§ MR. J. HOWARD
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, considering the prolonged, depression and gloomy prospects of the farming interest in England and Scotland, it is the intention of the Government to introduce remedial measures early next Session, or, whether the consideration of such measures is to be postponed until 734 the Royal Commission shall have made its Report?
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he wished to ask at the same time, Whether, having regard to the very long period of time during which the Duke of Richmond's Commission had now been sitting, and the great cost of the inquiry, amounting to about £15,000 a-year, and the desirability of legislation on this subject, the Government would not press the Commissioners to make their Report before the commencement of the next Session of Parliament.
I have no doubt, Sir, that with respect to the question of expense it is very desirable indeed that the proceedings of the Commission should be expedited, but I do not imagine at the close of the Session it would be possible to operate in that direction; but after a moderate vacation probably the Commissioners will continue their work. Undoubtedly, it is most desirable that, without doing injustice to the important subject, they should bring the matter to a conclusion. We have no direct power for that purpose; but I hope to make inquiry, and to receive some intimation that will be satisfactory. We cannot but believe that the Commissioners are under the operation of exactly the same motives and considerations as I am, and as my hon. Friends are. With respect to the immediate question before us, the bringing forward of legislative measures touching the land, an important element undoubtedly in that case is the question of the Report of the Royal Commission. As to the uncertainty as to the time that the Report may be received, it is very difficult for me to give any positive answer. I have already stated, in general terms, the strong impressions of the Government as to the necessity of measures with respect to the laws affecting the land. But this is not the time when it is possible to consider the order of proceedings for the next Session of Parliament. We are now almost six months away from the probable time of the meeting of Parliament, and we cannot announce any trustworthy conclusions.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked whether he understood the right hon. Gentleman as admitting that there was prolonged depression in the farming interests, and that legislation would follow as a consequence?
I do not pledge myself on that subject. If I am asked my opinion as to the depression in agriculture, I believe I am only expressing the universal conviction when I say it is a patent and notorious fact which we all deeply regret.