§ THE LOED CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND (Lord ASHBOURNE)
My Lords, in the year 1888 an important Bill for the reform of local government in England was introduced and passed, and in the following year a Bill on the same lines and for the same purpose was passed for Scotland. Ever since it has been inevitable—it was a inert question of time—that a similar Bill would be passed for Ireland, and it was necessary and just, therefore, that a Bill such as that of which I have now the honour of moving the Second Reading should be framed for the sister country. It is indispensable in the framing of such a Bill to have regard to precedents that are found in the legislation applied to both England and Scotland, and also to have regard to the repeated statements made by important' Ministers of the Crown. The time that has elapsed, my Lords, since the passing of the English and Scotch Measures has by no means been wasted, because the teaching of the working of those Measures has been of advantage, and the experience derived in both countries of how those important Measures have operated has been of very great service. Great pains have been taken in framing the present Measure. It follows naturally the main lines of the legislation adopted for England and Scotland, accompanied only by such variations as are necessary owing to the special circumstances of Ireland. I will venture to assume, my Lords, and I think it will be for your Lordships' convenience, that your Lordships have a general familiarity with the scheme of local government that has been adopted in England and in Scotland. Your Lordships are also aware how long the present Bill has engaged the attention of the House of Commons, and of the close and searching criticisms to which it has been subjected. It was a long time at the Committee stage—I think as many as 15 or 16 days; it was a considerable time at the Report stage—I think quite six days; and in addition to the close 532 and vigorous criticism which it received in the other House of Parliament it has for a considerable time been discussed and examined and prophesied about in the Press and in the public opinion of Ireland. Therefore, my Lords, I think I should best consult the wishes and the convenience of your Lordships if I confine myself to a statement of its main provisions and its broad features, leaving the examination of its details and of its minor features to other stages. My noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant would, have been very glad to have undertaken this task, for which his knowledge and study of the subject, and the keen and active interest he took in the Bill, would have so well qualified him; but usage does not allow of the Lord Lieutenant taking a very active part in the deliberations and proceedings of Parliament, and, therefore, the duty of moving the Second Reading of this Bill has devolved upon me. The Bill upon all sides in the House of Commons was unopposed. It was accepted as an expected and a needed Measure. It was felt and recognised, I think, on all sides as to grand jurors and grand juries, although they had well and efficiently and economically performed their duties, that, still, being a nominated and not a representative body, it would be impossible to retain them in a scheme of reform. Therefore, as in England and as in Scotland, the duties of local government are cast upon bodies popularly elected. No effort, as I have stated, my Lords, was made in any part of the House of Commons, nor do I think it will be made in your Lordships' House, to oppose this Bill. In the conduct of this Bill through the other House the main task of my right honourable Friend the Chief Secretary—who made himself a great master of the subject, and showed the most extraordinary knowledge and resource, as well as exhibited infinite patience—in addition to exposition and explanation, was to retain the essential provisions that were in the Bill when it was first drafted, avoiding curtailment on the one side and expansion on the other, whilst ready and willing, naturally and reasonably, to consider all details that might improve the working of the machinery; and I think, my Lords, that in his efforts he was entirely successful. It is only necessary to take the first draft of the Bill, and to watch its gradual growth and develop- 533 ment and its changes, to see that he adhered to the lines which I have ventured to indicate. The broad and leading features of the Bill which I present to your Lordships to-day for Second Reading are necessarily founded on the English and Scotch precedents, but as the Scotch Bill differed in some of its details from the English Bill, so this Bill, owing to the history and circumstances of Ireland, differs also in some of its details from the English and Scotch Measures, although it follows their leading features. In England there are found as the scheme of local government, county councils, district councils, and parish councils. In Scotland there are county councils and parish councils. There is also a committee which is largely composed—I believe mainly composed—of those who are members of the county council, with an addition made from the parish council affected. In Ireland in this Bill it is not proposed to have any parish councils, because never in that country has the parish been made an area of local administration. After the passing of the Bill local administration will be in the hands of four bodies—county councils, urban district councils, rural district councils, and boards of guardians. The franchise in every case will be the Parliamentary franchise, with the addition of Peers and women. That will tend to uniformity and simplicity. There is nothing so inconvenient as to have to go from one list of electors to another, and never to be quite sure where there is similarity and where there is variety. It is an immense convenience to have one system for all purposes. That follows the Scotch precedent, and it also follows, as far as district councils and parish councils are concerned, the English precedent. The qualifications will be exactly the same as in England, save that ministers of religion will not be entitled to sit—an exclusion that applies to ministers of all churches, and is not confined to one. I am quite aware, my Lords, that there are some differences of opinion as to whether it would be convenient or desirable that they should sit; but after giving their best consideration to this matter the Government have arrived at the conclusion that the exclusion is a reasonable exclusion, that it is wise, and that it will not work in an unsatisfactory way. I am not aware that 534 they are departing in the slightest degree from any precedent that exists in Ireland, and I question whether there is any desire on the part of the clergy in Ireland to take any substantial part in local administration. The fourfold division of authorities which I have mentioned—county councils, urban district councils, rural district councils, and boards of guardians—may in reality be narrowed down to three, in the majority of cases, because members of the rural district councils will represent the area for which they are elected, also as guardians, and where the union is within an administrative county the union will be coincident with the rural district, and the board of guardians therefore will be really a district council acting under another name: so that although for the purpose of legislation and designation there are four bodies, in substance and in reality there are practically only three. Now, on the threshold of any subject of this kind there is always one question that creates some anxiety, and that is the question of boundaries. It is impossible to cause great reform of this kind with new areas and new governing bodies without to some extent interfering with boundaries. Baronies in future in Ireland will no longer be centres of government, and, without going into details at this stage, the greatest circumspection has been exercised to avoid unnecessary alterations of boundaries and of overlapping of areas. In the later stages of the Bill an appeal committee was established, which enables people who are not satisfied with alterations which have been made in the county boundaries to appeal to a body of five, composed of the Vice-President of the Local Government Board—a gentleman of ability and experience—and four others, to be nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, of whom two are to be Members of Parliament, and it is hoped that that will enable the matter to be settled without that friction and dissatisfaction which sometimes arises in the adjustment of boundaries. Now, my Lords, the constitutional powers to be given to these local authorities I will state very shortly and in general terms. To county councils, apart from county boroughs, will be given the fiscal and administrative duties and powers at present enjoyed by grand juries, and also those exercised for the county at large at presentment sessions. 535 To rural district councils will be handed over the duties at present discharged by baronial presentment sessions, and the powers of rural sanitary authorities. Compensation for malicious injuries will be adjudicated upon by the county court judge. Expenditure on roads and other public works payable by the rural district council will be proposed by district councils, and, with the county council will lie the duty of approving or disapproving of the proposals. That is, of course, a very substantial check upon expenditure, and upon the lavish making of roads; and, as a further check upon extravagant expenditure without the express consent of the Local Government Board, no expenditure on roads in a rural district is to receive the sanction of the county council if it exceeds by 25 per cent, the expenditure during the three years before the "standard year." The "standard year" is a term which appears very often in the Bill, and means the year 1896–97. It is obvious, my Lords, that that is a substantial and considerable check, and a real safeguard against an extravagant or lavish making of roads. There will be a closer connection in Ireland between the rural district councils and the county councils than there is in England, and, recognising that the chairman of every rural district council is made an additional member of the county council, it is hoped that his presence and his knowledge and assistance will be of considerable value in connection with everything relating to the district that comes before the county council for examination and discussion. In Ireland we have to build, and we have built, upon the existing system, and the rural district council is made a road authority, as I have stated, subordinate to the county council, who will be the sole rating authority in rural districts. That, of course, is a very wide power, and it is given to the highest authority that is called into existence for the administration of local government in Ireland, and it is believed that, on the whole, it will work well and reasonably. The question of lunatic asylums and their government and treatment has exercised the most careful attention. The Board of Control will be abolished, and the appointment by the Lord Lieutenant of boards of governors is also taken away, as well as the 536 power of appointing officers. It will become under the Bill, the duty of the county councils to provide and maintain sufficient accommodation for the lunatic poor, and to manage the lunatic asylums. That is, of course, a grave responsibility, but it is one, however, that is safeguarded throughout, because the ultimate control of the Lord Lieutenant is kept steadily in view. Where the councils fail to carry out their duties and do not come up to the standard that the Lord Lieutenant deems is right, he is given a controlling power; and it is right, also, to point out that although the power of appointing the resident medical superintendent and assistant medical officers is given to the council the Lord Lieutenant retains the power of approving of both those steps, either the appointing or the dismissing of those officers, which is, of course, a real and substantial check. It is further provided, by an addition in the House of Commons, that no one should be appointed a resident medical superintendent of a lunatic asylum who had not had five years' experience in the working and management of such asylums, and, my Lords, with that and the other provisions which are set out at greater length and in more detail in the Bill, it is hoped that the asylums in Ireland will be administered adequately and under wise control. There is also a provision in the Bill dealing with what in Ireland always requires anxious care, namely, the recurring periods of exceptional distress. This provision obviates the necessity of special Acts of Parliament whenever there is a recurrence of exceptional distress. It is not expedient to encourage the introduction of such special Acts so often as has been the case in the recent history of Ireland, and the provisions in the Bill give wider powers to cope with special exceptional distress than exist under the present law, at the same time safeguarding any possible abuse of the grant of these larger powers. It is hoped that these provisions will work fairly, and will adequately deal with the particular classes of distress that have from time to time arisen, though it is quite possible that there may be occasion when the powers of Parliament may have to be invoked. The tenure of office of those who are called upon to discharge the 537 responsible duties under this Bill is three years, and they are to retire together. Single-member constituencies have, as a rule, been adopted, and the county electoral divisions will be fixed by the Local Government Board, while the district electoral divisions, as your Lordships might infer from what I have said in reference to boards of guardians, will be the present poor law electoral divisions. It will be the duty of the Local Government Board to map out in Ireland the areas that are to return those who are to be members of the county council. As your Lordships are aware, Ireland is not rich in very large towns; our towns are very beautiful and very attractive, but they are not very large. We have six considerable cities that are made into county boroughs—Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Derry, and Waterford. No substantial change has been made in the government and the status of these towns, except that the wider franchise that I have already referred to will be extended to them. Their methods of government, their mode of going in and out of office, and their designation will all be preserved: their style will be unchanged. The urban district councils become the road authorities, and they also levy all the rates. Of course, in the rural districts I have mentioned to your Lordships those great powers are given to the county councils. Ex officio guardians are abolished, and dispensary committees will also cease, though there is a power given to appoint committees, which, it is believed, will work well and usefully. The duty of collecting and levying the poor rate is transferred in rural areas to the county council, and in urban areas to the urban council. In rural districts no election of guardians, as such, will take place, because the rural district councillors will be the guardians themselves in the way that I have mentioned to your Lordships. Now I come to the financial and rating clauses of the Bill, which I shall be very glad to make clear to your Lordships. They read more intricate than I think they are in reality, or will be found in the working of the Measure. The occupier in future is to be liable for both the county cess and the poor rate, in both rural districts and towns, and they will both be collected in one 538 consolidated rate. Anyone who is at all acquainted with Ireland will recognise the element of simplicity which this introduces. It involves a temporary readjustment of rents until the tenancy is determined, or, in cases that coma under the Land Act, until a new fair rent is fixed. The financial year of 1896–97 has been taken as the standard year, because, according to the scheme of the Bill, it was absolutely necessary that there should be some standard to appeal to that would not be varying. The effect of the rating provisions of the Bill will be that while, if any decrease of the rates occurs, it will go to the benefit of the occupiers, any increase will, of course, be to their disadvantage. Every motive that can well be suggested will operate in the mind of the occupier not to be extravagant, but to be prudent and to avoid an increase, if he can, because he will have to bear the extra charge. This is a real incentive to thrift and prudence, and is, in my opinion, a substantial safeguard against reckless and extravagant expenditure. I do not say that the scheme is perfect. I should like to know what would be perfect. I do not, by any means, say that any scheme that could be laid down in this House on any of these subjects could be said to be ideally perfect, but I do venture, my Lords, to say this—that this scheme is a real and genuine effort to accomplish what it seeks. Now, there is another matter connected with finance that it is desirable that your Lordships should have clearly present to your minds—I refer to the agricultural grant. In England a substantial grant was made towards agricultural rates, and though the amount which will come to Ireland on the same principle as is adopted in England has not yet been ascertained with precision, it will probably be about £730,000, which is the sum mentioned in the Bill. I do not, however, give that as a figure for which I am responsible. The way in which that figure, which is called the agricultural grant, will be worked out is as follows: Each year, from the Imperial Exchequer, will be paid a sum equal to one-half the county cess and one-half the poor rate, taken, for the purposes of the Bill, to have been paid in respect of agricultural land in the standard year. That will be the sum 539 that will be paid, and it is anticipated that it will reach the figure I have mentioned. The benefit is intended for the occupier as regards the county cess, and for the owner as regards the poor rate. The Bill contains provisions for the temporary adjustment of rent, which I will not trouble your Lordships with, to meet the new position, and also carefully considered instructions to the Land Commission. They are all stated in detail in the Bill, and I am sure I am consulting your Lordships' wishes and convenience if I do not pause to go into them at the present moment. When the occupier is also the owner it is obvious that he will have a double benefit. He will, as the occupier, get a benefit for the county cess, and he will, as the owner, get a benefit so far as the poor rate is concerned. My Lords, that is all I deem it necessary to state in reference to the very important matters of finance and rating. I have only endeavoured to give your Lordships a broad and general view of the matter that can be easily grasped. It has been thought wise and prudent, now that the occupier is made solely liable for the rates, to make a change and to establish union rating, which is found, on the whole, to be a check on extravagance in outdoor relief. It was applied in the special Relief Act of 1894, when the noble Earl opposite was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It has since been followed in all subsequent special Acts dealing with special relief in Ireland, and I am informed it works well and is found to tend to circumspection, caution, and economy. Guardians are only human, and they will vote with a light heart for charges that do not affect the particular divisions they represent, but it is quite another thing if the divisions they represent have to bear a greater or a lesser part of every bit of relief that is given. The proposed reform will lead to considerable reflection and caution in the granting of outdoor and other relief. The charges for extra police, the charges for compensation for criminal injuries, the charges for railways, harbours, navigation, and also the charges in reference to public health are excluded from the calculation of the standard rate. In addition to the £730,000 agricultural grant which I have mentioned to your Lordships there is 540 a further sum to be taken into account in the working out of the objects of local government in Ireland. The analogy is found in England. In England it was found that the license duties handed over substantially exceeded the grants-in-aid. In Ireland the duties transferred amount to £200,000, and the grants-in-aid that will be stopped when the duties are handed over amount to £244,000, which will leave a deficiency to be made up. This amount is not only made up, but a sum of £35,000 is given besides as a margin. Your Lordships will, perhaps, allow me to state, generally, the way the local bodies are to spend this money. The grants-in-aid being withdrawn, they have to supply those services themselves. The grants-in-aid were mainly a large grant for lunatics, and a substantial grant for poor law charges. The new governing bodies must take over these charges. In addition there are other charges indicated in the Bill that they may very well take over with great public advantage and benefit to humanity. It is provided that half the cost of a trained nurse in every union in Ireland is to be supplied. This does not sound very much, my Lords, but it is a very great advantage, and worthy of just the small statement that I have made in reference to it. There are other ways indicated in which the money may be spent, but I hope I am consulting your Lordships' convenience by not going more into detail with reference to these very important subjects. The grand juries will meet for the last time for fiscal and administrative duties at the Spring Assizes of 1899, and the election of the new bodies will begin in March, 1899. As your Lordships will understand, there are many officials of long service and varied grades and classes who have had to be dealt with. Their interests have been looked into and protected. Ample powers are taken for the framing of allocation orders by the Lord Lieutenant in council, and the requisite machinery and regulations to facilitate and smooth the working of the new Act. My Lords, I have now stated the main provisions of this Bill. Unquestionably it works a great change in Ireland. I can well, my Lords, appreciate the feeling with which its many friends regard the transfer of important powers from the 541 old familiar grand juries, to new and popularly-elected bodies. The Bill unquestionably opens a new chapter in Irish history. I earnestly hope—I most earnestly hope—that all classes of interests in Ireland will loyally combine to the best of their ability to work out the provisions of the Bill to the common advantage of the country. My Lords, I am emboldened to hope that this may be so from many things that have been said by the popular leaders, and from what I believe is the strong and earnest desire of many leading country gentlemen in Ireland who have long taken part in the administration of the grand jury system in the country. And it is, my Lords, with the earnest hope that these proposals will be found to work in fairness and justice, that I venture to ask your Lordships to read the Bill a second time.
