§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.),
in rising to move the rejection of the Vote by £2,175, the cost of the Evicted Tenants Commission, said that whatever might be the opinion of hon. Members as to the proceedings in Committee of Supply during the last few days—and he was quite aware that there were two opinions on that subject—surely, at all events, every one in the House would admit that they had now reached a question involving a grave matter of policy, and a question upon which it was perfectly legitimate, nay, absolutely necessary, 1876 that the time of the Committee should be fairly and freely given. He hoped that in discussing this question at length the Chief Secretary for Ireland would avoid imputing any motives. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman his reasons for saying that. In the first place, he was responsible in that House, as the right hon. Gentleman was aware, for the 13th Section of the Land Purchase Act. The right hon. Gentleman also knew that he was responsible for moving the rejection of Mr. O'Kelly's Evicted Tenants Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman knew—if he knew anything— that he had taken more than an ordinary interest in the unhappy proceedings in Ireland which had brought about this Commission. Therefore, whether the Chief Secretary for Ireland chose to attach motives to his conduct or not, this was a question upon which he had always taken the deepest interest, and it was not out of place that he should move the rejection of the Vote. He did not intend to take refuge in moving a nominal reduction of the Vote. He had given notice to leave out the whole sum, for he intended to impeach the whole policy of the Commission. He looked upon the recommendations of the Commission as suggestions for making the way of transgressors not hard but easy, and he thought that if a Bill were founded upon these recommendations it would be a Bill for the revision of the Decalogue. He also proposed to impeach the expenditure of the money as sheer waste, and he was prepared to prove that there was not a fact in the whole Report and its Appendices that was not in the possession of the Government before the Commission sat. What was new in it was not true, and what was old was in the possession of the Government before Sir James Mathew went to Dublin. He held that the Police and the other Government Departments could have supplied the Chief Secretary with the whole of the information in this Report. In the next place, he proposed to charge the Chief Secretary with packing this Commission; that instead of appointing an impartial Commission, as the right hon. Gentleman proposed, he appointed a thoroughly one-sided Commission, and he intended to aver that the conduct of the President rendered the 1877 findings of that Commission absolutely worthless so far as Parliament was concerned. He would refer briefly to the history of this question. The period to which the Commission was confined was 1879; it was not entitled to go beyond that year in its inquiry. There were, of course, evictions before 1879, but into those evictions the Commission was not to inquire. He wanted the Committee to recognise that the period from 1879 to 1892 covered two very important epochs in Ireland. It covered the epoch of the Land League and that of the Plan of Campaign, and he thought he should not be far wrong in declaring that this Commission sat mainly for the purpose of inquiring into evictions arising out of those two illegal conspiracies. As far as the Land League was concerned—and it had had almost everything to do with the earlier evictions—there could be no doubt as to the character of that organization. It had been described by the Prime Minister himself. It had been declared by the Prime Minister that crime dogged its footsteps, and the right hon. Gentleman suppressed the Land League as an illegal Association. Sir James Mathew talked of the Plan of Campaign as "an unfortunate agrarian controversy." Fortunately for those concerned, a man of much more importance, in Ireland at all events—Chief Baron Palles—had described it very differently. Chief Baron Palles, in charging a jury in the famous case of "Blunt v. Byrne," said it was his duty to declare that the Plan of Campaign "was essentially an illegal Association, and that any meeting for the purpose of promoting it was in law an illegal Assembly, that the Crown or any magistrate had power to disperse any meeting called for that purpose, and when a magistrate had notice of such a meeting it was his duty to do all that in him lay to prevent or, if necessary, disperse it." The Evicted Tenants Commission practically covered the evictions arising out of the Land League and the Plan of Campaign. It might be called a Commission for the purpose of finding out some way of relieving Messrs. John Dillon and William O'Brien from their responsibility to the victims of the Plan of Campaign. There could be no pretence for saying that the evictions carried out under the auspices of those two illegal organizations were 1878 due to any inability on the part of the tenants to pay their rent. He admitted that there might have been cases of evicted persons who were unable to pay their rent; but, so far as the great majority of the Land League and Plan of Campaign cases were concerned, he maintained that they were not evictions due to inability to pay rent. They were evictions deliberately brought about for the purpose of making government in Ireland impossible, and for the additional purpose of trying to humbug English electors, in order to place right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. These tenants were not in the main the victims of bad landlords; they were the pawns of hon. Members opposite, who moved them about on the political chess-board as suited them, and with a cruelty almost unparalleled in this country. As things proceeded these thousands of men became rather a serious burden on the Nationalist exchequer. That exchequer was very full at one time, but the Party having been overtaken by what was called "domestic afflictions," these troubles seriously interfered with the flow of dollars from the United States. He had never made the mistake of believing, like an hon. Friend of his, that the Gladstonians had given hon. Members opposite money. The Gladstonian Party were always ready with sympathy. That Party always discreetly drew the line at hard cash. The first step taken in this matter, upon this state of affairs being brought about, was during the passage of the Land Purchase Act of 1891. He noticed that the action of Parliament in that year figured as the real cause for the appointment of the Commission. The Chief Secretary had stated this in a letter to the hon. Member for North Longford. The right hon. Gentleman sheltered himself behind the 13th section of that Act; and when Sir James Mathew opened the Commission, he avowedly stated that they sat practically because that section had been passed. He invited the Committee to examine carefully the wording of that clause. From beginning to end there was not a word about the reinstatement of these men as tenants. On the contrary, the clause was expressly drawn to bar any such idea; and, so far as he knew the policy of those in favour of that section, they recognized 1879 that it would be the height of injustice to force back on a landlord a tenant who had defrauded him, and with whom the landlord could not have good relations in future. It had never occurred to the Committee in passing that clause to put back the evicted men as tenants. What happened was this. A great measure was passing through the House under very exceptional circumstances. It had had great good luck by the absence of hon. Members upstairs during the early part of the Session, and what happened was this, that when the Bill was passing through the House in Committee appeals were made that something should be done for the evicted tenants, and what Parliament did by that clause was simply this. Parliament did not propose to send these men back as tenants. It said that where the landlord was willing and where the tenant was anxious they should have the power under the Act, without the formal reinstatement of the men as tenants, for the one to sell and the other to buy. There was no pressure on the evicted tenant or on the landlord. Parliament assumed that both were willing and anxious to come together, and it provided, if hon. Members chose to call it so, an extraordinary means by which, in the circumstances, the landlord and the tenant could come together, and the farms could be sold to those men who had been tenants. Nothing could be plainer than that proposal. He submitted, therefore, that it was entirely contrary not only to the recommendation of the Evicted Tenants Commission, but to the policy of Ministers before the Commission was formed. He now came to the second step in this matter. The six months under which those ex-tenants had to make their applications expired. Very few applications were made. He did not say that there was any special cause for that circumstance. He had heard the cause mentioned, but he was not able to satisfy himself that the charges made against the hon. Member for East Mayo were correct. Very few applications were made, and when it was found that the section was not likely to accomplish its purpose, a Bill was introduced by Mr. O'Kelly. He asked the attention of the House to the character of that Bill. He moved its rejection, and, in doing so, he spoke of it as the most audacious Bill ever 1880 introduced into Parliament. What the Bill proposed was that every tenant evicted since 1879 should have a right to go to his old landlord and demand possession of the farm. If any one was in legal possession of that farm the former tenant was to be armed with authority to put him out, then the landlord should be forced to sell that land to the old tenant not on the landlord's terms, but on the terms to be fixed by the Land Commission. Yet, he supposed, in obedience to the agreements and understandings with hon. Members opposite, the Leaders of the Opposition at that time, now on the Treasury Bench, trotted gaily out into the Lobby in support of the Second Reading of that Bill. That was a tolerably stiff proceeding, and he could imagine that several right hon. Gentlemen felt a little squeamish at what they were doing. After the performance of the First Commissioner of Works in Ireland, however, he really did not see how they could do anything else. The Bill was rejected. The House must recollect that thousands of starving tenants were now out of their holdings, living in Land League huts, some suffering from disease, some from hunger. ["Oh, oh!" and Mr. W. O'BRIEN: "Rubbish!"] Although Irishmen could live on very little, they could hardly live on what the hon. Member opposite doled out to them in the latter days. They now came to the third step in this remarkable proceeding. They came to the letter of the Chief Secretary after he had got into the saddle in Dublin Castle. Something was necessary; the right hon. Gentleman could not escape doing something, because he remembered one of the Leaders of the Party opposite saying to him in the Lobby after the defeat of Mr. O'Kelly's Bill: "Well, you have beaten us; but we have bagged the Front Bench." [Cries of Name!"] Having bagged the Front Bench, they now came to the proceedings of the Front Bench after they crossed the floor of the House. [Interruption.]
§ MR. W. THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)
I rise to Order, Sir. I ask you if it is in Order for one hon. Member to say to another hon. Member that he does not believe him?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he was very much obliged to the hon. Member [Cries from the Nationalist Benches of "Withdraw!"] He would not withdraw. He repeated, that that was said to him by a Member of the Party opposite. [Cries of "Name!"] It was not a private conversation at all; it was in the Lobby. ["Name!"] He repeated, that that was said to him. Having been bagged, he came now to their payment for the services rendered, and the first incident of the payment was this: the right hon. Gentleman wrote a letter to the Member for North Longford, announcing, not that he was going to restore the evicted tenants, but that he proposed to issue what he called "a small and impartial Commission to inquire into the whole subject." The letter was, in one sense, one of the most shameless State Papers that was ever issued. He would shortly tell the House what he meant by that. The right hon. Gentleman said, writing to the hon. Member for North Longford—You will remember that, in the discussion which took place in the House of Commons in the summer of last year upon this subject, Mr. Balfour, Mr. Smith-Barry, and others fully admitted that a great evil existed, to which it was most desirable, in the interests of peace and good government, that an effective remedy should be applied. An effort was made by Parliament to carry out this declared object of public policy, by passing the 13th section of the Land Act of 1891. That provision has, unfortunately, proved not only inadequate, but an entire failure. Out of the very large number of cases in which the action was intended to bring relief, only 187 settlements have been effected, and of these 103 were on one single estate. The evil is wholly untouched. One figure supplies a significant test of its magnitude. It is estimated that the extra force of police required in connection with the evicted tenants and the consequent disquiet is not less than 600 men, at a cost of some £45,000 per annum.That was what he called shameless, and he asserted that if it cost £450,000 per annum instead of £45,000 the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to protect men under the law, and he had no right to whine at the cost of that protection. What did he say?—We propose, therefore, by the Lord Lieutenant's warrant, to appoint a small Commission to examine and report, with strict impartiality, and as promptly as may be, the actual circumstances and practical equity of the case.1882 They would see how that was carried out, because they now came to the fourth step, the appointment of the Commission. That Commission was to be appointed "with strict impartiality." Did hon. Members remember in recent years a single Land Commission in Ireland that had not a representative at least of both sides? Let them take the Bessborough and also the Cowper Commissions, where the landlords and tenants were both represented. Coming to the composition of this "impartial" Commission, the first name he would take was that of Mr. Reddington. He had been held up as a landlord, but he was one of those landlords who, when the storm began to blow, sold his land under Lord Salisbury's Purchase Acts, and, to use the elegant metaphor of the hon. Member for North Louth, "walked off with the swag." Mr. Reddington was known to be hostile to the landlords, had ceased to be one of them, and had no right or title to represent the landlords of Ireland on the Commission. Then there was Mr. John Roche. He had not a word to say against Mr. Roche as a lawyer. He occupied a good position in his profession; but when they were talking of an impartial Commission they must bear in mind that Mr. Roche was at one time, and very recently, a director of The Freeman's Journal, which was fiercely hostile to the landlords, and he was a Nationalist in politics. Then there was Mr. Murrough O'Brien. Would anybody who knew anything about Ireland say that Mr. Murrough O'Brien was a landlords' representative? Everyone knew he was strongly on the tenants' side. Mr. Murphy was the fourth. He was one of the officials in the Land Judges' Court, a land valuer, and was said to be a Conservative. Next, they came to Sir James Mathew, the President. What he had to say about Sir James Mathew, he hoped, would hurt nobody's feelings in that House, however friendly they might be to that gentleman. He (Mr. Russell) held, the moment that the Commission was formed, that the presence of Sir James Mathew as an English Judge would give a judicial air to the whole proceedings of the Commission. Even packed as it had been, with an English Judge at its head, it would probably have commanded respect but for the proceedings of the Commission itself. The 1883 landlords and the public expected this judicial character to be given to it by this English Judge, and the landlords who were concerned in it were prepared to go before the Commission to state their case. The Commission, therefore, when it opened in November, opened with a fair prospect of arriving at the truth in this matter. Sir James Mathew, to put it mildly, disappointed everyone. His opening speech, which he (Mr. Russell) heard; his conduct to counsel, and even his threats to the newspapers— because he went the length of telling the reporters that if their newspapers criticised the evidence they would find themselves in the position of evicted tenants-shattered every iota of hope which ever existed in any man's mind that there would be a fair hearing of all sides in this matter. In his opening speech Sir James Mathew said—The course we propose to take is this: we must first, we very much regret, take the case of tenants evicted and threatened with eviction on the Clanricarde Estate. Urgent representations have been made to us that Parliament should be fully informed as to the mode in which Lord Clanricarde has used the powers which the law has entrusted to him as a landlord. For the present, so far as we know, Lord Clanricarde stands alone; no other landlord makes common cause with him. Even at the eleventh hour he may see the wisdom of permitting us to extricate him from his position. Great as is his risk, no man need envy him.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir C. RUSSELL, Hackney, S.)
Great as is his rank.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said it was printed in the paper from which he was quoting, "Great as is his risk."
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The Evening Mail of the same date. He would make the correction willingly—Great as is his rank, no man need envy him. The fullest opportunity will be given him to show why, as regards his evicted tenants, he has declined to follow the example generally get by the landlords of his own county. If he refuses to attendAnd then the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Carson) rose in his place and said—I appear for him, and I do not know why these observations should be made.The President: You shall hear presently.Mr. Carson: I am only stating that I appear here for him, and I do not know why—1884The President: I am very glad to see you. If Lord Clanricarde in person refuses to attend and explain his conduct he must be prepared for the assumption that arises, and the inference that is properly drawn where evidence is deliberately withheld.Was ever the like of that heard of in any Court pretending to have any judicial character at all? What right had this gentleman, whose duty it was to sit and hear evidence, to comment on any man before he had received his evidence? He was practically trying a man before he had heard him. What right had Sir James Mathew to make any observation upon Lord Clanricarde, or any other man, until he had heard the case against him? He was told, and very properly told, that Lord Clanricarde, so far from being absent, appeared by counsel. Sir James Mathew had no right to assume that Lord Clanricarde would not appear in person. He had done the proper thing, having sent counsel to represent him, and Sir James Mathew had no earthly right to assume that Lord Clanricarde wanted to shirk inquiry, and, in a judicial proceeding, to hold that man up to obloquy — no matter what his character might be—and he had no wish to defend Lord Clanricarde. [Ironical Irish Cheers.] Yes, but even the eminent lawyer who was Recorder for Liverpool (Mr. Hop-wood) would admit that even a street walker had a right to be heard before trial. He did not see why that hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hopwood) should press for hard sentences seeing that he himself was prepared to let off all the scoundrels he possibly could. [Cries of "Order!" and "Withdraw!"]
(interrupting): I think the hon. Member will see that this observation ought not to have been made.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I rise to Order. The hon. Member has said of another hon. and learned Member that in the exercise of his judicial functions he is letting off all the scoundrels he possibly can. I say that the mere withdrawal of 1885 such an accusation is inadequate to the offence. We are entitled to ask that he should apologise.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
On the point of Order, Mr. Mellor, before you give your ruling, may I ask you whether it is not the fact that this same Member, this judicial Member, described the Member for Tyrone—[Cries of Order!]—accused the Member for Tyrone of misstatement, and whether, if there are to be withdrawals, they should not be made all round?
