§ Acquisition of Land by Tenants.
§ Clause 19 (Advances to tenants by commission for purchase of holdings).
said, the Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan) was beyond the purpose of the clause, and 288 could not be considered at that place. It was a proposition of a distinct kind, and should be brought up as a separate clause.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, he did not wish the important question relating to the purchase of land for the benefit of labourers to be put off, and if it were possible he would prefer to move the Amendment at that place.
said, he had consulted the authorities of the House, who were of opinion that the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member was clearly inconsistent with the clause, and could not be put.
§ MR. LITTON
moved, in page 12, line 30, leave out from "purchase" to "three-fourths" in line 31, and insert—The whole of said principal sum, or in case the Land Commission shall be satisfied that the tenant is unable to give sufficient security for the whole of the said principal sum, then to advance to the tenant any sum not less than four-fifths.If the Government would yield to the unanimous feeling that seemed to be entertained in favour of an advance of four-fifths, he would ask leave not to move the earlier part of the Amendment, and would simply move that the words "four-fifths" be substituted for the words "three-fourths" in lines 30 and 31. He begged to move that those words be inserted.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he did not know that the hon. and learned Gentleman was quite justified in leaving out the first part of the Amendment and moving only the second, because it would be seen that there were on the Paper Amendments by several hon. Members, among others one by the hon. Member for Carrickfergus (Mr. Greer), who represented a population partly urban and partly rural; and one by the noble Lord the Member for County Down (Lord Arthur Hill), who had a very large rural constituency; while there were several Conservative Members from the North of Ireland who had given Notice of Amendments; and if the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) were altered as suggested by him it would stand in the way of the rest. He thought the hon. and learned Gentleman would do better to put the Amendment as it originally stood, and thus give to other hon. Members the opportunity of dealing with the subject.
§ MR. LITTON
said, he thought there was some force in what was said by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), and therefore he asked leave to withdraw the Amendment he had just moved so that he might move it in its original form.
said, he would point out that no damage would be done by leaving it as it stood, because if the Committee decided on leaving out three-fourths, and any other Amendments were made, the words could be inserted before the Committee affirmed the words "three-fourths."
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he thought the original Amendment, of which Notice was given by the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan), was one that took in most of the other Amendments.
§ MR. LITTON
I will ask leave of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment as just submitted, and to move the Amendment as it originally stood in the name of the hon. Member (Mr. Givan).
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In page 12, line 30, to leave out from the word "purchase," to the word "three-fourths," in line 31, in order to insert the words "the whole of said principal sum, or in case the Land Commission shall be satisfied that the tenant is unable to give sufficient security for the whole of the said principal sum, then to advance to the tenant any sum not less than four-fifths,"—(Mr. Litton,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words any sum not exceeding three-fourths' stand part of the Clause."
Sir, upon this question I think it my duty to use great plainness of speech. When I look down the page of Amendments, near the head of which appears the one which has just been moved, the consensus and spirit of harmony which appear to prevail on this particular branch of the subject among Irish Members seems to me very touching, and really goes to my heart; but I may here say that Irish Members have not, upon this particular clause, that especial authority and weight which I feel to belong to them with regard to many provisions of the Bill; for the persons who are ultimately concerned—in whatever way we may proceed in regard to the provision of the funds for these purposes—the persons 290 who must either immediately find the money, if it is to be used directly, or who must undertake the responsibility of finding the money, must necessarily be the taxpayers of the Three Kingdoms. We have a duty to discharge to them which I, above all, in respect both to this Bill and to the Office which I have the honour to hold, am bound to bear carefully in mind. Therefore, I must say that I am not prepared to accede to either of these Amendments. Her Majesty's Government have considered very carefully and very largely this subject, and they feel that they are undertaking a very great responsibility—although they have undertaken it freely, willingly, and deliberately—but still a very serious responsibility, in recommending the House to give its sanction to the very large and liberal advances proposed by the Bill. Now, Sir, I would say to my hon. and learned Friend behind me, and to other Irish Members in this House, let them consider what it is that we propose to do—let them consider what it is to advance three-fourths of the sum necessary for the purchase of land. I need not say that this is a thing totally unknown in all private transactions. No vendor of an estate will ever, under any circumstances, consent to sell to a person who leaves three-fourths of the price chargeable on the estate. It is always a great deal less than that, and if he leaves half of it charged on the estate it is a very heavy burden upon the transaction, and it is also a burden not very commonly allowed to remain. But I beg them also to consider—and this is really, in my opinion, quite the true view of the whole matter—that in this case the State is not going to deal with one party only, but with two. It has to deal with the tenant, and it has also to deal with the landlord, and these two persons, it is concluded, will be equally interested in driving on the transaction. Well, I ask what will be the position of the landlord if he is inspired with only one-hundredth part of the alarm that has entered into the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to the effect of this Bill—and I seriously believe that that alarm has been undergoing a gradual and considerable diminution during the progress of this Bill—but supposing he is inspired with any real alarm or anxiety, and is anxious to sell his estate, what will be his position? 291 His position will be this—he will be enabled at once to propose to his tenants that they should become purchasers, and he will be able to offer to them an irresistible attraction at very small risk and cost to himself. And it is essential, in order to appreciate this proposal, to remember that in these transactions there will be, not two principal parties, but three, the State being one principal party, as supplying in some shape or another the bulk of the money, while the other two, the landlord and the tenant, are also principals. The landlord who wishes to dispose of his estate will have only one sacrifice to make. He will have three-fourths of the purchase money assured to him at once from the public funds; and what is he called upon to do? He is only called upon to say to the tenants, I will leave the remaining fourth on mortgage on the property, posterior, of course, to the mortgage to the State. And what does his security consist of? It consists of this—first of all, in the belief that the acquirement of proprietorship will stimulate the industry of the tenants; next, in the fact that the amount he is allowing to remain as a mortgage on the property is a very limited amount—an amount that many a vendor of an estate is willing to allow to remain as a charge on it; because I suppose I shall be right in saying that while it is a very common thing to allow half to remain in the purchase of landed property, it is also a very common thing to allow one-fourth to remain as a charge on the estate. But the security of the landlord is not merely in the one-fourth of his own interest in the holding; it also consists in the value of the tenant right of the land which furnishes a part of the security upon it; and there is, again, this great feature in the transaction, that the landlord has the guarantee that it will be the duty or the necessity of the State to see that the tenant fulfils his part of the bargain by reducing from year to year, from the very inception of the transaction, that portion of the incumbrance which is due to the State; so that while the original advance made by the landlord is the small advance of 25 per cent to the tenant, he makes that advance on the undeniable security of the one-fourth part of his own interest, and of the whole of the tenant's interest in the holding, and does this with the full knowledge that the tenant 292 will have every year to improve his position by lightening that portion of the incumbrance which is due to the State. Now, I want to ask whether, under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government have not done everything they can reasonably be expected to do in a spirit of the utmost liberality for the facilitation of these transactions, if there is to be any regard to public prudence in finance? I know that there are hon. Gentlemen who think that under the provisions of this Bill the position of the tenant will be such that he will probably be satisfied with the modified proprietary interest which he will have in the land, and that the desire to acquire the absolute fee-simple which now prevails among Irish tenants will gradually die away. I cannot tell how that may be; it may be so, and it may not; but, at any rate, it is not our intention to force the tenants in that direction. We have given them, we think, very great facilities indeed; and what I wish to impress on the minds of the Irish Members is that the facility is not only as great as it appears to be on the face of the Act, but that it is really very much greater than it at first sight appears to be on account of this essential fact, the interest of the landlord, who, by the very nature of the case, is supposed to be interested in promoting the transaction by the smallness of the risk and the greatness of the inducement which he, as landlord, has to supply the only thing wanted, on allowing either the entire 25 per cent, or such portion as may be necessary, to remain as an in-cumbrance on the holding. Under these circumstances, I feel myself bound to speak plainly and decisively. As we have determined to ask Parliament to undertake these liabilities, and as we laid down in the original announcement of this plan a very important proposition relating to it, we cannot accede to any deviation from that plan in the sense of acceding to the propositions for enlarging these percentages. The announcement to which I referred just now was this—that we did not intend to ask Parliament to impose any absolute limit at the present time as to the extent of those transactions that may take place under this Bill. We wish, rather, to let them be tested by their merits, as they will be tested in the actual operations of the law. We know that Parliament cannot part with its power and responsibilities; 293 but we do not wish to fetter its freedom of action or its responsibility by asking Parliament to say—"We will allow purchasing to be done to the extent of this or of that number of millions; we would rather allow the operation of the powers under the Bill to expand in accordance with what may be the real needs and necessities of the case." Under these circumstances, I cannot but express a sanguine hope that my hon. Friend and the Members for Ireland generally will feel that Her Majesty's Government cannot divest themselves of their duties to the taxpayers of the three countries. It so happens that this question has been brought on at a moment when the opposite Benches are not very largely attended; but that circumstance is, I believe, an accident. But I am quite certain that those who usually occupy the Benches opposite—and especially those who occupy the Front Bench—will feel that they, too, have considerable responsibility resting upon them in this matter, and will not allow us—I will frankly use the expression—even if we were so disposed, to tamper rashly or wildly with the interests of the taxpayers or the Exchequer. This is not merely a question of the interests of the taxpayers, for anything like a loose disposition to bring the State into a position of proprietorship without effectual provisions for rapidly relieving it of its responsibilities would, I am sure, be strongly resisted from many quarters of this House. On the night when it was my duty to state to the House the leading provisions of this Bill, the first suggestion that occurred to the very acute mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—than whom there is, undoubtedly, no person in this House or out of it who more thoroughly comprehends the finances of this country—the very first suggestion that occurred to him was one of scruple and difficulty as to our being allowed to involve the Exchequer of this country in liabilities that would be impolitic and excessive. I have made these comments at this point very much for the sake of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Litton). I have thought it best to state my views at once, and I am sure he will not interpret my frankness as implying any disrespect; but I deemed it best that at first we should enable him clearly and distinctly to understand the conclusions we have 294 come to in respect to our duty in this matter. We have felt it our duty to hold, as evenly as we can, the balance of equity and justice in the whole of our dealings with this Bill, not only as between the several classes it will affect in Ireland, but likewise as between the several portions of the United Kingdom, and the great mass of the people. I am convinced that were we to deviate from this principle, although there may be no great indications on the face of this Paper of reluctance to enter into this pecuniary responsibility at the present moment, if we were to show a spirit of recklessness in regard to our duty as guardians of the Public Treasury, opposition would spring up in many quarters of this House, including quarters in which the best disposition towards Ireland prevails, and we should, perhaps, involve the progress of this measure, which is just now more hopeful than it has ever been, in doubt and difficulty, and possibly even in danger.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
