§ [SEVENTEENTH NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Legislative Authority.
§ Clause 3 (Exceptions from powers of Irish Legislature).
In page 2, line 12, after the word "or," to insert as a new sub-section the words— "factories, workshops, and mines, or the regulation of the hours of labour of men, women, and children in factories; workshops, and mines."—(Mr. Whiteley.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
said, the hon. Member who, on the previous night, had proposed that Amendment, had expressed himself very anxious about the protection of Irish labour under an Irish Parliament. Well, as one connected with Irish labour institutions he could assure him that there was no danger of labour being unprotected, because the progress of democratic thought was resulting in more and more Representatives of labour being sent to Parliament. That would be the case in the Irish Legislature, as it was in the House of Commons. He would ask the Government to reject the Amendment. If Ireland were not to manage her labour questions, what was she going to manage? At the present moment there was no equality in the administration of the Labour Laws, because the Resolution passed by the House of Commons as to contracts and sub-letting was not enforced in Ireland, although it was in other parts of Great Britain. He held that this ques- 660 tion would be much safer in Irish hands than if left to the Imperial Parliament. He hoped the Government would reject the Amendment, and not allow the Irish Government Bill to be so pruned as to prevent it being capable of producing any fruit. They wanted it to be something more than a mere pole on which to display the Union Jack.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
I am not at all surprised at the appeal which has been made by the hon. Member. The apprehension, I believe, is entertained by some —probably by but a few—that by legislation the Irish Legislature might bring into existence a new and very formidable competition with British manufactures; and, therefore, it is desired to withdraw from the cognisance of the Irish Legislature these topics. But nothing could be more chimerical than the idea that Irish legislation could have such an effect. No doubt an Irish Government would be desirous to plant, stimulate, and foster industries; but if it sought to do so by abnormal methods of Governmental interference—by grants from the Exchequer—that in itself would show a belief that it would be no easy matter. The causes which have planted the great British manufactures in the seats which they occupy are too powerful and deep-rooted to be capable of being so affected. This is one of those grave questions raising and involving a multitude of considerations. Let us select one branch which, I think, would come home to the views of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Field) on this subject—the question of passing Sanitary Laws. It cannot be contended seriously that the subject of sanitary legislation as applied to workshops in Ireland ought to be withdrawn from the Irish Legislature; yet that is one of the things which this Amendment would do. There would be no power on the part of the Local Authority, which certainly would be better able to deal with sanitation than any other, to supervise these workshops. It appears to me that the Amendment, if passed, would not only exhibit an undue jealousy of the Irish Legislature, but would impose an unwelcome burden on the Imperial Parliament, which this Parliament would hardly care to assume. The question of sanitary legislation is one of those 661 matters peculiarly fitted for the cognisance of an Irish Parliament, and the intolerable supposition cannot be raised that that Legislature would pass Sanitary Laws beneficial to Ireland in general, but prejudicial to Ulster. My own belief is that this subject would not be a matter of Party division in the Irish Chamber, but would be prosecuted for the benefit of the country at large with one heart and one purpose. I am convinced that the new Government and new Assembly will be the proper stewards to deal in Ireland with all legislation respecting labour in factories and mines, and such questions as the employment of women and young persons. It is bettor that we should leave a reasonable discretion in dealing with local questions; and, in our opinion, we are bound to recognise the Irish Legislature as the proper Body for dealing with these questions. We, therefore, offer a most decided opposition to the proposal of the hon. Member opposite.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
The right hon. Gentleman has not referred to one ground upon which I venture to recommend the Amendment to the Committee. It is complained that this Amendment is too wide; and, as I have placed one on the Paper which is loss extensive in its scope, I would like to say a few words upon the matter. I am not, in the slightest degree, influenced to sympathise with the Amendment by any distrust of the Irish Legislature in connection with this matter. I do not believe that the Representatives of Ireland, either in a Legislature of their own or in the Imperial Parliament, would endeavour to diminish the protection afforded to men, women, and children by an industrial legislation. Their speeches in this House, I have always been glad to notice, have been on the side of industrial progress. But my reason for desiring that the subject-matter of the Amendment should continue to be treated as an Imperial, and not as a local, matter is because industrial legislation may soon be expected to assume an International character. The legislative protection of working people engaged in industrial pursuits is likely to become a matter of International arrangement, and will soon probably be the subject of Treaties between the civilised Powers of Europe, 662 and great inconvenience will be caused if we should persist in having two separate Legislatures in one Kingdom, each dealing in its own fashion with a question of that kind. I do not think that the Conference of 1891, in Berlin, will be the last of the attempts to bring about uniformity of legislation throughout Europe for the protection of those engaged in industrial occupations. It is true that the decisions of that Conference had no diplomatic force, and were mere pious opinions; but I believe that in a very few years there will be other Conferences, which will result in definite engagements binding the European Powers to treat the industrial populations of their various countries in a uniform manner. In what an inconvenient position will this country be situated at such a Conference as the Berlin Conference! At Berlin those countries were represented which have been brought before the House as countries in which the dual system of Government, prevails—namely, Sweden and Norway and Austria-Hungary. But each country was represented by a separate Delegate; and often the Norwegian Representative was found acting against the Swedish and the Hungarian against the Austrian. By a sub-section already adopted in the Bill the Government of Ireland would be debarred from being represented at such a Conference; but it would not, if this Amendment were rejected, be debarred from legislating on the lines of the decisions such a Conference might deliver. Thus an Imperial Delegate might speak in the name of the Imperial and the Irish Parliaments; but one of those Parliaments would have power to act in a contrary spirit. That would not be a very convenient position for this country to appear in. Either industrial legislation ought to be within the province of the Imperial Parliament alone, or, in the ease of an International arrangement, the Irish Legislature should be represented as well as the British Legislature. But there is another difficulty, and that is that, the Irish Parliament not being represented at European Conferences, they would very likely refuse to undertake any legislation at all to give effect to any stipulation the Imperial Representative might make. We had a case in point in connection with the Berlin Conference, when the Govern- 663 ment of India, not being represented, refused to be bound even on such a question as the employment of women underground. In the same way, what reason is there to suppose that the Irish Government would act differently? I do not attribute less zeal to the Irish Parliament than to this one; but it is only human nature to expect that, following the example of the Indian Government, Ireland should refuse to be bound by arrangements in the making of which its Representatives would have no voice. The hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Field) is a Labour Representative. It seems to me that if he wants an eight hours' day he should vote against the provisions of this Bill as it stands, and in favour of some such proposal as we are now discussing. I strongly urge upon the Government, in the interest of progress, to preserve to the Imperial Government the power to appear with unity at the Congresses of European countries and the power to give effect to any arrangement come to for industrial legislation. I grant that to exclude from the purview of the Irish Parliament all matters connected with industrial legislation would be impossible and absurd; but I think we ought to preserve to ourselves the right to speak with proper effect in any further Congresses that may take place.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. MUNDELLA,) Sheffield, Brightside