I called upon the hon. Member to withdraw an expression which was plainly un-Parliamentary, and which he ought not to have used. The hon. Member at once, as I understood, withdrew that expression. With regard to the hon. and learned Member who was referred to, the hon. and learned Member rose in his place and told us that he did not say that he did not believe the hon. Member, but that he did not believe the inference he had drawn from the statement.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he heartily withdrew the expression he had used. He admitted he had been nettled by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and he expressed his regret that in the heat of the moment he was tempted into saying what he ought not to have said, and he withdrew it most heartily.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he had just quoted the opening speech of Sir James Mathew, and commented severely upon it. What was the first effect of that speech? The first effect of it was to compel the retirement of Mr. Murphy, who was the only member of the Commission who by any process could be construed into being a representative of the landlords. Mr. Murphy, a day or two days after the delivery of that speech, resigned his seat on that Commission, and he plainly told Sir James Mathew that he could not be responsible for the acts of a Commission opened as that one had been. What the Committee had to face was this: by any process of reasoning there was only one man on that Commission who could be said to have had the slightest sympathy with landlords, and that man was driven from the Com- 1886 mission by his sense of duty after hearing Sir James Mathew's opening speech. Now, another curious thing took place. Mr. Murrough O'Brien also retired, not because he was the least squeamish about what had been said, but because he had been appointed one of the Chief Land Commissioners by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Morley). He wanted to know why either of these two gentlemen was ever appointed. He would take Mr. Murphy first. Mr. Murphy was the Chief Receiver in the Land Judges' Court, and in that capacity he had to sanction evictions. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] There was not an eviction in the Land Judges' Court that had not to be initialled by Mr. Murphy. Mr. Murphy was supposed to inquire into every eviction since 1879, some of them having been authorised by himself, and he was to sit in judgment on his own action. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No.] Take Mr. Murrough O'Brien. He only sat on the Commission about 48 hours, but he (Mr. Russell) heard him cross-examine one witness, his cross-examination apparently being directed to prove that these tenants could not pay anything for the land, that they were ruined and bankrupt men, and that it was, therefore, needless to talk about their purchasing property under the Land Purchase Act. Would it be believed that this gentleman, who was proving out of the witness's mouth that these tenants could not pay for the land, would have been the one man, probably, under an Evicted Tenants Bill for reinstating them, who would have had to value the land for the purpose of the sale? Mr. O'Brien was at that time not a Chief Land Commissioner, but a Land Valuer under the Land Purchase Act. What made the right hon. Gentleman put two officials in any such position? He maintained they had no right to be there. But the real point was this: that Sir James Mathew's unwarrantable speech on the opening day compelled the retirement of Mr. Murphy from the Commission, and there thus retired the only man who could by any possibility be held to represent the landlords' case. What followed? They saw how this strictly impartial Commission proceeded. Of course the landlords affected, after Mr. Murphy's retirement, had to take counsel with each other as to what they 1887 were to do, and they resolved that they would also retire and take no part whatever in the proceedings, and they acted with good sound common sense in doing so. In opening the proceedings Sir James Mathew announced that it was proposed to examine witnesses who might attend to give evidence on each side, and "that those interested would be permitted to put, through members of the Commission, any questions that might appear to be relevant." Just imagine a landlord—the only representative of the landlords having retired—sending up a question to any member of that Commission, say to the President, who had examined the hon. Member for East Galway from the Parnell Commission Report; who had examined that hon. Member from his direct examination, and with his cross-examination lying open before him, had failed to test him on a single case. Imagine a landlord sending up a question to Sir James Mathew, Mr. Reddington, or Mr. Roche after that! The landlords, in his opinion, not only acted within their right, but acted properly and with a due sense of their own self-respect, when they left this small and impartial Commission to its own devices. At the outset he said that the Commission got no evidence but what the Chief Secretary was in possession of before, and those who looked at the proposals would find this was absolutely correct. And what did the proposals amount to? The proposals were simply Mr. O'Kelly's Bill writ large. Why, it was actually proposed to give these dishonest men a privilege which that House had up to the present resolutely refused to honest men in Ireland. There were a good many tenants in Ireland who had paid their rents who were watching these proceedings with some interest. If they were going to make the way of transgressors easy, if they were going to amend the Decalogue, and say, "Thou shalt not steal unless it be from a landlord," did they think the men who were paying their rents regularly in Ireland were going to continue that delightful process? Through all the trials and difficulties in Ireland these men had struggled to be honest men, had paid their rents, and if the Government were now going to reward dishonest men they would be putting a premium on dishonesty, and they would have no right 1888 to expect that these men who had paid their rents in the past would continue, in face of such treatment of the dishonest tenants, to pay them in the future. If they were going to do this by the Irish tenants, why not do it to shopkeepers and traders? Why not back up everybody who had fallen and stumbled by the way, or who had been dishonest enough to cheat his creditors? He declared this was a deliberate proposal to reward dishonest men. First of all the tenants were given compulsory reinstatement. There was nothing more insane, for it was evident that if tenants were forced back compulsorily there could not be anything like good relationship between them and the landlords, and the whole arrangement would break down. Not only was it proposed to give the tenants compulsory reinstatement, but it was also proposed to give them compulsory purchase. That was what had been denied to honest men.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he voted against a mere electioneering Resolution designed to capture votes in Ulster, and which was never intended to be heard of afterwards. A large number of tenants had asked for this compulsory purchase, but up to the present it had always been refused to these men who were willing to pay a fair price and to be honest men; but now this strictly impartial Commission came forward, and in one of its recommendations proposed to give to these men who had swindled and cheated the landlords this right of compulsory purchase which the House had refused to honest men. A more preposterous proposal never was made. It gave them another thing which small farmers had asked for and been refused. It proposed, when this purchase took place, to give an extension of time for repayment. At present a man who bought under the Land Purchase Act had to pay in 49 years. That was the term for honest men; for dishonest men the time was to be extended, and the annual payments to be reduced in amount. What was that but putting a premium on dishonesty? Did they think these cute farmers in Ireland were going to allow this? The right 1889 hon. Gentleman was utterly mistaken if he thought he could carry out any such proposal in Ireland without making it universal. But what was worse than that, the Commissioners recognised that if these men had the best terms from the State that the State could give them that they were bankrupts, and the proposal here was also humorous if it was not so serious. They proposed to authorise Boards of Guardians to raise a tax to stock farms. That was the doctrine of Collectivism with a vengeance. How would it work out, for instance, in that delightful place, County Clare? Take Lord Inchiquin's property. What it would mean on that property if Lord Inchiquin had any evicted tenants would be this: he paid the whole of the poor rate for holdings under £4; as a matter of fact he paid three-fourths of the poor rate in that division, and the recommendation of the Commission worked out in this way: that Lord Inchiquin would practically have to restock the farms for the tenants he had evicted. That was a very subtle proposition, he admired it, and it did credit to Sir James Mathew. It was one of those strictly impartial recommendations, and it would be a great pity if the country should not see the full force of it. He called this proposal at the beginning a proposal to relieve two hon. Members of the most serious responsibility that ever men undertook. Why did he say that? What did the Commission inquire into? Into the case of tenants evicted since 1879? Not a bit of it. They did nothing of the kind. That was what they were ordered to do. They did a very different thing. They knew what their duty was, and they did it. They inquired into the 17 estates for which the two hon. Gentlemen were responsible, and then they bulked the remainder of the evicted tenants—of whom they did not see one— and put them into one of the Appendices. Was he right or wrong, then, in saying this was a measure for the relief of these two hon. Gentlemen? Everyone of these estates, he thought, with one exception —Lord Cloncurry's estate, which was a Land League estate—were Plan of Campaign estates. 2,755 applications were received from other evicted tenants, which the Commission did not inquire into, and about which they did not 1890 receive evidence. That was the way they carried out their orders. They inquired into estates that had been cursed by the action of these two hon. Gentlemen; they took no notice, but put into an Appendix the cases of 2,755 tenants evicted from 1879 throughout the country. There was a point in this he was rather thankful should be brought out. When they had asserted that these evicted farms had been largely taken, hon. Members had always scouted the idea, and had wanted to know where the tenants were. They had no need to ask that now, because they had got this information in the Appendix. They had it now that outside those estates 2,755 applications were received from evicted tenants. Into these there was no inquiry. They had it, too, that 1,298 evicted farms had been taken—re-taken—-by tenants. Would hon. Members opposite (the Nationalists) deny that? They could not do so, for the Commission had embodied the fact in their Report. The remainder of the farms were not all derelict, for 960 were being farmed by the landowners, and only 452 were lying derelict. What did hon. Gentlemen think of this, and what confidence could they place in the statements of gentlemen opposite after these figures? He was sorry to say there were many who did not know the facts; but he declared that it was impossible for hon. Members from Ireland to go through the country in the future telling the public that all these farms were derelict. He (Mr. Russell) had stated his case as fairly as he could. He had never professed, and he did not profess now, to have any sympathy with men who allowed themselves to be evicted for the purpose of winning English elections, or because hon. Members wished to make government in Ireland impossible. He desired that these tenants, and those who forced them into that course, should suffer for their action. As he had pointed out, not one could challenge the case he had made. The Chief Secretary was pleased to shelter himself behind the 13th section of the Act of 1891. That section did not profess to re-instate the men as tenants. Just to show that the Commission, in the absence of evidence from the landlords, had made grievous mistakes, he would ask the attention of the Committee to the case of The O'Grady's estate. The Report said negotiations 1891 under Section 13 failed on that estate on the question of costs. Had the Commission been able to examine The O'Grady they would have found that that was not the cause of the failure at all. What were the facts? Mr. George Fottrell told him (Mr. Russell) that the tenants had offered to purchase at 18 years, and that The O'Grady declined the offer. Well, he thought The O'Grady had made a mistake, and Mr. Fottrell said to him, "You know The O'Grady estate, and you know The O'Grady; would you mind writing to him, saying what you have just said to me?" He did write; and he received an answer that startled him. The O'Grady wrote back that the real difficulty with the tenants was that he (The O'Grady) would have to go security for the men, leaving one-fifth of the purchase money as such. These men, he said, had robbed and swindled him, and he was not prepared to go security for them, as in the event of certain circumstances arising—the slightest agricultural depression and consequent stoppage of payments—the State would seize the one-fifth. He (Mr. Russell) had nothing to say in reply to that. He could not ask that the landlord should go security for men who had treated him so badly in the past. If The O'Grady had been examined, and if this had been an impartial Commission, his evidence would have been secured—the Commission would not have had to put into the Report that which was not the true statement of reasons for the breakdown of negotiations. Then let them take the case of the Olphert estate. The Report stated that 146 tenants had gone back to their homes. There were nearly 350—about that—and he was prepared to state that they had all gone back, except 70 or 80; but the Commissioners deliberately shut out this evidence, and the Report contained that which was not true. The Report had nothing but one-sided testimony. What he had to say, in conclusion, was this: that the right hon. Gentleman was not warranted in taking up the attitude he did take up in relation to the 13th section. He knew that the House would offer no opposition to any reasonable settlement between these two parties; but it must be a reasonable settlement, and not an unreasonable one. It must not be a settlement in the nature of a reward for wrongdoing. It must 1892 not be a settlement which would put these tenants in a better position than honest tenants. The House was willing to do anything that was reasonable; but he did not think that was what the Commission wanted done. The Report laid before them could serve no good purpose. It was stated that when the late Mr. Parnell first brought this question of the evicted tenants before the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary the latter threw up his hands in dismay. He did not know whether that was true or not as regarded the right hon. Gentleman, but he believed it was true that Mr. Parnell himself threw up his hands. But whether he did it or not, it was a sensible thing to have done. The right hon. Gentleman was now committed to a policy which, if he attempted to pursue it, would be fought inch by inch in that House. He need not think that he could levy blackmail on honest men in Ireland and give it over to men who were not honest. He need not think that honest tenants were going to be treated in this way by him. He (Mr. Russell) had stated in the beginning of his speech what his opinion was of the Bill they were promised. They had already a Bill for the Better Government of Ireland. Why should they not have a Bill for the better ordering of the moral universe? The Government majority of 40, born of priestcraft, might do some things; but there was one thing it could not do, and that was to give effect to the proposals contained in this Report. He begged to move that the Vote be reduced by £2,170, being the amount charged for the Evicted Tenants Commission.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item S, of £2,700, for Commissions not specially provided for, be reduced by £2,170."—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
I am sorry to stand between the Committee and hon. Members who have risen; but as my action has been so strongly and directly challenged, perhaps it is as well that I should at once say the few words I have to say upon it. The hon. Gentleman began by begging people to impute to him no motives. I have no intention of imputing motives to him. All that he said as to the part he has taken in previous discussions in this 1893 House upon this subject was perfectly true, and I am only surprised that he should have thought it worth while to remind us of his previous share in these discussions, when I contrast the tone and line he has taken to-night with the tone and line he took the last time this subject was before the House. Who could believe when we heard the hon. Gentleman declaim against rogues and swindlers, and all projects for giving dishonest men advantages over honest men, that he was the same hon. Member who used language which I shall presently quote less than two years ago? The beginning of this movement in Parliament for all effective purposes was made by the Leader of the Opposition; and I will beg the Committee to listen to these words, because they show that all the declamatory denunciation of the hon. Member with regard to these evicted tenants cannot be reconciled with the language that was used in all quarters of the House in May and June of 1891. The hon. Member was quite right in saying I started from Section 13—that in appointing this Commission, in drawing the Instructions to the Commission, and in the hopes that I anticipated from the work of the Commission I had in my mind what took place upon Section 13. The right hon. Gentleman opposite used this kind of language. He said in a passage which all of us who were in the House at that time will always remember —he first of all, in tones of passionate vehemence, declared that if he were an Irish landlord he would rather beg his bread than give in to the Plan of Campaign. The right hon. Gentleman, standing at this box, had no sooner said that than he added these words: He said that when the illegal conspiracy came to an end he should remember that these men were compelled by intimidation in many cases to follow courses which they regretted. That may be; but the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—And for my own part, if I were an Irish landlord, even if it were not wholly to my own personal and pecuniary interest, I should desire to restore peace to that part of the country in which my property was situated, and to see that on fair, equitable, and even generous terms the tenants were restored to their ancient homes.But these tenants, whom the right hon. Gentleman would desire to see restored to their ancient homes, are, according to 1894 the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, a gang of fraudulent debtors, a gang of swindlers, led on by men worse than themselves. But in spite of that the right hon. Gentleman opposite would have restored them to their homes on fair, equitable, and even generous terms. That is the very policy on which the issue of this Commission was founded. But the right hon. Gentleman was not the only hon. Member on this side of the House who used language of that kind. The hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Arthur H. Smith-Barry) on January 2, 1891, said—I have no wish to see the doors shut on many of these men who are now living outside their farms, no doubt very largely through their own fault, but still more largely through the fault of those who have lured them on to destruction. If a clause could be drawn that would enable the Commissioners to restore the evicted tenants in certain events, providing the security were good, I should certainly be very sorry to set my face against the restoration of such men.Yes, on certain conditions. I quite agree, and I say that the object of the Irish Government in issuing this Commission was to ascertain the conditions upon which these men might be advantageously restored, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, "to their ancient homes." But the hon. Member who moved the reduction of this Vote forgets when he talks of these swindlers, of these fraudulent debtors, of these conspirators, that Section 13 of the Land Purchase Act did propose special and favourable treatment for these very men. The proposed clause specially aimed at the restoration of these very men.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
There is no point in that. My point is this: that the hon. Gentleman and the Government he supported did give special and favourable treatment to the men he is now denouncing. The hon. Gentleman has noticed that the Commission have confined their inquiries to the Plan of Campaign estates; but those are the very estates to which he himself confined his pleadings. On the discussion of Clause 13 the hon. Gentleman said—So far as the Plan of Campaign estates are concerned, this clause deals with evicted farms. I say it goes a considerable distance, and I believe it would settle three-fourths of the disputes on the Plan of Campaign estates. 1895 I have always taken a strong line against the Plan of Campaign, but I am anxious and willing upon fair and reasonable terms to bring the fight to a close.If these men were the kind of men the hon. Gentleman has been denouncing tonight as unfit for any special treatment, how was it that he was so anxious for their restoration then? The hon. Gentleman quoted some clauses in Mr. O'Kelly's Bill dealing with planters. Did the hon. Gentleman object in principle to measures being taken for dealing with the planters? He did not object in principle at all.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Not on those sections. The only excuse the hon. Member gave for not dealing with the planters at the same time was that time and the possibilities of another place would not allow it. I say all this to show how utterly different was the frame of mind of the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Gentleman then to the view they now take of this matter. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that the healing of this long-existing sore was an absolute necessity upon the Plan of Campaign estates, and we are endeavouring to heal that very sore. What is the use, then, of taxing us with bringing in proposals, not in view of large considerations of public policy, but simply for relieving certain Members from responsibility for their actions? A great deal of what the hon. Member said to-night was condemnation of this Commission for restoring to the evicted tenants a right they have forfeited and lost. The very thing that Parliament did in June, 1891, was to restore to the evicted tenants a right which they had forfeited and lost. You undertook Section 13 with that very object. It is quite true, as the hon. Member says, that Section 13 rested entirely on voluntary agreement between the landlord and the tenant. It is quite true that the tenant could not be restored to his privileges against the will of a hostile landlord, and it is true that the Commission recommends restoration against the will of a hostile landlord; but that does not affect my proposition, that you were ready to make special provision for these men, and, what is more, you were not going to force 1896 them upon the landlords. Upon whom did Section 13 impose these so-called knaves? Upon the State. It enabled tenants to go to the Land Commission and secure an advance. According to the hon. Member, these men are absolutely unworthy of credit by the landlord. Upon what ground, then, could it be contended that it was desirable that they should become debtors to the State? I do not know whether the Committee sees the point. Although you say these men were swindlers and fraudulent debtors, you thought them quite good enough to receive large advances of money from the National Exchequer. The hon. Member quoted a passage from my letter to the hon. Member for Long ford, and he said it was one of the most shameless State Papers ever issued by a Minister. What is the statement as to which he uses such language as that? The statement was that the Plan of Campaign estates were full of evicted holdings that, with all dependent expenses, cost the Exchequer something like £45,000 a year, and the hon. Member says that I argued that that expenditure ought not to take place, and that the Executive Government ought not to protect the tenants of those holdings. A more ridiculous interpretation could not have been given. It is perfectly clear that the drift and pith of the reference to that expenditure was twofold: in the first instance, it was to give the public some way of measuring the operations in which these evicted farms involved the Government; and, secondly, to suggest to the minds of politicians whether £45,000 a year could not be more profit ably spent than in keeping up what was admitted to be a mischievous state of things most urgently demanding a remedy. I would spend £450,000 a year to see the law carried out if it were necessary; but in spending money on a given political object I should like the public to know what that given object was costing them, and I should like them to consider whether the money could not be better spent. The hon. Gentleman did not use that language, but I have seen this Commission called a "revolutionary tribunal appointed to register a foregone conclusion." How was it—in what sense was it a tribunal? It had no pretence of jurisdiction; it had no sanction, nor any single part of the apparatus of judi- 1897 cial power. It could not compel anybody to come before it; it could not punish anybody; it could impair nobody's legal right by a jot or tittle; they could neither decide nor enforce a single legal legal position. You might just as well say that the appointment of the Labour Commission, over which the Duke of Devonshire presides, was the appointment of a tribunal. Then one noble Lord, an Irish landlord, a nobleman who ought really to have known better, said that the appointment of this Commission was the most arbitrary and illegal thing that has been done for centuries, and that the Commission was arbitrarily directed to arrive at conclusions which the Irish Government dictated. There could be nothing more absolutely unreasonable and untrue. At question time an hon. Member opposite, in some of the questions he pressed on me, insinuated that I had in some way got possession of a draft copy of the Report and had pressed for alterations in it. That, I consider, hitting below the belt.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
As this insinuation is made, I think I have right to say that my questions were simply directed to the extraordinary lapse of time that took place before the Report was announced. It was announced to appear on the very day of the meeting of Parliament. That was officially stated. It was stated distinctly in several periodicals representing the views of the Party opposite that it would appear then. My questions were directed to know why the long period of six weeks had elapsed between that time and the publication of the Report.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The hon. Member is entirely misinformed. The whole of this long period of six weeks exists wholly in his own imagination. The Report was not presented to the Lord Lieutenant until four or five days before it was sent to the printer, and came to this House. I ask the hon. Member, Did he or did he not insinuate [Cheers] —did he not ask me whether the Report was not sent to the Chief Secretary before it was submitted to the Lord Lieutenant? Does the hon. Member withdraw or repudiate any such insinuation? [Cries of "Withdraw!" and "Answer!"] It makes very little difference to me whether he does or not, but I think gentlemen around the hon. Member must be 1898 rather ashamed of a colleague -who, having made an insinuation which he dare not put into a formal charge, has not the grace or the courtesy to withdraw it.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I must say I think it a very strong order to make an insinuation against me as counter to something that the right hon. Gentleman chooses to think I meant when I questioned him. [Cries of "Order!" and interruption.]
