§ Progress resumed.
§ Clause 22 (Terms of repayment of advances made by Commission).
Amendment again proposed,
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 Land 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."
§ MR. BYRNE
said, that in asking the Committee to approve of and adopt the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), he desired to point out that it was of vast importance to the tenants of Ireland, and not only to them, but to the people of England and to Her Majesty's Government in preserving law and order, and in establishing a proper Government in Ireland. He would venture to say that if the clause was amended by the extension of time suggested, it would be a stronger weapon in the hands of the Chief Secretary than all the police and all the soldiers and bayonets in that unfortunate country. They had heard from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House that in discussing this Bill they ought not to be too critical as to the number of years given for payment, as by so doing they would be looking a gift horse in the mouth. This Bill, as it stood, however, was not a gift horse. It was a white elephant, and he was not disposed to be very thankful for it. A horse he could manage, but an elephant he was not so sure of being able to take in hand. If this clause was to be operative, if it was to be used and not to be a dead letter like other clauses in previous Acts of Parliament, the Committee should see that it was possible to work it as it was, or as it was to be amended. It would not be sufficient for the tenants to get the advances if they did not, in the first place, get the land at a fair price. They must extend the time for repayment over such a period that it would be possible for the farmer to pay the periodical 428 instalments to the Company or Association, or whoever had advanced the remaining 25 per cent to him. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) had looked upon this question more as a Money Vote, and as a matter affecting the National Exchequer, than as a question of Liberal policy or of statesmanship. In this matter, however, there was nothing specially for the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or, indeed, for the opinion of any official. They were discussing the question of a broad and proper policy for the Government of this or any other country to act on. It was admitted by the Prime Minister that the question of security did not arise, or that it was ample. And then it had been said that the matter should be looked at from a commercial point of view. He, however, was of opinion that it should not be looked at from a commercial point of view. The state of things in Ireland at the present time was such that most Governments would regret, if they were not actually ashamed of it. Ireland being a part of what was called the United Kingdom, it was entitled, if not to liberality, at all events to justice and fair play. It was admitted by right hon. Gentlemen now on the Government Benches that in the past Ireland had not had justice. The condition of things which had prevailed in that country was the cause of the Committee being now engaged on this Bill. It was the cause of the Bill being now before the House, because, without some such measure of justice being meted out to Ireland, it was very doubtful what the results would be. They had also the authority of the Prime Minister for saying that if the Bill did not pass this year, the next time it was introduced it would be a stronger measure, more in favour of the tenants and less in favour of the landlords. This was not a question between the English and Irish people, but it was a question on which the English Government had arrived at that stage when they found it necessary to say—"We must, in justice to the people of Ireland, give them some instalment of that which has so long been their due." They had arrived at that part of the Bill in which they had to say by what means that instalment of justice should be given. Well, the Government in the clause that had been passed offered e certain advance to assist 429 the tenants to buy their freehold, and the Committee had now come to the clause which specified the terms on which that assistance should be given. The Government proposed that the repayment of capital and interest should cover 35 years, and the Amendment was to the effect that that time should be extended to 52 years; and it was stated that it would be uncommercial and un-business-like to look for a period beyond that. He was very happy to hear from a previous speaker that this was a time when finance was easy and when funds could be easily raised at 3 per cent; and he, therefore, could not see why the extension asked for could not be granted. It had been said that other countries had advanced money for longer periods and, in some cases, at lower rates of interest. There was one country which had not been mentioned—namely, Belgium. He would remind the Committee of this—that in the case of house property in the city of Brussels, the Government had advanced money for the purpose of acquiring house property for as long a period as 66 years. If that had been done merely for the purpose of assisting the citizens of Brussels to ornament the city, and make it something like the handsome city of Paris, surely Her Majesty's Government would be justified in extending the period of the advances to the Irish tenants from 31 to 52 years. In doing that they would not be going beyond precedent; and, over and above the red-tape view of the matter taken by Finance Ministers, there was the question of settling the disturbed state of Ireland, and assisting the Irish people at no cost whatever to England. They were not giving this money away. They were only lending on what was called good, ample, and sufficient security; and that being so—as the money was absolutely certain to be repaid—there was sufficient reason why they should extend the time for repayment. They ought, also, to keep this in view—that every year's and half-year's instalment would make the security better, and that there was scarcely any possibility of having to face, under any circumstances, a bad debt. He might refer to several instances in this country where the line was not drawn at lending three-fourths of the purchase money. In all the great towns of England, if an artizan wanted to buy his house, he could always 430 get the necessary sum advanced—especially in Manchester, where there were some very sharp people living, and where seven-eighths could be obtained. In this way a man could easily acquire a stake in the country. Nothing made a man a greater admirer of law and order than to hold property, and to have a stake in the country; and, in order that these happy results might be brought about in Ireland, he asked the Prime Minister and the Government to accept the Amendment and increase the period over which these repayments could be made. If they did, he hoped the Prime Minister would live for many years to see the good results of his handiwork.