I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman admit that to deprive the Irish Legislature of any power to deal with this subject would be absurd. I entirely share that opinion, and, that admission having been made, there is little more to be said on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Imperial Parliament ought to be in a position to enforce the recommendations of Conferences. It is proposed that Parliament should acquiesce in the limit of age (12 years) proposed by the Berlin Conference; but the late Home Secretary maintained the limit of 10 years, and when the view of the Conference was quoted to him he said that view had no binding force whatever. No doubt Conferences are of great advantage; but I do not believe there is any probability of their bringing about a uniform practice in Europe. No class of Members in this House has so loyally 664 supported factory legislation as the Irish Members. The right hon. Gentleman said the Irish Members would not be influenced by a Conference at which they were not represented. But should they not be represented?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
Yes; but many of the Delegates who attend the Conferences are not Representatives of their Governments. There is no reason to fear any reactionary legislation with regard to labour from the Irish Members. I would say that I believe Ireland will be more likely to adopt the provisions of the Berlin Conference than England herself, and that she will set an example which would be useful to this country.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, that gentlemen on the Treasury Bench seemed to think that this was an entirely useless discussion. To his mind it was quite a natural one. He could understand the position of the hon. Member for the St. Patrick's Division of Dublin. The hon. Member asked, as an Irish Home Ruler, "What was the Irish Legislature to do if it was not to regulate a thing of this kind?" That was a perfectly natural position to take up; and if he (Mr. Russell) were an Irish Home Ruler he should follow that course—or he should probably go a great deal farther, and object to many of the restrictions the Government had inserted in the Bill.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, that, no doubt, if the hon. Member wished to go further, he would have an opportunity later on of showing his desire. If the position of the hon. Member for the St. Patrick's Division of Dublin was natural, that of the hon. Member for Stockport was doubly so. The question was one of opposition between sentiment and interest. The hon. Member for Stockport knew what they all knew— that there were two main reasons why this Irish legislation was desired in Ireland by the bulk of the people. One set of people had an idea that land would be cheapened under it, and another set had an idea that Irish industries would be fostered and encouraged by it. He defied Irish Members to deny that these were the two main reasons why the majority of the Irish people were in 665 favour of Home Rule. Let them see how it would work out. By the Bill, as he understood it, the Irish Government would be enabled to give premiums and bounties to, say, woollen manufacturers in Ireland.
§ * MR. BARRAN (York, W.R., Otley)
They do not want them. The woollen industry of Ireland at the present time is as prosperous, or more prosperous, than that of any industry in that country.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, that was not the point. The Bill as it was drawn allowed the Irish Legislature, if they could find the money, to give premiums or bounties—[Cries of "Question!"]— to assist the woollen manufacturers in Ireland. That was the first thing. What would be the result? Why, that the Irish manufacturers would be able to compote better than they were able to do now with the Yorkshire manufacturers in Ireland, and would be able to come over to England and compete with them here. The hon. Member for the St. Patrick's Division of Dublin did not object to that—why should he? But supposing the Irish Members were left in their present strength in this House—and there were proposals to that effect—and supposing a measure for giving an eight hours' day in factories were brought in, the 103 Irish Members might vote for that principle so far as England was concerned, but might decline to apply it to Ireland, on the ground that it would not help them in fostering Irish industries and manufactures. Here, in addition to bounties, would be a greater boon to Irish manufacturers at the expense of English manufacturers. He (Mr. Russell) was an Irish Member, and he was not going to say that such a thing was wrong. If he were in an Irish Parliament he should go for that. The Government would be making a great mistake if they thought that an Irish Parliament would not go for it. It did not matter what the Irish Members might say. They would be made to go for it. He did not believe in an Irish Legislature if it did not represent the feeling's and aspirations of the Irish people; and he contended that this feeling in favour of bounties was deep-rooted in Ireland, and that one of the aspirations that every man South of the Boyne cherished was that Irish industries might be fostered, and that could only be done at the ex- 666 pense of English trade. The hon. Member for Stockport was not full of sentiment, though the people of Ireland might be. They were all full of looking after their own interests, and this was simply a collision between interest and sentiment, and he thought interest would win in the long run.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, his belief was that in Lancashire and Yorkshire and other manufacturing parts of the country this question would be looked at as a practical matter; and he based his support of the Amendment, in the first place, on the last lines of the speech of the Prime Minister on Wednesday last. The right hon. Gentleman stated—It was vital to the commerce of the Three Kingdoms that there should be uniformity of the commercial law from one extremity of the land to the other.The right hon. Gentleman now drew a distinction between commercial law and trade law. That was a mere verbal distinction, and what they had to look to was not words but things. They had to consider what would be the effect of the Bill, not as commercial law, but on the trades carried on in this country; and the conclusion he drew was that not only the commercial law, but the whole of the trade law, ought to be uniform in the whole of the United Kingdom. Unless that was done they would be exposed to the dangers that (he hon. Member for South Tyrone had alluded to. He (Mr. Tomlinson) had no doubt that if the existence of any such state of things ever came about it would tend to give rise to such apprehensions as would drive away enterprise and capital from this country and send them to other countries. If it was said that it was absurd to say that the Irish Legislature ought not to have power to deal with trade questions, his reply was that this was only another illustration of the absurdity of the whole Bill. [Cries of "Divide"!"]
§ * MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, the Prime Minister had supplied the Committee with the most excellent reasons why they should entertain some of the apprehensions that the President of the Board of Trade said were so far distant from his mind. It was no easy matter to plant industries on Irish soil, and that was the very reason 667 why there was a suspicion that an Irish Legislature might be prone to relax the regulations with regard to workshops and factories. In the year 1891 Parliament delegated many of the matters relating to the regulation of workshops to Local Authorities, subject to the exception that where a Local Authority failed in its duty an appeal might be made to the Home Secretary, who might then step in and take the place of the Local Authority. In thus providing for an ultimate resort to the Central Government, with a view to the maintenance of a general standard, Parliament had adopted a policy similar to that which the supporters of the Amendment now advocated. The standard ought not to be allowed to be lowered in any portion of the United Kingdom, because if it were the result would be to add one to the list of foreign countries, whose competition Great Britain had to fear. It was said that there would be no division of opinion on these matters in an Irish Parliament. He was confident that this would be the case, and that the Irish Members would be only too united in regard to them. It might be that Irish Members had, in the past, loyally supported factory legislation, but it had been legislation which had been uniformly applied throughout the United Kingdom. Lastly, he hoped that favourable consideration would be given by the Committee to this Amendment, when they bore in mind that although in respect of a great, many other matters they had, under the Act of Union, separate legislation, separate administration, and separate Executive action in Ireland, yet in respect of factory and mining matters, not only legislation, but also administration, had always been identical and always withdrawn from the control of the Irish Executive; and when, a few years ago, administrative Home Rule was set up in Scotland, he did not believe a single Scotch Member ventured to make a proposition that, as regarded factories and mines, there should be separate administration, which might lead to a conflict of standards, and, therefore, undue competition.