would at once say that he could not support the Amendment, which contemplated a state of things by which the whole of the purchase money might be advanced to the tenant. Everyone who had heard the statement of the Prime Minister could not but be impressed by it; but what he (Mr. C. Russell) wished to say to the Committee was in the direction of showing—though he was afraid, after what had fallen from the Prime Minister, he could hardly hope for a satisfactory result—that it would be in the interest of the State itself that if possible the limit of advance should be enlarged to four-fifths. He desired to state the grounds on which he rested this argument. He was one of those who regarded this part of the Bill as embodying to the greatest extent the principle of finality, and it was this portion that he wished to see made as wide and efficient in its provisions as the Government could allow it to be made. He would state one or two facts in support of his position. He might refer to the experience obtained in reference to the purchase of the surplus land of the Irish Church, and he would point out to the Committee that he had taken means to inform himself as to how the matter stood. Those Church lands had been sold under what he might call circumstances of considerable disadvantage to the tenants, because the 295 primary object of the Church Commission was to obtain the largest price that could be got for the land, and the giving effect to the "Bright Clauses" of the Act of 1870 was merely a subsidiary object. More than this, he knew a good deal of the land that had been brought under that system, and, as a rule, it was poor land. Notwithstanding the high price paid by the tenants, and the fact that the land they purchased was not in the main of the best kind, and that they had just passed through three successive bad years, out of the annual instalment of £110,000 payable to the Church Commissioners, he believed only about £4,000 remained in arrear. He had been informed, on what he believed to be good authority, that the borrowing, in these cases, by the tenants of the remaining fourth of the purchase money, and its repayment, had been a source of greater difficulty and expense to the tenants than the repayment of the annual instalments of the rest of the money; because the repayments due to the Commissioners bore a comparatively small interest, while the rate they had to pay for the fourth they had borrowed elsewhere was such as to be a hindrance and burden upon them which they found highly injurious. He was informed, though this was a point that he did not wish the Committee to understand he had personally inquired closely into, that in some cases the amount of interest payable on this one-fourth was as much as 20, 30, 40, and even 50 per cent. Surely this was a state of things to be avoided if possible. He recognized most fully, as the Prime Minister had pointed out, that there would be great objection to putting the State in the position of a rent-gatherer, or a tax-gathering landlord, or whatever term they might choose to apply; but the State was already, by the provisions which had been passed, necessarily in that position, and the question was how that position could best be fulfilled without loss to the State. The advances made by the State were becoming year by year gradually less, while at the same time the security held by the State was becoming year by year gradually greater. If the Committee once realized the real condition of affairs, it would be seen that the class of people in Ireland who, if he might use the phrase, aspired to be their own landlords, would, when once they had agreed to purchase their 296 holdings and made but one instalment good, go to work with a sense of security, with a vigour, and with promptings and aspirations such as they had never known before, and would struggle to the very death before they would do anything that would imperil the loss of that which it had been the greatest aim and object of their lives to acquire. He was exceedingly unwilling to discuss this point any longer than was necessary to bring fairly and fully before Her Majesty's Government the views of those who regarded it in the same light as himself; but he did most strongly feel the force of what he had just stated, and unless the Prime Minister had made up his mind resolutely and determinedly on the matter, he would respectfully ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be possible, though he did not urge them to accept the Amendment and advance the whole, to accept the modified proposal that the Commission should be empowered to advance four-fifths? It was proposed to intrust to to the Commissioners very large powers, and he thought it was not too much to permit them at their discretion to advance money to the extent of four-fifths of the purchase.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, from his knowledge of Ireland, North and South, he could inform the Committee that the hearts of the people were more set upon the Proprietary Clauses than upon any efforts, however well intended, to bolster up an untenable position in which they would find themselves in an uncommercial arrangement as between landlord and tenant. He hoped the Government would strain every effort and extend the well-intentioned proposals that appeared on the face of the Bill more prominently in the clauses they were now discussing than in any other part of the measure. These, be held, were really the clauses that would lead to finality, if finality was to be achieved. He considered that the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister went exactly to prove the case for the Amendment, althought they were not brought forward with that view. The right hon. Gentleman had laid great stress on the security the tenants would have to offer; but every security the tenant had to offer to the landlord would also be available for the Government, and as 297 much a source of security for the Government advance as it was to the landlord, or to those persons from whom the tenant might borrow in the money market in the ordinary way. By refusing to extend the advance the Government might be forcing the tenants into the hands of those who, as had been stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. C. Russell), had been charging interest at the rate of 20, 30, 40, and even 50 per cent. Was not this a strong reason why the Governmenment should concede this point, and even a stronger reason why they should concede the other fourth? The right hon. Gentleman had said the provisions of the Bill, as it stood, were so good for the landlord that he would jump at the offer of three-fourths of the purchase money down; but he (Mr. Dawson) contended that the landlord would even more readily jump at the offer of four-fourths. The whole of the purchase money could be easily advanced by the State, and the landlord would be far more ready to sell his estate if he had all the money at once than if he only got three-fourths. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) had said he should not like to see the Government a rent-gathering Government; but his (Mr. Dawson's) idea was that this would be the very way to settle the question, and that instead of throwing in the face of the Irish people the magnanimous British taxpayer, there need be no money taken from the British taxpayer at all if the Government would only do as the German Government did, pay the landlord in land bonds, redeemable in 50 years or 40 years, at 5 per cent, the purchaser paying back the purchase money in the meantime, and the landlords getting 4 per cent, while the other 1 per cent would form a sinking fund to wipe out the debt. This 5 per cent was not more than the tenantry would be willing to pay, and pay cheerfully, and they could very well earn it, under the circumstances, through the industry and thrift that a sense of the rights of proprietorship would inspire in them. If this were done, the landlords would be induced to sell, as he would then be receiving not three-fourths, but four-fourths, while the passage of the Bill would be facilitated in regard to the only portions that had any real solidity. 298 He had no faith in the appeals to the Courts and the statutory conditions and complicated machinery which only made confusion worse confounded; but he had great faith in the Proprietary Clauses, and did not think it was at all beyond the feeling and scope of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to deal with the matter as he (Mr. Dawson) had pointed out was done in Germany. If this were done, the question would be settled without calling on the taxpayers. If it could not be done, it would be useless to obstruct a great measure like this; but he hoped the Government would see their way to advancing the other fourth.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he had observed that some difficulty was likely to be created by the Amendments from all parts of the House, and he thought they ought to be exceedingly grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister for the firm manner in which he had put his foot down. If the right hon. Gentleman were capable of being charmed by any Irish Member it would be the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell); but he (Sir George Campbell) was afraid that on this subject the hon. and learned Gentleman must consider that his efforts in that direction had been thrown away. They had been told that heretofore, when the Irish Church land had been purchased, and three-fourths of the money advanced by the Commissioners, the remaining fourth had frequently been borrowed at a ruinous rate of interest by the Irish tenant; but the deduction he drew from this fact was different from that drawn by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell). In his opinion, if the Irish tenant could not pay one-fourth of the purchase money, and was obliged to borrow it from a usurer, he had better not attempt to purchase at all. In the case of the prudent and thrifty man, who had saved up enough money to pay for one-fourth, the advance of the remaining three-fourths by the Government was a very liberal proceeding; and where the tenant had not been prudent and thrifty, and had saved nothing, the worst thing the Government could do would be to advance him three-fourths of the money with the knowledge that the remainder would be obtained from the usurer. They had heard a good deal about some of the purchases made under the Act of 299 1870 being attended with success; but he had been a good deal struck by reading the Report of the Assistant Commissioners under the Richmond Commission, who said with regard to this question of purchase under the Irish Church Act, that in the county of Armagh, one of the best counties in Ireland, in almost all cases where the tenants had not the money to meet the payment of the fourth, but had to borrow it, the operation of the Act had been unsuccessful. He hoped that this would not be general under this Bill; but he confessed he was not very sanguine on the subject, although some hon. Members seemed to be. In his opinion, what was required was that the thing should be done gradually. They ought not to have Irish tenants rushing into the arms of the Land Commission and getting three-fourths from them and the fourth part of the money from usurers. He was heartly glad that the first part of the Bill had been passed in the interest of the Irish tenants; but what he hoped to see was, that having got the advantages conferred on them by that part of the measure they would not be in too great a hurry to purchase what they had not the money to pay for, but would gradually endeavour to acquire the means by which to pay part of the purchase.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he had bestowed a good deal of consideration on this subject, and he desired to offer a few remarks upon it. He was quite ready to admit that he could be no party to asking the Committee to affirm the proposition that the State should lend money except on good security. He pointed out that the security was not the subject-matter of the sale, but the subject-matter of the sale plus the landlord's interest; and the Prime Minister had said the landlord would be perfectly safe and secure. Therefore, he assumed that four-fifths of the purchase money would be perfectly safe, and he was not asking the Government to do anything that would cause a loss to the State; but the Prime Minister's argument was that the State was doing enough in advancing three-fourths, and the landlords should advance the additional sum required. It did not matter to the tenant where he got his money so long as he got it, and if experience showed that landlords would be prepared to advance the difference the tenant would not object to the 300 Government proposal; but the experience of the past showed that the last person from whom the tenant could expect any benefit or assistance for the purchase of his land was the landlord. That was likely to be the case in the future, and the tenant would in that case have no hope of becoming the owner of his land. Then it was said that it was not desirable that pauper tenants should be encouraged to purchase their land; but the proposal of the Government would bring about that result, because if every sixpence was extracted from a tenant who had to purchase his farm, he would be without capital to carry on his business, and so the proposal would pauperize him more than any other plan. He did not say the Government ought to advance the whole of the purchase money; but he believed the Government, having the security of the landlord and of the tenant, would be safe in advancing four-fifths. That would be in accordance with the recommendation of the Select Committee which sat three Sessions ago, and of which the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was the Chairman. The recommendation was approved by Members of both sides of the House, and therefore the proposal was not a new one. He believed the security to the State would be perfectly good, and that it was fair to allow tenants to become their own landlords—not as paupers, but with capital to carry on their farms. The proposal, he maintained, was just and fair and reasonable, and he believed the Irish Members would be unanimous in wishing that the recommendation of the Committee of 1878, that four-fifths of the purchase money should be advanced by the State, should be given effect to.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I do not very precisely see why the hon. and learned Gentleman stops at four-fifths. It seems to me that his argument would rather imply that the State had better lend the whole purchase money, and I could have understood an argument founded upon that principle. I remember an old story of Mr. Sydney Smith, when he was talking with an Irish priest many years ago, when there was a question whether the Irish priests should or should not be paid by the State. The priest said—"The priests would never receive it." And Sydney Smith said—"Do you mean to say that 301 if you had £300 a-year placed to your credit in a bank in a neighbouring town you would not consent to draw it?" The priest replied—"Oh! Mr. Smith, you have such a way of putting it." With regard to these advances to tenants it is such a way of putting it. It might be said to a tenant—"Would not you like to purchase your holding?" And he would say—"Yes; but I have not got the money." "Oh, but we will lend it—the State will advance it." And the man, at the request of the State, borrows the State's money—the State is very indulgent to men who are not only able to pay, but men who are not willing to pay—to make purchase on those very easy terms. I am one of those who are by no means sanguine as to the result of a wholesale purchase of land by the tenants. I believe entirely in what is called tenant proprietorship if it arises in this way. If a man by his own industry and by his own prudence has contrived to save a little money, and desires to invest that money in the purchase of land on which he lives, I have little doubt if he is able to get the money he requires on reasonable terms, it will be a good thing for him and for the country. The man then would bring his industry, his knowledge, and his moral qualities—power of self-denial, and all those qualities which the farmer has in countries where peasant proprietorship has grown up by natural causes—to bear on his holding. In that case it would be very beneficial. But where you tempt a man to come in and offer to purchase with very little trouble on his part, and everything is advanced by the State, I am not very sanguine on the subject. But I am quite ready to fall in with the proposals of the Government to give additional facilities beyond those at present given to the tenants to become the owners of their properties. I think at present the State advances two-thirds. It was proposed to increase it to three-fourths, and that is a considerable advance. I am not indisposed to agree to that proposal. I think more advantage is to be gained from somewhat relaxing the somewhat minute rules under which the advance is made. I look more to that than to the sum advanced. But while I am prepared to go as far as three-fourths, we ought to think a great many times before we go beyond that; and if we were prepared to go beyond, 302 we might just as well go the whole length and advance the whole. It is said a tenant may borrow the additional one-fourth. He might do so; and where he borrows at a high rate of interest it is probable the arrangement would turn out a bad one for him, and he would be a loser. I am afraid we cannot help that, and that would be the case with any man who borrowed recklessly; but the man would have saved a certain amount of money, and would be prepared to invest that with a certain proportion from the State in the purchase of his holding. I think you may fairly suppose that a considerable proportion of those who would make purchases would purchase with money which they have of their own, or may be able to borrow from their landlords or from members of their family on reasonable terms, or in some other way. But if they are prepared, after all the excellent arrangements made for them to go on with their holdings in this Bill, to make sacrifices in order to become owners of land and have not the wisdom to refuse to borrow money at 10, 15, or 20 per cent, I am afraid they are people with whom you will not do much good. I think, on the whole, the Government are making a very liberal proposal; but I am restrained by my financial conscience from going the length of three-fourths, and I shall be very sorry if the Government were induced to give more than that.
