HC Deb 24 February 1853 vol 124 cc622-30

SIR JOHN YOUNG moved, that the Select Committee on the Leasing Powers (Ireland), Landlord and Tenant (Ireland), Tenant Right (Ireland), and Tenants' Compensation (Ireland) Bills, do consist of thirty Members.


begged leave to ask whether the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton would attend upon that Committee?


answered in the affirmative.


said, that out of the names of Irish Members upon the list of the Committee, there appeared only six Conservatives. The system on which the tenant-right principle was carried out in the province of Ulster, had not a single representative in that Committee. There were on it no persons who had any practical experience of the working of that system in the north; and he, therefore, objected to the Committee in toto. He would put the name of every one of the Members to the vote, unless the Committee were considerably altered.


said, that the hon. Baronet who had just sat down had treated the selection of that Committee as partial and one-sided. He could only say, that in framing it he had no intention of making it one-sided; and he had no particular predilection in favour of the Tenant League. In fact, the principles on which he had stood at his recent election, were principles opposed to those advocated by the Tenant Leaguers, and he had been supported by the Members of the Liberal party on the ground that he was not a Tenant Leaguer. He was prepared to justify the selection he had made. He had consulted the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) as to certain Members, and the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee) as to others. He thought at first the Committee ought to consist of twenty-one Members, seven to be named by the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, seven by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, and seven by the Government. But this difficulty occurred: The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), and the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond), had given great attention to the subject, and had served on several Irish Committees, and he thought it desirable to enlarge the Committee, and place thereon the names of these Gentlemen. The House of Commons had decided before Christmas that certain Bills should be referred to a Select Committee, and the Irish portion of the Government had been called upon, in discharge of their Ministerial duty, to name the persons to whom those Bills should be referred. He had so selected the Committee that its Members might represent the various opinions which prevailed upon that subject in the House. He looked upon the apprehensions which were entertained with regard to the constitution of the Committee as perfectly groundless and visionary. The hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Brooke) had said that there was no person on the Committee to represent the property of Ulster. Now, he represented it in his own person. [Cries of "No, no!"] At all events, he was Member for Cavan, and Cavan was in the province of Ulster. His noble friend (Lord Naas) represented Coleraine, in the same province; and his hon. Friend (Sir R. Ferguson) represented Londonderry, and had large landed possessions. He contended, therefore, that the property of Ireland was fairly represented by the selection.


said, that the right hon. Baronet had quite misunderstood him, if he thought he was not aware that Cavan was a portion of the province of Ulster. Tenant Right, however, had not been practised to any considerable extent in Cavan. He (Sir A. Brooke) had especially referred to that portion of the province of Ulster in which the tenant-right had prevailed; and he repeated that there were on the Committee no Conservative proprietors of the province of Ulster acquainted with the working of that system. On the original Committee there had been seventeen borough Members, including the Members for the University of Dublin, while the property of Ulster had been left practically unrepresented as regarded that question.


said, that in some of the counties individuals had been endeavouring to carry out the system of tenant-right on so extensive a scale as to turn the landlords into tenants and the tenants into landlords. One of the Bills which were about to be referred to the Committee was essentially the same as one for which Mr. Sharman Crawford had never been able to obtain a second reading in that House. The question of tenant-right had, he thought, been fairly dealt with in Ulster. On the original Committee, there were seventeen borough Members appointed to decide upon a question connected with land. He would suggest to the right hon. Baronet that he should enlarge that Committee; and that he should select seven Englishmen of knowledge, independence, and property. There would then, he believed, be some chance of their having the tenant-right question fairly considered. As the Committee was at present constituted, he did not think the question would get a fair hearing.


said, he must main- tain the perfectly fair character of the Committee; and he was amazed that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who previous to the late general election expressed themselves so anxious to have this question amicably adjusted, should now turn round and manifest a feeling of so completely opposite a character. He considered that the landed property of Ireland was most adequately represented on the Committee.


