feeling of friendship for the present Chief Secretary. I would ask the Committee to remember that although hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House were loud in their insistance on the maintenance of law and order, and would back its maintenance by the use of public money for employing the armed Forces of the Crown, they sent a Gentleman to Ireland a few months ago, the Earl of Carnarvon, who gave great offence to the landlords, because he recommended them not to press the Irish people too far. I would ask the present Chief Secretary to improve on the example set him by the Tory Government, to go as tep further, and from words proceed to deeds. A Predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman in the government of Ireland in his day won, to a great extent, the affections of the Irish people by an act which brought down upon him the opprobrium of the Tory classes in Ireland; but his name has been handed down with feelings of respect and admiration by the people of Ireland. I refer to Thomas Drummond, who in a time of agitation compared to which the wildest days of the Land League was only child's play, when the people rebelled at the injustice of tithes, refused to use the Irish Constabulary to collect the tithes. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to begin his government of Ireland by sending a message of peace to the Irish people, by showing that he will do all in his power to check the hand of the exterminator in Ireland, and to prevent the people from being driven away from their homes 810 when their refusal to pay rent is on account of their poverty. If he will do so, I, for my part, will do my best, by the exercise of what influence I possess, to smooth the path of the right hon. Gentleman's government in Ireland.
THE CHIEF SECRETAEY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY)
I can very cheerfully respond to the appeal of the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon), and I do not know that I am concerned to repudiate the motive with which he promises me his sympathy and support. The question how long I or any English Minister shall rule the Irish people is a question to which we are, no doubt, approaching tolerably near to a solution one way or the other. Upon the narrower point of the evictions, the hon. Member is well aware that I have as much sympathy as he has with the unfortunate victims of the social circumstances in which Ireland is placed. The question as to whether or not the Military Forces of the Crown are to be used in carrying out every eviction for which the shadow of legal title or justification can be made out is a question which Executive Ministers must decide for themselves on their own responsibility upon each case as it arises. I, for one, am not prepared to admit that we are justified, in every case in which a shadow of legal title is made out, to bring out the Military Forces to execute decrees which on the ground of public policy seem inadvisable and unnecessary. So far as I have been able to gather information in the very short time that I have been at the Irish Office, I think the hon. Member is justified in saying that at this moment—I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite will differ—rents are being, at this time, very fairly paid indeed. In cases where rents are not being paid they seem to me, as far as I can understand, to be mostly cases where it is as absolutely impossible for the tenants to pay them, as it is for many tenants in England to pay their rents. The hon. Member will not expect me to offer any remarks on the circumstances of the Gweedore evictions, for, in truth, I am not acquainted with them, nor am I responsible for them, and it doe3 not fall within my province to criticize them, nor to offer any defence or justification of them. As for the future, I can only repeat, in another way, what I have al- 811 ready said—that while we shall be very careful to exact respect for law, and very careful to see that every subject of the Queen has all those rights to which he is legally entitled, it will be our duty to look into the cases as they arise; and in no case where it can possibly be avoided shall we be inclined to resort to military force. The particular item for increased military transport, which the hon. Member challenges, I am sorry to say is due to the circumstance, as I am informed, that the Constabulary are unable to procure cars in consequence of pressure; and, therefore, they have been obliged to provide themselves with horses, cars, and harness. The hon. Member spoke, however, rather with a view, as I gather, to express his opinion of the necessity of a policy of conciliation with regard to evictions. I believe that the more the circumstances of Ireland are considered the more urgent will it appear to all those who have a sense of responsibility to use and exercise the power of the Crown with judgment and humanity.
§ MR. FLYNN
Mr. Courtney, the hon. Gentleman who has brought before your notice his criticisms as to why the House should not pass this Vote has stated, in clear and emphatic terms, the reasons why he objects, and why, on behalf of his constituents and the people of Ireland, he offers his protest against the passing of such a Vote as this. I also represent a constituency which has instructed me on every occasion to offer my protest against the system of organized eviction in Ireland; and in speaking of this Vote I wish to be understood as representing my constituency in the protest I make. I feel that the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Morley) will be received in Ireland to-morrow with a thrill of gratification. They will be received, at all events, with this feeling— that, for the first time in the history of the country, a Gentleman occupying a responsible position has spoken of the toiling masses of Ireland in terms of commiseration and sympathy. We regret that large Supplementary Estimates of this sort have to be brought before the House; but we say that they have been necessitated by this system of organized eviction, which has been entered upon by the landlords of the country. I am in a position to say that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has stated nothing 812 but the clearest and most palpable truth when he has told this Committee that there is no indisposition in Ireland to pay a fair rent. We think it a very cruel thing that the Executive powers of the Government should be exercised in support of an organized system of evictions; and we are glad to observe the considerate and sympathetic tone in which the Chief Secretary has approached the subject, and we hope sincerely that the Government will see their way to deal with this question in a kind and equitable spirit. I should like to point out to the Committee that it involves a confiscation of the property of the Irish people when large forces of Constabulary are sent on these eviction campaigns; because it is within the knowledge of all that these evictions are the result of circumstances over which these poor people have no more control than a man has over the elements around him. If carried out by the Constabulary, who are placed at the disposal of the landlords by the Executive, the poor people are thrown out on the roadside frequently for the non-payment of one year's rent. I feel convinced that the people of Ireland, as I have said a minute ago, will read to-morrow with feelings of sincere gratification the wise and generous words that have fallen from the lips of the Chief Secretary for Ireland; and I believe that the Government will recognize the protest which has fallen from these Benches, and that we have so protested on behalf of those people who are desirous of meeting their engagements, but who cannot be expected to do so in times such as the present.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
What we miss in this discussion is the presence of facts to enable the Committee to judge what foundation there is for the eloquent speeches on the subject of Irish distress which we hear from the other side of the House. I will not yield to any man in my abhorrence of evictions. I have ever raised my voice against them in this House; but there are evictions and evictions. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who introduced this discussion, spoke of evictions, or threatened evictions, for the purpose of recovering seed rate.