§ MR. BARTLEY
I have stated distinctly that I wished to elicit information concerning this great lapse of time. The right hon. Gentleman says I am quite mistaken in having said that this Report was to be placed on the Table the first day of the Session. If I am wrong in that statement I regret having made it. [Cries of "Apologise!"] But I did wish to inquire why there was that great lapse of time, and if I suggested anything which the right hon. Gentleman considers a stroke below the belt I regret it extremely, and would wish to withdraw it entirely.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I accept the hon. Member's withdrawal. But this shows the extraordinary state of mind hon. Members opposite, and hon. Gentlemen sitting there [pointing to the Liberal Unionists] get into about this Commission. They suspect me of acting arbitrarily and illegally. They suggest that I am as bad as Charles II.; and Mr. Justice Mathew is, I suppose, in their eyes, a Judge Jeffreys or Judge Scroggs. This shows the intolerably morbid frame of mind of hon. Members. This Commission is said to have been arbitrary, because it was appointed to carry out a predetermined line of action. So far from the conclusions of the Commission being foregone conclusions dictated by me, I quite feel that there is, perhaps, more than one recommendation of the Commission which would demand a great deal of consideration before, in my judgment, it could be safely recommended to Parliament. But I admit there was one foregone conclusion, and I will tell you what it was. It was that there was a social mischief existing in Ireland to which it was most desirable that an effectual remedy should be applied in the interests not of one class—not only of the tenant 1899 or of the landlord, but of every body, and that remedy was to be applied, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite said, and as the hon. Member who preceded me himself has said, in the restoration of these tenants to their old homes whether as tenants or as purchasers. Therefore, the only foregone conclusion as to this Commission was a foregone conclusion which was yours quite as much as mine. The hon. Member charges me with packing the Commission. Let us examine that statement. It is disagreeable to go into personal questions, but this is an occasion which demands it. I have no intention of shirking the matter. I am charged with packing the Commission. Now, who were the Commissioners as originally appointed? Two of them were officials of the highest competence experience, and tried responsibility in questions connected with the land, Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Murphy. The hon. Member says that exactly because they were officials they ought not to have been appointed on the Commission.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I did not say that. What I did say was, that one of these gentlemen being actually responsible for evictions, ought not to have sat in judgment on himself.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
There was no sitting in judgment on themselves in the matter. My object in selecting these two gentlemen was to secure two men, with trained official minds, who had a complete and minute knowledge of all the details and all the aspects of the land question in Ireland, and you could not, I venture to think, have got two men more competent. Something has been said about Mr. O'Brien. The hon. Member says he knows him—well, a more scrupulously conscientious and upright man than Mr. O'Brien does not exist. As to Mr. Reddington, he was born and bred in the atmosphere of officialism and landlordism. An hon. Gentleman said the other night that Mr. Reddington did not become a Home Ruler until he had sold every acre of land that he possessed. As a matter of fact, I understand that Mr. Reddington moved a Home Rule resolution at a meeting of the Galway Grand Jury four years before he parted with a single acre of land, and—I do not know whether I am glad or sorry to say it—but Mr. Reddington still holds some thousands of acres of land in Ireland. [An hon. MEM- 1900 BER: Where?] I do not know. But acres or no acres, Mr. Reddington is a thoroughly upright and honourable man. Then as to Mr. Roche, he was added to the Commission because it was felt he had great knowledge of the Irish land system and its complex law, which probably the Judge would not feel himself competent to give an opinion. As to the Judge, I am not going to say one word in vindication of his probity, and of the sincerity of the desire with which he undertook what proved to be a very thankless task—the sincerity of his desire to do a service to his own particular country and to Parliament. He did not go as a partisan. I was rather surprised that the hon. Member below the Gangway did not see that he answered his own point as to this Commission being a packed Commission when he told us that when the Commission opened it did so with a fair prospect of arriving at the truth.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I expressly said it opened with that fair prospect, because those concerned were willing to overlook a packed Commission and to look to the President. I expected better things of him.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
In that case, why charge me with packing the Commission? If I had devised a Commission which struck even political opponents as a Commission before which there might be a fair prospect of arriving at the truth, where is the sense and justice of saying that I deliberately packed it? Mr. Justice Mathew carried on that inquiry in my judgment—and I think the Report sufficiently shows that that was the state of his mind—in a thorough spirit of impartiality. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, you have got the Report before you.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I do not wish to blame Mr. Murphy or to comment upon his motives for retiring; but his motives are not to be our standard, our final standard, determining the conduct of the President of the Commission. I say the fact that the landlords accepted the Commission and determined to appear before it—some of them instructed hon. and learned Members of this House to appear for them—shows that there was not, and could not be, any substance in 1901 these charges about packing. What is our position? If it had been packed do you think the landlords would have recognised the Commission? What is your proposition? There were four Nationalists on the Commission, none of them active politicians. Is your proposition, then, this: that it is impossible for men to divest themselves of political bias and Party prejudice, no matter how serious the responsibility or how grave the duties, which a public position may cast upon them? Is that your position. Let me warn you that if it is it is a very dangerous one. I will give an illustration of what I mean. The Chief Secretary had the misfortune the other day to come under certain criticism in the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland. The Court on that occasion was composed, with one exception only, of learned gentlemen who are strong opponents of Her Majesty's Government. Would you not think it very ill of me if I were to say that the Judgment of these learned dignitaries was worthless because they were political opponents of mine? I never said anything of the kind, and I never will say so. I believe that men of the strongest political passion and prejudice, when they are placed in certain positions of great responsibility, allow or may allow, their political prejudices and passions to sink into the background. When the landlords by their action, which I have always regarded as lamentable and unfortunate, had maimed and mutilated the usefulness of this Commission, the perseverance and the courage with which Mr. Justice Mathew and his two colleagues stuck to their task and carried it through, amidst a storm of virulence some of it truly shameful and contemptible—the courage, perseverance, and sense of public duty which they displayed, I say, will always he recognised by the Government at all events. I believe that when this Debate comes to a close, it will be felt that no man could have been worse used than Mr. Justice Mathew in the attacks that have been made upon him. The hon. Member for South Tyrone talked about Mr. Justice Mathew's remarks about Lord Clanricarde. I have read his opening remarks, and I find nothing very culpable in them. But what has the hon. Member himself said about him? I do not want to bring 1902 Lord Clanricarde himself into this discussion. I am going to quote the hon. Member. I am not going to do it for the purpose of really convicting him or trying to convict him of making too much of the Judge's remarks when he himself have gone a great deal further. But I want the Committee to listen to a few remarks of the hon. Member who to-night has been declaiming strongly against collectivism, against State interference, and those compulsory powers being given, and so forth. What did the hon. Member say? He has gone pretty far, I think. This is what he wrote in 1889—What Lord Clanicarde will do and what ought to be done with Lord Clanricarde are questions of urgent and grave public importance at the present moment… Anxious to bottom the Clanricarde story for myself, I have spent the best part of a week on the estate… Against Lord Clanricarde I hope to 'set naught down in malice.'.. But as I have formed clear and definite opinions as to what ought to be done with his Lordship, I shall speak plainly… I now come to Lord Clanricarde himself… He has never been near the place since 1872. I say this man has abdicated his position. He has rights, and is not slow to demand the support of the Crown in enforcing them. It is time to tell his Lordship that he has also duties, and that by the systematic neglect of these in every particular he has become a public danger to the State.And on the ground that Lord Clanricarde has so completely abdicated his functions as to imperil the interests of the State itself, I, for one, should heartily support a special Bill to relieve the County of Galway of his influence. I may be told this is an extreme proposal. Of course it is. But I see no wrong to Lord Clanricarde in it. Let the Land Commissioner value his land. Let him be paid for it. Let him have his ducats. Thank God, there is,but one Clanricarde! If it were otherwise, the country would be in worse plight than it is.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
All I desire to say about that is this: I do not wish to make a speech. It is one thing for me to say that, and another thing for a Judge trying this case to say it.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I am not finding fault with the hon. Member for what he said; but I do wonder that, after that, he should come to the House to-night and make it an article of a tremendous charge against the Commission that Mr. Justice Mathew introduced the principle of compulsion when he is himself prepared for whatever you like to take drastic measures worthy of a revolutionary tribunal—to have a special Bill to expropriate Lord Clanricarde from his 1903 property. Well, Parliament one of these days may think that if a man is a centre of social disturbance there ought to be some mode of dealing with him. I am not going into that now; I am not going into all the recommendations of the Commissioners. The upshot of those recommendations appears to me to be— first, the selection of an arbitrating tribunal; and, secondly, a grant of money for facilitating the operation of the public policy which the Commissioners desire. The hon. Member for South Tyrone really seems to think that most of the hon. Members of this House do not know anything about the principles on which the Irish land system rests. I am not now arguing for compulsory restoration or compulsory arbitration. I do ask the Committee to remember that the Commissioners were dealing with Ireland, and not with England, and that the whole land system in Ireland rests upon a principle of compulsory arbitration. I do not think right hon. Gentlemen opposite will disagree with me, although they may dislike that system. The hon. Member spoke of shopkeepers demanding the same treatment as that now proposed to be given to the evicted tenants. Does he not see there is no parallel? The landlords being what they are, and the land system being what it is, it is far too late in the day to compare a debt due to a landlord, or the relations between landlords and tenants, with the ordinary relations between a shopkeeper and his customers? If the hon. Member thinks it monstrous that there should be arbitration, I answer that the Land Commission deals every year with hundreds of cases of dispute between landlord and tenant on that principle, and, that being so, why should it à priori be monstrous and intolerable for the Land Commission to step in and settle these disputes about eviction? Whether you think it practicable or not, you can at least admit that this proposal by the Evicted Tenants Commission—this addition by the Commission to the vast range of discretionary power already possessed by the Land Commission—is as a mere drop in the ocean. It is idle to abuse the Commissioners as anarchial, immoral, and propounders of dishonest policy, when they are simply once more applying that principle, method, and practice which 1904 is the foundation of the Irish land system. The hon. Member said that the Commissioners, in their recommendations, proposed to give powers of compulsory purchase. That is not so. The hon. Member should have read the recommendations. There is no power of compulsory sale in the recommendations, and in that respect the hon. Member has misrepresented the finding of the Commission. He talks about collectivism. Has he forgotten the Arrears Act? There is some £800,000 of public money or more used to heal a social wound, and, therefore, so far as principle goes (and I am not saying whether it could be rightly applied in this case), the hon. Member must have forgotten the history of the land question. The Arrears Act was, in fact, the payment of a bankrupt account. As for compulsory powers, I doubt if, in 99 cases out of 100, compulsion is necessary. It is to nobody's interest that this land without tenants and these tenants without land should remain as they are, a dark and dangerous blot on Irish society. It is not to the tenants' interests that these lands should remain as they are; it is not to the landlords' interests, and certainly not to the interests of the State. No landlord can desire to have these tenantless and unprofitable lands left on his hands, and our hope was that this Commission would be the first step towards bringing the landlords and tenants together. My own impression is—and I give it for what it is worth—that the reason why Section 13 has proved inoperative is, that the landlords and tenants could not bring themselves to be the first to propose terms. The landlord felt that if he moved, the tenant would suppose that he would get the advantage, and the tenant thought the same thing in his own case. Our object was to take the first step towards erecting a tribunal of this kind. I admit with regret that, owing to what I must consider to be the unwise action of the landlords—I go further, and say the rather unpatriotic action of the landlords—that hope of ours has been, so far, baffled. But the institution of a tribunal —an arbitrating tribunal such as this Commission recommends — is, in my opinion, the beginning of any chance of settling the difficulty. The question, though full of difficulties, is not in itself a question of great amount. The rental 1905 on the 17 estates into which the Commissioners inquired is plus the cost about £28,000. I know that there are outlying claims in regard to restoration of about £2,000 more, but the Commissioners had not time to go into all those claims. My own impression is that no small number of them would melt away upon an inquiry made by the Land Commission or some Special Commission. As for those who are called "planters," many of them do not want to stay, and the landlords do not particularly want them to stay; and if any one of them considers his interest a substantial one, the recommendations of the Commissioners do not do him an injustice. There are a great many other observations I should like to make on the general merits of the question apart from the Land Commission, but this is not the proper time to make them. All that I have to say now is that the Government will proceed to consider, without delay and in the light of the Report that has been made to us, and the evidence collected for us, what practical course it is now best to pursue and what proposals should be made, and it is my hope—although hon. Gentlemen opposite and Irish landlords regard me as an enemy—that even now, during this interval, the landlords may return to that frame of mind which I have shown they exhibited through their spokesmen in this House in June, 1891. The last matter to which I will call the attention of the Committee is what the Commissioners say in paragraphs 16 and 17 of their Report—The evicted tenants in many cases have been living in huts in the vicinity of the estates, provided by some of the Associations formed for their defence, or have gone to reside in the neighbouring towns or villages. They have been and are now maintained by weekly grants from funds raised by public subscriptions.The present condition of the evicted farms on many of the estates is deplorable. The land has gone to waste. Fields once cultivated and fairly productive are now covered with furze and weeds. Tracts reclaimed by the industry of the tenants from bog or mountain are returning to their original condition. The former tenants, with little or no occupation, hang about their old farms, and have never relinquished the hope of reinstatement. It is not surprising that, in view of this condition of things, the authorities have considered the presence of an additional police force on many of the estates advisable.I think the Committee will feel that such a state of things as that, which is not new, but which has existed for six, eight, and in some cases even ten, years, is one 1906 which no Minister, to whatever Party he may belong, can look on either from an administrative or social or political point of view without the deepest regret and the strongest resolution that he will do all in his power to persuade Parliament to put an end to such a state of things.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It was impossible for those of us who have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to do so without a great feeling of sympathy for him in the difficulties in which he is placed. He has to endeavour to perform two tasks, both of them, I venture to say, impossible—to defend the Commission—and I am sure that, whatever were its constitution and intentions, it has certainly proceeded on lines which no Commission in this country has ever proceeded on before; and, in the second place, he has had to discuss proposals of that Commission which he knows can never be carried out, in a tone which shall not give too great umbrage to hon. Gentlemen who in August last said that the condition of these tenants was one of imminent peril, and who pressed for an early solution of their difficulties, and who are now told, after an inquiry that has been going on for nine months, that the Government will do their best to consider the Report of the Commission with the view, if possible, of arriving at a conclusion on the subject. I should not have intervened, at any rate so early in this Debate, had not the right hon. Gentleman apparently founded his whole policy upon certain speeches which I made in this House, and on certain legislative proposals to which I gave my assent. But the right hon. Gentleman has surely not considered the spirit either of my speeches or of my legislative provisions. What did I say? I said that were I an Irish landlord I would never give in to the Plan of Campaign; but that if the Plan of Campaign came to an end, I, as an Irish landlord anxious for the peace of the country, would do my best to obliterate the traces of ancient bitterness and come as far as possible to an agreement with those by whom I believed I had been doubly wronged. These are the sentiments I expressed two years ago, and they are the sentiments I hold at this hour. But does the right hon. Gentleman see no difference between recommending to a man an 1907 arrangement which may be for the peace of his neighbourhood and forcing down the throat of that man an arrangement which may be grossly unjust? I am not prepared to recommend generosity— I am not prepared to compel it at the expense of somebody else; and the right hon. Gentleman, if he gives a little quiet consideration to it, will see that to found upon advice of that kind, given by me to all concerned with Irish land, a justification for any proposal such as that adumbrated by this Commission, or even for the appointment of the Commission itself, is wholly absurd. I must say one word about this Section 13, upon which so much has been based by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman appears to find in Section 13 a precedent for any action, however monstrous, by which a tenant, however iniquitous, might force upon a landlord, however unwilling. There is no argument of that kind to be found in it. If Section 13 was an advantage to one of the two classes concerned, it was of advantage to the landlord rather than of the tenant, because it said to the landlord, "If you choose to take back your tenant, you may do so in terms which will enable you to dispose of your land, and which will prevent the tenant immediately afterwards repudiating the agreement." Therefore, undoubtedly, landlords and tenants might have come together under Section 13. The section is no precedent, and cannot be twisted into a precedent, for forcing upon landlords tenants whom they will be unwilling to receive. The section left the power of selection to the landlords. If the landlord was of opinion that the tenant was unfit, he need not have taken him back; but, under the present proposals, every tenant, be his qualification what it may, is to have an equal and equivalent right to take a farm from the landlord, and, as far as I can make out, to take the money from the taxpayer. I leave that point to come to an aspect of this question on which I have more than once expressed my own opinion, and which has, perhaps, produced more debate than any other— namely, the composition and conduct of the Commission itself. I do not wish to dwell on that aspect of the question. I have said some things, perhaps very severe things, on the conduct of Sir 1908 James Mathew and the other members of the Commission. I withdraw none of them. I believe them to have been absolutely well-founded, and to have been within the mark; but, because I do not withdraw them, I do not wish to repeat them. This I will say: that the right hon. Gentleman does not appear to have the most distant glimmer of comprehension as to what we even mean when we assert that the Commission was composed unfairly and has acted unfairly. He appears to think it an adequate reply to say that the Member for South Tyrone has himself used language about Lord Clanricarde, even stronger than that of Sir James Mathew. There is no doubt that he has used language which may or may not have been justifiable.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