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, he thought if more Members had been present earlier during the discussion their unanimity on this subject would have been better seen. With regard to the cases under the Church Act to which the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) had referred, the tenants in hose cases were only about 10 per cent in arrear; while those who purchased under the Land Act were a trifle over 6 per cent in arrear. Those who bought under the Church Act bought land which was not very productive, which had been highly-rented, and which was dearly bought in years of commercial depression; but, in spite of those difficulties, they managed to pay their debts with only 10 per cent in arrear. He thought there were very few landlords in Ireland or in England who could point to the same result during the last few years. They were giving the ten- 303 ants an additional interest in their holdings, and that would mean an additional security to the State. When the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) introduced his clauses in the Act of 1870 it was thought that a social revolution would take place, and that a great number of tenants would avail themselves of those clauses; but during 10 years hardly £500,000 had really been spent in that way. That was, no doubt, owing in a great measure to the difficulties thrown in their way by the Treasury officials; and, through the prices being based on valuation, instead of getting two-thirds of the whole, they only got about one-half. If the Committee were anxious to increase the number of owners, and, at the same time, to guard them from excessive liabilities, why should they not fix the sum which they would spend annually? They might say how much they would advance in a year on good security, and then leave the Land Commission a wide discretion in the distribution of the money, not limiting every advance to two-thirds or three-fourths, but allowing them, in some cases, to advance a larger proportion.
§ MR. GREER
said, the Amendment appeared to cover an Amendment of his own in favour of advancing the entire sum. It would be optional with the Commission to advance the money or not, and they would not do so unless they were satisfied with the security. Therefore, the Government would be quite safe in advancing the whole amount. Still, he would be content with four-fifths; and he thought the Government might very well consider that it would be an immense advantage to many tenants to get the whole of the money in that way, and at a lower rate of interest than they otherwise could by borrowing from ordinary money-lenders.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
confessed that he felt rather ashamed to take part in this discussion, which he thought was not very creditable to the Irish Members. The difference between three-fourths and four-fifths was not very large, and those who advocated four-fifths as though the whole interest of the tenants was bound up in this question were supposed to be the friends of the tenant; but, by-and-bye, the tenants would understand what it all meant. The Government proposed to 304 advance £75 out of every £100; and yet, with a boon of this kind, such as had never been offered in the history of this country to any class of people engaged in agricultural or commercial pursuits, hon. Members were disputing whether the State should advance £5 more in every £100. That was the sole question. Hon. Gentlemen had argued in favour of the whole amount being advanced, and the discussion had been upon the question whether the Government should advance £5 more than the £75 they conceded. Why should they not argue whether the Government should advance five-sixths and give £83 out of every £100? And, of course, anybody who advocated five-sixths would be a greater friend to the tenant than the man who advocated £75 or £80. The Purchase Clauses determined that, as a general rule, a sum not exceeding £3,000 should be advanced by the State. This £5 took £150 out of that £3,000. He wanted to know whether, when a country composed of England, Scotland, and Ireland was to be burdened with this provision, a man to whom £3,000 was to be advanced could consider it a hardship if he was expected to find £150 himself? The thing did not bear arguing. The fact was, the Irish Members ought to be most grateful to the Government for proposing to advance three-fourths, and they ought not to disgrace themselves by looking a gift-horse in the mouth. It was perfectly true that what were called the "Bright Clauses" had not had as large an operation as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Bright) and others wished; but under the present Bill the tenants would be placed in a totally different position. The Committee appointed to investigate the working of those clauses recommended four-fifths instead of three-fourths; but that was under a totally different law to that now proposed. His belief was that the Irish tenants would find it to their advantage to put the Purchase Clauses in this Bill very much in operation. They would be so protected by this Bill that they would prefer to keep £25 out of every £100 in their pockets for working the farm. Then what would this Bill do? Any particular tenant on an estate might agree with his landlord for the purchase of his particular tenancy. In the case of a holding, at £10 a-year, the State would advance three-fourths of 305 that a-year and fix the amount of purchase money on the basis of 22 years. What was to prevent a landlord from being willing to take this money on the bond of the tenant to pay the remainder? A landlord was not bound to find the tenant the money; but he would be content to rest the repayment of that which was not fully paid by the State on the future of the tenant, and he would have three times the security which the State would have. Under the circumstances, he could only conclude that the reason why, when this matter was being discussed, there was so empty a House and so many of the Irish Members were absent, and when the argument for an advance of four-fifths was urged with so much feeling, was because everybody felt that this was no light thing. It was not a true thing, it was not a creditable thing; and he would take part in any division as to the question whether £5 more per £100 was to be advanced to the Irish tenant.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he thought one part of the hon. Member's (Mr. Mitchell Henry's) speech contradicted the other; for first he said a great boon was being given to the tenants, and then he said the tenants would make very little use of it. That simply showed that the argument was more or less not exceedingly logical; but he thought the position of the great bulk of the Irish Members was not so untenable as the hon. Member thought. The Government had proposed that facilities should be given for creating a peasant proprietary; but he was afraid that if more liberality was not shown the result would be rather inoperative. If, however, the clause was made more liberal, it would be a great advantage to the tenants and no disadvantage to the landlords, and no loss to the State. It was proposed by the Amendment that the Commissioners should have the power to advance up to the full amount which was paid to the landlord; but that did not represent the full value of the holding, because it took no note of the interest of the tenant over and above the interest of the landlord. And so far from its being proposed by the extreme advocates of this Amendment to lend the whole value of the holding, it was only proposed to advance four-fifths of the value. And while under this Bill it was proposed to lend three-fourths by the State, under the Act of 306 1870 only two-thirds were advanced; and he held that the State would have immeasurably better value for the three-fourths under this Bill than they had for the two-thirds under the Act of 1870, because the tenant had a saleable interest over and above what the landlord would get for his interest in the holding. Then as to the security the landlord would get if he gave credit for one-fourth, the Prime Minister seemed to forget that the landlord would be only a secondary mortgagee. But if the security was so good for the landlord, would it not be as good for the State, seeing that the State would be in the position of sole mortgagee, and could sell out the holding, while a secondary mortgagee had usually great difficulty in realizing his security? He therefore thought the Government would not be very far wrong in agreeing to the Amendment, leaving the Court to decide whether there was adequate security.