§ MR. DILLON
Nothing of the sort. They cannot do so. The hon. Member does not understand what he is talking about. They cannot be evicted for the recovery of seed rate.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
The hon. Member mixed up evictions with his statements, and said that the Irish Constabulary has been used for the collection of seed rate. Well, it would be more candid of the hon. Member if he told the Committee what the seed rate was. It was the creation of hon. Members opposite. That is the fact, and I can prove it. In 1879, when there was a period of great distress in Ireland, the Conservative Government, at the instigation of an hon. and gallant Member opposite—the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan)—introduced a measure by which they advanced money to a very large amount for seed potatoes, which was to be repaid in a certain number of years by the levying of a rate on every barony which had borrowed the money. Well, I contended at that time, and I now know, that if the hon. and gallant Member had not been in such a hurry to bring forward his measure, the Government of that day would have granted the most reasonable assistance of seed to crop the ground after the famine free, gratis, for nothing. We did so in the case of the French people after the famine. We sent immense quantities of seed of all kinds abroad. [Cries of "Question!"] I know hon. Gentlemen opposite do not want the truth to be known, and they always take up this attitude when disagreeable facts are being put forward. As I was saying, in the case of the French War we granted —that is to say, the English and Scotch people, and I daresay the Irish people joined with them—to the French peasantry seed potatoes, grain, and other things, for the purpose of cropping the ground for another year; and we did it as a gift. If there is one form of charity more than another which can be defended on economic and philanthropic grounds, it is that form. But the hon. and gallant Member for Galway introduced his Bill, and proposed that the Irish people should repay the amount which was lent to them. The Government, of course, jumped at the proposal at once; and the result has been that a considerable portion of the rate has not been paid; but over and over again application has been made for the postponement of the collection of the tax. Applications of that kind have been acceded to over and over again by the Government; and if I were to tell the Com- 814 mittee of the cheating and fraud that went on in regard to that seed rate—how the common potatoes grown in the district were taken out of a town and brought back as what they called "champion potatoes" from a distance, and re-sold at 10 guineas a ton——
The hon. Member is perfectly in Order in his explanation of the circumstances of the seed rate.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
I am never sorry for those interruptions. I am only sorry for those who make them, because the House knows the incurable aversion which hon. Members who represent, or claim to represent, the Irish people have to the elucidation of facts and truth. Well, the seed rate was a great farce. I do not remember how much is outstanding; but I know that, after great difficulty in collecting the rate, a great many years have elapsed without the amount advanced having been repaid—for we are now in 1886, and the Bill was passed in 1879 or 1880. After so many years a large portion of the seed rate still remains uncollected. I believe, with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), that his constituents and the people of Donegal, and also the people in that part of Ireland who are almost always at the door of starvation, are unable to pay their contribution.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
That is the county of Mayo. They may have paid it—many were anxious to —and in these years the money may have been paid; but the people of Donegal, who are exceedingly poor, and the people of Connemara and of some parts of Kerry, are quite unable to pay the rate. I have always said so; and why, I ask, did not hon. Gentlemen opposite take up the same position? Why did not those hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were in the House at the time, protest against the Bill of their hon. and gallant Colleague? Why did they not save the Irish people from this impost? I always protested that these people were utterly unable to repay this 815 money that was granted to them so many years ago for the purpose of enabling them to crop their ground; and I hope the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant will obtain the sanction of the Treasury for the sweeping away of the rate. I certainly should not, however, let off those Unions in the South of Ireland who are still as able to pay as any other people in the country, but who will not pay if they can possibly help it. The hon. Member has spoken of coercive measures for the recovery of the rate; but everyone who knows Ireland must be aware that it is to be divided into at least two parts. The people in the South — the people about Dublin and the people of Cork and Limerick—are well able to pay their rents. ["Oh, oh!" and cries of "No!"] I say that confidently, and can prove it. [An hon. MEMBER: It is not true.] It is perfectly true. They are as well able to pay their rents as any people in Great Britain. [An hon. MEMBER: Prove it.] The tenants in Connemara, in Kerry, and the tenants in Donegal, who chiefly derive the money with which they pay their rents from labour in England, and who have no employment when trade is bad, are not able to pay their rents; but I am bound to say that, so far as my experience goes, the people of Connemara have made the most honourable efforts to pay their rents.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
The Chief Secretary cheers that observation. Why have these people been so anxious to pay? Because they know that the encouragement they received from the Land League to resist the just payment of their rents has resulted in a failure. Many of them allowed themselves to be evicted at the instigation of the Land League, and found that when they were turned out on the roadside they got no assistance from the large funds which have been subscribed, and which are within the control of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have learnt a lesson. The people in Connemara, in Kerry, and Donegal have striven to pay their rents, and all honour to them for it. They have done so because they have lost faith in those who before recommended them not to pay, and then deserted them in their needs.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
