§ Acquisition of Land by Tenants.
§ Clause 19 (Advances to tenants by Commission for purchase of holdings).365
§ On the Motion of Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND, Amendment made in page 13, lines 4 and 5, by striking out the words "a solvent tenant would pay," and inserting" would be a fair rent."
§ MR. LITTON
moved as an Amendment, in page 13, the omission of the word "may" in line 13, in order to insert the word "shall." That, he said, was a very short Amendment, but it was one of some importance. The provision of the clause was to indemnify the tenant who purchased from the Land Commission against circumstances adverse to the title of the landlord. He thought the Committee would agree with him that it should be the duty, and not the option, of the Commission to indemnify the purchasing tenant under those circumstances.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 13, line 13, to leave out "may," and insert "shall."—(Mr. Litton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'may' stand part of the Clause."
I hope my hon. and learned. Friend will be content with the word "may." It is a very strong provision, indeed, in favour of the tenant, to authorize the Commission to take upon themselves the risk of doubts and ambiguities appertaining to the title. I am not aware that any such enactment has ever before been authorized as that of allowing any body of persons to take upon the State in the way now proposed the discharge of doubts or ambiguities in future contingencies. I think it necessary that we should preserve the ultimate discretion of the Court.
§ MR. HEALY
thought the sub-section would only give the tenant a right of action against the Commission in case he was subsequently evicted, and he would ask the Government to give the Land Commission the same power that was possessed by the Landed Estates Court. He would ask the Attorney General for Ireland whether this interpretation was not correct?
§ MR. LITTON
said, he was not so unreasonable as to ask that the Land Commission should make such an inquiry into the title of the landlord as would be sufficient to secure a statutory title. But it seemed to him that where the onus and duty was cast upon the Com- 366 mission of selling to the tenant and taking his money for the purchase, they should be bound to give a covenant against encumbrances. If it were left optional with the Commissioners, it would be competent for them to say, "We will give no indemnity," and the purchaser might be exposed to eviction. He was surprised that the Prime Minister did not see his way to accept this Amendment. He did not like, however, to press it against the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, because he deferred to the right hon. Gentleman's opinion very much. Probably the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland could give some explanation as to why the Amendment should not be regarded as a reasonable one. If the purchaser was to be made safe, it could only be done except through the intervention of the Commission, and he ought to get an indemnity from the Commission against any claim that might afterwards be made. It would be very unreasonable for the purchaser to have to defend a law suit with heavy costs by reason of some oversight on the part of the Commission, or of their refusal to give the indemnity which they ought to give. He was very unwilling to set his opinion against that of the Prime Minister, but he entertained a strong opinion upon the subject.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
did not see how the Commissioners were to investigate the title of the vendor unless they had the means of investigation. The Commissioners were merely to act as intermediaries in this matter between the original owner and the purchasing tenant. They should not be bound in every case to make good the title. They would, no doubt, do it in all reasonable cases, and that was really the meaning of the word "may;" but the word "shall" gave no alternative such as ought to be retained. The Court might be trusted to do what was right, and they would give the indemnity where it was reasonable to do it.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
thought the case might be met according to the view suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton), by inserting the words "shall, unless released from that obligation by the grantee." That would provide that the Court should indemnify the purchaser of 367 the fee-farm interest, unless the purchaser should release them from that obligation. That would work very well, because in cases where there was a general consensus—where the title was known to be good and sufficient—there would be no costs incurred; but it would be very fair that the Court should put the tenant on his guard in certain cases—the strong inducement for doing which they would have from the fact that they would be liable unless they got an indemity from him.
The Landed Estates Court are armed with the necessary machinery for strictly investigating title; but we could not provide that machinery in the case of the Land Court, and therefore we cannot place upon them the function of the Landed Estates Court to give a Parliamentary title. We have already gone a long way from what was proposed, and we cannot go further. By assenting to a number of these provisions, we have already somewhat strained our original purpose.
said, he entirely agreed with the Prime Minister and the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland as to their intention; but he confessed he had some little doubt as to whether the words at present in the clause would quite carry out that intention. He was not sure whether, as the words now stood, the Court would be able to refuse to give an indemnity, because, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman was aware, the word "may" in Acts of Parliament was generally construed "shall." He thought that words should be inserter such as "may in their discretion," or "if they think fit;" or, otherwise, the "may" might be held equivalent to "shall" when the Bill came to be put into operation.
§ MR. LEAMY
thought that even if the word "shall" were substituted for "may," it might not have an obligatory effect, unless the Commission had some means of satisfying themselves as to the title; for it might be held that an indemnity was not due to the tenant, and that unfortunate tenant might have to pay very large sum. If the Court was to transact the business at all, they ought to be able to investigate title; and it would certainly be much cheaper for them to investigate than for anybody else to do so.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had suggested that the words should be "may, if they think fit." But what the words of the clause meant as they stood at present was—"if satisfied with the indemnity given by the landlord." In many cases the Court would make inquiry into title, and they would not put the provision in force unless the necessary conditions were complied with.
§ MR. LITTON
said, that, after the discussion that had taken place, he would not trouble the Committee to divide upon the Amendment.
§ MR. WARTON
wished to suggest to the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, before the Amendment was withdrawn, that there was great force in what had been said by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst).
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
said, he had not uttered a single word before during the discussions upon the Bill, and he should not have ventured to intrude upon the attention of the Committee now unless he thought he had good reason, for he knew he might be supposed by hon. Members sitting on both sides of the House to be rushing in where angels and Irish landlords feared to tread. He intended, however, to move the rejection of this clause, as he thoroughly disapproved of it. The grounds upon which the clause was founded seemed to him to be utterly barren, and to have been completely undermined by the experience of the last 10 years, as was shown by the Report of the Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners which he held in his hand. He had listened to the discussion with the greatest possible interest, and had heard the most convincing arguments used against the clause. On the question as to whether four-fifths or only three-fourths of the advances should be provided by the State, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) had said that there was one mode of purchasing unanimity all round—by sacrificing the public interest; but the only difference between the right hon. Gentleman, who stood out for three-fourths and those who supported the 369 proposal of four-fifths, was the small difference of £5 in each £100—the amount of the advance proposed to be made by the nation being in the one case £80, while in the other it was £75. He (Sir Herbert Maxwell) could not, for his life, see why, if an £80 advance was profligate, a £75 advance should be advisable. And, though that was not the question now before the Committee, he thought the arguments which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) urged against a four-fifths' advance told strongly against the whole clause, because it seemed to him that the clause sacrificed the public interest of the taxpayer upon inadequate security. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) had taunted the landlords with having been ignorant in the past, and suggested that probably they might be so in the future. It would be, perhaps, unbecoming in him (Sir Herbert Maxwell) to retort that, in some respects, the right hon. Gentleman himself was possibly not so well-informed as he might be; but he would, at all events, ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he had seen the Report of Messrs. Baldwin and Robertson, dated the 1st of January, 1880, and only circulated three or four days ago? He did not think that many hon. Members had yet seen that Report, and he did not know why its publication had been delayed so long. They were asked, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to pass the clause because of the success of the establishment of peasant proprietors during the last 10 years. The right hon. Gentleman told the Irish Members last night to comfort themselves with the knowledge derived from the experience of the past—that in no case had an advance of three-fourths failed. But what was found in the 4th page of the Report of the Assistant Commissioners? Why, that in 18 holdings in the county of Armagh—that county being regarded as one of the most promising grounds on which to establish peasant proprietors—the Commissioners gave evidence of having visited every one, and undertook to state the naked facts about them, and, with the exception of one single holding—No. 13 in the Report—the description of each holding was given in the most gloomy colouring. In no instance could they report 370 improved cultivation, even though the tenants could have no fear hanging over the investment of capital in the soil, and would not be deterred from making improvements by the anticipation that the rent would be increased as soon as the improvements began to tell. The first holding reached was No. 1, five acres, rent £6. The tenant had had to exhaust his live stock to pay the instalments, and not a beast of any kind was to be found on the land except two pigs. Before the purchase the tenant had had four cows, and had built a good house; the windows and general appearance of the house now told their own tale of pecuniary embarrassment and distress. In case No. 3, the soil was kept in the most beggarly condition, and the tenant gave as a reason for the purchase that he was afraid the land would be bought up by a bad landlord. But that was no argument in favour of this clause, since they were told that after the passing of this Bill there were to be no bad landlords. There was not the least sign of improved cultivation. The tenant in case No. 18 owned three acres, value £3. He used to pay £2 5s., and the purchase money was £47, the whole of which was left at 10 per cent. The owner now paid the rates—he paid none before—and he said that none of the purchase money had been repaid. He had a cow, which the poor man described as "a sort of a cow," but it was a very bad sort. The cow had a calf, but there was no grass or meadow of any kind; there were no roots for winter keep. There was no evidence whatever of any attempt to improve the cultivation of the land or the general management of the holding; and these observations applied to all the holdings described except No. 13, which was bought up by an affluent shopkeeper in Newry. This was not a very encouraging picture of the result of the action of the Irish Church Commissioners in establishing peasant proprietors. He knew there was an idea cherished by some people that there could be no more attractive or desirable state of things than the division of the land among small proprietors. It was a charming idea that every man should rest under his own vine and fig tree; but it should be remembered that they were now dealing with a land where the fig tree did not grow, and that people with families could not live upon farms or holdings of 371 five or ten acres. He did not wish to detain the Committee any more; but he could not reconcile it with his conscience to allow the clause to be added to the Bill without saying one or two words.
§ Amendment proposed, "To leave out Clause 19."—(Sir Herbert Maxwell.)
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
The hon. Baronet (Sir Herbert Maxwell) is mistaken in the reference he has made to my few observations of last night. I did not say that in no single case had there been failure, or that in no single case had the tenant fallen into unfortunate circumstances, so that he could not get more than three-fourths of the sum advanced under the Land Act or by the Church Commission. What I said was, that neither under the Land Commission nor the Church Commission had it been found that the sum advanced had been insufficient to allow and to encourage a fair acceptance of purchase on the part of a tenant anxious to become proprietor. If the hon. Baronet bases his reference to what I said upon having himself heard me speak, he will recollect that that was the argument which I used. If, however, he refers to the reports which have appeared in the newspapers, I would only say that they are not very accurate, and are not to be trusted. In regard to particular cases, this much may be said, that some seasons have been so disastrous that not only small holders, but large ones as well, in many cases, have been brought down. The hon. Baronet quoted one case where the holding consisted of three acres. But nobody supposes that, in a bad season, a man can comfortably maintain his family upon three acres: and, even in a good, he would probably be able to live only on the lowest kind of food—on which, to a large extent, the people of Ireland have been accustomed to live. Even in England we know of many large farmers who were men of capital four or five years ago, and who held large farms, but who have now been pulled down by disaster. It is quite outside the case to argue of the future solely in reference to what has happened to very small holders during the last two or three years. The general result, at any rate, is satisfactory, because we have been told that the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles 372 Russell) was not correct in the statement he made the other day; and it is stated that while the whole sum payable annually to the Church Commission is £119,000, the deficiency is only about £4,000. And of that £4,000, a large proportion of it—I rather think more than half—is owing to one individual having made large purchases from the Commission. If that be so during these bad years, surely the whole case of the Government is supported, and we cannot argue this experience against the proposition of the Bill. When we know, as we do now know, that there is, even under these circumstances, great anxiety to pay, we may be quite sure that the proposition made in this Bill, and which seems to be advanced under this clause, will be such as will enable the tenants to gratify the most laudable ambition of becoming proprietors of their own farms, freeholders in their own country; and, though what the hon. Baronet has said of the vine and the fig tree may be too true in Ireland, I am sure he might have continued the quotation, and said of such peasant proprietors that in the future "no man can make them afraid."
