HC Deb 16 March 1838 vol 41 cc974-83

The House in Committee on the Poor-law (Ireland) Bill.

On Clause 67—Rate to be paid by the occupier,

Mr. O'Connell

said, this was the most important clause in the Bill, and the most likely, if carried into effect, to make the operation of the Bill unpopular. He had no objection, if this Bill must pass, that property should be taxed; if the poor were to be supported by a tax, let them be supported out of the property of the country, but let not the Legislature come on the poverty of the country to effect this object. There were numerous classes in Ireland occupying at rents exceeding the value of the property, and therefore holding at a pecuniary loss, and yet the clause went to charge a person in this situation with the whole rate in the first instance, and with one-half of it ultimately, and without any retribution. He had had the assistance on this clause of persons of remarkable arithmetical skill, and they declared that this part of the Act was unintelligible; for the clause charged occupiers in the first instance, and then they were to make a scale of contribution on all the different rents between the occupier and the holder of the fee. But this was proceeding upon a supposition not at all consistent with the state of things in Ireland; it was impossible calculations of this kind could be made out in hundreds of complicated cases, where numerous middlemen stood between the occupier and the holder of the fee, as, for instance, on Lord Egremont's estates, where the rent was paid by five or six individuals, each of whom paid a rent different from others. He moved, therefore, that the clause be postponed till a future day, when he would propose, in lieu of it, to enact that in every case where rent is paid for land, a tax shall be laid on the rent; and that in every place calculation of the value of the occupier's property be made, and that it be taxed accordingly.

Mr. Lucas

quite agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that in a variety of cases the working of this clause would be found to be surrounded with difficulties. The first was, that the occupier, who was generally a person very little above a state of destitution himself, was to be called on to advance the amount of this rate for his landlord. English Gentlemen ought not to suppose that they had to do with rich substantial farmers to whom a trifling outlay was a matter of no consequence. The poor Irish farmers had no cash in bank—and such was the poverty of that class in general, that even their charity was given in kind—and, therefore, even the smallest sum was of the greatest possible consequence to them. He would first advert to the case of the occupier, who according to the Bill was to pay no part of the rate, and yet, nevertheless, the clause then under consideration made him a banker for his landlord, and he would be forced to advance the amount of a rate, of which, eventually, he was to bear no share. This he considered a very great hardship on the occupier. But even where one-half of the rate was to be paid by the occupier, he would be subject to great hardships, also, inasmuch as if the county cess collector was also to collect the poor-rate, the occupier had to pay the rate long before the period he was usually called on to pay his rent. The hon. Member concluded by stating his intention of moving a proviso to remove the payment from the occupier.

Colonel Conolly

agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Member for Dublin, and considered that the demand ought to be made on the person who was finally liable to the rate. The House by this clause were reversing the principle adopted with respect to tithes, and which was found to work so beneficially for the peace of the country. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Monaghan, that it would be peculiarly hard to call upon the occupier to advance the amount of this rate, when he was excused by the operation of the Bill from contributing anything himself. He thought entering into collisions with the pauperism of the country was one of the causes of all the scenes that had unfortunately taken place in Ireland, and he implored the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, to weigh well the recommendations thrown out by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, and his hon. Friend, the Member for Monaghan, and not throw the burthen of this rate upon those who have not the means at command to meet it.

Mr. Redington

said, that what was wanted in Ireland was the introduction of capital, and he therefore, thought it most unwise to tax the occupier of the soil.

Mr. Litton

agreed with the hon. Member that it was a great hardship to make the occupier pay the rate, but in his judgment he saw no other way of making a Poor-law available in Ireland. The difficulty of collecting the rate would be increased tenfold if they were to look to parties whose titles were unknown. If the rents were to be rated, what was the collector to do? There was no power known to the law which could point out to the collector who should be looked to, whereas that could not be the case if the occupier were the person to pay the rate. On the whole he thought it utterly impossible to collect the rate at all, unless it were paid by the occupier.

Mr. Jephson

suggested the propriety of giving the Commissioners the power of making the rate collectable at the time the occupier really owed the money to a third party.

Mr. S. O'Brien

said, the Bill proposed to tax two parties, the landlord and the occupier; and he thought it would be most injurious not to give the occupier a direct interest in the suppression of pauperism. If the landlord were alone to pay the rate, the landlord alone ought to administer the law; and he doubted whether in many districts the law could be brought into operation at all if the occupiers were excluded from the constituency. Now, with regard to the portion of the rate to be paid by the occupier, he considered one-half too much, and it was his intention to move that the landlord be compelled to pay two-thirds of the rate. He should divide the House upon it.