The people who have not paid their rents have refused at the instigation of the National League. There is a complete combination not to pay rents, and the tenantry could not, if they would, hold out against them. You have only to read that very journal which the hon. Member for Mayo referred to — The Freeman's Journal— or to read United Ireland, and watch the advice which is given to these people in the prosperous parts of Ireland, and often actually given by hon. Gentlemen who are now sitting opposite to us in the House of Commons to see that I am right. They say—"If you have got any money take care to clothe and feed your children, expend your money for all those purposes which you think are beneficial to yourself, and then, if you have anything left over, give it to the landlord." Well, what is the result? Why, notwithstanding the 25 per cent reduction which has been made in the gross rental of Ireland under the Land Act of 1880, the tenants have actually asked for a reduction of 50 and 60 per cent. They have very properly been refused. [An hon. MEMBER: Not by the Judges.] Take the case of the Duke of Devonshire. Did they not attempt to intimidate him? Did the}' not ask an enormous reduction which he refused? [An hon. MEMBER: How much?] I believe 60 per cent. ["No, no!"] I believe it was that amount. [An hon. MEMBER: No; about 20 per cent.] However, I will undertake to say that, although the Duke of Devonshire granted a reduction, it was not more than about half the amount that was asked for. The tenantry held numerous meetings and assumed a threatening aspect; but eventually they thought it better to pay. And that is a fair example of what is continually going on in Ireland. The House is not to be hoodwinked on this subject. I have said this when I was an Irish Member, and I will repeat it now when I am not. What is the amount of the deposits in the hanks of Ireland? Upwards of £30,000,000. And to whom does it belong? Why, to the prosperous tenants of the South and East of Ireland. There is no dearth of money amongst the large farmers in Ireland. Out of 16 years they have 817 had 12 good years of exceptional prices; I and though at this moment prices have fallen very low, I say positively that they are not as low as they were 20 years ago, when rents were much higher than they are now. It is exactly the same thing in the dairy counties of Ireland. The price of butter is low at this moment; but what is the reason? Why, it is perfectly evident and well known. [Cries of "Question!"] This is the question. The managers of the Cork Butter Market have told the people why it is—namely, because, through the wretched manner in which the Cork butter is made, the Dutch and other foreign butter can beat it out of the market. Let the people of the South and East of Ireland pay their rents in an honourable manner; let them devote themselves to the improvement of their agriculture, and there would be no difficulty in their maintaining a prosperous position. The Chief Secretary ought to know that the undoubted misery of the West of Ireland is made the fulcrum by means of which the agitation against landlords and the outcry against rent are kept up. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know this as well as I; and at their symposia and pleasant dinners in the Irish parts of London they tip one another the wink and say how they are humbugging the Britisher. They are humbugging the Britisher, and they know it, by pretending that the condition of the tenantry in the East and South of Ireland is like that of the tenantry in the West and in Donegal. I have spoken plainly on these points, and I hope the Chief Secretary will investigate the facts, and find out whether what I have said is true or not. I repeat that the tenantry in the prosperous farming portions of Ireland, though they are now, at this moment, receiving a much lower price for their produce than they did before, are excellently well able to pay their rents; but other people in Connemara, Donegal, and parts of Kerry are not able to pay them, and ought to be saved by every means. Certainly the Forces of the Crown ought not to be employed against them in these evictions. But there was one curious circumstance in the statement made by the Chief Secretary. He said that every case of eviction and of the employment of the Forces of the Crown would be considered individually by the Executive 818 authority. Now, that is not the law; and if the Chief Secretary is to make himself the appeal for the decision of the Courts of Law which are duly constituted, he will have a task which not only will overwhelm him, but will overwhelm the law itself. The Forces of the Crown are to be employed to make the law obeyed. If the law is a bad one let it be repealed or altered; and Heaven knows that I have in this House for the last 17 years, over and over again, asked for the repeal of those harsh measures which apply to one part of Ireland a law of eviction which ought not to be applied to a starving and miserable population. But in regard to the rest of Ireland, if the tenant farmers who are rich enough will not pay, threaten them and they will do so; or if they do not, support those who have a right to the land just as much as the tenants have, in attempting to obtain their due by the sale of the tenants' stock.
§ MR. HOLMES
The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. Morley) has reminded us that it can hardly be expected that he can know much of this subject, considering that he has been such a short time in Office. All, I think, will agree in that; and it would be most unreasonable to assume that the right hon. Gentleman, upon every Irish question, can, at the present time, have formed a definite opinion. I am quite sure that in any statement he has made to-night he has expressed an opinion of first impression, and is prepared, on further consideration, to modify or entirely alter that opinion. It would not, I think, be amiss if I were to bring back the Committee to the point from which this discussion started. We are discussing the Supplementary Constabulary Estimate. One might suppose, from the course the discussion has taken, and even from a large portion of the Chief Secretary's own address, that the reason the Estimate has been increased beyond what was originally expected is this—because the Constabulary have been largely employed in carrying out evictions—and that in consequence of their having been so largely employed the estimated amount was not sufficient for the purposes of travelling and other incidental expenses. Now, we have it from the Chief Secretary himself, mentioned in an incidental and vague way, at the 819 end of his observations, that that is not the reason for the increase of the Estimate at all. The cause of the increase, so far as I could gather from the Chief Secretary—and he appealed to myself as to my own knowledge on the matter, which corresponds entirely with his—is that, in consequence of the Constabulary, during a considerable portion of last year, not being able to obtain cars and to hire horses, and, in some eases, to procure even the bare necessaries of life, they were obliged to spend capital in the purchase of cars and. horses. They were compelled to make these purchases not merely for the purpose of carrying on their ordinary Constabulary duties, but actually for the purpose of bringing from neighbouring towns the bread and other food necessary for the support of the men in the barracks. I might ask why was this? Was it because the persons who earned their livelihood in the country by keeping cars for hire were indisposed to add a little to their incomes by letting their cars to the Constabulary? I think it is hardly so. It was because there was a power in the country which so intimidated the men who had the cars for hire that they dare not give them to the Constabulary, though, again and again—and the Constabulary will bear me out—they would have been perfectly willing to do so if the National League had permitted them. Therefore, when the Chief Secretary appeals to this side of the House and asks, Does not our experience correspond with his information that it was circumstances of this kind which involved this additional expenditure, I at once reply in the affirmative. But there were other portions of the right