1. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding, £6,070, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March. 1892, for the Expenses of the Establishment of the Crofters' Commission.
§ (3.50.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
We have been told by the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the Scotch crofters were not rack-rented like the Irish peasants. We have now received a Return of the work of the Crofters' Commission for the last four years, and I find that they have decided 9,340 cases, and have reduced the rents from £50,276 to £35,214, or about one-third. This, I think, conclusively proves that the crofters have been very much rack-rented. During the same period the Commissioners have reduced the amount of arrears from £112,000 to £74,000. There are provisions in the Crofters' Act which empower the Commissioners to increase the holdings; but those provisions appear to have been practically useless, seeing that only in 14 cases have increased holdings been given, and in the principal case the Duke of Sutherland, who was the landlord, was a consenting party. In one instance, the Duke of Sutherland was himself a claimant, and he is now paying rental for the increased holding as a crofter. It is manifest, therefore, that the provisions in the Act in regard to increased holdings, as we told the House when the Bill was under discussion, are worthless. I intend to move the reduction of the Vote on two grounds—first, that the rents fixed are too high; and, secondly, that where the Commissioners do fix a fair rent and reduce the arrears, they still leave too heavy a burden for these unfortunate 562 crofters to bear. As a, rule, after the rent has been reduced the crofters have the arrears to pay, which means practically a double rent. Let me mention one instance—that of Alexander M'Kie of Taafe. His rent was £5 19s., and it was reduced to £3 5s.; but there were arrears of £11 18s. 6d., and they were only reduced to £10, so that he has still to bear a liability which amounts to more than three years' rent. There are many cases which are much worse, but I have confined myself to the estate of the Duke of Sutherland, who is generally admitted to be as moderately renting a landlord as any in the Highlands. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that he has largely increased his deer forests; seven years ago they comprised 250,000 acres, but 105,000 acres have been added since. I think the result of the inquiry of the Commission has been to show that every landlord in the Highlands—even the Duke of Sutherland—is a rack-renter; and I am afraid that in the case of many of the crofters, if they had their holdings for nothing, they would find it impossible to live. What they really want is more land. The land they have now is either not sufficient in quantity or not good enough in quality to enable them to live decently. The one cry of the crofters is for more land, and the clauses of the Crofters' Act have been practically useless in providing a redress for their grievances. Three or four years ago the hon. Member for Ross-shire (Dr. McDonald) complained that the rack-renting system was still going on; and at that time I argued that the rents then enforced, although they were reduced 50 per cent., would be more than the land was worth. I also expressed the opinion that the crofters were paying from 50 to 100 per cent. more than the large farmers. At that time I got into a controversy with the Convener for Caithness in reference to a croft where the holder, a tailor, had been paying a rent of 2s. 6d. per acre. The land was certainly not worth more, but it was improved by the labour and industry of the crofter and his family; and the consequence was that the total rent was raised to £8 10s. The Commissioners went there and reduced the rent—although the land was so poor that it would not feed a snipe—to £6 10s. I 563 attacked the Convener of Caithness for his decision; and his defence was that he claimed, in addition, that the land when it was taken had an additional value, because it was capable of being improved, and that, having been improved, the owner was entitled to a fair share of the improvement. I am afraid that this is the result of employing as valuers, factors and big farmers—a class of men in whom the crofters have little confidence indeed, believing that they are the men who have brought them to their present condition. If these crofts had been sold at the time the crofters took charge of them, and before they were converted into decent gardens and pretty little farms, they would have fetched absolutely nothing, notwithstanding this theory of their improvability. All that the landlord could have got would have been the value of the croft in its then condition. I think it is grossly unfair, and savours a little of legal scheming, that these unfortunate men should find themselves rack-rented as the result of their own improvements. I shall reserve to myself the right of moving the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £100.
(4.10.) DR. MCDONALD (Ross and Cromarty)
I do not propose to go into figures, as they have already been put before the Committee by my hon. Friend. The average size of a holding in a crofter district is 3½ acres, and I find that in the cases dealt with by the Commissioners in Ross-shire they have made reductions of rent equal to 40 per cent.; but they have not gone far enough in reducing rents. Whatever blame attaches to the present Government in the matter attaches equally to their predecessors. Why on earth should not persons be employed who are acquainted with the land and know its value? An intelligent crofter knows the value much better than a large farmer or an ordinary factor. The lowest point to which the Commissioners have reduced the rent in cases where the crofters have made the land is 7s. 6d. per acre. I am acquainted with a case in my own county where a man who made every inch of the land himself is compelled to pay a rent of 7s. 6d. an acre. I do not see how anybody can justify a charge of 7s. 6d. for bog-land. I may say frankly that when the Commissioners commenced 564 their investigation I did not believe that they would reduce rents as much as they have. The complaint now is not so much in regard to the rent as to the want of land. One-half of my county consists of deer forests, and only in one instance have the Commissioners found it possible to give a piece of land from a deer forest. They themselves report upon the inadequate means which exist for increasing holdings, except by the adoption of a course which they are not authorised by the Act to take. That is a sweeping condemnation of an Act that was supposed to bring so many good and great things in its train. If you take all that has been done by the crofters in the way of improving the land, the reductions of rent are very small indeed. The valuer has been told to take into consideration the improvements effected by the money and labour of the crofter, and in no instance has this been done fully and fairly. I hardly expected the Government to deal fully with matters which the last Government refused to deal with, but I think it would have been better if facilities had been given to the Scotch Members, and so enabled something to be done.
§ *(4.15.) MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Inverness-shire)
By the operation of the Commission considerable reductions of rent have taken place for the benefit of the crofters; but I regret that the Government—though the matter was impressed upon them on more than one occasion—have not seen fit to deal with the question of the extension of holdings by enlarging in this direction the powers of the Crofters Act. It is no secret that the present Crofters' Commission is hampered in every way by their inability to deal comprehensively with the question of the enlargement of the holdings, and until this matter is so taken up, the Highland question will never be satisfactorily solved.
§ (4.19.) THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON, Bute)
The Vote no doubt raises large possibilities of discussion, but I shall not be expected to deal exhaustively with all the questions that have been touched upon. During the year 1890 there were orders for the enlargement of the holdings of 112 applicants, but, as the applications were heard in batches and the orders were collective, I cannot say what was the 565 average addition to each holding. Undue importance seems to be attached to the restrictions imposed by the Act on the powers of the Commissioners. It would not be in the public interest that the Commissioners should take any land from a farm that is under 100 acres, which is a farm of useful size. Deer forests are quite open to the action of the Commissioners, subject only to the condition that they must be satisfied that any interference would be more in the interest of the population generally than the maintenance of the status quo. When the clauses of the Act are fairly worked, it will be seen that they will confer abundant benefit without any further change in the law. As to the action of the Commissioners, I am not prepared with rebutting proofs to meet some of the sweeping charges that have been made, and it is scarcely possible for the House to sit in review upon questions of valuation, reductions of rent, and sufficiency of additions to holdings. I know, however, from the newspapers that such charges are met by strong representations on the other side; and, on the whole, we must trust to the experience of the Commissioners, whose integrity, good faith, impartiality, and industry have not been impeached. I suppose it will hardly be possible to find men with knowledge and experience enough to be Commissioners who have not been farmers or factors; and crofters will hardly have had experience enough to justify their being selected to make valuations. I will not discuss whether A or B is a landlords' man or a crofters' man; but I believe the Commissioners have been selected on adequate information, while in no instance have they been charged with excessive partiality. As to the assertion that sufficient allowance has not been made for the improvements effected by the crofters in their holdings, I believe that the clause of the Act gives the largest discretion to the Commissioners, because it imposes upon them the duty of considering all the circumstances of the case. Nor have I ever heard of any specific complaints until to-day. With regard to arrears, I admit that men who are burdened with them cannot be expected to be prosperous; but it must be recognised that the reductions made have been enormous. I think it would 566 be better if attention were called to the advantages conferred by the existing state of things rather than that the minds of those concerned should be directed to exceptional grievances.
§ (4.32.) MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I have no complaint whatever to make as to the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman has approached this question. He has manifested his usual discretion in refusing to enter upon the discussion of the general policy which has been pursued in the Highlands. The Lord Advocate has, however, admitted the necessity for better provision for an enlargement of holdings. But the right hon. Gentleman did not say that the Government propose to remove the obstacles which exist under the Act to those holdings being enlarged. On the contrary; the Government refuse to have anything to do with it, and instead offer £150,000 to deport the people to America. The enlargements which have been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman as having taken place recently were not due entirely to the Act, many of them having been made in pursuance of a promise given as far back as 1885. But, even when granted, what did they amount to? It is true they benefit 112 individuals, but they only afford grazing for 2½ sheep. The great and burning question in the Highlands is not reduction of rents, but more land. That means that the crofters shall be restored to the lands they occupied 90 years ago. It is said there is no land in Scotland to give the crofters; but if that is so, would such experienced men as the Crofters' Commissioners have recommended that more land should be given to them? The Commission has taken evidence in the Highlands, which forms the best, truest, and finest history of the Highlands that ever was written, because it is a history furnished by the Highlanders themselves. The great and burning question is that of the moorland. When the right hon. Gentleman says there is no more land or moorland to be given, he went in the face of the Report of the Commission, which laid down certain rules under which land could be obtained. The Commissioners are men of great experience, and it is an insult to their intelligence to say that they have advised Her Majesty in favour of 567 an enlargement of holdings when the land for the purpose does not exist. The land does exist, and can be obtained. In regard to the question of reductions of rent, the Lord Advocate has quoted the section of the Act which says that the landlord or the crofter may apply to the Crofters' Commission to fix the rent to be paid to the landlord by the crofter. The Act also provides that the Commissioners shall consider the circumstances regarding all holdings in the district and the origin of the holdings. The complaints made are that when the people are transferred from the land of their inheritance everything they have in the world is taken from them, and they are settled down in a sterile land. The amount paid when they first settled there was 2d. per acre, and it is now about 7s. 6d. That is one of the circumstances which the Commissioners ought to take into account. If the Commissioners carry out the clause in its strict spirit, then the reductions will be 70 per cent. and more. The Commissioners, again, never give the reasons or grounds on which they form their judgments or decisions. There would be no criticism in this House if the Commissioners would give the grounds upon which they arrived at their judgments. The Lord Advocate has taken great credit to the Crofter Commission for the wiping out of arrears, but I ask what did they do with the arrears? Where there was the slightest possibility of their being paid the Commissioners ordered it to be done. "If you have sons in large towns and sons in America, cannot they help you to pay the rent?" That was the question frequently asked. There are still many rack-rented persons in the Highlands, and the assessors appointed are not always suited to their duties. There is no class in Scotland more bitterly opposed to the interests and actions of the crofters than the large farmers and factors, and yet the assessors are all drawn from this very class. I have the honour of knowing many of these assessors, and the honour of knowing many people who are crofters; and I cannot but point out the injustice of the remark of the Lord Advocate, that the assessors are superior in intelligence to the crofters. I suggest that two valuers might 568 meet and value each piece of land, and that the second valuer shall be a crofter and a local man with special knowledge. While thoroughly sympathising with the Lord Advocate as to the inexpediency and inadequacy of an occasion like the present for entering into the wider question of the general policy pursued in the Highlands, I hope the Government will take some steps towards making the work of the Crofter Commission more efficient. I have always spoken of this Commission with respect; but I am bound to judge their work by the results. Many of these results are not satisfactory, and it is high time there should be an improvement on the points I have enumerated, and particularly with respect to their not giving the reasons of their decisions. If the grounds of the Commissioners' judgments are stated in the books, I believe there will be no litigation in the future.
(4.48.) SIR G. CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
There is a very strong feeling that there has been a total and entire failure to give any material enlargement of agricultural holdings. I do not blame the Commissioners, because I believe they are tied up so tightly in many ways that it is absolutely impossible for them to do more. The Government have tackled the question of the congested districts in Ireland, and I hope that they will now take into consideration the expediency and necessity of applying a similar measure to Scotland. There is much ground for improvement in regard to enlargement of agricultural and mixed holdings. The crofter population is not very large compared with the population of the Irish congested districts, and the Government ought to speedily relieve the difficulties which press upon this small portion of the people of Scotland.
§ (4.52.) MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
There are still one or two points on which we ought to get some information from the Government before these Votes are passed. We ought to know what is the probable duration of the Crofters' Commission, and to get some explanation of the very heavy increase in the expenses of the Commission. The expenses of the Commission in the first year were £400, but year by year they have increased until last year the 569 amount expended was little less than £10,000. The Commission altogether has cost on an average £7,000 a year. Looking at the net result of all the sittings of the Commission, I find that against this £7,000 a year which the Commission has cost, the reductions of rent only amounts to £2,600 a year. Therefore, this process of doing justice in the Highlands has the disadvantage of being extremely costly. It would be interesting, under the circumstances, to know whether there is any possibility that the costs will be reduced, or, at all "vents, during what period it is expected the Commission will require to continue its operations. It strikes me that the experience of the past five years shows that perhaps they have not been on the right tack in dealing with the crofters in the Highlands. I am not sure that it would not be found cheaper by the Imperial Government to buy up land where the crofters are, and, by reducing rents, to enter into competition with certain landlords. At all events, the present condition of things cannot be regarded as entirely satisfactory. Complaints have been made with regard to the amount of the reductions of rent, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sutherland has complained that the Commissioners do not give reasons for their judgments. Undoubtedly, the absence of reasons has the disadvantage of making it extremely difficult for crofters before they apply to the Court to know what would be likely to be the result of the application; but the Commissioners probably exercise a wise discretion, for their own peace of mind, in not giving reasons. The proceedings which have hitherto taken place with regard to enlargement of holdings, if satisfactory to the landlords, have undoubtedly not been so to the crofters. In this year's Report it is stated that certain crofters in Orkney obtained from the Commissioners in November, 1888, an increase of their holdings by 65 acres of arable land and 22 acres of pasture. No sooner had the crofters obtained confirmation of that order than a technical objection was raised as to taking possession, and when that had been satisfied the farmer brought an action for interdiction. The action was fought and won and appealed against, and' in all the proceedings the crofters were successful. But they were 570 not yet at the end of their troubles, for no sooner were these proceedings closed than another interdiction was begun. This also went to the Court of Appeal. The litigation about the transfer of 65 acres of land from the farmer to the crofters was not concluded without an action by the crofters to eject the farmer. The award of the Crofters' Commission was finally confirmed after two years of litigation, and the crofters were put into possession of their land. It would be interesting to know who paid the costs of these proceedings, and how much they amounted to. There must be a serious defect in the Act when it is possible to multiply legal proceedings in this fashion against the poorest of the poor in Scotland. I am not at all satisfied with the provisions of the Act with regard to the enlargement of holdings, and I think that is a matter which the Government would do well to take into consideration. The somewhat scandalous experience of the crofters in Orkney shows that if such litigious proceedings are possible, that portion of the Act must be practically a dead letter.