Mr. Shaw

would willingly save the occupier from any unreasonable liability or vexation; but it would be impracticable to collect the rate unless the occupier were in the first instance made liable; and, after all, it would be but paying so much rent on the part of the occupier to be afterwards stopped from the landlord in the proportion that he was eventually liable; and it was desirable that the occupier, as well as the landlord, should be interested in keeping down the rate.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

objected to the withdrawal of the clause. It would be attended with extreme difficulty to collect the share of the rate from each individual interest, and he therefore thought it better to collect it from the occupier. He did not consider that any practical inconvenience would arise from the clause, and those who took a different view he thought were rather too romantic.

Mr. O'Connell

again contended, that the provisions of this Bill would aggravate the evils which existed in Ireland. There was, he said, a great deal of false humanity in the Bill. If the most vicious ingenuity were set to work to devise a measure which more than another would tend to promote agrarian disturbances, it could not invent a more fit means for such an end than most of the provisions of this Bill. He was of opinion that compulsory charity would do no good; but if they were to have such—if they were to have a Poor-law for Ireland, let the burden fall on the absentee landlord, on the owner of the fee and the rent, and not on the occupier. The entire profit of the land went, in some cases, to the landlord, and was it not fair that he should pay the rate, which ought to be a rate on property Coming upon the occupier would be but renewing those scenes of agrarian outrages, the existence of which all deplored. The House was sowing the whirlwind, and would reap the storm. His objection to the clause was so strong, that he would take the sense of the Committee on the amendment for postponing it for future consideration.

Mr. Lynch

contended, that the Bill would relieve the occupier, as one-half of the rate would be paid by the landlord. His hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Dublin, said, tax the landlords; so they were doing by this Bill. He knew that many absentees were amongst the best landlords of Ireland. He did not mean to deny, that absenteeism was an evil, but when his hon. and learned Friend talked of taxing absentees, where was he to find them? And if a portion of the rate was fixed as their share, and that it could not be collected, the arrear or deficiency of the one year would come on the occupier in the next. But the occupier would be relieved from this by the Bill, which would allow him to pay half, and if he paid the other half for his landlord, he would be allowed to deduct it from his rent. Every man would thus be allowed to contribute according to his rent. On these grounds he would support the clause.

Mr. P. Scrope

hoped the sinister forebodings of the hon. Member for Dublin would not be realised; and if the Bill should pass, that the hon. and learned Member for Dublin would neither by his letters nor speeches incite the occupiers to resist the Bill.

Mr. O'Connell

repudiated with scorn the insinuation which had been just thrown out against him. Had he wished to agitate on this subject he would have advocated a universal right to relief. He had, however, taken the unpopular side, and was opposed to any Poor-law. There was a great deal of apparent humanity in the observations of the hon. Member who last spoke, but he (Mr. O'Connell) could not forget that in one of the hon. Gentleman's pamphlets he stated his principal reason for advocating a Poor-law for Ireland was, that it would relieve the English labourer from the inroads of the Irish pauper.

Colonel Conolly

did not see any difficulty at getting at the landlords. After all he had heard he was still of opinion that the occupier ought not to be made pay the rate.

Mr. D. Roche

thought, if the clause remained in its present shape it would require all her Majesty's troops to levy the rate.

Mr. W. Roche

said, he meant to vote for the postponement of the clause. If the cess were to be levied from the occupiers, the scenes of the old tithe campaigns would be renewed.

Viscount Morpeth

said, he could not consent to the postponement of the clause. It would be extremely difficult for the guardians to ascertain who the real owners of the land were, and it was, therefore, necessary to make the land itself subject to the rate. Payment and control ought to go together, and it would scarcely be contended that if the landlords were alone to pay, the occupiers should have any share in the working of the Bill.

Colonel Conolly

asked the noble Lord, whether he would exclude the occupiers under 5l. There might be some show of justice in making those who had anything to deduct advance the rate; but none in making those who were to contribute no share of the rate.

Mr. O'Connell

again implored the noble Lord to postpone the clause. If it remained in force, the police and the army would be again brought into collision with the peasantry.

Mr. V. Stuart

said, he never heard any person in his county object to the payment of a rate. The occupiers, however, thought one-half too much; but none of them objected to being made liable for some portion of it.

Sir Edmund Hayes

hoped her Majesty's Government would not consent to postpone the clause. He could not concur in the view taken by his hon. Colleague (Colonel Conolly) with respect to this clause. He thought it would be better to reject the bill altogether, than adopt the suggestions thrown out by many hon. Members. After the matter had been so fully discussed, he did not feel justifiable in again going over the same ground. He should, therefore, content himself with declaring his intention to vote against the postponement of the clause.

The Committee divided on Mr. O'Connell's amendment that the clause be postponed: Ayes 28; Noes 71: Majority 43.