hon. Gentleman's observations a little more questionable. Reference has been made in the course of this debate to what are called "organized evictions;" and hopes have been expressed that the Government will not give any support to any sweeping plan for clearing away the inhabitants from large districts — from the land they have been holding and the houses they have been occupying for a long period. I am afraid that some observations fell from the right hon. Gentleman—though probably he did not use them in that light—rather suggesting the idea of something of the kind being done. I am not aware that in the last 820 12 months there have been any evictions that could be said to be of that character. He spoke of the Gweedore evictions; but there were no evictions in Gweedore connected with the seed rate, and the only matters referred to in the debate have been in connection with that rate. As the hon. Gentleman on the other side (Mr. Mitchell Henry) knows, but as the right hon. Gentleman can scarcely be expected to know, people cannot be evicted from their holdings for non-payment of seed rate; and if the Constabulary have been used at all, it has only been for protecting whoever might be the warrant bearer in the collection of the rate. If there were a Return of nulla bona no penalty can be attached to those liable to payment of the rate. A Return has been furnished as to the evictions in the last 12 months. I think I am correct in the statement—if I am not the right hon. Gentleman will be able to correct me, though I believe he will bear me out—that the evictions in Ireland during the year 1885 were much less in number than in 1884. I believe, in round numbers, the number of evictions in 1884 were about 4,000, and that in the year following they were 3,000. But, lest the Committee should carry away a misapprehension as regards the meaning of these figures, I ought to state that these were evictions that appeared in the hands of the Sheriff, and that in a large proportion of cases—as always happens—the persons evicted were restored either as tenants or caretakers. These numbers, therefore, do not represent the actual number of people put out of their holdings, but the number in which evictions came into the hands of the Sheriff; and, as I have said, there was a substantial decrease in 1885. I think I may say that in the past five or six months during which I had some experience in connection with the government of Ireland there were very few cases in which it was necessary to assist the Civil power by even the Constabulary, much less the Military, in the carrying out of evictions. I know that occasionally in Ireland the turbulence is so great that it is necessary to give that assistance; but probably the reason why it was so seldom necessary to employ the Constabulary was because there were so few evictions. Another subject on which the right hon. Gentle- 821 man rather suggested that there might be a difference of opinion on this Bench from the information he himself has received was the question of the payment of rents in Ireland. I am able to say what the result of my own information on that subject is. I think in a great many parts of the country rents are very fairly paid; and as to what the right hon. Gentleman has said in that respect, provided, he does not apply it to the whole country, I am not disposed to disagree with him. I also admit that there are parts of Ireland in which, at the present time, it is very difficult for the tenants to pay; but the same, I think, may be said with regard to the tenantry in some parts of England and Scotland. I think the right hon. Gentleman will bear me out that in this last class of cases to which I have referred tenants in Ireland are treated with precisely the same indulgence by their landlords as similar persons in like positions in Scotland and England have received. But I would refer to another class of cases that, unfortunately, I know have existed in Ireland to a considerable extent, and of which the Chief Secretary has heard, or, perhaps, has obtained information with regard to. I know certain parts of the country in which the rents are not being paid, not because the tenants are not able to pay them, but because they are not permitted to pay them. [Cries of "Name!"] It would be perfectly impossible for any person rising in debate, as I have done at the present time, to give such cases by name. But I say I know, from information I can thoroughly rely upon, that there are many cases throughout the country in which the tenants on a particular estate collect together, and pass resolutions declaring that no rents shall be paid unless some exorbitant reduction of 40 or SO per cent is allowed. I can understand it to be the duty of a landlord to inquire into individual cases on his property; and if he finds there are some where men are unable to pay their rent to give them time, and treat them with leniency; but how is it possible for a landlord to deal with tenantry when he is told that he is compelled to give a reduction all round, irrespective of individual cases, of 40, 50, or 60 per cent? Has the right hon. Gentleman never heard of such cases— where some of the tenants have stated 822 that they would lodge the amount of the reduction so agreed upon in the bank, rather than allow it to go into the landlord's hands? ["Oh!"] One would suppose I am addressing a House that knows nothing of what occurs in Ireland. I will mention a very recent case which occurred in Ireland—a case of a property on which there were reported to be 100 tenants. The tenants were very badly off, it was said; and though some had had their rents judicially fixed, it was impossible for any of them to pay the full amount they were charged. Application was made to the Receiver Judge to give a reduction of 50 per cent where the rents had not been fixed by the Land Commission, and of 40 per cent where they had. The application was supported by a strong affidavit; and it was said that it was impossible for any of the people to pay their rents; but before the case had proceeded far it appeared from the Receiver himself that a fortnight before 60 men had paid the rents in full, and a number of others only required a short time to do so. So far as my information goes, rents are fairly paid in Ireland where there is no external force acting to the contrary; so far as my information goes, where rents cannot be paid there is a reasonable indulgence shown by the landlords. ["No!"] Certainly, up to the present time, there has not been any of those wholesale evictions we have had referred to in this House; and, so far as I can judge, the same policy of moderation which has been pursued in this respect by the landlords in the past will continue in the future. There was one remark of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland which produced at the time upon my mind a strong impression as to the way in which it would be received in Ireland, and which I am afraid may produce disastrous results. The hon. Member for North Cork (Mr. Flynn) appeared to consider that the observations that were made by the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech to-night will be received throughout Ireland with the greatest pleasure; and he appeared to base that pleasure on the supposition that help would not be given by the Government to the Civil power in carrying out the law.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY)
I said that 823 the help of the military force would not be granted.