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, that, as the hon. Baronet (Sir Herbert Maxwell) had mentioned Armagh, the Committee would, perhaps, allow him to say a few words with regard to that county. He (Mr. J. N. Richardson) had not seen, as yet, the Papers to which allusion had been made, but he hoped to read them shortly; but, if he did not mistake, the hon. Baronet was to have credit for having selected just the 18 cases in all Ireland that would best support the view he wished to put before the Committee. No doubt, it must be admitted that many of these 18 cases were in the condition stated in the Paper; but there was no difficulty in accounting for that, because the district was an extremely poor, rocky, and miserable one. The tenants on that land purchased at a very high price in 1874 and 1875—which were very good years—and a great many of them borrowed at a very high rate of interest. He was acquainted with one case of a widow, he believed residing in a place called Ballytemple. The holding was purchased for £96, and the whole of that money might have been borrowed from the Commissioners; but she only borrowed from them £56, and the other 373 £40 she procured from a local attorney, who was good enough to charge her 20 per cent interest, and to make her out a title for £10. Now, would anyone expect that a woman like that, cultivating a farm in a rocky, barren district, would succeed; and yet that individual, simply through her thrift, was succeeding, and was one of the exceptions in the townland with which she was connected. Another thing he might mention was—he was not sure whether it was in that district or not—that when the Church Commissioners sold a certain estate to tenants living on the lower land, which was more cultivated, the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) introduced a Bill in 1878, or 1879, to enable them to got perpetuity of leases—to those who did not feel desirous of purchasing their own holdings. If he recollected rightly, that Bill was thrown out. [An hon. Member here made a communication to Mr. RICHARDSON.] He must retract entirely what he had said with regard to the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. He was quite wrong, because he was informed those farms were purchased in 1875; but the argument he should adduce from the Report the hon. Baronet (Sir Herbert Maxwell) had laid before the Committee was this—not that these 18 cases proved, by any means, that peasant proprietorship would be a failure in Ireland; but that, on the contrary, it was the exceptional circumstances under which the tenants had bought—the high price which they had to give at that time, and the high rate of interest which they had to pay—which had put them in that position. He would argue from that that which was rather inconsistent with the votes he had given last night; but he need not give any explanation on that head, because he had his private and public reasons for not doing so. The argument he would adduce would be this—if the Government had given five-sixths, instead of the amount they did, they would very materially have altered the aspect of affairs.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
If, instead of receiving five-sixths, they had seven or eight-sixths, there would still be great difficulty in the way of these small holdings, because they would require money, not only to purchase, but to stock their farms. The real difficulty 374 in which the small holders appear to be placed is this. They are carrying on their business with such indifferent means of their own that they are obliged to borrow at very high rates of interest from the local usurer. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. John Bright) said just now that no man could make them afraid. I am afraid that is rather too sanguine an expectation in cases such as these, where money has had to be borrowed from the local usurer at 10 per cent. I expect the local usurer will be the person who can make them afraid. They will not be made afraid by the landlord, but by the creditor. The matter seems to me always to resolve itself into this—that these small ownerships will answer very well if they are in the hands of persons who know what they are about, and are able to conduct their business properly. You would have a good security for that in cases where the small proprietors have been able either to accumulate money of their own by their own industry or where they are able to obtain credit from, perhaps, members of their own family or from the landlord, or, in a reasonable degree, from a public fund such as that it is proposed they shall borrow from. But if you want to nurse or coddle them too much by artificial advances, and tempt people to believe that if they can only get possession of the land they are going to put themselves into a position of comfort and security, you will be tempting them very often to their own destruction. If they get three or four acres, which, as the right hon. Gentleman very truly said, are not sufficient to maintain a family in bad years, the consequence of what you are doing, no doubt with excellent motives, will frequently be to the disadvantage of these persons. The lesson we ought to learn from the facts is this—not to apply too great a stimulus to these proceedings. I think that we give reasonable facilities, nay, that we give liberal facilities, in the advances we offer; but I do not think we should go beyond what is proposed. I should be sorry to see this clause thrown out. The experiment has answered very well in some cases, and I have no doubt it will answer in others under fair conditions. As to the object of the clause, I approve of it; but it should be taken up with caution. I would say, do not stimulate this matter 375 of the purchase of small holdings artificially or excessively.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he was very much indebted to the hon. Baronet (Sir Herbert Maxwell) who had brought this Report prominently before the attention of the House. It might be quite true that there were circumstances which rendered the tenants of these 18 holdings exceptions to the general rule; but, at the same time, giving the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) full credit for benevolent intentions in promoting this scheme, he (Mr. Newdegate) must call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that there were circumstances connected with the future of such tenures that could not be overlooked. There were circumstances that should impress themselves very forcibly upon the attention of every landowner—which individuals were now upon their trial, and in which category he (Mr. Newdegate) himself was to be included. There was before the House the Report of Messrs. Clare Read and Pell concerning their journey to America, and that Report showed that Ireland would have to look forward to competing in agriculture with the United States. The Report said that the virgin soil of the United States would remain unexhausted for the next 25 years, and that the produce of that virgin soil would be able to compete with the agricultural productions of Ireland. They had to remember that the agriculture of Ireland had receded very largely during the last 30 years, in consequence of the competition from America, and they had complete evidence of the fact that that competition was likely to come with increased severity during the next 25 years. As a matter of business, he thought it a very doubtful speculation upon which Parliament was entering when it engaged to provide funds to start these small farmers in Ireland. He wished to state that he did not intend to press the Amendment to a division; but he thought there were circumstances in addition to those which had been adduced by the hon. Baronet below him (Sir Herbert Maxwell) which the House was bound to take into account, as a House of Business, in making these advances. He was disinclined to do anything or to say anything which would have in the smallest degree the effect of preventing the extension of the 376 agriculture of Ireland. He considered the extension of Irish agriculture a great national object, and, therefore, so far from participating in the intention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—although he was, no doubt, aiming at remedying a great national evil—he could not overlook the adverse circumstances to which the experiment was exposed. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman opposite would excuse his having uttered these few words of caution in connection with the undertaking on which they were engaged.
§ MR. ECROYD
hoped the Committee would allow him its indulgence for a few minutes, as he had not hitherto spoken upon this great question. He was one of those who could not with a good conscience vote against the clause which they were discussing and were probably about to pass; but, at the same time, he should feel that he had not discharged his duty if he did not record his great anxiety as to the actual results which might follow from this legislation. His own observation had taught him that the success of peasant proprietors was very much in proportion to their enjoyment of a southern climate, which produced those agricultural commodities which required a large amount of hand labour, and the production of which was aided by the genial force of a southern sun. Where a northern climate prevailed, peasant proprietors were by no means so successful. Those who had travelled through the Rhine country and parts of Bavaria must be familiar with the fact that the condition of the peasant proprietor there was one of great misery, and that he usually came under the power of the usurers and money-lenders. He had to borrow money at a very high rate at the outset of his career, and so came under a burden which few indeed ever succeeded in escaping from; indeed, from which it was almost impossible to escape. Now, in this measure the Government had been proceeding upon principles which were, to some extent, opposed to the ordinary rules of political economy; and he felt that the success of the clause they were about to pass would depend upon the adoption of some strict regulation which should prevent the usurer doing 10 times more damage than the very worst landlords were to be prevented doing by this Bill. 377 He thought the small puchasers would generally find themselves not in possession of the capital required to work their holdings. They would generally borrow money from local money-lenders at a high rate; and he confessed he had great fear that that proceeding would baffle the exceedingly benevolent intentions of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He could not take his seat without bearing his testimony to the great value of the right hon. Gentleman's efforts in that direction during past years; and he most cordially hoped that the effect of this clause might be to produce better results than those which he (Mr. Ecroyd) and those who differed from the right hon. Gentleman dared to anticipate.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he felt it only right to those he represented in Parliament to offer his protest against the principle involved in this clause, and, as that was the first time that he had addressed the Committee upon the great subject that was now before it, perhaps it would allow him its indulgence for a few minutes while he stated the grounds of his objection. He could not disguise from himself that at the bottom of this proposal there lay the fixed idea of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that there should be a general system of peasant proprietors established throughout the Kingdom at the cost of the State. He would not detain the Committee by discussing the arguments which had been advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works, because they had already been answered a great deal more effectually than he (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) could answer them. After the great mistakes they had seen the right hon. Gentleman commit in this matter, they might dismiss his arguments without any further observation; but, with regard to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, he was good enough to say last night that as the landlords of Ireland had been ignorant in the past, so they would be ignorant in the future. He (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) was not one of those who would care to poach on the choice vocabulary in the use of which the right hon. Gentleman was so proficient; but he would venture to say that his repose in what they might call 378 the "Lethe Wharf" had made him rather forgetful of his own antecedents in this matter, and of all those principles of Free Trade which were involved in this proposal. It seemed to him (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) that the great Free Trade Party had abandoned the principles which they had so long held; and he was told the other day by one of the surviving veterans of the Cobden grand army that the Cobden Club were not going to have their annual dinner this year, but that the shutters were to be put up.
I must point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he is going beyond the clause in his observations.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, he was ready to bow to the Chairman's decision; but he was pointing out in illustration of his argument that the Cobden Club, which represented Free Trade principles, was not going to hold its annual dinner this year. The Chairman would agree with him that Free Trade principles were involved in this question, and that it was evident that, as far as Irish Land Law was concerned, those principles were not to apply to it, and hence it was not surprising that the shutters of the Free Trade Club were to be put up by the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. T. B. Potter), who were the chief priests of that exploded superstition. What was the principle upon which the Government had gone? They had never heard a word about it yet. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite say that the principle upon which advances of public money could be granted depended on this—that when they came and asked for money for the relief of a particular class they were bound to show that the advance was for the general public benefit, such as a larger production of food, or for some other very necessary purpose. He was not in the House when his hon. Friend (Sir Herbert Maxwell) read passages from Professor Baldwin's Report; but it seemed to him to be thoroughly established in that Report that the classes who were referred to, and who were intended to be benefited by this clause, would not, in point of fact, realize the benefits it was now proposed to confer upon them. If they considered that 379 question from a serious point of view, let them take instances for the guidance of the Committee from the county with which he happened to be particularly connected—namely, the county of Cumberland. He supposed in that county there had been more peasant proprietors than in any other part of the Kingdom; but latterly they had completely vanished. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, if they had not completely vanished, the greater part of them had vanished, and that was entirely owing to the action of the very Free Trade principles of which he had been speaking. Why were they not entitled to ask for the peasant proprietors of Cumberland that they should have a similar benefit extended to them to that proposed to be conferred upon the Irish tenant proprietors? Why were those advantages to be only for Irishmen? Then, again, in addition to the Report of Professor Baldwin, he had had the advantage, a few days ago, of reading a letter written by the junior Member for Newcastle (Mr. Ashton Dilke) in The Weekly Dispatch, descriptive of a tour he had made in the county of Cork. Well, he would ask hon. Gentlemen to rise from the perusal of that letter and say, having seen the condition in which those tenants were, whether they would ever be able to find, out of their own resources, the balance which this clause rendered it imperative on them to contribute; or whether, in the future, they would be able to pay the necessary instalments? All these matters, seriously considered, gave him great reason to doubt whether there would be any success in the present policy of the Government. What hope was there for hereafter? The State was put in possession of the land. Would the State ever be able to enforce payment by these tenants? Would they not have in the future, as they had had in times past, measures of relief brought forward by the Government—measures relieving the tenants from payment of their liabilities in the same manner, and on the same principle, as last year they had a Bill brought forward and made a Cabinet measure to give compensation for disturbance? There was no guarantee that the money would be applied for the public good, and that the State would not be, in the future, obliged to stop the enforcement of the payments. It seemed to him that, at the bottom of 380 this, there was no principle whatever which could be intelligible either to Members of the Committee or to the country. He was afraid it was a case, not of principle, but of popularity, and popularity the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) always had at the bottom of his policy. When they had taken off what he (Mr. Cavendish Ben-tinck) might, perhaps, without offence, term the "Brummagem lacquer" on this proposal, they would find under it the true metal, which meant more than helping a few insolvent tenants in Ireland. This was a measure and a proposal that was intended hereafter to attack landed proprietors on this side the Channel, and it was for that reason that he put forward these few words. There were some hon. Members from Ireland, whose cry was—"We want neither rents nor landlords." [Home Rule Cheers.] Those cheers only justified him in saying what he had said; and it was for that reason and on those principles that he should give the strongest opposition of which he was capable to the proposal of the Government, which, he considered, should be contested from every point of view.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
said, that if he had misquoted the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the morning papers were responsible; but, at the same time, the report in the papers had agreed with his apprehension of what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman last night. As to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. J. N. Richardson), the hon. Member seemed to suppose that he (Sir Herbert Maxwell) had selected these 18 cases; but that was not the fact. They were the only cases in the Report of the Assistant Commissioners, and they were the only cases to which hon. Members had access. In all these cases, except one, which was the case of a wealthy shopkeeper, there was nothing but failure to report. What he had now stated he should have been sorry not to have said, liberair animan meam; and if it was the intention of the Committee to add this clause to the Bill, then it should be done with as little delay as possible. But he had very little doubt that, before many years had passed, a Bill would have to be introduced to create a Deus ex machinâ, to release the new peasant proprietors from their insup- 381 portable burthen of debt. He would withdraw his Amendment.["No!")