§ (5.1.) DR. CLARK
I regret very much that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government will not do anything on this point. The 9,340 cases in which fair rents have been fixed, probably fairly well, meet the grievance as far as rents are concerned; but the people require more land. Applications for increases of holdings have been received from 401 persons, and only 14 of them, representing a value of £389, have been acceded to. The Court of Session has decided that when a lease that was in existence in 1886 expires, it is possible for the Commission to take a portion of the land. I must say for the northern landlords that, with one single exception, they have cheerfully submitted to the decisions of the Commissioners, and in that one case the crofters were put to an expense of £200. The Crown, I am sorry to say, is one of the worst landlords. Unfortunately it holds a lot of property in my county, but it is all in large farms, which are given to the pluralists. I think it would be better if the Crown let its land in farms of £50, or £80, or £100 a year. The land would then be beneficial to the people as a whole, instead of being beneficial merely to a few pluralists. Legislation is particularly 571 needed in one direction. The intention of those who passed the Act was to make the sub-tenants the landlords. For the first few years the Commissioners recognised the sub-tenants as crofters, and fixed their rents; but a Court then decided that the sub-tenants did not properly come under the Act. I think the Government ought to bring in a Bill to make it clear that this class of men ought to be dealt with under this Act.
§ DR. CLARK
I wish merely to say that a number of these people are leaving their holdings, and the landlords have no right to consolidate the holdings. The crofters are being very much burdened in some cases by having to pay off arrears. Some of the valuers have acted in such a way that the rents have been reduced to a very fair figure, but others have taken a view which has left the crofters saddled with very high rents, and I therefore feel compelled to move the reduction of the salaries of these valuers by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £100, part of the Salary of the Valuers."
§ Question proposed, "That Item A be reduced by £100."
§ *(5.11.) MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
I quite agree with the previous speaker that there is a glaring defect in the Crofters Act which prevents the crofters getting more land. The small crofters is a rule have not more than a few acres if land, although there are in the Highlands vast tracts of country in which there is scarcely a house to be seen, and although within human recollection there was a large population there. There is a universal feeling in the Highlands in favour of getting back what are called the ancient homes of the people. The Crofters Act contains machinery for giving the crofters additional land, but it does not work. Of course, if Parliament passed a very stringent Act to enable land to be taken from the present holders at its fair value, and allocated to the crofters, they would have difficulty in getting stock and providing houses for themselves. Some plan might be devised for easing that difficulty and for getting 572 the Highland population back to their old homes. I think a relaxation of the Game Laws would facilitate the process.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
The hon. Member for Caithness will allow me to to point out that, while valuers are of great importance in the work of the Commission, their decisions are not final. They are men who are at the disposal of the Commissioners, and there is a power of appeal from their decisions. It is the right of anyone interested in these matters, in cases where there is any doubt about the opinion of the valuers, to take the matter before the Commissioners, who are ultimately responsible.
§ *(5.15.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I have taken opportunities during the last few years of going down among the crofters just to see what their grievances are, and I know it is a great grievance among them that the valuers are chosen from the ranks of farmers and factors, and that none of them are crofters. Surely the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate might instruct the Commissioners to select some of the valuers from among the crofters themselves, so as to get at both sides of the question.
I do not see why crofters should not be made valuers. There are plenty of intelligent men among the crofters who would be quite capable of acting as valuers. Some such compromise would work very smoothly indeed. I put it to the House, is it fair to charge 7s. 6d. per acre for black moorland, as has been done in plenty of cases? We know that in this country now the desire is to keep the people on the land by granting allotments and so on, but in the Highlands the policy we have been accustomed to is that of emigrating our people.
§ (5.19.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 66; Noes 102.—(Div. List, No. 387.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
2. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £62,700, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will
come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Expenses of the Prison Commissioners for Scotland, and of the Prisons under their control, including the Maintenance of Criminal Lunatics and the Preparation of Judicial Statistics.
§ *(5.29.) MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH
I have to complain that an inquiry into prison administration in Scotland, similar to that which has been granted in the case of England, has been refused.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to interpose. Since the refusal in question the matter has been carefully considered, and it may be satisfactory to the hon. Gentleman that I should at once inform him that it has been decided to appoint a small Committee to inquire into the wages, hours, &c, of prison staffs in Scotland, and to take evidence during the autumn.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman fairly meets that which I had to bring before the Committee. A paper has been sent out from the convict prison of Peterhead calling attention to the point. I had intended to say that as Scotland contributes at least its fair share to the Imperial Treasury, I think an end should be put to the degradation of Scotch labour by paying officials in Scotland at a lower rate than officials in England. I will not, however, continue the discussion.
§ *(5.32.) MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)
I am sorry to find myself obliged to call attention to a case in which there is still continued an act of injustice on a member of a very humble and deserving class of public officers. I refer to the warders and gaol officers in the General Prison at Perth. All I ask is that faith should be kept with public officers, however humble. Under a Treasury Minute it is permissible to grant free quarters in a prison. In the case of Perth there is an abundance of free quarters available, and it has been the practice for a very long time past to give free quarters to the warders there. It, however, occurred to the Treasury, in a moment of that parsimony which is often mistaken for economy, that they might effect a saving 574 by cutting off the whole of these free quarters in Perth, and, accordingly, they issued an order to the effect that the unfortunate officers should be from that day charged rent. Of course, the men sent a protest and a petition to the Prison Commissioners, and, after a great deal of trouble, somewhat more than one-half of them received redress, and were given back their free quarters and also any rents which had been charged them. But, unfortunately, some of them were left without free quarters. I pressed the cases of these men for some time without effect. Eventually, the Treasury wore good enough to refer the matter to one of their own Departmental Committees, which reported that, of the three remaining claims, two should be granted. I feel almost ashamed of pressing the case further, when I have obtained redress for all but one of the men, but I feel bound to make my appeal to Scotch Members and the Committee generally with regard to that one man. I admit that his case differs individually from that of the others, but I say it does not differ in principle. For two years this man had free quarters in another prison, and he was told on going to Perth that he would have free quarters there. He went to Perth, but, after a time, suddenly found himself deprived of free quarters. The principle I lay down is, that when a man has been appointed to an office with a certain salary and emoluments attached, it is the proper and unvarying practice for him to retain them if he gives perfect satisfaction, and it is false economy to endeavour to save money by cutting them down. The Lord Advocate has announced that a Committee is to be appointed to consider generally the scale of wages in Scotland, and I shall be content if the claim of this warder is referred to them.
§ (5.41.) MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
This is a purely individual case, and no question of principle whatever is involved. It has been carefully investigated by a strong Committee, and I do not think any other decision could have been arrived at. The hon. Member for Perth, who has shown the greatest perseverance in dealing with this matter, contends that if a man has for any time had given to him free quarters there is an obligation 575 on us to give him free quarters for all time. I have no doubt at all that the Committee were perfectly right in their decision.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I think this is not a matter which ought to be decided altogether of strict legal right. This man was a warder in Barlinnie Prison, where he had free quarters, and he accepted his appointment in Perth on the footing of getting free quarters there. After he had enjoyed free quarters in Perth for two years he was deprived of them, and thus had to forfeit a considerable portion of his emoluments. Would anyone in an ordinary business transaction take the course the Government has taken? I do not think anyone would.
§ *MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH
This seems to me to be a very hard case, and I do not see what harm there can be in allowing this poor man to renew his claim before the Committee that is about to be appointed.
§ *MR. C. S. PARKER
I may add that the Prison Commissioners had every right to bind the Government to the terms they promised. They represented the Government in dealing with the officers of the prison, and they acted strictly within the authority given to them by the Treasury Minute. I really hope the Lord Advocate will consider whether the new Committee might not give an independent opinion on the rights of this man. I shall be quite ready to accept their decision.
§ (5.50.) MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
There must be an end to matters of this kind. This man's case has been investigated, and I am sorry to say I cannot assent to the hon. Member's proposal.
§ *MR. C. S. PARKER
Then I move the reduction of the Vote by £200. I believe the warder's income was reduced by 10 per cent., and £200 will represent a similar reduction of the Commissioners' pay.
Motion made, and Question put,
That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by the sum of £200, part of the Salary of the Prison Commissioners."—(Mr. C. S. Parker.)
§ (5.53.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 99.—(Div. List, No. 388.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.576
3. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £47,621, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1892, for Criminal Prosecutions and other Law Charges in Ireland.
§ (6.3.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
The Irish Estimates are naturally, in some degree, affected by the circumstances of the time. The policy which governs the administration of Ireland is now substantially different from what it was in former and in recent years. There has been a change of tone on the part of the Government, and there has been a change of policy even more important still. We hear no more about Hottentots, or about the people using weapons, and there is nothing at all said about 20 years of coercion or firm government. The Chief Secretary looks upon the Land Bill, and upon the forthcoming measure of Local Government, as important in affecting the condition of Ireland, and I confess, in view of these facts, I am not disposed to look so minutely into the items of this Vote as I would have done in former years. I recognise that the Tory Party have left the policy of coercion, and are now proposing to adopt Home Rule. Under these exceptional, and, perhaps, pregnant circumstances, I must say that the amount of this Vote appears enormous compared with the number of prosecutions. The cost of criminal prosecutions in England, with its 30,000,000 of inhabitants, is £66,000; while in Ireland, with one-seventh the population, the cost is £75,000, or one-sixth greater. When we find the followers of the Chief Secretary glorifying him for the success which he has achieved in Ireland during the four years of his administration, I should expect to find some practical test of the truth of such a boast on the reduction of the Vote which now engages the attention of the Committee. Practically, there is no decrease in the Vote, and there has been no decrease in it in recent years. Why is it, if the Chief Secretary has been so signally successful by means of coercive legislation in suppressing disorder, that there is no corresponding reduction in this amount? The real meaning of what is called success may be a matter of controversy 577 into which I do not dream of entering. I believe the real fact is that the Chief Secretary has failed to apply the Coercion Act to the evicted farmers, and if boycotting and other practices have ceased it is because the resistance to the public will and public interest, which was active some years ago, is active no longer. That is a very different thing from the success of coercive legislation. We all know that the statement of these law charges consists of the operations under the Coercion Act. But the operations under the Coercion Act have so much diminished that practically they may be said to have ceased. Still the amount of this Vote continues undiminished. The right hon. Gentleman, following up his announcement at a public meeting, issued three important proclamations, which were duly published in the Dublin Gazette last month. These proclamations touched one part of the Coercion Act and not another. In the first year or two after the passing of the Coercion Act, the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues were very busy in suppressing what they called dangerous associations. Acts which in England and Scotland would not have been considered, were deemed dangerous in Ireland. He had the police watching at windows to see where meetings were held, and the prosecutions in the Coercion Courts and in the High Courts were numerous. Newspaper editors were imprisoned for publishing reports of suppressed meetings, and stalwart constables chased newspaper boys about the streets for selling newspapers containing those reports. Technical pleas were used to prevent a prisoner getting the benefit of a jury, and, whatever the case, one of the gentlemen concerned in the administration of the law had an attendance fee. The right hon. Gentleman keeps in force the Coercion Act, in order that the Lord Lieutenant may have the power at any moment to point to an association which he conceives to be dangerous. I am entitled to ask how it is, these prosecutions having entirely ceased, that we find no corresponding diminution in the law charges? A Government like yours, intruded into a country like ours, always generates, whether the country is troubled or at peace, a large expenditure. The three proclamations did refer to 578 Section 2 of the Act—a section of which we always think when we refer to that Act, because it establishes the Crimes Courts. We all know that these Crimes Courts were in full swing for a couple of years all over Ireland, and that the Government Counsel (Mr. Carson) made a fabulous income, because he was constantly appearing to prosecute fabricated offences. The proclamations left this section, in its full plenitude, in force only in one county of the 32 counties in Ireland, and in six baronies, which contain the estates of the right hon. Gentleman's friends, Mr. Olphert and Mr. Smith-Barry, and one or two others. Surely, that fact alone constitutes a very great reason for the diminution of this Vote. When this Estimate was drawn up last November, or last March, it must have been known that a change of policy was pending, and I am quite at a loss to know how the Government can present such a large bill when you have Section 2 in force only in one county. The Coercion Act is only continued for two or three small offences. It is discontinued all over Ireland for conspiracy to compel people to do that which they do not want to do by violence and intimidation, or inciting to these offences. All that is at an end. What is left for the Crimes Courts to do? We know that the chief expenditure has been in connection with the prosecntions before these novel tribunals. If the business of these Courts has ceased, the cost ought to be diminished. If there is no song there ought to be no supper. It is a sad reflection that you have in every county in Ireland trial by jury suspended, The ordinary rights of citizens are placed in the hands of servants of the Crown in respect of offences which are practically not committed in the country. I am greatly surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, for the sake of his own reputation, did not make a clean sweep of the Coercion Act by proclamation last month. In the year 1890 there was only one assault on a minister of the law in the whole of Ireland, and there were only four riots in the whole of Ireland. But this year, of the offences in respect of which the Act is continued, there has been none. I am at a loss to understand why the Imperial taxpayers—Englishmen, Irishmen, or Scotchmen— 579 should be called upon to pay a bill which, notwithstanding these proclamations and the entire absence of offences, is undiminished in amount. Let me look at the various items. I do not complain of the salary of the Attorney General, who is so worthy and amiable that he is deserving a salary whether there is anything to do or not. I find that the fees of the Attorney General and of the Solicitor General for contentious business stand just at the same figure which they did last year. Where does the business come from in respect of which these fees are to be paid? It is unbusinesslike and slovenly to proceed on the basis that the business is the same in extent as that of last year. The fees of counsel are continued, and they are treated with the same benevolence. Mr. Carson last year received £10,700, and this year he receives £10,000. The same thing appears in the other items down to the very end; and these ingenious gentlemen manage to derive the same amount, no matter that the country is wrapped in the slumber of peace. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us some explanation.