List of the AYES.
Archbold, R. Maher, J.
Bateson, Sir R. Nagle, Sir R.
Beamish, F. B. O'Brien, C.
Blake, M. J. Redington, T. N.
Bridgeman, H. Roche, E. B.
Bryan, G. Roche, W.
Castlereagh, Viscount Roche, D.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Style, Sir C.
Fitzgibbon, hon. Col. Wakley, T.
Fitzsimon, N. White, L.
Hindley, C. TELLERS.
Jones, T. O'Connell, D.
Lucas, E. Conolly, Colonel
List of the NOES
Acheson, Viscount Briscoe, J. I.
Adam, Admiral Broadwood, H.
Ainsworth, P. Brocklehurst, J.
Bannerman, A. Brotherton, J.
Baring, F. T. Bruges, W. H. L.
Barron, H. W. Callaghan, D.
Barry, G. S. Chalmers, P.
Blackstone, W. S. Clements, Viscount
Cole, hon. A. H. Moneypenny, T. G.
Colquhoun, Sir J. Morpeth, Viscount
Corry, hon. H. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Courtenay, P. O'Brien, W. S.
Douglas, Sir C. E. O'Neil, hon. J. B. R.
Fitzalan, Lord Parker, J.
Fleetwood, P. H. Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.
French, F. Rice, E. R.
Grattan, J. Round, C. G.
Grey, Sir G. Russell, Lord J.
Grote, G. Scholefield, J.
Hawes, B. Scrope, G. P.
Hawkes, T. Seymour, Lord
Hayes, Sir E. Smith, R. V.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. Stanley, E. J.
Hodgson, R. Steuart, R.
Howard, R. Stuart, V.
Howick, Viscount Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Hume, J. Westenra, hon. H. R.
Humphery, J. Williams, W.
Hurt, F. Williams, W. A.
Hutton, R. Winnington, T. E.
Jephson, C. D. O. Wood, G. W.
Kirk, P. Woulfe, Sergeant
Lefevre, C. S. Wyse, T.
Litton, E. Yates, J. A.
Lockhart, A. M. TELLERS.
Macleod, R. Dalmeny, Lord
Mildmay, P. St. J. Lynch, A. H.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 69—Proportion of rate to be deducted from rent where not less than annual value,

Mr. Shaw

said, the principle of that clause could not be acted upon if the tithe-owner were separately rated—for first, under the 60th Clause, tithe composition was to be deducted in estimating the net annual value of the lands; and then, under the 69th Clause, the landlord was to pay a poundage upon his whole rent, which, in every lease made since 1832, must also include the tithe composition. That would entirely change the proportions between landlord and tenant, and defeat the scale proposed by the bill. The simple and the just course would be, to put the tithe-owner upon the same footing with the landlord—making the occupier pay, in the first instance, for the whole rate, and then letting him or the landlord, as the case might be, stop the tithe-owner's proportion in the payment of the tithe composition.

Mr. Jephson

said, that, in a case when a rent of 1,000l. was paid, with a tithe composition of 200l., the rateage was charged only upon 800l., which at 1s. the pound would be 40l.; 20l. of this ought to be paid by the tenant, and the other 20l. by the landlord; but as the clause stood now, 25l. would be paid by the latter, and 15l. by the former.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

thought, the case mentioned by the hon. Member, must be a very rare case indeed, and for one instance of the kind there were a thousand against it. He did not think that in any place the tithe composition amounted to so much as 4s. in the pound. Every other way had been tried to effect an equal payment by both landlord and tenant, but that proposed in the present clause was the only one that would be at all likely to effect that.

Lord J. Russell

said, that feeling the force of the arguments which had been brought forward against the clause, as it at present stood, he would not resist the proposed alteration. He would, therefore, propose that the clause should be so framed as to make one-half of the rate payable by the landowner and the tithe proprietor, and the other half by the occupier of the land.

Mr. O'Brien

said, he was not going to propose that the occupying tenant be relieved entirely from the payment of the rate. But he hoped all Members who took that view of the case, would join with him in proposing that the occupying tenant should only pay one-third instead of one-half the rate. He should move an amendment to that effect, and take the sense of the Committee upon it.

Mr. Lucas

hoped the Government would adhere to the provisions in the clause as it stood. It was a very difficult question to discuss, or to come to any accurate conclusion, as to the exact proportion of profit each tenant and landlord derived. He thought the Government had done wisely in setting down the proportion at one-half; and that it would only lead to perpetual contest between tenant and landlord, if the tenants' proportion were further reduced.

Mr. O' Connell

believed if there were any chance of the Bill working, it would be in levying as little a burden as possible on the occupying tenant, and he thought the proposal that the landlord should pay two-thirds instead of one-half a reasonable one.

Mr. Wyse

saw no reason why one-third should be the tenants' proportion of the rate instead of one-half; and if that principle was admitted into the poor-law, why should it not be extended to the county cess?