§ MR. HOLMES
The military force! The occasions on which the military force is required to carry out the law in Ireland are very few indeed. The question is this. Suppose, for instance, the Sheriff receives the writ of a Superior Court, and he says—"My bailiffs are endangered if they carry out that writ;"—the question is, will the Constabulary protect the bailiffs? That is an important question; and I am afraid it will be assumed in Ireland, after the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that no protection will be given by the Civil Force to those who have to carry out the law. I presume that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, although not a native of Ireland, and not a lawyer, is aware of the fact that the Sheriff would be bound to execute a writ as an officer of a Superior Court; and I cannot understand on what ground the Executive of the present day will decline to give the officials of the Court that protection which he will require in doing a duty which the law imposes upon him, and renders him liable to penalties for not carrying out. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that he will examine into the cases individually, and determine the particular cases in which assistance will be given, and in which it will be refused. Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into consideration the modus operandi of this proceeding? We know that the present Government is a Government of examination and inquiry; and probably it is one of those matters which will be the subject of their examination and inquiry, which are the proper cases in which to afford protection to the Sheriff in executing a writ. But how can the right hon. Gentleman tell whether the writ of the Court covers the shadow or the substance of a right? Will he set up in Dublin Castle an inquiry into cases in which the Court issued writs in order to ascertain whether the Sheriff was justified in executing them or not? After all, great allowance must be made for the inexperience of the right hon. Gentleman; and I believe that, whatever his experience may be in other matters, he has little experience in any branch of the Executive. But I think when he has tried to carry out this business, when his experience is a little 824 greater, and when he has pursued his inquiries in this direction a little further, he will find that he is surrounded in his task with the greatest difficulty. It seems to me that there is one way only for the Executive to deal with this question, and that is that they should carry out the law; and if the law be unjust, and if it be not such as the circumstances of the country require, let them alter the law. Up to the present time it has never been tolerated that Members of the Government, who are there to administer the law, should suspend that law, or alter it according to their own views; and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, when he begins to consider these matters a little more, and when he has brought a more mature experience to bear upon them, will perceive that the principle which must guide his conduct is that which has been the guide of those who have gone before them. If that be so, however much we may differ from him with reference to his views upon Irish subjects, we shall have no difference of opinion with him on the necessity of pressing on all the inhabitants of Ireland the observance of the law.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT)
I rise just to say a few words with reference to the rather passionate speech of the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes). It does not seem to me that the right hon. and learned Gentleman approached this matter at all in the judicial spirit in which my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Mr. J. Morley) addressed himself to it. I do not think my right hon. Friend deserved or desired that compassion for his inexperience which has been expressed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman to-night. Now, it seems to me that my right hon. Friend's observations have been entirely, though, no doubt, unintentionally, misunderstood. After all, what did my right hon. Friend say with reference to the use of the military in respect of evictions and the collection of rents in Ireland, except that which another Colleague and hon. Friend of mine said yesterday evening with reference to evictions in Scotland? I understand that the doctrine laid down in each case was precisely the same. When I was at the Home Office I had some experience with regard to Scotland. When it 825 became necessary to employ military force to vindicate the law, great care was taken that the military should not be employed for the purpose of eviction or the collection of rents. It was the condition laid down in allowing the military to be employed in the Western Highlands of Scotland that they should prevent breaches of the peace, and to punish those who resisted the officers of the law, and that they were not to act as rent collectors. That principle, I believe, is a sound one. It is the principle in England, and it was acted upon in Scotland two or three years ago. I did not understand my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to say anything more than that. My right hon. Friend did not say that if the law was violated, and if persons resisted the officers of the law, all the resources of the Government will not be employed to vindicate the law. My right hon. Friend has said nothing of that sort. He said it is not desirable — and in my opinion it is not desirable—to employ the Military Forces as collectors of rents. It is true that my right hon. Friend has said that there ought to be on the part of the Government, as well as on the part of proprietors of land, a sentiment of humanity and discrimination in reference to the operation of evictions. ["Hear, hear!" from Home Rulers.] That is all my right hon. Friend said. ["Oh, oh!" from the Opposition.] I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite would not deny that the last pound of flesh ought to be exacted; and the Government may well act like a just judge, and bear in mind considerations of that kind in a spirit of humanity. The Committee has heard what my right hon. Friend said; there is nothing in what he said that appears to me to be otherwise than sound and justifiable, and I entirely agree with him.