§ (6.25.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
I will leave it to my right hon. Friend the Attorney General to reply to criticisms on items, but there are one or two points on which I should like to say a word or two. I will not enter into the causes of what all agree to be the present improved condition of Ireland, and will deal only with the general complaint that the Estimates do not appear to keep pace with the improvement. There is, I think, some misconception in the minds of hon. Gentlemen as to the character of the expenditure in the Law Department. It seems to be thought that a large part of the money is spent in prosecutions undertaken under the Crimes Act, and it is therefore asked why the Estimate is not reduced. The explanation is that the great bulk of the expenditure is not in connection with the Crimes Act at all. Even when it is in most active operation, and when the number of prosecutions is at the maximum, the proportion of cases to the number under the ordinary law is relatively small. The number of prosecutions under the Crimes Act certainly 580 bears a very small proportion to the total number; and in Ireland, although not in England, all prosecutions are practically undertaken at the cost of the Government, and the Crown prosecute in almost every criminal case. Therefore, the suspension of the Crimes Act could not have an enormous effect on the total expenditure. It is true that many cases under the Crimes Act can be conducted only by counsel of reputation, whose fees are larger than are fees in ordinary cases. Still, there is a reduction of no less than £2,000 in the estimate of the amount to be spent on prosecutions, a reduction which quite represents the saving in the fees to be paid. I am sorry it is impossible to produce figures to show how much has been spent in previous years in Crimes Act prosecutions, and how much under the operation of the ordinary law. The reason why part of Section 2 of the Crimes Act is still kept in operation is that it seems to me that the offences are eminently such as may be dealt with in a summary manner. I am not prepared to say whether riots are more likely to occur in Munster, Leinster, and Connaught than in Ulster.
§ MR. SEXTON
I have pointed out that in one year there have been only four riots in all Ireland, and the Constitution ought not to be suspended for a contingency so rare.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I agree in the major proposition of the hon. Member, but do not admit his application of it. I do not admit that to try a rioter in a summary manner before two Magistrates is a suspension of the rights of free-born citizens that anyone can complain of. Indeed, it is on representations from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that Sub-section 2 of the Crimes Act is made of perpetual and universal application. It is thought that assaults on the police are a class of offences which ought to be dealt with summarily. With regard to other questions arising on the Vote, my right hon. and learned Friend who has charge of it will be able to answer them.
§ (6.35.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
With characteristic ingenuity the right hon. Gentleman has skilfully evaded the point at issue. If there be a real diminution of crime in Ireland, and if, consequently, there be no necessity for these prosecutions, 581 one would think naturally that this would be shown in a corresponding reduction of the Vote now before the Committee. Ordinary crime is practically non-existent in Ireland; at any rate, it is so largely diminished as to call forth the congratulations of the Judges of Assize. The right hon. Gentleman contends that the bulk of this Vote is not connected with prosecutions before the Crimes Courts, but at one time, under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, these prosecutions were more numerous than prosecutions under the ordinary law. The right hon. Gentleman is quite erroneous in his statement that the bulk of the Vote has nothing to do with prosecutions under the Coercion Act. I can remember that you could not take up a paper in any part of Munster without reading week after week of these prosecutions for all sorts of offences under the Coercion Act. Counsel were engaged at considerable expense, and to state that a considerable part of this Vote was not for those prosecutions is to state that which is not the fact. The right hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken in what he puts before the Committee. If what he states were correct, we might expect to find a decrease of the Vote, but there is a net increase of £2,000, and we are irresistibly driven to the conclusion that the emoluments of these officers are maintained in order to enrich these parasites of the present system of administration in Ireland. The Constabulary Vote is not reduced in any degree, nor is the Vote for Resident Magistrates; and though we are told the country is peaceful, yet we have this enormous Vote for £76,000. I am surprised at the amount which is down here for Crown Solicitors, who, by a section of the Crimes Act, are able to select and pack juries. I find that practice is still continued in Cork and in Dublin. In the latter place the Solicitor General challenged 26 jurymen, all respectable men, and two of them Justices of the Peace. I invite the attention of the Attorney General to this circumstance, and I ask him how long this infamous system of jury-packing is to continue? I also wish to call the attention of the Attorney General for Ireland to a case which I brought under his notice a few months ago. I refer to the case of Captain Rye, who was 582 sentenced to a term of imprisonment for shooting a neighbour. By the clemency of the Prisons Board, he has been released, and, of course, being a Conservative and a Deputy Lieutenant, he was released before his term of imprisonment expired. But my complaint is not in reference to that; it is in reference to the conduct of the Crown Solicitor at Cork, in allowing to be sworn on the jury a Magistrate named John S. Collins, who, in a letter to the Cork Constitution, prejudged the whole case, and condemned the proceedings in the Court of First Instance. Any conduct of that kind is calculated to shake the confidence of the people in the administration of justice. I, for one, am not surprised that this Vote is kept at its present enormous amount, because of the character of the administration. The sufferings of the people at the hands of the Constabulary have been incredible. We know how Father Kennedy was followed by a constable when he went to see a dying woman who had been confined. The officer followed him and looked into the room where the dying woman lay. After that the rev. gentleman brought an action against the police for assault in his own house by the sergeant of police. An impartial jury gave him a verdict for £100 against the constable, and that carried with it costs. Father Kennedy is a man of poor means, yet the policeman was enabled to appeal to the Court of Exchequer, and upon a technical point the verdict was reversed, and Father Kennedy was cast in the costs, though Chief Baron Palles condemned the conduct of the constable as against all law and utterly indefensible. I say it is monstrous that this rev. gentleman should, by these costly appeals, be thus deprived of his costs. Then there was the case of a labouring man who was shot by the police, and who did not get a verdict, on the technical point that he was injured not by a shot, but by falling off the wall. It is most unfair on the part of the Crown to weigh down individuals in this way by putting the money of the State against the purse of private individuals. I do not look forward to any sensible diminution of this Vote as long as these emoluments are kept up as prizes for expectant young barristers.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Leitrim, S.)
I wish to call attention to the retention in the Commission of the Peace of Mr. Magan, who has been convicted of defrauding to a considerable amount in Wexford. The person to whom I refer induced the tenant to part with his interest in the holding, and by misstating the arrears he succeeded in getting £46 out of the Commissioners, which sum, I believe, Mr. Concannon was compelled to return. I do not desire to press for a vindictive prosecution against this man; but I do say it is disgraceful that he should be allowed to administer justice.
§ (6.50.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
We have recently had some controversy in this House with reference to the contribution of Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer; but there was one point on which I can agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast, namely, that the cost of Ireland is greater than that of any other part of the Empire, and that the specially extravagant part of that cost is mainly under this and other Votes. I know the time of the Chief Secretary has been greatly occupied this Session; but if the right hon. Gentleman can find time—I know he has the skill—he ought to devote himself to the cleansing of this Augean stable, which is a public scandal. It costs twice as much money to convict a man for stealing ducks in Ireland as it does in England. The average cost of prosecutions in England is £9; in Ireland it is over £20. I have one question to ask with reference to the remuneration of the Attorney General for Ireland. Hitherto we had in the Estimates opposite to the £5,000 for the Attorney General for Ireland these words:—" This is personal to the holder of the present office." Why are those words now omitted? I would be the last man to challenge the merits of the Attorney General for Ireland, but this is not a permanent fixing of the salary of the right hon. Gentleman. The Lord Advocate gets only £2,500. What I want is that we should retain on the face of the Estimates an intimation that the Government has not made a final arrangement charging £5,000 on the Estimates for an Attorney General for Ireland. In asking that question I do not wish in any way to say anything disrespectful of the 584 present holder of the office. All I wish to say is that £5,000 is a high salary to attach to the office.
§ *MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider what are the real feelings of the Irish people, and he will find that so long as this large number of employés are kept by the Crown there will be a lack of confidence on the part of the people in the administration of the Government. It will be inevitable that the family of each official will contain men expectant of office in the future. The overgrown official class in Ireland, interested in a continuance of the present régime, tends to blind outsiders regarding the real feelings of the masses of the people. That is not a desirable state of thing's, and it is one which will not commend itself to the people of Ireland.
§ *(7.0.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin University)
Several questions have been brought under notice to which I will endeavour to reply. In the first place, the hon. Member for Cork has complained of the action of the Crown Solicitor in the case of Captain Rye, the Solicitor having allowed a juror to go into the box who had written a letter prejudging the case. It appears, however, that the letter was written in favour of the prisoner, and that after hearing the evidence the juror who wrote it concurred in a verdict of guilty. It cannot, therefore, be said there was any miscarriage of justice. The fact of the letter having been written was wholly unknown to the Crown Solicitor; of course, if it had been known to him, it would have been improper to allow the writer of it to serve on the jury. Then, in regard to the complaint that a constable in the civil action which has been referred to took the case to the Court of Queen's Bench and succeeded in having the verdict against him set aside on a point of law, surely hon. Gentlemen opposite do not suggest that it is the duty of a constable to submit to a verdict which is erroneous in point of law? With regard to the action which arose out of the alleged firing by the police, the complaint seems to be that the defence was rested upon a purely technical point. But, as a matter of fact, the defence was that the injuries 585 which the plaintiff complained of were caused not by the firing of the police, but by the plaintiff's falling off a wall on which he was sitting. That appears to be hardly what can be properly described as a technical point. As to the case of Mr. Magan, the hon. Member for Leitrim complains that Mr. Magan has not been prosecuted. I have inquired into the facts, and have come to the conclusion that Mr. Magan and the tenants made a mistake in making their calculations on the assumption that a penal rent was due when, in fact, none was due; but there is not a shred of evidence to show that Mr. Magan and the tenants entered into the criminal conspiracy which the complaint of the hon. Member implies. As to the Irish law charge, every effort has been made, and with considerable success of recent years, to bring that charge down. In 1882–3 the estimate was £118,056, while in the present year it is only £77,621, which, it must be admitted, is a very considerable reduction. In comparing the system of administering Criminal Law in England and Ireland, it must be remembered that in England the bulk of the cases are undertaken by private prosecutors; while in Ireland private prosecutions are almost unknown. After the first hearing the case is usually taken up by the Attorney General.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that though they are private prosecutions the costs are defrayed from the public funds?
§ *MR. MADDEN
It is true that certain costs of private prosecutors in England are paid out of public moneys, but what is so paid does not cover all the expenses of the prosecution. In Ireland we have a system of local Crown Solicitors which does not exist in England. Before the Committee of 1888 Mr. Justice Wills expressed strong approval of this system and in favour of it being extended to England. In the opinion of that eminent Judge we get good value for the expenditure in Ireland, and, as I have shown the Committee, we are making effort to reduce that expenditure.
§ (7.14.) MR. HAYDEN
It is impossible for anyone who examines the transactions in relation to Mr. Magan's action to come to any other conclusion than that it was deliberate fraud, and not 586 merely a mistake. It was only after attention was drawn to this matter inside and outside the House—and overwhelming evidence was brought forward—that the Attorney General took the matter up. I shall take every opportunity of calling attention to the subject.
§ MR. FLYNN
The right hon. Gentleman says that if there was fraud then the tenants must have been parties to the conspiracy, but remember that all the profit of the transaction would go into the pockets of Mr. Magan; the tenants would get no benefit. With regard to the case of Captain Rye, I can only say it exhibits a most extraordinary state of ignorance of mind on the part of the Crown Solicitor if he was unaware of this letter which has been alluded to. When jurors of a popular complexion in religion and politics are ordered in large numbers to stand by, the amount of knowledge of the jurors' opinions displayed by the Crown Solicitor is very remarkable. Whether John Murphy or Patrick Ryan is a Catholic or Protestant, a moderate or extreme Home Ruler, seems to be known to the Crown Solicitor, and yet the same gentleman is absolutely ignorant of a public letter of Mr. Collins, prejudging a case in which he is called upon to act as juror. He concurred in the verdict no doubt, and I do not maintain that Mr. Collins did not do his duty. My complaint is that in such circumstances this juror should be allowed to act in a case when so many respectable men are directed to stand by. I must not be understood as saying that the sentence upon Captain Rye was too lenient. As marking the manner in which this case has been met by the right hon. Gentleman, I move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £46,621, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Flynn.)
§ (7.20.) MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
In the action of the Government towards Justices of the Peace we have ceased to expect impartiality. In my own case I was knocked off the Commission for doing what I really believed to be my duty, and many of my fellow Magistrates took similar action to mine, 587 but simply on the other side of politics. I am glad the Attorney General has not had the task of defending the system of jury-packing. In reference to the allegation that Irish juries will not find convictions, I find on hunting up statistics that there is but a difference of 1 per cent. in the proportions of convictions to committals in England and Ireland; in England it is 77 per cent., in Ireland 76 per cent. For reasons I need not now enter into, the Government have not carried out the system of jury-packing in Ireland to the extent they did in previous years. But we cannot forget the remarkable trials at Mary borough, where the system was carried to an extent so scandalous as to draw forth a remarkable protest from an English resident there, who, in a letter to an Irish newspaper, described it as being a perversion and straining of the law by narrow-minded officials. The Government have no doubt changed their tactics somewhat, influenced by public opinion, which has found expression in the result of by-elections. The present Government have, however, done more to endanger the administration of the law than any of their predecessors. They have shown the people that justice is not even-handed, but administered by the tools of the Government; and if a man happens to be a Catholic and a Nationalist, he can have little hope of a fair trial at the hands of the officials of Dublin Castle.
§ (7.29.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 52; Noes 86.—(Div. List, No. 389.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ (7.36.) MR. HAYDEN
Would the right hon. Gentleman have any objection to laying on the Table the correspondence in the case of Mr. Percy Magan?
§ *MR. MADDEN
If the hon. Member will put a notice on the Paper I shall be happy to consider the matter.