My point was that the hon. Member for South Tyrone, himself, had made a proposal for compulsory expropriation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That proposal of my hon. Friend may be good or bad, and might or might not disqualify my hon. Friend for being the head of a Commission. But is it a justification for the head of a Commission, without hearing a single word of evidence—good, bad, or indifferent—taking the whole world into his confidence and announcing that he had already made up his mind upon the demerits of Lord Clanricarde. The right hon. Gentleman has said this was not a Judicial Commission, and need not be safeguarded or even composed as a Judicial Commission would have to be. Well, Sir, it was not a Judicial Commission in any sense of the word, but it was a Commission which took upon itself to pronounce upon the merits of individual cases—to say that one party was right and another party wrong. When a Commission appointed by an Executive Government has or assumes duties of this kind, it ought to be composed with a scrupulous regard to impartiality and fairness. Put it as you like, the antecedents of every one of the three men who have signed this Report were enough to show that they were only fit to be put on that class of Commission on which both sides are represented by avowed partizans and have full power of criticism and cross-examination. The value of their decisions is discounted by the statements they had all of them made 1909 with respect to the land question—and no ingenuity on the part of the right hon. Gentleman would ever make out that the three gentlemen who have signed the Report have the slightest title to be considered as anything more than partizans of one side. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that they were not to be considered as Judges. Have they the slightest claim to be regarded as investigators? Have they found out and laid before Parliament the facts of the case? Why, Sir, they have not even discovered that the Plan of Campaign was a political device. So ignorant are they of the very elements of the question that all they discover is that it unfortunately leads to "unhappy agrarian controversy." So much for their powers of investigation. How about the action of the tenants whose cases they examine? The Irish tenant before he is evicted, and, therefore, before we have to consider whether he is or is not to be reinstated, is hedged round with every species of safeguard and endowed with every species of privilege. He may require that a fair rent should be fixed, that eviction should be stayed, that his interest in the holding should be realised. The right hon. Gentleman has the evidence before him. Can he point to a single case in which any of these tenants were asked why they permitted themselves to be evicted without having used the numerous privileges with which the law has endowed them? If this question was never asked and answered, how on earth can this House form any estimate as to the real hardship, if hardship there be, that is inflicted on these tenants? One more point as to the value of these Commissioners' investigations. You have only to compare the statements they authoritatively make in their Report with the facts as revealed by the landlords' statements to see that not a single one of their assertions with regard to the campaign estates can be taken without the utmost caution and careful collation of evidence. If any future historian should he ill-advised enough to endeavour to obtain the facts about the Plan of Campaign estates from the Report of the Commission, he will find that not only are all the material facts omitted, but that the facts given are misstated. So much for these gentlemen as Judges and investigators. What are we to say of them as states- 1910 men and advisers of the Government? They propose that there should be forcible reinstatement of the evicted tenants. There cannot be forcible reinstatement without forcible eviction; and therefore the practical outcome of their investigations is that this House, which has done so much to safeguard the interests of the tenant, should make itself the instrument of a gigantic scheme of forcible eviction. Having got rid of a great many tenants, what are they to do for the tenants who are to be reinstated? So far as I can make out, they are going to give them terms which even in the history of Irish land legislation, which has been rich in wonderful terms for tenants, have never been approached. And at whose expense? The farms are to be re-stocked at the expense of the Guardians. How do the Guardians get their money? My hon. Friend opposite put the case in a concrete form, and I was amazed that no reply was made to his observations. He took the case of a landlord in the West of Ireland, owning perhaps a large part of a Union, and the bulk of whose tenants pay £4 a year. In the case of the few tenants who pay over £4 he will pay half the rates, whilst in the case of those who pay under £4 he will pay every sixpence of the rates, so that the process proposed means that the farms are to be re-stocked at the expense of the landlord, who has been robbed by a political combination for the last five years. The Guardians are not the only people who are to suffer in order that these fraudulent and bankrupt ex-tenants may be reinstated. These men are to be compelled, if the landlord desires it, to become the purchasers of their farms. The House will recollect that under the Land Purchase Act a fixed sum was allocated to each county for land purchase—a sum by no means adequate to purchase more than a comparatively small fraction of the land in the county. It appears that these men are to diminish that already too meagre sum at the expense of the solvent, paying tenants, who would be glad to purchase, but cannot if the sum be exhausted. Therefore, it is the solvent tenant, in the second place, who is to be asked pay for carrying out this scheme. In the third place, so far as I can make out, the payment is not to be confined to the Guardians, but is to 1911 be extended to the whole of the taxpayers of the United Kingdom. We are asked to make a grant out of the public money to help a class who, whatever claims they may have on our pity, will not be alleged by the right hon. Gentleman himself to be amongst the most deserving of the Irish tenants. Sir, proposals of this kind may be made in Blue Books; they are not made by responsible Governments in the House of Commons. To those Members from Ireland who, with touching simplicity, accepted, in August last, the promises of the Government that this question should be dealt with, and dealt with soon, I would point out that the difficulties of the proposed solution, or any solution, must surely appear, even to them, to be so great that it will be in vain for them henceforth to tell their friends in Ireland that a great measure of reinstatement is going to be carried out by the Government. The hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. W. O'Brien), speaking on the 13th May last, said there was a certainty of the adoption by the new Government of the glorious principles of amnesty and reinstatement. The hon. Member knows now how much amnesty he is going to get. The Home Secretary has left no doubt in his mind on that point. The amount of reinstatement he is going to get will just about equal the amnesty he will obtain. Hon. Members opposite, when in Opposition in 1886, reproached us with having delayed the solution of the great agrarian difficulty in Ireland by the appointment of a Commission, and the present Prime Minister and others have never ceased, in defiance of the facts of history, to go about the country saying that our non-acceptance of Mr. Parnell's Bill and our deferring of this question until the Commission had reported were not the cause, but the justification of the Plan of Campaign. It appears that more than one Government can defer inconvenient questions by appointing a Commission, and I am amazed that none of the reproaches that were so lavishly directed against us have been used against right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is incredible that any Government should come down to this House at the very moment when it is proposing a Home Rule Bill under which Ireland is to manage her own affairs, and ask us to deal with this question. 1912 There was a time when the Government held the view that it was a matter of duty and of honour that the Irish Question should be settled before the Home Rule Question was settled. They have altered their view, although I am not sure that they have given any arguments for the change. Under the circumstances, however, it is useless to ask us to contribute money or the House of Commons to devote time to the settlement of the question. If the Government believe in their Home Rule Bill let them settle these questions by means of that Bill. Do not ask us, in the first place, the Guardians in the next place, and the purchasing tenants in the the third place to give privileges unheard of in the history of Irish land legislation to men sometimes to be pitied, sometimes to be blamed, but who, whether they be dupes or whether they stand in some more guilty position, have undoubtedly made themselves responsible for an amount of fraud and an amount of suffering such as have seldom been inflicted in the history of the Irish agrarian question on any class or any Party.
§ MR. DIAMOND (Monaghan, N.)
said, the Chief Secretary for Ireland had said that the Irish land system was founded on compulsory arbitration. He differed to some extent from that description, because he thought the Irish land system was a system of landlord spoliation tempered by Land Courts. The right hon. Gentleman had also described the effects of the Arrears Act as something resembling a composition in bankruptcy; and it must be admitted that the land system of Ireland, and indeed of England and Scotland, was a system which had made a large number of people bankrupt. The hon. Member for South Tyrone had spoken of compulsory purchase as an electioneering dodge, but it was the truth to say that the hon. Member himself had advocated in South Tyrone compulsory purchase very much as an electioneering dodge. The men who had been evicted in Ireland had been envicted in many cases for rents which did not amount to one-fifteenth, and in some cases to one-tenth, of what was represented by their own interest in the farms from which they were driven. When robbery under the Plan of Campaign was talked of he would ask had not the Irish landlords been engaged 1913 for several generations in robbing their tenants? and if there was anything in the shape of restitution to be made that restitution should come from the Irish landlords to the Irish farmers. The hon. Member for South Tyrone had said, "Thou shalt not steal." "When had the Irish landlords acted on that principle. The hon. Member had also said that Sir James Mathew had prevented any landlords from appearing before the Commission. Well, the Scottish Provident Institution had appeared before the Commission, and they did not appear to be dissatisfied with the result. It was with the estate of the Scottish Provident Institution that he wished particularly to deal. Two or three generations ago the estate came into the hands of the Ancketell family, and the rental was £50 a year. The rental at the present time was £2,200 a year; and before the rents were reduced by the Courts it stood at £2,800 a year. That enormous increase in the landlord's takings represented the improvements of the tenants. Talk of breaking the Commandments—why, the Irish landlords had broken every one of them! The chief interest in the land did not belong to the landlord, who merely took the land at its prairie value, and the tenants made it what is was worth, so that when men were evicted they were evicted not from the landlord's land or the landlord's house, but from their own land and from the houses which either themselves or their forefathers had built. The estate got into Court, and through the default of a mortgager it fell into the hands of the Scottish Provident Institution. A number of the tenants got reductions from the Land Courts of from 25 to 30 per cent., and it was absolutely false for the Institution to say that voluntary reductions were made. There was one notorious case on the estate—the case of a tenant named Paterson—which illustrated the infamy of Irish landlordism. He did not undertake to decide whether the chief infamy for that case lay on the shoulders of the landlord who borrowed from the Scottish Provident or upon the Institution itself. They were so closely connected that they formed between them a combination whose acts showed what it was possible to do in the name of law, under the landlord system in Ireland, and it lay between them to allot their respective shares of the odium 1914 between them. The case of this tenant (Mr. Paterson) was tried several times in the Law Courts, Dublin, and, as Sir James Mathew referred to the estate in rather favourable terms, he would like to quote some of the remarks of the Judge who tried the case. Judge Flanagan said to the agent of the Scottish Provident, "What do you want?" Mr. Scott said, "My Lord, the rent is too low." Then the Judge continued—That is not it. I will tell you what you want; you want to take £2,000 out of that man's money, and put it into your own pockets; but you shan't, if it is in my power to prevent it.The Judge, however, could not prevent it. The Society called upon him to deliver Judgment. What did he say, as stated in their own pamphlet?—Mr. Ancketell got possession of the land from a gentleman named Woods. It was a very miserable holding — a holding, comparatively speaking, very valueless. I now come to the other question, and it is a very serious question — that is, the expenditure by MR. Paterson on the estate. I have not the slightest doubt that when Mr. Paterson went into possession of the lands they were comparatively waste. I have not the slightest doubt in my own mind that Mr. Paterson expended large sums of money, amounting to thousands of pounds, in permanent and valuable improvements on the holding; but how far the Scottish Provident are bound to those improvements, and how far Mr. Paterson is entitled to relief in respect to the improvements made by him, are totally different questions.The Judge further says—I really do not know that I ought to go further in the case. I have very little to add, beyond this, that I am coerced to give my Judgment.After this the Scottish Provident proposed to Mr. Paterson that his rent should be raised from £25 to £100; that he should agree to pay 20 years' purchase for the farm, and get the money advanced by the State. That was one of the methods by which Irish landlords endeavoured to get good prices for farms which were not their own, but which really belonged to the tenants. Yet Sir James Mathew had declared that the Institution in Paterson's case was blameless. Probably he had not read what Judge Flanagan had said. He (Mr. Diamond) also wished to investigate the statements made before the Evicted Tenants' Commission, on behalf of the Scottish Provident, on which Sir James Mathew evidently founded his state- 1915 ment. The President of the Commission asked Mr. Parke, the agent of the Institution—Can you suggest how the tenants on that portion could pay the arrears?Mr. Parke replied—I cannot; but since the Scottish Provident became the owners, they have never asked any tenant to pay more than one year's rent each year. Any tenant who paid a year's rent was never disturbed for another year, notwithstanding that he owed six years' arrears.Yet this Mr. Parke, writing to Mr. Fiddes, of Aughnacloy, on the 7th March, 1891, in reference to the case of Mary McKenna, a tenant, said—If she likes to sell at once, I will accept two-thirds of the arrears due and costs. If not, I will make an example of her for the encouragement of the other tenants.In another letter he made the statement—If she chooses to sell, I will make a liberal reduction in the arrears, but I will leave the farm derelict and knock down the house rather than continue her as a tenant under any terms.This was the gentleman who declared in his evidence before the Evicted Tenants Commission that none of the tenants had been asked for more than one year's rent in a single year. In this very case he refused two years' rent, and threatened to pull down the house for the encouragement of the other tenants. When Sir James Mathew declared that—The Institution has been entirely exonerated, and there is not the slightest foundation for making any charge against the Institution of having acted unjustly or unfairly,he was labouring under the disadvantage of not having had the facts fully before him. As the son of an evicted tenant he was glad to stand up in the House for the first time and say something against the system of Irish landlordism, which had been the bane of his country for generations. It had been said that crime had dogged the footsteps of the Land League. But it was landlordism that had produced the Land League and the Plan of Campaign. Crime had dogged the footsteps of Irish landlords for generations. It had provoked evil and suffering in Ireland; and if one of the results of the Evicted Tenants Commission was to drive another nail in the coffin of Irish landlordism, he thanked the Government from his heart for having established that Commission.
§ MR. NEVILLE (Liverpool, Exchange)
said, he rose merely to direct the attention of the House to the language which had been used by the hon. Member for South Tyrone in regard to the composition of the Evicted Tenants Commission. He could only speak for one member of that Commission; but he thought he was right in saying that no Member of the Bar in the House would differ from him in describing Sir James Mathew as second to none upon the Bench so far as reputation, ability, integrity and impartiality were concerned. He believed the Chief Secretary, when he appointed Sir James Mathew as a member of the Commission, was convinced he was appointing a man whose reputation was far beyond the range of suspicion. No man was more alive than he was to the fact that Judges were just as open to prejudice and partiality as any other human creatures. He had never assented to the argument so often heard in the House, that because a man was made a Judge, one must treat it as certain that no prejudice on his part will interfere with the soundness of his judgments, but if they were to have a Judge at all on this Commission they could not have a Judge, who in the opinion of the profession best fitted to form an opinion, was less likely to be moved by prejudice or partiality than Sir James Mathew. It did not seem to occur to some Members that there were two sides to this question as well as to every other question; that there was something above and beyond the landlords' view of the question; and he did not think that Sir James Mathew could be properly charged with prejudice because he had seen, and seen apparently with clearness, the other view — the evicted tenants' view of the situation. He did not believe there would be found in the House a man who was really competent to speak on behalf of the profession to which he (Mr. Neville) belonged, who would state that in his opinion Sir James Mathew was not as competent and as impartial a person to be appointed on the Commission as could reasonably be found.