§ Amendment negatived
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the right hon. Member (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) had said that some of the Irish Members would like to get rid of Irish rents and Irish landlords altogether. So they would; but they would like to see the Irish tenants buying up the holdings from the landlords; and they thought that one of the faults of this clause was that it did not go far enough, and that it did not make it compulsory on the landlord to sell when the tenant was prepared to buy at a fair and reasonable price. That was what they considered one of the weaknesses of this particular clause; for they believed that the Government were too stingy in their proposals as to the amount of money they would lend. As had already been pointed out, the tenant would have the money which the landlord would give as compensation for disturbance, and that, in the majority of cases, would allow quite sufficient margin of security for the money which he would borrow. He must say that the practical result of the narrowness of the Government proposal must, in the nature of things, be to deprive this clause of its value if the tenants were bound to borrow the £5 which the Government would not advance. The tenants would begin farming with less stock and less capital than they should have, and the result would be very injurious to them. Tenants would be less likely to purchase holdings, or they would receive less benefit from the purchase than it was intended they should by the framers of the clause. He would again appeal to the Prime Minister to re-consider the matter before the Report, and to come to a different conclusion with regard to the amount of money which should be lent on the security of the holding. As to another part of the clause—namely, that which dealt with the fining down of rents, he did not think there was so strong a case as to ask the Government to re-consider the matter; but, where the tenant seemed entitled to purchase entirely the landlord's interest in the holding, he did think the Government would be justified in authorizing the Court, if it thought fit, to lend a larger portion of the purchase money. In dealing with 382 this subject, it was a very common practice to talk of "peasant proprietors;" but that was an expression that was very seldom used in Ireland, and they much preferred the expression "cultivating" or "occupying proprietors." The people who would buy, in the majority of cases, would not be peasants at all, but considerable farmers. In the great majority of cases they would be men who had property of their own, and who were in a position to pay back the money advanced. He certainly thought, where the holding was of a good description, and the price paid was held to be moderate, the Court was justified in lending the full amount.
§ MR. STORER
said, this most extraordinary clause was based entirely on a delusion, which was this—that the moment these persons were converted from tenants into peasant proprietors, they would exchange the state of misery and poverty in which they lived to one of prosperity. It was well known throughout a great part of England that the small proprietor could have no worse landlord than himself, because, although he might for a short time flourish, particularly when times and seasons were good—which, unfortunately, they were not at present, and were not likely to be in the future—ultimately, when times grew worse, and when, perhaps, he was old and his family had left him, he would become a prey to the mortgagee and the usurer. That would be the case in the present instance; and it was ridiculous to suppose that the Utopian idea of right hon. Gentlemen opposite—that of universal prosperity—would be realized. Even should it be realized, the English taxpayer would ask why, at a time when he was overburdened with every kind of difficulty, should he be called upon to pay the money to carry out the benevolent intentions of the Government in Ireland? The English taxpayer could hardly be aware of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman to advance, he (Mr. Storer) knew not how many millions—for no specific sum had been mentioned—for this object. When the English taxpayer became fully acquainted with the proposal, there could be no doubt but that he would object in the strongest degree to the whole scheme; but there was another matter to be considered. If this Utopian idea were to succeed, what claim had the Irish tenant 383 more than the English tenant to be assisted in this way? It was an assumption and a delusion throughout the measure that the Irish tenant was in a worse position than the English tenant. From his knowledge of the facts, he could state, without fear of contradiction, that exactly the converse was the case. The English tenants, in a great part of the country, were in a far worse position than the Irish tenants. Last year they had a season infinitely worse than that which was experienced in Ireland; and, if the bankers could be consulted, it would be found that the Irish had a great deal more money saved than the English tenant. But he did not find the Government coming forward with any proposal to assist the English tenants in any way. Why was there no proposal of this kind? Was it because the English tenants were law-abiding, and did not rise in rebellion, and did not conspire against the law of their country, as the Irish people had done? Were they, if they wished for an amelioration of their condition, to follow the example set them in Ireland? It was a strange thing to say that because they were so quiet and so tame, and because they did not rebel and listen to agitators, that their condition was not to be taken into consideration at all. On these grounds he objected to the measure; and he thought that when it became well known to the taxpayers of the country what was demanded of them, the measure would not be half so popular as Her Majesty's Government seemed to think.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 20 (Purchase of estates by Commission, and resale in parcels to tenants).
§ MR. ERRINGTON
said, the first Amendment stood in his name, and raised a very important question with regard to purchases. It consisted of two portions, the first of which he was now moving. He did not agree with what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote) as to the danger of stimulating the growth of peasant proprietorship in Ireland; on the contrary, he thought that to a peasant proprietorship they had to look for relief from the distress from which that unhappy country was suffering. No doubt, that peasant proprietorship should be 384 carefully guarded; but there was no chance of having it at all, unless a certain stimulus was given. He agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Baronet the Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce) last night, when he had warned the Committee that they must not suppose that after passing this Bill the Irish tenants would be very keen about making repayments. Well, the clause laid down provisions under which the sum advanced by Parliament was to be spent by the Commissioners in purchasing estates for re-sale to the tenants; and, in the first place, he found there was no limitation in the price which the Commissioners might give for these estates. In the second place, there was a very striking, strong, and clear restriction imposed on them, that they should not purchase any estate, unless they were satisfied that a competent number of tenants were willing to combine to purchase their holdings from the Land Commission. What was the effect of that? What class of estates would be dealt with in that way? It was obvious that none would be dealt with except those that were considered to be very well circumstanced; no other estate would fulfil those requirements, and when he said "well-circumstanced" he did not mean well-circumstanced in order to create peasant proprietors, but in a general sense. In this matter, he spoke with a knowledge of particular estates, and there were many of those which could never fulfil these conditions, although they would be eminently suited for the establishment of a peasant proprietary. Landlords would offer their estates, being able to fulfil the conditions, but not being very anxious to sell, and would ask for a high price from the Commission. The Commissioners would be anxious to carry out the objects for which they were appointed, and might, if they could, be prepared to give 20 times the fair rent of the estate. He therefore proposed, in page 13, line 18, after the word "Commission," to insert "for any sum not exceeding twenty times the fair rent of such estate." What would be the advantage derivable from the State purchasing at that sum? If the Commission were able, as he believed they would be, to purchase well-circumstanced estates at the fair rent of 20 years' purchase, the position they would be placed in would be this—the 385 State would borrow money at 3 per cent, would invest it at 5 per cent, and would have a margin of 2 per cent left. He would take 1½ per cent of that to form a sinking fund for 37 years, and ½ per cent to cover risks and management. They would be able to make any terms—the most liberal terms—without danger to the State, and to stimulate thereby the purchase by the tenants of their holdings. He hoped the matter would be favourably considered by the Government. He was not sure how far they would be willing to accept both these Amendments, because he saw there might probably be an objection to excluding from the present any estate that might not be saleable for 20 years' purchase; but, on examination, it would be found that the objection had not very much force. He believed there were many estates that would be purchased at 20 years, and he did not see why the Commissioners should give more when they could get estates at 20 years' purchase. However, he should not be inclined to press that part of the Amendment, although he was prepared to insist on the latter part—namely, in line 21, to leave out from the word "and" to the word "Commission," in line 23, both inclusive, in order to insert—In the case of estates so purchased, the Commissioners shall determine accordingly as it may appear just and expedient in each case, and from time to time the amount of the annual instalment of the purchase money of each farm to be repaid by the tenant in the form of rent, and the number of years over which such repayments are to be extended.He would point out that they had left very large powers and very great discretion to the Commission; the clause, as it now stood, declared the Commission must be satisfied with the expediency of the purchase, and these words he thought should be left in. They were sufficient in themselves to guard the tenant and the undertaking generally; and he hoped the Committee, if they could not agree to the first portion of his proposal, would, at any rate, agree to the second.
In page 13, line 18, after "Commission," insert "for any sum not exceeding twenty times the fair rent of such estate."—(Mr. Errington.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."386
I think I cannot too soon nor too clearly express the view Her Majesty's Government take of the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Errington). Its effect would be entirely to break up the scheme of the Government. From point to point, every imaginable plan that comes across the mind of a Member of Parliament is submitted to the Government and has to be considered. It will be impossible for us to go into all of them, to say nothing of accepting them. We are doing, on the whole, perhaps a dangerous act. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, I am aware of the force of the expression I am using; we are doing that which imposes a great responsibility upon Parliament, and a yet greater responsibility upon the Government. Nothing but the gravest motives could have led us up to this point. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), last night, said he had to strain his financial conscience in order to support a clause, and in that sentiment I entirely confess my sympathy. It is the strength of the necessity, social and political, that brings us to make this proposal; our scheme is a scheme for free sale with a view to resale. In order to re-sell, which is of itself a critical operation, and which we are going to perform in a manner most convenient and economical, we are compelled, according to our own proposal, to run the risk of placing the State in the most disadvantageous position which can be conceived—that is to say, of becoming the proprietor of land in Ireland. It is impossible to conceive a position less desirable. ["Hear, hear:!"] The noble Lord cheers; but he knows that what I mean is a position less desirable for the State—I do not mean that the position is undesirable with reference to the security of landed property in Ireland, for the same thing might be said far more forcibly as to the proprietorship of land in England. It is a most undesirable and critical position; but we have fenced it, to a considerable degree, by reducing the proportions of the proposed transactions. But the plan of my hon. Friend (Mr. Errington) entirely breaks up that scheme, and leaves it to the discretion of an administrative Commission, that, after all, will only be indirectly responsible, to determine in its own view the general expediency—how much shall be re-sold, and how insigni- 387 ficant a portion shall be given to the tenants, and to what extent the State shall assume that function of proprietors. That is a function which the Commission ought not to assume, not merely for the reason that it is critical and dangerous to the State, but for the reason that the State is utterly incapable of discharging the duties of a landlord. The proposal of my hon. Friend, when I look at it carefully, bristles with objections at every point. These purchases, for instance, are to be confined to cases where the sum does not exceed 20 times the fair rent of the estate. Well, the meaning of that is this—no estate can be purchased by the Commissioners until it has been driven through the Court, and until every holding on the estate has been valued by the Court. Why are we to compel these estates to go into the Courts for the purpose of becoming qualified? They may go, and qualify themselves, and then, after all, the Commission may say, "We do not wish to buy." I have heard the argument used many times in these discussions, that after this Bill passes there will be no purchasers of land in Ireland but the State. I do not believe that at all; but this I must say, that this proposition that the State is to buy nothing, except within a limit of 20 years' purchase, is, in my opinion, most unjust. The Government thought of introducing a limit of value; but I am bound to say that, adverting to the average sales that have taken place, we placed that limit at seven years higher than my hon. Friend proposes; but, finally, we came to the conclusion that it was not desirable to have any limit at all, thinking it wiser neither to stimulate prices nor to artificially reduce them. The first part of the Amendment would not be consistent with equity and justice towards the landlords in Ireland; and as to the second part, I do not know whether, if the first portion is not accepted, my hon. Friend will press it. I do not wish to enter into detail upon it now; but I must frankly state that I consider it would entirely break up the plan the Government propose, and it would not be reasonable.
