§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
rose to ask leave to introduce a Bill for establishing a Department and a Board for the purpose of promoting agriculture and other industries in Ireland. He said that if the hon. and 1033 learned Member for Louth was under the impression that the Government had not promised to bring in a Bill for establishing a Board of Agriculture in Ireland, he was in error. The intention of the Government to introduce such a Measure was announced in the Queen's Speech in 1896, and a Measure had atcually been drafted at that time. Want of time and opportunity, however, prevented the introduction of the Bill, but he could not altogether regret the delay that had occurred, because it had enabled the Government to take advantage of the valuable and interesting Report of the Recess Committee, which was published after that Bill had been drafted. No one could doubt that that was a very remarkable document indeed. In a country like Ireland, where political divisions and differences were so strongly marked, it would, he thought, be admitted that it was singular and indeed phenomenal to find a body of men representing every shade of political opinion co-operating together as in this case. He thought that every one of the Committee was to be congratulated on that fact, particularly his hon. Friend (Mr. Horace Plunkett). He thought that little short of a revolution had been accomplished. They had carefully considered the Report of the Committee in regard to the Bill to be introduced that evening. If they had not been able to adopt all the recommendations in their precise form it was not from any want of sympathy. He would first direct their attention to the title of the Bill. It was a Bill for establishing a Department and a Board for the purpose of promoting agricultural and other industries in Ireland. The House would observe that there was a distinction drawn, and it might be asked what were the functions and constitution of these bodies respectively. As was well known, the functions exercised in connection with agriculture in Ireland were distributed amongst five or six different departments. There were the Privy Council, the Land Commission, the Board of National Education, the Board of Works, the Registrar-General's office, all of which were intrusted with powers and duties connected with agriculture. It was proposed to transfer them to the new Department. It was also provided that there was to be practically a new Minister, so that it would be seen that the new 1034 Department corresponded to the Agricultural Department for England. But it was not desired that it should be confined to agriculture. It was styled in the Bill a Department for Agriculture and Industry in Ireland. The Bill as it stood did not perhaps convey a full justification for that title, for so far as industry was concerned it did not give powers to the Department beyond what were involved in the transference to the Department of the powers and duties of the Registrar General in reference to the collection of certain statistics and also certain powers of cooperation which the Department possessed in the industrial work of the Board. But it was the intention of the Government, he trusted, during the present Session, to introduce a Measure, intended to supplement the present Bill, providing for industrial technical education in Ireland. He was authorised by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he was prepared to provide a substantial sum for the purpose of aiding industrial technical education in Ireland, and the administration and allocation of that sum would be assigned to the new department. So far as its agricultural functions were concerned, the new department had for its counterpart the Board of Agriculture of England; but there was no counterpart in England for the new Agricultural Board they proposed to create. The nearest analogy to the new Agricultural Board was to be found in another Irish institution formed six or seven years ago—namely, the Congested Districts Board of Ireland. The Agricultural Board was intended to perform for Ireland generally duties and functions analogous to those now performed by the Congested Districts Board for the congested districts of Ireland. He wished to make it perfectly clear that this Board was not to be secondary to or dependent in any way upon the Department. On the contrary, it was to be a perfectly independent Board with a separate corporate existence. It was not to be subjected either to the Treasury or to the Irish Government. ["Hear, hear!"] It was to have a perfectly free hand, subject, of course, to the provisions of the Act and the control of the Auditor General, with the funds placed at its disposal, and it was 1035 to have the power to appoint and dismiss its own servants. The powers and functions of the Board covered, roughly speaking, the whole field of agriculture, fisheries, home and cottage industries, and also included the promotion of technical instruction in those subjects.