§ MR. WILLIAM KENNY (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
said, he supported the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone. He was one of those who was present on the opening day 1917 of the Commission, and he had had an opportunity, therefore, of judging for himself by personal observation whether the proceedings, on that day at least, were conducted with the strict impartiality which the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down attributed to Sir James Mathew and his colleagues. The question really to be decided by the Motion was whether or not the British taxpayer should be asked to pay this sum of over £2,000 in respect of a Report which he regarded as a really monstrous and indecent Report—indecent in its principles by attempting to force upon landlords the compulsory re-instatement of men who were really in the position of paupers, and doing that on the ground of an alleged principle supposed to be set up by the 13th section of the Act of 1891. The Chief Secretary had said that Sir James Mathew had carried on the inquiry in a spirit of impartiality from beginning to end. It was sufficient for him to say in reply to that statement that upon the second or third day of the proceedings the gentleman who was supposed by the Chief Secretary to, in some respect, represent the landlords' interest on the Commission, retired on account, as that gentleman stated, of the partiality displayed by the President of the Commission in his opening statement on the very first day of the Commission. It seemed to him, listening to the speech of the Chief Secretary, that the right hon. Gentleman adopted an apolegetic tone, and while the right hon. Gentleman asserted over and over again that the original design of the Commission was a bonâ fide attempt on the part of the Government to settle the question of the evicted tenants in Ireland; while he alleged that the procedure of the Commission had been conducted with strict impartiality; while he defended the conclusions arrived at by the Commission, and stated that the Government would consider how they would act on these conclusions, the rest of his speech was confined to allegations of what had been said on other occasions in respect to the evicted tenants by the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Motion, by the hon. Member for South Hants (Mr. Smith-Barry), and by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition had shown that former statements made by 1918 him as to the evicted tenants had for their foundation the voluntary re-instatement of the evicted tenants in case the landlords and tenants came together for the purpose, and he thought it would be impossible for the right hon. Gentleman, who had to speak later on in the Debate, to refer to any statement made by any right hon. or hon. Gentleman opposite, indicating that the policy of reinstatement was to be such as that proposed by the conclusions arrived at by this small Commission. What, in the first place, was the pretext upon which the Commission was appointed? They had been told before the close of the last Session in minatory tones by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that it would be well for landlords and tenants to come to some agreement during the period that was to elapse between August and the opening of the present Session of Parliament, and, following upon that statement of the Prime Minister, this Commission was brought into existence in the month of September or October, 1892. They were told by the Chief Secretary that for the support of the extra police that were required in Ireland in connection with the evicted tenants a sum of £45,000 a year was necessary, and it was suggested by the Chief Secretary, not only in 1892, but again to-night, that that £45,000 might be applied to better purposes in the United Kingdom than for the protection of persons who suffered in Ireland by the Plan of Campaign. For what purposes were these police necessary? In 1886 or 1887 there was, as everyone knew, a strike against rent throughout Ireland. That strike was a part of the conspiracy, for the purpose of rendering government in Ireland impossible. He should like to ask by whom was that conspiracy and that strike against rent — by whom was it promoted? It was promoted by men who, by a Commission appointed by Act of Parliament, had been found guilty of having entered into a conspiracy, by a system of crime and outrage, for the purpose of expelling the "English garrison." That conspiracy, as his hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) had shown, was condemned by the highest legal authority in Ireland, and not alone by the highest legal authority, but by the highest eccle- 1919 siastical authority in Ireland, as a criminal conspiracy. Well, for what purpose were these police necessary? Who were the persons who had suffered by the Plan of Campaign and the strike against rent? They were the landlords, some of the unfortunate tenants themselves, and the labourers and others in the employment of the landlords of Ireland. These were the persons who had incurred the resentment of the promoters of the Plan of Campaign, and it was necessary to protect them from the violence of those who had refused to pay their rent and had been evicted in consequence. That was what the police were there for—to protect these unfortunate people. But what was the Evicted Tenants Commission appointed for? Certain liabilities had been incurred in order to keep these people in the immediate vicinity of the farms from which they were evicted. These liabilities were incurred by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. John Dillon), and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. William O'Brien), and they were incurred with the object of making the Government of Ireland impossible. That, fortunately, they were not able to do; but what they did do was to render the Government of Ireland expensive. He asked again what were the police there for? The evicted tenants were there either with the intention of breaking the law or they were not. If they were there with the intent of breaking the law then, as the right hon. Gentleman had himself admitted to-night, not ten times £45,000 a year ought to be regarded as too large for the purpose of enforcing the law; if they did not intend to break the law then the £45,000 a year was not applied in respect of these tenants at all. So that they had it now that the £45,000 a year was simply applied by the late Government of Ireland in maintaining the law in Ireland. And what was the object of this Commission and the object of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. J. Morley) but to effect a complete surrender to the lawless and disorderly classes in Ireland. It was simply a sop to the Plan of Campaign, and if any additional illustration was required for the purpose of showing how the Plan of Campaign was viewed by the present Members of the Government, and 1920 particularly by the Chief Secretary, he might refer to the answer the right hon. Gentleman gave to a question addressed to him to-night, viz., that a sum of £50 had been paid out of the Imperial Exchequer to one of the solicitors conducting the case of the evicted tenants and that the Treasury and the Irish Government had under their consideration the giving of a substantial sum to a gentleman named Kilbride, a solicitor who represented the evicted tenants, not alone in this particular case, but in many others throughout Ireland. That gave an idea of the purposes to which funds at the disposal of the Government were to be applied, and he presumed at the instigation of the Evicted Tenants Commission. He submitted to the House that that application of Imperial money was a most monstrous and most unconstitutional application of the funds placed at the disposal of the Treasury. It was really a subscription to the funds of a criminal conspiracy, because if the money were paid to the solicitors of the evicted tenants, it went in relief of costs that should otherwise come out of the funds of the Plan of Campaign. As to Section 13 of the Act of 1891, that had been already observed upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour). That section had for its basis and foundation the principle of voluntary reinstatement of the tenants; to enable the tenants, by agreement with their landlords, to assume the status of actual and existing tenants, whereby they might apply to the Land Commission for a loan for the purpose of purchasing their holdings. It was idle to throw it in the face of his hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) that what was contemplated in 1891 was other than a voluntary proceeding between the landlord and tenant. Throughout that section, and so far as he remembered throughout the Debate upon that Bill, the question of compulsory reinstatement of the tenants did not come in. The 13th Section was introduced and passed simply for the purpose, as he had said, of allowing the landlord and tenant, in cases where a mutual agreement might be arrived at, to facilitate a tenant in purchasing under the Land Purchase Act. He might say that the conclusions arrived at in the Report of this Commission—they had not yet got the evidence which would 1921 enable them to see on what basis those conclusions were arrived at— really placed a premium upon dishonesty. The tenant had been evicted—he had been out of his holding for several years —he had been living in an evicted hut upon the scanty means afforded him by hon. Gentlemen opposite — what capital he had had been lost — but now under the finding of the Evicted Tenants Commission that tenant, without one farthing in his pocket, was to be compulsorily reinstated in his holding whether the landlord liked it or not. He could gather no other meaning from the report of the Commission. Was anything proposed to he done for the unfortunate landlords. If the tenant owed him, as of course he must have owed him, arrears at the time of the eviction, was the landlord to be paid all those arrears? [An hon. MEMBER: Everything.] Not at all, only such sum as the Commission chose to give him. The Commission, he ventured to think, contemplated a sum that would fall very far short of the amount of arrears due at the time of the eviction of the tenant. But strange to say there was another debt due to the landlord in these cases to which the Commission absolutely gave the go-bye. Law costs were due to the landlord in every case, and no provision was made, from the beginning to the end of the Report of the Commission, for payment of any portion of these costs. But a proposal was made in the interests of the tenants to allow them to stock the farms; and how was the money for the purpose to be provided? Loans were to be raised upon the rates at the instigation of the Poor Law Guardians to enable the tenants to stock their land. That proposal seemed to him to be very like a proposal he read in a speech delivered by Mr. J. J. O'Kelly at Dysart, County Clare, on 1st November, 1885, In that speech he said—A certain section of the landlords were going to try their power against the people. They should be careful. The Poor Law-Guardians could put the evicted tenants on the rates, and eat the landlords' property up.
§ MR. W. KENNY
said that if it was garbled the hon. Member would be able to correct it by comparing it with The Freeman's Journal. But what else was to be done for the evicted tenant? He was to get a longer period for the payment of his instalments than was extended to the ordinary tenant in possession who purchased his holding. These tenants, in the majority of cases, were dishonest tenants? In some cases, he granted, they were not originally dishonest, but were forced into dishonesty by those who should have known better. Why were they to get better terms than the ordinary tenant, who came in and purchased his holding under the Acts of 1885 and 1887? But the Report did not stop there. According to it, the payment of the first instalment was to be extended over a longer period than that allowed to the ordinary tenant. They said that this Report was a worthless document because of the procedure which had taken place, and because of the conclusions at which the Commission had arrived. As to the composition of the Commission, as that had been dealt with, he should not trouble the Committee with many observations. Mr. Roche was an upholder of the policy of the Government—in other words, he was a Home Ruler of some years' standing, and the best test as to the truth of that statement was his election as a director of The Freeman's Journal, which was one of the exponents of national feelings in Dublin. With reference to Mr. Roche, he had nothing more to say, except that he went on the Commission imbued with political notions that were not in harmony with those of the landlords. Then with regard to Mr. Reddington. A speech, made by Mr. Reddington when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary visited Dublin some years ago, had been referred to, and, therefore, he should not repeat it; but he might say that speech showed that, as far back as 1888, Mr. Reddington was not in sympathy with the landlords in Ireland, and not only was he not in sympathy, but his sympathies were 1923 directly against the Irish landlord. "When the right hon. Gentleman found a seat on the Commission for Mr. Reddington, he must have carried his mind back to that speech of 1888, and known perfectly well what Mr. Reddington's opinions on the land question were. It had been said that Mr. Reddington had disposed of all his land; he would not enter upon any controversy as to that, but they knew pretty well that Mr. Reddington had disposed, to a very large extent, of his landed property. The right hon. Gentleman shook his head. He would accept that, and' he might say he believed Mr. Reddington had retained some property in Louth. [An hon. MEMBER: No; in Wexford, as trustee.] He could say this: that during the sittings of the Evicted Tenants Commission he had seen in the Daily Law Lists notices in connection with the sale of Mr. Reddington's estate. Then as to Mr. O'Brien; everyone in Ireland knew that though he was a very able and upright gentleman, still he was a partisan, and it was known to everyone in Dublin who had any connection with the Land Commission that Mr. O'Brien had very strong opinions upon the subject of Irish land. The next gentleman was Mr. Murphy, who was the only member of the Commission who could be suggested as having anything in the nature of landlord sympathies. Mr. Murphy was the Chief Receiver in the Land Judges Court, and had been a land agent for many years in the North of Ireland; but Mr. Murphy felt so strongly as to the conduct of the President of the Commission on the opening day that he could not, as an honourable and impartial gentleman, continue a member of the Commission, and, accordingly, on the third day he resigned his position. He (Mr. Kenny) was rather a young Member of the House, and unacquainted with the forms in which Reports were drawn up; but he certainly should have expected that the Commission, in referring to the withdrawal of Mr. Murphy, would have stated why he withdrew. There was nothing in the Report to show why Mr. Murphy withdrew. But why did not the Report set out the correspondence between Mr. Murphy and Sir James Mathew? Perhaps it would appear in the Appendix to the Report to be published later 1924 on, though he presumed that volume would only contain the evidence given before the Commission. It would have been most important for the purpose of enabling the House to judge of the impartiality of the proceedings of the Commission, and particularly on the opening day, to have seen what was the conclusion formed in Mr. Murphy's mind of the partiality or impartiality of Sir James Mathew. He deprecated as strongly as any lawyer in the House any attack being made upon the conduct of persons who were in the position of a Judge. Sir James Mathew was not attacked by them in this House in his judicial position. Any criticism they had to offer on his conduct was simply as the President of the Evicted Tenants Commission. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman, who must have read the proceedings of the opening day of the Commission—who must have read Sir James Mathew's extraordinary remarks on Lord Clanri-carde—and who knew of his refusal to permit his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Carson) to cross-examine the witnesses, he was surprised to hear him say that these proceedings were conducted with impartiality. He had an opportunity, with his hon. and learned Friend, of listening to Sir James Mathew on that day, and he should say nothing about his manner or his tone, though when the evidence was laid on the Table of the House some attention might be called to it. It was not Sir James Mathew's manner to them, but his refusal at the close of the day to admit any cross-examination of the witnesses before him that compelled his hon. and learned Friend and himself to regard the whole proceedings as a sham and a farce, and to leave the Court. Sir James Mathew, in some recent observations, had shown what was the leaning of his mind when he became a member of the Commission, and what he himself regarded as the object of the proceedings of that Commission. Sir James Mathew was entertained, either on Christmas Day or the 1st January last, at a banquet—not at the National Liberal Club—but at the Mansion House in Dublin, by the Nationalist Lord Mayor. He said, in responding to the toast of his health— 1925I am very fond of England too, and I do not despair of the good time coming, when the two countries will be in harmony together.In Ireland they all understood what was the meaning of "the good time coming." That "good time" had been looked forward to by Nationalists for a number of years. The "good time coming" was a well-known phrase in Ireland. He came over to Ireland — according to himself — for the purpose of restoring harmony between landlords and tenants and other sections of the community in Ireland, and what was his opinion of the proceedings of the Evicted Tenants' Commission? He said—I have tried to do something in that direction with the most unfortunate results.He did not know whether the Chief Secretary took the same view, but the House had now the epitaph of the Commission, written by Sir James Mathew himself, when he said his efforts to restore harmony in Ireland were attended with the most unfortunate results. With reference to the right of cross-examination, he agreed very much with what the Leader of the Opposition said in his speech on the Address, that he did not regard as supremely important the admission or denial of the right to counsel to cross-examine at that Commission, provided the Commission was so constituted as to ensure in the persons of some of its own members—even one—something in the nature of investigation or cross-examination, or inquiry into the antecedents and personnel of the witnesses who were brought before that Commission. If the landlords of Ireland had been assured that there was some member upon that Commission who would have conducted that investigation fairly and impartially, they would have been satisfied even though counsel were not allowed to be heard. What did the Report state with reference to counsel? It said that those interested would be permitted to put, through members of the Commission, any questions that might appear to be relevant. It went on:—We reserved to ourselves the right, should the occasion arise, to permit the attendance of counsel for the purpose of cross-examination.Was there ever such a farce as the system of cross-examination proposed by Sir James Mathew. In the case of the Member for East Galway (Mr. Roche), he was examined out of his direct 1926 examination at the Parnell Commission, and at the close of that examination he was told he might retire. The Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Carson)at once pointed out that before luncheon - time counsel had been promised cross-examination, but evidently the idea in the mind of Sir James Mathew was that perhaps in a fortnight or a month thence Mr. Roche might be asked to come back to the Commission if he was willing to do so, and then counsel might be allowed to put a few questions by way of cross-examination—not directly to the witness, which was the usual way cross-examination was conducted—but through the mouths of the Commission. Would cross-examination of that sort have been worth anything? He would just like to show how the absence of cross-examination prevented the truth being extracted. Two men named Cook and Bellew from the Massereene estate, were examined; they gave their evidence in an off-hand way, and were allowed to go home without anything in the nature of cross-examination being addressed to them. A witness named Mr. Athol Dudgeon, almost the only witness who presented himself to give evidence on behalf of the landlords, subsequently pointed out that these two men had been convicted at the Manchester Assizes of conspiracy to prevent the sale of boycotted cattle in England, and Sir James Mathew said, "I wish we had known that when they were here." The House would see that unless some information were given to the Commission they were utterly and entirely in the dark as to the antecedents of the persons with whom they were dealing. Here was another instance: A Mr. Michael Stack, of Youghal, formerly a tenant on the Ponsonby estate, was examined before the Commission. He stated that he had been tried for resisting the Sheriff, and convicted and sentenced to three months' imprisonment. That conviction, he added, was confirmed, but the Judge who had confirmed it said—He had to confirm it owing to the cursed law that was brought into the country.The Judge who was alleged to have used this expression—Judge Hamilton, the Recorder of Cork—was dead at the time this evidence was given; but Mr. Tristram Curry, the Registrar of the 1927 Court, who was in attendance at the hearing of the case, emphatically denied that the learned Judge had ever used any such expression, and Mr. Curry was corroborated in this denial by the Sub - Sheriff and District Inspector of Youghal, both of whom were present at the trial. Mr. Curry addressed a letter to the Commission on the subject, but the only satisfaction he got was an intimation that a note would be appended to Mr. Stack's evidence when it appeared. In conclusion, he (Mr. Kenny) could only say that he thought no fitter language could be used to describe the original design, the procedure and the conclusions of the Commission, than to characterise them as a farce and a sham.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down used some strong expressions in the course of his speech. He had described the Report of the Commission as indecent. He thought it would have been more decent on the part of the hon. Member if he had observed a Rule laid down there a short time ago to the effect that any person professionally engaged in a case outside should not interfere in any Debate which might arise on that particular question in that House.
§ MR. W. KENNY
(interposing) desired to know from the Chairman if he had in any way violated any Rule of the House?
The hon. and learned Gentleman having appealed to me, I cannot say that he was out of Order.