§ MR. SEXTON
That is not a very satisfactory answer. It is now three years—I rather think four years—since my hon. Friend commenced interrogating the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this House as to the case of this Magistrate. This case is a manifest scandal, and something should be done in regard to it. This man Magan committed a fraud 588 upon the Government through the instrumentality of some ignorant tenants whom he induced to make an affidavit. He engendered a fraudulent conspiracy by means of which he took from the coffers of the State money to which he had no right. The thing was discovered and brought to the attention of the Government, and it has been brought before them again and again. They looked into it, and came to the conclusion that though this Magistrate had dishonestly taken money from the State, all that could be done was to endeavour to take that money away from him by civil action. I do not know whether they have done so. The Home Secretary looks very much surprised at this case, and I do not wonder. I think if he found an English Magistrate defrauding the Whitehall Boards of the most moderate sum, the first thing we should hear of would be that Magistrate being chucked off the Bench, and the next thing would be a criminal prosecution. But see how tenderly these gentlemen are dealt with in Ireland. There are two rules of procedure there. If a peasant offends against the law, or a representative of the people makes a speech which is not to the taste of the Government, the treatment meted out to him has nothing of tenderness in it, but a Magistrate who gets money to which he has no right, and who procures a false affidavit and pockets the money, is only submitted to a civil action. I leave the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the presence of the House to the pleasant reflection that the recital of this case must produce. We shall be obliged to continue the discussion of this case on Report unless we are told that the correspondence which has taken place in reference to it will be laid on the Table.
§ *(7.41.) MR. MADDEN
I think it right to point out to the hon. Member that there was, in my opinion, no evidence before me that Mr. Magan had obtained money dishonestly; and, therefore, it is hardly right to say that "I contented myself with a civil prosecution." The money was obtained by Mr. Magan under a mistaken view of his rights, but I decline to assent to the view that he obtained it dishonestly. If I had thought so, I should have ordered a criminal 589 prosecution. As to the correspondence, I do not know what correspondence the hon. Member desires to have.
§ *MR. HAYDEN
I wish to have copies of the letters which passed between the Land Commission and myself, the Attorney General and myself, and the Attorney General and the Land Commission and Mr. Magan.
§ *MR. MADDEN
I shall have no objection to laying that correspondance on the Table if the hon. Member will move it.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman also produce the letters to and from the Lord Chancellor?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ 4. £81,132, to complete the sum for the Supreme Court of Judicature and other Legal Departments in Ireland.
§ (7.44.) MR. FLYNN
There are a few matters here to which I desire to draw the attention of the Attorney General. I want an explanation of what seem curious items under Sub-head "a"—£25 for the master of the Queen's Bench, and £50 to his clerk in connection with Election Petitions, and also £1,700 for writing clerks for the same purpose. Seeing that there have been no Election Petitions in Ireland since that in which my hon. Friend the Member for Derry was successful against his opponent some years ago, I want to know what these charges are for. Then, I find that in connection with salaries in the Court of Bankruptcy in Ireland a sum of £10,074 is charged, which is an increase on the sum allocated last year. I want to ask if the Government could not see their way to bringing about a substantial reduction in the amount of this Vote by devolving a considerable portion of the bankruptcy business upon the local Bankruptcy Courts recently established. These local courts have been established in Belfast and Cork, and have given great satisfaction. I speak from a knowledge of the Court in Cork. Applications have been made to the right hon. Gentleman to extend the sphere of the jurisdiction of that court to Kerry and another adjoining county. Before the establishment of these Courts bankruptcy business in Ireland had grown to be a scandal, an enormous 590 amount of money from the estates of bankrupts being swallowed up in legal expenses, and the creditors of the bankrupts getting very little, whereas since the establishment of the local court in Cork the condition of things has been very satisfactory. The Chambers of Commerce and Shipping of Cork have sent various Memorials to the Government praying for an extension of the jurisdiction of the local Bankruptcy Courts, and pointing out the satisfactory manner in which they have discharged their business. The expenses of the Court in Dublin are enormous—two Judges costing £4,000, one Registrar, one Clerk, two Registrars at £800, two at £600, first clerks in bankruptcy, a deputy registrar and a number of assistants. Altogether you have 20 officials in connection with the Court, and, as I have said, their salaries amount to the enormous sum of £10,074. My contention is that those large expenses would not be needed if the Government would extend the jurisdiction of the local courts in Cork and Belfast. Of course the Attorney General for Ireland will have some sympathy with the gentlemen belonging to the profession of which he is at once so useful and ornamental a member; but, however that may be, I would ask him to take into consideration the great and important interests at stake and the strongly-expressed desire of the commercial community in Ireland.
§ *(7.51.) MR. MADDEN
With regard to the first point to which the hon. Member has called attention—the estimated sum for election petitions—I would point out that there is a similar Estimate to this taken for both England and Scotland. It is only a necessary provision made under Statute for the event of there being an election petition. If there were no such petition in the year the money would not be used but would be returned into the Exchequer. As to the second matter the hon. Gentleman has referred to, I think the present Government have given more evidence than any of their predecessors of their appreciation of the importance of localising bankruptcy business in Ireland. The first local Bankruptcy Act was passed by the present Government, and I quite agree with the hon. Member that it is desirable that the 591 principle of that Act should be extended, so far as this can be safely done. As the hon. Gentleman and the House are aware, there is a Bill at present before the House for that purpose. As far as the principle of that measure is concerned, I agreed on behalf of the Government to the Second Reading. I think the Bill should be amended and safeguarded in matters of detail. I should be out of order in going into that question; but, as a matter of general policy, I may say that the general intention of the Bill is in accordance with the views of Her Majesty's Government. The question of the bankruptcy arrangements of Ireland must engage the attention of the Government before long, and an important element in the consideration of the question will be the extension of the system of local administration in Ireland—a system which was adopted at the instance of the present Government.
§ (7.55.) MR. SEXTON
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman is very satisfactory, but I must say his policy lags very far behind it. The Act establishing local Courts of Bankruptcy in Belfast and Cork allows a dual jurisdiction to continue absolutely unchecked by any power placed in the hands of the creditors. I believe that in England it is possible for creditors to secure the local administration of the estate of a debtor. But though the learned Attorney General has referred in terms of pride to the initiation of the system of local Bankruptcy Courts in Ireland, I must tell him that the evils of the old system still prevail there. A creditor may take a debtor away from a local Court, or a roguish debtor may run away from his creditors to Dublin, and in the case of creditors whose interest in the estate is not very large, they, as a rule, will not follow the bankrupt, though if they do the consequence is that the estate gets dissipated. The lawyers do not object to this, because they get higher fees in Dublin, and the Bankruptcy Court in Dublin is well satisfied, as it wants to maintain itself and keep down the local Courts. But credit is injured, creditors are robbed, and the local courts are deprived of what ought to be their proper business. All this Session I have been pressing 592 on the right hon. Gentleman to do something to amend the existing state of things, and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce has also been pressing him. We have a Bill before us which, if it were passed, would end the difficulty, because it would leave local cases in local Courts and non-local cases in the Dublin Court, though it would give a majority of a man's creditors power to change a case from one Court to another. That is the English system, and when it is found to suit a practical people like the English, it would, I think, very well suit us in Ireland. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman has opposed it, unless it be in the interest of the Court in Dublin. All sections of the Irish representation have united in urging the right hon. Gentleman to extend the jurisdiction of the local Courts of Bankruptcy in Ireland, and to put a stop to the existing dual system. I think we have a conclusive case, and one that can only be fairly met by concession. There is another point on which I should like to ask a question. Do the Government propose to secure in the High Court those parts of the Land Department Bill that have been left over? They have plenty of business for next Session, with the promised Local Government Bill (on the lines of the English and Scotch Acts), and the Irish Free Education Bill, which is to include compulsory education, and will, therefore, involve the re-constitution of the Board of Education in Ireland. This Vote includes salaries for the registry of deeds in Dublin. The Government had the good fortune this Session to pass an Act dealing with this registration, and I desire to ask whether they propose to make their work effectual by extending the sphere of the registry to the counties? If they do, is it intended to frame an Estimate for the purpose this year?
§ (8.3.) MR. MADDEN
It is the desire of the Government to proceed next Session with the provisions embodied in the Land Department Bill, which will, in their opinion, conduce both to efficiency and economy in the working of the sale and transfer and valuation of land. The Registry of Deeds (Ireland) Bill has been withdrawn, but I hope to re-introduce it next year. As regards the Local Registration of Titles 593 Bill, I can only say that I hope that it will prove worthy of the confidence with which it has been accepted in all parts of the House, and that no time will be lost in making the necessary preparations for its coming into operation next year.
§ *MR. MADDEN
In regard to the Bankruptcy Bill, I may say I do not believe that the Amendments I have placed on the Paper are inconsistent with the general principles of the measure. I cannot, however, on the present occasion go into a detailed discussion of the merits of my Amendments.
§ *MR. MORTON
I should like to know how it is that the cost of the trial of election petitions is so much larger in Ireland than it is in England?
§ *MR. MADDEN
The charges for election petitions are made in accordance with the system which prevails in Ireland, and I do not think the amount is in any way extravagant.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 5. £65,182, to complete the sum for the Irish Land Commission.
§ (8.8.) MR. FLYNN
I desire to call attention to certain points in connection with this Vote. In the first place, I desire to know on what principle the land valuers are appointed, as much dissatisfaction has been expressed as to the system on which they are chosen. It is a practical axiom that that law is best which is best administered, and the Land Law in Ireland would be a great boon and blessing to the Irish tenants if it were properly administered. But we say with regard both to the Land Commissioners and the land valuers that much of the benefit that would otherwise accrue to the tenants is lost owing to the way in which these appointments are made, and that the tenants have still to complain of unjust and unfair rents owing to the improper appointments that are made, especially in regard to the case of the land valuers. Of coarse, the reply I shall receive will be that the system gives dissatisfaction, because it is impossible that any valuer can satisfy both landlord and tenant. But what we complain of is that the valuers generally belong to a class who are more or less associated with the 594 landlord's interest. This we say is most unfair to the tenants, because these valuers cannot be expected to be otherwise than prejudiced in the landlord's favour, and consequently the fixing of fair rents is nothing but a mockery, a delusion and a snare. I asked a question a short time ago as to the appointment of Robert Martin, and was informed by the Attorney General for Ireland that he had not been appointed as a Court Valuer, but as a Sub-Commissioner. That makes the matter ten times worse, because this person has for many years been a landlord's valuer. He is doubtless a good judge of land and an able man, but it is monstrous to choose a man who has not only been a landlord's valuer, but who being also a landlord himself is naturally inclined to lean more towards the landlord's interests than to those of the tenants. Having been for some time a land valuer, this gentleman was made a Sub-Commissioner, thus being practically a Judge of the Court. I say that these land valuers and Sub-Commissioners have not dealt as they ought to have done with the tenants' improvements. And this is shown by the fact that when there had been a bad season and a great fall in prices, the Government found it necessary to upset the basis on which the judicial rents were fixed, those judicial rents which were supposed to be as sacred and unalterable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. We know the consternation expressed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government when the idea of touching those judicial rents was first mentioned, and yet in 1887 they were obliged to do it. I say that if the Sub-Commissioners and valuers had been fairly and impartially chosen at first, and some regard had been paid to the tenants' interests, there would have been no necessity for interfering with the judicial rents in the years 1887, 1888, and 1889, because they would have been fairly fixed. I hold the opinion, and it is shared by many others, that if hereafter bad seasons occur, together with a fall in prices, the judicial rents now fixed will again have to be revised and reduced, because even now the valuers and Commissioners are fixing the rents too high. Sufficient evidence has already been brought forward to prove that the landlord's influence is to a large extent the 595 determining factor in the fixing of the judicial rents. It is one of the misfortunes attaching to legislation in this House, that it is never able to do anything which bears the stamp of finality, and the value of the existing land law has been seriously diminished by the way in which these appointments have been made. Another complaint I have to make in relation to the land valuers is, as to the perfunctory way in which their duties are discharged. I will give an instance. A friend of mine, having an interest in a certain holding which he intended to improve, applied to have a judicial rent fixed, but in the meantime obtained the services of a valuer of his own, who went over the land, and fixed its valuation at figures which my friend kept secret. When the Court valuer went to the holding, he merely took a look round the potato patch and the fields adjacent to the house, got upon his car and drove off. When that gentleman's valuation came to be known, the tenant absolutely declined to accept it, and the result was that no judicial rent was fixed, and the landlord had to allow a much larger reduction of rent than the Court valuer had advised. In another case in County Kerry the land valuer, Mr. T. R. Bateman, swore that the value was £24. It was shown, however, to be only £17, and in cross-examination Mr. Bateman admitted that he only went to the corner of a field here and there on the farm. The fact is that these valuers are practically allowed to do as they like. They go and look at the best part of a farm, and the Sub-Commissioners in fixing the judicial rent are almost invariably swayed by the figures given by the valuers. Under these circumstances I say we are justified in asking the Government on what principle they intend to proceed. Do they intend that the influence of the landlords is to predominate? If these appointments continue to be made in the future as in the past, it will be necessary before very long to have another Land Act, because the Land Act of 1881 will be shorn of its best traditions and be utterly useless to the greater portion of the agricultural community in Ireland. (8.25.)