§ LORD BURGHLEY
said, that it seemed to him the State would have to purchase the property twice over, because, in the first place, when it bought an estate, the money left its hands, and 388 then, subsequently, it had to advance money to other people to buy the property over again, so that the transaction must be a losing one.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, he could not imagine how such a proposition could be made by any member of the late Land Commission, and he was glad the Government were not disposed to accept it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn
§ MR. W. J. CORBET
said, it was remarkable that throughout the discussions of the question of land in Ireland no reference whatever had been made to what he must call the standing grievance of the country—absenteeism. Hon. Members might not be aware of the extent to which absenteeism prevailed in Ireland; but, from the latest Return upon the subject, it appeared that no less than 5,713,496 acres of land, valued at £2,765,500, were held in Ireland by absentee landlords. The result of this lamentable system was, he regretted to say, absentee commerce and absentee trade. He begged to move the Amendment standing in his name.
In page 13, line 23, after sub-section 1, insert the following sub-section:—"Any estate held by a company, or by any absentee landlord, shall, within two years after the passing of this Act, or on the application of a competent number of the tenants, be purchaseable by the Land Commission, at a price to be fixed upon, being not more than twenty-five or less than twenty years' purchase of the net rental of such estate, for the purpose of being resold to the occupiers. For the purpose of this section, an absentee landlord means a landlord who does not reside commonly in Ireland, that is to say whose principal place of abode is not in that country."—(Mr. W. Corbet.)
The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. Corbet) is irregular, and cannot be put. In the first place, it declares that the Commission shall purchase the property of Companies and absentee landlords. This is inconsistent with the discretionary powers given to the Commission in the two previous lines. In the second place, it is inconsistent with the ruling given by the Speaker, when the hon. Member for Londonderry moved an Instruction that the Committee might provide for the compulsory purchase of estates from public Companies. It was then pointed out that compulsory purchase was under certain Standing Rules of this House, 389 and could not be enacted by a provision in the clause of a Bill.
§ MR. PARNELL
asked whether it was the ruling of the Chairman that no Amendment could be moved to this Bill, giving compulsory powers to the Commission under the Land Clauses Consolidation Act or otherwise, to purchase land in Ireland?
declined to give any general ruling on the subject. His ruling was that the present Amendment was not regular.
§ MR. PARNELL
asked whether the Amendment would not be in Order if the words "under the Land Clauses Consolidation Act" were added after the word "Commission?"
said, if the hon. Member for Wicklow County (Mr. W. J. Corbet) would bring the Amendment to the Table it should be considered.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, he had intended to move an Amendment to the preceding clause, which he found could be conveniently moved on the present clause. The Prime Minister had stated that morning that they were about to embark in the somewhat hazardous experiment of advancing public money for the purpose of enabling tenants to purchase their holdings, and that the transaction would assume a two-fold form. With regard to the latter form of the transaction, he believed that the second part of the subsection relating to the payment of a fine, and a fee-farm rent, for the purpose of enabling a tenant to purchase his holding, would have considerable effect in the North of Ireland. The Committee had given certain powers to the Land Commissioners, allowing them, as regarded the purchase of a holding for a principal sum, to use their discretion in the matter of security; but as regarded the second part of the transaction there was the following qualification:—Provided that no advance shall be made by the Land Commission under this section on a holding subject to a fee farm rent, where the amount of such fee farm rent exceeds seventy-five per cent of the rent, which in the opinion of the Land Commission a solvent tenant would pay for the holding,It would be seen that no notice was here taken of the amount of the fine; and, consequently, if it were an Instruction to the Commissioners that they were to take cognizance of one of the liabilities 390 of the tenant, while no mention was made of the other, the inference would be they were to take cognizance of one liability only. But it was clear that if the fine was merely laid down to free the tenant from future increase of rent, it should be added to the fee-farm rent in the shape of annuity. The Committee having given the Commissioners power to enter into transactions of this class, they should, in his opinion, adopt the precaution of adding to the sub-section the words of the Amendment which he now begged to move.
In page 13, line 29, after "rent," insert "together with the fine converted into the form of an annuity."—(Lord George Hamilton.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
The argument of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) is that in dividing the total value of the landlord's interest between the fee-farm rent and the fine laid down, we take cognizance of only one of those elements. If I understand him, he means that we leave it open to the landlord to exact a fine that may be extravagant. But surely the objection of the noble Lord will not apply. We have provided the general obligation that the Commissioners should be satisfied with the expediency of the purchase, as well as conform to the particular limitations; but we did not impose on them any absolute limit as to the price which might be paid. Why, then, should we impose on thorn any absolute limit as to the amount of fine, where the holding is being purchased partly by the payment of a fine and partly by the payment of a fee-farm rent? I doubt whether the Amendment of the noble Lord will agree with the sub-section of the clause, because the fee-farm rent, together with the amount of fine, gives the whole value of the property which the landlord has to sell, while the sub-section speaks of a particular percentage of value which is not to be exceeded.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
thought the question was deserving of consideration. The fee-farm rent being fined down to at least 75 per cent of the ordinary rent, the margin of 25 per cent was not a large one; and if the State advanced one-half of what might be an exorbitant 391 fine, the bargain might not only be injurious to the tenant, but to the State. He trusted the Prime Minister would consider the point between that time and Report.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, it appeared to him the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex simply wished to guard against collusion between the landlord and tenant; but that was an event which, looking at all the circumstances, was not likely often to occur.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
believed it was the intention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland to alter the latter part of the clause, in which case the objection of the Prime Minister would be valid to his proposed Amendment, so he would withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On the Motion of MT. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND, Amendment made in page 13, line 31, by leaving out "a solvent tenant would pay" and insert "would be a fair rent."
§ MR. LITTON
said, he wished to suggest that it was unnecessary to confine the action of the Commission by the words of sub-section 3, which required the concurrence of three-fourths in number of the tenants before a purchase could be made. He would rather that the Commission should be guided by what the Prime Minister had called the general rules of prudence, because if they were so guided they would be the best judges of the matter. The same view was also taken by several hon. Members who had Amendments on the Paper for the omission of the sub-section. It must be manifest to the Committee that as the sub-section stood, one tenant short of the number of tenants named would be enough to defeat the powers which it was intended to give to the Commissioners; and as it was desirable that those powers should not be defeated by an accident of that kind he begged to move the omission of the sub-section.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 13, line 32, leave out sub-section 3.—(Mr. Litton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
suggested that two-thirds of the whole number of 392 tenants would be preferable to the proportion of three-fourths named in the sub-section.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
appealed to the Prime Minister to adopt the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) in preference to the suggestion of the hon. Member who had just sat down (Sir Joseph M'Kenna). He did not think the proposal to relax the conditions on which the Commission might purchase were at all open to the same objections as were applied to the proposal to allow them to advance four-fifths instead of three-fourths of the purchase money of a holding to a tenant. There appeared to him to be no danger in leaving it to the discretion of the Court to settle the proportion of tenants able and willing to purchase.
said, a slight change might be made by the substitution of two-thirds value for the three-fourths named in the sub-section, to meet the case where, perhaps, two large tenants were unwilling to purchase, while many small tenants were willing to do so. The Committee would recollect that they were imposing on the State, not only the remote risk of difficulty in lending money on land, but the certain and serious disadvantage of becoming itself a landlord. The State would become the landlord, not only of fractions of the property purchased, but would become the landlord of the worst fractions of the property, which tenants would not be willing to buy. Moreover, these worst fractions might be scattered all over Ireland. There was an immense disadvantage in the State having to take up as landlord the residue of the property. Under the circumstances, he hoped it would not be thought unreasonable on his part not to accede to any farther change than the substitution of two-thirds value for the proportion of three-fourths named in the sub-section.
§ MR. DALY
said, the Prime Minister evidently thought that a great deal of danger would result to the State from its being in possession of the residue of the properties purchased; but it must be well known that outside the tenants on the estate there would always be a large number of persons ready to take up the remaining portions of the land. For his own part, he thought the State ran no risk whatever with respect to the residue of land.
§ DR. LYONS
regretted that the Prime Minister did not see his way to omit the sub-section. When attempts were made to combine a number of tenants for the purpose of purchasing in the Estates Court, it was found that, although at first the requisite number was forthcoming, as things went on there was a tendency on the part of the tenants to fall away and the proposal fell to the ground. As he thought it most desirable that this clause should work extensively in Ireland, he wished to see the greatest possible facilities afforded for the purchase of holdings, and therefore trusted the right hon. Gentleman would re-consider the question. Under the 1st sub-section of the clause, he did not see that the Court was necessarily bound to consider that the whole estate was involved; and he believed it was possible for them to consider any portion of the estate as the estate for the time being for sale.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, from an expression dropped by the Prime Minister, it would seem as if he contemplated that the Commission should have the power to buy up the interests of middlemen when they held property under a fee-farm rent, in order to allow the subtenants to become owners. But what would become of the head rent? Would it not be possible to introduce words to enable the Commissioners to purchase it? Otherwise the Commissioners might be deterred from purchasing the interest of the middleman altogether, and the sub-tenants would thereby be deprived of the benefit of the Act and would not be able to become owners.
said, it would be difficult for Parliament to undertake to specify the mode in which the Commission should deal with the relations between intermediate holders and the head occupiers of estates. He did not see his way to insert any provision for dealing with that subject.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On the Motion of Mr. GLADSTONE, Amendment made, in page 13, line 35, by leaving out "three-fourths," in order to insert "two-thirds."
In page 13, line 35, to leave out the word "rent," in order to insert "rental" instead thereof—(Mr. Warton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'rent' stand part of the Clause."394
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, the word "rent" was deliberately introduced, and used in the proper sense. He believed, on examination, the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) would see that this was the case, and, therefore, trusted the Amendment would not be pressed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, that as the clause stood, a certain proportion of tenants on the estate must agree to purchase. He thought it would be an improvement to make the qualification one of value instead of number, and, therefore, proposed to substitute for the wording of this part of the sub-section the words "tenants paying not less than one-half of the whole rent of the estate."
said, the Government considered that the tenants who were partly able to purchase should only form a certain proportion of the number willing to purchase. It was necessary, in their opinion, to introduce the limit, that one-half should be ready to enter into a contract with a view to complete purchase.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
ventured to submit that it was inexpedient to limit so strictly the number of tenants who might purchase under the fine and fee-farm system. That was a system under which the tenant might be able to obtain fixity of rent. There might be an estate in regard to which the landlord and tenants in a body agreed to the purchase of the tenures in the shape of a fee-farm rent, and it would be undesirable to shut out the estate under those circumstances. He did not think the State would suffer, if the landlord and tenant agreed together that the estate should be purchased in this form, by assisting in carrying out the arrangement. It would put an end to future litigation in the way of appeals to the Court to fix a fair rent.
In page 13, line 36, leave out from estate," to the end of the sub-section.—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
It would be no matter of dissatisfaction to us to see the 395 clause work extensively; but I must point out that this is a very exceptional measure, authorizing large public advances to be made with reference to one specific object—namely, the creation of occupying ownerships. The purchase by fine and fee-farm rent may be a good process in itself; yet, certainly, it is quite distinct from the method of creating proprietorship to which I have referred. It, therefore, has not a claim upon us to undertake difficulties and risks on behalf of the State to anything like the extent to which the other has. Our view is that where the Commissioners are dealing with the question of making these advances, the major part of the transactions shall be with the view of creating pure and proper proprietorships.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
thought the Committee would pardon him for having spoken with some partiality for the system of purchase by fine and fee-farm rent. The favourite form of peasant proprietorship in Scotland was that of feu, of which there were many instances in the burgh which he represented. He was willing to withdraw his Amendment in the hope that the Government would re-consider the matter before the Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On the Motion of Mr. WARTON, Amendment made, in page 13, line 37, after "are," by inserting "able and."