§ MR. CLANCY
did not say the hon. and learned Member was out of Order. For instance, the hon. and learned Member for Derry (Mr. Ross) a couple of weeks ago, if he had proceeded with his speech on the question of the Donegal prisoners, would have been perfectly in Order, but he would have violated a rule of good taste just as the hon. and learned Gentleman had violated that Rule that night. The fact was, the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Kenny) received a fee for appearing before Mr. Justice Mathew as counsel for some landlord, and he supposed he had now delivered in that House the speech he was not allowed to deliver at the Commission. He was sorry the hon. and learned Gentleman was not allowed to deliver the speech before the Commission, as the House would 1928 then possibly have been spared the repetition of it that night. The hon. and learned Gentleman had described the Report as a sop to the Plan of Campaign. But if these proposals were adopted by the Government, the Government would not be the first British Government that had given a sop to the Plan of Campaign. He remembered two or three sops being given to the Plan of Campaign by the late Government. Within three months of the initiation of the Plan of Campaign the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) actually went to Ireland, and by various devices attempted to put what was called "pressure within the law "on the landlords to put an end to the Plan of Campaign; and afterwards, when that little device did not succeed, the Government brought in the Act of 1887, which embodied in substance the demands of the authors of the Plan of Campaign. The Bill of 1887 not only amended in a most important respect the Land Act of 1881, but it actually went beyond the Land Act of 1881, because it revised the judicial rents, so that if the present Government were charged with offering a sop to the Plan of Campaign they would only be following in the footsteps of their prodecessors; and if they only followed them in this respect, they would be entitled to the gratitude of Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman, after stating he would not deal with the personnel of the Commission, proceeded to expend considerable time in dealing with that very branch of the subject. He (Mr. Clancy) wished to say only one word on that subject. He desired to give an emphatic contradiction to the statement that Mr. Redington had sold his land or was simply a trustee—as the late Solicitor General for Ireland had remarked in a somewhat disorderly manner across the Table—for land in County Wexford. Mr. Redington was the landlord himself. The last speaker had referred to the denial of the right to cross-examine by Mr. Justice Mathew. For himself, he highly approved of the action of Mr. Justice Mathew and the stand he made on that question. The hon. and learned Gentleman had described the Report and the proceedings of the Commission as a sham and a farce. Imagine what a sham and a farce it would have been if the President had allowed the hon. and 1929 learned Gentleman and the late Solicitor General to cross-examine every tenant who came up! The Commission would have been proceeding for a couple of years; the two gentlemen would have been pocketing their 10 or 20 guineas a day, and it was quite possible the proceedings of the Commission would have been going on practically until the end of this Parliament. Whatever else might be said of Mr. Justice Mathew, he considered he did the proper thing when he put his foot down and plainly told the two hon. and learned Gentlemen that that was not a Court of Law. He did not intend to enter at length into the questions now before the House, and certainly he did not intend to reply to the string of disquisitions the last speaker had presented to the House. He desired to say for himself, and for those with whom he had the honour to act, that as regarded the main proposal in the Report of the Commission, they entirely and heartily concurred in it, and the reason was that that proposal was practically the proposal they ade last year to the House of Commons.
§ MR. CLANCY
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham seemed to think there was something in that, but he was going to say something more on that subject in which the right hon. Gentleman might possibly think there was also something. That proposal, then, was the same substantially as the proposal of Mr. O'Kelly's Bill. Mr. O'Kelly proposed, in the case of evicted tenants and their landlords, that the evicted tenant should be entitled to apply to buy his holding at a price to be determined in the last resort by the Land Commission, and that the subsequent proceedings in the case of a sale should be carried out as all other transactions under the Land Purchase Act were determined; and they said if the landlords did not like the sale for any reason, that then the tenant should be allowed to go in and have a fair rent fixed under the Act of 1881. The only doubt on his mind, when he heard of this Report, was whether this proposal embraced all classes of tenants in Ireland, who were evicted since 1879, as they (the Irish Members) proposed to include them, or whether it-applied only to the Plan of Campaign 1930 tenants. He was glad to find, from his reading of the Report, that it applied to every evicted tenant in Ireland, without exception from 1879 to the recent evictions under the Plan of Campaign. He did not mean to refer to tenants who were evicted because of their own fault, or from causes over which they had control; but to the Land League tenants evicted from 1879 onwards, and the Plan of Campaign tenants also. He, for one, was glad that no distinction was drawn between these two classes of tenants, and if any had been he and his colleagues should certainly have made it a cause of a complaint in that Debate. He had said that the main proposal in the Commons Report was the proposal of Mr. O'Kelly's Bill, and he invited the right hon. Member for West Birmingham to listen to what he was about to say. This main proposal of Mr. O'Kelly's Bill was no new proposal. That proposal had actually found expression in the Statute Book of the realm. Mr. O'Kelly's Bill of last year was founded upon an Act passed by the late Government-—namely, the Redemption of Rent Act, 1891. That Act was passed for the purpose, amongst others, of allowing grantees of ' fee-farm grants to redeem their holdings. He ventured to say that twenty, or ten, aye, or even five years ago, a proposal such as the Redemption of Rent Bill, 1891, which was brought in and passed by the late Government, would have been denounced as the most open confiscation and robbery by the landlord party in that House. What was the proposal? It was that landlords—for they were practically landlords—who had got leases for ever, who had got fee-farm grants—persons who were supposed to be able to make their own bargains, and who were in a superior position in life—if they chose, rightly or wrongly, to say their rents had become too high should be allowed to go in and say to their landlords, "You must either allow me to buy my holding at a price to be determined by the Land Commission, or else you must allow me to go into Court and have a fair rent fixed by an impartial tribunal entirely indifferent to both of us." A more revolutionary proposal in the true sense was never made to that House, and yet that Bill was passed by the late Government. And why? Be- 1931 cause they found it expedient in the cause of social order in Ireland and to cure a social disease to pass that Bill into law. The very same argument that applied to the Bill which was passed for the benefit of the long leaseholders and fee-farm grantees of Ireland would apply with tenfold force to passing one for the evicted tenants of Ireland. No disturbance, disorder, or crime arose out of the condition of the long leaseholders who were a comparatively small body in Ireland, and there were no overwhelming reasons of State for including them within a revolutionary measure of this description. It had been said that the Plan of Campaign was attended by outrage and crime. He did not admit anything of the kind, but manifestly it had been attended by very considerable disorder; and, therefore, he said the reasons would apply to granting the benefits of this legislation to the victims of the land war waged from 1886 up to a couple of years ago ten times more reasonably than to conceding it to the long leaseholders or fee-farm grantees of Ireland. This proposal had been described as robbery. Who was robbed? The landlord got the full value of his property. It was said he would have to consent to the retention of one-fifth of the purchase money; but every landlord in Ireland had to submit to the same condition, in any case in which the Land Commission thought there ought to be a guarantee deposit. If the landlord was not robbed, was the planter robbed? No. As one who took part in the framing of Mr. O'Kelly's Bill last year, he desired to say that they desired to do no injustice whatever to any planter who had acquired a bonâ fide or substantial interest in his holding. There was no provision in the Bill for giving him compensation out of public funds for the reason that no private Member of the House could introduce a Money Bill or a Money Clause in a Bill. But they were quite prepared to put into it a provision to provide for proper and fair compensation of any planter who had acquired a bonâ fide or substantial interest in his holding, and which it would be iniquitous to deprive him of without compensation. With regard to the planters, he was of opinion that it would be a very good bargain to pay what was just and right to settle those 1932 estates in Ireland. He, for one, hoped that the Government would soon embody these provisions in a Bill which they would have an opportunity of discussing in that House. He did not bind himself to every proposal contained in the Report of the Commission; but the main proposal as to the principle of Mr. O'Kelly's Bill of last year was one that he hoped to see embodied in the Bill when it was brought forward. The Government must not be deterred by any threats uttered in that House. They were told that if such a Bill were introduced it would be opposed at every stage; but they had heard those threats before, and had known them to be defeated. If the Government intimated that they intended this Bill to become law the news would be welcome in Ireland. The evicted tenants had waited for eight or nine months for this Report. He hoped they would not have to wait nine or ten months longer, but that the Government would embody in a Bill the main principle recommended in the Report—that for the reinstatement of the tenants. It was a principle which was just, and which had found application already, and there was no excuse for delaying its extension, so that contentment might be brought about among the great body of the tenants in Ireland.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Sir, I hope the hon. Member for North Dublin did not misunderstand the cheer which I interjected in the earlier portion of his remarks. It was not intended at all as an ironical cheer, but merely in approval and in confirmation of the statement which he made that the recommendations of the Commission did embody the principle of Mr. O'Kelly's Bill, and I think in these circumstances the hon. Member and his friends are perfectly consistent in approving of the Report of the Government and in pressing upon the Government to give immediate application to it. I shall not detain the Committee for many minutes. I have risen to call attention to a point to which, I think, no reference has hitherto been made. I feel that all questions that arise out of the conduct of the Commission and out of the recommendations which the Commission has made, are more properly dealt with by Irish Members like my hon. Friend beside me, who are thoroughly acquainted with all the facts, 1933 and who are much more competent to deal with them than English Members, who have not information so special in regard to the subject. But there is one point raised by the appointment of this Commission which, I think the Committee will see, is a matter of general interest on which all of us are quite entitled to express an opinion. The question which arises out of the appointment of this Commission is, what are the circumstances under which it is desirable, I will even say under which it is allowable, to take a Judge of the High Court in this country from his ordinary duties in order to preside at the inquiry? I think everybody will admit that any proceeding of that kind is attended with great inconvenience. We know perfectly well that the Courts are overdone with work, and we have had again and again in this House claims for the appointment of new Judges on account of the arrears, and clearly the legal staff ought not to be diminished, and this inconvenience ought not to be increased except under circumstances which almost amount to an emergency and which would justify an exceptional proceeding. But, besides the question of convenience, there is another objection to the employment of the Judges, which is, I think it will be admitted, of still greater importance. Every Member of this House desires that the impartiality of the Judicial Bench should be as far as possible absolutely preserved, and with that object it is also desirable that they should not be mixed up more than is necessary with political questions. Do not let it be supposed that I am prepared to carry that to any absurd or exaggerated extent. It is perfectly clear there are many cases in which crimes are connected with political agitation. There are other cases in which civil suits may arise out of political questions. Nobody pretends that Judges of the land are not to deal with cases which come before them in the ordinary course of their work because there is some political connection. But it is quite a different thing to say that Judges should be taken out of their ordinary work in order to deal with purely political questions. And I would venture to suggest that the ruling principle which ought to be observed in these cases is that, if it be permissible to take Judges away at all in order to deal with 1934 these inquiries, it can only be in a case when the subject of the inquiry is in the nature of a criminal investigation, or when it is in the nature of a civil suit, and I do not believe there can be other cases in which it is justifiable to take from his Court a Judge of the land in order to deal with an investigation. We have had, in very recent years, two cases in which this matter has been discussed in the House of Commons, and I think they would give us a guide for our future conduct in the matter. The first case to which I shall refer is that of the Parnell Commission, when three Judges of the High Court were taken from their duties. I do not think it will be denied that that investigation was in the nature of a criminal inquiry—an inquiry into a criminal case. The allegations which were made almost amounted to a charge of criminal conduct. It may be doubtful whether, even if the allegations had been true, they could have been proved in an ordinary prosecution in a Court of Justice, but they were subjects which were well worthy of inquiry, and, as a matter of fact, the persons who were so charged themselves demanded an inquiry, and, accordingly, the Judges were considered by the then Government to be the best persons to conduct the inquiry. There was some dispute as to whether the inquiry ought to have been conducted by Judges of the land; but there was no dispute as to the fact that, if it were considered undesirable that the inquiry should be conducted by a Committee of this House, then the only alternative was that it should be conducted by a judicial tribunal. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, when dealing with the Second Reading of the Charges and Allegations Bill—As far as I am concerned, I think that an inquiry under thoroughly competent and impartial Judges is a method of proceeding which, after the right and true method of proceeding has been refused, is better than none.I am not dealing now with the question whether a Committee of this House would be a better method of proceeding, but I quote my right hon. Friend to show that in his opinion that was a case in which the Judges of the land might very properly be employed. Even then a question arose as to the method in which an inquiry justifiably conducted by Judges ought to be conducted by them. 1935 That also has a bearing upon the point I wish to bring before the Committee. It was maintained by the then Opposition that the inquiry ought to be conducted on judicial methods, and on that I should like to quote the opinion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, who I am sorry to see is not in his place. He said on the same occasion—Is this inquiry to be a judicial inquiry conducted upon judicial principles.' I venture to say that that is a matter of supreme importance, because an inquiry conducted by Judges not upon judicial principles, not upon judicial lines, is not a judicial inquiry at all; and if the Judges conduct an inquiry of that kind they are no better than anybody else, and perhaps a good deal worse.And then, in a later portion of the same speech, he said—If they," meaning the then Government, "come forward now and tell us that this is to be a judicial proceeding, conducted according to judicial principles, of course one of the gravest objections to the form of inquiry will be removed; but if that is not done, then the Government are seeking to hookwink the mind of the public and to induce them to believe that this is a judicial inquiry, because you put Judges upon it, while at the same time they are depriving it of the essential qualities that belong to a judicial inquiry.I entirely agree with both my right hon. Friends, and I think I have established on their authority that if Judges are to be removed from their ordinary occupation it should only be in a case of that kind; and two conditions are necessary to the proper conduct of their inquiry: first, that the tribunal should be strictly impartial; and, secondly, that the inquiry should be conducted on judicial principles. That is the light thrown upon this matter to-night by the Debate in reference to the Parnell Commission. But the same question arose upon another matter—namely, the Local Government Bill for Ireland proposed by the late Government in 1892, on the clause which was popularly known as the "Put 'em in the dock" clause. That clause, it will be remembered, provided that when a County Council under the new Bill had been guilty of oppression, malversation, or gross corruption, they might be brought before the Courts in Ireland, and if the Courts decided they had committed the offence with which they were charged, they might be subject to deprivation of office. That is not exactly one of the two cases in which I have said Judges might be taken from their ordinary work, 1936 because neither is it in the nature of a criminal investigation, nor can it be called a civil suit; but it is a case in which the Judges would have been taken from their ordinary work. The law would have laid it down that it was an offence for the County Council to be guilty of oppression, malversation, or gross corruption; and it appears to me that in that case there was no other tribunal to which you could possibly have gone fairly and properly to have the case tried. It was merely a proposal that, the law having defined the character of the offence, the Judges should be called upon in the ordinary course of their judicial occupation to declare whether the offence had been committed. Now, in the course of that Debate, a very important statement was made by another right hon. Gentleman—who is not present tonight—the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy. In dealing with this particular clause he said, referring to the Judges—There is no body of persons in Ireland whose position it is more desirable to safeguard and to remove from suspicion of political partisanship than the Irish Judges.Of course he was speaking about Ireland, but I presume he would say the same thing about the English Judges also. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say, after referring to the case of Chief Justice May, who retired from certain trials in 1880 after he had expressed opinions regarding the traversers—the right hon. Gentleman said—However much Judges may desire to avoid imputations of this kind, it is one to which they are often exposed, and, therefore, the Government ought to take every means of removing them from suspicion. Can anyone imagine a cause more likely to renew that suspicion, and to aggravate the mistrust felt towards the administrators of the law than their introduction into political cases of this kind?Now I come to the point to which I wish to call the special attention of the House. We have now got another Commission appointed by the Government in which these right hon. Gentlemen, whose language I have quoted, are sitting in prominent places, and again a Judge is taken from his ordinary work, at great inconvenience to the English Courts, to preside over that inquiry. What is the nature of that inquiry? Does it come within the principles I have ventured to lay down? 1937 Does it come within the principles those right hon. Gentlemen have previously laid down? Is it in the nature of a criminal investigation? No, because we are told it was not intended to try the landlords. It was certainly not intended to try the tenants, and, therefore, I assume that the Government do not consider that this Commission was appointed to conduct anything in the nature of a criminal investigation. Well, Sir, was it in the nature of a civil suit? Certainly not. No cause of action was brought before this Commission, and in the present case I do not think it will be contradicted that the object of the Government was to find a political remedy for the result of a political agitation. The inquiry which was submitted to the learned Judge was an inquiry full of the most contentious political matter, and not only did it deal with politics in this way, but every condition necessary for a fair inquiry was ignored. The Prime Minister, in his description of the cases in which, in his opinion, such an inquiry might be undertaken by the Judges, claimed that it should be undertaken by competent and impartial men. Now, I do not call in question the competency of this tribunal, but I do not think that anyone who has considered the circumstances of the case will for a moment pretend that the Commissioners either were impartial or were intended by the Chief Secretary to be impartial. They were appointed to carry out a foregone conclusion. Then the second condition is that when the members of a tribunal of this kind are appointed they shall proceed by judicial methods, and that the inquiry shall have all the attributes of a judicial inquiry. Has that been the case here? Was there ever before in this world a judicial inquiry in which the Judge pronounced the verdict before he had heard the evidence? Was there ever before a judicial inquiry in which, by the action of the Judge, the defendants were precluded from offering evidence in support of their case? I think we ought seriously to consider whether this practice of importing Judges, whether English or Irish, into Commissions ought to be continued, and, if it is to be continued, upon what principles it is to continued. I very much regret that two right hon. Friends of mine, whose opinions I have 1938 quoted, are not present here to-night. I should have liked to have asked the Chancellor of the Duchy to give us another of those constitutional lectures to which We listen with so much attention, pleasure, and profit, and to hear whether, in his opinion, this is one of those cases which are so removed from political considerations that Judges may fairly be introduced into them without risking their reputation for judicial impartiality. I should also have liked to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether this inquiry does not come within his description of the cases in which a Judge has been appointed to the head of a Commission in order to hoodwink the public. [Cries of "Order!"] I am quoting the right hon. Gentleman's own words, and I repeat it, in order to hoodwink the public into forming the idea that there is a judicial inquiry, although every judicial principle and method is absolutely disregarded.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir C. RUSSELL, Hackney, S.)