§ *EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I think I rise in accordance with the usages of the House to at once express the general view taken by those who sit where I have the honour of a seat on this important occasion. First, let me say that the noble and learned Lord has in a very clear and able way set forth the leading provisions of this Bill. He has not, as far as I know, exceeded in any way the limits which were right on the occasion. He has left a great many details untold, and no doubt he was right; but at the same time he has given in a lucid manner the leading provisions of the Bill. I would say that I rise not for the purpose of any obstruction to the Measure which Her Majesty's Government have introduced—a very important Measure of local government for Ireland. On the contrary, we who sit on this side of the House hail with pleasure and satisfaction, the broad and liberal lines on which the Bill is drawn. I would say that, although I myself would have preferred another action with regard to local government in Ireland, I do not desire to oppose this Measure. I confess that on that point—as I have often put these words—I agree with the Prime Minister in the very important speech he made on this subject at Newport, I think it was in 1885. I admit that a great deal has happened since then. At the same time the words the noble Marquess used appear to me so wise that they have not in the slightest degree been 542 altered, or their weight diminished, by what has happened since. What did he say? He said:—Local authorities are more exposed to the temptation of the majority to be unjust to the minority, where they obtain jurisdiction over a small area, than is the case when the local authority derives its sanction from, and extends its jurisdiction over, a wider area. In a large central authority the wisdom of several parts of the country will correct the folly and mistakes of one. In a local authority that correction is to a much greater extent wanting, and it will be impossible to leave that out of sight in any such extension of local authority in Ireland.When speaking on the larger subject of Home Rule, I have constantly made these words the text for what I had to say. I do not want to dwell more at length upon them. I have only said what I have to show that, in my opinion, another course would have been wiser. With regard to this Measure, I will at once say, as the noble and learned Lord pointed out, that the Government have profited by what has been seen of the work of local and county government, in, England. This Measure is founded, as the Bill of 1888 was in England, on a very wide basis of election. I rejoice at that; but it omits certain clauses in that Bill to which we have taken great exception from time to time on this side of the House. There is no joint committee. On that point alone I had always held a strong opinion. I have always considered it most unjust and unnecessary that the county councils should be deprived of some important powers now given to the joint committees. As your Lordships know, the joint committees are elected half by the county magistrates and half by the county councils. I maintain that the county council ought to have left to it one of the functions of the joint committee, probably the most important, which is that of appointing the county clerk. At present the county council is unable, except through its representatives on the joint committee, to have anything to say to the appointment of the most important official in the county. The joint committee has also important duties in connection with public buildings. I am glad to see there are no clauses having the same effect in Ireland. I will go further. I rejoice that the Bill is wider than the Bill of 1888 for England. I refer 543 to the clauses introducing union rating in Ireland. In Ireland there is not that variety between electoral districts which exists as between parish and parish in England. As a rule, I believe, the electoral division is larger than, the parish in England, and I venture to say this, that no system has done so much for the rural population in England as union rating; and I sincerely trust, although I do not expect the effect will be so great in Ireland as it was in England, that all the benefits that came from that system here will accrue to the people of Ireland owing to the extension of union rating. Now I will make some criticisms on the Bill, and these criticisms are not intended to foreshadow any Amendment, for any Amendment coming from this bench would inevitably be lost. At the same time, I make them to ask for explanations, and perhaps there may be some other Members of the House, more fortunate than we are, who may be able to carry some Amendment on the subject. They are not very numerous. Now, the first point to which I wish to refer was referred to by the noble and learned Lord. I believe the clause is clause 13, and that is one dealing with exceptional distress in particular districts. It practically repeals, though it safeguards, what is known under the name of "Gregory's clause," which is one forbidding outdoor relief to occupiers of a quarter of an acre of land. Well, now, what does this clause do? It gives the county councils power, with the consent, no doubt, of the Local Government Board, to repeal that clause, and in exceptional distress to grant outdoor relief. I will say this, in the first place: this is a most difficult subject to deal with. Difficult enough in England, it is even more difficult in Ireland; and I rather doubt the wisdom of dealing with it at all in this Measure. But what I want to point out is that when the Local Government Board agree on this point with the county council, then the rate to relieve this exceptional distress is to be levied—half from the union where the distress exists, and half from the county at large. I think I am accurate as to that, but I should like to have some explanation of that, for otherwise I am afraid there will be very great difficulty arising in consequence of this being done. There are, I believe, in Ire- 544 land certain districts where the poor rate is very heavy indeed. I am told that in Kerry and Clare it goes up to 8s. and 9s. in the pound. Well, if exceptional distress exists there, can you possibly throw more burden—even half of the sum required—on this already overburdened union? I venture to think that this clause requires very careful consideration for the two reasons that I have given—first, because it may be only the beginning of a system of outdoor relief, which is one of such enormous difficulty in Ireland; and, secondly, because you are laying a burden on a particular district which it will be impossible for it to bear. I am now coming to another point, and I ask the indulgence of the House, because it is a very complicated matter; I shall, however, try to deal with it on general lines. As I am informed, the Bill will considerably affect Parliamentary registration in Ireland. I will give an example. Under the present law, I am informed, anyone living in the city of Dublin who desires to be on the Parliamentary franchise must show and prove that he has paid the poor rate. Now, up to the present, a most complicated system has existed for the collection of rates. I full well know it, because I went through great difficulties with regard to the appointment of the collector-general in Dublin. That has been altered now, and there is a, collector-general, who collects the police rate, also the poor rate, and there is a collector for the municipal body, who collects the municipal rates. Under the old law a man requiring Parliamentary registration had to satisfy the authority—whoever the authority was—that he had paid the rates to the collector-general; but now, as I understand, under the unified rate, he will have to show that he has paid the municipal rates as well as the poor rates. I am not going to say whether that cannot be defended, if it were a registration Bill, but in a Measure of this kind Parliament ought not to place any new impediment to those seeking the franchise by a clause of this sort. I do not know whether I have given an accurate version of this matter, but no doubt the noble and learned Lord, or some other Member of the Government will set me right if I am wrong. 545 I will now come to another point to which I attach very great importance, and that is the question of the disqualification of clergymen in Ireland from sitting on district or county councils. The noble and learned Lord said that he did not think there was anybody to criticise who had any acute conviction I think those are his words on this subject. I venture to say that I have an acute conviction that the proposal in the Bill is wrong, unjust, and will do a great deal of harm. I will state my reasons for it. We all know what the law is in this country, and though I know we cannot compare everything in this country with what takes place in Ireland we may refer in some degree to the analogy of the case. In this country some of the very ablest administrators of the poor law, some of the best district councillors, some of the best members of the county councils are clergymen. We know this full well, and I cannot see why there should be any difference in Ireland. I know that religious animosity runs high in Ireland, and in this Bill there is perfect impartiality with regard to clergymen, and that Episcopalian and Presbyterian clergymen are debarred from sitting on the council as well as the Roman Catholic clergy. So far the Bill is impartial. I think, however, it is very much better, if there is a person of influence in a particular district, that he should have full responsibility of his influence by serving on the body which is to administer local affairs. In Ireland many districts are extremely poor, where the clergy, Roman Catholic or Protestant, are probably the most intelligent and the most useful men in the district. Why should they be debarred from sitting on the district and county councils? You will not be able to oppose their influence; if it is very great they will exercise it on all the members who sit on these councils. I say it is far more desirable that they should exercise their influence and their responsibilities directly and face to face with the lay members than that they should delegate their authority, and pull the strings from behind the chair. It is not, I know, intended as such, because there is an impartial application of the rule, but it is almost a slur on the clergy in Ireland thus de- 546 barring them from the right to sit on these councils. Now I come to what is probably the most important, or one of the most important matters connected with the Bill—I refer to the financial clauses. The noble and learned Lord has very clearly stated the way in which the grant of £730,000 (he said it was not absolutely ascertained) is to be contributed. But I want your Lordships to consider what is the meaning of this grant of £730,000 a year to relieve the ratepayers in Ireland. It is to relieve the cesspayers, the occupiers, by paying part of the county cess, and it relieves the owners of land by paying half the poor rate. What is the meaning of this? Is this the manner in which Her Majesty's Government intend to meet the very important view that is taken, not by one party, but by almost all parties in Ireland, with regard to the financial relations between the two countries? I do not see here Lord Welby or Lord Farrer, who were both on the Commission, which made a very important report in which they proved that Ireland pays a far greater proportion in relation to its wealth of the taxes of the country than are paid by England. Is this payment of £730,000 intended to meet that? Most distinctly it cannot be so, and I will tell your Lordships why. If Ireland is overtaxed, it is not only those who are taxed on agricultural land who are overtaxed, but all the occupiers in towns are overtaxed. But this grant of £730,000 is only for agricultural land. It does not deal at all with those who live in towns. Therefore I dismiss that. Is it, then, to be on equality with England on the ground of the Agricultural Ratings Act? I am not going into the question of that Act, for I have a strong opinion about it. But it clearly cannot be intended to be equivalent to the Agricultural Rating Act here, for this reason—that the Agricultural Rating Act in this country is limited to five years, and this grant to Ireland is apparently for all time. Why, then, is this grant of £730,000 given? The only answer to that question, and I believe it is the true answer, is that it is the price which Her Majesty's Government are paying in order to carry this Measure. I am not going to use strong language when referring to this, 547 and I at once say that both landlords and occupiers and politicians in Ireland might be justified in taking a certain price for this Bill. But what I ask is, is this Bill worth the price that is given for it? I will put that both to the landlord and the occupier, and I venture to say that, though it may be worth while at the present moment to get this Bill at this price, I am afraid that in the no distant future this very measure will lead to great difficulties in Ireland which will have to be faced, and which will only repeat the sad history of grievances from Ireland which have existed so long. In future the occupier and not the owner will pay the rates; there are certain exceptions, but, taking it broadly, I do not think anyone will deny that. That is against all the soundest canons of finance which have been enunciated and accepted for many years past. We have always said—certainly on this side of the House—that it would be desirable, if possible, to let the rates be divided between the owner and the occupier, though I know it is difficult to carry that out. In future that will not be the case in Ireland. I believe the owner will, in cases where he pays the whole rate now on tenancies under £4 a year, still pay half that rate, but, as a rule, he will really have hardly anything to pay. The landlord may reside in the country, and he will pay nothing towards the buildings and many other things which will have to be paid for in the county rate. And what will be the result to the landlord with regard to this? There is a very sound principle in politics that taxation goes with representation, and that the administration should be in the hands of those elected by the taxpayers. I am afraid that this may, in the long run, lead to the exclusion of landlords from these bodies. I should regret it extremely; I have always hoped that in time we might assuage the difficulties between landlord and tenant, and that we should see them working in harmony together, just as we do in England. It has not taken place yet, but I have always felt that it might come, and when it does come, that it would be an enormous advantage to those who have not got the experience in local and public affairs such as the landlords have if they took part freely and generously with the 548 other representatives of the ratepayers on these local bodies. That is what I am afraid may occur in the future to the landlords. What is the harm which will be done to the occupiers? The noble and learned Lord referred to the standard year—the standard year which regulates the sum paid by the Imperial Exchequer towards the agricultural rates in Ireland. That sum does not vary. But supposing the rates in Ireland increased. What will happen then? The occupiers will have the entire burden of that increase of rates to bear, and I am afraid that that may lead to very serious objections and grievances in the future. I know some people argue that with the new system the ratepayers in Ireland will be almost niggardly in their administration, that they will neglect the roads and bridges, etc. I am afraid that, even if they do, there will be many other methods of expenditure which they will find it very much to their hearts to increase. Certainly in England our experience has been that any change by which the management of fiscal affairs is thrown on to representative bodies has increased the burden. My opinion is that that will be the case in Ireland, and that the whole burden of the rate over and above what is received out of this contribution and for the standard year will fall on the occupier. Therefore, I maintain that though it may be thought wise at the present moment on the part of both landlords and tenants to accept this Bill which contains such large grants I am sure it will engender difficulties of a very serious kind. I do not wish to detain your Lordships at great length, but there is another point on which I should like to dwell. We have in England now a very wide system of local government, but that local government is checked and controlled to a very great extent by the Local Government Board in London. I do not know whether the representative of the Local Government Board is here now, but that Board is very often criticised, but on the whole, I should say that when it is referred to as an arbitrator in these matters it has the confidence generally of the country. The President of the Local Government Board sits in the other House, and his representative is here to enlighten your Lordships on any subject which is debated. 