§ MR. CARSON
asked, were the functions of the Fishery Commissioners to be transferred to the new Board?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that the Fishery Commissioners had certain judicial functions, and it would be inconvenient for their duties to be transferred to an administrative department of the Government. The Board was also to be intrusted with certain special powers, such as the improvement of land by arterial and other drainage. The Board was to consist of not more than 12 members. Three of the members were the President and the Vice President of the Department and the Agricultural Commissioner. The other members, to a number not exceeding nine, were to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, like the members of the Congested Districts Board, as far as possible irrespective of Party, and with a view to the functions and duties they were to discharge. It would be seen that, so far, the Government had followed very closely the analogy of the Congested Districts Board, both in regard to the functions and the constitution of the new Agricultural Board. The question would naturally arise whether it would not be better that the two Boards should be amalgamated. That matter had been under their careful consideration, and he thought a great many arguments might be urged in its favour, but this Board was a new Board which they were creating as an experiment, whereas the Congested Districts Board was an established institution which so far had been a remarkable success. [Cries of "No!"] So far as it had gone it had been a remarkable success. He should not like to put into this Bill a provision for amalgamating the two Boards unless he was assured that there was a general agreement on the part of the Irish Members that such an amalgamation was desirable. So far as the Bill was drafted they had left the Congested Districts Board as it now stood, save that the Vice President of the Department of Agriculture would be henceforth a mem- 1036 ber of that Board. There was one novel principle which they had introduced to which no counterpart was to be found in the case of the Congested Districts Board, although the principle had been given effect to in several Continental countries, and he believed in every case with great success. The Board was directed to draw up, with the approval of the Lord Lieutenant, regulations for the formation of a consultative council, which should consist partly of members representing agricultural societies and organisations, and partly of members to be nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, who would naturally represent agricultural interests. He thought it would be generally recognised that the success of such a Board as they proposed to set up in this Bill would largely depend upon whether they could get into real and close touch with the people whose interests it was intended to benefit. ["Hear, hear!"] It would also depend very largely on the extent to which they could utilise organisations and societies such as those which already existed in Ireland, and which he hoped might be multiplied as time went on. It was absolutely necessary for the Board, if it was to be really efficient in its action, to be in close touch with the people. He did not think it was likely that any difference of opinion would arise as to the necessity of working through organisations. That, in his opinion, was absolutely proved by the experience of foreign countries, and the elements of that were set forth in the Report of the Recess Committee. It might be a platitude to say that the most difficult persons to help were those who could not or would not help themselves; but in practice it was sometimes forgotten that in Ireland farming for the most part was done on a very small scale, and it was absolutely necessary, if the farmers were really to be put in a position to help themselves, that it should be done through organisations and co-operation. In spite of some conspicuous exceptions, very valuable work was done in Ireland by associations like the Royal Dublin Society and the North-Eastern Agricultural Society; but it must be admitted that in agricultural organisation and cooperation Ireland was still backward as compared with many agricultural countries on the Continent. The exertions 1037 of his hon. Friend the Member for South Dublin had already done something to produce a very desirable change in that direction, and he believed that the creation of a Board of Agriculture such as he had now sketched out, assisted in its deliberations by a consultative council, would have the effect of promoting to a very large extent the formation of new organisations and societies. These smaller organisations would enable the Board to come into touch with the people of the country generally in the very way to which they attached so much importance.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Merely consultative. The idea was that it should meet so many times a year in conference with the Board, that the latter might be fully informed of the views and desires of the farmers in Ireland generally and their organisation.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he was coming to the question of finances. But he was on somewhat difficult ground pending the Report of the Financial Relations Commission. Hon. Members from Ireland should separate polemical questions from the questions raised in this Bill.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
reminded hon. Members from Ireland that the funds provided for the Congested Districts Board came from the Irish Church Fund. That was Irish money, and he doubted whether Parliament would have intrusted to the Board power to deal with it, without the interference of Parliament, if the money had been Irish money. [Nationalist cheers.] There was a great deal of force in that. The Board of Agriculture would have a perfectly free hand to deal with the funds at its disposal, and it was thought those funds should be derived from money earmarked in Ireland. So it was proposed that there should be paid to the Board all the sums paid to the Local Taxation (Ireland) Account pursuant to the Local Taxation (Ireland) and Estate Duty Act 1038 of last year accruing after March 21 of the present year. That would give to the Board the use of an income of about £150,000 a year, subject to certain sums which they either had to spend for the benefit of the congested districts or to hand over to the Congested Districts Board.