§ COLONEL BRIDGEMAN (Bolton)
said, what the supporters of the Amendment were afraid of was that there might possibly be some legislation in Ireland 668 which would increase the number of working hours to the advantage of the Irish manufacturer and for the purpose of getting manufactures started in Ireland to the detriment of this country. The Prime Minister in his speech dealt entirely with the question of workshops. Would the right hon. Gentleman assent to the Amendment if "workshops" were omitted from it? With the object of ascertaining whether the right hon. Gentleman would do so, he moved the omission of that word.
§ Amendment proposed, to the proposed Amendment, after the first word "Factories," to leave out the word "workshops."—(Colonel Bridgeman.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'workshops' stand part of the Amendment."
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, the question involved in the Amendment was an English as well as an Irish question. After the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella), the Amendment ceased to have that small importance which the Prime Minister had sought to give it. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella) had asked why Irish Representatives should not go to such Conferences as that lately held at Berlin. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that they should go as accredited Representatives? If so, the provisions which had already been passed would make it absolutely impossible. If the right hon. Gentleman meant that they should be amongst the Representatives of Great Britain, the votes of the British Representatives might be rendered of no avail by those of the Irish Representatives, although the Irish Parliament would have no power whatever to carry out the views expressed by its Representatives. Therefore, from one point of view the suggestion was impossible, whilst from the other it was ridiculous. The right hon. Gentleman said that the reason why the linen trade had gone from England to such a large extent was that wages were lower in Ireland. There was, however, quite as much danger of having a 10 hours day in Ireland and an eight hours day in England as there was of having lower wages in one country than in the 669 other. He would ask those who called themselves Labour Representatives what, would happen?
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but the only question is whether "workshops" should stand part, of the Question. It is inconvenient to discuss the Main Question until that has been disposed of.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he was dealing with the hours worked in workshops. He wished to call the attention of the Representatives of Labour to the fact that, although they might have the whole of the British electors in favour of securing an eight hours day in workshops, those efforts might be frustrated by the votes of Irish Members, whose own workshops would not be affected by the decision of the Imperial Parliament. Labour Representatives continually complained that the hours of labour in foreign countries interfered vary much with the settlement of the question of hours in this country; and Ireland might, unless the original Amendment were adopted, cause furl her interference. The question of the health of the people employed in these workshops had to be considered, and surely this was an Imperial question. Surely the general workshop legislation, which the House of Commons agreed to after discussions, from which the Irish Members would not be excluded, ought to apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. The question was one that pre-eminently affected the working classes of this country, and which ought to be taken in connection with the question of bounties or protection which was dealt with by the House on the previous evening.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that, if the Government did not, accept the Amendment to the Amendment, it would, perhaps, facilitate business if his hon. and gallant Friend withdrew it.
§ Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
remarked that the provisions which had already been adopted restraining the 670 Irish Parliament from dealing with Treaties or with foreign relations had an important bearing on the Amendment. He thought that, action taken by the Irish Parliament with reference to workshop, factory, or mining regulations might be very injurious to the industrial population of Lancashire. The character of the laws that might be passed by the Irish Parliament could not, be predicted, but might be such as to favour Irish industry to the prejudice of the Lancashire industries. He was afraid, therefore, that great injury might be caused to his constituents if the clause were adopted without, the insertion of the Amendment.
§ MR. MATHER (Lancashire, S.E., Gorton)
said, he wished to reply to some of the arguments by Conservative Members from Lancashire. Two suggestions were put forward. One was that possibly the Irish Legislature might not enforce the legislation now applying to those engaged in various industries, and the other was that they might legislate in industrial matters, and for their own selfish interests increase the hours of labour far beyond those now worked in England. From both points of view he thought the Amendment was absolutely unnecessary. In the first place, it was not likely that the electors of Ireland, composed as they were almost overwhelmingly of the working classes of Ireland, would send to the Irish Legislature men who would at once begin to reverse the legislation with regard to hours of labour and other matters which affected the interests of the working classes, and to deprive the working men of Ireland of the advantages they had secured under the Imperial Parliament. Any other position than that was so absolutely ridiculous and absurd that be did not think it worth while to waste time in discussing it.
§ MR. MATHER
said, in that case the hon. Member must regard the Irish people as altogether differing in their views from the people of other parts of the United Kingdom, and must assume that they would willingly pass from a condition of comparative ease and enjoyment and enter once more into a state of semi-bondage. The argument to which the hon. Member bad given most force 671 was that the industries of Lancashire, to which he particularly referred, would be affected if the Irish Legislature had the power to pass Acts on these matters differing from the English Acts. Another hon. Member opposite had endorsed that view. All legislation for the amelioration of the condition of the working classes had been brought forward under the influence of the working people of the country. The Trades Unions had been the prime movers in the bringing about of restrictions for the benefit of the workpeople. All this had increased our productive power, and put us in a better position for competing with the nations of the world; and if Ireland desired to be in a better position to compete with England than she was at present, she would follow the example of England and endeavour to secure better conditions and advantages for her working classes.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
As I represent an entirely working class constituency, I should like to offer a word on this question. I do not presume to speak as some of my Colleagues do—for the working classes in general, but I think I can speak for the working classes in Birmingham and the district. Their feeling is that all the restrictions which they believe to be greatly to the advantage of the working classes which have been secured by legislation have been secured, in the first instance against the wishes of the employers of labour by the efforts of the Trades Unions and the special Representatives of the working classes. In that I am in accordance with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Mather). My constituents consider that these efforts have been continuous and persistent, and that at last they have been tolerably successful; but they feel that if at any time competition should make it difficult for the manufacturers to maintain their own, a very strong case would be made out for altering or repealing the regulations which they have obtained at a cost of so much labour. Now, up to the present, all these regulations have applied equally to the whole of the United Kingdom. Under the Bill it is quite possible, in my opinion, that different and less restrictive regulations, and less costly regulations to the employers, may be adopted in Ireland to those which are enforced in Great Britain, and my constituents feel that if that ever were the 672 case the inevitable result would be that there would be an agitation to deprive them of the advantages which had been up to now secured. The principles which it seems to me must regulate the proceedings of the Committee were well and clearly stated the