549 In England it is very necessary to have this supervision. But if it is necessary in England to have this supervision, where the people are much more advanced in local government than in Ireland, à fortiori the controlling power of the Local Government Board will be much more wanted in Ireland. You will be adding to the difficulties of the Government in Dublin by this Measure. I am not one of those who have ever abused the Irish Government. I should, indeed, be the last person to do so, because I have been at the head of it during eight years of my life, and I have always thought it was very improperly abused on many, many occasions. I believe that Dublin Castle Government does its utmost to conduct the government of the country with justice and impartiality. At the same time I do not for a moment say that the Dublin Castle Government has the support and affection of the Irish people. I almost think that noble Lords opposite will agree with that. Irish government lacks that support very much. This Bill will increase immensely the power of these local bodies, they will be constantly referring to Dublin much oftener than has been the case before, and will, I am afraid, be increasing the dislike to the government of Dublin Castle. That is a serious matter from the point of view of noble Lords opposite. It may be, no doubt, the intention of the Government to have a special Minister at the head of local government in Ireland in the House of Commons. I know the answer to that objection is that there will be the Chief Secretary at the head of the Local Government Board of Ireland, and that he is always in the House of Commons, and represents the acts of that body, but I think the noble Duke opposite, who so long and so ably filled that position, will agree with me that it is almost impossible, with the other heavy duties that he has to perform, that the Chief Secretary can actually be responsible for the management and daily acts of the Local Government Board. You may meet the objection in that way, but I am afraid you will have to meet it some day or another in another way. And this brings me to the last argument I wish to address to your Lordships. I have heard it said over and over again that if this large and liberal Measure of 550 local government for Ireland is passed there will be an end to what is popularly called Home Rule in Ireland; there will be no demand for Home Rule in Ireland. Well, my Lords, though I know that what I say may not be agreeable to your Lordships, I must acquaint your Lordships with my honest and earnest conviction that that is not a correct view to take in the matter. The demand for Home Rule has existed for many years, it has gone through every phase of a country's history, through revolution, and through Parliamentary agitation, and I am convinced that this Measure will not put an end to the demand, for Home Rule in Ireland. I maintain that it would be a just and a right Measure, and one which would do away with the difficulties which have been continually growing for years and years in Parliament about Ireland, if a Measure, guarded by the provisions in Mr. Gladstone's Bill, with regard to the supremacy of Parliament and the Union of the three kingdoms under the Crown, were passed. I feel this very strongly. The Irish people have demanded, now demand, and will demand in the future some such Measure. No doubt, as the noble and learned Lord said, this is a new chapter in the political history of Ireland. Yes, it is a new chapter; and what is that chapter? That, in addition to the demand for Home Rule which comes, mind you, not from one section of the Irish Party, but from the whole of the Irish Party, with the exception of a small section for whom I have a great respect, you will have the same demand sent up by these large and influential bodies in Ireland elected by the voice of the people of Ireland.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I trust, my Lords, that the noble and learned Lord will not think me guilty of presumption if I, as an old colleague in the Irish Executive, and also as a humble Member of this House, join with the noble Earl who has just sat down in congratulating him on the extreme ability with which he has introduced this Measure, and the lucid manner in which he has dealt with this complicated mass of details. Indeed, as I listened to the speech of the noble and learned Lord, I should have imagined from the subtlety 551 of his argument that he had anticipated that there would be opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill. I can only say on behalf of myself and also of those noble Lords from Ireland with whom I have now for so many years worked for the good of Ireland, that we have no idea whatever of opposing a Second Reading of this Measure. I think I may say, certainly for myself, and on behalf of most of them, and also on behalf of the great majority of that representative gathering of grand jurors which was held in Dublin, presided over by my noble Friend behind me—the Leader of the Unionist Party in Ireland—that we recognise that the Government had no alternative, at the present time, but to submit a Measure of local government for Ireland to Parliament, and we consider that had they not done so they would not have redeemed those pledges which they made in all parts of the kingdom some years ago. It is now some 12 years ago since the late Lord Randolph Churchill, occupying the great position of Leader of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as such occupying a position of importance in the Government second only to that of the Prime Minister himself, in that famous speech at Deptford, declared the intention of the Government to grant local government to Ireland. Two years later, in opposing the Bill of Mr. Carew, to grant local government to Ireland, my right honourable Friend the present First Lord of the Treasury, but then Chief Secretary, I am proud to say to myself, opposed the Measure on the ground of justice, because, as he declared, Ireland was not in a position at that time, owing to the lawlessness that existed, to attain that local government which was just then being introduced into England. He also, in the same speech, expressed the hope that when law and order was restored to Ireland, when she was in a condition to be granted local government, it would be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to grant such a Measure of local government. I could quote many speeches of a similar character made by the colleagues of the noble Marquess below me, but I quote this to show that we rocognise that however damaging a Measure of local government might be to the grand jury system, which has worked so 552 well, so efficiently, so economically, for many years past, the Government had no alternative but to propose such a Measure, and we only hope that in supporting them in this respect they will carefully guard against any injustice to any classes of the community in Ireland. At that meeting of grand jurors in Ireland, whit have recognised the duty of the Government to grant this Measure, those grand jurors also expressed their determination when it became law to accept it loyally, and, so far as it lay in their power, to assist it in its working and bring it to a successful issue; and when we consider the line taken by the Unionist Party in another place, and when you consider the line that will be taken by he Unionist Government in your Lordships' House, I think I am justified in saying that neither the Prime Minister nor any Member of Her Majesty's Government will have any right to complain of any want of loyalty on the part of their supporters from Ireland. It has been truly said, both by the noble and learned Lord, and also by the noble Earl opposite, that the characteristics of Ireland are very different from those of England, and from those of Scotland. I think it was the noble Earl opposite who remarked that political and religious feeling runs far higher in Ireland than it does in either of these countries; and, my Lords, I think, us one connected with Ireland by past official, as well as by present practical ties, it is well to enforce upon the minus of the English people that Ireland, from a political and religious point of view is totally different to England and Scotland, and if a Measure is proposed to be granted to Ireland giving Ireland advantages such as are possessed by those we countries, it is the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government to recognise the views and opinions of those who are practically acquainted with the practical wants of Ireland, and allow them to make suggestions and to accept those suggestions which will do away with injustices which might otherwise arise, and which necessarily will arise if Her Majesty's Government will not recognise, as has been pointed out to them, the difference of feeling which does exist between these two countries. I do not think it is necessary for me to endorse those 553 remarks. If endorsement were necessary I find it in the words of my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, who, in the Debate to which I have already alluded, used the following expression—If you examine the history of Irish controversy in the last ten years, leaving out its previous record, you will find ample material to show that dangers exist in this country which do not exist in England or in Scotland, and the House will be guilty of the gravest dereliction of duty unless it provides ample protection against those dangers.That is an observation which is endorsed, I will venture to say, by the whole of the Unionist Party from Ireland, and it is relying upon those words that we shall venture to suggest further safeguards, to the Measure than now exist, in order to guard against those injustices which might be perpetrated towards those whom Mr. Balfour described as the loyal minority in Ireland, and which, if they were not inserted might affect that loyal minority most injuriously. Now, my Lords, having said so much, I am bound, in a somewhat personal sense, to inform your Lordships that there is a very large and important body in Ireland which views this Measure, not only with apprehension, but with disapproval, and that large and important body is the working men of which I will venture to call the most important city of Ireland, the city of Belfast. The Conservative association, numbering many thousands of the working classes, who tendered to the noble Marquess and to my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Treasury receptions which they have seldom seen surpassed, and I doubt very much equalled in any part of the United Kingdom, view with apprehension and dismay this Measure, and that apprehension and dismay arise from no interested or personal motives. They know themselves that in the district they live in they represent a huge majority of political and religious feeling, and therefore they can look for ward to it with no personal apprehension but they view it with apprehension and disapproval, because they consider that such a Measure may act unjustly to those in other parts of the country who hole the same feelings as themselves, and are 554 in a very small and miserable minority. It is only as I entered the House to-day that, in addition to many other messages of a similar character, I received the following—The South Antrim Constitutional Association strongly protest against the inadequate provisions of the Local Government Bill, as passed by Commons, and desire you to have clauses inserted in the Upper House, securing to the loyal minority more complete protection.That is only one of many communications which I have received of a similar character, and therefore I say that when this important body, which represents the opinion of the stronghold of Unionism, insist on those safeguards, on behalf of their co-religionists and co-politicians, in other parts of Ireland, I think it is the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government to give due weight to these representations and insert some further safeguards in the Measure which at the present moment it does not contain. Mr. Balfour himself—and again I refer to him because he knows Ireland, and no man knows it better—said—I ask the English people whether we should not be acting criminally toward the minority in Ireland if we did not extend some protection to them.Those words of Mr. Balfour's, spoken in his official and important position as Chief Secretary, are merely the words of those bodies of men to whom I have alluded, and of that association whose telegram I have just quoted. The noble Earl opposite alluded to the speech of the noble Marquess at Newport in 1885, in which he recognised the temptation of the majority in Ireland to deal harshly with the minority. Therefore, I maintain that when we see two leading Members of Her Majesty's Government at the present moment holding those views, we who represent that minority in Ireland have a right to ask them to confirm their former statements and to grant every possible safeguard against every kind of injustice that may be perpetrated upon any class of the community which may be in a minority in any part of Ireland. I am bound, however, to say this: that as President of those Conservative associations to which I have alluded, it is a matter of regret 555 to me to feel that I cannot always agree entirely with, everything that they ask me to do. I cannot agree with them as to the inadvisability and unreasonableness of Her Majesty's Government in introducing this Measure, but I do agree with this most cordially, and I shall do my utmost in urging Her Majesty's Government to pay due regard to these views, with regard to protecting the minority in all and every part of Ireland. Undoubtedly, a Measure such as this had to be introduced, a better time could not have been found to introduce it. My right honourable Friend's speech to which I have alluded, referred to the fact that the condition of Ireland then, in 1888, rendered the introduction of a Local Government Bill absolutely impossible, but he held out the hope that when Ireland became law-abiding, such a Measure might be introduced. No one views with greater satisfaction than do we in this House, noble Lords opposite as well as those on this side, the law-abiding and satisfactory condition of Ireland, and consequently, with that condition of things, Her Majesty's Government were bound to carry out that pledge of the Chief Secretary. But there are many of us who know Ireland well, and who have known Ireland when she was anything but law-abiding, and having that experience, I think we are not justified in putting that experience entirely on one side. We must look to the future, and we must endeavour to judge of the future, without being pessimistic, by our experience of the past. It was in 1886 that I, together with my noble and learned Friend below me, entered upon the government of Ireland, and I say deliberately, and without fear of contradiction from anybody, that considering the condition of Ireland at that time, its lawlessness in some parts amounting to almost anarchy, no Government since the Union has ever undertaken such a Government under such difficulties as we had in 1886. That being the case, with that experience, it is but right that we should draw the attention, not only of