MR. GERALD HALFOUR
replied that the sums at present spent would continue to be provided under the ordinary Votes. If the money spent with the consent of the Congested Districts Board amounted to or exceeded £20,000 annually, there would be no further sum payable from the Board of Agriculture to the Congested Districts Board. In addition to this sum there would also be at the disposal of the Board that portion of the Sea and Coast Fisheries Fund reserved by the Land Purchase (Ireland) Act of 1891 for expenditure elsewhere than in the congested districts — a capital sum of £20,000. There was also to be paid to the Board in respect of the duties of the Board of National Education in Ireland an annual sum of £6,000 out of moneys provided for Ireland. As he had already explained, it was the intention of the Government in creating this Board to stimulate and encourage as far as possible the self-help of localities, and with a view to that result provisions had been inserted in the Bill enabling grand juries and boards of guardians to raise special rates for the purpose of carrying out schemes approved by the Board, provided always that the rate so raised should not in one year exceed the sums granted by the Board in aid of the same scheme. He had described the functions and constitution both of the Board and of the Department, and the sources from which the funds to be supplied to the Board were to be derived. He had now only to add some reason for making this distinction between the Board and the Department and to explain their relation to each other. The ordinary powers of the Board and of the Department respectively were sufficiently distinct to prevent the probability of any friction between them. A provision, however, had been introduced enabling both the Department and the Board to cooperate with each other in the discharge 1039 of their respective functions. The fact that the three Members of the Department were also to be Members of the Board, would, he trusted, insure harmony and unity of action between the two. It would be seen that the Board and the Department were in this way connected, but at the same time were separate from and independent of each other. What the Government had aimed at was centralisation and organisation of the various functions connected with agriculture which were now scattered among the different Departments, and, on the other hand the extension to Ireland generally of advantages analogous to those which were now conferred on congested districts by the Congested Districts Board. ["Hear, hear!"] It would, no doubt, have been open to the Government to have proceeded upon somewhat other lines. They might have created a Department and also assigned to it the work of the Board; or, again, they might have created a Board and assigned to it the work of the Department only and attached to it a consultative Board possessing advisory but no executive or administrative powers. All these courses had been carefully considered, and the Government came to the conclusion that none was really adapted to the end they had in view. It appeared to them that the work they had assigned to the Department could not be wisely intrusted to the Board, and, on the other hand, that the work of the Board could not be satisfactorily carried out by the Department. The Board was an independent Board. It was not controlled by the Minister who had to preside over it, it was not to be responsible to Parliament, and he did not think it would be wise to intrust to such a Board the administration of Acts of Parliament like the Diseases of Animals Act, under which a considerable amount of public money had to be spent, and which involved the making of a great variety of orders for the compulsory slaughter of cattle, for compensation, and, so forth. He did not think these were duties which could properly be intrusted to the Board it was proposed to create; nor did he think it quite fair to the large body of Civil Servants, who, under this Bill would be transferred from the Departments to which they now belonged to a new Department under a Board not responsible to Parliament, ["Hear, hear!"] For the work intrusted 1040 to the Department it was, in the judgment of the Government, essential that there should be ministerial responsibility and official administration. But, on the other hand, the rigidity of official administration, following as official administration did the strict line of precedent, would be ill-adapted to the work intrusted to the Board. The usefulness of the Board would depend to a large extent upon its getting closely into touch with the people it was intended to benefit. Its work would be essentially internal in character, and work of an internal character was not performed very usefully with the rigid methods of administration which were necessarily characteristic of a Government department. What they wanted, therefore, to secure was more elasticity of method, freedom of action, and popular sympathies. These were secured in the Congested Districts Board, and it was to a large extent because they were so secured that that Board had been so successful in the work it performed. ["Hear, hear!"] The third plan, that of creating an executive department, and attaching to it an advisory or consultative body, might be open in a greater or lesser degree to the drawbacks mentioned, and which were incidental to the performance of such work as was assigned to it. The whole of the responsibility would rest on the shoulders of the Minister, and the Board would be reduced, probably, to a nonentity. The Minister would be responsible to Parliament, and necessarily would proceed in the most cautious and tentative manner; and, being exposed in the administration of large expenditure on all sides to political pressure, would in all probability find it necessary for his protection to resort to hard-and-fast rules of action. He thought the plan of a consultative or advisory Board might probably be adopted with advantage in the case of the allocation of the funds for technical education, but would not be equally well adapted to work like that now carried on by the Congested Districts Board. Even with the success of the Congested Districts Board, he was sensible that the proposals involved an experiment, and in some respects a novel experiment. They were bound to face the possibility of it turning out a failure, and they had made provision for that eventuality by providing that the Board 1041 might be dissolved by Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. ["Hear, hoar!"] In that case the Department would become its executor, dealing with its assets and obligations, but personally he looked forward with hope and confidence to the real issue being very different to that. He was convinced that the road to prosperity for rural Ireland lay in the improvement of her methods of agriculture, now wofullv backward, and in the encouragement of home industries, which could hardly be said at the moment to exist, along which road other countries not dissimilar in general circumstances, employing methods similar to those now proposed, had already travelled as pioneers, and he saw no reason to believe that the success which those countries had achieved should not be the measure of the success which might fairly be anticipated by following in this track. [Cheers.] He formally moved for leave to introduce the Bill.