other day by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. We are not to enter into an argument as to whether or not the Irish Parliament will do things injurious to those they represent. They have, as he said, an abstract right to injure themselves, with which we have no concern. But they have no right, according to the same authority, to injure us, and to injure those whom we represent—even to put us to great inconvenience. The hon. Member for the Gorton Division (Mr. Mather) would so far agree with my argument. But then he says that he is one of those Members who has this perfect confidence not that the Irish people will not do wrong or foolish things, but that they will never do anything which their Representatives think to be foolish or wrong. But why should the Irish Parliament think it to be foolish or wrong to alter our legislation with regard to the Factories and Workshops Act, and to adopt a different form of legislation? Other countries have not followed our example as to this legislation, and no one pretends that France or Germany are guilty either of insane folly or of crime because they allow their working people to work a much greater length of time than we allow ours. There may be, I think, a difference of opinion without imputing either folly or crime; and when the hon. Member for the Gorton Division says that what we fear may come about is not to be anticipated, because the majority of the Representatives in the Irish Parliament will be the Representatives of the working classes, he forgets that the majority of the Representatives in the Irish Parliament will be, by the necessity of the case, small tenant farmers. And I defy the hon. Member to find any class that knows less of the conditions and necessities of the manufacturing and industrial concerns than the Representatives of the tenant-farmer class. I think that it is quite conceivable that those who will undoubtedly and rightly endeavour to promote industries in Ireland will 673 proceed in every way to secure nil vantages in competition with those engaged in similar industries in this country. And one way in which they will obtain that advantage will be by persuading their workpeople and Representatives in the Irish Parliament to allow longer hours and lesser restrictions. They will endeavour to persuade them that the restrictions in the case of Great Britain have been carried to an unnecessary length, and, I suppose, have involved unnecessary cost to those engaged in industrial employments. In my opinion, they are very likely to be successful, and if they are successful a serious competition will be set up. In that case we shall have an agitation for the relief of British manufacturers from the conditions under which they are now working. The working classes will be injured. Consequently, I generally agree in the opinion that I know is largely expressed by my constituents, that it is most desirable that in this matter, and all these matters that affect competition between the two countries, there should be uniformity of legislation—that the power of legislation should be where it is at present—in the Parliament representing the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ * MR. J. BURNS (Battersea)
said, that he had listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham; and he ventured to say that, notwithstanding the enormous power and influence that the right hon. Gentleman exercised in the district he so ably represented, the condition of industries in Birmingham was not of a character which justified the sweeping statements which had been made as to working-class opinion in relation to Ireland. What was the condition of Birmingham? It was practically this. In nearly all the small trades in Birmingham the masters were assisted by their sons or various relatives—and hard task-masters they were. Get any of the men who were not interested in the concerns of the small shop-masters and garret-masters of Birmingham, and there was one prayer they sent up, and that was that the Local Authorities in Birmingham should have greater power over these shop and garret-masters than they now had. The desire was, that the power of regulating these trades 674 should be decentralised, and that the Local Authorities not only of Ireland, but of England, Scotland, and Wales, should have power to put down the sweating, insanitary condition, and overwork that prevailed in Belfast just as it did in Birmingham and in Manchester. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham would leave the small garret-masters in Birmingham and go to largo firms like that of Messrs. Tangye, where the men employed belonged to the Union; or if he would go to the National Trade Conference and Congress, what would he find? He would find that this Congress, as at the London Trades Council last night, asked, in one of the largest meetings ever held on the workshop question, for increased power to be given for dealing with factories and workshops. But he would find them asking not that this increased power should be given to Parliament, but that the administration should be decentralised, and that the Town and County Councils should have conferred upon them the duty of dealing with sweating—Local Authorities could discharge this duty much more vigorously than ever Parliament would be likely to discharge it. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was in favour of local self-government. No one appreciated more than he (Mr. Burns) did the magnificent services the right hon. Gentleman had rendered to municipal government —the disinterested and self-sacrificing work he had performed for the Corporation of Birmingham, when with such honour and distinction he occupied the mayoralty of that city. But if the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of self-government for his own district, why not for Ireland? He must see, as hon. Members did, that this House, jealous as it was of its privileges, was compelled to delegate them in such Acts as the Shop Hours Act and the Public Health Act, and in the Report of the Sweating Commission, which brought the last Tory Government, to its credit, up to the level of the best traditions of the Tory Party when, led by Lord Shaftesbury, they fought so gallantly against the Manchester and Birmingham capitalists of this country in 1840 and 1850. When he heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham say that 675 in Ireland the tenant farmers would set the pace for factory legislation, he (Mr. Burns) could not help asking himself who gave English workers the Factory Acts? It was done with the help of the tenant farmers on the Tory Benches. It was the gentlemen of England who had interposed between the brutal greed of the Birmingham and Manchester capitalists and the working classes. This Bill was within a measurable distance of becoming a glorified County Council Bill unless the Government plucked up courage and refused to make any more concessions. But if the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of real local government, and this Bill was to become a reality, the Parliament sitting in Dublin surely should have given to it such powers as were conferred on the London County Council by the last Parliament to enable it to deal with workshops and the sanitary conditions of bakehouses and workshops. He (Mr. Burns) contended that what was right for Birmingham and Manchester and London was doubly right for a country like Ireland, which was, industrially, 100 years behind England. Ireland ought to have the means of making up leeway, which, through the jealousy of this country, it had been prevented from doing. If the Bill was to be emasculated to the extent of refusing this power to Ireland, it would become such a miserable Home Rule Bill that he (Mr. Burns) should feel inclined to vote against the Government in their endeavour to secure its further progress. The hon. Member for South Tyrone had said that the Irish Parliament would have two objects. One would be to cheapen the value of land. But was that object peculiar to Ireland? They heard of squires and farmers and labourers doing it in this country at the present time. People were asking for more land at a lower price. ["No, no!"] Well, hon. Members on the Front Opposition Bench, who mainly drew their re venue from rents, could not be expected to agree with him. The other object which, according to the Member for South Tyrone, the Irish Parliament would have might be to attempt to foster Irish industries at the expense of British industries by supporting an eight hours day in the Imperial Parliament for England, Scotland, and Wales, while they refused to apply the same principle to 676 their own country. But what economic ignorance that argument displayed! Did the hon. Member think that English workmen would permit that? They would rend to pieces any Irish Party that attempted to do anything of the kind, and that with the concurrence of Irish workers.