Parliament, but also of the country, to what, having happened in the past, although it is not probable, may not be altogether absolutely impossible in the future. What would be the position of the loyal minority in those parts of Ire- 556 land which were lawless in 1886 if there occurred a recurrence of such crime as was then in existence, and the local government of the country had been handed over to men who more or less sympathised with that anarchial condition of affairs. I say deliberately that it is the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government to take that condition of affairs into consideration. We are sufficiently justified in carrying this Measure through its Second Reading because we recognise that it is our duty; but in future, should events occur (I need not say that I sincerely trust they never will) we feel that it is the Government who have taken upon themselves the responsibility of introducing such a Measure who will have the responsibility for any injustice that in the future may occur. Therefore, in conjunction with my noble Friends behind me, we have decided to point out what may occur under certain circumstances, and at a later date to urge upon Her Majesty's Government to give full consideration to our requirements in order to counteract them. I now turn to the principle of the Bill, and it has been admitted by my noble and learned Friend who introduced this Measure, and also by the noble Lord opposite, that this Bill will effect a very great change in the future of Ireland. That I think there is no denying. I remember on the occasion of meeting the grand jurors in Dublin, my noble Friend in his inaugural speech declared that this Measure was of a revolutionary kind. I think in saying that he used an absolutely accurate expression. It is a Measure of a revolutionary kind, for, at one fell swoop, it abolishes a system which has been for so many years past in existence. The grand jury system has been in existence for many, many years, and, as your Lordships are aware, it has worked efficiently, economically, and satisfactorily. I quote again my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, because, with regard to Ireland, I always maintain that there is no better authority, and he stated in a speech which he made that the grand jury system, though an absolutely indefensible system in theory, is a pure and economical system, and it was declared to be so in the Report of the Committee presided over by The O'Connor Don. I do not think he said one word too much. 557 I have had an official and also a very practical experience of Ireland. I am acquainted with most of the grand jurymen in almost every county, and I think it would be impossible to find a body of men in each of those counties who have devoted their time, their convenience, and in many cases their health, more heartily and more cordially to the interests and welfare of the county than the various grand jurymen in all parts of Ireland. Naturally under these circumstances there will be few who will not regret the abolition of such a good system. But what we regret almost more than this is to think that it is more than probable that with the erection of these county councils in certain parts of Ireland we shall not see those county councils availing themselves of the abilities and practical experience of the grand jurors. I only trust that I am pessimistic. I only trust that my prognostications may not be verified, but I am convinced it will be to the injury of the various counties of Ireland to lose the services of such men, and to see them replaced by men who have had no practical experience whatever of county government, and who are returned mainly, and almost, I may say, entirely, because they hold the same religious and political views as the vast majority of those who return members to the county council. It must be remembered, my Lords, that the county councils in Ireland will, I fear, be very unlike the county councils in England. In the part of Ireland to which I belong I do not think there will be any difference. But whereas in England a vast number of the magistrates were returned in most counties to the county councils, I very greatly fear that in a large number of counties in Ireland very few of the grand jurors will be returned to the county council. Well, my Lords, what will be the result of that? That men of no experience, that men who may very likely be in touch with those to whom the interests of the county are really nil will be returned, and we shall see, unless carefully safeguarded against, an enormous amount of extravagance, of jobbing, and of maladministration in these county councils. I have had some experience of what can be done by unions during the time I had the honour to be Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and I am going to ask 558 your Lordships to allow me to quote to you some facts which I think will show you what took place in certain unions in Ireland when I was Lord Lieutenant, and I think you will agree with me, after hearing what I have to say, that I was justified in dissolving these unions. In 1886 I had to dissolve the Union of New Ross because the workhouse rules were relaxed in favour of evicted tenants, notwithstanding warnings that their proceedings were irregular. In 1887 Belmullet Union failed to make provision for the inmates of the workhouse. In 1888 Swinford Union failed to pay bills or make any provision for further supplies. At Ballinasloe in May, 1888, the chairman was not allowed to take the chair, the disputes culminating in acts of personal violence, and business #as neglected. The First Lord of the Treasury gave a very amusing description of what took place at that meeting of the Ballinasloe Guardians in a speech he made in the House of Commons. At the Athy Union there was an illegal payment of a cheque for an amount of surcharge made against Mr. Daniel Whelan for relief granted to evicted tenants. At Dungarvan there was the acceptance of extravagant tenders for bread—i.e., one from Mr. Casey for 5¼d., as against another from Mrs. Armstrong at 4¾d. per 41b. loaf. This involved a loss to the ratepayers of £37 in six months. Mrs. Armstrong had previously carried out her contract to the satisfaction of the guardians, whilst Mr. Casey's bread was refused on several occasions, but notwithstanding this, he was re-elected as bread contractor in September. In 1888 the Ballyraghan Board was in debt, and yet reduced the rate to a sum totally inadequate to meet liabilities, and their cheques were dishonoured, and this indebtedness arose simply through maladministration. If gentlemen such as those who sat in these unions are to be elected to the county councils what hope have we for any economical or efficient work to be done in the future? The noble Earl opposite, I think, laid great stress upon the fact that this Measure was more or less passed in the interests of the landlords.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
So far as the matter goes I will not cavil with the noble Earl. But there are no such beings as landlords or landowners in Ireland now. The landlord or the landowner is nothing more than a rent-charger, and consequently, so far as this Measure is concerned, I think we might divide those interested in it into two classes—large and small ratepayers. At the present moment 50 per cent, of the rates in almost every county in Ireland are paid by 5 per cent, of the population, the remaining 50 per cent, of the rates being paid by the remaining 95 per cent, of the population. I know that that sounds rather a vague expression, but I was looking through a speech delivered in the House of Commons by Mr. Chamberlain in 1892, on the introduction of the Local Government Bill, and Mr. Chamberlain put the matter so ably and so well that I think I shall save your Lordships' time if I quote his words instead of using my own in regard to this question, because it is a most important one. He said—Does this House consider, I should like to know, no special protection is due in Ireland to the largest cesspayers? The state of things in Ireland is altogether exceptional, and, so far as I know, has no parallel in this country. Speaking generally, all over Ireland 5 per cent, of the cesspayers pay 50 per cent, of the cess. A most extraordinary state of things. Mr. T. M. Healy: Where did you get that? Mr. Joseph Chamberlain: Never mind where I got it. I assert it, and if the honourable Member would like particulars for any county or barony in Ireland I will give them.I think I should weary your Lordships if I gave all the particulars, but I think Mr. Chamberlain put the matter in a nutshell. He said—As reasonable men do we think that no special consideration whatever is due to persons who, being very few in number, pay so large a proportion of the total rates? Is there no danger that unless some protection is given to them there may be an inclination on the part of the majority to spend money that is to a large extent not theirs, but that of the minority, for purposes which really are hardly justifiable?I do not think the case could have been put better than that. Your Lordships can see that if 50 per cent, of the rates of the comity are paid by 95 per cent, of the ratepayers, it is absolutely im- 560 material to those 95 per cent, to what extent the rates are raised, because these rates will come out of the pockets of the minority, whereas, if relief works are paid for out of the rates, those works will give to those 95 per cent, such employment to themselves and their families that it is absolutely immaterial to them to what extent the rates are raised. That being so, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to carefully safeguard that minority, which Mr. Chamberlain so truly described might be rated for the benefit of this large majority of small ratepayers, and at the present moment I consider that those who are with me in this matter consider that it is not sufficiently safeguarded under the present provisions of the Bill. My noble and learned Friend seems to consider that clause 27 is sufficient to meet this complaint of mine. Clause 27, section 2, says—A county council shall not, without the consent of the Local Government Board, approve of any expenditure on roads proposed by the council of any rural district, which will cause the expenditure on the roads of the district to exceed by one-fourth the amount certified by that Board to have been the average expenditure thereon during the three years next before the passing of this Act, and the Board may, as respects each council, consent either for a particular road, or a particular year, or generally, and in the latter case may fix a new limit under this section.The word "roads" is a very wide definition, especially as denned by the Act itself, but my noble Friend does not seem, in considering that these safeguards of the fourth, or 25 per cent., were sufficient, to have taken into consideration the want of power at the hands of the county council to check such expenditure. I gather from clause 4, and also from clause 50, that the county council can only veto any expenditure proposed by district councils on works, or for purposes arising under the Grand Jury Acts, but they have no such veto on expenditure proposed by district councils or boards of guardians under the Poor Law Acts. For instance, take outdoor relief. With regard to outdoor relief, the county council has no authority. It only has to strike the rates. Now, my Lords, I think the noble Earl alluded to the question of outdoor relief in Ire- 561 land in the course of his speech, and I should like to bring under your notice why we consider this limit of 25 per cent., as it at present stands, is not sufficient, if it is confined only to roads. We maintain that 25 per cent., in addition to what has been the sum levied on the average of the past three years, ought to include not only roads, but also expenditure on particular accounts, which may not be increased by the local bodies unless by the express consent of the Local Government Board. I think that the noble Earl opposite will not contradict me when I say that there have been some gross scandals with regard to outdoor relief in Ireland, and I am again going to ask your Lordships to allow me to quote. The question is a dull one; at the same time, feeling as I do that there may be a prostitution of the power granted, I think you will allow that I am justified in showing what has been done in the past. I will quote from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Poor Law Guardians Bill, 1884–85, and I want the House to allow me to compare the difference between the old unions, if I may so call them, of 1880, to the new unions of 1884, which were altered owing to Mr. Parnell calling upon his followers to break up and wreck the old system by returning Nationalist Members. I will take the Killarney Union. In 1880 there were 2,107 receiving relief, at a cost of £1,752, or 16s. 7½d. per head per week, whilst in 1884 there were 2,867 receiving relief, at a cost of £3,617 or 25s. 2d. per head per week. Now I will take Listowel Union. In 1880 there were 258 receiving relief, at a cost of £05, or 5s. per head per week, whilst in 1884 there were 2,187 receiving relief, at a cost of £1,638, or 15s. per head per week. Your Lordships will observe that that is exactly three times as much. Tralee Union: in 1880 there were 87 receiving relief, at a cost of £30 17s. 11d., or 7s. 1d. per head per week, whilst in 562 1884 there were 3,454 receiving relief at a cost of £2,534 13s. 10d., or 14s. 94 per head per week. In all these unions the representation was changed, thanks to Mr. Parnell's speech. Now, let me take the unions where there was no change, or where the old unions remain the same. In Dingle the cost rose only from £9 2s. to £13 10s. 4d., in Cahirciveen the cost rose from £717 to £903, in Kenmare the cost fell from £890 to £870, and that is because the boards remain the same. That is a convincing proof of what we may expect from the new boards. In Roscommon up to 1879 the gross rate never exceeded £5,000 per annum, but in 1884, owing to the Parnellite majority, it was £7,500. Outdoor relief rose from £500 to over £1,000, and the normal amount of outdoor relief rose from 1s. 6d. per head to 3s. Families of suspects were granted £1 a week, which the Land League had previously granted, even though in possession of sheep, horses, and cattle. There were many cases of high relief to evicted tenants out of the rates. In 1886—I am quoting from the Poor Law Relief inquiry, which I myself instituted, granted £20,000 towards relief of exceptional distress, in Belmullet, Clifden, Galway, Oughterard, Swinsford, and Westport. All these cases are mentioned in the Blue Book. Before that grant of that £20,000 there were 1,000 people in receipt of outdoor relief, and within six weeks of the grant there were 100,000. The following cases will show the prostitution of outdoor relief which went on. In Belmullet a man with a holding valued at £10, and having 13 head of cattle, and two men owning a lot of sheep, said they were proud to get relief. In Clifden a man who had sold 13 bullocks at a fair obtained relief, whilst another man holding 1,075 acres of land, and having just paid £6 county cess, obtained relief. In Oughterard, five men, each possessing a large number of sheep and cattle, obtained relief. As I 563 said, all of those cases may be found in the Blue Book. But it may be said, have you nothing of a more recent date? Yes, I have. On March 19th, 1897, at the Cork Spring Assizes, five men were tried for open and shameful corruption, Which Mr. Justice O'Brien said was attended with a publicity almost as great as the sale of domestic animals and the sale of cattle in the streets. In July, 1898, a man was found guilty of bribery in connection with an election of master of Kilrush union, and another man—a guardian of the same union—was charged with receiving £3 as an inducement to vote for a Candidate to the mastership of the workhouse. There are several other cases which I believe have been dealt with, but I quote these to show what has been the prostitution of outdoor relief in the past, and which unless sufficiently safeguarded we may see again taking place in the future. I know it is frequently stated