§ (8.56.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
When this Vote was discussed last year, I referred to the question of the 596 salaries of the Land Purchase Commissioners. Since then those salaries have been placed on the Consolidated Fund, so that in future we are to be deprived of all opportunity of challenging the action of those gentlemen in Supply. Now, the salaries of the Purchase Commissioners are £2,000 a year, while the Pair Rent Commissioners receive £3,000, and I think if the Land Department is to be worked satisfactorily the salaries must be equalised. The state of affairs with regard to this Vote is similar to that which prevailed 10 years ago in regard to the salaries of the Resident Magistrates, who were paid more money than was intended by the Act under which the office was constituted. I think it desirable that the House should retain its power of criticising these salaries. I understand that next year a Bill is to be introduced which will level up the salaries of the Purchase Commissioners and equalise them with those paid to the Fair Rent Commissioners. I should be sorry to do anything to prevent that Bill passing, but we are bound to raise questions with regard to what we deem to be illegal payments. It occurs to me that a very valuable precedent has now been created whereby we may retain the hold we have on the action of the Purchase Commissioners. It may be said we have so often expressed confidence in these gentlemen that we ought not to oppose a Bill for the advancement of their salaries. I should be very sorry to have to oppose a Bill for an equalisation of the salaries, but we are on the eve of a dissolution, and I believe we shall soon have a Liberal Government who will be able to deal with this matter in a manner such as I have suggested. I pity these two gentlemen if they are deprived of £1,000 each during the present year. It will be a grievous hardship if, having been promised this additional £1,000, they do not receive it. But I suppose matters will be so managed that the advancement of the salaries will date from the date when the Land Purchase Act received the Royal Assent. The amalgamation of the two bodies of Commismissioners took place in spite of our protests, and as we think against the best interests of the farmers and taxpayers generally; but as it has been effected, of course, we as far as we can 597 will allow nothing in the nature of inequality between the Commissioners. I now come to the charge for the collection of agricultural statistics. It appears that the taxpayers are paying £1,100 a year to the Land Commissioner for the collection of these statistics. This is an invention and innovation of Mr. Wrench, owing to a complaint three or four years ago of great looseness in the collection of agricultural statistics in Ireland made by the Registrar General's Department. For instance, when men were receiving at their own doors 3d. a stone for potatoes, the prices in the statistics appeared as 9d. and 1s. This arose from the fact that the prices were gathered at some central place, such as Cork or Dublin. In 1887 the Government undertook to revise the rents. For this purpose Mr. Wrench sent down to the fairs a number of people whom he called investigators to ascertain the prices paid for different agricultural produce. I prefer that this matter should not be managed by Mr. Wrench's Department. It was one thing, as long as there was an absolute necessity for it, as I think there was, to some extent, three years ago when Section 30 was in operation. That necessity has now passed away, and I see no reason why a number of shady gentlemen who probably never had any interest in agriculture until this idea occurred to Mr. Wrench, should be retained upon work which I believe to be no longer of permanent value. I look upon their statistics as tinged with the possibility of suspicion, at any rate. If we are to have statistics collected, let us go back to the Registrar General's Office. If the returns of that Office are not accurate there is no suspicion of want of bona fides about them, it is simply that the statistics have been taken at the central markets instead of at the peasants' holdings. Another point I desire to bring to the notice of the Government is with regard to the action of the Land Purchase Commissioners in not taking proper precautions as to the Salters' Estate. Two or three years ago the Land Commissioners were much more anxious to effect sales of estates than they are to-day. They have grown cautious, and I think rightly so. Look at the mischief their action has led to in the case of the Salters' Estate. Two hundred and forty-two 598 tenants have been processed by the Salters' Company for arrears, amounting to £2,353 11s. 2d. I ask what pressure are the Government going to put on the Salters' Company in the matter. The Government hold one-fifth of the entire money, and as far as I can learn, the tenants purchased their holdings under the belief that they would not be called upon to pay the arrears. Subsequently the Salters' Company got the tenants to sign bills in respect of the arrears, with the result that while the Land Purchase Commissioners and the tenants believed that a clear bill of health practically existed between the tenants and landlords, as a matter of fact the outstanding arrears were kept over the tenants' heads. The other day one of the tenants appealed. I am not in a position to say that the question of law decided in that case was the same which was involved in the cases of the other 241 tenants, but I think we may take it that it was so. That acute and able Judge, Judge Holmes, reversed the decree which had been granted by the Recorder of Derry in respect of the old arrears. I take it Judge Holmes must have come to the conclusion that the bargain between the Salters' Company and the tenants involved a practical wiping out of the arrears. Under the circumstances, I trust the Government will approach the Salters' Company to prevent injustice being done. The arrears range from £3 to £17. I have had a little to do with one of the London Companies, and I think they acted with great consideration. I am amazed that a body like the Salters' Company should continue to harry these tenants for such paltry arrears.
§ *(9.16.) MR. MADDEN
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will recognise that it would be impossible for the Government to make any such application of the one-fifth constituting the guarantee deposit as he has suggested; but if I were to go into the question I would be out of order. I pass on, therefore, to the question of the relative position of the Land Purchase Commissioners and the Fair Rent Commissioners. The policy of the Government is embodied in the Land Department Bill, and is not only to amalgamate the two Departments of the Land Commission, but to unite into one great Land Department 599 all the Departments engaged in the sale and transfer or valuation of land in Ireland. That policy the Government hope to be able to carry into effect. I entertain a strong hope that the measure which the Government will introduce next Session will be approved by Parliament as a non-contentious measure. I think complete amalgamation and complete equalisation of the position and salaries follows as a necessary consequence of the legislation we have already adopted. With regard to the collection of agricultural statistics I do not gather from the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman that he doubts the value of statistics of this kind. No one connected with the sale or transfer of land in Ireland, or in the fixing of fair rents, can possibly undervalue the collection of agricultural statistics. I do not quite gather from the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman what practical suggestion he makes. Personally, I think it would be a pity if the collection of the statistics in question by the Land Department were discontinued.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The Registrar General has been collecting these statistics. Are there to be two bodies collecting statistics?
§ *MR. MADDEN
I do not in the least attempt to minimise the value of the information collected by the Registrar General, but the hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that the Registrar General has not the machinery at his disposal for the collection of these particular statistics; he has not the means to send men to attend the various farms, and ascertain the prices of the produce sold.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Every newspaper in the country gives what are called market reports, and if such reports were not correct the newspapers would not be bought. In the Dublin papers, of all shades of opinion, reports are given of the prices obtained at the different markets, and no one challenges their accuracy. I strongly object to Mr. Wrench being allowed to boss the collection of these statistics under a system which originally arose out of a state of circumstances very different to the present. I am satisfied that a clerk in the Registrar General's office could day by day gather 600 from the newspapers the exact range of prices in the different Irish markets. With regard to the staff of the Land Department, it is only fair to give the Government warning that next year we shall watch closely that staff, and if necessary criticise the various appointments. I do not suppose for a moment that the Chief Secretary intends to cram particular people into the Department and exclude others. He will not take the trouble to do that, but I am afraid others will. I presume that the gentlemen who are likely to be left out in the cold will have voices and pens, and that, therefore, their complaints will reach the proper authorities.
§ (9.25.) MR. SEXTON
Although the question of the Salters' Estate is outside the scope of the Vote, I do think that the Land Commission, in the exercise of their functions, could interpose. 242 families are threatened with eviction by reason of the demands made upon them. Those demands are in contravention of the rules of the Land Commission and of the spirit of the law. The Salters' Company deceived the Land Commission in the matter of the facts relating to the sales. The London Companies are amenable to public opinion; and if the Land Commission, in the exercise of their functions, were to address to the Salters' Company a public letter detailing the facts and laying emphasis on the circumstance that they procured the sale of the estate by concealment of facts, I imagine it would lead to a cessation of proceedings. I am disposed to agree with my hon. and learned Friend with regard to the collection of agricultural statistics. The Department of the Registrar General is totally impartial as between landlord and tenant, and its statistics would be regarded with more confidence than those collected under the superintendence of Mr. Wrench. My hon. Friend has referred to the question of the salaries of the Commissioners, but it will be time to discuss the larger scheme of amalgamation when we have it actually before us. What we have before us now is the fact that in the Land Purchase Bill the Government have declared equality of position between the five Commissioners. The moment when that equality of position can be exercised has not yet arrived. Equality of position should carry with it 601 equality of salary, and this from the moment the Act—and I suppose we may practically call it an Act—gives equality of jurisdiction, and, therefore, I would suggest to the Government that in their Department Bill they should give retrospective action to the provision for equality of salaries. I had occasion lately to call attention to a curious transaction in connection with a Land Commissioner, to the fact that Mr. Wrench was formerly agent and also a tenant of Sir Victor Brooke, and that after he became a Land Commissioner he prosecuted proceedings for the purchase of his own farm; and it was only in consequence of the remonstrance of another official that he desisted. It is a matter of regret that Mr. Wrench should be honoured by being made a member of the Congested Districts Board. Someone ought to he appointed who is not connected with the landlord class, and who could really sympathise with the poor tenants of the West. A great deal of the success of the Board will depend upon which member of the Land Commission is placed upon it. I should be glad to know it is still open to consideration whether Mr. Wrench is the most suitable man. The Chief Secretary is nominally a member of the Board, but, of course, he cannot give any constant attention to the proceedings. There are still a very large number of fair-rent cases to be heard, some 30,000 I think, and it is doubtful whether the reductions in the staff have not been larger than the position warrants, having in view the possible increase of cases under the Long Leaseholders Bill, cases in which, the landlords refusing to come to terms of purchase, the tenants will be free to apply for the fixing of fair rents. Between now and the 1st of January, under the Land Purchase Act, the Land Commission and the Treasury will have cast upon them a duty of great importance—that is, what shall be the number of the now-called temporary staff who shall take the position of permanent Civil servants. I hope that in permanently re-organising the staff regard will be had to the desirability of not disturbing the internal economy of the Purchase and Rent Departments more than is absolutely necessary. It is extremely important that the opinions of the Purchase Commissioners in regard 602 to the retention of officials appointed by themselves should have decisive weight, and that, except in the case of some overwhelming reason to the contrary, regard should be had to seniority and length of service. Of course, I do not mean that incompetence should be retained because it extends over many years' service; but if a man has discharged his duties with diligence and efficiency for, say, 10 years, his claim to be placed upon the permanent staff should be prior to that of a man whose service extends over a shorter period. We shall keep very close attention upon the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman discharges this important engagement; and if he fails to correspond to our expectations, or, at any rate, our hopes, we shall consider it our duty to refer to these matters next Session.
§ (9.40.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Of the various points raised, I take first that referred to by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford. It is perfectly true that the collection of statistics as a whole and on all subjects is rightly left to the Registrar General's Department. But in order to carry out the Bill of 1887 a system was started of collecting on the spot agricultural statistics based upon actual transactions. It will, I think, be admitted that for information so important for Ireland newspaper reports cannot be relied upon. Indeed, that is not done by any Agricultural Department either in England, France, Germany, or Italy. The hon. Member has asked some questions respecting the conduct of Mr. Wrench in the purchase of property that he initiated as the agent of Sir Victor Brooke. It is alleged that Mr. Wrench took a practical interest in the matter, even after he had been made a Land Commissioner. I am informed that, though it is true that Mr. Wrench was consulted by Mr. MacCarthy, the Land Purchase Commissioner responsible for sanctioning the sale, it is not accurate to say that he took any part in the transaction other than answering the questions put to him by Mr. MacCarthy. The hon. Member appears to think that the Government acted partially or rashly in appointing Mr. Wrench a member of the Congested Districts Board for agricultural purposes, but I am somewhat surprised at the criticism after the suggestion thrown 603 out earlier in Debate by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Purchase Commissioners should be allowed to proceed as rapidly as possible with their work. As to the appointment of the permanent staff of the Commission, I think it will not be possible for me to escape responsibility in that connection, and the hon. Member may rely I shall do my best, in conjunction with the Lord Lieutenant, to consider all the applications, and shall certainly decide in favour of seniority where other things are the same, or anything like the same. The number of men to be appointed will be far less than the number of those who have done good service hitherto, but I can assure the hon. Member that no exception will be made in favour of the recommendations of one set of Commissioners more than another. I will do my best to weigh carefully all recommendations, though I cannot hold out the prospect of satisfying everybody.
§ (9.50.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I hope the discontinuance of the service of men whose term will expire in August next will not prejudice claims to appointment on the permanent staff.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I assume that though the tenure of office expires on August 22, the men will be retained while there are fair rent cases to decide?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have no ground for thinking that there will be a discontinuance of the services of the gentlemen employed upon fair rent cases; there will, no doubt, be still a large number of cases to dispose of, and the sooner they are disposed of the better.
§ MR. SEXTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman adopt the suggestion that the Land Commission should address a remonstrance to the Salters' Company in relation to their demands upon their tenants for arrears, and to the threatened evictions?
§ MR. MADDEN
I cannot see how in this, a matter between private litigants, it is possible for the Government or the Department to interfere, even if we had facts before us to justify the assumption that the result of the appeal in the one case would govern the 239 other cases.
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
The remarks of the hon. Member have 604 called attention to a point of considerable importance. Undoubtedly the Salters' Company have treated their tenants harshly. I have a letter from one tenant who says he is cast in £346 for costs which he is quite unable to pay. I feel convinced that if attention had been called to the matter by the Land Commission the Salters' Company would not have taken the stringent measures they have taken. I think the Commission might well call the attention of the company to the subject.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Now that the "bitter cry" arises from Liberal Unionism it ought to receive attention.
§ Vote agreed to.
6. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £84,686, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Salaries, Allowances, Expenses, and Pensions of various County Court Officers, of Divisional Commissioners, and of Magistrates in Ireland, and the Expenses of Revision.