§ MAJOR O'BEIRNE
said, the people of the West of Ireland suffered a great deal more from bad harvests than did the people in other parts of the country, and they would be much less able to pay in 35 years than any of their more favoured countrymen. Seeing that the people of Ireland had set their hearts so much on having peasant proprietors, the Government should not neglect their wishes.
§ MR. MACLIVER
said, the hon. Member for Wexford County (Mr. Byrne) deprecated this question being treated as a commercial one. It was, however, entirely a commercial question. It was a question of money. It had been suggested that the Government might issue paper, and need not advance money; but that was a complete fallacy, because, if paper were to be issued, it must surely be represented by something behind it. And then, again, the Government could not be expected to advance money for an indefinite period. The system of the Government advancing money at all in this way was something totally unusual in their experience in this country. What would be thought of an English trader if he went to the Government and said he could not take certain premises unless the Government advanced him 75 per cent? It would be delusive, if not ruinous, to do such a thing; and he was surprised that any Irish Members who had any commercial experience, or knew anything at all about monetary affairs, could come to that House and claim as they did, not merely this 75 per cent, but a great deal more—an extension of time for repayment which would be altogether out of place in any private business.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
doubted if hon. Members opposite had seen the full bearing of the proposal they were advocating. It would certainly be to the interest of the landlords if the period for repayment of these loans were prolonged to 50 years. There could not be a shadow of a doubt that if the Amendment proposed by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) were adopted by the Committee, every tenant in Ireland who set out to purchase his estate would have to give more for it than he would under other circumstances, because it would be represented that payment would be spread over 50 years instead of 35, and, therefore, that he could afford to give more for the property. He (Mr. Arnold) supported the clause, and thought that if the Committee had a close and economic regard, not only for the interests of the State, but for the interests of the tenants, they would accept the proposal of the Government. When the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Byrne) had spoken of what the towns had done in this matter, and when he mentioned the great district from which he (Mr. Arnold) came, he could not but remember that at the time when Lancashire was so sorely and deeply distressed, an Act was passed allowing loans to be granted, in which it was stipulated that these advances were to be repaid within 30 years. He should support the proposal of the Government.
§ MR. LEAMY
said, it had been stated that this was purely a commercial question. He could not help thinking it was a question of the pacification of Ireland. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members said "No!" but those Liberals who had told them that they had been doing their best for Ireland for many years past ought to know that the great cause of the present discontent in Ireland was the land system. Why did they press the Amendment on Her Majesty's Government? It was because they believed that the solution of the Land Question would be found in the substitution of occupying ownership for the present system, and that, by passing the Amendment, they would facilitate the creation of that system of occupying ownership. The Government had spent a great deal of time and trouble over this Bill; and he was willing to admit, from a legal point of view, that its pro- 432 visions effected a great revolution in the law of real property in Ireland. But could it be denied that before they had proceeded to effect this revolution by their Bill a social revolution had already been effected in Ireland—that the land system had been broken down by the people. The Government were now merely attempting to patch it up by a change which, if made 10 years ago, would probably have settled the Land Question. It had been said that they must consider the question of the British taxpayer. He wondered whether they considered the interests of the British taxpayer when they plunged into and spent millions upon foreign wars? Were they consulting the interests of the British taxpayer when they kept 40,000 armed men in Ireland to keep down a defenceless and disarmed people? ["Question!"] This was the Question. They knew that if they did not settle the Land Question effectually, they never could withdraw their troops from Ireland. If they had to keep 40,000 armed men in Ireland for years, then the British taxpayer would suffer immensely. The only way for them to settle this matter was by extending the provisions of this part of the Bill; and before 12 months had passed he feared the Government would be of the same opinion. The best way to convince men that you were right was to let them see that they were wrong; therefore, he was content to see the Bill pass in its present form. When they saw litigation taking place in Ireland of a character never known before, when they saw that every man whose rent was raised was dissatisfied, and every man whose rent was lowered was dissatisfied, and when they saw, also, that all the landlords were dissatisfied, they would see the mistake they were now committing. There was one part of this Bill which had met with a good reception from all classes of Land Reformers—namely, the part before the Committee, taken in connection with the Amendment proposed. When the Government saw that all Irish Members of different politics were in favour of the Amendment, why did they not support it? It was the fashion to say—"Oh, you Irish Members are not united; if you were united, and came with a fair and reasonable proposition, it would be accepted." Well, they came now with a 433 fair and reasonable