§ MR. SHAW
entirely agreed with the hon. Member (Mr. Biggar) that, in lending the whole amount, the Government would have perfect security in nine cases out of ten, for they would not only have the fee-simple on the property, but the security of the mortgage. But the people of Ireland were choosers in the matter, and the State seemed to have put down its foot, and he feared they could not get the two distinguished Financiers on the two sides to yield more. He did not think it was a matter of great importance, because he hoped the operation of the present Bill and the operations of the Act of 1870 would be very different. The Act of 1870 failed because the clauses were thrown almost entirely into the hands of the Board of Works, and that was the merest echo of what was called the Treasury in London. The Board laid down such restrictions and rules that any extensive operation was impossible; and what he complained of now was, not so much that only three-fourths were offered, but that there was no elasticity in this clause, and some discretionary power left to the Court to advance a larger amount than that named. He had, in many cases, aided tenants to purchase their holdings—not only the fee-simple, but also long leases—and he had known of cases where it would have been impossible for the tenant to advance one-fourth of the money without injury. 307 The object of the lender should be to leave the farmer with full power of manufacture; but in a case where the State was entering upon an operation which might extend over the whole of Ireland, it was, perhaps, too much to ask for more than three-fourths. He would, however, press the Government to give the Court some power of varying the amount. He did not expect there would be a rush all over Ireland into the system. He hoped the result would take the direction indicated by the Leader of the Opposition; for if people were tempted by any extravagant amount of money to enter into the system, that might do them more harm than good. He would rather stimulate them to exercise this privilege, and give the Court an optional power in cases where they saw honest, industrious men, who had created property on their farms anxious to purchase. He did not urge that the whole amount should be given; but he thought more than three-fourths might be given. That very day an Irish landlord had told him he was going to sell some outlying portions of his property, and that in every case the tenant provided half the amount, and for the remainder he had arranged to take the tenant's bond. That, he was sure, would be sufficient security for any landlord where a tenant was found to be industrious. He thought the people of Ireland ought to try to do something for themselves. There was a great deal of farmers' money lying in the banks. He did not wish to see that money going to the banks; for if the industry of the country could be stimulated, the farmer, although he might lose his capital for the moment, would get it back in a short time with ten-fold interest. Something might be done in this way by forming tenants' trust funds; and he should not be surprised if the Prime Minister were to give them £200,000 or £300,000 out of the Church Surplus Fund for that purpose. If they could create such a fund in every district in Ireland, tenants would be able to provide one-fourth of the purchase money. He hoped the hon. and learned Member would withdraw his Amendment, for he did not think any good could be done by going to a division upon it.
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, that from the landlord's point of view, he 308 should like to make the clause work more practically than it would in its present form; and he could not agree with the roseate hue the Prime Minister had given to the position of the landlords under this Bill. He should be only too glad to get rid of the property he had in Ireland when the Bill became law; and he should be glad to see greater facilities given to the landlord to do that, for he was certain no capitalist in Ireland or England would, at the present moment, invest money in land in Ireland. The only persons landlords would now have to look to to purchase their land would be their tenants, and he was anxious to see every facility given to the tenants to become peasant proprietors. He believed the tenants would be better off under this Bill if they were not all proprietors; but, as far as he was concerned, he was quite willing they should become so. He should, therefore, vote for the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone in preference to that of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), because they need not stop at four-fifths. The Prime Minister had suggested that the landlords might allow 25 per cent of the purchase money to lie on the property. He agreed that if a landlord gave a mortgage on the property he might be able to obtain the interest for his advances as a mortgagee. But, as a landlord, how could he get his money? He would simply be a landlord with three-fourths of his property gone, and only one-fourth left for himself. He did not think the Prime Minister would like to be a landlord in Ireland looking for 25 per cent from the tenant after the Government had got their 75 per cent. The hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw) had alluded to bills. But were the Irish landlords to become bill-brokers for 25 per cent which would practically be rent? The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) had suggested a gradual way of dealing with the tenants; but what would that be? The men who were able to buy their holdings were the most solvent tenants and the most necessary for the landlords; but the plan of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy was that they should become owners, and the landlord should be left with all the small tenants. He hoped the Government, having strained many 309 points to do what they considered right for the tenants, would strain another point to enable the tenants to become proprietors of their own holdings.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that as Chairman of the Select Committee which recommended that four-fifths of the purchase money should be advanced to tenants, he was most anxious to disclaim any responsibility for that proposal. In the Report he presented, he proposed no more than three-fourths. For his part, he thought the advance of three-fourths of the money reasonable and sufficient. If a larger proportion than that were advanced they would be approaching very nearly the amount of the previous rent. By this Bill, they were not only increasing the proportion to be advanced from two-thirds to three-fourths, but they were also removing the former restrictions upon these transactions, and particularly the restriction in regard to mortgages. He was confident that the removal of the latter restriction would do more to facilitate these transactions in the future, even than the raising of the proportion of the purchase money to be advanced. If they departed from the proposal of three-fourths and went to four-fifths, they might as well advance the whole of the money. There were very strong arguments to be urged against that. It would, indeed, be possible to advance the whole of the purchase money by spreading the instalments over 43 years; but if a great number of such transactions were to take place there would arise in Ireland a universal agitation on the part of all the other tenants to be put in that favourable position. Such an enactment would inevitably give rise to an agitation for the expropriation of landlords. He was against the expropriation of landlords, and it would be most unwise to put a large number of tenants in Ireland in a position which would give other tenants a cause to complain. For these reasons, he agreed that it would be unwise to raise the proportion to be advanced by the State beyond three-fourths. He believed the Government had gone to the extreme limit of what was just and reasonable in the matter, and that the Committee should accept the proportion named in the clause.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman as to some tenants seeing their neighbours 310 better treated than themselves was not one which appealed to his judgment as against the Amendment. What the Irish Members wanted was to see tenants treated in such a way as to make their neighbours anxious to be equally well treated. As to the difficulty of the Court advancing a large proportion of the money in every case, there was nothing in the Bill to suggest that the Court should be compelled to advance four-fifths, or three-fourths, or even one-tenth. The clause only provided that they might advance a certain proportion when they were satisfied with the security; and he believed it would be better to allow the Court to go the whole length of the purchase money where they thought it well. His own impression was that a great many of those who would make applications under this Bill would seek to get as little as possible from the Court—to get just as much as would enable them to tide over a difficulty; but in other cases it would be an advantage to all the Court to advance even the whole amount. This part of the Bill had for him an especial attraction. He believed there would be found great practical difficulty in adjusting all the niceties of arrangements about ownership, joint-ownership, landlords' and tenants' share and interests, and all those intricate and delicate questions which must arise under the first portions of the Bill. He did not feel the same doubts about this part of the measure as about the earlier parts, and therefore he urged the Government to accept the Amendment—although he would rather see it pushed further still, leaving the Court a discretionary power to advance the whole amount. The hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw) said it was no use discussing this question because the Government had put its foot down; but he was not greatly alarmed by that announcement, for they had had some experience of that performance with this and other Governments. They had seen statesmen put their foot down quickly, and as quickly take it up; and, furthermore, a Government which put its foot down and kept it down would naturally not make very much progress with any measure it undertook. But he would credit the Government with being willing to take its foot up if, by so doing, the progress of this Bill would be pro- 311 moted. Therefore, he urged hon. Members to bring as much pressure as possible to bear on the Government to go as far as it could towards agreeing to allow a four-fifths' advance. There was no principle whatever involved in this question; for when once they granted any part of the purchase money they could not say there was any hard-and-fast line between three-fourths and four-fifths. It was all a matter of convenience for that peasant class whom they wanted to help to become proprietors; and he supported the Amendment because he thought it better than the proposal of the Government.
§ MR. LITTON
said, it appeared to him that, having regard to what seemed to be the feeling of the majority of hon. Members, it would not be wise to press the Amendment to a division or to occupy further time in discussing it. In this view he was influenced by the observations of the hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw), and also by the generous and considerate and handsome manner in which the Prime Minister had spoken of the Amendment. He was also influenced by the anxiety which prevailed to make progress with the Bill; and, therefore, he would ask permission to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. DALY
pointed out that if in the case of a £10 holding for 22 years, the State only advanced £165, leaving the tenant to find the remaining £55, the tenant would have to pay 8s. 4d. more per annum than if the larger sum proposed were advanced, and for the disadvantage of paying that extra amount, the tenant would have £5 more in his pocket for the purchase of seed. He held that, in the interest of the Government, it would be better to advance four-fifths, and that they would have better security than on three-fourths. In the case of a small tenant the £55 deficit, if only £165 were advanced, would have to be obtained from the "gombeen" man, and would be liable to such interest as to cost nearly as much as the interest on the £165 advanced by the Government. If they applied the Bill to the poor tenants, the more generously they did so the greater would be the security for the advances. The Jews had been expelled from Russia through being driven into the position into which the Government would drive the Irish tenants if they compelled 312 them to borrow on the principle of mortgages. Four-fifths was only 5 per cent advance on the sum proposed by the Government; and he trusted the Government, having made a proposal which he recognized as large and generous, would give to those who had so long been under English misrule and injustice this additional benefit.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
remarked that nothing was more wonderful than the unanimity which had been shown by Irish Members upon this question, and he would purchase at a great sacrifice such a marvellous unanimity on any great Irish question. If this were not a comprehensive Bill and did not contain extraordinary provisions in the interest of tenants who might not be able to buy their farms, an appeal might be made for a lavish advance. When there was, however, this alternative proposal by which, when the Bill was passed, tenants who were without spare capital would find themselves in a good position, he thought a substantial boon had been offered to them by the British House of Parliament. Those tenants might be advised to be content for the present to remain tenants, hoping in the future, by their own prudence and thrift, to become owners of their holdings. But how did the matter stand when the State interfered? Ought the State to run any risk in advancing the purchase money? He unhesitatingly said the State ought not to run the slightest risk. If the money was to be given, let it be a gift; but if it was to be a prudent financial operation, for which the State was to be liable and to assume the position of a lender, then he thought an advance of three-fourths was as much as the Government should be asked to give. The State was to advance the money at a low rate of interest, and that implied that there ought to be no risk to the State. With regard to the argument of the hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw) a landlord could discriminate as to the tenant, and it might be said that the landlord could exercise a wise discrimination. But how could the Commissioners possess such an intimate knowledge of the character of the men as to make it safe to give them the power proposed? Supposing there were many cases in which the tenant could not provide one-fourth, if he could raise one-eighth that would be a deposit which to many landlords 313 would be satisfactory, and would justify them in giving a tenant an opportunity of obtaining the remainder. He should be very sorry if the Government were pressed to go beyond their fair and reasonable offer.