§ MR. BURNS
said, he would deal with what an Irish labourer would do under such circumstances. Did the hon. Member imagine that the Irish labourers and artisans, who, above all people in the world, had the instinct of political organisation, and who had a capacity for government and political organisation unequalled by any other people on the face of the earth, would not use the powers of this Bill for reducing the hours of labour of farm labourers and of workpeople in factories, docks, railways, and workshops, and for increasing wages and improving the sanitary conditions under which work was carried on? Even if they did not voluntarily do it, Trades Unions were international, and the Unions (which were not so largely supported in Belfast as they ought to be) would be found working in Ulster, where a deal of the boasted prosperity sprung from long hours, low wages, and sweating conditions. The Unions would be found working there, and they would some day have the power of forcing the Belfast shipbuilders and shipowners and manufacturers to come up to the level of British hours and wages. Ireland would be mad if it attempted to exempt itself from a general eight hours working day. Long hours of labour generally were not profitable. Manufacturers now knew what they did not know when the Factory Acts were secured—namely, that neither long hours nor low wages where machinery was an auxiliary to production helped them to beat their rivals. What gave English manufacturers to-day a monopoly in the world's market was not long hours nor low wages, but sub-division, organisation, larger factories. He was surprised to hoar the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham say or imply that he did not want to see this little industrial country—Ireland—competing with this great manufacturing country—England —that had hail 100 years' start, in 677 the race for wealth. He (Mr. Burns) was in favour of giving India the right to manage its own industrial affairs, believing that it would put an end to a system under which the condition of the factories in that country was such as to bring the blush of shame to the face of every right-thinking Englishman. And not only would it put an end to that system, but the interests of our own Lancashire manufacturers would be advanced. In the same way Ireland wanted a Legislative Assembly not only to raise wages and reduce hours, but to prevent the frightful condition of things that existed in the domestic workshops.
§ MR. WHITELEY
asked, if Irish industries were carried on under bad conditions, what had the Home Secretary, who was responsible in the matter, been doing?
§ MR. BURNS
said, if the Home Secretary, like all his predecessors, listened to permanent officials who knew nothing of the circumstances, and was circumscribed by red tape, he deserved criticism. Ministers too frequently listened to a class of people who constituted themselves a centralised and obstructive organisation, whoso chief desire was to obtain their salaries for as little work as possible. He (Mr. Burns) wanted to remove that difficulty, and he hoped that many of the functions and duties now vested in the Home Secretary would be transferred to a Local Authority having a knowledge of all the circumstances. He was satisfied that, possessed of this power, the workmen of Ulster and Ireland generally would soon break out of their narrow sectarian and political partisanship, and would force their Representatives to shorten the hours and improve the conditions of labour.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bedford)
said, he wished to call attention to the singular fact that the Amendment had been mainly supported by Lancashire Representatives interested in the cotton industry, while nothing was more notorious than that the cotton industry had no foothold whatever in Ireland. The woollen industry, on the other hand, was prosperous in Ireland, He was surrounded by Members representing the West Riding of Yorkshire, not one of whom had raised his voice against the Irish Parliament having absolute power over the factory system in Ireland. There never was a case 678 presented to the House having less foundation in fact.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, that his constituents who laboured in workshops would be prejudicially affected by this Bill. He could not help feeling that if factories in Ireland wore run for 98 hours a week against 56 in this country we should not be able to compete, and many of our working classes would be thrown out of employment. He had no hope that the Government would accept the Amendment, because they showed such a benevolent attitude last night in respect to bounties; but if they did so, it would be in the interests of the working classes.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
rose amid cries of "Divide!" He said he should not detain the Committee but a few moments. There was very little division between them. He had had an opportunity of discussing this matter with some of the leaders of Trade Unionism in Belfast, and their desire was to support the Eight Hours Bill. They sent over a delegate to the Trade Union Congress in England, and it was to England and Scotland that they looked for assistance in the matter. He contended, in answer to the speech of the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. J. Burns), that Trades Unions in Ireland had had their origin almost exclusively in the North. It would be a most serious thing to cut off the industrial population of the North from the Trade Union organisation of this country, which was so well represented by the hon. Member for Battersea. It was for that reason that he supported the Amendment.
§ MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
said, he wished to make a personal explanation—[Cries of "Divide!"] The hon. Member for West Belfast had entirely ignored the Dublin Trades Council. This Council was the parent of all their Trade Unionism in Ireland.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 268; Noes 298.—(Division List, No. 130.)
§ * SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)
moved to leave out the words "legal tender," in order to insert "currency." Her Majesty's Government proposed to exclude legal tender from the subjects with which the Irish Legislative Assembly was to deal, presumably be- 679 cause they wished to insure the continuance of a safe and satisfactory currency in Ireland, and to preclude the possibility of any different system of currency in the two Islands, with the fluctuations in exchange and the other evils which would result from any difference in this respect. The clause forbade coinage, and Story, in his work on the American Constitution, justly said—The same reasons which show the necessity of denying to the States the power of regulating coin prove with equal force that they ought not to be at liberty to substitute a paper medium instead of coin. … No one of these mischiefs is less incident to a power in the States to omit paper money than to coin gold or silver.These objects were not secured by the clause as it stood. Supposing that the Government of Ireland suppressed the present issues of the Irish banks—and there was nothing in the Rill to prevent them — they might issue notes of their own, even inconvertible notes to any amount. These notes need not be legal tender; the existing notes, were not legal tender. The temptation to issue them would be great; the mischief they might do still greater. In fact, all our currency legislation was based on the conviction, forced upon us by bitter experience, that it was not enough to provide that bank notes should be convertible, but that additional safeguards must be provided. If this was necessary in the case of the Bank of England, presided over by the leading merchants of London and with so long an experience in the past, how much more would it be required in the case of a new Irish Government, formed in defiance of almost every one of any commercial experience in that country? The Prime Minister, indeed, predicted that the Irish Government would have a "plethora of money"; but in that case why did he throw so unjust a proportion of Imperial expenditure on Great Britain? The Irish Home Rulers, on the contrary, said that the Bill, as its Financial Clauses stood, would mean financial ruin to Ireland, and they would, at any rate, be able to verify their own prediction. The temptation, then, to secure several millions of money by the issue of notes would be irresistible. In this anticipation he was not attributing to the Irish Government "a double dose of original sin." On the contrary; the 680 uniform experience from China to Peru bad been the same. No State which issued notes had been able to resist the temptation. Not only China and Peru, but the Argentine Confederation, Russia, Austria, Italy, and other countries had suffered injury to their trade and commerce by the unwise issue of notes. Indeed, as Fullarton, in his well-known Treatise on the Currency, justly said—There is not, I believe, a single example on record of the power of creating money out of cheap materials having been exercised by a Sovereign State for any length of time, or through any season of public difficulty, without having been abused. … The temptation to substitute issues for taxation, to relieve the wants of the Treasury by intercepting, through the depreciation of the currency, a portion of every payment in its transit from the pocket of the debtor to that of his creditor, becomes too strong to be resisted, and the iniquity is, probably, perpetrated with the general acquiescence of a community who are scarcely aware of its tendency. The career of debasement once entered