proposition. Reference had been made to the Report of the Assistant Commissioners, and it had been pointed out that the sales which had been held under the Irish Church Act had not, in all cases, been to the benefit of the tenants. Let them take two cases, and hon. Gentlemen would see why these purchases had not been to the benefit of the tenants. In one case a woman had saved £20 before the purchase. She was the tenant of six acres, on which she resided, and she used to hire four other acres. When she obtained these 10 acres of land from the Commissioners, she had to get indentures of conveyance, and she had to pay her £20 to a local attorney for costs. She was compelled to borrow £36, and on that she had to pay 25 per cent, and she had to raise £14 on a loan at a high rate of interest. She regretted very much that she ever purchased; and hon. Members would not wonder at it. The charge upon this woman, for interest and capital, had been more than double the old rent, and, in addition to that, she had had to pay all the rates. The Irish Members asked the Government to extend the period of payment, to lower the rate of interest, and to allow these poor people, if possible, to become purchasers of their holdings at no greater annual cost than the rent which they had been paying. If these people had been maintaining themselves on their holdings at a certain annual rent for the last 30 years, they had every reason to believe that they would be able to maintain themselves for 50 years at the same rent. Every day they were feeling more and more convinced that the time was coming when they would be owners of the land, and they would, therefore, have the stimulus to work which came from ownership of the soil. They were told that the prosperity of the State was increasing; but the Irish tenant had not improved his position—and why? It was because of the fear he had always had of being turned out of his holding. He would ask the Prime Minister whether he thought the system of occupying-ownership was good for Ireland? If he did, it was fair to ask him why he did not increase the facilities for bringing it about? The right hon. Gentleman mistook the character of the Irish people, if he believed that when one-third could, on easy terms, become the 434 owners of their property, the other two-thirds would remain satisfied and contented. The Government had now a splendid opportunity for putting an end to this agrarian agitation—an agitation which had come up from time to time for centuries, sometimes under a social and sometimes under a political phase. The right hon. Gentleman had his chance now. He had the whole of the great Liberal Party at his back; the landlords and tenants in Ireland agreed in the provisions of the Bill. Would the right hon. Gentleman accept the Amendment, which would, by lessening the amount the tenants would have yearly to pay, considerably lighten their burdens, and enable them to look forward to becoming the owners of their own farms?
§ MR. BARRY
said, the Amendment was the most important which had been submitted to the Committee, and he was sure that if it were adopted it would greatly enhance the value of the Bill in the eyes of the Irish people. This was the one part of the Bill which had raised something like hope and confidence in the Irish people; but he was greatly afraid that that hope and confidence would be seriously diminished if the Amendment were not accepted. In the face of the almost unanimous opinion of the Irish Members—in the face of the strong expressions of opinion they had heard in favour of the Amendment from both sides of the Committee—it was a great mistake for Her Majesty's Government to offer such a stubborn resistance to the proposal. The Prime Minister should remember some of the circumstances of the passing of the Bill of 1870. The Government of that day might have heard some very strong expressions of opinion from the Irish Members, but they turned a deaf ear to them—they successfully resisted the appeal made to them—and what was the result? Why, it was this—that the Bill which had been looked forward to for so many years was nothing but a fiasco and a failure. The only argument offered from the Treasury Bench against this Amendment was that its adoption would be an outrage upon the commercial conscience; but that seemed to him an insufficient reason to advance. If it were an outrage on the financial conscience, from whence did the pressure come? The risk was not increased, 435 the security to the State would not be in any way diminished. They were not asking for a grant from the Consolidated Fund, but only that the time of payment should be extended from 35 to 52 years. This would be a great boon to the Irish people, and no less to the Government; and, looking at the great uncertainty which attended the agricultural future, not knowing what would be the effect in the next few years of foreign competition, in the interest of the public it should be the policy of the Government to render the burden on the shoulders of the Irish tenantry as light as possible. He sincerely hoped Her Majesty's Government would reconsider this matter. He had been in correspondence with many individuals of that class of farmers who were likely to become purchasers under the Bill, and it was their unanimous opinion that if the time of payment could be slightly extended the advantage to their position would be very great—very much wider and more general. There was another important reason to be advanced in support of the Amendment—namely, that it would go a long way towards meeting English opinion on the matter of sub-division. By its adoption sub-division would be prevented for a much longer period than would otherwise be the case. He did not himself think there was much fear that in many cases the full 52 years would be taken advantage of. His opinion was that the time of repayment would be considerably shortened by the adoption of the Amendment. The effort that would be made by the Irish tenantry to secure a quarter of the purchase money would be such a severe strain on their resources that they would be left extremely bare, and with little or no capital to commence those improvements which were necessary and which they would be anxious to make after purchasing their holdings. If the term were extended it would enable them to accumulate capital, and they would be able in a few years, by the profits on their investments, to increase their instalments and to pay off the debt in a shorter period. He knew how intense was the feeling in Ireland on this subject; and he earnestly hoped the Government would re-consider their decision, and that the right hon. Gentleman would not so stubbornly refuse to concede what was demanded.