§ MR. HUDSON KEARLEY (Devonport)
thought Irish Members would excuse him for interposing for a few minutes, he had a special interest in the subject. It appeared to him a bad omen that at the very birth of this proposal provision should be made for its funeral. The right hon. Gentleman, though anticipating the success of the proposal, made provision for its failure, and he also, in his closing remarks, made the statement that improvement in Ireland depended on the development of her agricultural and other industries. That was common to every country.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said if the object was merely to bolster up the home and cottage industries of Ireland time would be wasted on the Bill. He had thought the Government had some profound scheme in view to really develop Ireland's prospects agriculturally considered. That the Bill was intended to develop Irish agriculture he understood, but something in addition was required, some reduction of the heavy burden Ireland bore at the present time. But that was not the question he rose to deal with, and it would be dealt with by those who more thoroughly understood that aspect of the question. The right hon. Gentleman told the House that the very able Report of 1042 the Recess Committee came to him, as possibly it did to many others, as a revelation.
§ MR. KEARLEY
said he had noted the words the Report was a revelation. It was a revelation, no doubt, but, when it was considered how the interests of Ireland had been intrusted to a miscellaneous collection of Boards, it was no wonder that agriculture in Ireland had been crippled, and for years had hobbled along to no advantage. It appeared to him that this new Board would be a political Board in every sense of the word, instead of being, as it should be, a business Board to deal with a business question. They were to have a Commissioner of Agriculture in addition to nine other gentlemen, who would be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. He would like to know what would be the duties of this Commissioner?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he would be a permanent official of the Department and a member of the Board.
§ MR. KEARLEY
asked what class these other nine gentlemen were to be selected from. Were they to be selected for their knowledge of the question; would they be agriculturists, or traders, or what? It was very necessary they should know this. It appeared to him that the functions of the Department were very wide—much wider than they anticipated. They were to have control of the fishery question. That seemed to be a very big question, and he was inclined to think that they would not have full charge of that question. He should like to know how much of it they were to have control of? The home and cottage industries, he was afraid, were not sufficiently important to set up an official body of this description for. What was really wanted was a 1043 practical body dealing, and knowing how to deal with, the possibilities of this agricultural development. If they were going to aim in Ireland at a similar success to that which had been achieved in Denmark, then there was a great deal to be said for the proposal, provided it was not weighted with officialdom and expense. Then he would like to know if this Department was to have entire charge of the adulteration question. The right hon. Gentleman was probably aware that there had been a large number of prosecutions in consequence of the excess of water in Irish butter. There was a disposition amongst the Irish Members to regard Ireland as being exempt from the conditions that were to and would prevail shortly, he believed, elsewhere in the production of this article of butter. He assured Irish Members that they would do themselves the greatest possible injury if they encouraged that idea at all. He trusted that if the Department were set up it would deal stringently with the question of adulteration, because it was perfectly impossible for Ireland to prosper as an agricultural country unless it could be thoroughly established and made clear to the distributors and consumers of Irish products that those products were pure. If the Department did no better work than that it would do a very good work for Ireland. He noticed that the Board was to draw up regulations for the consultative council. What were to be the functions of the consultative council? It would give advice, no doubt, but was it to take the responsibility of finding markets for the produce of Ireland? In the latter direction the committee of the hon. Member for South Dublin had done excellent work. The great difficulty in Ireland had been that the small producer had been absolutely at the mercy of the middleman, and it would be a very good thing if the Department took steps to protect all kinds of producers, so that they might get the best results for the articles they produced. In Limerick, Cork and Waterford there were regular rings working to the detriment of the small producers. Middlemen in those places made huge sums, while the producers barely made a profit. The right hon. Gentleman said the success of the Board depended upon whether it could get in close touch with the people. What people did he mean? The small farmers 1044 only, or with the distributors and consumers as well? £150,000 was to be spent. That was a handsome sum, but it would require to be very carefully dealt out, or else there would be no practical result. If it all went in schemes it would be wasted, but if it was properly applied it would be of the greatest advantage to Ireland. He believed it would be rather difficult to get localities to rate themselves to develop industries when the benefit would go, not to them, but to private individuals. They were told this was an experiment. He honestly and sincerely hoped it would not be a failure. It was a step in the right direction, and, so far as he was concerned, without pledging himself to details, he would endeavour to support the Bill as far as he could.