§ MR. VILLIERS STUART
said, there were in almost every agricultural parish in England labouring men who had saved up enough money to buy small plots of land, and these were invariably the most industrious and best conducted of their class. He was anxious that opportunities should be given for establishing a similar class in Ireland. He was anxious that some provision should be made in the Bill which would have the effect of promoting in the whole body of agricultural labourers a sense of independence and self-respect—something that would raise them in the social scale and lead to a general improvement of their condition. A deputation had that morning waited upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, which laid before the right hon. Gentleman some most instructive facts. One case was 396 quoted of a man earning only 4s. a-week, who, besides supporting a large family, paid £2 for the rent of half an acre of land during 20 years. In another case, £2 a-year rent was paid for only a quarter of an acre, and the tenant himself had built a house upon the land. The amount in the latter case represented a rent of £8 an acre. Now, if the Amendment he was about to move were agreed to, these men would have the opportunity of purchasing their holdings from the landlords by an annual payment of 12s. 6d. per annum in the case of the half acre, and by an annual payment of 6s. 6d. in the case of the quarter of an acre, instead of the exorbitant rent which they were then paying, and which would actually buy up the fee simple of the land in six years. The average price of land in Ireland was about £25 per acre; and, therefore, at 5 per cent per annum, the sum required to buy up the principal and interest would be 25s. per acre, or 12s. 6d. per half acre. The transaction would be perfectly safe for the State to enter into, for this reason. The State could borrow money at 3¼ per cent, while the charge for the advance would be 3½ per cent, and out of the difference of ¼ per cent a guarantee fund could be created. Besides that, there would be the security of the holding itself, in case the tenant failed to pay up the instalments. He thought some concession was due to the labourers of the kind he had indicated. As the Bill stood, the labourers would be in a worse position after it became law than they were in at present. Hitherto it had been possible for a labourer who had put by a little money to take a small farm without payment of a fine; but by the 1st section of the Bill, which dealt with free sale, a monopoly was created in favour of existing tenants against all other classes in Ireland, and the labourers would henceforth have no chance of rising to the rank of tenant farmers without payment of a fine. Therefore, he said, it was worth consideration by the Government whether some concession should not be made in this Bill to the labourer, and the question should not be left to stand over to a future time. He was satisfied, moreover, that unless some concession were made, a very serious and troublesome agitation would arise; indeed, there were symptoms of it already at that moment. For these 397 reasons he hoped the Government would not hastily reject his Amendment; but if they were indisposed to accept it at once, he trusted, at all events, they would take the matter into their consideration, and try to introduce into the clauses which they had promised to bring up on behalf of the labourers some provision in the desired direction.
In page 14, line 3, after "tenant," to insert "or in the case of a tenant whose holding does not exceed one half of an acre, and who is a labourer, the whole of the said price or fine as the case may be."—(Mr. Villiers Stuart.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
I need not say that very great credit is due to my hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers Stuart) for the active zeal he has shown in endeavouring to secure the introduction into this Bill of some beneficial provision on behalf of the Irish labourer. I can assure him that in the course of a few days he will have evidence of the reality of our sympathy with him in his proposal in the clause which my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. W. E. Forster) is preparing for the purpose of dealing with this subject. We feel that we can do some good by providing means and opportunities which will be very beneficial to the labourer as securing him accommodation. But accommodation is one thing—accommodation, first of all, in the use of dwellings, and, secondly, in suitable allotments; and the proposal of my hon. Friend is another. I do not complain myself of his having marked out the particular area of land named in his Amendment; but I say my hon. Friend's Motion is not to provide the labourer with the practical use and benefit of dwellings and of suitable allotments; it is to create labourer proprietorships. Now, with regard to that, I must say that I am very doubtful indeed whether it is absolutely a desirable thing for the labourer that he should invest his small savings in land. It is open to this doubt particularly. What is, above all things, desirable for the labourer is that he should not be tied down to some plot of ground which he may hold, and which positively fastens him to one spot. If you effect this you greatly deteriorate the value of the main commodity which he has to sell—namely, his labour, by 398 increasing the distance he has to travel in order to sell it. Therefore, I do not think that special facilities ought to be given by the State for the purpose of enabling him to become proprietor.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he was disposed to agree with much that had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister with respect to that particular Amendment; but he thought the Committee ought not to put out of consideration what might and probably would be the condition of the agricultural labourer in Ireland, on those holdings which ceased to be tenancies, and became estates belonging to a new class of proprietors. It seemed to him that unless something was done to give facilities for the erection of labourers' cottages, and perhaps the creation of allotments on the estates, which, by the operation of this clause, they were going to turn into small proprietorships, they would deteriorate the actual position of a good many of the respectable labourers in Ireland. He thought that consideration should be impressed on the minds of the Government at a time when they were preparing, as he understood they were, a clause or clauses in behalf of the Irish labourer.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
thought the Prime Minister might possibly be right in the view which he had taken of the effect of the Irish labourer being tied to one spot. But that, he believed, was not the intention of the hon. Member (Mr. Villiers Stuart) in moving his Amendment. From his (Major Nolan's) own knowledge, there were in some cases on the farms in Ireland small plots of ground in the occupation of labourers; and he presumed the hon. Member meant that when those small plots were being sold the tenants should be assisted to purchase them. He thought the labourers ought to be dealt with even more liberally than the large farmers in the way of assisting them to purchase their holdings. The cost of this to the Exchequer would be very small indeed; and he thought the Government would do well to stretch a point in their favour, finding the whole of the purchase money, instead of advancing only a certain portion of it. Nothing would tend to popularize the measure more than a provision of that kind, which would be regarded as a great boon to the labourer.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
hoped that the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Villiers Stuart) would not press his Amendment. There were a great many things to be considered before the plan of making labourer proprietorships could be carried into law. He thought the Committee ought to be satisfied with the statement of the Prime Minister, that the subject should have the attention of the Government before the Bill left the House of Commons. In legislation of this kind it was very necessary to guard against one thing—namely, that the labourer, having got possession of, say, an acre of land, should feel that he had no longer occasion to remain a labourer for the man who had provided a house for him. He had had considerable experience in providing residences for labourers, and he knew that it was necessary to guard this point very strictly.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
hoped the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Villiers Stuart) would not press his Amendment to a division, but wait to see what proposal the Government had to make. If that was not satisfactory the hon. Member could bring up the matter again on Report.
§ MR. VILLIERS STUART
said, after the kind and sympathetic tone in which the Prime Minister had referred to the proposal before the Committee, he was willing, with the permission of the Committee, to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
With regard to the next Amendment on the Paper, which is in the name of the hon. Member for Carrickfergus (Mr. Greer), I have to say that that Amendment makes it compulsory on the Commissioners to purchase any estate offered by an owner at 25 years' purchase, if three-fourths of the tenants on that estate are willing to purchase their holdings. This compulsion on the Commission is inconsistent with the part of the clause already agreed to, in which it is provided that the Land Commission shall not purchase any estate unless they are satisfied with the expediency of the purchase. The Amendment cannot therefore be put. Then, with regard to the next Amendment—namely, that in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton), that Amendment cannot be put, as the Money Resolu- 400 tion tion of the House would not authorize the Committee to frame provisions attendant with charges on the Public Funds for drainage or agricultural improvements
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, the provision contained in the 5th sub-section, which said that the costs should be included in the purchase money, was a great boon to the tenants. He wished to know whether the Government would hold out any hope that there should be a regular system of fees in all cases of procedure in the Court? The Committee must remember that that was an attorney's Bill, inasmuch as it would bring every landlord and tenant in Ireland to the office of his attorney. He assured hon. Members that persons who had very great experience in these matters feared that the measure would result in a good deal of law, and there was not the slightest doubt that the tenants had been most shockingly imposed upon in recent proceedings under the Act of 1870. He had himself been present when an attorney's bill of £400 was claimed for in connection with the sale of only 56 acres of land, the attorney afterwards consenting to accept £300.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, that the matter referred to by the hon. Member would be considered with the view of supplying what was required.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 21 (Sale to public of parcels not purchased by tenants).
With reference to the Amendments next on the Paper, in the names of the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton), and the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan), I have to point out that they appear to me to overrule the clause which has just been passed. Their object would be to give to every tenant who did not desire to buy a grant in perpetuity upon a fixed rent. But the last clause only authorized the purchase of estates for the purpose of re-selling them to tenants, and the fact of there being a residue not taken by the tenants does not exonerate the Commission from limiting themselves to the purposes for which they are authorized to buy estates. As these Amendments are inconsistent with Clause 20, and would, to a great 401 extent, overrule that clause, they cannot be put.
§ MR. LALOR
said, there was no doubt that if the Commission had power to sell any quantity of land to one person a large number of so-called land-jobbers would make their appearance in Ireland. These persons would, perhaps, purchase land in largo quantities and become landlords, thereby diverting the land from the object intended by Government—namely, the real benefit of the community. The men in possession of the land, in his opinion, ought to be the bonâ fide tenant farmers who would work it themselves; and as it was his desire to promote that condition of things in Ireland, he proposed to limit the quantity of land sold to one person to 50 acres.
In page 14, line 22, after "other," insert "provided the quantity of land that may be sold to any one purchaser shall not exceed fifty statute acres."—(Mr. Lalor.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
hoped the hon. Member (Mr. Lalor) would not press his Amendment. The powers of sale of the Commission ought not to be restricted, because they were for the purpose of enabling them to recoup the money advanced to purchase the estate, and by their exercise the interest of the tenants could not possibly be damnified.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the hon. Member who had just spoken had very properly put the case of land in the occupation of small tenants; but a case might arise in which the present tenant occupied a very large quantity of land, and in which it was desirable that powers should be given for more or less subdividing the holding. The case of his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. Lalor) was that the buyer from the Commissioners would probably be a land-jobber, who would charge an exorbitant rent for the property through a middleman. That had been the case with land bought from the Church Commissioners, when the occupiers were not themselves the buyers of the holding.
§ MANOR NOLAN
hoped the Amendment would not be pressed. The question of these residues was the great difficulty that the Commission on which 402 he sat had to deal with, and they would constitute the practical difficulty in this case. He could not see that it would be of any benefit to the tenants to have landlords limited in their estates to 50 acres.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
pointed out that the enormous difference in the value of land was another objection to the Amendment. The value of 50 acres of land, for instance, in the mountainous parts of Ireland would be very small as compared with the value of 50 acres in other parts of the country.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he wished to move the omission of the middle paragraph of the clause, which provided that the Land Commission might advance to any purchaser of a parcel under this section, on the security of such parcel, one-half of the principal sum paid as the whole price or of the fine. He did not see upon what basis this portion of the clause rested. It was easy to understand the advance of the money to a tenant, and the object of that was perfectly plain to the Committee; but here was a purchaser who might be anybody but a tenant. He would not be one of the tenants on the estate, because, if he were, he would get an advance of three-fourths instead of one-half of the purchase money. The individual would be one of the public, probably a land-jobber; at any rate, he would be a person who would have no title to claim an advance of money from the State for the purpose of making a purchase. Further, he would point out to the Government that if this purchase was bonâ fide, the purchaser would have no difficulty in raising one-half of the money in mortgage. He could not conceive any reason why the Government should advance any portion of the purchase money to persons who had no claim for such assistance. It might be urged that this was to be done in order to facilitate the disposal of land by the Commission; still he was not quite clear that this was a sufficient justification for the money of the State being advanced to such individuals as would, in all probability, apply for it.
In page 14, to leave out all the words from "The," in line 23, to "fine," in line 25, both inclusive.—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
hoped the noble Lord would not press his Amendment. The object of the clause was, of course, to replace the money spent by the Commissioners. The case referred to by the noble Lord did not constitute any real advance; it was simply the taking of a mortgage on the land.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The next Amendment—namely, that standing in the name of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) is open to the same remark as I have applied to the Amendments of the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton), and the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan)—namely, that it is not within the Money Resolution of the House, and therefore cannot be put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, that as the Amendment he had given Notice of.could not be put, he wished to speak on the clause itself. If the clause were put into operation in the West of Ireland, the Commissioners would find themselves in possession of portions of estates absolutely worthless for sale, and not fit to be inhabited by human beings. What he wanted was to give the Commissioners power to deal rationally with such property for the purpose of improving it. The Bill would be of no use whatever in the West of Ireland. The 25th clause enabled the Board of Works to do something for reclamation, but did not enable the Commission to do anything with the portions of estates which would remain on their hands unsold. [Cries of "Agreed!"] He saw that the Government and the Committee were so impatient to finish the Bill that it would be useless for him to proceed with his observations; but he protested that the Bill would not settle the Irish Question, if the tenants of the West of Ireland were left in their present condition, which had been described during the last two or three years as shocking to the ideas of all Englishmen, and as a disgrace in the eyes of Europe. Unless 404 something were done in the direction he had indicated the Land Question would, in a very short time, again present itself.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, they had just heard from the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) that the Bill would be of no benefit whatever to the West of Ireland; but he (Lord Elcho) was under the impression that it was especially for the West of Ireland that the Bill had been introduced. Would the hon. Member for Galway kindly inform the Committee to what part of the population of Ireland it would be a benefit?
said, it was impossible to allow a general discussion upon the state of the West of Ireland to take place upon the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 22 (Terms of repayment of advances made by Commission).