§ MR. SEXTON
I do not feel concerned to champion the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland; but I must say that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) that the Chief Secretary for Ireland is not in need of any apology or vindication from the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Holmes), who sits on this side of the House. The Chief Secretary for Ireland perceives, in his mind, the principle of civilized rule; and I be- 826 lieve, and am glad to believe, that he will act upon it. The right hon. Gentleman as a politician, and let me say as a statesman, has reached an eminence which the late Attorney General for Ireland can never hope to reach. His mind is at present clear; but I warn him that the position of Irish Secretary will make him acquainted with strange company; and I solemnly say that it would be better for him if he never learned a single fact about Ireland, trusting to his own abstract perception of principle, rather than that his mind should be debauched by the pettifogging and cruel chicanery of Dublin Castle. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland labours under the disorder which appears to be chronic with some Four Courts lawyers —he is under the delusion that a contemptible and feeble case can be disguised by loudness of tone and feverishness of gesture. But, Sir, he has not convinced any hon. Member in this House that it is possible for any appreciable proportion of tenants in Ireland to pay their rents. I offer him no thanks for the small admission he has made. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman deny that the prices of agricultural produce have fallen 40 per cent? Does he know that Judge Barrington has taken as much as 50 per cent off fixed rents? Does he deny that the Courts have, with the solemn sanction of the law, given reductions of 15, 20, and as high as 40 per cent off rents? The right hon. and learned Gentleman says there are places in Ireland where tenants can pay rent, but where they are not allowed to pay. I protest again this insinuation, Mr. Chairman, as being similar in politics to an infamous slander in private life. I protest against this system, which is a leaf taken from the book of the Loyal and Patriotic Union, who send their spouters over every platform in England in order to mislead honest English people who are disposed to do justice to Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman imitates the rôle of Mr. Smith Barry, which gentleman turned out his labourers because they ventured to ask for the benefit of the Labourers' Act; this gentleman, a few days ago, said that he knew of certain cases of "Boycotting," and when asked where, said—"I dare not name the district." 827 We can understand his fears; but when the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland says he does not name the district in which "Boycotting" exists —why, it is absurd. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman says he knows districts in which rents can be paid, but are not allowed to be paid. I challenge the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give the name of those districts. There is no reason in the world why the names of those districts should not be given. Allusion has been made to the evictions at Gweedore; and it has been attempted to cast some doubt upon their existence. I say there is nothing more shameful in the history of the world than the evictions of women that have taken place in that unfortunate portion of the country during the last two or three years. In that place the landlord first threatened the tenants that if they went to the Land Court he would take them to a higher Court and so ruin them; he then ran up legal costs; and it is a fact that for rents of £1 as much as £3 or £4 legal costs have been added. It was for such claims as these that the poor people were evicted, and then, having turned them out, he used his power as outdoor Guardian to refuse them that cold charity—outdoor relief. I say there is no doubt, from the patent facts of the case, from the falling prices, and from the manner in which the means of the small tenants have been exhausted in order that they may obtain the benefit of the Arrears Act, that there prevails in Ireland a general incapacity to pay unreduced or even judicial rents; and I invite the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to apply to the case the strictest scrutiny that his ability or his experience may suggest, and the result of his investigations will be confidently awaited by us. Now, Sir, some controversy has been raised, and reference has been made, to the course pursued by Mr. Thomas Drummond, who lived to enjoy an unsoiled reputation as Chief Secretary, who refused to use the armed Forces of the Crown in the case of seizures that were made for tithes. Mr. Thomas Drummond's course was to despatch an armed force to a convenient spot; but he did not allow it to approach the place of seizure unless there was proof of violence and breach of the law. 828 The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) has said that the Chief Secretary for Ireland only promised that the military should not be employed. Are we to understand by that the red coats? The police are the military of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman smiles. Was he ever in Ireland? I can assure him if he went there tomorrow he would not know the policemen there from members of a Rifle Brigade. I heard the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland with hope, because I understood him to mean that he would in future consider whether or not the armed Forces of the Crown should be employed on the merits of the case. To those who intervene and cry out for the execution of the law, I say that a statesman has more at the present crisis to consider in Ireland than the mere enforcement of the law; he has to consider the public peace, the prevention of crime, and the true harmony of society. [Ironical cheers.] Sir, I wish to have a clear understanding as to the engagements we have had. Are the Executive in Ireland to consider the merits of each case when a landlord proposes to evict a tenant? What are the merits? They are these. If there is reasonable ground for believing that the tenant can pay the rent and will not pay it, then the merits, from the Government point of view, are on the side of the landlord, and it would be the duty of the Executive to send the military there; but if it is clear that from causes beyond his control the tenant is not able to pay, then I say that the merits are upon the side of the tenant. I understand then, from the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that in the latter case the armed force of the Crown shall not be placed at the disposal of the landlord for the perpetration of what would be an outrageous act of cruelty. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the promise given with regard to Scotland was that the military should not be used with reference to evictions. Well, that had relation only to the soldiers.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT)
I did not use the word at all; I did not think it the proper word to apply.
§ MR. SEXTON
I am not speaking of the word, but of the force, and with regard to the use or non-use of it at evictions. But the Crown has no force in Scotland other than the military; and, therefore, if the Government in respect of Scotland holds out the hope that they will not use the military at evictions, they hold out the hope that they will not use the only force they have at their disposal. On the other hand, the police are the military force in Ireland; the soldiers have nothing to do with evictions. When did anyone see a soldier at an eviction? I say without fear of contradiction that if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in speaking of the military, alluded to the red coats, he made a promise which has no relation to the actual state of affairs in Ireland; and if, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right, we have no hope that the only force which is used at evictions in Ireland will be withdrawn. Now, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or some other Member of Her Majesty's Government, will be able to tell us that the Government will act in the same manner and in the same spirit as did Mr. Thomas Drummond in his day; and that these landlords, who are endeavouring to deprive tenants of the interest in their holdings which has been given to them by Act of Parliament, shall not have the armed Forces of the Crown at their back. The equity of the case is clearly on the side of the tenant, and we claim that the interval which will elapse between the Act of 1881 and the final Act which will make the tenant owner of his farm should not be employed by the Crown to enable the landlords to do what we call both an inequitable and dangerous act. Sir, I hope that the spirit expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland this evening will be manifest in his future action. Irish Members will watch the action of the Executive; and I promise that if the right hon. Gentleman's spirit prevails in his dealing with Irish affairs, the Government may approach with confidence the matter which lies at the root of disaffection in Ireland.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