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said he did not think any Irish Member would complain of the hon. Gentleman, whose action in taking an interest in this question was in strong contrast with the action of his leaders, who were conspicuous by their absence. He did not think any Member, much less an Irish Member, would be inclined off-hand and without seeing the Bill in print, to express a full opinion upon its value. The Chief Secretary had dwelt upon the value of the Report of the Recess Committee, and emphasised the fact that that was a body representing all shades of political opinion in Ireland. But if there was one thing more emphasised than another in the Report, it was the necessity of bringing the proposed Department into close touch with the people. The right hon. Gentleman himself had admitted the desirability of doing that, and yet in the Bill there was a complete absence of any popular representation. For his part, he did not see the necessity of having two bodies. It would have been quite possible to have had one body, and to have popular representation upon it, so that it would have commanded the confidence of the great bulk of the people.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
No popular representation is recommended in the Report of the Recess Committee.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
It provided for the creation of councils, the majority of which would be elected by the people. It is true the Bill contains a provision 1045 that the Board may frame rules for the creation of Consultative Councils, with the approval of the Lord Lieutenant, but it is quite clear that that is a power which may never come into operation at all.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said the Lord Lieutenant would not be bound to approve of them. It was quite clear that if it had been the intention of the Government to give popular representation they would have enacted it as a substantive part of the Measure. This was an example of the method by which Ireland was governed. Nationalist Members, when they brought forward Irish Measures, were told that they only represented a section of the people. But here they had all classes and sections of political parties absolutely united in demanding a Measure, and the English Government, in the airiest possible manner, put their recommendations aside. He was a member of the Recess Committee, and he was most anxious for an effective Measure in helping Irish agriculture and industries. He did not wish to criticise the Government unfairly, but only to get a good Bill for Ireland. One statement made by the Chief Secretary would be regarded with general satisfaction, and that was the undertaking that almost immediately the Government would introduce another Bill dealing with technical education in Ireland. But the broad fact in connection with the finance of the Bill was that Ireland was not receiving a penny from the Imperial Treasury. Ireland was simply allocating her own money to a particular use. Irishmen could not forget that while under the statute of last year Ireland received £150,000 a year, she would, if treated on the same principle as England, be receiving from £700,000 to £800,000 a year. He would not say whether the Government's proposals represented the best method of spending the £150,000. No doubt if it were devoted to relief of rates, the individual advantage would be very small, and he was prepared to spend it on other useful purposes. But the First Lord of the Treasury had declared that the Bill was introduced before the Easter holidays in order that it might be discussed in Ireland during the recess. Weil, if the representatives of every class, party, and creed in Ire- 1046 land were unanimous in wishing for certain changes in the Bill, would their wishes be considered, or would they be disregarded like the recommendations of the Recess Committee? Generally he was in thorough sympathy with the attempt to aid agriculture and industries in Ireland, and with the expenditure of money, even Irish money, upon the purpose, and his one desire would be to make the Bill workable, so that, when it finally passed the House, if might be likely to confer a real benefit on the people of Ireland.
§ MR. EDWARD CARSON
acknowledged that the Chief Secretary had shown himself thoroughly anxious to master the difficulties that arose by reason of Ireland being a purely agricultural country. He suggested, however, that before the Bill was issued an attempt should be made to make the part of the Bill relating to administration much more simple. When would they be done with setting up new departments in Ireland? [Nationalist Cheers.] What always happened was this, that according to the exigency of the case a new department was set up, something was transferred from an old department, and the old department goes on as merrily as before. [Nationalist Cheers.] Then they had Members on both sides rising when financial questions were brought up and blaming them because of the great extravagance and the great expenditure in Ireland. While he had no doubt that this Department might be useful as the Congested Districts Board was—and he desired to bear his testimony to the great work performed by that Board— he would like to see some attempt made in the Bill to consolidate some of those Departments. He could not see any reason why the work should not have been carried out by one Board and one set of individuals. He did not see any objection to a Minister being appointed to sit in the House, but he would have preferred to see a new Minister for Ireland, who would have been answerable for all the various Departments connected with land in Ireland. Then he thought that on future occasions they would have some interesting questions as to the administration of the land laws in Ireland generally. But he entered his most emphatic protest against the finance of the Bill. [Cheers.] He was a warm supporter of the attitude 1047 of the Government in