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL,
who rose to propose the Amendment of which he had given Notice, said, that it was undoubtedly true that there was no law by which they could interfere with the disposition of property once the owner was owner in fee simple. Under Clause 21 of the Bill, which he merely referred to by way of illustration, the Land Commission, as long as any portion of the advances made to tenants was not repaid, would have it in their power to prevent anything like sub-letting or the sub-division of the holding. Personally, he was anxious to establish a state of things which should lead to permanent safety and security, and it was on that ground that he recommended the Amendment to the consideration of the Committee. By its adoption security against sub-division and sub-letting would, in many cases, be secured for a period of 52 years.
In page 14, line 36, to leave out the words "for thirty-five years of five pounds," in order to insert the words "which shall redeem both principal and interest within any period not exceeding fifty-two years at the discretion of the, Land Commission, such annuity to be calculated at a rate which shall secure to the Laud Commission interest at the rate of three pounds ten shillings per annum,"—(Mr. Charles Russell,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'for thirty-five years' stand part of the Clause."405
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
thought that the argument with which his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. C. Russell) had supported the Amendment ought to be conclusive with the Committee. There was no doubt whatever that the moment nine-tenths of the owners found themselves in a condition to sub-let, they would sub-let, and would sub-divide the holding among their families, and with sub-letting and subdivision would occur all the evils Parliament were now desirous of curing. They had given to the Commission the power to prevent sub-letting; but the Committee ought to bear in mind that both Professor Baldwin and Mr. Robertson were strongly of opinion that an extension of time was necessary for the repayment of the advances. The resources of the tenant and the lessening of the burden of repayment would tend to prevent the old evils from recurring. He therefore thought, on the grounds of the argument of his hon. and learned Friend, and on the ground of making the terms easier to the tenant, the Committee would do well to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that the term of 35 years for repayment was that adopted under the Act of 1870. He believed that under the Irish Church Act the period was 32 years, and a considerable number of the tenants were anxious to repay long within that limit. It was considered very undesirable to extend the period of years, and he could not, therefore, support the Amendment, which proposed to prolong it from 35 to 52 years, or to carry it over nearly three generations, whereas 35 years only meant two generations. Surely, two generations formed quite as long a period as the repayment ought to be spread over. On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that the instalments, together with interest, were only to be repaid at 5 per cent; and, therefore, it was wise to retain the period of 35 years. If they could secure the holding against sub-division for 35 years, it was all they were called upon to do.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
hoped that the Government would not hesitate to make to the tenants the small concession that was asked from them. It would make things easier to the tenant occupiers than they were under the clause as it stood. Five per cent upon the purchase money would be a very 406 heavy drag upon them, and it appeared to him that it would be a great thing to set them going hopefully for the first six or seven years. If the instalments were made easier they would be more regularly paid, and the Irish purchasers would be able to keep the estate in a better condition than if they were to place a heavy burden upon them, which at first might be a strain upon them they would be unable to get over. He invited the attention of the Government to this point. The main thing that was important to the State was that the money should be repaid, and that the people should feel a moral obligation upon them to pay it. Some additional burden, spread over a longer term, would be thrown upon the tenants by the adoption of the Amendment; but one effect of it would be to increase the value of the security for repayment, because the payment would be rendered easier, and more certain. If there were an extension of time from 35 to 52 years, not only would the security remain as good as at the commencement, but it would improve from day to day. It never could be worse, and the Committee had already taken care that only three-fourths of the requisite purchase money would be advanced by the State. He hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland would impress upon his Colleagues the desirability of consenting to the Amendment. He ventured to say that there had not been a single point brought under discussion from the time the Bill was introduced until the present moment that was of more practical importance than that now raised by the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell). He said that with a very lengthened experience of Ireland. He thought nothing would give more general satisfaction, or go further towards proving the sincerity and the desire of Parliament and the Government to ameliorate the condition of the Irish people generally, than for the Committee to agree to that proposition. In many cases it would make the difference between absolute struggling for the next seven years, and the rendering of things comparatively easy, and it would be giving to the poor tenants a gleam of blue sky, which had hitherto not been held out to them. He felt satisfied that his hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), if he were to enter the House, and find that this Amendment had been accepted, 407 would retract every word he had said about the operation of the Bill in the West of Ireland. The proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk was the only one thing needful in order to destroy the predictions of the hon. Member for Galway as to the effect which would be produced by the passing of the Bill in the West of Ireland. And he would say, further, that nothing could go forth from the House that would more effectively show the desire of Parliament to improve the condition of Ireland. Under these circumstances, he implored the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to give the Amendment the most favourable consideration. He was satisfied that there had not been a single Amendment proposed to the Committee which was anything like as important as this.
§ MR. GIVAN
joined with his hon. Friend the Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) in impressing upon the Government the desirability of acceding to the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell). It did not ask for any further sum of money, but merely for an extension of time. The right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) said the time was longer than that fixed by the Irish Church Commission; but the right hon. Gentleman omitted to add that the position of the estates belonging to the Irish Church and of the tenants who were affected by the Bill was very different. He had attended a great number of meetings of the tenants with respect to various matters dealt with by the Bill, and he had been constantly requested by the tenants in the most earnest manner to endeavour to obtain an extension of time for the repayment of the instalments of the advances proposed to be made to them. A tenant farmer might have a couple of sons and four or five daughters; he might invest in a farm for the benefit of his sons; but he might not deem it desirable to expend the whole of the money in his possession during the first 30 years in accumulating land for his sons. He would, therefore, be desirous of reducing his liabilities to a minimum. It would be very hard to ask a man within his own life to expose himself for 35 years to heavy difficulties in repaying the whole of the purchase money, and it was not a 408 question of loss to the State. If the State was likely to lose anything he would not press the matter as he felt bound to do now.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
thought, if his memory served him aright, that when the school boards were first established in this country, and certainly for a considerable number of years after 1870, the Public Works Loan Commissioners lent money to the school boards of England for the erection of school-houses, in regard to which the repayment of the principal was spread over 50 years, the annual payment which covered both principal and interest being only at the rate of 4¼ per cent. Therefore, as an English Liberal Member, he appealed to Her Majesty's Government to treat the Irish tenants, under the circumstances of the case, in such a manner as to give them real, actual, and substantial relief, and to place them in as good terms as the school boards obtained when they borrowed money from the State for the erection of their schools. He thought his hon. and learned Friend below him (Mr. C. Russell) would feel inclined to accept a term of 50 years at 4 per cent for the repayment of principal and interest. Having regard to the present state of the money market, and the present state of credit, 3½ per cent was really a sufficient rate of interest to charge when the security was ample.
I am far from disputing the title of my hon. Friend (Mr. H. H. Fowler) to speak with authority on this subject; but from our point of view he cannot speak, and from our point of view I am bound to say that we cannot consent, on any consideration, to accept the Amendment. My hon. Friend put the ease of the school boards. We were then imposing, for the first time, a heavy tax upon the localities of the country, and we strained to the uttermost the action of the Government in order to lessen the burden the present generation would bear. There has hardly been a case—I know of no instance—in which by legislation so considerable a burden was imposed upon the localities as that which was imposed by the Education Act; but we must remember what it was for. In the present case, a great favour and a boon are being offered to the tenants. I do not depreciate the value of the security which we should have upon these hold- 409 ings; but who can compare that security with the security of the permanent rate-able property of the country, which property is permanent, absolute, and unquestionable at all times and under all circumstances? From the arguments which have been employed one would really think that the loans to be granted are to be made repayable within four or five years. The proposal contained in the Amendment involves a serious straining of the financial conscience of the Government. But there are points beyond which it cannot be strained, and I feel that I should not be keeping my implied obligations to the Members of this House, representing English and Scotch constituencies, who have consented to accompany the Government in the great length we have asked them to go towards meeting this real necessity if we were not to adhere in its main outline to the Bill we have proposed, and of this main outline this is, undoubtedly, an important feature.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
was extremely sorry that Her Majesty's Government had put down their foot upon this proposal. Last night he had supported the Government upon a different question, and he thought they might have dealt more leniently with the Amendment now submitted to them. They were, he thought, with great respect, making a mistake in the matter, the nature of which had been pointed out to them by Professor Baldwin. It appeared from the Report of the Comptroller General that the arrears of interest in connection with the advance out of the Church Fund on the half-yearly instalments upon the mortgaged landed property were, in 1878, £3,197, in 1879 £7,472, and in 1880 £11,817 He thought those facts proved positively that the conditions upon which they made these advances were too hard. What they ought to try to do was to make the conditions so favourable that the tenants would be able to repay the money borrowed without a heavy strain upon them. Professor Baldwin and Mr. Robertson both proved that, by extending the repayment over a longer time, they would secure the advances being repaid to the State without risk. What did it matter to the State whether it was paid back within 50 or within 35 years? Surely it was better to impose the longer term rather than run the risk in the course of 410 a few years of creating a general outcry in Ireland for repudiation. The figures given by the Church Temporalities Commission afforded a lesson which ought not to be passed over lightly, and it certainly appeared to him that Her Majesty's Government were about to commit a grave mistake.
I ought to notice another point, which seems to have been raised in the nature of argument and protest. We were told, and told with perfect truth, that in the case of the Irish Tithes Commission we had extended the arrangement to about 50 or 52 years. That was so; but it was a case very nearly analogous to that of the school board rates, for this reason. The Irish landed proprietary, being generally Protestant, had had up to that time their religion—if I may so speak—provided for them at the expense of the State, by what was termed a National Institution. Undoubtedly, the effect of that Act was, at a moment's notice, to throw on that class of persons a burden which it was quite proper they should bear, and which it was not proposed to enable them to obtain by a gift of money from the State. But having a burden thrown upon them which they and their ancestors had been free from, it appeared to Parliament that it was a very good policy—and, indeed, it was a good policy—to ease them by throwing the burden over a greater number of years than otherwise would have been done. The noble Lord has made a reference to the Report of Professor Baldwin and Mr. Robertson; but I think he has made a mis-statement as to the effect of that Report. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: I read it very carefully.] The general effect of that Report is to show that, in the minds of Professor Baldwin and Mr. Robertson, there is very great doubt about the propriety of the whole transaction. As far as their arguments go, the effect of the Report is to throw great doubt upon the whole scheme; and as to the rapid growth of arrears, the noble Lord must remember the bad seasons through which Ireland has just passed.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
thought that the scheme of the Government might be imperilled if they insisted upon retaining 35 years as the term of repayment. He believed there were very few Irish Members who would be found unwilling to pledge the security of the country on 411 an Income Tax to be raised in Ireland for repaying the annual advances under the Bill. They would be quite willing, if they could get the advances now from the House on fairer terms, that they should stand pledged to the taxpayers of England and Scotland, not only on the credit of each individual farm and holding, but on that of the entire community of Ireland, in order to meet the annual repayments. That was an offer which he saw was not objected to by hon. Members sitting around him, and it was a test of the bona fides with which they were entering into the matter. Undesirable as it was that the repayment should be concluded within one generation, there were other matters that were worthy of consideration. It was not unworthy of consideration by the Prime Minister that, by giving some additional time, he would undoubtedly increase the security of the State for the repayment, because he would make the payments smaller during each year; and, consequently, the payment that might have to be met after a year of distress would be more easy to bear. Last night the Committee refused to the people of Ireland to change the total advance made by the State from three-fourths to four-fifths. He would not go back upon that question now; but having refused that proposal, it was not unfair that they should be asked now to consider whether the tenants might not be relieved in another way by an additional extension of time for repayment. He thought it would be far more advantageous to the Irish tenants to obtain some slight extension of time rather than an extension of the advances. He was not one of those who were desirous of making a peasant proprietary by placing a man in the position of mortgaging his property without any equity of redemption. He thought that would be a most unfortunate state of things; but if, without danger to the State, if without any of the evils which, no doubt, they ought to fear in transactions of this kind, they could give further facilities to the tenants of Ireland, they would do of all timings that which was most necessary to make the Act a marked success. What they ought to do was this. If the Bill was to produce social content in Ireland, if it was to make the people believe, what he trusted they would be brought to believe, that they had friends in that House, and 412 that the House was inclined to do them justice and to make some reparation for the past, let them feel that they had some benefit coming to them from the operations of that Bill. He would take the case of a man who paid £500 for his tenancy. If they got him to pay that sum in 35 years at 5 per cent, the annual payment would be £25; whereas, if they reduced the amount of each repayment, as proposed by the Amendment, that sum of £25 would be diminished to something like £18 or £19; but a difference of £6 or £7 in an annual payment of £25 would be an enormous boon to the tenant, and would certainly increase rather than decrease the security of the State. It might be that the extreme suggestion contained in the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend of 52 years was too long a period over which to extend the repayment, and it might be the opinion of the Prime Minister that a less period ought to be taken than 52 years without going down so low as 35 years. [Cries of "No, no!" from the Home Rulers.] He would remind his hon. Friends who called out "No!" that "half a loaf was better than no bread;" and if they could not get 52 years, let them endeavour to press the Committee to fix some intermediate period which would give some relief to the purchaser and might be conceded by the Government. The proposal in the clause was that a man should pay 5 per cent for the next 35 years in discharge of the purchase money. Of course, that would discharge the principal as well as the interest; but, nevertheless, while the man was paying it off it would very seriously affect him to have to pay so high a sum as 5 per cent, a rate of interest they never would advise anybody to borrow money at for the purpose of purchasing land. He trusted, under these circumstances, that either now or some time before the conclusion of the Committee on the Bill, some extension of time would be given for the repayment of the purchase money, because he seriously believed that upon such an extension of time would depend the development of the principle of the creation of a peasant proprietary in Ireland.