that this Measure is a boon to the landowning classes. The landowning classes, as such, are no more, and, as I have already said, the people who will derive a benefit from this Act are divided between large and small ratepayers. It is supposed that the large ratepayers under this Act will benefit to the extent of 50 per cent, under the provisions of this Bill, but it must be remembered that if these county councils are allowed to raise the rates 25 percent, more than they are at the present time, that boon is reduced 25 per cent., and if this prostitution of outdoor relief is to be carried on in the future as it has been in the past, the remaining 25 per cent, will very soon disappear, and the unfortunate large ratepayers will find themselves in a far worse condition than they were in the past. Therefore in connection with this proposal in clause 27, I shall venture to move an Amendment on Monday next asking your Lordships to insist that that 25 per cent, which will be fixed as the limit shall embrace all classes of expense at the hand of the county council. My Lords, the bulk of the work connected with this Bill will rest with the Local Government Board and in order to effect the success and fair working of this Bill, in our opinion it is necessary that the Local Government Board should be very materially strengthened. At the present moment— 564 I speak with the highest respect for the Local Government Board—I know the good work it has done, and the good work it will continue to do—there is no member of the Local Government Board who has any practical experience of what we call the grand jury system of working the counties. The vice-chairman—Sir Henry Robinson—is an extremely able man who has recently been appointed. But I looked up his evidence before the Royal Commission on Finance, and I particularly noticed his remarks as to the extent of the grand jury procedure, and I was struck with the number of times that he "did not know this, and did not know that" on matters relating to some of the most important details of the procedure of the grand jury. Time after time he was asked a question, and time after time he was invited to give his opinion, and time after time his answer was, "I have no knowledge." Consequently I say that if we take the vice-chairman, who in the absence of the Chief Secretary will preside over the Local Government Board, as an example, it is necessary, if he knows nothing of the working of the grand jury system, that he should have some colleagues who do know something. There was a gentleman appointed the other day who had done good work on the Congested Districts Board, but he has no knowledge whatever of the working of the grand jury system, and therefore I say that the Board should be strengthened by having on it, not only a man of thorough and practical experience, and knowledge of the working of the grand jury system and all its details, but that the men who are appointed should be permanently appointed, and not temporarily appointed. I have heard it said that the reason of these temporary appointments is because it is thought that at the end of five years there will not be sufficient work for an extra commissioner to perform. Well, my Lords, on that statement I join issue at once. I think the Local Government Board will find that they will have an enormous amount of extra work put upon them by this Bill. At the present moment the Local Government Board only audit the accounts of the grand juries and of the presentment sessions, but your Lordships must know that the extra work imposed upon them will be to examine the whole 565 of the expenditure, and closely examine it, of the presentment sessions, and the grand jury sessions, and when I tell your Lordships that there are 326 presentment sessions, and over 33 grand jury sessions held twice a year, I do not think I shall be contradicted when I say that an enormous amount of extra work will be added to the duties of the Local Government Board. There is one other point that I must mention. The question has been handed over to your Lordships by the House of Commons, to decide as to whether the representation of the constituencies should be of a single or a double character. I have no doubt myself, and I think I speak the opinions of nearly all with whom I am associated, when I say that so far as the district councils are concerned we think that the representation should be double, and for this reason, that at the present moment very good work is being done by the ex-officio guardians, and also by the elected guardians. But when these bodies are dissolved, it will be very invidious to the ex-officio guardian either to ask perhaps his own tenant to stand down and let him take his place, or to find himself opposing his own tenant; therefore if two members were permitted on the district councils it will be quite possible for the ex-officio to sit on the same board as his tenant. With regard to the question of county council elections I say nothing. It is a question upon which many hold different opinions, and I think that the opinions of a great many of my noble Friends will carry far greater weight than will mine, coming as I do from a county where the county councils will be carried on very much on the same lines as the grand jury system was. I will only say on behalf of my friends, and on behalf of the grand jurors, whom we consulted in Dublin, that we have every desire to make this Bill work smoothly and successfully. It will, of course, work great changes in the future of Ireland. It remains for us to see what wall be the line taken by the electorate. I do not wish to prognosticate, but I do ask the electorate in Ireland, when they are granted the opportunity of electing members to these councils, to carefully consider not only the interests of their country but the 566 interests of themselves. I ask them to put on one side religious and political feeling so far as that can be done in Ireland. If they will but study the interests of themselves and of their country they will, I think, return to the district and county councils those men who have shown by their work in the pass that they are thoroughly acquainted with the work of their counties, and have shown by their practical and economical experience that they can do good to their country. If, on the other hand, they choose to discard these msn and put men in their place who have had no experience of county work, but are merely in touch with the majority on account of their political and religious feeling, then I say they will be doing great harm to themselves, to their country, and to Ireland. The Government will not find the grand jurors behindhand in coming forward and placing their services at the disposal of their counties in the future, as they have done in the past, and I think that Mr. Gerald Balfour will see that they will not look askance, but will do their very utmost for their constituents. It remains for the constituents to decide whether these grand jurors are to be afforded an, opportunity of giving the benefit of their practical experience to the working of this Act, and I have no fear that they will work as well, as thoroughly, and as economically for the county councils of the future as they have worked for the grand jury system in the past. All that they ask is that, while passing this Measure, which may entirely put an end to the duties they now perform, your Lordships will put such safeguards into it that there shall be no fear of the occurrence of any injustice to any class of the community in any of the four provinces of Ireland.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
After what fell from my noble Friend behind me it is hardly necessary for me to state that I do not rise with any idea of offering any opposition to this Measure. Like him, I welcome any serious attempt to reform the inequalities which exist in local government between different parts of the United Kingdom, and I should be very sorry indeed to disturb the general harmony which seems to run in all the various parts of the House with regard to this Bill. Even my noble Friend who 567 has just sat down, whose rising to discuss Irish questions is often, I think, hailed with emotion akin to physical fear by noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite, gives his blessing—a qualified blessing—to the Bill. I say a qualified blessing, because, during the course of the noble Marquess's speech, he made some remarks which I should have thought would have almost led him to oppose the rejection of the Measure. I am so far with the noble Marquess that I thirds that this Measure is an experiment, and in some degree may be called a risky experiment. It is a risky experiment to present a large measure of local government to people who have had little experience in the working of representative institutions. In this country, as your Lordships know, we proceeded on different lines. It was in the year 1832, by the Reform Act of that year, that the people of this country began to be educated in the working of representative institutions, and during the 60 years Which have elapsed between the passing of that Act and the Local Government Act for England they were being educated to high opinions of civic duty and were gaining some practical knowledge of public affairs. In Ireland it must be admitted that such has not been the case. The average Irish voter, at any rate, is not seriously interested in the working of our Parliamentary institutions. Parliament is an institution in which his representatives are in a perpetual minority, and he is only interested in it so far as it has from time to time passed repressive Measures concerning himself, and has also from time to time in periods of distress allowed sums of money to be wrung from its sympathy, and consequently I agree with, the noble Marquess that, I think this Measure may be regarded as a leap in the dark, but not to any great extent. My noble Friend behind me alluded to the idea that this Measure of Local Government might be regarded in Ireland as a substitute for a Measure of Home Rule. I will not go into the reasons which make me agree with him in saving that I think that that is an opinion which is an absolutely futile one. I will, however, just say this, if it were the case that Ireland takes this Measure as a substitute for Home Rule the most important and the most effec- 568 tive argument which was used against Home Rule falls to the ground. We were told when Home Rule was before the country that it would be worked by men of revolutionary ideas supported by the active alliance, or, at any rate, by the passive acquiescence of the vast majority of the people of the country. But if these Jacobins and revolutionists are to be once and for all contented by being given the control of their lunatic asylums, their technical instruction committees, and with ancient monuments, they cannot be such dangerous revolutionists after all. Therefore, if this were the case, it surely must be true that the powers which the Home Rule Measure proposed to give to the Irish people at large would have been very reasonably and loyally used. Consequently those who held that view, although they may say if they like that Home Rule would be inconvenient, and would not work well, can no longer with any semblance of plausibility speak of it as a Measure likely to cause danger to the Empire. Now, I will not follow those who have spoken before into anything like detail upon the Measure. Like my noble Friend I regard the £730,000 per year not only as a highly ingenious, but also as an extremely costly method of buying off the most serious opposition to this Bill. In the House of Commons during the Committee stage of the Bill, and during which the principal discussions upon it took place, I think it is only due to those in charge of the Bill to say that they stuck exceedingly well to their guns and did not allow any material alteration to be made in the Bill, and I sincerely hope that the noble and learned Lord opposite will be equally firm here, and that he will not think it necessary to make a series of graceful concessions to one party in the House, represented by the noble Marquess who has just sat down. I heard with some little alarm the announcement of the noble Marquess of his intention to move certain Amendments to this Bill. I sincerely hope that those Amendments—and I conclude such will be the case from the noble Marquess's admission—will not include any attempt to tamper with the representative character of these bodies. I sincerely hope that there will be no attempt to introduce nominated members of county councils or ex-officio 569 members of boards of guardians. But I cannot help feeling that in one Amendment to which the noble Marquess alluded—namely, that of the introduction of double representation—that that is practically a real attempt to let in by a back door ex-officio members who would not otherwise succeed in obtaining seats on the board. I therefore hope that the noble and learned Lord will give very full consideration to that Amendment before he thinks of accepting it. Something has already been said as to the position of the Local Government Board in Ireland with regard to this Measure. I canot deny that to me also, as to my noble Friend behind me, that there does seem to me to be some risk of friction arising between these bodies and the Local Government Board. In England the Local Government Board, perhaps more than any other department, is unaffected by change of Government, and preserves an absolute continuity. The county councils and other bodies regard the Local Government Board as their guide, philosopher, and friend, and they cheerfully appeal to it without any difficulty, but I cannot help doubting whether this is likely to be the case in Ireland. Like my noble Friend behind me, I should be the very last to say hard things of Dublin Castle. I do not doubt either the ability or the goodwill of the gentlemen who form the Local Government Board in Ireland, but there are some conditions of affairs which no amount of goodwill and which no ability can satisfactorily deal with, and I certainly do feel that it will require the utmost exercise of tact on the part of the Chief Secretary, and also on the part of permanent members of the Board, to prevent serious difficulties arising between the central administration and the local bodies that are to be brought into existence. The noble Marquess spoke of grand juries, and I am prepared to say, but not in quite such general terms as he did, that their administration, so far as I have had experience of it, has been very tolerably efficient, very tolerably economical, and, as I believe, absolutely pure. I hail with satisfaction the announcement made by the noble Marquess that the members of the grand juries would not stand aside, but that they would come forward and 570 offer their services to these new local bodies. I am very glad to hear that. If this Bill had been introduced in the benches behind me I am afraid that the grand jurors might have been rather less ready to make an offer of the kind. The Bill, in fact, never would have passed a Second Reading if it had been introduced from these benches. I quite agree that there is some fear that in certain places men who have done good service will not be elected to these boards; but I hope that, even if that does take place, it will not give rise to such a feeling of irritation amongst those in the landed interest as to make them despair of taking any part in the local government of their country. I believe as time goes on matters will right themselves, and those who are interested in local government economically and efficiently administered will find it to their advantage to come forward like loyal and good men to whatever class they belong. In conclusion, I would express my sincere hope that this Measure will be of really practical benefit, and that it also will tend to quicken in Ireland a, sense of public obligation amongst members of all creeds and classes, because I do believe that in such wide knowledge and greater sympathy there does exist the hope of the obliteration of those lines of cleavage, which are in reality Ireland's greatest misfortune, and which interfere more than anything else with her social happiness and her material development.