relation to the financial question in Ireland, but they could not have it both ways. The Government must either treat Ireland as a part of one country, or they must treat it as a separate country. [Cheers.] He complained that this £150,000 which had been cynically called an equivalent grant was entirely inadequate, according to the principles, laid down in the Bill of last year, for the relief of agriculture in England. He could not understand why the remedies provided in that Bill for depressed agriculture should not apply to a country which was purely agricultural. [Cheers.] Why was the money to be put to a different purpose from that in England? Were Irish tenants not groaning under the grand jury cess in Ireland, just as English tenants were groaning under county cess in England. The only pretext for adopting a different mode of legislation was that people imagined that because the tenantry of Ireland got reductions in their rents out of the landlords' pockets it was not necessary to give relief out of Imperial funds to the relief of local rates. He protested against this principle of differentiating between the two countries. He was anxious to see this new Board established in Ireland, but he would not be satisfied until a really equivalent grant was given to Ireland for the relief of agricultural ratepayers. Why was that not done? In the Irish papers he saw resolutions day after day, which were passed not by landlords only, or tenants only, but by the representatives of both these bodies, by grand juries as representing the landlords and by tenants the agricultural associations—resolutions calling upon the Government to give them the same relief in respect of their rates as was given last year to agricultural districts in England. All parties in Ireland were united in this demand, and he did not see any justification for withholding the relief for which they asked. He thought the Government, while adhering to this Bill and providing the £150,000 for setting up the new Department, might very well undertake to pass a Measure giving to Ireland the equivalent of what was given to England last year. This was not a demand which came merely from one side of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] Landlords and tenants in Ireland were 1048 thoroughly agreed upon the subject. The landlords had no wish to see benefits conferred upon tenants in this country withheld from tenants in Ireland. The better off the tenants were the better it was for all concerned.
MR. T. M. HEALY
congratulated the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the patriotic speech which he had made— ["hear, hear!"]—and trusted that it would penetrate the minds of Her Majesty's Government. He ventured, however, to tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that in a matter of this kind he was regarded by the Government only as a mere Irishman like the rest of them. As long as the right hon. and learned Gentleman was doing the work of the Government in Ireland his voice was a potent voice in their estimation, but the moment he spoke on behalf of Ireland, his efforts were derided and his utterances were disregarded. He should like to know with regard to the Bill whether it was to be a take-it-or-leave-it Bill? Was that the category in which it was to be placed? Was it to have precedence of the Bicycles Bill or the Criminal Evidence Bill? [Laughter.] What was the position of the Government with regard to the Bill? The case of Ireland was so simple that it was ridiculous. They spent a million a year to teach children in Ireland the height of the mountains in Switzerland, and similar rubbish, and now, when they were grown up, they were going to spend £150,000 on teaching them all about liquid manure. [Laughter.] The nomination of the 12 men who were to spend the £150,000 under the Bill was placed entirely in the hands of that admirable nobleman who came from Chelsea—Lord Cadogan. When the Lord Lieutenant nominated the Land Commission he was torn to pieces by the Irish landlords in his own Chamber over the way. How then could he hope to satisfy that insatiable and irreconcilable body the Nationalists, in the nomination of the 12 apostles of agriculture? [Laughter.] Either Ireland was a separate entity or she was not. He believed that, according to the present state of the 1049 Government mind, she was nut a separate entity. Accordingly she was regarded as part of this great country, and it was asked, why should they not be prosperous like Yorkshire? Why should they not be satisfied like Wiltshire? Why should they not be happy under the glorious Union Jack for which they paid £40 a year to hoist over Westminster? But he would ask any Englishman who was opposed to Home Rule to explain to him as an honest man, or as a financier— he did not care which—[laughter]—how Ireland was not entitled to the same equivalent grant as England, which some people would put at a sum of £700,000 a year? And yet there were opposite a number of Gentlemen who would go down to their constituents and say how dissatisfied those Irish were, what rapperees they were—here was England pouring bounties upon Ireland from her cornucopia, or her pharmacopeia—he did not know which it was—[laughter]—and she was not satisfied—their quack medicines could not satisfy her. Was not the reason that Ireland was only a separate entity for coercion, and other alms of that kind, and that when it came to fiscal gifts the attitude of England towards her was that of a stepfather? Under this scheme this money—not England's money—was to be administered by a Board of 12 gentlemen. How did the English deal with their agricultural matters? They introduced an Agricultural Bill, which he was not aware was one bit better than this Bill, but in spite of that they had since given relief in respect of half of the agricultural rates. [Irish Cheers.]
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the Board of Agriculture in England corresponded to the Department of Agriculture created by this Bill.