upon, it has no pause till there is scarcely any value left to be destroyed.Whether notes were legal or not, a Government had the power of paying them away in so many channels that the metallic currency might be gradually driven out of the country. Story, in his great work on the American Constitution, laid it down that—The history of paper money without any adequate funds pledged to redeem it, and resting merely on the pledge of public faith, has been in all ages and in all nations the same. It has constantly become more and more depreciated.In fact, in all eases of Federalism the issue of notes was reserved to the central power. It was impossible to cite a Home Rule case, because no country in the world had ever given to any considerable portion of its territory rights and privileges which were denied to other portions. But in Federal Governments—in Switzerland, for instance, and Austria-Hungary— the regulation of the currency was reserved to the Central Authority. In Canada the several Provinces were precluded from dealing with currency, which was specially mentioned, as well as coinage and legal tender, which were expressly reserved to the Dominion Parliament. Was it to be supposed that the experience of Ireland would be different from that of every other country? Irish Members wished to encourage native industry, and one of the first conditions for success in that effort was a sound and 681 satisfactory system of currency. Few countries had suffered more than the United States from the abuse of paper money. Sir C. Lyell used to tell a story, in illustration of the American circulation, that when he was first in the West he found the circulation consisting mainly of small notes by private issuers and bills of exchange. On one occasion he was travelling on the top of a coach and asked a Western gentleman whether this small circulation rested on any basis. "Well," he said, "that depends on what you consider a basis. This time last year I was travelling with a friend and we had a bet on some oysters and porter. I lost the bet, so in the evening, when we had had the oysters and porter, my friend drew a bill on me, which I accepted and paid away to the hotel-keeper. It is still in circulation, and it rests on the basis of the oysters and porter we had that evening." Story said—The history of the paper currency, which during the Revolution was issued by Congress alone, is full of melancholy instruction.He was as anxious for the prosperity of the trade and manufactures of Ireland as the Irish Members themselves could be; for the commercial interests of England and Ireland were indissolubly bound up together. There were no Party considerations involved in his Amendment. The question was one that should be considered without Party feeling, and entirely in the interest of Ireland. He believed that he should be supported by every banking and almost every commercial authority when he said that it was not, sufficient merely to forbid the issue of legal tender. The insertion of the words "legal tender" only, would not have the effect desired by the Government. To secure the object which Her Majesty's Government desired it was necessary to extend the provision to all bank-notes, and therefore he moved to omit the words "legal tender," and to insert in their place the word "currency."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 13, to leave out the words "legal tender," and insert the word "currency."—(Sir. J. Lubbock.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'legal tender' stand part of the Clause."682
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
I entirely agree with nay right hon. Friend that this is a question that should be considered without Party feeling, and considered solely in the interest of Ireland. The Prime Minister was unable to wait for the discussion on this Amendment; but I represent him sufficiently in the matter, because he instructed me that he was against the Amendment. I do not agree with my right hon. Friend in the dangers he has anticipated in the event of the Irish Government issuing bank notes. Under the Bill the Government of Ireland are prohibited from making their notes legal tender. I admit that if the Irish Government had the power to make their notes legal tender the dangers which my right hon. Friend shadowed forth would not be exaggerated; but, as I have said, the Irish Government will not have the power of making their notes legal tender, and, therefore, I think there need be no fear of such dangers being realised. The right hon. Baronet also seemed to argue that it was necessary that the central power should enforce the same currency in all parts of the United Kingdom. But at present that state of things does not exist. The Irish banks got the right to issue £1 notes, for they said it was the currency which best suited the country. There is no danger in allowing the different parts of the country to have the currency most useful for their purpose without making it a legal tender.
§ * SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
I never argued that it was necessary to have the same currency in all parts of the United Kingdom, because I am aware it does not exist now. What I did argue was that the laws affecting currency should be made only by the Imperial Parliament.
SIR W. HARCOUKT
I do not see that it signifies whether the Laws of Currency are made in Ireland or made here. In fact, the different countries are better judges of the currency most suitable to their interests than the Imperial Parliament. If the Irish Government chose to issue £1 or £2 or £5 notes which will not be a legal tender, why should they not do so if it be in accordance with the wants of the country? The notes, as I have said, will not be legal tender. You may take the notes or not as you please. I cannot see the 683 necessity for the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed. If we are to give Ireland a Parliament surely we should allow that Parliament to select the currency hest suited to the country.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I shall endeavour to conduct the controversy in the spirit in which it was begun by the right hon. Baronet, and in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer continued it. I wish also to speak with the greatest possible brevity in the matter, though it possesses far more importance than the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems disposed to attach to it. There are a great many points on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to be correct; but he did not strike at the root of the proposal of my right hon. Friend. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says with great propriety that each country ought to have the currency most appropriate to its needs. He says — "If Ireland likes £1 notes, why should they not have them; if they want £2 notes or £1 notes, why should they not have the power of issuing them?" Well, I do not much disagree with that proposition; but the real point at stake here is this — whether the Irish Government, which I think we all admit will be an inexperienced Government, should have the power of issuing bank notes, and of changing and altering all the privileges which the banks enjoy in Ireland at the present moment? I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer will agree with me that it would be possible for the Irish Government to raise a very considerable sum by the issue of £1 notes. I will point out to the Committee how the notes can be forced in Ireland without being legal tender. The Government of Ireland, under the strain of a great financial difficulty, might say—"Here are the banks issuing £1 notes, why should not we issue £1 notes?" That would be a temptation felt strongly by the Irish Government, and the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is—"Well, it is their own affair whether they yield to the temptation or not." I do not entirely admit that it is their affair, because there is a minority in Ireland whose interests need safeguarding, and I am not quite prepared to accept to the full the admis- 684 sion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we have really got no interest in the matter whether Ireland damages herself or not.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