I do not think that this Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for South Tyrone in order to enable us to discuss in an academic way whether or not the employment of Judges upon Commissions is a desirable thing. But I do not hesitate, for my own part, to say that I think the employment of Judges in that manner can seldom be resorted to wisely. We are not here, however, to discuss that aspect of the question. My right hon. Friend who has just spoken has laid down certain formulas to his own satisfaction. He says that whenever a Judge is chosen to assist in any of these Commissions the proceedings ought to be conducted in accordance with, and upon entirely judicial principles. I have only to say, in answer to that, that no one who considers the nature of this Commission—and its composition of four or five gentleman—can regard that inquiry as a judicial inquiry, or believe that it was intended to be a judicial inquiry. A judicial inquiry involves an authority to decide; there was no authority in this inquiry to decide. A judicial inquiry, in the sense the phrase is used, involves the trial of issues affecting rights; this Commission had no authority to decide as to any right, whether of tenant or of landlord. It was appointed—and this was its sole function—to collect information 1939 upon which the judgment of this House might be pronounced—to collect information upon which, if the Government should think proper to submit proposals to the House, the judgment of the House might be formed. The right hon. Gentleman appears to think that the presence of Sir James Mathew was a most objectionable feature of the Commission. We have heard what the Mover of this Amendment had to say on that subject. And what did the Member for South Tyrone say? Why he told us that it was a fact that an English Judge had been appointed President of the Commission that gave him and his friends confidence that the inquiry would be wisely, properly, and honestly carried out.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
We know when the change began to operate in the mind of the hon. Member. I am referring him to his opinion on this appointment, and I am referring the right hon. Gentleman to what was said of Judge Mathew's appointment—an appointment which he considered was so objectionable.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I wish to say, Sir, that I did not refer to Sir James Mathew personally. I repeat that, and hope it will be perfectly clear to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I rise to a point of Order. I desire to call attention to the constant disorderly interruption by the hon. Member for Mid-Cork (Dr. Tanner), who is continually using personalities. I would call your attention, Sir, to the fact that when the right hon. Gentleman was addressing you he called out, in my hearing, and that of other hon. Members, "A Brummagem apology"! I also ask whether the hon. Member is in Order in applying to hon. Members the appellation of "rats"?
All interruptions are disorderly; it is most essential that hon. Members should abstain from interruptions, so that the Committee may consider the matters brought before it.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
[Cries of "Order!" and "Chair!"]: I only wish 1940 to say that I think my hon. and learned Friend misunderstood me. I was arguing against the employment of a Judge in a case which was neither in the nature of a criminal investigation nor in the nature of a civil suit. I was not arguing against Mr. Justice Mathew in particular.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
I was pointing out that while the right hon. Gentleman was complaining of the presence of a Judge on the Commission, it was the fact of the presence of a Judge on it that, in the first instance, gave the hon. Member for South Tyrone and his friends confidence in the Commission. If the Government made a mistake in securing the services of a judge in the person of Mr. Justice Mathew, they only followed the mistakes — if mistakes they were—of other Governments. Mr. Justice Day was appointed to inquire into certain riots, and it will be remembered that in that inquiry Mr. Justice Day declined to allow cross-examination.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
No, that was not in the nature of a criminal investigation—the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so—because it did not involve bringing home crime to anyone, and if it were the case is still stronger, for no cross-examination was allowed. A much more important case for which the Government, represented by the Party opposite, was responsible, was the appointment of Sir James Fitzjames Stephen as a member and President of an Ordnance Commission. I could point to other cases in which eminent Judges have been members of Commissions which were not of a legal character, and did not come within the lines suggested. Amongst others there was Mr. Justice Patteson, who was appointed to a City Commission. But I thought the sting, if not the object, of the right hon. Gentleman's speech lay in the tail of it. Now, was it worthy of the right hon. Gentleman to fling at my right hon. Friend that taunt—that accusation that he appointed this Commission merely to endorse a foregone conclusion? Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen may differ from my right hon. Friend, but no one in this House or out of it can have doubts as to his perfect candour and honour. He has told this House that in one respect, and in one respect only, was it a foregone 1941 conclusion, and it was so in a sense in which all parties in the House were agreed, judging by their statements both here and throughout the country — namely, that the case of the evicted tenants was a source of danger to the public peace, and that all parties desired to see whether some just and equitable method of dealing with the matter could not be adopted. In no other sense had my right hon. Friend a foregone conclusion. I pass from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to that of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Stephen's Green (Mr. W. Kenny). It has always been a matter of great pain to me to find myself in collision with any hon. Member especially of my own profession, and I must say that I much regret that the two hon. and learned Members, both distinguished members of the Irish Bar, who took part as counsel in the inquiry before the Commission— the hon. and learned Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division and the hon. and learned Member who drew attention to this matter in the Debate on the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech— should have felt it their duty to bring this matter before the House. I do not pretend to set myself up as a judge to decide these points, but, at all events, the fact that these two hon. and learned Gentlemen were not only engaged before the Commission, but came into collision with Mr. Justice Mathew —the President having occasion, I do not say rightly or wrongly, to animadvert very strongly upon their conduct on that occasion—does not afford in the case of either of them a guarantee of their dealing with the matter with dispassionateness. I must say, knowing the reputation of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division as a lawyer of distinction, I was greatly surprised at the statement he made as to the Report of the Commission. He stated broadly that the main recommendation of the Report was the compulsory reinstatement of the evicted tenants against the wish of the landlords.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
I see the right hon. Gentleman opposite seems to 1942 endorse that view. But the recommendation was this:—Where the evicted holding is in the power or under the control of the landlord, the former tenant shall be enabled to petition the Commission for reinstatement as tenant, setting forth in his Petition the terms as to rent, or otherwise, upon which he is prepared to accept reinstatement.But the tenant who so makes application is subject to the next recommendation, which is this—thatThe owner shall have the option of requiring that the lands shall be purchased by the tenants under the Land Purchase Acts, on terms to be fixed by the Commission.It also goes on to say—A tenant refusing to purchase shall have no claim to be reinstated.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
The right hon. Gentleman says he adheres to his opinion. I have known him adhere for many years to opinions that have not been endorsed by public opinion. But the hon. and learned Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division made another extraordinary statement. Feeling the force of the arguments of the Chief Secretary as to the expressions of opinion which had proceeded from hon, and right hon. Members opposite as to the necessity for dealing with this question of evicted tenants the hon. and learned Member proceeded to say that these were merely pious opinions expressed by those hon. and right hon. Members. He said that all they meant was that they hoped sincerely that the tenants and landlords should come together, and by mutual agreement arrive at a settlement with a view to reinstatement. Well, the hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely mistaken in the matter; and though I do not intend to dwell on this, it is so important as justifying the policy of the Government in proposing this Commission that I must trouble the House for a moment upon it. It is important that the House should understand how these statements —some of which have been cited by my right hon. Friend—were addressed to the House at all. They were addressed on the occasion of the discussion which preceded the passing of the Act of 1891. They were not merely in relation to Clause 13, proposed by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. There was a sug- 1943 gestion made by the hon. Member for Kerry of a provision which, if carried, would, have had the effect of pledging Parliament to the reinstatement of all tenants evicted since 1879, whether the places of those tenants had or had not been occupied by planters or fresh tenants. The significance, therefore, of the observations of the Leader of the Opposition, and of other hon. Gentlemen, who expressed opinions in the same sense, is that they were dissociating themselves from that wide proposition, but were expressing an opinion in favour of the reinstatement of tenants where they could be replaced. In addition to the quotations that have already been made, I will only cite one passage. I might cite a good many. On page 1635 of Hansard, in a Report of the 4th June, 1891, the hon. Member for South Tyrone, referring to the proposal made, used these words:—It is quite true that a great many evicted farms are still untenanted. But so far as the tenanted holdings are concerned, there would be enormous difficulty in bringing them under the operation of this clause. I do not see how, at this time of the Session, and in view of the possibilities in another place, it will be possible to touch the question of tenanted land. This clause deals with evicted farms in the hands of landlords, or derelict, or held by caretakers; and I say that that is going a considerable distance in the direction hon. Members wish to go. I believe it would settle three-fourths of the Campaign estates.I might cite expressions of opinion from the hon. and gallant Member for County Down in the same direction; but there is, in fact, hardly an hon. Member who has taken any interest in this matter who has not expressed an opinion in the same sense. The hon. and learned Member proceeded to make some criticism upon the personnel of the Commission. I do not intend to follow him into that matter in any great detail, and he will not think me discourteous for not doing so. He refers to Mr. Roche, to whom he gives a high character, the only blemish in it being that he had shown a larger share of what we may regard as patriotism and clear-sightedness than some of his hon. colleagues on this question, having been a Home Ruler for some years. He criticised Mr. Redington as not being in sympathy with the landlords. Well, I want to know who is in sympathy with the landlords, except the landlords themselves and their dependents? My right 1944 hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir H. James) thinks I am not expressing an impartial view. I have always recognised that, as regards a great many of these landlords, they have been the victims of circumstances, not of their own making, but which have been bequeathed to them. But when I have said that, I have said nearly all there is to say in their favour. I do not think that history records the story of a more unpatriotic body of men—speaking of them as a class—than the Irish landlords. Then there is Mr. Morrough O'Brien. I will say of him this: that he had the courage to hold opinions as to Irish Government which, at one time, were unfashionable, but are now widely accepted. The hon. and learned Member for St. Stephen's Green Division cited two illustrations of how wretchedly this Commission had been conducted, and of what might have been the case if permission had been given to cross-examine. Those were hardly happy illustrations. Two witnesses, called Bellew and Cook from the Massereene estate gave evidence before the Commission, which, at a later stage, was contradicted, and, I assume, rightly contradicted. What does that show? That the landlord's agent knew something which he could usefully tell the Commission, and stayed to tell it, and the Commission have duly recorded it. If the other landlords had not, as it seems to me, made the excuse of not being permitted to cross-examine, there was no reason why they should not have brought forward anything that was to be said by them or for them, and why it should not have been recorded for the information of the House. I ask why are we treated to this Debate to-night? It cannot be on account of the cost of the Commission, for probably this is the cheapest Commission ever issued by any Department of the Government; £2,000 is, I think, the cost. We are not here to discuss that item. We are not here to discuss the £50 paid to Mr. O'Callaghan for collecting the evidence, or the item in respect of Mr. Kilbride. Why are we here? I assume it is because hon. and right hon. Gentlemen were determined to give effect to their own prophecies, and to make it impossible that the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill should be discussed before Easter, 1945 This Motion was put down by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, while it was still a matter of doubt whether the Home Rule Bill would be taken to-day or not. I am not going to trouble the House with many words upon the policy of this Commission. There are two views taken in this House as to the evicted tenants, and especially that class of evicted tenants we call Plan of Campaign tenants. We are all familiar with these two views. On the one hand, the Plan of Campaign is represented as an unholy combination of dishonest men, who were perfectly well able all of them to discharge their obligations, but who have dishonestly combined to defraud their landlords. On the other hand, they are described as a body of men, who have combined together some able and some not able to pay, but the strong standing with the weak, to resist the payment of rents which, as a rule, the tenants could not bear and which are not just. I am not going to say which of these descriptions is true. Probably neither is true. Probably the truth lies between the two. But the Act of 1887 can be pointed to as evidence that the Tory Party and Parliament thought further protective legislation was needed. I am content, however, to take it, as it has been judicially pronounced to be, as an illegal combination; but if an illegal combination —an illegal combination which undoubtedly brought about a state of things which every man who has at heart the peace of Ireland would desire to see removed, and in some reasonable and proper way put an end to. Now, I have dealt with the personnel of the Commission and its object. I only want to say one word more about Mr. Justice Mathew, and I hope the House will excuse me if I speak with a little warmth on the subject, because Mr. Justice Mathew is an old personal friend of mine. I will say now what no Judge on the Bench will deny, and what no lawyer in this House, whether sitting on one side or the other, and however he may differ from the wisdom or the unwisdom of the course pursued, will deny —namely, that it was the desire of Mr. Justice Mathew in this, as in every act of his public life, to do full and complete justice. I would like to remind the House of what was said by a Judge on the Bench who has lived a longer judicial 1946 life than any living man, I mean of those who are now sitting on the Bench—I refer to the Master of the Rolls, Lord Esher. He took the view which many hon. Members may entertain, that a Judge ought not to have been appointed to this Commission at all; but what was his language on November 9, 1892, not many months before the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite thought himself justified in making the attack which he did make in the Debate on the Address on that distinguished Judge, Mr. Justice Mathew. Lord Esher said —That Judge had been fiercely accused already of partiality, or of a want or desire to do justice. But he could safely say that throughout his close experience of 24 years there had not been a Judge on the English Bench who had shown at any time or in any position any other feeling or desire than to be absolutely impartial and to do right. He was quite ready, therefore, to vouch for the integrity of the particular Judge to whom he referred. He had known him well and long in his ordinary sphere, and he was convinced that he would not now betray his education and training, but would carry into his new work the same desire to da right and to be impartial between party and party which had always marked his career.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
A right hon. Gentleman opposite says Lord Esher was ironical. Do not slander Lord Esher. I regard that as a gross slander. As certain as I am addressing the House Lord Esher would so regard it himself. He was opposed to the appointment of Mr. Justice Mathew, but he spoke what he believed, and what every man on the Bench knows, that Mr. Justice Mathew was incapable of knowingly doing anything that was partial or unjust. I confess that when I saw the attacks that were made upon Sir James Mathew I was somewhat nervous about the matter; but when I saw the shorthand notes of what the learned Judge said, I found that Mr. Justice Mathew had not only been misrepresented—he had been traduced. Now the point I wish to make clear— and I will make it clear to demonstration —as to the departure of these hon. and learned Gentlemen and the consequent disappearance of any representatives of the landlords from the inquiry, was owing, and owing solely, to the refusal of Sir James Mathew to allow cross-examination. It was attributable to no other cause; and I shall proceed to 1947 justify to the House, and to those who are conversant with legal or quasi-legal proceedings, Sir James Mathew's action, and I shall show that in refusing the power of cross-examination he acted rightly. I know that some criticisms have been passed on Sir James Mathew, because he referred in his opening address to the case of Lord Clanricarde. Perhaps it would have been better if he had avoided that reference. So far as I can see, Sir James Mathew made one mistake, the mistake of a generous mind. He honestly thought that Lord Clanricarde did stand alone in this matter, and he did honestly think that the landlord class in Ireland were prepared to avail themselves of just and equitable methods for putting an end to this hateful feud. I think that therein Sir James Mathew was mistaken. Sir James Mathew did not pass judgment on Lord Clanricarde without hearing him. This is the letter which the Secretary to the Commission received from Lord Clanricarde. It is dated 26th October—I must decline to accept your invitation that I shall make suggestions to promote an attack by this Commission on my low-let property. I will not by suggestions commit myself to complicity in proceedings so mischievous to the public interest and so inequitable.This letter was written before the Commission met. I must call attention to the manner in which the Reports of the proceedings of the Commission were garbled. Absolutely some of the papers attacked Sir James Mathew for the following statement:—But even at the eleventh hour he may see the wisdom of permitting us to extricate him from a position in which it would seem, great as is his rank, no man need envy him.The word "rank" was reported "risk," and Sir J. Mathew was made to speak of Lord Clanricarde's risk. The hon. Member for South Tyrone at once accepted the correction when I made it. It is affectation to suppose that Sir J. Mathew had not heard, as everybody in and out of this House has heard, of the doings of Lord Clanricarde. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not make an attack upon Sir James Mathew. Now, I want to show the Committee what the line was that Mr. Justice Mathew did lay down. He laid down clearly the line he was going to pursue. He said that evidence would be given by witnesses on 1948 behalf of each interest, and that, through the Commissioners, questions which were deemed relevant might be put in cross-examination. He further stated that direct cross-examination might be later allowed should the necessity arise. The hon. Member for South Tyrone had said that Sir James Mathew had even threatened the Press. Really, that is carrying partisanship too far. A very reasonable communication had been received from the landlords requesting that one-sided statements should not appear until their answer could be published contemporaneously or about the same time; and, having said what was desirable in connection with that matter, Sir J. Mathew proceeded to say that, while they have resolved that the Commission shall be an open Commission, and its proceedings shall be reported in the Press, yet that he trusts the Press will observe the golden rule of not commenting upon the proceedings during the pendency of those proceedings. And then he adds this—If this Rule be infringed we will be compelled, very reluctantly, to exclude reporters, and I may add, in all good humour, that if these gentlemen are once subjected to a process of—what shall I say?—eviction, they must be prepared to leave with little hope of reinstatement.To treat that as an act of arbitrary authority over the Press is a little too ridiculous. But now I proceed. A witness is called, and during the evidence of that witness the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite made several interruptions. He objected, for instance, to a witness being called in to state what he knew of the course of dealing on the Clanricarde property unless it could be shown that he was personally himself a party to, and aware of the course of the transactions in relation to it. I stop here in order to comment upon this as being the first and clearest illustration that the hon. and learned Gentleman— he will forgive me for saying so— entirely misconceived the character of the Commission.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
Then the hon. and learned Gentleman ought not to have done so, and would not have done so, if he had made himself acquainted with the constitution of the Commission. Everyone knows that in Commissions of this kind the highly technical rules of legal evidence which are much more 1949 complicated in our system than in other systems of jurisprudence are not observed at all. As to cross-examination, I want to know what Commission can be cited which would justify the allegation that Mr. Justice Mathew was not right in refusing cross-examination? I have listened to all that has been said, and I am still of opinion that no Commission in any sense analogous to that Commission can be cited at which cross-examination has been allowed in the sense in which it was claimed by these hon. and learned Gentlemen. Let me suggest what would have happened. Fancy these hon. and learned Gentlemen taking up, say, the case of Mr. Roche! The hon. and learned Gentleman would have got up and cross-examined him about that deer episode, flourishing in his face that summons for trespass which has been described by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh as a conviction for stealing a deer.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
I think the House will remember the description given by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Roche) of the shooting of the deer. There was no enclosed deer forest within miles, and the hon. Member shot the deer on his own land. I think it is only an "excited politician" who would describe that as a grave offence going to the credit of a particular witness. The hon. Member knows that the very next witness called was the Right Rev. Dr. Healy, the coadjutor Bishop of Clonfert. [Mr. CARSON: I was not there.] Well, he might have been there. If it was the object of the landlord party to assist by putting their case before the Commission, the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to have been there to put it. I am quite sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will not doubt the accuracy of the account which Dr. Healy gave of the transactions on the Clanricarde property, and of the numerous attemps he unsuccessfully made to settle the dispute. I think his account might well be trusted. But what did Sir James Mathew say after the hon. and learned Gentleman had again and again pressed the matter? He reiterated what he had previously said, and ex- 1950 plained it. I must read the passage to the Committee. It is the last I shall read—The Commissioners have consulted one another on the point, and they have come to a clear decision as to what they ought to do; and if you, when you take off your wig and gown, will consider the course which we propose to adopt, even you and your clients will see that it is perfectly fair. We propose to hear first the witnesses called on the part of the tenants. We will then most gladly hear the witnesses called on the part of Lord Clanricarde, including, we hope, Lord Clanricarde himself. And when that has taken place we will hear any application on either side to cross-examine. But now you are here as amicus curiae, and in no other capacity.Upon that, and upon that only, the hon. and learned Gentleman gets up and denounces the whole thing as a farce and a sham, and says "I will not prostitute my position by appearing any further." If I am right—and I want to know whether there is any lawyer in this House who will get up and say that I am wrong—that in a Commission of this character there is no precedent for allowing the cross-examination that was demanded. I ask, Was the refusal to allow cross-examination a real and justifiable ground for retiring from the Commission? Then the learned Judge made a strong observation. I regret that either of these observations were made, because I know that counsel are often placed in trying positions, and sometimes are induced to say things in the heat of the moment which they are afterwards sorry for having said. It is a matter of great regret to me that the hon. and learned Gentleman in expressing himself on this matter the other day did not make a statement of that kind. The Committee must feel that this is a "got-up" Debate. [Cries of "No!"] Yes, an unreal Debate. When the Government come, if ever they come, to make any proposals founded wholly or in part on these recommendations, you will have the opportunity of legitimately discussing the character of such proposals. I do not propose to discuss them to-night, because I do not think they are directly revelant to the question before us. I decline to believe that for the sake of raising the question of an expenditure of £2,000—a question of £50 to Kilbride or of £50 to O'Callaghan—the time of the House has been taken up to this extent. The hon. Member for South Tyrone has 1951 made use of the very considerable powers he possesses to vilify Ireland and Irishmen. He is not an Irishman. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Thank God!] I would fain believe that he desires to play a patriotic part towards the country which, however, he has adopted. He is playing the part, however, of an "Old Mortality" with a difference. He has been going about with steel chisel and busy mallet deepening the record of the faults and frailties of the country of his adoption, not looking, as I think a man with real patriotism and genuine sympathy would look, to see whether there were not to be found in the history of his country some explanation of the shortcomings of its people, whether, if the faults could not be excused, they might not be at least palliated. I hope the hon. Member, when that better spirit which resides in the heart of every man shall some time or other in a happier moment re-assert itself, will apply the undoubted abilities which he possesses to do something in genuine sympathy with the country of his adoption.