MR. T. M. HEALY
mentioned a number of Acts relating to agriculture which had been passed in England, but of which they in Ireland had had no counterparts. There were a number of Acts relating to the contagious diseases of animals, they were not to have the benefit of those. He 1050 would skip the Tithe Rent Act, as Irishmen, of course, were not to be trusted with their own money. Then there was the Copyhold Act, the Labourers Act, the Enclosures Act, and the different Acts relating to commons. They would like in Ireland to deal with their own commons. If there was one thing they would like to deal with in Ireland it was the question of drainage. There was a remarkable series of Drainage Acts, Improvement Acts, Land Acts, Public School Acts, and Enfranchisement Acts, all applied to England, and the Government thought, when dealing with Ireland and creating what they were pleased to call a popular body, that the Irish people would be satisfied with this miserable thing presented to them. He should have thought that, in dealing with this matter, which, at, all events, was Irish, the Chief Secretary would have invited the Irish Members to have met him in one of the Committee rooms upstairs, and said to them, "I have £150,000 of your money in my pocket, and I should like to know what you would like me to do with it?" But he consulted two or three people at the Castle, whom the Irish people had never seen, whose very names they did not know—still their salaries appeared on the Estimates—and he went to Leeds and asked the Irish people to trust him, and he supposed that by intuition and two years' experience he could penetrate into the minds and hearts of the Irish peasants. The Chief Secretary was admitted to be conscientious and hardworking, yet there was never a more powerless Minister. He was not in the Cabinet, which was a crying shame. When the smallest Irish Bill was presented he had to consult Lord this and the other, who were thinking of Crete and Armenia, and never gave a thought to Ireland unless they saw a murder in Ireland reported in The Times. He ought to consult Irish opinion, and, having done that, be in a position to set the Cabinet and the Treasury at defiance. Only in that way would he be successful in 1051 administering the affairs of Ireland. He believed the right hon. Gentleman knew what was the cure for Ireland. What was wanted was a native Government, and yet the right hon. Gentleman and his Party made this tinkering compromise. The only way of dealing with Ireland was either to rule her as a Crown colony and a conquered nation, or give her a free Parliament. There was no other means, and it was useless for the Government to think that by making these tinkering sops and doles they could satisfy Irishmen. When they had their own little Parliament in Ireland what were their taxes? £1,000,000 a year, and they were now £8,000,000. What they wanted was to be relieved out of the £7,000,000 England was now robbing them of. That was the Irish question, and that was the only form of an Agricultural Board that would ever satisfy them.
§ MR. DILLON
said there were two points connected with the Bill on which Irish opinion would be absolutely unanimous. The first of these was the financial basis. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Member for Dublin University that all parties in Ireland would unite in condemning the financial proposals of the Bill. In the Queen's Speech of last year the Government promised an Irish Agricultural Board, and in redemption of that promise it was the duty of the Government to provide out of the Imperial funds the expenses of that Board. They had not done so, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman he would quickly discover that on the financial question there was absolutely no difference of opinion in Ireland—that landlords and tenants, Ulstermen and Munster men, Unionist and Nationalist, would be agreed in condemning this as an exceedingly shabby trick towards Ireland. They claimed their full equivalent grant in relief of the rates in Ireland. As the Government had taken off half the rates of the English farmers, they ought to do the same 1052 for the Irish farmers, which would amount to a sum roughly estimated at about £700,000 a year; and, in addition, whatever the expenses of this Board proved to be, they ought to be honestly and frankly provided by the Government out of what was really an. Irish fund, though it was nominally out of the Imperial Exchequer. The second point to which he wished to allude was as to the constitution of the Board, and he again agreed to a large extent with what had been said by the right hon. Member for Dublin University. He believed that there would be almost universal condemnation of the utter absence of any popular element on this Board. The Board, the right hon. Gentleman said, should be in touch with popular feeling; but how could it have any popular representation if all the 12 members were to be appointed by Dublin Castle? It would be nothing more nor less than another Castle Board. The three official members would rule the roast, and it would be a mockery to call this an independent body; it would be under official control, and there was no pretence of popular representation. No good purpose, however, would be served in attempting to discuss the details of the Bill now.
§ MR. HORACE PLUNKETT (Dublin Co., S.)
said on the question of finance there would be general agreement among Irishmen; but from the other questions raised by the hon. Member finance might be kept entirely separate. Let the other provisions of the Bill be looked at quite apart from the source from which the money was to come. Upon the other point there seemed to be some misconception. The hon. Member appeared to assume that the Lord Lieutenant would appoint an unpopular Board, or a Board of which the farmers could not approve; but there was no warrant for assuming that, and he would have no object in doing so. A sum of money would be handed over to the Board, and the Board would be able to do very much as 1053 they liked with it; it would not matter to the Government. An entirely new spirit seemed to be arising in Ireland on these questions. Even the hon. Member for Louth had come out as an industrialist, and he brought in a Bill the other day of which everybody approved —an industry Bill; and, in spite of hon. Members' condemnation of the action of English Governments towards Irish Measures, he believed it had a very good chance of becoming law.