§ MR. FITZPATRICK
said, he thought the fact of so much unanimity amongst the Irish Members ought to induce the Government to accept the Amendment at once. There was an old story that if one Irishman was going up a ladder there were generally two Irishmen trying to pull him down. In this case it was apparently the other way. All the Irishmen in the House were trying to help the tenant up the ladder, and therefore he thought the Government might accept the proposition. A good deal had been said about "gombeen" men, and that was all very fair; but there was another element which was equally dangerous, and that was the advancing of the excess quarter by the banks. At the present time the banks charged an enormous rate of interest; and although he agreed with the hon. Member for the County of Cork that as a financial arrangement that might be suitable to the banks, still the unfortunate tenant might get himself into hot water if he was not able to redeem at the right moment. He had reason to believe that in the year before last 22,000 processes were issued in Munster alone by the banks to recover rents; and he believed the distress in Ireland during the last two years was in many instances due more to the extreme action of the banks than to the action of the landlords. For that reason alone he thought the Government ought to be glad to keep the tenants as its debtors, and not to let them become the debtors of banks and "gombeen" men. He hoped the Government would give way a little on this point, and help the Committee to be unanimous for that night at any rate.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
The speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fitzpatrick) has afforded the Committee a good deal of amusement. He remarked upon the fact that the Irish Members were unanimous on this occasion. I think it is quite correct to say so, because it is quite evident that a rather more reasonable view is taken on this side of the House by the Irish Members than by some hon. Gentlemen on that side. But still that unanimity is of a kind which may be 314 always purchased by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I do not say that with regard to Irishmen only—but there is a mode of pleasing people all round by sacrificing the public interest. Now, in this case, as I understand, a part of the Amendment proposed is almost universally given up. I think no sensible man, notwithstanding the speech of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), would really wish that the Government should undertake to pay the whole sum, and bring all the tenants in Ireland instantaneously into the field to demand that they should be made proprietors. I suppose at present landed proprietors of Ireland are in despair, and that they will be as ignorant in the future as they have been ignorant in the past. The Irish proprietors, if we are to judge from the speeches we have heard to-night, would be as anxious to sell as the tenants would be anxious to buy if the Government would step in and pay the whole of the purchase money. I should be very sorry to see anything so sudden and so extravagant as that undertaking. I believe nothing could be more dangerous—nothing could set a worse example for the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer of this country—and I suspect it would be bad also for those whom hon. Gentlemen opposite serve. Let us look at the condition of things with regard to the price of land in Ireland now, and to the price of the produce of the soil. I do not know how far the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) is correct; but, as most of us are aware, he has travelled extensively in Canada and the United States since last Session. He has written letters to the papers, published a pamphlet, and set forth a very formidable statement as to the probable reduction in the price of the product of the soil of Ireland in the next five or six years. My impression is that he has very much overstated the case. If there be anything like reason or truth in it, it may be that within the next five or six years, if you had 100,000 tenants made into proprietors at anything like the present prices for land, or sale, or rent, you may have a vast number of them coming back to the Government and saying—"You have led us into the expensive purchase of our farms at prices which were fixed looking to the past, and with little or no knowledge of the future;" 315 and the Government might be involved in the greatest possible anxiety if this state of things, predicted by the hon. Member, should be true. Therefore, I believe—and no one in this House will doubt my anxiety—that this clause should act, that this Bill throughout should act, and that this clause especially should act in the direction I have pointed out on so many occasions. But, with that feeling, I am the more anxious the purchase of farms should go on, not with extraordinary and perilous rapidity, but with steady growth and action springing from the experience we have from year to year that the purchase and sale of land and the creation of a proprietary class is found to be an increasing advantage to the country. Now, my hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) pointed out what is on the surface of this question—that the difference between hon. Gentlemen from Ireland and the Government is a difference of merely £5 in the £100. The Government propose to give £75; Irish Members ask for £80. The sum is so small that, on either side, a person might be at liberty to say it is hardly worth differing about; that probably the £80 would be no loss to the Government. I do not say that it would be; but it must be admitted that £75 is a very large and liberal offer. It must not be forgotten that the proportion under the Act of 1870 was only two-thirds, and yet we have never heard, and I do not believe it to be true, that any sensible portion of the failure of that Act is to be traced to the fact that only two-thirds was to be paid; while under the Irish Church Commission the proportion advanced was three-fourths, as proposed in this Bill, and I have never heard it asserted by anyone intimately acquainted with the transactions under that Commission that it has not succeeded because the advance was only three-fourths. If that be so, I think Irish Members may comfort themselves with this knowledge which they derived from the experience of the past, that three-fourths is better than the sum offered under the Act of 1870, and equal to that which was offered under the Church Commission. It is equal to everything you have had under the experiments in this matter, and in no case can it be said to have failed. Therefore, I think the wise course to take would be to ac- 316 cept the proposition which the Government now make, and which the Head of the Government has, with such unanswerable arguments to-night, defended; and I know no man—the House knows no man—in the confines of the country who is to be more trusted on a great financial question than my right hon. Friend. After the discussion which has taken place, I presume, from what has been said, that hon. Gentlemen opposite will have a division, and that the Amendment will not be withdrawn. I wish it might be, and that not only Englishmen but Irishmen could be unanimous. I am most anxious for the success of these clauses, believing that they will be in the future—and not only in the immediate future, but in the distant future—as important as the other portions of the Bill. If I thought £80 would be better, or sensibly better, than £75, I would recommend it; but I believe £75 is a just and sufficient proposition and meets the requirements of the case, and is consistent with a regard for what is due to the Exchequer, and I therefore ask the Committee strongly to assent to the proposition as it stands.
§ MR. GIVAN
said, he was exceedingly glad that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had adopted the course of explicit argument in this matter, because there was no man in the world at the present time to whom all sensible Irishmen would submit so readily than to the right hon. Gentleman who, by the Act of 1870, had done more to ameliorate the condition of the people of Ireland than any living statesman. He was supported in that view by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), to whom the people of Ireland also owed a debt of gratitude; but he must press on the Committee that there was a necessity for extending the amount to be advanced to the tenants. This difference of £5 was a matter of vital importance to the Irish tenant; and he contended that in the case, for instance, of a holding at £20 rent, with a fee-simple value of £400 and a tenant right of £300, the Government, advancing £300, would have an ample margin of security. In the case of the Irish Church Act the Commissioners knew now that they would have been better off if they had advanced the tenants the whole of the purchase money rather than a propor- 317 tion which sent them to the money-lenders for the balance. He believed the only system that would work would be a system of advancing either the whole amount, or such proportion of it as the Land Commissioners were convinced the tenant could give security for. In the Probate Court, where administration was granted, the Court took a bond of personal security to the extent of several thousands of pounds from two or three individuals, and the Land Commissioners might adopt a similar plan.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he rose for the purpose of expressing the hope that hon. Members opposite would allow the Amendment to be withdrawn. He should not vote for it, and he wished to point out why he should not. He recognized the force of the arguments used by the Prime Minister against the advance of the whole sum, because he held that the Government proposal was a boon which ought to be held out to thrifty tenants who had given good guarantee by their conduct for the repayment of the money. He further objected to the Amendment because it did not leave any discretion to the Commission to advance up to four-fifths, but made it compulsory on them to advance a minimum of four-fifths. On these two grounds he should certainly not vote in favour of it. If the Amendment were not pressed he should certainly, without discussion, ask the Committee to take a division upon an Amendment which stood in his name later on, and which gave a discretion to the Commission as to the amount they might advance up to four-fifths.
§ MR. PARNELL
If I saw any disposition on the part of the Government to agree to the proposal of four-fifths, I should say that there might be some reason for the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell), because we should be gaining something by the discussion we have had to-night. But so far as there is any principle involved in the question which might and ought to induce us to take a division, although we know we cannot carry our Amendment, it appears to me involved in the question of advancing the whole as compared with advancing only a small portion. I cannot see that there is much principle involved in the question of whether the State shall advance £75 or £80, and so far I quite 318 agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright). If, however, we could gain the concession of that additional advantage for the tenants, they would only have to pay £20 in the £100 instead of £25. In that case, as we should be gaining a substantial advantage, we might waive the right of taking a division on the question of principle. But I have seen no indication from the Government Bench of that concession, and, failing such an indication, I do not think we should be justified in allowing the Amendment to be withdrawn. Now, it appears to me that this question has been treated very much as if some pull was going to be made upon the British taxpayer and the British Exchequer. But that is really not so. All we ask is this—that having deprived us of the right, by the Act of Union of pledging our own credit, you will allow us to use your credit to this extent. If we had the right to pledge the credit of the counties in Ireland for this purpose, I am quite sure that we could borrow the money at very little over the rate at which the State seems disposed to lend this money, for which I think something like 3½ per cent is charged. I feel quite sure that any public body in Ireland authorized to borrow money for this purpose could borrow it at 3½ per cent per annum. So, it is not really a question of asking any money from the English whatever. We want no money from the taxpayer. We merely desire the right of pledging our own credit as regards our own land; and, as you refuse us that right, we think it only reasonable that you should pledge your own credit for us. Now, this matter might be effected in a great variety of ways. There is no reason why the landlords should receive cash for their property. Why not give them State paper? Offer them State paper bearing 3 per cent per annum interest, and let them make the best they can out of the transaction. The landlord selling his property would be perfectly willing to take State paper which would fetch par at the present rates of money on the London Stock Exchange. Therefore, no cash is actually required from the State. It is simply a question of the way in which the money is to be advanced, and the landlords have no right to ask that the State should give them cash if the State 319 offers them paper. Well, now, what I would the security be? You have the security in this case of the landlord's interest at a time when land is very much depreciated in the Irish market, and you have the tenant's interest. You have these two interests as security for the repayment of the money. It has been pointed out that every year that goes by will give the tenant an additional interest in his holding, and consequently will give the State a greater security for the punctual repayment of the loan. I fear very much, from the stand which the Government have made upon the question, that they intend to make the fixing of rent the main portion of their Bill, and that they do not propose to follow the lines indicated by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India when he said that the Government only proposed the rent-fixing clause as a present expedient, and that they looked for the permanent settlement of the question to the creation of a greater number of owners of land in Ireland. It appears evident that the Prime Minister has a prejudice against allowing a large number of Irish tenants to become debtors to the State to any large extent. He may fear that hereafter some movement may be commenced for the purpose of repudiating their debts; but I would remind the Committee that there is a very great difference between repudiating a debt which has been entered into entirely of their own accord on the part of the tenants and repudiating unjust rents which they have been forced by the circumstances of the case to undertake to pay, whether they could or not, to the landlord. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that it is not desirable, in view of foreign competition, that a very large amount of land in Ireland should be bought by the tenants at the present moment, and I do not think that the Irish tenants would have any disposition to plunge into such transactions with that hot haste which the right hon. Gentleman has assumed that they would exhibit in the event of their being able to obtain an advance of the whole of the purchase money from the State. I think the Irish tenants world be very cautious about undertaking to buy holdings at the present moment, even at no very high figure, or at any figure, which 320 they would be still liable to pay, no matter what the depreciation of produce might come to in consequence of foreign competition. But, after all, the Government are inviting tenants with the utmost confidence to enter into a 15 years' statutory term at a fixed rent; and it is, after all, only a question of degree, whether you shall enter into a 15 years' statutory term at a fixed rent, or whether you shall enter into the ownership which should be paid off by paying a fixed rent for a period of 35 years. In the one case the tenant would in all probability, at the end of the 35 years, have doubled the value of the holding by the improvements he would have been able to effect on it, owing to the security he would feel from his ownership; in the other case he would feel that he had a very uncertain future, and would leave the holding at the end of the term in no better condition than it was at the commencement. So that, from every point of view, I think the argument is overwhelmingly against the Government in refusing this very small concession to the Irish tenants and also to the Irish landlords. Now, how would it act in the case of estates in the hands of trustees? The Prime Minister invites the Irish Members to allow the remaining fourth of the £100 to stand out as a second charge. But in the case of lands in the hands of trustees they would not be permitted, if they held a first charge, to take a second charge; and it might be their duty either to insist upon the payment of the whole sum, or else to refuse their assent to any portion of it being allowed to stand out as a second charge. In fact, no trustee under the circumstances would be able to assent to the arrangement, because he would be violating his trust, and taking a responsibility on himself which no trustee could be called upon to take. Then, again, the landlord, if he sells his estate, may wish to go elsewhere. His remaining interest in it—namely, the collection of the interest and purchase money—would be very small, and it would be an exceedingly expensive matter to keep an agent and bailiffs on the spot for the purpose of collecting these annual payments. The State, on the other hand, would have their legal tax-gatherers and all the other machinery, so that they would have an inexpensive means of collecting the charge which would come 321 in their way to make the annual charge much more cheaply than in the way of the landlords. I fear that what the Government are really driving at is this—They do not like to trust the Irish people. They like to keep the Irish landlords as a buffer between themselves and the tenants. In no self-governing country would such a miserable concession as this have been refused. We have the example of Prussia, where the State advanced the whole of the money necessary for compensating the nobles. We have the example of Russia, a country very much poorer than England, where the State advanced the whole of the money to emancipate the serfs and to compensate the nobles. We have the example of Prince Edward's Island, one of our own Colonies, where the owners and landlords had been planted in times gone by by the English Legislature, and where the State advanced the whole of the money for the purpose of buying out these English landlords who had been planted in the Island when it was found that the conditions of their landlordship had become intolerable. It is only in the case of a country like England governing another country like Ireland that we see this want of confidence, and this refusal to allow the people to come into contact with the Government. It is one of the misfortunes of foreign rule—one we meet at every turn. The method of reconciling the respective interests of the landlord and tenant is a question still to be answered by the Prime Minister. It will pursue you to the end of this Bill; and if anything causes the failure of this Bill, it will be that want of trust of the Irish people which is so evident, and that desire to introduce a foreign and small class between the great bulk of the people of Ireland and the Government of England.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, that the Committee upon the "Bright Clauses" of the Land Act on which he sat was almost unanimously of opinion that four-fifths of the price might be safely advanced. The arguments used that evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) would, perhaps, be unanswerable, if it were not that the best way to answer them would be by referring to the meetings of that Committee. The 322 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading had taught the Committee how safe it would be to trust the Irish. He had said that there was no chance of the tenant failing to pay, because there were no less than three different sources of rent. In the first place, there would have been some payments by the tenant on his improvements. Then there was the goodwill; and no one used to point out so strongly to the Committee as the right hon. Gentleman what the importance of that goodwill was, and what a great difference there was between land in occupation and land not in occupation in Ireland. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman was now representing the Government after having been so largely representing the Committee; but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman was nearly so strong in opposing Irish interests as he had been in advocating Irish interests; and he thought they still owed a balance of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman. Now, he looked upon that question as one of the utmost importance, and for two reasons. The first was the consideration of the property element, as a man would naturally work harder on his own property than he would on anyone else's. The second was the political situation. That Land Bill would still leave 30 tenants to one landlord; and he thought anyone who knew anything about the question would say that those 30 tenants, supposing household suffrage was conceded, would always be striking against the landlord's interest. They were obliged to face that situation in Ireland. Of course, anything established by centuries of usage and property must be respected. But a great debt was owing by England to Ireland. For 100 years England had prevented the free sale of land. They had placed the property of the country in a few hands, and maybe they had placed the political power in the hands of the many, and consequently they had the many arrayed against the few. Whatever Land Bill they brought in, they would still have agitation between landlord and tenant. The only way to prevent that was by increasing the number of tenants. The present disproportion between landlords and tenants was too great; and he contended that the whole object of the Government ought to be to see how they could increase the number of small proprietors in Ireland. 323 Now, the difference between four-fifths and three-fourths would bring, at least, purchasers in the proportion of five to four, and perhaps much more. He believed that it was a well-known fact that if they sold an article for 1s. instead of 2s., they sold a double number of them. If they raised the advance, he believed the purchasers would be increased likewise in the proportion of three to two. He entirely repudiated, though on different grounds from the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), the idea that the Irish people would come to beg for English money. His reason was that every year about £3,000,000 of Irish money went into the English Exchequer, and were devoted to Imperial purposes that were almost totally disconnected with Ireland. The maximum sum that they could pledge would be nothing like what Ireland sent to England—would, in fact, be a very small proportion of it. He thought it might amount to £3,000,000, or only one year's amount of the surplus brought over from Ireland to England. In that state of circumstances, he denied that they were begging for English money.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he fully agreed with one of the observations of the Prime Minister—that that was a question which affected the British taxpayer. He was willing to consider the merit of the British taxpayer and his Representative in that House by the attitude they took up upon that point. He had been very much amused by, he would not say the Pharisaical, self-complacency with which Englishmen, and especially Members of that House, had congratulated themselves and lifted their hands in admiration of their own generosity, because they were engaged in passing a Bill like that for the benefit of the Irish people. But in examining the causes and motives of that attitude, he was bound to come to the conclusion that if the Liberal side of the House was dealing generously with the Irish tenant on the question of the relation between landlord and tenant, they were dealing generously not with their own property or supposed rights, but with the property and supposed rights of other people. They were now dealing, not with the property of Irish landlords, which, of course, was dearer to English Liberal Members than their own property or lives, but they were dealing 324 with an amount of money which Irishmen, out of their own pockets, were willing to pay in their desire for justice. His hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had drawn a very effective contrast between the attitude of the English Government towards Ireland and the attitude of Native Governments towards their own country. His hon. Friend mentioned the case of the Russian Government, which to all Liberal Englishmen seemed simply barbarous, antique, and tyrannical. But he asked; he Government to imitate the generosity of Russia towards its subjects. He was reminded by some of his hon. Friends round him that it was unnecessary to recommend the example of the Russian Government to the present Ministry, because they had given to the Ignatieffs and other high authorities of Russia the sincere flattery of imitation in some of their worst coercive measures. As they had been such humble admirers and followers of the coercive side of Russian policy, might he also suggest to them that they should take the step of imitating the benevolent proceedings of the Czar? Now, one point which had been raised by the Prime Minister was his duty as the custodian and holder of the public purse. Well, he believed that there was nothing less secret than the deliberations of Cabinet Ministers; and he ventured to think that the attitude of the Prime Minister with regard to that question was more than a confirmation of the very common rumour that the right hon. Gentleman himself was the main obstacle to that portion of the Bill being conceived in anything like a generous spirit. He did not see the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in his place; but they all would remember that famous speech in which he declared that force was no remedy, a speech which he dared say the right hon. Gentleman did not too willingly remember at that moment. But, in the same speech, the right hon. Gentleman made the observation—why should we quarrel about figures when the question is that of reconciling the Irish people and doing justice by them? Supposing it takes £5,000,000 or £10,000,000, or even £20,000,000, why should we hesitate about spending that money when we have not hesitated to spend £20,000,000 in an unjust and an unnecessary war with Afghanistan?Where were the £20,000,000 now? They 325 had gone to some limbo of departed convictions such as "force is no remedy." He wished to point to the evidence given on this question by W. L. Bernard, whom, he thought, was one of the gentlemen employed in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners Office. This gentleman had said that he should be in favour of a discretion being given to the Board of Administration to allow the whole of the purchase money to be acquired on mortgage. This gentleman, who for 10 years had been engaged in this very matter of establishing a peasant proprietary, brought forward his high authority in support of the view that it was desirable in some cases to give the whole purchase money to the tenant. His hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) had alluded to the case of Prince Edward's Island. Well, he (Mr. O'Connor) had examined one of the Acts—that of 1853—regarding the change of proprietors, and he had found that 20 per cent, or one-fifth only, was demanded; and accordingly, so far as precedents were concerned, even in the British Dominions themselves, they were in favour of a larger proportion of money being granted to the tenants. Finally, he would impress this on the Committee—that this clause, if properly amended, would be more effective in establishing just and harmonious relations between landlord and tenant than the vast complicated machinery of the previous part of the Bill. They had conceded power to the Commissioners to purchase the land and give it to the tenant. The Commissioners might purchase a piece of land, and give it to a tenant on one side of a ditch, and that holding would cease to be rented in a certain time by the payment of a certain amount of money. Did they think the tenant on the other side of the ditch would remain one minute longer than he could help it a tenant in place of a lord of the soil? The result of this Amendment would be that the landlord who wished to retain his territorial power and his friendly relations with the tenant would treat the tenant properly, because he would know that the moment he became anything like an oppressive landlord the tenant would have the right to go to the Court and force him out of his possession. The indirect effect of the clause would be to establish tenant right more effectually than any previous portion of the Bill. He quite agreed that this was a point 326 the Irish Members ought to fight with a certain amount of determination, and he was willing to go to as many divisions as necessary.