§ (9.55.) MR. T. M. HEALY
The Chief Secretary, in the course of debate last week stated, in reply to myself, that the Government had, as a matter of fact, reduced the number of Resident Magistrates in Ireland. He stated that, whereas the number during the time of Earl Spencer's administration was 85, it is now 72. That statement requires some explanation, because, looking at the Votes for 1890–91 and for the present year, I find in each case the number given as 74, and the total expenditure £40,450. It will not be disputed that 1890–91 was, for the most part, a period of stringent coercion, so that we may assume that a full staff of Resident Magistrates were employed. But the number still appears to be 74. After our long Debates I will not say more upon this now, but I think the entire question of Resident Magistrates should be looked into. We are a long way from the days when the Duke of Wellington appointed Resident Magistrates as a mode of relieving the local population, and as a protection against the local gentry and Magistrates. In my boyish days I remember the Resident Magistrates, then called Stipendiaries, were regarded as decent 605 men by the people, and as buffers between the local magistracy and the people. But all that is now changed. I think it only reasonable that the Government should have a staff of Resident Magistrates to deal with the normal crime of the country, but I think we ought to have a Return of the appointments and average salaries of the Resident Magistrates for every 10 years from the date of the institution of that Service under the Act of William IV. If such a Return were granted, we should be able to see the exact condition of the force. The population of Ireland was in those days twice as large as it is now. Faction fighting, which was encouraged by the Castle, and which was enjoyed by Under Secretaries as an amusement and supported like cock-fighting, was in full blast, and the number of murders was in an appalling degree greater than at present, and the police force was not so efficient. You had not so many policemen, or police huts, or police barracks, and the Government had not the railways and the telegraphs they have now. The position of the Resident Magistrates in those days was this: They were out of touch with the Castle, and had to act very much on their own responsibility. They had to be Judge, jury, gallows and all. But now, when all this is changed, though crime is so much reduced, the staff of Resident Magistrates is becoming more and more bloated every year. In view of the claim made by the Chief Secretary, that peace has been restored in Ireland, I think we should be afforded some ground for hoping that the number of these Magistrates will be reduced. I do not say that the men should be turned out into the cold; but when you have 70 or 80 of them, you must have one or two a year dropping off by death or ordinary retirement, and I trust that the Government will come to the conclusion that as vacancies occur they shall not be filled up. In the meantime, I demand that these men should each be tied up to his own venue. It is open to them at present to go from one Licensing Sessions to another to deal with the licences of different men who happen to he out of favour with the Government. They are in the habit of stopping licences in various districts, notwithstanding that the decision in "Sharpe v. Wakefield" does not 606 apply to Ireland. With regard to the Revision Sessions there may, in consequence of political affairs in Ireland, be an increase in the duties thrown upon the County Court Judges, and that is a circumstance which ought to be taken into account in the appointment of the men. Formerly in this regard we only took into account the circumstances of the constituencies of Ulster and Dublin, but now it occurs to me we shall have to consider the circumstances of other parts of the country. Of course, we have the safeguard against an intolerable number of objections, that those who raise them have to use a 3d. stamp in each case, and I question whether, amongst those who would be likely to put forward objections, after the recent elections, there is much money left for 3d. stamps. But however that may be, the claims may be in excess of the normal number; therefore, I would urge upon the Government not to have the County Court Judges overwrought by having too large an amount of business of this kind thrown upon them. Circulars ought to be sent out to those who have duties to perform in connection with the franchise, directing that the claims of all persons entitled to the franchise should, in the first place, be properly attended to. In fully three-fourths of Ireland we have in the past acquiesced in a kind of rustiness on the part of the Revising Authorities; but owing to changed circumstances, we must now urge the necessity of having the claim of every man to be put on the register attended to, and of having every objection to a claim considered. We have complained on former occasions of the class of gentlemen appointed as Revision Officers, and undoubtedly, if you take the case of the appointments made during the past five or six years, you will find that an extraordinary proportion of Tories have been selected. I believe that out of some 26 Revising Barristers probably about six are Liberals and the other 20 are Tories. That is a state of things which is not warranted by the political character of Ireland—not even in Ulster or Dublin, where there is now a greater proportion of Nationalists than Tories. Then, again, it would be more satisfactory, and would preclude the idea of fear, favour, or affection, if the Government were to adopt a rota or some system of chance in the distribution 607 of the venues in which these gentlemen sit to deal with election matters. And I would point out that as we are likely soon to have a Liberal Administration, it would be a good thing for the present Government to lay down rules for the regulation of the action of their successors.
§ (10.9.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will myself deal with the earlier part of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, leaving it to my right hon. and learned Friend to deal with that part which relates to the Revising Barristers. In the earlier part of his speech the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the question of Resident Magistrates, their number, and the policy of having Resident Magistrates at all. On that point I must remind the Committee that these Magistrates were originally appointed as a great benefit to the community. That was, I think, in 1836. Their number was increased very rapidly until 1855, when the population had not reached the total reduction to which it afterwards fell, but had suffered one of the severest reductions recorded. At that period the number of Resident Magistrates was fixed at 72, and from that time it has never sunk below that level. In 1870, in relation to certain circumstances, a few additional Resident Magistrates were appointed. The Government have, however, for some time past been engaged in reducing the number by the process of not filling up vacancies when they occur, and now, since the present estimate was prepared, the number for the first time for many years past has again sunk to the normal level at which it stood during the 30 or 40 years which preceded the agitation of 1879–80.
§ MR. SEXTON
What has been the highest number during the administration of the right hon. Gentleman?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In 1882–3 the number reached 85, and certainly it has never been augmented during the time I have been Chief Secretary. I do not say it will be impossible to reduce the number below 72, but I do not think that any cause has been shown for doing so, and I doubt whether it would be expedient. Of course, hon. Gentlemen, naturally enough, look upon Resident Magistrates in the light of particular 608 transactions under particular laws to which they strongly object. I do not wish to go into that point, but probably hon. Gentlemen will admit that, having those laws to administer, the Resident Magistrates have shown impartiality in the administration of them. ["Oh!"] I do not wish to raise controversial matter, but I think if hon. Gentlemen will tax their memories they will find that their objections were rather to the law and the prosecutions which the Attorney General and the Government allowed to take place than to the way in which the law was administered by the Resident Magistrates. I do not think that 72 Resident Magistrates are at all too many for the needs of the country, although whether the number can be reduced or not is a matter to which I will give my careful attention. I certainly think that even if the number could be reduced it could not be reduced to any great extent. Hitherto, I have confined my labour to reducing the number to what has always been recognised as the normal number of Resident Magistrates sanctioned by tradition and, I think, even embodied in Statute.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think a hard and fast rule could be laid down in regard to that matter. I think that a Resident Magistrate should mainly discharge his functions in his own district, but I do not think it would be a wise proceeding on the part of any Government to say that these paid Magistrates should not go into adjoining districts to try cases, no matter what was going on. I think all must feel that that would be a limitation of the powers of the Executive not at all calculated to advance the cause of the proper administration of justice, and one to which those responsible for the government of the country could hardly be expected to assent.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Why are they sent out of their own districts to attend Licensing Sessions? Licensing Sessions, surely, have nothing to do with the government of the country.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I hope the holders of licences will not stand in the way of the good government of the country in the future; but I cannot say 609 that they have done so in the past. The hon. Member knows that in the giving of these licences has centred the warmest Debates which have taken place as to the administration of Ireland. Party feeling has been excited, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and the cases have in many instances been such as could not with advantage have been dealt with by unpaid Magistrates. The hon. Member referred to the statement of the Duke of Wellington when he said, and very properly, that it would be a monstrous thing to leave the administration of the law in Ireland to unpaid Magistrates. I admit that things have greatly changed in Ireland since the time of the Duke of Wellington, but, nevertheless, though a great change has taken place in the difficulties which the Magistracy have to cope with, it would be as wrong now to leave the fortunes and the liberties of the population of the district, possibly a minority, to the unpaid Magistracy as it would have been in the days of the Duke of Wellington. I believe it is absolutely necessary to have a paid Magistracy in Ireland as it is in England and in Scotland, and that, after the controversies of the past 10 years have faded away, people will regard, as they have long regarded, those gentlemen as being the mainstay of justice and liberty in those districts where they have to administer the law.
§ (10.20.) MR. SEXTON
I cannot sympathise with the highly poetical peroration of the right hon. Gentleman as to the Resident Magistrates being the mainstay of justice and liberty in Ireland. As to the Revising Barristers, I regret that the right hon. Gentleman avoided the question, and that he did not give us an assurance in regard to the next appointments. There has been something of indecency in the way in which the Government have made, the appointments in the past. I am not going so far as to say that I do not think a strong Party man could be a good Revising Barrister; but, still, I would invite the Government to give the Liberals and Nationalists a chance when the next appointments are made. With regard to the Resident Magistrates, no doubt they were more numerous in Lord Spencer's day. If I am not mistaken the present number, which is 72 or 74, is 610 the highest number we have had at any time in the course of the administration of the present Chief Secretary. I am not disposed to lean very much upon the question as to whether the Resident Magistrates should be bound to a county, or whether they should be subject to being moved here and there. I rather think that where you have a class of persons discharging ministerial functions, and in the pay of the State, it might be convenient, under special circumstances, to move them from one place to another. But my objection to the staff of the Resident Magistrates is that it is far too numerous. My hon. and learned Friend has pointed out that when they were first appointed the population of Ireland was far greater, approximately, than it is now, that faction fights were more prevalent, that the general state of society was much more disorderly, and that there was need for a large staff of Resident Magistrates. But I fail to see why we should have 72 or 74 at the present time. The unpaid Magistrates of Ireland are not as illiterate as they used to be. I suppose that in the time of William IV. the unpaid Magistrates of Ireland were about as illiterate a class of men as you could find in any part of the world. Now they are well educated, and the Courts of First Instance in the country are served with a competent body of practitioners. Moreover, I do not think, except on very rare occasions, that the unpaid Justices need any special guidance. The unpaid Magistrates shine at Petty Sessions, whereas of the 74 Resident Magistrates I believe one-half of them have no pretentions to a scholarly or systematic knowledge of the law. I hold that it is nothing short of indecent to allow these Magistrates to turn up in clusters on the local Bench and outvote the unpaid Justices as to what justice shall be meted out to some licensed victualler who has been guilty of a breach of the peace. It does not tend to increase respect for the law to see the unpaid Justiciary overborne by these paid officials. I am at a loss to understand what Resident Magistrates can now find to do. While Irishmen were united upon all questions, they found occupation in breaking up meetings, and so on, but lately they have been rather inclined to "sit on the hedge 611 and see it out." I think there is an opportunity for economy in reducing their number. There was an attempt made to increase the salaries of these officials, but that attempt fell through; and then, these gentlemen being dismissed from the posts of Resident Magistrates, the Lord Chancellor appointed them to the Commission of the Peace. It is a most objectionable practice that men should go about acting in the capacity of Magistrates in half a dozen counties. I object altogether to the appointment of these Divisional Commissioners. You have got rid of the legal difficulty by giving them Commissions of the Peace from the Lord Chancellor, and you pay them £1,000 each, while Resident Magistrates do not get more than £675. The Divisional. Commissioners are an excresence on the police system, and in my humble judgment it is not only objectionable to pay them high salaries, but it creates discontent among the regular Magistrates. There is a tendency on the part of a Divisional Commissioner to gather round him a kind of staff of a semi-military character, and these men have a tendency to make alarmist reports when there is nothing to report upon. The Government would do well to getrid of Divisional Commissioners—their functions are detrimental to the public interest; and now that you have returned to the ordinary conditions of social life, you should return to the ordinary mode of administration also.
§ (10.34.) MR. FLYNN
It has been well said you may prove anything with statistics, but it is difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to prove from this Vote the success of his administration in Ireland, because we find that notwithstanding the repeal of the Coercion Act, and the return to law and order, there is still an increase on the Vote of nearly £2,000. The right hon. Gentleman in his touching peroration said that the Irish people would look back with admiration on the manner in which these Magistrates had performed their duty, and he also remarked that perhaps our dislike of the system of Resident Magistrates proceeded more from distrust and dislike of the law than of the men employed in this exceptional work. Well, the law is odious, and it has been made still more odious by the manner of its administration. 612 The administration of the Coercion Act is one of the most disgraceful chapters of English misgovernment in Ireland. So disgraceful has it been that not only the Irish people, but the people of England have expressed an opinion in condemnation of it. There are some questions that go deeply into the consideration of this Vote in relation to these 74 Resident Magistrates. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will inform the Committee why, since 1887, the seniority list has been suppressed? Has it been suppressed in order to cloak the unjust manner in which certain favourites of the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary have been appointed to positions of a lucrative character as a reward for the performance of duties under the Coercion Act? Is it a fact that Mr. Horne, who made himself notorious in making out the Times case, has been promoted over many Resident Magistrates, and that Mr. Harvey has been promoted over several of his seniors? The notorious Mr. Cecil Roche, though only appointed in 1886, has been advanced over at least 11 senior Magistrates. What is to be the reward of Mr. Shannon for his conduct in relation to the Tipperary trials? Colonel Caddel, although destitute of elementary legal knowledge, is, I understand, to be promoted to the position of Registrar of Petty Sessions. No wonder that in view of these things the position of Resident Magistrate should be coveted by half-pay officers and retired constabulary officers! There is a considerable salary attached to the position, and considerable opportunity of carrying out those despotic notions which naval and military life developes. Will the right hon. Gentleman issue the seniority list which, for reasons we know nothing of, was suppressed four years ago? I had intended to go into the question of the direct connection between Resident Magistrates and Dublin Castle, and to show that these Magistrates take their orders as regularly from Dublin Castle as any Civil Service clerk takes his orders from the head of his Department. That was my intention; but I shall not do so, for we do not on this occasion propose to discuss these Estimates at the length they have been discussed in former years. But I may just 613 mention that I recently came across a letter to the Times from Earl Cowper, in which he states that in Ireland all local matters are really managed through the instrumentality of the Resident Magistrates, and this, I think, is a strong proof of the truth of my contention, coming from one who, having been Viceroy of Ireland, is likely to have knowledge. We know also that Resident Magistrates are the medium of communication between Dublin Castle and the landlord class. We know that Mr. Slack and Colonel Caddell had long interviews with Mr. Townshend, Mr. Smith-Barry's agent, and that at the time when Colonel Caddell was executive officer in Tipperary. Another point often raised in connection with this Vote is the combination in the Resident Magistrate of executive and judicial functions. I referred to this matter on the Vote for the Chief Secretary, but I presume he did not attach much importance to my observations, for he made no reply. We have had many instances of this combination of functions in the person of one Magistrate in one district more or less about the same time. In June last year, Mr. Gardner, Resident Magistrate of Cork, was sitting on the Bench, and he also was in charge of the military and police force called out to suppress public meetings. Then, again, we found Colonel Caddell exercising both functions in Tipperary, and on one occasion counsel objected to Colonel Caddell adjudicating on a charge of groaning at the police because he was in charge of the police on the day in question, and this gentleman oracularly disposed of the objection by the remark—On the day of the evictions I was acting ministerially, but in the present instance I am acting judicially; the functions are quite distinct.Mr. Shannon, too, combined the two functions over and over again, being in charge of the police when making arrests, and occupying a seat on the Bench when the defendants were tried. Another objectionable feature is the manner in which these Resident Magistrates are moved about from place to place. The Act 6 & 7 William IV., under which these Magistrates were originally appointed, was for the express 614 purpose, as their name implies, of appointing them in certain localities; and the Act of 1874 made no change in that respect. But we know that Mr. Cecil Roche turns up in various counties. One day we find him heading an evicting force in Clare; shortly afterwards we find him sitting clothed in magisterial dignity in Tralee; and a little later we find him in Cork, and a highly indecent instance was that in which he interposed in relation to the trade dispute in Cork City. One of the worst features of the system is the manner in which these so-called "Resident" Magistrates—I suppose on the lucus a non lucendo principle—are moved about from one county to another. We have often had to complain of packed juries, and we have equally to complain of packing the Bench. From all parts we have seen the Magistrates assemble—five and seven together—to pack the Bench at the Licensing Sessions at Tipperary and elsewhere. It is a scandal and a disgrace.