§ MR. CARSON (Dublin University)
Mr. Mellor, if I regarded the hon. Member, the Attorney General, as the proper authority for setting the Standard of taste which is to guide counsel in this House, as to when he shall speak and when he shall not speak, I should probably, having regard to his obervations this evening, not have risen to reply to him. But I find that the standard of taste of the hon. and learned Gentleman considerably varies acccording to the particular position in which he finds himself. I cannot help recollecting that the hon. and learned Gentleman was one of the leading Counsel in the Special Commission—a Commission appointed under an Act of Parliament, with reference to which Act of Parliament I am informed he gave a vote. He was afterwards employed as a paid advocate, and when the Report of that Commission was laid upon the Table of this House I find that he was one of the foremost who disputed the accuracy of the findings. I see that the hon. and learned Member shakes his head. Let me read a few of his own words—We are invited to a discussion which I, for one, should willingly have avoided taking part in if it had been possible, in which it is necessary 1952 to refer to the action of certain persons and to criticise some of the findings of the Judges—a bootless, purposeless discussion, which certainly does not tend to elevate the tone of this House.And then he proceeds not only to criticise the findings of the Judges, but to deny that those findings were accurate in point of fact. As I find that the standard of taste varies according to the particular circumstances, I shall not upon this voccasion adopt the view of the hon. and learned Member, but I shall rather content myself with doing what I feel perfectly justified in doing—criticising the public acts of public men put forward to carry out a public office and a public duty, and that I shall certainly do fearlessly. The hon. and learned Member criticised my action and the action of the hon. and learned Member for St. Stephen's Green (Mr. W. Kenny) upon the occasion of the opening of the Commission. I had hoped, having regard to the explanations I had already given this House, that it would not have been necessary for me again to advert to these particular circumstances; but when the hon. and learned Member charges me with having made the excuse of not being permitted to cross-examine a pretext for retiring from the Commission, I feel called upon in fairness to myself and out of the respect I owe to this House, to make a few observations with the object of rebutting such a suggestion. I never said it was because I was refused cross-examination that I withdrew from the Commission. I particularly stated in the observations I made on the occasion of the Address that I never claimed as an absolute right the privilege of cross-examination on that occasion. What I did say was this—and what I submit confidently to the judgment of this House is that under the particular circumstances of the case it was necessary for somebody to cross-examine; and certainly if a packed Commission and a partisan tribunal would not for themselves undertake the process of sifting the truth by cross-examination, then I did say, and I say still, that without some cross-examination by somebody the whole proceedings were a farce and a sham. The hon. and learned Member seems to have entirely misappreciated the position upon that point. Why did I want to cross-examine that particular witness? I thought that if there was one thing 1953 more than another I had made clear to the House it was the reason which influenced me in coming to the conclusion that Mr. Roche ought to have been cross-examined. The hon. and learned Member, with a humour applied to a serious subject which did him credit, said that the first question I would have asked Mr. Roche was whether he stole a deer. Sir, that was not my intention. As I said on a previous occasion, and repeat now, I was aware that Mr. Roche had been inculpated in serious matters that had occurred in relation to the very properties in reference to which he was being examined. I was aware, as the hon. and learned Gentleman is aware, that Mr. Roche had been examined before the Special Commission, and I was aware that he was cross-examined for hours by the late Attorney General for England. I was also aware that, although Sir James Mathew had his cross-examination before him on the table, he had not deigned to ask the witness a single question with regard to it.
§ SIR C. RUSSELL
I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon. I have the authority of Sir James Mathew for stating that, while he does not doubt that he had the evidence on the desk before him, amongst a mass of other matter, his attention was not specifically called to it.
§ MR.. CARSON
Well, Sir, that may be an excuse as to the honour of Sir James Mathew. It certainly does not add to our opinion of his competency. I can only say this: Of course, I accept at once the statement of the hon. and learned Member, but I think that if the hon. and learned Gentleman would open the evidence or the précis of the evidence before him, of which I had not the advantage, he will find that, so far from its being the fact that the evidence of the Special Commission was merely a number of books and documents before Sir James Mathew, he actually proved the letter from Sir Michael Hicks-Beach to Lord Clanricard's agent, not by the production of the letter itself, but by the production of the passage out of the re-examination. Does the hon. and learned Member dispute that? If that is so, I should like to know what becomes of the statement of Sir James Mathew that it was by inadvertence that the whole of the cross-examination was omitted, while the whole 1954 the direct examination was given. But it was not with reference to the stealing of the deer that I intended to cross-examine Mr. Roche. As I said on a previous occasion there were matters material and relevant to the issue upon which Mr. Roche was questioned before the Special Commission.
MR. T.M.HEALY (Louth, N.)
I rise to Order. I wish to know whether the hon. Member for East Galway is not entitled to be called by his proper title in this House, and not by his name?
§ MR. CARSON
I was treating him as an ordinary witness, but it is more effective to treat him as the hon. Member for East Galway.
MR. T. M. HEALY
The ruling made by Mr. Courtney with reference to the description of hon. Members of this House at a time when the prison treatment of hon. Members was being debated, was that they should be referred to as Representatives of the constituencies for which they sat and not by their names.
As a witness before the Courts the hon. Member is called by his name; otherwise, he is called by his constituency.
§ MR. CARSON
I do not wish to convey the slightest disrespect to anyone in calling a witness by his name, and I am perfectly walling to call the hon. Member by his constituency. But the point at which I was interrupted is a somewhat material one. On his direct examination the hon. Member for East Galway had stated that, at a particular date, if the tenants on Lord Clanricarde's estate had been allowed an abatement of 15 per cent., that would have terminated the whole dispute. But what appeared on his cross-examination at the Special Commission; and that was one of the questions I wished to sift? At the cross-examination by the late Attorney General it appeared that the hon. Member for East Galway had himself been a party to a resolution binding himself and binding the tenants in the most solemn way not to accept any offer of abatement unless it was 50 per cent.
MR. ROCHE (Galway, E.)
Will you allow me to ask the hon, and learned Member to point out in the Report of the evidence the passage in which I was a party to, and was bound by, such a resolution?
§ MR. CARSON
I have not got the Report, but I will pledge myself to the statement I have made. I want to know does the hon. Member deny it?
§ MR. ROCHE
Yes, Sir; I deny that I was bound by any such resolution. The charges made against me by the hon. Member are simply a re-hash of the evidence at the time of the Special Commission. At that time I was under cross-examination by the late Attorney General for two days, and I think the result was such as not to encourage further cross-examination.
§ MR. CARSON
I do not know whether the result was such as to encourage cross-examination, but I can say, having read the evidence myself, I did not in the least feel deterred from the cross-examination of the hon. Member; and I do not think that the hon. Member has at all in substance denied what I was saying when I was again interrupted. I pledge myself to prove from the evidence that the hon. Member was a party to a resolution at a particular date not to accept an abatement of less than 50 per cent. Now, I want to know, does the House think that that was a material matter or an immaterial matter on which I intended to cross-examine? I read in the very Report now laid on the Table this passage—On the Clanricarde estate the evidence shows that the first direct demand of the tenants was not excessive.Well, it all depends what the Commission had before them as to the first direct demand of the tenants, and if the Commission had before them, as I know they did, that the first demand was 15 per cent., it would lead to an entirely different conclusion if they heard that the demand was not 15, but 50 per cent. The reason I withdrew from the Commission was not because I was not allowed to cross-examine, but simply because I saw by the manner in which the Commission was constituted and the method of procedure adopted that they were not determined to sift the truth to the bottom. That was why I left it. The hon. and learned Member seems to have found some fault 1956 with Lord Clanricarde with regard to the letter which he wrote. I should have thought that one of the last matters that he would have re-opened would have been any question in relation to that letter, because it does appear, to put it on the lowest ground, an unfortunate thing that Sir James Mathew, in commenting upon the fact that Lord Clanricarde had been invited to attend before the Commission, should have stated that he refused to attend. That was the chief ground of attack against Lord Clanricarde. But what transpired? Why, in a day or two it transpired, in the correspondence in the Press, and this shows the competence of the Commission, that this attack on Lord Clanricarde was ground less, and that, so far from Lord Clanricarde having refused to attend, he had never been invited to attend. He had been asked by letter to make suggestions, and he had declined, and in the heat of the moment Sir James Mathew, in a great effort to display his impartiality, construed the reply into a refusal on the part of Lord Clanricarde to attend. I had not intended, were it not for the observations of the hon. and learned Member, to revert to these matters, because, after all, the conduct of counsel on a particular occasion, if the tribunal is a competent and a fair tribunal, cannot to the extent of one iota effect the Report. The hon. and learned Member in the Parnell Commission thought it right—I suppose on the instructions of his clients —to withdraw from that Commission, and I never heard it suggested, though the hon. and learned Member is a far more influential person than I am, that the Commission, as to its procedure, wavered by reason of his withdrawal in the slightest degree from the course it had mapped out for itself, or that its Re-port was varied because he did not think it right to sit out the Commission. The real question here really is this, Were there any grounds—substantial, honest, constitutional grounds—for the appointment of this Commission? It occurs to me that the appointment of these Commissions ought to be looked to jealously by this House, because if these Commissions are to be turned into engines of political tyranny, all I can say is that there will be a power committed to inquire into questions for political purposes which no Executive ought to have. I 1957 think the House will agree with me in that. I challenge from the outset the suggestions which underlie this reference to the Commission and to their Report— that there was any spontaneous movement on the part of the tenants, or any agrarian controversy, such as alleged in this Report, which justified the right hon. Gentleman in appointing this Commission. Everybody who has watched events in Ireland during the last five years knows that the Plan of Campaign did not arise out of any agrarian controversy. It was part of the premeditated and avowed plan of the Irish Nationalist Party to render the government of Ireland impossible and to drive Her Majesty's Government to exceptional legislation. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford, speaking in 1886, at the time the Plan of Campaign was adopted, said—Mr. Gladstone told the people of England they had to choose between coercion on the one side and Home Rule on the other. Home Rule was defeated at the last election by Great Britain, and I say advisedly that if in face of that defeat the Tories had been able to rule Ireland with the ordinary law, the result would have been in England and Scotland to throw back our cause, perhaps for a generation, and to give the lie direct to the prophecy of Mr. Gladstone. We have achieved a victory without breaking any law or committing a single outrage. Now is the time when outrages are fewer than they have been in the last five years. We have been able to force the Government to give up the ordinary law and to fall back once more on coercion. I believe if the Government are earnest in the action they have taken against John Dillon "—that was, in proceeding against him for instituting the Plan of Campaign—they are on an inclined plane, and they cannot stop themselves, for at the end of the inclined plane there is a Coercion Act.Therefore, I say this Plan of Campaign was nothing more than a political movement, a political engine got up by hon. Members below the Gangway, in the words of the hon. Member for Water-ford, to prevent the lie direct being given to the present Prime Minister, who had said that Ireland could not be governed otherwise than by repressive and coercive legislation. If that was so, I want to know what was the justification for appointing this Commission at all—a Commission every line of whose Report goes wholly and solely for whitewashing the Plan of Campaign. It states that these tenants were not fradulent or dishonest. 1958 What do they state that for? Is it not for the purpose of giving a justification to the institution of the Plan of Campaign?—a Plan that has been condemned by every Court in Ireland. [Sir C. RUSSELL: As a body.] The hon. and learned Member will find that whether as a body or as individuals, those who are fraudulent and dishonest and those who are not are brought into exactly the same category as regards the recommendations of the Report. They are all to have the same advantages. [Cries of "Divide!"] If hon. Members below the Gangway are too tired to go on with the Debate I shall move the Adjournment. What is fraud and what is dishonesty? We are asked to pay for this inquiry. Before we do so we ought to be satisfied that the Commission was properly constituted and that the recommendations are justified by the evidence. What are fraud and dishonesty if they did not exist in the Plan of Campaign? What are they if they do not describe the conduct of men who, in the language of the hon. Member for East Mayo, can pay but refuse to pay because they are in the Plan of Campaign? The Special Commission which the hon. and learned Member adorned for a time found with reference to this regulation that tenants who could pay and refused to do so at the dictation of the League were held up as persons to be applauded and followed by others. If that is not fraud and dishonesty I do not know what they are. This Commission say they see no reason why these tenants should be treated with exceptional harshness. But do they give us any reasons why they should be treated with exceptional indulgence? Take the case, for instance, of Mr. Smith-Barry. The dispute with him did not arise out of any complaint of excessive rents. It arose because be joined, as he had a right to do, a combination of landowners in regard to the Ponsonby estate. His tenants, on the suggestion of a Member of this House, taxed themselves 10 per cent. for the purpose of assisting the tenantry in another county, and then they thought it right to demand from the hon. Member for South Hunts that he should refund them that 10 per cent. with which they had taxed themselves for the purpose of fighting him. The essential point underlying this Report, and which 1959 shows how utterly useless it is, is that the Commission drew no distinction whatever between cases where tenants might be alleged to be in the right and where tenants were in the wrong, and I want to know what is the value of the Report of this Commission? I am not going to deal at this hour of the night with the recommendations of the Commission. I brand them as audacious. I shall not say they are socialistic, because that is a term which is much abused, and I think socialism would probably be insulted by such a description, and I shall not say they are revolutionary, because revolutionary proposals as a rule have some constitutional reason or grievance underlying them, and here I find none such. They are simply fraudulent devices to fulfil political promises, the suggested rewards to be paid by a Political Party for the creation of that political capital which assisted them to power; and I shall not for a moment consider these proposals. The hon. and learned Gentleman said we could consider these proposals when the Government came, if they ever do, to legislate upon them. He is well advised in putting in "if they ever do," because no Government would venture to legislate upon such proposals. You are asked to grant a premium to members of a reckless and criminal conspiracy. You are asked to do this by a Government which is in power solely by virtue of the votes of the Irish Nationalists. The Chief Secretary once said—I do not think we shall be able to deal satisfactorily with Ireland until we have passed some legislation to prevent the tenants confiscating the property of their own landlords.I venture to think that the right hon. Gentlemen when he took the Irish Members as his allies got rid of that honourable and generous sentiment, and of a great many others as well. I venture to suggest that this Report is so absolutely useless for any purpose that can be suggested, that we, as the custodians of the Public Purse, have no right to spend a penny on the Commission.
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly.1960
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 250; Noes 287.—(Division List, No. 30.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Patick)
who had on the Paper an Amendment to the Vote relating to the Deer Forests Commission, rose, when—
§ Original Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ It being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow, at Two of the clock. Committee to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.