(who rose amid cries of "Divide!") said: I 830 do not propose, Mr. Courtney, to occupy much of the time of the Committee; and if hon. Gentlemen who are so courteously crying "Divide!" will, for a short space of time, relapse into that silence which so much better becomes them than any effort of speech which they could possibly make under any circumstances, I shall all the sooner bring my remarks to a termination. I would not have risen at all to-night but that I felt called upon, in the interests of absolute truth, to refute the statement which has been made in the House by the present Member for Glasgow, but late Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry). The hon. Gentleman has said it is not the fact that there is any considerable number of tenant farmers in Ireland outside the district of Connemara, in which he himself lives, and outside the counties of Donegal and Kerry, unable to pay the rents required of them. I do not, for a moment, wish to say that the hon. Member wilfully makes a misstatement to this House; but I am bound to say that if he knew as much of the rest of Ireland as he knows of Connemara—if he had travelled for any length of time lately through the different counties of Ireland—he must know that in every county in the country there is just as much inability to pay rent as there is in Connemara. I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the Committee that in the county that I represent (Fermanagh) dozens and dozens of honest, hard-working farming people told me, during the late election, that if they did not receive a large and ready reduction of rent—if the landlord demanded his pound of flesh?—they did not know where they were to get the money from. I am aware that in speaking thus of the district that I know, and through which I have travelled a great deal, I am only speaking as other Members of the Party to which I belong could speak, with equal truth and certainty, of the particular districts with which they are acquainted. I must add that it is absolutely dishonest and mischievous for an hon. Member, who has some acquaintance with Ireland, to come down to the House and seriously tell Englishmen and Scotchmen who have come to the House for the first time—who have not heard the debates upon Irish matters in this House, and who know little or nothing of Ireland—that the farmers throughout the 831 whole of Ireland, with the exception of three districts, are able to pay rent without reduction. I believe, Sir, that such statements are more calculated to cause discontent and disturbance than the preaching of the most fierce opposition to the payment of rent that I or the Party to which I belong could indulge in.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
I rise to Order, Mr. Courtney. The hon. Gentleman has really no right to misrepresent what I said. What I said was that the tenants of Ireland are as well able to pay rent as the tenants of England and Scotland. I never said they were able to pay without reduction.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
If the hon. Gentleman had restrained the natural feeling of uneasiness which of course besets him at hearing his statement straightforwardly refuted by me, he would have found that in a minute or two I would have come to the very point which he made when he said that the tenants in Ireland were just as well able to pay as the tenants in England or in Scotland. Such a statement as that must lead anyone to believe that the hon. Member has a very poor idea of the general knowledge, if not the general intelligence, of Englishmen or Scotchmen; because Englishmen and Scotchmen who take the trouble to inquire, even in the slightest degree, as to the relative condition of the Land Question in Ireland and in England will find that the most elementary difference between the Land Question in Ireland and in England rests upon this fact—that the way in which tenants in Ireland are dealt with by landlords has always been—and, I believe, unless something is done, always will be—completely and absolutely different to the way in which English landlords have dealt with their tenants. There is no similarity whatever between the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland and the relation of landlord and tenant in England. The system is similar, and it is bad; but your English landlord has lived with his tenants. He has inquired into their particular case; he has spent the money which he has got from their earnings amongst them; and he is of the same race and religion; but in Ireland the landlords of whom we complain most, and the landlords who have done most to bring the Irish Land Question to its present critical condition, are men who 832 do not see their tenants, who are different in race and religion, who are merely and only connected with their tenants through the medium of the land agents, who care nothing about their tenants or their families so long as their land agents send them regularly the remittances of the rack rents, so that they may live pleasantly in parts of the world remote from the suffering which their unfortunate serfs in Ireland have to undergo. The hon. Member (Mr. Mitchell Henry) did not tell the Committee that, although, as he said, English and Scotch tenants are not better able to pay their rents than Irish tenants, in many parts of England and Scotland landlords, and large landlords, not too celebrated for their humanity or mercifulness of disposition, have given reductions of rent unsolicited — without waiting for agitation—while in similar cases, only more grievous, landlords in Ireland, even in the face of bitter agitation, have not given reductions of rent. The reductions which have been sparingly given by landlords in some parts of Ireland have only been a tardy following of the example which was set to them by their more generous and more respectable brothers, the English and Scotch landlords. And many and many an eviction there would have been in Ireland, and many and many a bitter time there would have been for farmers in that country, if a number of Irish landlords who spend their money in English society had not been, out of pure shame, compelled to give some reductions of rent to their tenantry, when they found that the English landlords, with whom they mixed in society, were making remissions. Sir, I would not have risen to address the Committee at all had I not thought that I should be failing in the fulfilment of my duty to an Irish agricultural constituency if I eat quietly by and heard Englishmen and Scotchmen told that the great bulk of the farmers of Ireland, in the face of the depression of trade which now exists, are able to pay their rents. Day after day I receive letters from men who are well accredited, whose names and addresses are in evidence, complaining of the present state of things; I have received dozens of letters in which the complaint is made that if something is not done to induce landlords to make remissions of rent, or if something is not 833 done by the Government to prevent eviction, the writers do not know how eviction is to be avoided, or what they are to do to continue in the country, or what they are to do to get the money with which to leave the country if they are evicted. We know that in Cork, and Limerick, and Wexford, and Carlow, and Queen's County, and in all the Southern counties which are supposed to be rich, the farmers cannot pay rent unless they get reductions; and knowing this it is most hurtful to us to hear an hon. Member who has had some connection with Ireland instilling it into the ears of Englishmen and Scotchmen that there are only a few corners in Ireland where the people are not able to pay their rents. Believe me, Sir, if there were only the few corners which the hon. Member names where the people are not able to pay their rents, rents would have been paid, and the agitation would not have attained its present dimensions. It is simply because the people throughout the whole of the country find it difficult to pay rent that the agitation has reached its present height; and it is simply because the people throughout the whole country, and not in three districts, are in distress, that Her Majesty's Government will find that if they want, as I believe they do, to restore peace and tranquillity in Ireland, they will have, sooner or later, either to put restrictions upon the action of the landlords in Ireland, or else to give to Ireland that government of itself, which will of its own accord, and as one of its first actions, take good care that the people of Ireland are not compelled to pay rack rents. All I have to say, in conclusion, is that I am surprised and grieved that a feeling of shame at having been thrust out of the representation of an Irish constituency should have induced the hon. Member (Mr. Mitchell Henry), who now represents a Scotch constituency, to misrepresent and slander and malign the Irish people, the great sin of some of whom was, no doubt, in the mind of the hon. Gentleman, that they refused to accept his services any longer.