§ MR. PLUNKETT
said he would confer with the hon. Member as to that outside the House. He believed that in the Recess this Bill would receive close attention, and out of the criticism would come suggestions for Amendment that he had great hope the Government would accept. Undoubtedly the Bill would make a considerable demand on Parliamentary time. He had every reason to believe that the Government were in earnest about this Measure, and he wished to accord his most grateful thanks to the Chief Secretary for his labours in this matter, and to wish him every success in this very fruitful and useful legislation.
§ MR. R. M. DANE (Fermanagh, N.)
said that, as representative of an agricultural constituency, and also a member of the Recess Committee, he desired to thank the Chief Secretary for the honest labour he had devoted to this Bill. He said candidly that with some parts of the Measure he was disappointed, but he must also honestly admit the great difficulties with which his right hon. Friend had to contend. It was no simple task for a Chief Secretary, holding the responsible office he did, to tackle the large number of Departments in Dublin Castle which had held sway for so many years, and the heads of which naturally resented any interference with their office. He thought the Chief Secretary had laboured hard to meet the recommendations of the Recess Committee, and he 1054 cordially thanked him for what he had succeeded in doing under very great difficulties. When they came to the financial part of the Bill, he saw, not the gentle hand of the Chief Secretary, but the iron hand of the British Treasury, and he for one must protest in the strongest manner against what he believed was another injustice towards Ireland perpetrated by the British Treasury.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
said that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Fermanagh might have made a more effective protest had he supported the Instruction which he himself moved last year to the effect that the Agricultural Rates Bill should be extended to Ireland. At present they were very much in the position of shutting the stable door after the horse was stolen, but, in view of the unanimity of the protest, he did not despair that, although a great act of injustice towards Ireland was proposed, Irish Members would be able to penetrate the hide of the British Treasury. The Government had paid half the rates of the English farmer, and they proposed to give to Ireland as an equivalent £150,000 a year, which was to be spent in salaries and for other purposes by a Board in Dublin. Take the position of an individual farmer in Donegal. He calculated that if half the rates of the Donegal farmer were paid for him by the Treasury he would be able to raise his store cattle 15s. a head cheaper than he could raise them to-day. Could even the most enthusiastic advocate of this Agricultural Department say that it was likely to enable the Donegal farmer to produce his store cattle 15s. cheaper than at present? The peasantry of Ireland would be able to understand the hard fact that the most needy agriculturists of the kingdom had been deprived of a benefit which was given to the richest farmers in this country. It was impossible for them to separate the financial part of the Bill from the rest. It was the root of the whole matter, and if they 1055 did not protest strongly against it they would be told that they had acquiesced in the creation of these new places and salaries. As to the other part of the Bill, so far as he could understand, it did not transfer a single highly-placed official from any other department in Ireland to this new Board. He felt bound as an Irish Member to protest against the creation of a large number of salaried posts unless there was some reduction of these posts in other directions.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the introduction of the Bill, and still more on the promise of an auxiliary Bill, which would be received with the greatest satisfaction in the North of Ireland. But there would be a general consensus of opinion in Ireland with respect to this financial question, and though he did not advocate the expenditure of a larger sum on this purpose, that was not the end of the matter. He could not admit that this allocation was exhaustive of the claim of Ireland on the joint fund of the United Kingdom. The fact that the city of Belfast unanimously supported the Government on the Financial Relations question was of some value to the Government in the position which they took up; but that support would not be extended to the absolutely contradictory proposition involved in the refusal to Ireland of her equivalent to the Agricultural Rating Act. It was impossible for him to contend to his constituents that there was no obligation on the Government to extend to Ireland the treatment which had been given to England. They had a right to ask on what grounds it was that, agriculture being distressed both in England and Ireland, the same principles of relief were not adopted in the two countries? It was useless to urge that the vote in aid of education in Ireland was to be held as part discharge of the obligation to Ireland; for that education grant was made antecedent to the allocation of the equivalent grant. It would be against 1056 his convictions to support this allocation of the money, and Irish Members would be unanimously of his opinion.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gerald Balfour and the Attorney General for Ireland; presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Monday 26th April, and to be printed.—[Bill 204.]