I admit that that is the point that must lie as the basis of my argument. If I cannot show that the people will take the notes our case is gone, or, at least, very seriously damaged. Let the Committee understand clearly that it the Bill is left as it stands the Irish Government will have the power to issue £1 notes, and they will also have the power to change the whole banking system of Ireland. That has been admitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. These are very serious powers to place in the hands of an inexperienced Government, as it is admitted the Irish Government will be. Not only may the Irish Government issue £1 notes, but there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the Irish Government from issuing the notes entirely unrepresented by gold, or represented only by one-third or one-fourth of gold; and, therefore, if the Irish Government wanted to raise half-a-million of money they could issue £1 notes to that amount without any reserve of gold. The temptation to the Irish Government to adopt that course would be great, not because the Irish have a double dose of original sin, but under the strain of financial difficulties to which Governments have yielded over and over again. Therefore, if the Government do not adopt the Amendment, I think we should restrict the power in the hands of the Irish Government of issuing notes without being represented by gold. But, says the right hon. Gentleman, how are they to get these notes into circulation if they are not legal tender? My answer is that Ireland is practically without any legal tender at all. The only legal tender in Ireland is the sovereign, and that one sees occasionally, but rarely, because the currency of Ireland practically is the £1 note. [Mr. SEXTON: Except a limited quantity of silver.] There is a quantity of silver, which scarcely affects the argument. The whole people of Ireland are, therefore, in the position of being accustomed to £1 notes, which are not legal tender. Are we not, therefore, entitled to assume that if the 685 Government of Ireland are going to issue £1 notes of their own the Irish people will take them? [SIR W. HARCOURT: Over issue?] No; the over issue will not become known till afterwards. The greater the confidence placed in the Parliament of Ireland the more ready will the people be to take the £1 notes. I have pursued the subject from the point of financial need. But where will the public find the currency which they will require if the Government curtail the power of issue by the banks? I will put an extreme case. Of course, it will not be done; but if the Government of Ireland were to take away half the power of issue from the banks they would create a scarcity of currency, and that scarcity they would fill up be the issue of their own £1 notes. That is a very dangerous power to place in the bauds of the Irish Government, and that is the position as it will be left by the Bill. I say it is a power which ought not to be given. I really do not see what answer there can be to that argument. Then there is the case of Ulster to be considered. If this be true with regard to the whole of Ireland, I think it will be specially the case with the trailing part. It is quite possible that in the Southern and inland parts of Ireland, and in the smaller business transactions, the difficulty will not be much felt as in those parts which deal largely with Great Britain, where they have to pay their debts in gold or English currency. It is extremely important that the currency of Ireland should remain on the soundest possible footing. I have not wished to overstate the case; but I have felt it my duty to put clearly before the Committee, not in any controversial manner, the real dangers I see to giving the Irish Government this power conferred by the Bill.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman must see that the Amendment goes a good deal too far. For instance, supposing it should be found, as in the year 1844, that the issue of notes by private banks is undesirable and should be put an end to, why should not the Irish Parliament have power to regulate the currency of their country? Why should it be left to the Imperial Parliament, which knows very little about the wants and disadvantages of banks and currency in Ireland? The Amendment is intended absolutely to prohibit the 686 Irish Parliament from having any authority or power over the currency in their country.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
If the right hon. Gentleman would suggest any course by which the danger could be guarded against should the Irish Government have recourse to issuing these notes and interfering with the rights of all the banks, and if he would see that there shall be some security for its being done on a sound basis, then I think a compromise might be arrived at. The Irish Members say it is going to be a very poor Parliament, and I say it is more dangerous to entrust this power to a poor Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman will say that clauses shall be introduced to the effect that the Irish Parliament shall not have unlimited power over the issue of bank notes, I should then advise my right hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I am extremely anxious to meet the right hon. Gentleman, and I admit his great authority upon questions of this kind. Without undertaking to remove from the Irish Parliament all control in this matter, I will undertake upon the part of the Government, if the Amendment be not pressed, that we will consider whether or not any safeguards in reference to the currency may be introduced hereafter.
§ * MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said, he hoped the Government would not make any concession whatever upon this point. The Amendments to the Bill might be divided into two classes. They had an example of one class in the last Amendment—an Amendment introduced in the interest of England. He had never heard such an exhibition of selfishness as was displayed by those who supported that Amendment. One would think that the conditions of Ireland and England were completely reversed, and that Ireland was a great and prosperous country, and that poor little England, with its miserable and struggling industries, ought to be protected. The other class of Amendment was, like the present Amendment, insulting. The ground upon which all these Amendments were based was that Ireland was not able to govern itself. That might be a very good hypothesis for opponents of the Bill to go upon; but it was no 687 hypothesis for those who supported the Bill to go upon. Those who supported the Bill ought to reject such an Amendment. The subject of the currency was a domestic mutter. The currency of Ireland had been degraded only at the instance of England, yet they were to be lectured by gentlemen from Lombard Street as to what they were to do when this Bill was carried. He confessed that he felt indignant when he thought of these Amendments, indignant at being lectured by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London, and indignant at speeches like that of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the substance of which was that I the Irish Legislature might cut their throats and might act as pirates and robbers. [Cries of "No, no!"] The supporters of the right hon. Gentleman cheered that interruption. ["No!"] They did not repudiate it.
§ * MR. CLANCY
said, that the Front Benches differed from their supporters. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that they would act as madmen or rogues? [Cries of "No !"]
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
May I interrupt? The action which the hon. and learned Member calls the action of robbers and pirates has been the action taken by Governments over and over again in times of difficulty. I never suggested that it would be robbery or roguery, and I must ask the hon. Gentleman not to press that argument.
§ * MR. CLANCY
said, that the tones of the right hon. Gentleman were mild, especially when he got up to explain himself, but his matter was aggravating in the extreme. He felt very strongly upon this point; he felt as if he were being treated as an inferior being as an Irishman. He appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to accept any Amendment upon this subject.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I want to point out to the Committee how difficult it is for us to conduct Public Business if hon. Members from Ireland, whenever the Government agree to consider our propositions, say that they see no sense whatever in them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, with great fairness, has admitted that there is force in what so high an authority as the late Chancellor of the Exchequer said; and though he 688 could not accept the Amendment, he promised to endeavour to find words which would guard against the dangers feared, but which would not take out of the hands of the Irish Parliament the power they ought to have. What then occurred? A gentleman representing North Dublin, by way of illustrating the moderation, good sense, sanity, and general wisdom which is going to animate the Irish Legislature, declared that it was an insult to Ireland to introduce a clause which was to be found in every Federal Constitution in the world. Why is Ireland insulted by a provision which does not insult the American States, the Canadian Provinces, Austro-Hungary, Norway, and the Cantons of Switzerland? I might go on with the whole list. These sensitive gentlemen are so indignant at the very idea of the Government meeting the Opposition oven on the strongest case that they jump up and wave the green flag, and behave in a way which certainly does not impress us, at all events, with any great idea of the wisdom and moderation likely to prevail in their Councils. It must be evident to the Committee that the issue of an inflated currency in Ireland would not be disastrous to Ireland alone, and it is not one of those purely Irish affairs which ought to be left to an Irish Executive. Under these circumstances, it certainly appears to me that the Government are not only meeting the Opposition in a conciliatory spirit, but are actually carrying out principles which they have over and over again professed from that Bench.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I would appeal to the Committee, as I understand there is no opposition to the withdrawal of the Amendment, not to continue the discussion. There is another Amendment upon this subject, and that will be the time to renew it. Why go on discussing this Amendment, which I understand is not to be pressed?
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
said, that the present Amendment, like most of those that had been moved, rested upon the assumption that they were not to give Ireland any power whatever, because any power they gave would certainly be misused.
§ * SIR LUBBOCK
said, he did not say that powers would be abused; but he thought it better for both countries that such an Amendment should be inserted.