§ MR. ARTHUE O'CONNOR
I am not, Sir, so old a Parliamentary hand as some others; but I am a sufficiently old Parliamentary hand not to occupy the Committee very long at this hour of the night. I should not have ven- 834 tured to rise at all, but would have been content to leave matters as they have been left by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who spoke the sentiments of us all, and spoke them well, if it had not been that the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Mitchell Henry) challenged us to stick to facts. He proceeded himself to give us a statement marked with such inaccuracy that I do not think it is necessary to follow him in detail. The few facts which I wish to lay before the Committee will show the real nature of the charge now placed on the Estimates, and the character of the district where the money is being spent. The district of Gweedore is 45,000 acres in extent, and there are eight landlords. On Captain Hill's estate, where there are 800 tenants, the Land Courts, in such cases as could be sustained, gave a reduction of 30 per cent. The number of ejectment notices served on that one estate in the last four years have ranged from 33 to 100 annually, and there are now a large number of evictions pending. Mr. Nixon, who has 100 tenants, also had his rents reduced in the Land Courts 30 per cent. He has served ejectment notices annually, and the number of evictions now pending is 20. On the Earl of Leitrim's estate there is at present no eviction pending. There are, however, 11 tenants, and every one of those men was evicted by the late Earl. On another estate, where there are 30 families, there are 21 evictions now pending. Such is the district in which the police have been sent to collect the seed rate—100 police sent to enforce 44 warrants for an amount not exceeding £25. They marched into the district, where there was no outrage, no disturbance, no gathering even of the population. They marched from house to house—many houses they visited two and three times— and with this result—that in one case the money was paid, because there was cash upon the premises, the unfortunate tenants having just sold a bullock for 30.s.; and that in another case they seized a stone of oats and several other things to realize the sum of 6s. 9d.; and altogether there was obtained in the whole district, by the aid of a week's exertions of 100 policemen, something between £2 5s. and £2 9s.; and, I presume, the expedition will not cost much under £200. This is but the pecuniary 835 aspect of the case; but I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee the very serious effect which this state of things is producing in a direction which they would not at first suspect. I have received from one district a letter which tells me that the police had visited the house of a man named Peter Rogers, who was very severely dealt with, everything in his small holding, including potatoes, tubs, and dresser, and such things, being seized. Subsequently, word was sent to the man to come to the barracks and try to arrange to get his things back. Poor Rogers could not possibly raise any money, yet he went to the barracks; and the Constabulary, taking compassion on the poor fellow, at once raised amongst themselves the amount of the warrant—14s. Rogers thus got back his potatoes, about eight cwt., and his small household utensils, and went away happy. If the Committee cannot see the significance of this circumstance they have less intelligence than I imagine them to have. You send 200 policemen into this quiet and poor district to seize all the worldly goods of the most wretched of the population; when they have seized the goods they secretly send word to one of the very men against whom they were sent to come to the barracks, and themselves give him, out of their own pockets, sufficient money to redeem the poor chattels they were obliged to seize. No wonder there are hundreds and thousands of the men now in the Police Force who are revolting in their hearts against the detestable work you, in the name of law and order, do. I assure the Committee they are doing a work of which they have little suspicion when they send Constabulary on such business as that which has lately been done in the district of Gweedore.
§ MR. LANE
I do not intend to intrude myself very long upon the Committee; but I do not think the Irish Members can consent to this Vote being taken without the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) replying in some way to the point which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) made in the course of his remarks. The right hon. Gentleman said, in answer to the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), 836 that the Government would take care to discriminate between the cases in which they would employ a military force in connection with evictions and the cases in which they would not employ such a force. I am quite sure I express the opinion of all my hon. Friends and Colleagues on these Benches when I say I do not myself believe the right hon. Gentleman intended any deliberate reservation in using the word "military" in contradistinction to the word "Constabulary;" but the Committee are aware that we are not considering in this Vote any question in connection with the Military Establishment of Ireland. We are dealing solely with the Constabulary; and, therefore, I think that as it is usually the Constabulary who are employed by the Crown to assist in evictions, we may reasonably expect that the right hon. Gentleman will say whether he intended it to be understood that he will grant the use of the Constabulary on the occasion of every eviction, and the use of the military only upon certain occasions. The matter is so important that it is absolutely necessary there should be no room for doubt as to what forces of the Crown the right hon. Gentleman will permit to be used in carrying out evictions in Ireland. I am myself of opinion that if the right hon. Gentleman remains in Office he will honourably carry out the idea which prompted him to make his statement; but the occupant of the Office of Chief Secretary changes so very frequently that I think it would be very useful, as a guide to the future, that the words which the right hon. Gentleman used this evening in his official capacity should not be open to any doubt whatever. Without any intention whatever of opposing the Vote, I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he cannot see his way to make it more clear to the Members on these Benches and to the Irish people whether he had in his mind any reservation as to the use of the military and the Irish Constabulary in the work of eviction?
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next.
§ Committee to sit again upon Monday next.