§ MR. SHAW
regretted very much that the Prime Minister seemed to have decided against the Amendment. He (Mr. Shaw) had as strong an opinion as the 413 right hon. Gentleman could possibly have in favour of concluding such a transaction between a private individual and the State in as short a time as possible. But it did not follow that the adoption of the Amendment would have the effect, to a very large extent, of prolonging the time of repayment. It would only be in exceptional cases that the extension of time would be taken advantage of. The Irish tenantry would be anxious to wind up the transaction as quickly as possible, so that they might be in a position to deal with the property. His own opinion was strong that the average time of repayment would not be anything like 35 years. He thought there was a want of elasticity in the Government proposal. It would afford very great relief to a large class of the tenantry; but his own opinion was that the Commissioners should have the power even of taking a reduced payment for the first five or 10 years of the time. He knew a case where a man with a farm of 50 acres would, the moment the Bill passed, become the purchaser of his holding; and he did not see why the Commissioners should not have the option of taking 4 per cent at the beginning of the period and 6 per cent during the latter part of it. He thought that, upon the whole, there should be more elasticity in the clause, and more power given to the Commissioners to deal with the different cases on their individual merits. He was satisfied that such elasticity would give far greater success to the scheme; the State could not possibly lose a single shilling, because all that was asked for was a mere extension of time for repayment, full interest being given. He sincerely hoped that either in this way or in some other way tenants below a certain value would be treated more liberally. He did not think that the large tenants would be very anxious to obtain better terms; but he was sure that there was a class of tenants upon the smaller holdings to whom the State might fairly give an extension with very great advantage to all parties concerned.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, he was not sure that there was very much utility in continuing the discussion. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) said the Prime Minister had put his foot down upon this proposition. It might be said 414 that he had ground it under his heel, and not merely set down his foot upon it. The right hon. Gentleman refused the proposal with great energy, and he (Mr. Macfarlane) regretted extremely that the Prime Minister should have taken that course. Although he could say nothing upon the subject which had not already been said, yet it sometimes happened that the same thing said by a great number of persons in the end produced its effect. The Prime Minister referred to the case of the school boards, in which he had given 50 years for the repayment of the sum advanced, his object being to make it easy for the existing generation. That was precisely what they wanted to do in the case of the Irish tenants. They did not want to make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Irish tenants to repay the advances. He agreed with the hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw), when his hon. Friend said, with his usual judgment, that the success of the Bill would be materially interfered with if that rigid line was maintained by the Government. He would, therefore, appeal once more to the Government, and ask whether, if they would not allow 52 years, at any rate to grant 45 years, and if they would not grant 45 years, let them lower the rate of interest to 3 per cent, which was about the value of the public securities throughout the Kingdom, and there would be no loss to the Crown upon the transaction. Three and a-half per cent was too high a rate to charge, with 1½ per cent for a sinking fund. If the Prime Minister insisted in securing the repayment of the money in 35 years, he would appeal to him to make the terms more easy.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I do not think it fair towards Her Majesty's Government that they should alone have to conduct this debate in defence of the Consolidated Fund. I feel sure that the silence which has been observed by English and Scotch Members on this occasion is not because they disagree with Her Majesty's Government, but because they do not wish to prolong the discussion. For my own part, I wish to take my full share in any unpopularity that may be incurred in the resistance of this Motion for the further extension of time upon the Consolidated Fund. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) said it could not possibly matter to the State 415 whether the money was repaid in 30 or in 50 years. Is the credit of the State such that that doctrine can be applied to every possible advance? Are we to adopt the principle that it is immaterial whether loans are made, either to public bodies or to individuals, at one scale of payments or another? I entirely agree with what has been said by the Prime Minister, that the financial conscience of the Government has been strained to the utmost in making the proposals they have made, and I trust that the financial conscience of the House and the financial conscience of the Committee will not be more elastic than that of the Prime Minister. The Government will find plenty of support when they, acting upon their judgment, yield to some of the demands which are made upon them; but I think Her Majesty's Government ought to be equally supported when they are defending the Consolidated Fund, however unanimous may be the opinion which seems to be brought to bear from one quarter of the House against it. On this point, also, let me ask whether the effect of raising the scale from 30 to 50 years might not be to increase the price which the tenants would have to pay? I think that the tenant who can borrow at 50 years is more likely to be called upon to pay a higher price to his landlord than one who could pay in 30 years. [Cries of "No, no!"] I think it cannot be seriously contested that the easier the terms upon which you can borrow the higher the price you will have to pay. I have been unwilling at any previous stage, owing to the fact that I was not present at these debates, to interfere with the discussion of the Bill; but I have felt it my duty on this occasion to assure Her Majesty's Government, as I am sure I can, that there are a number of Members on both sides of the House who are grateful to them for the energy they have shown in resisting this proposal, and I hope they will persevere in that course.
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
merely rose for the purpose of endorsing everything the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had said. He felt quite satisfied that no Government could agree to the proposal to extend the time of payment.
§ MR. DALY
said, he had not intended to take part in the debate; but he would 416 strongly recommend that, if the object of the Government was to allow the poorer classes of the tenants to purchase their holdings, the burden should be made as light as possible, and the repayments spread over a lengthened period. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw) that it would be much better for the tenants to have a small annual payment now, even if they had a larger payment of 8 or 9 per cent to make during the last 15 or 16 years. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), who had just sat down, had made a somewhat curious observation. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the term for the repayment of the loan was extended, the price paid by the tenant would be greater. That would probably be true if the transaction were between the actual borrower and the actual lender; but he could not see how the price would be affected by giving a power to the tenant to purchase and to repay the purchase money within a long period, when the purchase money itself was to be advanced by the State. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had referred to money advances by the Public Works Loan Commissioners for a period of 52 years for the erection of school board houses, and the right hon. Gentleman said that Parliament had fixed the term of 52 years because it was about to impose a very heavy tax and a very serious burden upon the people. He (Mr. Daly) humbly submitted that the same consideration ought to apply here. It was obvious that if it applied to a wealthy and prosperous people like that of England, it ought much more to apply when they were about to impose a burden upon a poor and impoverished people already suffering from other burdens which had been entailed upon them. He was one of those who had all along welcomed the introduction of this Bill. He was one of those who looked to it as likely to affect very greatly the future of his country; and he was satisfied that if the scheme of the Government were carried out fairly and generously, it would tend very much to insure the prosperity not only of the occupiers of agricultural holdings, but of all classes of society in Ireland generally. He would appeal to the financial conscience of the Prime Minister, and would ask the right hon. 417 Gentleman if the Bill were made a real source of prosperity to the agricultural population of Ireland, what would inevitably follow? There would inevitably follow an increase in the deposits in the Post Office Savings Banks; and, as a natural consequence, it would inevitably follow that the money would be lent to the Government at £2 10s. per cent, so that it was impossible in the long run, if the scheme was to work well, that the Government would lose anything by extending the repayments over a period of 52 years. There was another matter which was also of great importance. The primary thing the Government had to consider was how they could best in Ireland help the lame dog over the stile; and just as the poor tenant was able to realize a substantial advantage from the Government proposals, so would he become more thrifty and industrious, not only for his own interests, but as an example to his sons and daughters and the rest of his family. When, after 25 or 28 years of thrift and economy, such a man would only be too ready to say—" I am getting stronger and inheriting more money every day, and therefore I will free the land from the restrictions which now prevent me from sub-dividing and sub-letting." That was only human nature; and there was no question whatever about the security. Indeed, the Prime Minister himself admitted that the security was quite as good for 52 years as for 35 years. Nor was it a question of principle, because the principle had been conceded to the wealthier population of England; and the poorer class of Ireland had a perfect right to ask for the same concession. Indeed, it would be an unreasonable rebuke on the part of Her Majesty's Government if they declined to make the same concession to the demands of the Irish Members. The claim was one which was based upon justice, and it involved no financial loss to the Imperial Exchequer; and although it was sought to spread the repayment over a period of 52 years, he believed himself that, except in a very few instances, it would not mean more than 30 years.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I wish to point out that the good effect of the proposals made by Her Majesty's Government must depend not merely upon the liberality of the State and of the 418 House and of the taxpayers generally, but in the efforts which are made by the recipients themselves. I understand the proposal now made to be this—that, instead of any efforts being made by the tenants themselves, they should go on paying just about the same sum they are paying now in rent, and that, in the end, they should obtain possession of the freehold. Now, this means no effort at all. We appeal to them to make some slight sacrifice themselves, in order to obtain the benefits of this Bill; and I very much think that if we put it as a claim on their part to become prospective landlords, we shall produce a great effect in the social character of the Irish people. It is not as though we were about to deal with a people who are inaccessible to the advantages of thrift. That is a popular delusion. They are not inaccessible to thrift. It has been prophesied that the scheme will fall through on account of the short time we have fixed for the repayment of these advances—namely, 35 years. I am perfectly certain that we run no danger of this kind. We have been told that we must nurse the people into the new arrangement; but that is not the way we should treat them. We should give them an opportunity at once of doing something for themselves, and of developing a little energy and resolution. One or two hon. Members have said that there is no elasticity in the Bill. On the contrary, I believe that there is great elasticity in it. There is elasticity up to 35 years, and surely that is elasticity enough. What other cases are there in which a borrower is not required to complete a bargain in 35 years? Some reference has been made to the generations over which the repayment is likely to extend. Now, I really think that if you were to fix the period at 52 years there is hardly a man who would incur the responsibility, expecting to clear off the advances within the term of his own life. I will only mention one other fact. Allusion has been made to the advances that were made for the purposes of education. I quite agree with what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that we were throwing an entirely new burden upon the ratepayers, and that it was our duty to make it as easy as possible. I may add that I was somewhat interested myself in 419 getting that bargain effected, and I thought that I made a very good bargain for the ratepayers. I am sure of this—that if the matter had been thoroughly discussed at the time, I should not have made the bargain I did, but that it would have been found inconvenient, and would have been regarded as setting a bad precedent. In all probability the bargain would have been re-cast; and I may add that the loans now made to school boards are on very different terms.