§ (10.59.) MR. P. J. POWER
There is an item in this Vote for the temporary Chairman of the County and City of Waterford, and I take the opportunity of asking the Chief Secretary some information in reference to the removal of Judge Waters, who has made himself obnoxious by his reversal of the decisions of Removable Magistrates. It would be gratifying to me and to my constituents to have some explanation from the Government on this point, so that it may be known that this man has not been superseded because he would not allow himself to be made a Castle hack. The Chief Secretary has, in backing up his supporters whenever cases of this kind have been brought before him, done more to turn law and order in Ireland into a mockery than anything that has been done by Nationalist agitators. If they cannot openly convict Nationalists who may be accused of what they regard as a crime, the Government officials have a ready mode of action. I am reminded of a case in which a number of men were charged with riot. There was not a shred of evidence to substantiate that charge, and it was dismissed, but some of the defendants were ordered to find bail for their future good conduct. And 615 because they refused to find bail, inasmuch as that would be tantamount to acknowledging that they had been guilty, they were sent to gaol. The record of the present Administration will be that it has backed up its officials, rightly or wrongly, and has always preferred their testimony to that of independent witnesses, thus having done more to bring law and order into disrepute than any number of agitators. The Irish Members would fail in their duty if they allowed this Vote to pass without comment. I therefore move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £5,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £79,686, be granted for the said Service. "—(Mr. P. J. Power.)
§ (11.5.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid.)
It struck me as highly amusing that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary should have appealed to future generations, and said nothing whatever about the past. He seems to ignore the cruelty and oppression perpetrated on our unfortunate people. The hon. Member for North Longford has reminded us that in days gone by the Resident Magistrates were not removable; they were gentlemen then, and were not appointed merely for the purpose of suppressing Irish liberties; they possessed the confidence of the people and made the law respected. Now, however, we see Removable Magistrates brought into Ireland—men like Mr. O'Neill Segrave, who is responsible for the murders of Mitchelstown, and Colonel Caddell, who was brought from Africa at the request of the Prime Minister because he had had some dealings with the Hottentots, and, therefore, was supposed to be able to enforce the noble Lord's behests with regard to the Irish people. Prom the beginning to the end of the history of the mal-administration of Ireland there is nothing which so stigmatises the conduct of any Government as the appointment of these Removable Magistrates. Mr. Odder was brought from Clare, Mr. Gardner from Cork, Major Waring from another district, and Mr. Constadine and Mr. Bruin from elsewhere, 616 to Tipperary in order to prevent the renewal of licences at that place. The Bench was, in point of fact, deliberately packed by these Removable Magistrates in order to exact vengeance on the tenantry of New Tipperary. As has been stated by my hon. Friends, whenever there is a job to be perpetrated in Ireland, these Magistrates are sent for to Dublin Castle. How does the Chief Secretary explain his own position, and the consultations he has had with these Magistrates at certain times? I have here a cutting from a newspaper which deals with the manner in which these Divisional Magistrates are called for again and again. It speaks of the arrival of the Chief Secretary, and then of consultations at the Castle. There is a consultation between the Lord Chancellor and some of the Divisional Magistrates. Again, we are told that all the Divisional Magistrates were in consultation with the Chief Secretary. These men are summoned to Dublin, and they come up and get their instructions. The result is, there is no such thing as a fair trial by these men. Their office has been instituted for the purpose of abolishing one of the fundamental features of justice—for the purpose of doing away with trial by jury. And here I would observe, if the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying there is no disturbance in Ireland, and that he has reduced Irish agitation to a minimum, why does he not give us back trial by jury, and abandon this abnormal system which is an outrage on justice and on the Irish people? I see it stated in the Irish Times that Captain Turner, Captain Walsh, and Mr. Cecil Roche, have been in attendance on the Chief Secretary during the past week. Why was Mr. Cecil Roche wanted in Dublin? Was he brought from Tralee to Cork specially to deal with the trades disputes of the last few days? The accused persons in that case were tried under the Coercion Act; but it was found that the prosecution had gone a little too far, and that course of procedure was dropped and the men tried under the ordinary law and bound over to keep the peace. I see that this year there is a slight reduction in the item of salaries, and I want to know whether these four Divisional Commissioners, who were sent from one place to another, 617 get anything more than is set down in the Estimate? I am afraid that in connection with many of these Estimates there is not that accuracy which we find in the English Votes. It is utterly ridiculous to give these men the bloated salaries they receive, which are absurd when compared with the payments of officers on active service. Moreover, I wish to know how it is that after the declaration of the Chief Secretary that Ireland is tranquil, and considering that the population has diminished by 500,000 since the right hon. Gentleman was appointed, the Government still intend to maintain the present standing Army in Ireland, and to continue the services of these Removable Magistrates—men who carry out the orders received from Dublin Castle, but who, as regards any other function, are absolutely useless. It can only be to perpetuate a standing system of jobbery, and of outrage on the people of Ireland, and to maintain, at the expense of law and justice, the system of oppression and rack-rents on the part of the landlords against the unfortunate inhabitants of my country.
§ *(11.20.) MR. MORTON
I cannot agree with the action of the Removable Magistrates in Ireland during the past few years, and I am astonished to find that they have cost the Imperial Exchequer something like £50,000 per annum. We have no such charge in England or Wales. For my part, I should like to see these Magistrates elected by the people instead of being appointed by the Government. It is only Magistrates so elected who can give satisfaction to the people. It is not likely that the country can be satisfactorily governed under Magistrates who have not the confidence of the people. As the representative of an English constituency, I heartily concur in what has been said by the Irish Members on this subject, and shall gladly vote for the reduction of the Estimate.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
With regard to the combination of the judicial and executive functions of a Resident Magistrate at the same time and place, I quite feel that, as far as possible, the different functions should be kept separate, and I have done my best to carry this out. Such cases have happened, and it would be too much to say they will never happen again unless two Magistrates are appointed in every district in Ireland—one to exercise judicial and another to exercise executive functions.
§ DR. TANNER
I should like to know, also, whether these Resident Magistrates are to be assembled in numbers and to outvote the unpaid Magistrates? If this be so, what is the use of appointing local Magistrates at all?
§ (11.30.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 54; Noes 90.—(Div. List, No. 390.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
7. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £66,084, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Commissioner of Police, the Police Courts, and the Metropolitan Police Establishment of Dublin.
§ (11.38.) MR. MORTON
On the Vote on Account I raised the question of the cost of these police. I find that the total cost of the Dublin Police is about £150,000 per annum. We were, however, told by the Secretary to the Treasury on the Vote on Account that the money which we were asked to vote from Imperial funds was merely a grant in aid. I have found since that this is very different to a vote in aid. The whole charge of the Dublin Metropolitan Police is put on the Imperial funds, with the exception of a local contribution of nearly £50,000. I object to the Imperial taxpayers being called upon to pay any more to the City of Dublin Police than they do to the police of any other part of the United Kingdom. The people of Dublin should be called upon to manage and to pay for their own police. Moreover, £150,000 appears to be a most extraordinary sum to pay for the police of 619 a small city like Dublin. The charge is about £50,000 greater than that for the City of London Police, which is the best Police Force in the United Kingdom. I am told the City of Dublin Police are bigger men and are better in a military sense. But I object to the City of Dublin being governed by a military police at my expense. The Dublin police rate produces about £33,000. That comes to about 11d. in the £1. We in London pay a little over 5d. in the £1, and we get a sum equal to about 4d. in the £1 from the Consolidated Fund. Therefore, quite independently of the Imperial grant, the people of Dublin pay a great deal more for their police out of the rates than any other part of the United Kingdom. The payments for licences, pawnbrokers' duties, fines, and so on, bring up the amount of the local contribution to very nearly £50,000. I propose to move a reduction of the Vote as a matter of principle. I am afraid I shall not have all the Representatives of Ireland with me. It is an unfortunate thing—I do not say it is peculiar to Ireland—that Corporations and other similar bodies are only too pleased to get contributions from. Imperial Funds. But I put it to the Representatives of Ireland whether, for the sake of getting this money from Imperial funds, they are not sacrificing their liberty and freedom? So anxious are the people of the City of London to preserve their liberty and freedom that they refuse to receive any money whatever from Imperial funds, because they know that if they accepted a contribution from such funds that such aid means Imperial interference. At present the Dublin Corporation have practically nothing to do with the management of their police. The present management of the police is very costly, and the mode of management practically reduces the people of Dublin to the position of a conquered country. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £65,084, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Morton.)
§ (11.47.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
We would be very glad to accept 620 the proposition on condition that we received the Customs and Excise Duties of the Port of Dublin. As long as we have to pay more than our fair share of taxation to the Imperial Exchequer, we do not think we ought to defray the whole cost of the Dublin Police. London receives an enormous subvention from the Imperial Revenue, and, as long as that is so, I think Dublin should receive a considerable subvention.
§ (11.49.) MR. CALDWELL
Whilst London and Dublin get a large subvention out of Imperial Funds for their police, the whole of Scotland only receives £155,000. Besides the grant for the Dublin police of £100,000, there is a charge of £1,380,000 for the Royal Irish Constabulary. We recognise that the Scotch force is a citizen force, and that therefore they can do with a small subvention. In Ireland circumstances are entirely different. The police there are managed by the Imperial Government, and necessarily the cost of the force is placed upon Imperial funds. But I think when there is a prospect of the introduction of a Local Government Bill for Ireland it is right to express a hope that the police of Ireland will be placed on the same footing as the police in Scotland and in England. [Interruption.] The hon. Members who interrupt do not attend the whole evening as we do, but come down at 10 and 11 o'clock and display impatience to get on with business. I do not object to this Vote, because under the existing state of things I think it is a very proper Vote.
§ (11.53.) MR. SEXTON
The extensive scope of the speech of the hon. Member for Peterborough has been still further widened by the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Galway. It is quite true that the citizens of Dublin are more heavily taxed than the citizens of any other city in the United Kingdom for the support of the local police force, and yet the Local Authority has no share or control or even influence over the force. It is a fact that if the Corporation of Dublin 621 want the services of a constable they have to pay for them, although the citizens contribute so largely to the cost of the force. As I said before to-night, I am conscious we are passing through a period of transition. If the Government fulfil their promise to introduce a Local Government Bill next year, we shall have an opportunity of discussing this and kindred questions, but whether we have that opportunity next year or not, I doubt not that in the following year we shall have an opportunity of discussing the question in a more important measure, namely, one granting Home Rule to Ireland. Under such circumstances, I do not think it necessary to discuss now the conditions under which this force is maintained. I think, however, that the force is unnecessarily expensive, because it is trained and framed with the intention of its being a political force, and it is because I believe the force need not be so strong under a native administration, that if my hon. Friend goes to a Division I shall consider it my duty to support him.
§ MR. MORTON
I think we should have some reply from the Government Bench. If they refuse to reply, we must assume that the force is maintained for political purposes.