said, he would tell the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down why he and others objected to the constitution of the Committee. It was because, as proposed, it consisted in much too great a degree of Gentlemen who had either themselves individually declared for, or attended meetings where such declaration had been made—that they would oppose any Government until this measure of theirs was carried. Now he wished very much to know why Gentlemen from the province of Ulster should not have an opportunity of making their opinions felt on the Committee? He (Sir W. Verner) had property in not less than three counties in that province, and he must say, that until he came into that House, he never heard what the tenant-right of Ulster was. At any rate he could not recognise anything more in the tenant-right of Ulster than that there existed a better feeling between the landlords and tenants of that part of Ireland than elsewhere. However, he must say, that he believed it was greatly owing to the late Government—to their act in having permitted a Bill which had been previously scouted out of the House without attaining a second reading, to remain before them, that things had come to their present pass. Certainly, it had since been stated that that circumstance was entirely to be ascribed to accident, and he had even heard the fact coupled with individual responsibility. Now, with every respect and regard for his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, he was forced to say that he could discern but very little difference between his Bill and that of Mr. Sharman Crawford. The whole thing originated in nothing else but a desire to attack the rights of property in Ireland.


said, he could not help feeling that a great many very extraneous topics had been introduced into the debate. Their great object at present was to try and constitute as fair a Committee as possible; for it certainly was most desirable that Parliament should come to a settle- merit of the question as soon as possible. Indeed, the matter could no longer be kept open, for it was distracting the people of Ireland, and seriously depreciating the value of land in that country. He had stated to the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Young) that if a reasonably fair Committee were nominated, that he (Mr. Napier) would be most willing, by any assistance in his power, substantially to carry out the objects of the Committee, and to endeavour to modify the Bills before them. He must say, frankly, that he did not approve of the first Committee which had been named; but he thought that perhaps the present Committee might be found to answer the object. The House, however, must keep in mind that the opinion of the Committee would not be binding upon hon. Members, and that the object which such a Committee would have in view was not to make speeches, but to modify the various Bills before them.


said, if he was able correctly to interpret what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland (Sir J. Young), there had been some two courses before him. One was, to appoint a Committee of twenty-one Members, and the other was, to constitute one of the very large number of thirty Members. Now, as far as his experience went, he must say the larger the Committee the more unfrequent and lax were the attendance of its members. In addition, however, he could not conceal the fact, that the names which appeared on the original list of his right hon. Friend were most objectionable, and that the Committee so constituted tended in the very strongest degree to awaken feelings of alarm and apprehension in the minds of all those connected with Irish property. It appeared to him better that the numbers to serve on the Committee should be curtailed; and likewise that its construction should be reconsidered. He would not detain the House further at that late hour; but, considering the immense importance of the subject before them—considering that the rights of property in Ireland were at stake—considering that new doctrines were broached with regard to Ireland which were more akin to those of Louis Blanc and Monsieur Proudhon, than to any which this country had been hitherto accustomed— [Cries of "Hear, hear!"and "Oh, oh!"] Yes, he was ready to maintain his words. Considering, then, the gravity of the issue, he must say Govern- ment were bound to postpone the appointment of the Committee, with a view to its reconstruction.


said, he begged to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin for the promise of his most valuable assistance, and was ready to consent to the postponement of the nomination of the Committee.


said, he wished merely to observe, in reference to what fell from the hon. and gallant Colonel below him (Sir W. Verner), that if there was no one in the House who knew anything about tenant-right, or, in fact, if there was no such thing at all as tenant-right, why all this cry about there being no Gentleman from Ulster on the Committee? He considered that all classes, but more particularly the landlord class, were fully represented on the Committee. A reasonable objection to the Committee was, that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had yielded too much by adding four Members representing the landed interest.


said, that he had objected to the appointment of those Members who had pledged themselves to oppose every measure on the subject except that of Mr. Sharman Crawford; but he had never said that there were not a sufficient number of Ulster Members on the proposed Committee.

Debate adjourned till Monday next.

The House adjourned at a Quarter after One o'clock.