§ LORD KENRY (The Earl of DUNRAVEN and MOUNT ROYAL)
I should like to make a very emphatic protest against the fact that this most important and complicated Bill was only placed in our hands yesterday morning, and that the Debate on the Second Reading is taking place to-day. I daresay there were very strong reasons for this, and no doubt many of your Lordships are probably familiar with the Bill; moreover, it is doubtless a compliment to the intellectual standard of this House that it should be supposed to be capable of dealing with a Measure of this importance after such a very short notice. At the same time, my Lords, speaking as one who does not come up to that very high intellectual standard, I think that the principle of giving scarcely two working days to the con- 571 sideration of a very large and important Measure like this is scarcely a good one. At the same time, if I may be allowed to say so, the extraordinarily lucid way in which the Bill was explained to the House by the noble and learned Lord who introduced it, has very much minimised the difficulties we might have been under by only having the Bill before us such a very short time. I am not going to detain your Lordships but a very few minutes, and I am not going into details of the Bill. I should like to say, however, that I agree almost entirely with every word that was uttered by the noble Earl opposite [Lord Spencer] as regards the exclusion of ministers of religion from these new local bodies. They are qualified to vote, and I cannot see why they should not be qualified to sit upon county councils. I cannot at all understand on what principle that differentiation is made between Great Britain and Ireland. It appears to me that if a minister of religion is a fit and proper person and a good man to sit upon a county council or a district council, he ought to be able to sit there, and if there is any fear of the exercise of any undue spiritual influence, surely it would be better and wiser that that influence should be exercised openly and above board, than that it should be exercised in a secret manner, or that, to use the words of the noble Earl opposite, the strings should be pulled from behind the scenes. The noble Earl said that it was useless for him and the party opposite to move Amendments, and my noble Friend who has just sat down has stated that if this Bill had been introduced by them it would not have had the remotest chance of being read a second time. I think the noble Lords are too diffident. If they had introduced such a Bill—a Bill containing the safeguard against injustice that this contains—I have not the slightest doubt in the world that it would have been read a second time. If the noble Earl were to put down an Amendment dealing in this clause relating to ministers of religion, he would have had my support, and if I do so I trust I may have his support. But I cannot at al agree with the noble Earl in what he said on the financial part of the Bill Both he and the noble Lord who has just sat down seem to look upon this sum 572 of £750,000 as a sum of money paid to ensure the passage of the Bill. In a sense, that may be correct. If it be necessary to grant a sum of money in the relief of payment of rates, in order to protect a class in a great minority from injustice, it may be a payment made to ensure the passage of the Bill. It is a payment necessary to prevent gross injustice, and I trust that it was in that sense only that noble Lords opposite have used the expression that the sum was to ensure the passage of the Bill. No man knows better than my noble Friend Lord Spencer to what, extent a certain class—a small class—in Ireland made themselves unpopular, in some cases obnoxious, entirely on account of their political opinions—political opinions which go exactly opposite to those opinions which are held by the noble Earl, and yet which are held by them equally conscientiously; and unless the noble Lords opposite are prepared to suggest some means whereby that minority can be equally well protected against any possible prosecution. I do not see how they can object to the methods employed in this Bill, and which have the merit of being good methods, simple methods, and necessary to the purpose. Both of the noble Lords who spoke from the front Bench opposite have taken a great deal of trouble to explain that this Bill will not in any way take the place of Home Rule. I really do not see that that has anything to do with the question before the House. It has not been introduced as an alternative Measure to Home Rule, and, as far as I know, nobody looks upon it in that light at all. Whether, as the noble Earl thinks, the county councils in Ireland will pass, their time in proposing resolutions in favour of Home Rule, or not, I do not know. It is quite possible that they may. It is equally possible that they may not. One great chance about Ireland is that it is always full of pleasing surprises, and whether they will take that line or the opposite one, I do not know. But if they do, the only possible practical effect will be that perhaps we shall see the words "Home Rule" written in the electioneering addresses, and we may hear the words "Home Rule" mentioned again in their speeches. There is one matter which interests me. It appears 573 that a great deal of very responsible work will be placed upon the Local Government Board, and I am not at all sure that it might not possibly be judicious to add to the Board an additional member, who is particularly qualified by experience and knowledge to deal with matters of local self-government. As far as I can see in the Bill, the franchise is nowhere defined. I suppose there is some definition in the Bin somewhere, or possibly it is referred to in some other Act; but I do not know how that may be. As to the main matter, my Lords, it has been already said that this is a completely new departure in local government in Ireland. No one has denied that the grand juries have done their work well, but everybody admits that, however well they have done their work, a nominated body is an anachronism, and is against that indefinable substance, "the spirit of the age." It is absolutely certain that a change from an oligarchical to a democratic form of Government had to come, and I am glad that this change is about to be made, and that it is hampered by none of the small and vexatious restrictions which were contained in former Measures. Whether the Measure will be successful or not is very difficult to say. It is quite impossible to judge of what will happen in Ireland by comparison with what has happened in England. All the legislation in the world will never prevent dissimilarities in character between the inhabitants of Ireland and the inhabitants of Great Britain; and if you add unequals to equals for ever, the result will always be unequal. But I can see no reason whatever why local government in Ireland should not be carried on perfectly well under the provisions of this Bill. Of course, in the main, it depends upon what the electorate do. It depends also, to a great extent, upon the action taken by the classes, who hitherto have had local self-government in their own hands. Personally, I have very little doubt that the county gentry of Ireland will see their duty, and will do their duty, and will offer themselves for election. Personally, I have very little doubt that at any rate, after a short experience, quite a sufficient number of men, having large and practical experience of local government, will be returned to the county councils and the 574 district councils to ensure their good working. I can answer for their good work, intelligence, honesty of purpose, and business-like capacity. I do not suppose anybody will pretend that in intelligence the electors of Ireland are in any way inferior to the electors of England. I do not think it would be pretended that they were wanting in any degree in honesty of purpose; but it must be admitted that in the experience which is born of responsibility, and, in fact, from education generally, Ireland is behind, and very far behind, England; and to that extent there may be some difficulty and some friction at first. Your Lordships must bear in mind also the position of the county gentry in Ireland is very different to the position of the county gentry in England. The county gentry in Ireland have always been a dominant minority, differing to a certain extent in race, and, to a greater extent, in religion, from the majority among whom they live. It may be that there will be greater difficulties than we imagine. They may feel more acutely their deprivation of the prescriptive right, and may not adapt themselves to the new condition of things as rapidly and as easily as has been the case in England. But I do not believe that that will affect them largely. No body of men that I know of in the world has ever done their duty to the country better and under more difficult circumstances than have the county gentry of Ireland. They have stood by their country in what they believe to be best for her in great political difficulties. They have done their very best, also, during the terrible social difficulties, such as those that arose in the famine years and the few years afterwards, and I firmly believe that they will continue to do their duty in the same spirit. My Lords, if they do—and I have no doubt they will—offer themselves for election, and if I am not very much mistaken in the intelligence of my countrymen, many of them will be returned, possibly not as many as we might wish, but, ultimately, I am sure that a sufficient number of men of experience to ensure the business like and fair working of the district and county councils. I am glad that this Bill, although dealing with such 575 a complicated matter, is in the main a simple Measure; that it is free from small and vexatious restrictions; that it is large in its scope and grasp; and, though I should be sorry to predict—for, as I say, Ireland is full of surprises—that it would be an immediate success, personally I have little doubt that it will work well and smoothly, even from the beginning, and I am perfectly certain that it will be prejudicial to no interest and to no class, and that ultimately it will be beneficial to the whole country at large.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
Everybody who has the welfare of Ireland at heart must rejoice at any Measure that is introduced into Parliament for the benefit of the country, however large and extensive its scope may be; but at the same time the Government which introduces Measures of this kind should be very careful in foreseeing what the result is likely to be. The risk is great; the responsibility is greater. I quite acknowledge the obligations the Government were under for the fulfilment of their pledges by the introduction of this Measure; but it cannot claim urgency, and for my own part I should have preferred that an agricultural and industrial Bill had preceded it. One of the most important deputations ever convened waited upon the Chief Secretary about eight months ago, and asked for aid for the interests of the agricultural population in Ireland, instructing them in the rules for better farming, and also in the methods of technical education. This would have proved an advantage and an assistance to all classes, and would have been generally acceptable to the community at large. This assistance is much needed. I therefore venture to hope that the Government will not for a moment imagine that the Bill now before the House is in any way to be taken as a satisfaction of the almost universal demand for the legislation I have referred to. I cannot deny the great ability and industry of the author of the Bill, and I trust that the same ability and industry will soon be evidenced in the production of Measures more urgently required. Hitherto we have had Acts of Parliament passed for one class only. In the present Bill we have a Measure that will affect every individual in Ireland, and may give rise 576 to continual strife and contention. I hope it will not. It is impossible for anyone acquainted with Ireland to view it without apprehension. The system of county government which it abolishes stood the test of many years' experience successfully. It may have had its faults, it certainly had its merits, and its able and quick-witted adversaries have in vain attempted to discover its blemishes; and it goes to its end with a white record. I myself do not see how any serious objections can be raised against the principle of any Measure such as is now before the House, if it is desired to place the three countries, England, Scotland, and Ireland, exactly on the same footing as regards local government. But in doing this the greatest care should be exercised in protecting the minority—that class of higher ratepayers, who, being naturally in a minority as regards numbers, is left to the mercy of the smaller ratepayers—small as regards liability to pay rates, but infinitely larger in respect of numbers. Now, the difference between Ireland and the other two countries is that there is no middle class in the former country to speak of, at any rate in the country districts, of any consequence. This middle class has acted as a sort of buffer between the upper and lower classes in England and Scotland, and has been extremely useful in preventing any friction. Its common sense in England has had a wonderful effect in uniting all the three classes, in preventing extravagance on the one side or negligence on the other. Therefore I maintain that when this class does not exist special precautions should be taken to protect the higher ratepayer, or what is erroneously called the minority. This has not been done in this Bill. It is all very well for the Government to say—"We are very hopeful, and we feel confident that the best men and the most influential will be elected." This remains to be proved, and those who really understand Ireland, know the character of the people, and reside in that country, hold quite a different opinion; for they well know the temptation placed in the hands of the democracy and the opportunity that this gives them of voting for and placing in power their own friends. And here may I venture to exhort those who may have the direction of affairs at elections, both for divisional and county 577 councils, to do their utmost in selecting the best men for these boards. Let them support the most capable man, without the consideration of party, religion, or sect—men who have no self-seeking in being elected—honest and independent—who will only strive for the benefit of their country, and especially of the county to which they belong; men who are above jobbery, and who will use their best effort to keep down expenditure and increase of the rates. If they succeed in this, success may attend the Measure. Otherwise I fear failure will be the result. There is one statement often reiterated, and which was brought up again in the other House last week, and which I never hear without some impatience—that the Irish landlords are receiving large pecuniary compensation under the Bill, and their opposition to it has in a manner been bought off. After the class war of which we have been the victims this bill—without the financial clauses referred to—would have been the most unjust measure imaginable. It would have been a weapon ready made in the hands of the majority for the extinction of whatever property in land has been left to the Irish landlord. With regard to any positive gain conferred on the landed classes, I fear that the nest revision of rents will discount it in favour of the tenant. As to our opposition being bought off, I think the attitude assumed by the Irish landlords to the first Home Rule Bill sufficiently demonstrated that no pecuniary offer could bribe them to be false to the interests of their Unionist fellow-countrymen in Ireland. Ever since I realised the sweeping democratic character of the Bill I formed the opinion, to which I still adhere, that petty Amendments were worse than useless. The minority representation and such like, so far from mitigating the severity of its provisions, would merely produce irritation. One Amendment, however, has been suggested, which, I think, is of importance, and which Mr. Balfour has indicated that he is ready to adopt in case a strong preference is shown for it by the interested parties. I allude to the proposal for doubling the number of the elected members to the district councils. I do not think it necessary to repeat 578 the arguments already used elsewhere, but I merely state that in the opinion of the vast majority of the Irish peers and grand jurors the Amendment, if adopted, would greatly improve the Bill. There is no man acquainted with life in Ireland but must know that the powers conferred on the bodies about to be created are extravagant and likely to be abused in many parts of the country. The large ratepayers are left at the mercy of the majority of small ratepayers without any real check or safeguard. There is, in my opinion, only one way of protecting this deserving class, and that is by strengthening enormously the Local Government Board, the central body; and by vesting in it extreme powers to be executed in the event of certain emergencies. At this point I must admit with great regret that the Government have not agreed among themselves upon a method for the strengthening of the Local Government Board. Any scheme that has been suggested has been summarily rejected by the authors of the bill. I quite see the futility, at the present stage of the Bill, of moving an Amendment embodying my own views. At the same time I think it only due to myself to state very shortly what opinion I have formed. Without disrespect to those who are to form the Local Government Board of the future, I think I may say that they could hardly be expected to exercise large controlling powers over the new bodies. From what source are they to be supplemented? Where can you get a class of officials of such high standing as to command public confidence, and who are acquainted with the details of county government in the past? In my opinion you can find what you want only among the common-law judges. These judges go on circuit twice a year through every county in Ireland. During the many years in which I served as a grand juror I observed that they were intimately acquainted with the whole grand jury system. When questions of difficulty arose the grand jurors applied to them for directions. They fixed all the grand jury presentments. They decided all questions arising on these presentments or reserved the questions for discussion before a divisional court. 579 I therefore think these judges should have been asked to form part of the Local Government Board on a few occasions in the year for certain definite purposes of the highest possible moment. Their counsel would be required; but I have no doubt from my knowledge of them that in the public interest they would have readily given this consent. Three of them could have served each year, according to a certain rota, in the same way as election petition judges are selected. Their decision on the special matters submitted to them should be final, and not subject to review by any court. In this way you could have had a public body of the highest authority, to whom you could have entrusted with confidence great powers of controlling, and, in some cases, if necessary, of suspending temporarily the new bodies. I contend that this is a feasible plan, which must have thrust itself on the attention of everybody acquainted with the subject. Why has it not been adopted? There is a widespread superstition that the first Local Government Bill was killed by the cry of "Put them in the dock," applied in the House of Commons by a witty Irish Member to the clause giving large powers to the assize judges. I do not believe the witticism, however admirable, had anything to do with the withdrawal of the Bill. The truth is it was an impossible Bill at the time; but in consequence of this superstition and suggestion that the judges should be made use of under this Bill causes consternation among its promoters. I do not believe that such a proposal would have met with much opposition in the other House. I do not think that it would have been necessary for the judicial members of the Local Government Board to have used the great powers entrusted to them; but you would have had a real and effective safeguard for use in an emergency. You would have had a sword in a sheath, which every county and district council would have known could be drawn in case of a gross abuse of their powers. As things stand, the Government have plunged forward with their Bill without protecting in any effective way the interests of men who had every claim to their consideration. I sincerely wish that the apprehension excited by the 580 introduction of this Bill will turn out to be unfounded; and I venture to hope that all classes of the Irish people recognising that the eyes of the Empire are upon them, will rise to the occasion, and without class or Party prejudice devote themselves to the service of their common country. I feel perfectly certain that the landed gentry of the country will act up to this; and so far as I am concerned, as the Bill is inevitable, I will do all in my power in the locality in which I live, and in which I may have any influence, to help and promote the working of the Bill, and this with as little friction as possible to all classes concerned.