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, that, of course, the Committee were anxious to get through with the Business; but if there was any truth in the assertion made on the part of the Government—as there was—that this, the peasant proprietary portion of the measure, was the portion of it of the greatest magnitude, in their conception the main object up to which all the other lines of this measure were to lead, he appealed to the Committee to give a patient hearing to the Irish Members whilst they made not speeches, but a few brief observations on this point. What he had to say was this. They had heard the speech—a speech of marked ability, though characterized by his usual combativeness—of the hon. Member for Galway City (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) who acted upon their national motto by wherever he saw a head hitting it. In the argumentative part of the hon. Member's speech he agreed; but he did not share the hon. Member's view as to the motive which he seemed to think animated the Government in resisting the Irish Members in this matter. He had no doubt that the Government sincerely believed that they were extending to Ireland in these Purchase Clauses a generous boon, and he should presently show how far he agreed with the hon. Member in this matter; but it would have been a noble act on the part of Abraham Lincoln, and a splendid deed upon which his memory might have rested, if, instead of emancipating the American slaves at a stroke of the pen, he had granted emancipation to all who might be born 50 years after his time. It would have been a splendid deed in the days of Wilberforce if the same course had been adopted with regard to the slaves of the West Indies. It was, no doubt, a generous deed on the part of Her Majesty's Government to propose to assist the Irish peasants to purchase their holdings. It would have been even a generous deed to advance half the amount, it would have been more generous to advance two-thirds, and still more so to advance three-fourths; but what did they ask of Her Majesty's Government? They asked the Government to dare to be bold, and to be generous, and to be wise. The Go- 327 vernment of the day had acted upon the principle which was moving Her Majesty's Ministers when they emancipated the British slaves. The House of Commons of to-day conceived it to be wisdom to half or three-quarters to do a generous deed. They thought they had accomplished some great statesmanship by taking a piece out of a generous deed, just as at first did the Parliament in the time of Wilberforce. But they had to follow up the first attempt with a completing effort, and in the same way Her Majesty's Government now seemed disposed to make two bites at the cherry. Their measure of apprenticeship had been a mistake, and they simply asked the Government now to make a concession which would clearly and completely enable the peasants of Ireland to become proprietors of their holdings. There could be no doubt that the mass of the English Members who were listening to him now regarded this question in their own minds as a vote of public money to Ireland. If it were, he entirely sympathized with their resistance. If it was said that the Irish Members were asking for a vote of public money, his reply was that they wanted no gift, and that he, for one, disclaimed the idea of asking for it. If they were not able to give any commercial security for this money he, for one, said they would have no mere almonizing aid from the House of Commons for their country. If, however, there were a margin of commercial security sufficient to warrant Parliament and the Ministry in making the advance asked for, why did they hesitate? What did the records of the House say as regarded advances to Ireland; and what had Parliament lost? ["Hear, hear!"] He rejoiced than an hon. Member cheered that question. He knew what was in his mind, and the hon. Member would see that he (Mr. Sullivan) had it in his. Out of the public taxes millions had been voted to Ireland, which had had subsequently to be wiped out. [An hon. MEMBER: So there have been to England.] An hon. Friend reminded him that so there had been for England; but he would deal with the Irish case. Their Votes of millions of money to the propertied and landed classes of Ireland had been wiped out. Take the Fishery Commissioners, who had had to deal with the industrial classes of Ireland. Look at the Blue Book Reports of the re-payments made 328 to the Commissioners. Look, again, at the records of the Church Temporalities Commissioners, and he would ask how far had they met with repudiation from the tenant farmers of Ireland? Though they had wiped away millions advanced to the Irish landlords—and he was sure they had had a good case for the remission—they had never had to confront repudiation on the part of the masses of the people of Ireland. He did not wish to interfere with the argument of his hon. Friend; but he disassociated himself entirely from the charge that the Government mistrusted the people on this occasion. They merely had not the courage to go the full length that their convictions would carry them. They were afraid of the doctrinaires who sat behind them. There was nothing so popular in the House as to sneer at the unanimity of the Irish Members when they desired to have a pull at the public purse. It was one of those jokes which a Member even as dull as himself might always rely upon securing a laugh and a cheer from the House with, if attention were at all flagging from the subject under debate. But he put it beside him, and said that this was no application to their public purse. He had as strong views as even the Prime Minister himself as to the demoralization caused in Ireland by grants of public money, unless granted on sound principles. This question of the difference between three-fourths and four-fifths was no matter for the Government to stand upon, was no matter upon which to resist the Irish Members, Conservatives and Home Rulers alike. They ought to rejoice to see some sympathy between the Irish landlords that remained to them and the Irish tenants, and should be prepared to give way when they saw the Irish Members, irrespective of the quarter of the House in which they sat, combining, as at present, for one purpose.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 247; Noes 78: Majority 169.—(Div. List, No. 294.)
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, he wished to move an Amendment which was not on the Notice Paper, the object of which was to draw a distinction between residential tenants and grazing tenants. The Government, he thought, should give 329 more to the residential than to the grazing tenant.
In page 12, line 31, after the word "three-fourths," insert the words "except in the case of a residential tenant, when they may advance four-fifths."—(Major Nolan.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
wished to know whether, after the vote they had just taken, this Amendment was in Order?
Really, so many Amendments have been handed to me in this way that I have not had time to consider whether they are in Order or not.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, the Committee had just decided that the Commission might advance to the tenant for the purposes of the purchase "any sum not exceeding three-fourths of the said principal sum." Now, the hon. and gallant Member proposed that in certain cases the Commission might advance four-fifths. This could hardly be in Order, as the Committee had fixed a sum to apply to the whole range of purchases. ["No, no!"] Yes; it appeared so to him.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, his was not an artificial exception. It was a clear and tangible exception, recognized in many Bills, and, in particular, recognized by the Prime Minister, who had brought in this measure, because he practically excepted all grazing farms. He was following up the principle of the Bill in this proposal, although his exception was much less in degree than that made in the measure.
If residential tenants are distinct from ordinary tenants the Amendment will be in Order.
As a matter of fact, out of every 100 tenants in Ireland 99 are residential. ["No!"] I think I am within the mark in saying that. There can be no doubt at all about the fact that the great mass of the tenants are residential. We have spent the whole evening in debating, as we thought, the case of the whole mass of the tenants—of 99 out of 100—and have come to a decision of three to one in favour of the proposal of the Government; and now the hon. and gallant 330 Member asks that we should re-discuss the question, as it affects 1 per cent, with a view to accepting the opinion of the minority. I need not say that the Government, having been reluctantly compelled to accept the Amendment made a short time ago in so becoming a manner, cannot accept the present proposal.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, that no doubt the Government had opposed them on the last division; but he had absolute information to the effect that they had done so through a want of acquaintance with the official facts. Evidently the Government had not studied the document which had been received that morning. He would tell the Committee what he referred to. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), who was incapable of—
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he rose to Order. Had it been decided whether the Amendment could be moved or not?
As I stated, if residential tenants are an exception to ordinary tenants the Amendment can be moved.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, he was saying that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who was incapable of intentionally misleading the Committee, or anyone else, made a serious statement, a while ago, which greatly influenced the Committee, and which, unknown to the right hon. Gentleman, was totally devoid of foundation. He stated that the failure of the Church Temporalities advances could in no case be attributed to the advances being only three-fourths. The right hon. Member was not aware, when he made that statement, that there was issued this morning, or yesterday, a Report of Messrs. Baldwin and Robertson, in which it was said that in one district 11 out of 18 failures in the advances offered out of the Church Temporalities Fund were due to the terms on which the remaining one-fourth had to be borrowed.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, the distinction he proposed was not a flimsy one, and, in proof of this, it was sufficient to say that from Ballinasloe to Galway nine-tenths of the land they saw along the railway was in the hands of non-resi- 331 dential tenants. The same, perhaps, could not be said of other parts of Ireland. For several years he had brought in a Bill especially and essentially founded on a distinction between residential and non-residential tenants, and, having brought in such a Bill, he was entitled to move such an Amendment as this.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, the Prime Minister had spoken deprecatingly of the Committee being asked to accept the opinion of the minority. Well, the Irish Members were in a minority in that House; but it so happened that a vast majority of the Irish Members voted in favour of the grant of four-fifths; and he was quite sure it was by a slip that the Prime Minister made the statement, because if he wished the Committee not to attend to the practically unanimous voice of a section of the Members for the reason that they were in a minority, there was an argument involved which could be used in regard to a great deal of the Bill. He hoped the Committee would do a little violence to its former conviction and vote in favour of the four-fifths' advance. They ought to try to encourage the residential class of Irish tenants; and he was sure that nothing would be more popular than the acceptance of this Amendment.
§ MAJOR O'BEIRNE
said, this was the clause to which the great majority of the Irish people looked for a solution of the Land Question of Ireland. It was of vital importance to the Irish tenants, and also to the landlords, that the question should be settled on a proper and wise basis. The best way to pacify the Irish people and to render England and Ireland really united was to confer perpetuity of tenure on the Irish tenants, giving them an interest in the peace and prosperity of the country. ["Divide!"] He was astonished that the Committee were not in a better humour, and he would remind them that they were a long way from the actual passing of Clause 19. He would suggest to the Committee that the best way to forward the interests of these people, which they all professed to have in view, was to listen to the opinions of Irish Members, on this clause especially. There were no Irish Representatives who would allow the measure to be proceeded with without making a protest 332 against the purchases to take place under the clause. The best guarantee of a man's loyalty was to give him a stake in his country.
§ MR. LITTON
said, he thought the Committee had discussed the main features of the clause sufficiently, and that it should be guided by the decision already arrived at.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he was sure it was the feeling of the Committee that the discussion should not be further prolonged; but some facts had been mentioned which seemed to him to be of a very striking description, and he should like to know whether they were borne out by statistics. He had glanced over Messrs. Baldwin and Robertson's Report, and it certainly did not appear to him that the advances in connection with the Church Temporalities Fund were due to the difficulty that had been experienced in borrowing the remaining one-fourth. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would be able to give some satisfactory answer on this point.
I was astonished when I heard the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan), because I had been reading the statement of Professor Baldwin and his coadjutor, Mr. Robertson. He said that the terms on which the advances had been made by the Church Temporalities Commissioners had been the main cause of the failure of those advances.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him, and that nothing was further from his intention than to make such a statement as that. What he had said was that it was stated that in one district 11 out of 18 failures in the advances were due to the terms on which the remaining one-fourth had to be borrowed.
I must say that I have been totally unable to collect any such statement from the Paper before me; but, of course, it is very difficult to refer to a document like this for such facts at a moment's notice. The manner in which the money has been borrowed is only occasionally referred to.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, that as he had sat on the Committee in question he was able to say what really was the evidence given. The evidence was to this effect—that the tenants were so 333 anxious to purchase that several of them who had very little means sold all they had—cows and everything—to make up the remainder of the purchase money; and the conclusion to be derived from that was not that the offer of three-fourths was not a sufficient inducement to those who ought to purchase, but that tenants who had not some backbone of their own should not be encouraged to purchase. Further than that, it was pointed out that one of the chief causes of the difficulties of these tenants was the large amount of legal costs which the tenants had to pay to the solicitors. ["Divide!"] He must request the Chairman to call to Order the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), who was interrupting him. The noble Lord, if he wished, could address the Committee when he had finished. It must be recollected that in this Bill the legal costs had been reduced to a minimum. The legal work was to be done for almost nothing; therefore, one of the greatest obstacles in the way of small tenants purchasing their holdings would be done away with.
I must say that the discussion is getting very wide of the Amendment. The Question before the Committee has reference to residential holdings.