§ MR SEXTON
said, that came to the same thing. It rested upon the assumption that the power would not be so wisely used as they would wish it to be, and that the Irish people did not know their own interests as well as the people of this country did. Well, he denied that. He thought the Opposition were prejudiced and ignorant—ho meant with regard to the affairs of Ireland. The argument was that the Irish were knaves or fools. [Cries of "No!"] The late Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed especially to the case of Ulster.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the foundation of the whole argument was that the power was certain to be abused. What did the introduction of Ulster mean? It not only meant that they would be such fools as to use these powers against their own interests, but that they would be such knaves as to misuse them specially to the wrong of Ulster. The Amendment was absurd.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
I think it is very unfair to my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London that he should be asked to withdraw the Amendment on the plea that it is an absurd one. The hon. Member does not assist the Government in the progress of the Bill by such a speech, which is calculated to tempt the Opposition, unless we were extremely virtuous.
§ * MR. GOSCHEN
said, then they would look forward with much more interest to the remainder of these debates. Were they not told by Irish Members, when they (the Opposition) moved Amendments, that they were attacking them and accusing Irishmen of being inferior to themselves in judging this matter? He rested the case entirely on the supposition that they might be in financial straits. He should say the same of Englishmen or of Scotchmen, and he would not trust them any more than he would trust the hon. Member for North Kerry to forego the right of using paper money. The case was somewhat different since he first spoke. They had now heard the views of the Irish Members, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been informed by one of them that he would not accept 690 any concession, and that no concession ought to be made. He only made that, remark with a view to future occasions.
§ SIR T. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
thought, the hon. Gentleman had not done justice to his right hon. Friend who had moved that Amendment. The right hon. Baronet had pointed out that this was not a Party question, and he had appealed to the Committee not to treat it as such. There were other opinions in Ireland besides those represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite; and he thought they would admit that, in this instance at all events, he had the honour of representing the feeling of the greater part of those who were interested in banking, trade, and commerce. These gentlemen, as represented in the Chamber of Commerce of Dublin, tried to see the Prime Minister, and failed. The gentlemen interested in the Chamber of Commerce of Belfast did represent their views to the right hon. Gentleman, not, however, with complete success. Without wishing to attribute any evil designs to hon. Gentlemen opposite, he had to point out that there was an immense trade in Ireland amongst the banking and commercial communities; and it was felt that, unless some Amendment was introduced into the Bill, great damage would be done to these vital and important interests. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had agreed to some words being inserted, and he did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would agree to accept the words which he (Sir T. Lea) had put down in a later Amendment. If so, he would not say one word to lengthen the Debate. This was a most important and vital question for those in Ireland. There was a paid-up capital reserve, in connection with the nine banks in Ireland, of more than £11,000,000, which, on the market, must be worth between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000. The gentlemen connected with this industry looked with dread upon this Bill — [Irish cheers]—without some provision such as he had on the Paper in a later Amendment; and he took it that the speeches that day and the cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite would not do anything to soothe those fears. These nine banks had been managed with great success. Six had their headquarters in Dublin. Of those in Dublin only one paid less than 10 percent., the others paying 10 and 11 per cent. Of 691 those in Belfast one paid 20 per cent.; one 18; and one 11 per cent. An hon. Gentleman behind him said it was scandalous. The hon. Gentleman must remember that in paying these dividends they were not paying them upon capital, but they bad large reserve funds accumulated by care and management of previous years, which tended to increase the dividends on recent shares. He should not have thought that any man would have considered scandalous the wise and prudent management of these great institutions. One of these banks had taken counsel's opinion on this Bill, who stated that the Irish Parliament under the Bill, as it was drawn at present, would have power to control and to extinguish the note issue of the Irish banks. Was that a light matter? What was the note issue of the Irish banks? The Prime Minister, in reply to a question put a little time ago, told them that the note issue of the Irish banks amounted to £6,354,494. Were there any hon. Gentlemen opposite who thought that the future Irish Government would have plenty of money? The hon. Member for North Longford had told them it would be a bankrupt Exchequer. What was the bankrupt Exchequer to do when they saw this £6,354,494 issue of notes on which they could lay their hands? The Irish banks were legally and morally entitled to issue these notes by legislation made years ago, and was it right to hand over to a Parliament in Dublin this power, which would enable them to take away this right of issuing notes from the banks? Naturally, they would take steps for depriving the banks of this power. They might extinguish the notes of the banks and substitute an issue of State notes in exchange. The Prime Minister had said that the Irish Parliament not only had the right, but would be justified in dealing with this matter, and they would not be slow to accept that advice. Such a step, he contended, would have most disastrous results upon the commerce of Ireland. They could not compel the people to take notes unless there was gold in the vaults in place, and the only other course would be to compel the Irish banks to take £6,000,000 of Irish Government Stock in place of the power to issue notes. No bank would take Irish Stock in 692 place of gold. They had seen in the recent examples of the Australian banks the disaster which resulted from banks holding a large quantity of un saleable securities, which in time of panic they would not be able to sell. This would be of no benefit to the Irish banks or to the Irish Legislature; and in the interests and at the request of many of these great institutions in Ireland, he was asked to oppose this Bill still more unless some restriction of this kind was put in.
§ MR. MARTIN (Worcester, Droitwich)
wished to remind the Committee that the question of the currency was not one of purely local interest to Ireland. Payments on account of the Customs, Post, and Telegraph Offices would have to be made in gold to the Imperial Exchequer, and any depreciated currency would be a serious matter not only for the Government of Ireland, but also for the Imperial Exchequer. Had he had longer time he would have tried to show that, in case of an issue of notes by the Irish Government not secured on gold, gold would be certainly driven out of the country, and a premium thereon would be the consequence. Just at this minute, when the wealthy United States of America were threatened with a gold premium, the danger was not imaginary, and might easily be a real one. The question was one of great practical importance, and required grave consideration It could not be settled at one sitting of an impatient Committee.
§ * SIR J. LUBBOCK
asked, was he to understand that the Government would introduce words to carry the principle of the Amendment into effect?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I said, in deference to the argument addressed by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, while the Government could not accept these words, they would consider whether any, and what, safeguards might be necessary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ DR. MACGREGOR
(rising at a quarter to 7), said: In accordance with the notice I have already given, I beg to move "That the Question 'that Clause 3 stand part of the Bill' be now put."
I cannot, at the present time, accept this very important Motion of Closure. I think it would be altogether unreasonable for the Chair to accept this form of Closure from anybody except the Minister in charge of the Bill. When the proper time comes, no doubt if it is necessary to use this special form, or any other form of Closure, that will be done by those who are responsible for the management and control of the Business of this House.
§ * SIR J. LUBBOCK
rose to move the following Amendment:—In page 2, line 13, after "legal tender," insert "banks."
§ It being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.