§ MR. MELDON
said, that he rose to continue the discussion, although he was very anxious that the Bill should make as rapid progress as possible. But, in so doing, he wished to express his opinion that the most important Amendment which had come under the consideration of the Committee was under consideration at the present moment. The real question raised by the Amendment was, whether or not the Government scheme should, to a certain extent, fail or not? He had spoken to many of the farmers upon the subject—he had advocated its principles, and he had carefully studied the whole question over and over again; but he had always been of opinion, and he had invariably pointed it out to the poor farmers, that the scheme for establishing a peasant proprietary could not be of any good to the present generation. It was all very well to tell the farmers that they were laying aside a store for their children, and their children's children; but what they said was—"What will we, who are now in the occupation of the land, gain by becoming owners of the fee simple instead of paying rent?" The farmers in Ireland were a very clever and business-like set of men; and when they made their calculations, they ascertained that not only would they derive no benefit from the scheme at all, but that they would actually be called upon to pay—in the shape of the instalments necessary to repay the advances—a larger sum than they paid at present by way of rent. He had himself pointed out to the farmers the importance of having a freehold for their children, which at the end of 30 or 35 years should be free; but their reply almost invariably was—"Let us take care of ourselves, and let our children do the same. Why should we impose burdens upon ourselves for posterity?" Precedent, over and over again, had been 420 set for fixing a lengthened period for the repayment of instalments of borrowed money where the security was good. They had the precedent of the school boards, and the same precedent had been established, over and over again, in connection with other public bodies of the country. Many of them had been in the habit of borrowing money repayable in as long a period as 60 years, and the only question considered was whether the security was good. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland asked why the tenant farmers should not be called upon to do something for themselves. He wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that before any of these advances could be obtained at all the tenant farmer was himself bound to provide one-fourth of the purchase money, and that was doing a great deal for himself. Perhaps the Prime Minister would allow him to point out that the security the Government would have for the repayment of the instalments would be increasing year by year; every farthing paid by way of instalments made the security of the Government better. He did not think that the Irish people had been fairly treated in the way in which the proposal had been received by the Committee. There seemed to be a how against the Irish Members, as if they wanted a grant from the Consolidated Fund. They wanted nothing of the kind. The security was admitted to be perfect. As he had pointed out, it would be year by year increasing in value. He had also pointed out that over and over again there had been precedents for granting loans extending over a much longer period for purposes by no means as desirable as in the present case. It must also be borne in mind that this was a scheme which Parliament itself was fostering. Parliament desired the creation of a peasant proprietary, and had no doubt of its usefulness. He possessed personally very considerable knowledge of the subject, and he was prepared distinctly to tell the Government that they were taking upon themselves a very great responsibility if they refused the Amendment now before the Committee. No one had given more consideration to the question, and talked the matter more constantly over with the farmers, than himself; and he was in a position to de- 421 clare that they were thoroughly alive to the fact that, under this scheme, they would be called upon to provide not only a great portion of the purchase money, but a larger sum in the shape of annual instalments than they were now paying by way of rent. Unless the Bill was amended in the way the Irish Members desired, it would be found that scarcely three tenants would avail themselves of it; whereas, if a slight extension of the time for repayment was given, five would take advantage of it. He did not agree with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) said about the amount of the purchase money being increased. That would not be so, but the number of cases in which the purchase would be made would be enormously increased. If it was necessary, it would be easy to give the Commissioners some discretion as to the amount of money they would advance. They would not allow the landlord to sell at an exorbitant price, because that would be a fraud; therefore, it was idle to suggest any difficulty of that kind would arise if they extended the period within which the instalments were to be paid. Hitherto he had not taken up the time of the Committee during the progress of the Bill, but, on the present occasion, he felt that he could not remain silent; and he wished to warn the Government in the most solemn way that the rejection of this Amendment would put in great peril the success of this most important part of the Bill. He certainly hoped that the Prime Minister would seriously consider the question before he rejected what was really the most important Amendment which had yet been moved.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he could not, as everyone knew, share the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in regard to the future effects of this part of the Bill. On the contrary, for his own part, he should be agreeably surprised if the clauses which related to the acquisition of land did not turn out in the long run to be clauses to pauperize Ireland. He quite recognized the force of the observations which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen); but if they were to embark in this scheme, they ought, at all events, to do all they could to give it a fair trial. 422 Judging from all he had heard, if they did not extend the time over which the repayments were to be made, he thought they would be throwing away the money they proposed to advance altogether. There was much valuable advice contained in the Report of the Sub-Commissioners, which had only just been laid on the Table of the House of Commons. In passing, he would express his astonishment at the absence of that Report for so long a time. He observed yesterday that something passed upon the subject, and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland said that some inquiries ought to have been made of the Richmond Commission, in order to account for the absence of the Report. Now, the fact was that the Report was sent in by the Richmond Commission in the month of January last, and its receipt was acknowledged by the Secretary of State for the Home Department; but from that time to this, for some reason or other, whether it was neglect or inadvertence he did not know, it had been withheld by the Government until quite a recent period. He certainly thought it was desirable that the Committee should have some explanation upon the point from the Government. And now what were the recommendations contained in that Report? Most of it was unfavourable to these purchase clauses altogether; but the Commissioners pressed upon Parliament that if the scheme was to be successful at all, the instalments ought to be extended over a longer period than 35 years. The Commission referred to the case of a man with a holding of 14 acres. They described the condition of that holding, and said that the state of affairs was not very favourable. The Report then went on to say that if the tenant, in addition to his rent, had to meet the instalments for the repayment of borrowed money, he would be very hardly pressed; and if the Government desired to give the system of creating a peasant proprietary a fair trial, the repayments of the instalments must be extended over a larger number of years, so that the actual payment each year would not be much more than the present rent. Personally, he saw the evils of the old system, and be should not have ventured to propose such a scheme as that at all. But what he was afraid of was that if the period for the repayment of the instalments was not ex- 423 tended, they would run the risk of throwing away the money altogether. The Commissioners pointed out that, whatever might be the condition of tenants elsewhere, the indiscriminate sale of holdings on such terms and conditions as those offered by the Commissioners of the Irish Church Temporalities had not done much towards creating a satisfactory class of peasant proprietors. The terms offered by the Church Commissioners differed in no material respect from the terms offered in the present Bill. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Except in regard to interest.] The Sub-Commissioners were, therefore, of opinion that if the present scheme was worth anything at all—and they were not inclined, from what they knew and had seen, to believe that it was—the period for the repayment of the advances must be considerably extended. Under these circumstances, he should feel inclined to support the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell), if the hon. and learned Member went to a division, and principally for this reason—that he (Mr. Chaplin) was afraid that if some extension of time were not given they would run great risks of the money advanced being thrown away altogether.
§ MR. DAWSON
begged altogether, on the part of the Irish people, in whose interests the measure was being proposed, to repudiate the idea, often put forward, that this proposed advance was an act of liberality, and a gift on the part of the British people to the Irish nation. It was nothing of the kind. In whatever way the money might be employed by the Irish people, the interest of the Imperial Exchequer was amply secured, and the whole of the advance would be repaid. He, therefore, entirely repudiated the idea that the English taxpayers were to put their hands into their pockets for the purpose of granting a charitable dole to the people of Ireland. The proposal of the Government was that the tenants should repay the advances at 5 per cent, under conditions that would be most expensive to them, nor would they receive an advance of the entire sum necessary for the purchase, but only three-fourths. The tenant would be left to his ingenuity to raise the rest, and the amount of the tax imposed upon him by way of repayment would be most severe. The right 424 hon. Gentleman asked the Committee to look at other cases. They had been supplied to him ad nauseam in the course of the debate; but he would quote another. Some time ago he had asked the Prime Minister to issue a small Commission, in order to enlighten the people of this country and hon. Members of that House as to the method in which similar questions were dealt with by other Governments. In Germany, if a tenant wished to become an owner, he could borrow the purchase money and repay it with interest. He asked the attention of the Committee to the figures, because they were more eloquent than any speech. The facts which he was referring to were published in a work upon Land Tenure by the Cobden Club. When a tenant in Germany desired to purchase in this manner, the repayment was spread over 45–12ths, or 56–12ths, according to the period at which he elected to free the holding from encumbrance. The tenant was offered 56–12ths at 5 per cent, and yet, in this case, the Government were only proposing to give a good tenant 35 years. The case he referred to in Germany was a parallel case; but a larger extension of time was granted to the tenant in that country, although the credit and the financial position of Germany was not at this moment one-half so great as that of Great Britain. He thought that afforded a complete answer to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that he could not, with safety to his financial conscience, extend the period proposed by the clause. Personally, he (Mr. Dawson) did not think that the financial conscience of the right hon. Gentleman, or his financial capacity—which could not be over-estimated—had anything to do with the question. But, on the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman displayed too great a willingness to give in to the idea that the English taxpayer was always to be the benevolent benefactor of the Irish nation.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, the Irish tenants had quite enough to do to pay their present rent, and he was sure they would not see the justice of paying a large sum in addition, in order that they might purchase their holdings for the benefit of their sons and their grandsons. If a man had to repay the purchase money in the course of 35 years, 425 he would have to pay the whole of it himself; whereas, if it was extended over 52 years, his sons and his grandsons would have to contribute. He thought the Amendment was a reasonable one, and he would support it by his vote.
§ MR. BIGGAR
(who rose amid cries of "Divide!") said, the subject was too important a one to be decided in an offhand manner; and he therefore wished to reply to some of the arguments which had been adduced, and to point out one or two considerations in the case which had not yet been placed before the Committee. It was alleged that the persons who bought up their holdings ought to make some effort on their own behalf; but the Government ought to know that the 25 per cent of the purchase money which the tenant had to pay before he could obtain an advance was a very heavy item for the tenant to raise, either from his own resources or by means of borrowed money. It was very desirable that the terms on which the Government lent the money should not be too onerous. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) strongly deprecated lending the money by the State for a very long term. In this case the length of time would depend very much on the circumstances of the case. If the State lent money on landed security, and only lent 75 per cent of the entire value of the holding, and charged 5 per cent for interest, he thought they ought to be prepared to extend the period of repayment over a considerable number of years. It certainly appeared to him that the terms on which the Government lent money to school boards and other public bodies, and on the security of buildings in towns, were much more liberal than those upon which they proposed to make those advances to the tenant farmers of Ireland. He believed that money lent on the security of land possessed a security immeasurably higher than money lent on buildings of such a fanciful nature as the present school board houses. Therefore, he thought that the proposition of the Government was altogether untenable. The object of the Government appeared to be to pass a Bill through Parliament which would look exceedingly well upon paper; but if it was to be passed in its present shape, he was satisfied it would be 426 found thoroughly unpractical when they came to bring it into working order. He trusted that they would withdraw their present proposition, and frame a clause that would not only be workable, but offer fair inducement to the Irish people to avail themselves of it. If the Government placed the terms of the advances too high, they might depend upon it that the Irish farmers would not take advantage of the provisions of the Bill. Upon all these reasons, he appealed to the Government to reconsider the question, and see whether or not they could not adopt some reasonable and bonâ fide Amendment.
§ MR. BYRNE
(who rose amid loud cries of "Divide!" said, he regarded the question as one of very great importance, and as likely to unsettle all the good that might otherwise be done by the Bill. It was believed when the Government introduced the Bill that their intention of allowing the tenant farmers to become peasant proprietors was a bonâ fide intention, and that they would offer the tenants substantial advantages for the purpose of enabling them to purchase their holdings; but, having drawn the line at an advance of three-fourths of the purchase money, it was unfair not only to restrict the amount of the advance, but also to limit the period for the repayment to 35 years. The principle of buying property in that way was not a new one; but it had been solved in England by the working men themselves, who had established societies for the purpose of purchasing freehold property, and had successfully carried out their operations in Rochdale, Birmingham, Bradford, Liverpool, and all over England; but hitherto these freeholds had been purchased for a political purpose, in order to confer the right of citizenship and the possession of votes upon the purchaser.
And it being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Chairman reported Progress; Committee to sit again this day.
And it being now five minutes to Seven of the clock, House supended its Sitting.
§ House resumed its sitting at Nine of the clock.