Mr. Shaw

said, that it was not true that the whole burden of the poor rate must eventually be borne by the land, and that the real interest of landlord and tenant was identical; one class could not be permanently oppressed, and the other prosper; and those were not the true friends of the occupiers of the soil who would desire to set them against their landlords; but considering the just alarm that already pervaded the landed proprietors of Ireland, with regard to the possible consequences of the measure; also, that the Government had announced their plan to be, that during existing leases the rate should be divided, in cases where the rent exceeded 5l., between the landlord and the tenant—and how important it was, at the outset of the great experiment that was being made, that all the occupiers should have an interest in keeping down the rate, he urged upon the Government the propriety of abiding by the proportion they had themselves selected.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

said, they were all agreed, that the whole charge would ultimately fall upon the land, but he thought that it would be better that the tenants should, by the payment of a portion of the rate, have an interest in the management of the funds provided for the support of the poor. If the whole charge were fixed on the owners, the occupiers would he entirely excluded from all control over the rates, and the whole management would be vested in the owners of land, and he did not think such an arrangement would be wise. He believed that there would be no objection on the part of the Government to adopt either two-thirds or one-half of the rate as the proportion to be paid by the landowners, whichever the House might think most proper.

Mr. Lucas

said, the landlords of Ireland were now cheerfully taking upon them their share of a burden which had never been imposed on them, and he did not think it fair that they should pay more than one-half of that burden. In England the tenant paid every farthing of the poor rates.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the defect in the argument of those who contended for the present proportion of half and half was, that under the clause as it stood, the landlord would not pay, in fact, one half the rate, while the tenant, under all circumstances, would pay his half—for the moment the tenant raised one shilling profit over and above the rent, he was to be rated for that additional profit as for the rent. It drove him to despair (as to the working of this Bill) to find the proposition of the Government to reduce the tenant's quota of the rate to one-third from one-half, rejected. It was a universal principle in political economy, that where the supply was less than the demand of the article, the price became unnatural, and land was subject to that rule along with other articles. Now, in Ireland the demand for land was greater than the supply, therefore the price was not natural.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

remarked, that it was but fair if a tenant derived from any property he occupied the interest of a proprietor to a certain extent, he should, to that extent be liable to be rated as a landlord.

Lord Clements

complained that the Irish landlords in the House were placed, by the conduct of the Government in respect to this subject, in a very disagreeable position—that of being called upon to say, whether they would pay one-half or two-thirds of the rate, which was a question, of all others, the Irish landlords were unfit to decide, and which ought to be left to the decision of the English Members, who would be, at least, impartial judges.

Viscount Morpeth

said, the noble Lord ought to have directed his censure to the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Brien), who, himself a landlord, brought forward the proposition for reducing the tenant's proportion of the rate from one-half to one-third. After what had passed, the Government would adhere to the clause as it stood. He hoped the hon. Member for Limerick would not divide the Committee.

The Committee divided on the amendment:—Ayes 31; Noes 46: Majority 15.

List of the AYES.
Archbold, R. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Barron, H. W. Maher, J.
Beamish, F. B. O'Brien, C.
Blake, M. J. O'Connell, M. J.
Bodkin, J. J. Packe, C. W.
Bridgeman, H. Redington, T. N.
Brotherton, J. Roche, W.
Browne, R. D. Roche, D.
Bruges, W. H. L. Stuart, H.
Bryan, G. Stuart, V.
Callaghan, D. Style, Sir C.
Courtenay, P. Vigors, N. A.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Westenra, hon. H. R.
Finch, F. White, L.
Fitzgibbon, hon. Col. TELLERS.
Fitzsimon, N. O'Connell, D.
Howard, F. J. O'Brien, W. S.
List of the NOES.
Acheson, Viscount Acland, T. D.
Acland, Sir T. D. Baring, F. T.
Barrington, Viscount Macleod, R.
Barry, G. S. Morpeth, Viscount
Campbell, Sir J. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Castlereagh, Visct. Nicholl, J.
Conolly, E. O'Neill, hon. J. B. R.
Corry, hon. H. Palmer, C. F.
Curry, W. Perceval, Colonel
Damer, Hon. D. Plumptre, J. P.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Rice, right hon. T. S.
Fitzalan, Lord Rolfe, Sir R. M.
French, F. Russell, Lord J.
Grattan, I. Shaw, right hon. F.
Hayes, Sir E. Sinclair, Sir G.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Stanley, E. J.
Hodgson,R. Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.
Howard, R. Thornley, T.
Howick, Viscount Verney, Sir H.
Hurt, F, Williams, W. A.
Hutton, R. Woulfe, Sergeant
Jephson, C. D. O. Wyse, T. TELLERS.
Jones, T.
Litton, E. TELLERS.
Lockhart, A. M. Lynch, A. H.
Lucas, E. Parker, J.

The House resumed, the Committee to sit again.