§ MR. GIVAN
agreed with the Chairman that the discussion had got rather wide of the mark. He was convinced that the Government was making a gross mistake in not advancing something more, or making some concession to the Irish people in regard to this matter. What had shaken him in his belief more than anything else, however, had been the action of some hon. Members who voted with them in the last division. When he saw certain noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen coming through the door of the Lobby he could not help feeling Timeo Danäos. That, however, had not shaken his faith in this, that the only way to create a peasant proprietary in Ireland would be to advance them not three-fourths, but such sum as the Land Commission might declare to be necessary. Whilst he agreed that there had been certain valid objections to his own Amendment, he could not see that they applied to the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway (Major Nolan).
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 66; Noes 248: Majority 182.—(Div. List, No. 295.)
The next Amendment which stands on the Paper cannot be put, for the sale is made by the landlord to the tenant for a principal sum, and the landlord can only sell his own interest in the property and cannot sell the tenant's interest in the holding. Under these circumstances, the Amendment is inconsistent with the clause, and cannot be put.
§ MR. GREER
moved an Amendment, in page 12, line 36, to leave out the word "one-half," in order to insert the word "three-fourths." The sub-section would then run thus—Where a sale of a holding is about to be made by a landlord to a tenant in consideration of the tenant paying a fine and engaging to pay to the landlord a fee-farm rent, the Land Commission may advance to the tenant for the purposes of such purchase, any sum not exceeding three-fourths of the fine payable to the landlord.He hoped the Government would accept that Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 12, line 36, to leave out the word "one-half," in order to insert the word "three-fourths."—(Mr. Greer,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the word one-half' stand part of the Clause."
I cannot agree to this Amendment. The point is whether we are justified in adopting any advances at all for such a purpose as this, when the fee-farm rent may form a very large proportion of the net product. These advances are most exceptional, and we only undertook them on consideration of the high policy of encouraging that which is to create a proprietary body. Although we have determined on proposing to make advances of this kind, I am sure the Committee would never agree to make the advance to them to the same extent as to those who can make a complete purchase. We have determined to make an advance of three-fourths for a complete purchase; but we cannot give so much to those who can only enter into a partnership transaction.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, the great object was to have as much security as 335 possible. Where an absolute proprietorship could not be obtained, the creation of a fee-farm ought to be very much encouraged by that House; but he could not but think they were rather committing a mistake in tying the hands of the Court beforehand. If the Court was to be a really responsible body, able to deal with the matter, it would be better to leave them to decide to what extent they would give a grant of public money. Judging from Mr. Baldwin's analysis of the cases in his Report, the most fertile cause of failure in the sales was due to the terms under which those sales had to be made. If the amount of assistance to be given to tenants who purchased fee-farms was to be too limited, those tenants would only be driven as other tenants had been driven to the village usurer—the "gombeen" man and the local solicitor—for advances to make up the amount. If it was a fair case for giving assistance, why not let the competent authorities on the spot decide to what extent the assistance should be given? If they thought only one-fourth should be advanced, let them advance only that sum. If they thought it should be one-half, let them give one-half. If they thought it should be three-fourths, why not allow them to recommend a grant of three-fourths? Holding this view, he was inclined to support the Amendment very strongly.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, he thought there was an obvious flaw in the second part of the clause. He quite admitted the force of the Prime Minister's argument; but, as the clause now stood, there was very little security for the repayment of that portion of the amount which was advanced by the State. In order to make the clause symmetrical, the right hon. Gentleman had taken the same proportion as in transactions of an entirely different character. Where a tenant bought his holding, three-fourths of the money might be advanced by the State, and that proposal was intelligible enough; but the next was that in certain cases, where the tenant might be paying a fine and getting the farm at a perpetual fee-farm rent, the State should pay one-half the fine, the understanding being that the fee-farm rent should not exceed 75 per cent of the rent that a solvent tenant would pay. But the tenant might hold a very highly-rented farm, 336 and the landlord might say—"If you like to buy you can; I will reduce it by 25 per cent." He (Lord George Hamilton) intended to propose an Amendment later on, which would provide that there should always be a considerable margin as security on which the State could advance a portion of the fine. If the Government would accept his Amendment, he thought they might also accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Carrickfergus (Mr. Greer), substituting three-fourths for one-half, because the security would be better.
The transaction must be approved by the public authority, and that authority must in every case be responsible. I do not see that any cause has yet been shown why we should accept the Amendment. At all events, we could not agree to this form of it.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
pointed out that where the fee-farm rent represented 75 per cent of the value of the property, there only remained one quarter of which the State would advance a sum which would make seven-eighths of the whole forestalled and leave the tenant to pay only one-eighth.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he thought that in all these cases a very substantial option should be given to the Land Commissioners. It was only in very few and exceptional cases that the option would be reached.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 220; Noes 62: Majority 158.—(Div. List, No. 296.)
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he had altered the wording of his Amendment, though not the substance, and its object was one that should receive support from both sides of the House. It was addressed to the clause as it now stood, and contemplated the case of a tenant holding at a fee-farm rent, and having made arrangements with his landlord by which he occupied his holding at a fixed unchangeable rent. In that state of things the landlord was reduced to the position of a mere rentcharger—that was to say, he could not increase the rent, but was simply in the position of an owner of a head rent, which he could not increase or change. The object of his Amendment, then, was, where the rent was so fixed and 337 unchangeable, to enable the tenant to buy up his head rent at a fair price; and he put the value at the high price of £25 for each £1 rent; or—and this was the main object of the Amendment—where the tenant was not able to do this by buying up by a lump sum, to enable him to do it piecemeal. But, inasmuch as to do so piecemeal might be an inconvenience or an injustice to the landlord, if the sums paid were small, the clause would provide that where the landlord was not willing to accept this piecemeal payment, then the Land Commission might receive the money for the purpose of capitalizing a proportion of the rent until the rent was pro tanto extinguished, and the money paid over to the landlord by the Commission in reasonable amounts. The object, it would be seen, was to hold out an inducement to thrifty struggling tenants, and the best incentive to the exercise of care and energy, because if the Amendment were accepted, the tenant would be able to say at the beginning of the year—"If by extra exertion, extra efforts of frugality and self-denial, I am able to save £25, I shall reduce the rent by £1 a-year;" and once he felt this could be done he would begin to do it; and the Committee might rest assured that his efforts would never cease until he, by his payments, became discharged of the rent altogether. This offered a very proper inducement to the tenant to cultivate thrift and self-denial, while it would work no injury, certainly, and, he thought, no inconvenience even to the landlord. He read the Amendment in its slightly altered form. It would be obvious to the Government that it involved a slight loss of interest to the State; but that was so insignificant, and the object was so well-deserving of support, that he hoped the Amendment would be accepted.
In page 12, line 37, after "landlord," to insert—"Provided always, That where a tenant is holding at a fee farm rent he may buy up such rent at the rate of twenty-five pounds for each one pound of rent, or at as much less a rate as may be agreed upon between the landlord and tenant; and if the landlord be unwilling to accept such purchase money by instalments, the tenant may pay such instalments to the Land Commission, and the Land Commission shall receive the same and indemnify the tenant from a proportionate part of such rent, and when such payments shall amount to such a sum as the land-
lord may in the opinion of the Land Commission be reasonably called upon to accept, the Land Commission shall pay the same to the landlord, and thereupon the said fee farm rent shall pro tanto be extinguished."—(Mr. Charles Russell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, each of the Amendments might stand or fall quite apart from the other. In the first place, it was proposed that in the case of a fixed rent the tenant should have the absolute right to redeem that rent by buying out the landlord, certainly at a high rate, considering the average price at which land was sold in Ireland. Here the Committee was asked to adhere to a principle of considerable importance. It was a principle which was nowhere else inserted in the Bill, and he was not sure that it might not be made a precedent for other propositions which his hon. and learned Friend might not be responsible for. He (Mr. Gladstone) would like to consider the matter as a separate proposition, and he must frankly own that his present impression was not favourable to it. He doubted if it was desirable to introduce the principle of compulsory redemption, and it must be a strong reason to justify the Committee in adopting it. The second part of the Amendment was to the effect that where compulsory expropriation was effected the landlord should not be completely at the mercy of the tenant as to the mode of receiving instalments, and that was perfectly right as regarded the landlord; it would be hard upon him that he should be compelled to receive instalments; but then his hon. and learned Friend introduced a provision which it was to be feared would lead to the greatest complexity. It would require that the Land Commission should undertake the functions of a bank, and banking in the most minute detail, and that would be a great burden to impose upon a Commission not appointed for the purpose, and not acquainted with the management of a bank and the investment of small sums of cash. And the greatest objection was that there were all over the country institutions admirably suited for the purpose, the Post Office Savings Banks. The tenant whose savings were small had nothing to do but deposit them them down to 1s. at a time in the Post Office Bank. There he would receive such interest as the State 339 paid, and though that was little, it was as much as any such institution could pay, and when it reached a sum he could ask the landlord to take, he could take the money out of the bank. He was not quite certain, either, whether this was not a proposition that left it entirely with the Committee to authorize the Land Commission to become a bank, receive money, and pay interest. He had great doubt indeed whether it was within the Committee's power to adopt the clause. But, in any case, no purpose would be served oven if after a great deal of labour and care a new branch of business was developed when there was no benefit to accrue, seeing that there was no place in Ireland that had not a Post Office Bank within a distance of five miles, or at most 10 miles in the most remote districts.
§ MR. ERRINGTON
said, he regarded the Amendment as of much importance, and he was sorry to hear that the Prime Minister did not receive it favourably. A few nights before he proposed a similar Amendment to Clause 11, and he then understood the right hon. Gentleman to be in favour of the principle itself; but he (Mr. Errington) did not then wish to press the Amendment, because he understood that the power to carry it out was virtually contained in the Bill as it stood. He could only say that he had heard from many quarters in Ireland, and from persons of much experience on the subject, that there was hardly anything more important in regard to increasing the number of peasant proprietors than the opportunity afforded to tenants, at frequent periods, of placing their capital in the land in small sums. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk proposed the most important machinery for carrying this out. He did not understand that the proposition was that the Commission should undertake all the detailed work of the Post Office Bank; but it merely would empower the Commission, if necessary, to make use of the Post Office Bank as a means of receiving the money of the tenant, so that, by a process of fining down of the rent, the purchase of the holding by the tenant might be facilitated. He hoped the Prime Minister would carefully consider the principle involved, and he could assure him that persons who had the greatest interest and the desire to see 340 tenants obtain a good, material, strong, and powerful interest in the land, saw that this was one of the most important means of carrying it out.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he was afraid his proposal had not received so much encouragement as would justify him in going to a division, and he was not insensible to some of the practical difficulties which the Prime Minister had pointed out. But he did think it was worthy of consideration. He begged to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.