§ *LORD MORRIS
I should not have intruded upon your Lordships' attention, nor did I intend to do so for more than a few minutes, excepting that I think that the class which is not represented in this House, namely, the country gentry in Ireland, ought to have a word said on their behalf. I have had a long experience of Ireland which few men have had. I served on grand juries in my early youth as a country gentleman. I went 53 circuits through Ireland as a judge in connection with grand juries. I held open court by proclamation where every man down to the humblest was entitled to object to all and every presentment that was possible, and to be heard by the judge. It is due to that body to say that those who are not very much inclined to take a very favourable view of them have been compelled by facts to admit that, take it all in all, they discharge their duties with satisfaction to the public and with credit to them selves. They are now abolished, and I am not standing up here to say that it was possible to avoid coming to conclusion. This is the first piece of Unionist legislation I have heard for some years in this House connected with Ireland. Several Acts of Parliament have been passed referring to the property of Ireland, which was of a separatist character, because that legislation did not apply to England. An Act of Parliament is at this moment pending in the other House, by which persons in this country can be allowed to give evidence in their own defence, but they are precluded from that in Ireland; therefore, I should be the last person to object 581 to a Measure of this sort, which is a piece of Unionist legislation. I have been amused sometimes, and sometimes vexed, by hearing that the statement made that it was hoped that the grand jurors and county gentry of Ireland—I mean the ordinary county gentleman; not noble Lords, but men with a few hundreds a year—were likely not to accept their duty. I have heard the noble Marquess state that the Chief Secretary, the present First Lord of the Treasury, knew Ireland better than any other man. I join issue upon that. I believe I know Ireland better 'than any of the Chief Secretaries that have occupied that position for the last 50 years. I have never heard any single person say that he had the slightest objection, no more than if it had been in England, to accept the principle of doing his duty. It is not the difficulty of getting men to do their duty that will meet us with regard to this legislation, it will be the difficulty of being allowed to do their duty. That will be the pinch of the case. I do not attach the least importance to persons who tell me that it will be the reverse; if so, I believe it is a case of hope getting the better of experience. You have had the grand jurors of the county accepting the Bill. Did they object to it entirely? No. As has already been called attention to, they met in Dublin, and all agreed to accept it. They all said they were ready to accept the inevitable; but they might have said to the Chief Secretary for Ireland: Ave Cœsar morituri te salutant. They had no objection. They were politically put to death long since. These were their last entrenchments, and they made no objection to it. The position of the country gentleman of Ireland was described by the celebrated Edmund Burke in the last century, in a passage of which I took the liberty of making a note, as it appears to me to have anticipated, with the political sagacity which amounted almost to the gift of prophecy, the position of the country gentlemen of Ireland at the present time.I am unalterably persuaded that the attempt to degrade, impoverish, confiscate, and extinguish the landed property of the nation cannot be justified under any form.582 Prophetic words as regards the position in which the ordinary country gentleman, the man who is not able to afford a diminution of his income to any appreciable extent, has found himself within the last few years. The noble Earl who first addressed the House expressed a difficulty in ascertaining whether this grant of £750,000 a year was intended as being an equivalent for the agricultural grant that was given to England some years ago, or whether it was in order to redress the balance arising from the Report on the financial relations between England and Ireland. He said that it was not entirely the one, and then he thought it was not entirely the other, and then he came to the conclusion that it was neither. Now, I have come to a very decided conclusion. I have come to the conclusion that it is both. It is not the first time that a matter has been obliged to serve a double purpose. This grant of £750,000 was used in the debate on the financial relations in the House of Commons as being pro tanto a redress of the balance upon the financial question. On the debate upon this Bill it was used as being the equivalent to the agricultural grant in England which has been in existence for years. Therefore, it is doing a double duty and serving a double purpose, and I quite agree with the noble Earl opposite that it should not serve a double purpose. The solution of that difficulty would be that it should only serve a single purpose and that the other purpose might be attained be a grant which would be for five years, if you will, or for seven years, because you have already got two years ahead of us in regard to what we should be entitled as a substitute for the agricultural grant. I will, without detaining the House long at this late hour, call your Lordships' attention to one or two matters. My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor for Ireland took some credit to himself that there was no change made in this Bill. There was scarcely a change excepting by Amendments made by the Government. I think that was a mistake. There were a great many Amendments, and I mean to propose one myself, which could have been made without at all interfering with the general policy and principle of the Bill. Why adopt a sic volo, sic jubeo? Many cases have arisen in which towns 583 in Ireland which have reserved a distinct and civic existence since the English invasion, have been, without any particular object as it appears to me, put into neighbouring counties. Some have objected. The town with which I am so intimately connected and which I represented so often in the other House of Parliament—a most ancient town—is one of them. It has been prayed by its public bodies—by its town council, by the grand jury—that its distinct existence as a county borough should be preserved as it is to other towns. I cannot understand why it is that the wishes of the people who are so much interested in the matter should not be respected. Is it to be a continuance of the old perverse way of dealing with Ireland, that everything that is given to her is given sometimes ungraciously and sometimes even without reference to the sentiment and feeling of the people? Sentiment, after all, goes very far. I am one of those who quite agree with the noble Earl on the opposite benches. I do not think this Bill will have the slightest effect in diminishing the cry for Home Rule. My acquaintance with Ireland makes me say that it will increase the cry for Home Rule. I am not one to shut my eyes to facts, and say the very opposite to what I know to be the truth, in order to make things look pleasant. I am not a man of mustard-seed faith; that could not alone move mountains, but has to swallow mountains in imagining that because this Local Government Bill is passed that the desire for Home Rule is to be got rid of by a Measure of this kind.
THE EARL OF MAYO
To revert to the commencement of the Debate, I wish to say how very concise and very clear the opening speech of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was with regard to the Measure. Many Unionists are somewhat surprised at this extremely democratic Measure; and to see how important the Government think it is that Unionists should stand for these new constituencies. I should like to mention the closing remarks of the Chief Secretary in intro- 584 ducing the Bill. They were an appeal to the country gentry in Ireland—The experience of England and Scotland shows that in rural districts the local gentry are the natural leaders: of the people, and that the people willingly recognise them as such. In the past that has been the case in Ireland also, and it may be so again in the future. Well, everything depends upon themselves. Will they look askance at the new order of things? Will they stand aside in silence, or play the more manly part, and seek from the suffrages of their fellow-citizens that position which no others are so well qualified to fill? They may meet with rebuffs at first, but let them persevere and their reward is certain.We must all bear in mind that under this Bill the same franchise that sends the Nationalist Party to Westminster will elect the county councils and district councils. There is no doubt that the local gentry some years ago received very little consideration at the hands of the representatives of the people in Ireland; but, my Lords, there is one thing certain, and that is, that the gentry will take their part manfully in the future. This question of the county government of Ireland is a question for the county gentry of Ireland, and I maintain that it will be very difficult to carry on the local government of Ireland without the help of the local gentry. For my own part I think that the electors will soon find out who can do the work of the county properly and who cannot. It is satisfactory for the gentry in Ireland to know that attached to the policy of the withdrawal of local administration from nominated bodies and entrusting them to bodies by popular election is what is known as the agricultural grant. That, my Lords, no doubt forms a, safeguard to the minority, which pays the largest rates; and I say frankly that without that the Bill would be intolerable. In saying this I must remind your Lordships of the many claims that Ireland has on the English Exchequer, which have been urged during the last two Sessions of Parliament. Under this Bill these claims, which are a necessary provision to the Bill, have not been fairly treated. We do not take this agricultural grant as an answer to the many claims that we have made, but in order that the Bill may be worked properly and fairly. This Measure will have one 585 effect in Ireland, and that will be the bringing together of that class of Irishmen who look after the interests of the country, and the giving to them that freedom and independence in the management of their own affairs which is given to the rest of the United Kingdom. For that reason we welcome the Measure. There is one point on which there is bound to be controversy. That point has been mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Dunraven, and Lord Spencer, and it is the question of the exclusion of ministers of religion from these councils. For my own part, when the Measure was first brought in I felt very strongly that ministers of religion should be in the county and district councils; but in view of the remarks that I heard passed in the House of Commons by one section of the Nationalist Party and those passed by another section, I think that if we wish this Bill to work fairly and easily and without contention, I hold that it is safer, taking the country at large, that the ministers of religion should not sit on these councils. There is another matter which I should like to mention and which I put forward at the meeting of delegates from the grand juries. The Local Government Board is going to be enormously strengthened, and will have enormous power in Ireland. We must remember that in many parts of Ireland these county councils will be composed of men, in a great many cases, who will have no knowledge of county government, and therefore a tremendous lot of business will be referred to the Local Government Board in Ireland. In England the Local Government Board is represented in Parliament, and for my part I should like to see a representative of the Local Government Board of Ireland in Parliament, and for this reason: You have a nominated body controlling an elective body, and that nominated body will have enormous power, and at present there will be nobody in Parliament representing it. I therefore would like to see a provision in the Bill to that effect. I am of course quite aware that the Chief Secretary is the head of the Local Government Board; but the Chief Secretary, I maintain, nowadays has as much to do as is possible for man to do, and under this Bill he will have an enormous ad- 586 dition to his duties if he has to answer all the questions of burning importance which will be addressed to the Local Government Board. With regard to the malicious injuries clauses of the Bill, we consider that compensation should be extended to every kind of property, because the law as it stands at present is an extraordinary anomaly. I will give you an instance. An empty boat may be drawn up on the shore, and if it is burnt there is no payment for malicious injury; but supposing there is a sack of potatoes in it, it becomes cargo, and the injury would lie. With regard to the rural district councils, we think it is important that there should be two-member constituencies instead of one-member constituencies, and the reason for that is this: That we think it would be very hard to turn out the sitting elected guardians, and therefore we think that the ex-officio guardians should be able at all events to offer themselves for election. I do not say that in all cases he would be elected, but I think it would be very desirable that he should have a run for that constituency in which he has taken the greatest interest and has taken a part in poor law government. There is another point which the noble Marquess dwelt upon, and that is that the 25 per cent, limitation should apply to every kind of expenditure. Supposing the 25 per cent, is all spent on roads, what becomes of the other expenditure? There must be other expenditure, and the 50 per cent, which is supposed to be paid—that is, half the poor rate and half the county cess under the Bill—must disappear, unless that 25 per cent. is brought over every kind of expenditure as well as the roads. There is another point, and that is, that the county councils have no control over district councils with regard to Poor Law expenditure. These are some of the chief points which we hope to raise by means of Amendments on Thursday next, and I trust that they will receive proper attention at the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and I trust that, at any rate, noble Lords from Ireland will come and give these Amendments their support. I have only one other point. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, in introducing the Bill, said that in the case of extraordinary distress existing, 587 Parliament would in future take cognisance of it. In a great many districts in Ireland it would be quite impossible to combat exceptional distress, although in some places the rates have been 9s. in the pound. It is satisfactory to have the admission that, at all events, there is to be some sort of fatherly control or fatherly sympathy with distress in Ireland and that Parliament in future will take some interest in the distressed districts. I trust that the Government will pay attention to the Amendments which the noble Lords have signified their intention of moving.