§ (11.57.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 90.—(Div. List, No. 391.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £832,700, be granted to Her Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
§ *(12.7.) MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)
Desiring to make some observations regarding the anomalous character of the Irish Constabulary—regarding its numbers, its cost, and its constitution—I beg to move a reduction of £500 in the Vote. The House may, perhaps, be weary of the subject, it having been so often and so fully, upon previous occasions, treated by able speakers upon each recurring presentation of the Irish Estimates. 622 So long as the force is maintained upon its present footing to rule, not to assist the Irish people in ruling themselves, so long will it be our duty to protest. It should startle anyone that the Vote for this force exceeds in amount the collective Votes for Education, Endowed Schools, National Gallery, Queen's Colleges, Reformatory Schools, Supreme Court of Judicature, Land Commission, and County Court Offices in Ireland. It is not against the maintenance of a proper police we contend—such as is necessary in all civilised communities for the upholding of law and order, the suppression of crime, the discountenancing of evil practices. Nor is it against the innate character of the members of the force. I am inclined to believe that in the constitution of the Irish Constabulary there are elements of superiority to the English system. No men make better policemen than ours when restrained under really free institutions, and a popular system of government. My heart has often bled for members of the force in the miserable position in which I have seen them placed by their superiors. We do not deny that they fulfil their duties in many of their civil relations. That they are not restrained with us—that they are held above the people and the freedom of the people—has been proved by a cloud of witnesses and on numberless occasions. I need not now repeat what I said in this regard when we were discussing the Chief Secretary's Vote. I need not again rehearse the story of the police outrages at Tipperary last September which I myself witnessed—and regarding which the evidence of 11 Members of Parliament present on the occasion has been set aside in favour of the evidence of a few constabulary officers and men, the accused and interested parties. I need not rehearse the story of the apparent connivance at the escape to America of Constable Palmer, of Shanballymore, accused of outrageous attacks on the houses of some of the peasantry. I need not again recount the story of how Constables Waters and O'Shea, convicted of fierce assaults on members of the Dublin Police Force, and sentenced by a Dublin Police Magistrate to several months' imprisonment with hard labour, 623 were released by order of the Lord Lieutenant after a few days' incarceration. When I consider these cases, when I call to mind the devilish expressions on the faces of men batoning unoffending friends of mine by my side, who had not lifted a finger; when I think of the refusal even of water for the wounded by members of the force, it requires neither a knowledge of the past history of my country nor a wider view of politics to make all the manhood in me rebel against the political system under which we groan. When 11 Members of this House failed in securing justice where they themselves were witnesses, what must our people often suffer in remote districts where there are none to stand between them and an unbending, unsympathetic system of police rule? The most cursory examination of the Estimate should arrest attention. We have demands made upon the Exchequer for the support of a force of 13,000 constabulary to a population of 4,706,000, at a cost of £1,446,000, with its Inspector General, its Deputy Inspector, Assistant Inspectors General, Head Constable Major, its Sergeants, County Inspectors, Divisional Commissioners, and so forth. Here is a sum for "musketry instruction." Here is £11,475 for "servants' allowances to officers." Englishmen should consider whether the influence of such a force so foreign to their traditions is not likely ultimately to affect them when we find an item of £1,206 for "men serving in Great Britain." Here is £3,886 for "Repairs of arms, accoutrements and saddlery "; whilst lower down there is £207 for new "arms," and £800 for "ammunition." And yet this Vote is included in the Civil Service, not Army or Navy Estimates! The charge for medical allowance alone is £14,814, whilst 5,761 men are in receipt of pensions amounting to £305,388 per annum Ireland has decreased in population since the institution of the Constabulary. It has advanced in education and civilisation; its crime has enormously decreased. It is now, perhaps, one of the most crimeless nations in Europe. In the increasing cost and numbers of the Constabulary we have one of the most startling proofs of the necessities to which Government 624 is driven to sustain a system in opposition to the wishes of the people—to sustain a bureaucratic system, the least evil of which is its cost; the worst, that its members create such a false volume of feeling in Ireland that you are blinded to the real desire of the masses of the population. I have drawn the following figures from Parliamentary Papers for the six past Census periods:—In 1841 the force numbered 8,700; 1851,12,300; 1861, 12,600; 1871, 12,900; 1881, 12,000; 1891, 13,000. In 1841 it cost £426,000; 1851, £573,000; 1861, £697,000; 1871, £918,000; 1881, £1,193,000; 1891, £1,446,000. These figures speak for themselves. In 1841 the total cost per man was £48 14s.; 1851, £46 11s.; 1861, £55 6s.; 1871, £71 3s.; 1881, £99 8s.; 1891, £111 4s. In 1841 it amounted to per inhabitant of Ireland, 1s. 1d.; 1851, 1s. 9d.; 1861, 2s. 5d.; 1871, 3s. 4d.; 1881, 4s. 7d.; 1891, 6s. 1d. In 1841, there was one man to every 939 of the people; in 1851, 1 to every 530; 1861, 1 to 457; 1871, 1 to 418; 1881, 1 to 430; 1891, 1 to 362. These figures do not fully express the anomaly of one member of the constabulary to every 362 of our people, where one to every 939 was considered sufficient 50 years ago. Steam communication, telegraphs, telephones, breech-loaders instead of flintlocks—(doubtless we shall soon have magazine rifles)—make each man a greater force. It is not too much to say that 8,700 men in 1891 would be thrice the power of 8,700 in 1841 for a similar population; yet we have 13,000 men for a little over half the population. An Indian administrator once remarked to me that nothing more struck him in the condition of Ireland than the heavy hand with which it was necessary to hold her as compared to India. He instanced the extent of the Irish as compared to the Indian Civil Service, the numbers of the British Army in Ireland, generally put down as 30,000, one to each 156 of the population, compared to the 73,000 in India, one to 3,400. Even that does not give us a full conception of the relative positions. We must in addition compare the 13,000 constabulary in Ireland, practically a sepoy force, drawn from the people to keep the mass of the people in subjection, one to every 362 of the population, 625 with the 145,000 sepoys one to every 1,710 of the Indian people. Ireland, an integral sovereign portion of this great United Kingdom, requiring 30,000 troops, and 13,000 constabulary to keep down 4,706,000 people, whilst all India needs—India, so differing in history, in religion, in climate, in manners and customs, India with her population of 254,000,000—is 70,000 British troops, and 145,000 sepoys. The constabulary, like the sepoys, are officered by men apart from the feelings and traditions of the rank and file, and of the people they are called to rule. The force is not, to any appreciable extent, officered from the ranks. To young men fresh from school and college is confided the most delicate tasks in relation to the government of a sensitive people. When I was about to address my constituents last autumn, I was sent for by such a young officer—with his spiked helmet and silver trappings, his long sword and revolver—to make terms as to the arrangements of the meeting. Such is a common experience of Irish Members. Would we for a moment submit to such indignities were it not that the limbs, or perhaps the lives of our constituents would have to pay the penalty of our independence. Appointments are only obtained through the Chief Secretary and the Inspector General, and everything is done to maintain its military traditions, although military men are, generally speaking, of all others least suited to rule a people in their civic relations. I cannot do better than read from the official handbook the terms of admission of cadets to the Irish Constabulary. They are headed "Regulations under which gentlemen are to be admitted Cadets." This word "gentlemen" is not familiar in relation to admission to other branches of the Civil Service—The candidate must be unmarried, and between the ages of 21 and 26 years. If a candidate can show specially qualifying service as an officer in the Army, Navy, or in a Police Force, he may be admitted up to the age of 28.A note adds—The sons of Constabulary officers whose names are on the Inspector General's list of candidates are permitted to enter at the age of 19.626 Here we have a preference given to the official and military element of two years under and two years over the normal age.The candidate who is placed first by the Civil Service Commissioners will, on his nomination being confirmed by the Lord Lieutenant, be ordered to the Depot. But, previously to his entering on his course of instruction there, some person on his behalf must become answerable to the Commandant of the Depot, that such cadet, in addition to his regulated pay, shall receive a sum at the rate of £50 per annum until his appointment to the office of District Inspector.It is not every young man seeking public service to whom his parents can guarantee an independent income of £50 a year. In the next provision we shall see the heavy official hand that is held over these young officers—they must live and breathe only at the will of their superiors.But cadets, being only in a state of probation, will not be considered as permanently attached to the Force, until they attain the rank of District Inspector, and they are to clearly understand that if, in the interim, His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant should be pleased to dispense with their services, in consequence either of unfavourable reports received of their conduct or proficiency while at the Depot, or of their character and position previous to their joining it, they are not to expect or require any reason to be assigned for their removal from the establishment, on which account it will not be obligatory on a cadet to purchase uniform, or to incur any other expense, consequent on his belonging to the Force.These published rules do not fully reveal the stringency of the conditions. I take the following from a Civil Service Handbook, published annually by Dr. Crawley, the most successful teacher of Civil Service candidates. He says, regarding these cadetships—Candidates are selected by competitive examinations conducted by the Civil Service Commissioners from among candidates nominated by the Lord Lieutenant through the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary … and the Inspector General's nominations, are confined to candidates already connected with the Force, such as the sons of Royal Irish Constabulary officers, and these candidates compete among themselves for cadetships specially set apart for them.Here we again have distinct advantages offered to an official class. 627As due regard is paid by the authorities to the claims of each candidate, and priority given to those cases which seem to deserve it, it is impossible to forecast for what particular examination a candidate may he nominated; and between the actual nomination and the competition only six weeks, as a rule, can intervene. The nomination holds good for one examination only, and gives no claim whatever to admission to any future examination.What possible chance would an outsider have against the friends of officials who are given a power of selection and who can choose the period of examination? Dr. Crawley then gives the salaries of the different grades, and goes on—These rates are exclusive of the valuable allowances attached to each class. But officers of ability need not confine their hopes to this scale; they are eligible for the lucrative Staff appointments at Head-quarters, Resident Ma gistracies, &c.…. In addition to the social status of the Royal Irish Constabulary, officers being in every way most desirable, their duties are light, their pay respectable, and the prospect of promotion to the highest permanent official posts in Ireland lies before the officers who have shown ability. … The majority of the candidates successful last year were graduates in Honours of Oxford, Cambridge, or Dublin.I would ask any English Member cognisant of the system under which the policemen of his country are managed, whether a force officered like the Irish Constabulary is meant to be other than an imperium in imperio—a tool in the hands of whatever Party holds rule in Ireland? Is it best constituted to fulfil the often somewhat rough duties of an efficient police force for the maintenance of order and the suppression of crime? If there is one Department of the Public Service in which it would be desirable officers should have an efficient knowledge of the history of the people, it would be amongst officers of the Irish Constabulary. To understand Ireland of to-day we must understand her history. It is, therefore, to be supposed that in the examination in British History for these cadetships we should have searching questions regarding Irish history—such as, "What were the Brehon laws?" "Up to what date did they prevail over most of Ireland?" "What influence, especially regarding land, do they hold at present over the Irish people?" "How was the Union carried?" "Why did the United Irishmen turn from open political agitation to secret armed conspiracy?" 628 "How long before the act of Union did the Irish Parliament enfranchise the Catholics?" "How long was it after the Union before the British Parliament admitted Catholics to seats in Parliament and the High Office?" "What were tithes?" "What was the condition of the Irish Corporations?" "Give a history of the Established Church in Ireland, and its effect upon Irish politics?" "Give a history of the land agitation?" "At what date did the Devon Commission report definitely against the Irish land system?" "How long after was it before effectual reform was admitted?" Instead of such questions as these, in the last examination I can find only two references to Ireland—" Give short accounts of Strafford's policy in Ireland," and "Give a short summary of the events which led to the Union with Ireland. What obstacle then stood in the way of Catholic Emancipation?" The 10 others-set on the paper are such as "Write short accounts of Egbert, Alf red, Canute. Describe briefly the conspiracies against William I after his conquest of England. Discuss the policy pursued towards Scotland by Edward I.? What were the grounds of Edward III.'s claim to the throne of France? Under what circumstances did Henry VIII. assume the title of Supreme Head of the Church and Clergy of England? Describe the rise of the Naval Power of England during Elizabeth's reign. Discuss the administration of Walpole, and compare the conduct of George II. and George III. in constitutional matters? State briefly what you know of any of the following:—The Witenagemot, the Black Death, the Star Chamber, the Lollards, the South Sea Bubble, Odo of Bayeux, Hubert de Burgh, Sacheverell, Lord Corn-wallis, Lord Exmouth. "Most of the examination papers foreshadow the future belligerent duties of successful aspirants. The passages for dictation relate to military operations; one commences, "Our men had besieged some fortified houses," the next "Next morning the citadel capitulated without striking a blow," &c. The softer duties of the force, the extent to which they may be blazed by entertainments amongst the County families, are perhaps 629 delicately hinted at in a passage to be translated into French—A man must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a very agreeable fellow. It is the greatest absurdity; it is actually snowing at this moment. The folly of not allowing people to be comfortable at home when they can.Our liberties are placed at the feet of this force, so officered. For offences of the members of the force against us we must appeal to tribunals of first instance, possessing extensive summary powers, presided over by officers of the force or men in sympathy with them. What a mockery to declare that the higher tribunals of the country are open for redress against the excesses of such an institution? Where could a peasant find the hundreds now necessary for the prosecution of such a suit? And our bitter experience is that even if a decision in the earlier stages is snatched as against the executive, the case will be carried from court to court, supported by the executive with the British Exchequer at its back, until the unfortunate victim of illegality or violence is wearied out. The policy of the Irish Government is that no advantage is to be admitted as against the right divine of their rule in Ireland. It was so a generation ago in the Phœnix Park cases. It was so last September as regards Tipperary, where a peaceable assemblage having been batoned, and the batoned having appealed to the Courts, the constabulary retorted by summoning for assault the victims of their brutality. The officer in charge has since been promoted to a permanent post over us in Dublin Castle. The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), in a remarkable speech on this subject last July, quoted the following Bench dicta of a Resident Magistrate:—The majesty of the law must, at all hazards, be upheld. He had no doubt that either the policeman or the witness for the defendant had committed gross perjury. Judge Gibson had stated in a recent case that a policeman's evidence is more reliable than the evidence of a civilian, and he quite agreed with Judge Gibson.The removal of the distinguishing numbers on the collars of the constabulary when sent on country duties in 630 emergencies can be for no other purpose, and has worked to the effect, to prevent their identification in cases where there has been cause for complaints against them. Over and over again instances have been brought before this House, where, even on the demand of Members of Parliament, officers have publicly refused to give opportunities for identification. Only a small proportion of the men, and these only under stringent conditions, are permitted to marry. We have, consequently, many of the evils resulting from large bodies of young men being kept in enforced celibacy. By such a force as the Irish Constabulary, held apart and above the public opinion of the country, the law in Ireland is administered with a harshness and rigidity unknown in other parts of the United Kingdom. It may be Roman or classic; it certainly is not British or Christian. That we should have no control apart from what we can exercise through this House, where we are in a hopeless minority, is entirely against British usage. We can all call to mind the eloquent terms in which, a few days ago, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Fowler) denounced certain portions of the Education Bill because of the deficiency of local control, instancing the case of the Police in England and Scotland, which, although really paid for by Parliament, were entirely under the management of Local Bodies. I do not desire to commit myself to an opinion as to the extent to which it may be wise to maintain Irish local as compared to Irish central control in the future effective management of an Irish Police Force under a liberal re-constitution of our institutions. Against all that I have advanced, it will be urged the necessity shown by practical experience for the maintenance of such a force, by the extent to which they have to be employed. This supposed necessity is the most complete condemnation of your system of government in Ireland. Had you attempted to govern England as you have attempted to govern Ireland—re-fusing reform, damming up public opinion,—a force ten times larger in proportion to the population, ten times more costly, ten times more objectionable in its constitution would here have been necessary, 631 and such a force you could not have maintained for a day in the face of the indignant public opinion of the country. Yes, Mr. Chairman, the Irish Constabulary is the outcome of the endeavour to suppress the national aspirations of our people, to sustain impossible systems regarding tithe, municipal government, education, and religion, regarding the land tenure upon which the prosperity of the country depends. You have had to acknowledge your mistake in regard to most of these systems. Through untold sufferings to us they have, at length, most of them, gone by the board. The constabulary is maintained to bolster np such as remain. When they go, when the policy of the right hon. the Member for Mid Lothian comes into play, and has borne its fruit, this force, as at present constituted, with all its anomalies, in all its numbers, and with all its cost, will, like many another anachronism in history, be relegated to an evil past.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced £500, part of the Salary of the Inspector General."—(Mr. Webb.)
§ (12.45.) MR. SEXTON
It seems to me that it is too late to proceed with the Vote, considering that we have to meet at 12 o'clock to-morrow. I would propose that this Vote should be postponed, and that we should take the next two Irish Votes. One of these Votes is that relating to Reformatory and Industrial Schools, and I had intended to raise a question on it; but if the right hon. Gentleman will adopt the course I suggest, I will postpone my remarks to the Report stage.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
If the hon. Member thinks that the course he proposes will facilitate business, and that we may get the postponed Vote within a reasonable time to-morrow, I will consent to report Progress.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
If it should not be found possible to conclude the remaining Irish Votes before 6 o'clock to-morrow, so far as we are concerned, we should not mind sitting a little later.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.632
§ 8. £56,010, to complete the sum for Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Ireland.
§ 9. £4,516, to complete the sum for the Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Ireland.
§ Resolutions to be reported to-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again to-morrow.