I should hardly have risen to address your Lordships at so late a period in the evening were it not that I wish to say a few words as to the attitude with which the landowners are prepared to regard this Bill. So much stress has been laid on the relief extended to them in the matter of poor rate, and such expressions as blackmail, hush-money, and so forth, have been so lavishly spread about that it might appear as if we were disposed to accept this relief as a great boon, and that it is for that reason that we welcome this Bill. We do not in the least regard this relief as a boon, but merely as a fair measure of justice. We feel, as Her Majesty's Government evidently feel, that it would have been a gross and flagrant injustice to leave the landlord to pay not only half, but more than half of the poor rate, with the certainty that his power to modify or control the expenditure would be very much diminished, and in the not very improbable contingency that it would be extinguished altogether. This Bill has been characterised to-night in this House as a "leap in the dark," and I do not know of any phrase that can describe it more accurately. As far as I am concerned, I would much rather that matters remained as they are. I should much prefer to continue to pay the larger taxation with the certainty that its proceeds would be tolerably fairly administered. We regret the introduction of this Bill the more because we believe that it was not called for by any great force of public opinion. We believe that the grand juries did their work well, and that people were satisfied with them. As an old grand juror for upwards of 30 years, I must say that 588 I believe that that is so; but as the opinion of a grand juror might not be worth much on the subject, I would state other reasons for believing it. In the first place there is the power of "traverse," which I deeply regret is not included in this Bill, and by which any person with a grievance could at once approach the judge of assize. That power was very seldom exercised. Again, I would appeal to the public Press. The public Press in Ireland is certainly not disposed to treat the classes from which grand jurors were selected with any particular tenderness, and that Press is also not devoid in force and vigour of expression. But during the whole of the troubled times in Ireland I do not remember to have seen an attack made upon the grand juries for any particular act of negligence or maladministration, and I think if any grand jury had laid itself open to such a charge, it would most certainly have been taken advantage of. While we deplore the introduction of this Bill and its necessity, we feel sensible that it is inevitable. We know that both parties were pledged to it. The present Government are urged to it by their supporters in this country, who are possessed by the idea which it seems impossible to eradicate from the English mind, that whatever works well for this country must necessarily be good for every other country on the face of the earth. We are therefore determined to accept the Bill as inevitable, and to do our utmost to promote its smooth working—that is, if we are allowed to do so. But it is most uncertain on whom the choice of the elector will fall; and it must be remembered that as far as the district councils go in every division there is at present a sitting member, a man who must possess the confidence of his constituents, or else he would not be there—and it is hardly reasonable to expect that the electors would set him aside, if he has served them to their satisfaction in a limited capacity as poor law guardian, in order to elect a man, perhaps of wider experience, in his place. Therefore I trust that Her Majesty's Government will accept the principle of having two councillors for each division in the case of district councillors. The noble Earl opposite spoke of this proposal as intro- 589 ducing ex-officio guardians by the back door. It is nothing of the sort. On the contrary, I want to bring them in by the front door. I am perfectly ready to avow that the object is to get the assistance of ex-officio guardians and grand jurors on the district councils, I think it would be a great advantage so to do—that they should be elected just as the present guardians are elected, and sit side by side with them, just as they have been accustomed to do in previous times. I do not say that they will be elected, but this would give them a chance. There are great and widely spread apprehensions of extravagance in the future. But I confess myself that I have a fear that under some heads there will be a misplaced economy and a parsimony that will be very injurious. I feel that unless the control of the expenditure remains in proper hands there will be a considerable tendency to disregard the necessities of those classes of the community which are above all others most deserving of compassion—the inmates of lunatic asylums and hospitals. I regret that the Government have handed over the lunatic asylums to the county councils. Lunatics in reality are wards of the State. My noble and learned Friend who introduced this Bill is, by the authority of the Crown, the guardian of all lunatics in Ireland. Logically speaking, therefore, they are the wards of the State, and ought to be supported from Imperial funds. I am aware that this is too large a matter to be dealt with in a Bill of this kind, as it would involve a change in the lunacy laws of the United Kingdom, but I do wish that the Government had retained the control of the lunatic asylums in their hands, receiving a subvention from the county in the shape of a capitation grant—the exact converse of what is done under the present system. I think, also, that the appointment of the medical superintendents and the assistant medical superintendents should be in the hands of the Crown. The latter, moreover, are distinctly sufferers by the change, as they may lose the chance of promotion. There were a few other points which I intended to mention to your Lordships, but at this late period of the evening I will say no more. I should, however, like to add my assurance that I fully believe that it is the intention of all country gentlemen to offer themselves 590 for election, and to take every part they possibly can in the future government of Ireland, if they are enabled to do so; and if this Bill fails I believe it will not be from any negligence or apathy on their part.
*THE EARL OF ARRAN
I will not detain your Lordships for many minutes, but I should just like to say a few words upon this Bill. It is, perhaps, the most momentous Bill that has ever been brought into Parliament with regard to Ireland. It is a change to a free democratic government from a more or less oligarchical government. This Bill has been accepted in another place, and it is going to be accepted by your Lordships with, apparently, very few Amendments. My main object in speaking is to say one or two words as to the work which will fall upon the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board, I understood my noble and learned Friend to say, will be increased to something like seven members. As to the work which will fall upon them, I do not think I can better explain it to your Lordships than by quoting what was said the other day by an authority whom your Lordships will all acknowledge—I mean The O'Conor Don. In a speech which he made to the grand jury of Roscommon he made use of the following words. I think, perhaps, that I ought to say that his speech is rather in favour of the Bill than otherwise—There are, however, one or two points in connection with the Measure to which I desire to direct your particular attention. So far as I understand the provisions of the new Bill those points are of special importance to us. I have said so far as I understand the provisions of the Bill, because I am not at all satisfied in my own mind that I do understand all the provisions, the Bill is of the most complicated character, and, whatever else may be said of it, I do not think it is an example of very clear, comprehensive, and intelligent drafting. Any Bill dealing with the whole of local administration, poor law, and county and urban government must of necessity be comprehensive, and, to a certain extent, obscure, but this Bill errs particularly in this respect, and its framers, in trying to avoid prolixity and too much detail, have left it in a most incomplete state. If this Bill were passed in its present condition, and if nothing were given to the new bodies created be it but the Bill itself, they would be absolutely powerless to work under it, and would not know what to do. Under our present charter, the old Grand Jury Act, we have but to turn to its pages, 591 and there we find the whole method of procedure in our county government laid out, and we want nothing but the section of the Act to guide us. If we turn to the new Bill we find nothing but a skeleton, to be clothed with flesh and supplied with blood by ribs of the Local Government Board, orders of the Privy Council, and decisions of the Valuation Office, some of which are not yet known to us, and which, when made, may turn this Bill of seventy-seven clauses into a volume as large as Mooney's Compendium of the Poor Law. In fact, the Bill at present resembles the wheels and sections of a clock thrown down on a table, which, before they can work, must be fitted together, adjusted, and oiled by a clock-maker—the clock-maker in this case being the Local Government Board, the Privy Council, and the Valuation Office.I think that shows that, even with the extension as explained by the noble and learned Lord, the Local Government Board will scarcely be able to cope with the enormous number of queries which will be brought before it, and that there will be without doubt within a very short time a demand for an increased board, and that demand will be that new members should be elected members. I may say that between an elected Local Government Board and a Home Rule Parliament there seems to me to be but a very short distance indeed. There is only one other point to which I should like to call attention, and that is as to the safeguards which have been brought into the Bill for the purpose of protecting the landowners against undue taxation. There is no doubt that as long as the taxation remains nominal that protection is afforded under the Bill; but if the taxation is increased it appears to me that in the fixing of rents that increase must be taken into consideration. I know that there is a clause which directs the special commissioners not to take it into consideration, but it seems to me that they would scarcely be doing their duty if they dealt with land in which the taxation is 5s. in the pound on the same valuation as land on which the taxation is 10s. in the £. It must make a difference, and I do not see how you can help it. Therefore, my Lords, I think that that safeguard is imaginary rather than real. I do not think there is any other point to which your Lordships' attention has not been called, and therefore I will not detain you longer; but I think the point I have last men- 592 tioned is one which should be considered in Committee on the Bill.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
The discussion which has taken place on the Second Reading of this Bill, as I think your Lordships will agree, turns almost exclusively upon details, no doubt of importance, but still details, of the Measure which will undoubtedly be raised in Committee. I think, therefore, it will be absolutely unnecessary that I should attempt at this hour to follow the noble Members of this House in the various topics on which they have touched. The two noble Earls on the Front Bench opposite spoke in a somewhat suspicious, and, if I may say so, disdainful, manner of the grant which is provided by this Bill, and they hinted, if they did not actually say so, that it was nothing but a bribe in order to secure the passing of the Bill. But I did not observe that either of the noble Earls ventured to assert that the grant which is proposed by this Bill is an inequitable one. Neither did they pledge themselves to the proposition that it was possible to avoid giving to Ireland, in some form or another, something in the shape of an equivalent to the agricultural grant which has been given in the case of England. I did not quite understand one objection which was taken by my noble Friend Lord Spencer, who appeared to object to the proposal to place the liability for rates solely on the occupier, and he seemed to apprehend that that course would tend to exclude the owners of property from any chance of being elected as representatives on the county councils.
§ *EARL SPENCER
I think my noble Friend goes too far. I did not say "any" chance. But I think it might eventually lead to its being alleged as a reason for not being elected.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I think my noble Friend based that expression of his upon the theory that representation ought to go with taxation. I would point out to my noble Friend that the greater part of the gentlemen who are likely to seek seats on county and district councils will probably remain ratepayers themselves, because in almost every case, although they will not be 593 liable for rates as owners, they will probably to some extent be liable as occupiers, and will at least have as great an interest as most of the other ratepayers in the rates. But, in my opinion, this is a provision which will almost certainly tend, and it will be the only thing which can tend, to enable these gentlemen to retain their position in the government of their counties. If the district and county councils show, as has been anticipated, an inclination to extravagance, and if the rates do tend constantly to rise, it seems to me such a state of friction would arise between the new electors and the owners as would make it almost impossible for them to seek representation on the new bodies with any prospect of success. But I do not anticipate that in this House, at all events, any objection is likely to be taken to this proposal, and I conceive that the observations which have been made upon it have only been made with a view o giving a certain amount of countenance to the criticisms which have taken a, more definite shape in the other House of Parliament. I am inclined to agree with my noble Friend opposite that some of the criticisms of the noble Marquess who spoke from behind this bench were of such a character as almost to justify the apprehension that he was going to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. I think that the apprehensions which my noble Friend entertains of the probable consequences of this Measure are somewhat exaggerated. They appear to be based chiefly on the instances which he gave of the extravagance of elected bodies in Ireland and of the abuse and extravagance with which, on some occasions, they had administered—or attempted to administer, I should say—the poor law. But I would point out to your Lordships that this Bill, except so far as it disqualifies the ex-officio guardians, who have not hitherto had any very great amount of influence upon the boards, does not alter in any respect the administration of the poor law. It does not deprive the Local Government Board of any power which it now possesses over the administration of the poor law, and it does not alter the law as to the administration of the poor law in any wav whatever. My noble Friend complains that the county councils would 594 have no power conferred upon them of controlling the poor law administration of the boards of guardians. There is no local body at present which possesses any such power. Grand juries, as at present constituted, possess no such power, but no safeguard existing now, in so far as the administration of the poor law is concerned, will be removed by the Bill. I need hardly say that of course the Government will consider with the utmost care and attention the Amendments of which notice has been partially given to-night. But I cannot sit down without expressing a very earnest hope that your Lordships will not be disposed to adopt any Amendment which will have the effect of taking away the substance of what you profess to give. The Bill of 1892, to which reference has been made to-night, certainly met with very little favour from any portion of Irish opinion, because it was supposed to be hedged round and guarded by too stringent restrictions and safeguards, and because it was thought that what it professed to give was taken away in substance. We believe, and I think there is a general agreement of opinion, that in the construction of this Bill we have found a safer security—namely, in the proposed arrangement which will relieve the owners of land altogether from the payment of rates and place that payment without hardship or injustice on the occupiers. The danger which was to be apprehended, which has been apprehended, and which always stood in the way of any proposal in connection with local government which has ever been made, has consisted in the fact of that chronic and long-continued controversy amounting almost to warfare which has existed between owners of land and occupiers, and which has made it evident that there will be danger in placing in the hands of the occupiers a legal weapon which they might use against their opponents. That danger was felt by the late Government: it was felt by Mr. Gladstone himself in his larger proposal for the reorganisation of the government of Ireland. Mr. Gladstone felt—at least his first impression was when he introduced his first Home Rule Bill—that it would be unjust and inequitable to pass that Measure and place that amount of power mainly in the hands of the Irish occupier without 595 at the same time passing a Measure for expropriating the landlords on equitable terms. That difficulty, which was felt so strongly by Mr. Gladstone, has been felt more or less by every Government which has attempted to deal with the question in any shape or form. The proposal in the present Bill has, I think, been accepted with an extraordinary amount of unanimity as the nearest approach to a practical solution of the difficulty which has ever presented itself to the mind of any English Government.
§ Motion made.
That the Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion agreed to.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND
It may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I say that I propose to take the Committee stage on Monday.