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, it must be a matter of mortification to Her Majesty's Government to see the spirit in which this proposal had been, he could not say received, but met by some hon. Members; and he could not help thinking that the Government, in this matter, had gone a long way towards the pacification of Ireland. It appeared to him that they had gone to the very utmost limit to which they were justified in going, or to which they could expect to carry the Committee. They were doing that which no public Company and no individual in the country would do—namely, proposing to advance, at a very low rate of interest, three-fourths of the value of any holding that a tenant might choose to purchase. He considered that the State in that respect was in the position of a trustee for the taxpayers, and that they were bound to observe those rules which a prudent trustee would observe in a transaction of this kind; and he ventured to say that no trustee would be justified, even on the very best security, in carrying advances further than the Government now proposed to do. The Government had not only to consider this, but they had to consider what their position would be in making these advances. It was necessary, and they were perfectly justified in requiring, that the party to whom they made this advance should afford some security for the propriety of that advance by a contribution on his part of a certain amount. Unless they had that guarantee they might be wasting public money by making advances to those who were totally unfit to receive them. As he had said, the Government were engaged at this moment in operations that no private individual in the country would undertake, and they must consider not only that, but what their position would be in the future when they had to require the repayment of these advances. They would be in the position of mortgagees of property, and not only mortgagees in an ordinary sense, but mortgagees of tenantry who were impoverished, and who would have large claims upon their consideration when the instalments were in arrear through agricultural depression and other causes. They might find great difficulty in enforcing payment, and might be met by continual claims on their compassion outside the precincts 437 of the House as well as within. All these things should be present before the Government. Her Majesty's Ministers had before them the Report of Messrs Baldwin and Robertson with regard to the advances made by the Church Temporalities Commissioners. The Government must have had those advances in view when they contemplated the operations of this Bill. It was, therefore, not only that they were going to the fullest extent that they could go; but they had before them circumstances that must throw grave doubts upon the success of the operation, even to the extent they now proposed to go. For his own part; he did not think the Government should carry the matter one step farther than they now proposed to do. They had given the tenant every opportunity of purchasing his holding which a Government ought to afford, and beyond that they would not be justified in going.
§ MR. LAING
said, he concurred in the view that had been expressed that it was the duty of the Committee to join the Government in resisting assaults upon the Exchequer, in order to assist agricultural operations in Ireland. He hoped the Government would resist every advance beyond the limit of 75 per cent; and he could not disguise from himself that even going to that length they had made a great stretch of their financial conscience. It was idle to deny that they were advancing further than any private individual would go at this moment in regard to landed property, and it was to be justified not on considerations of financial policy, but on general considerations. But, having taken that step, he did not think the question of whether the sinking fund would best extinguish the debt in 35 or 52 years was an important one, or one involving any financial difficulty. There must be a risk in any case, and he did not think it would be increased by adopting the longer in place of the shorter period. The risk would occur in the first few years. The first three or four years would be the critical period. The danger he feared with regard to these advances was that supposing a general repayment was fixed according to the scale on which rent was paid in Ireland, and if, soon after that was done, they had a repetition of the extremely bad seasons they had lately experienced, or an in- 438 crease in American competition, the Irish tenants would fall into the same plight that, he believed, the majority of English tenants had fallen into. Under the Quick sinking fund, no doubt, as much would be paid up in four years as would be paid up in five years under the slow sinking fund; but, on the other hand, he thought the slow sinking fund would be more likely to enable them successfully to get over the critical period than the other. If he were, as a private individual, making the advance, he was by no means sure that he should not prefer the longer sinking fund to the shorter. With regard to the advances made to private Companies or to Corporations in England and Scotland, he did not think the case was analogous to that under discussion. The advances were made on local considerations, and not on considerations of public policy. As a matter of public policy, these advances were rather discouraged than otherwise; but, in the case of the tenants of Ireland, it was right to assume that for purposes of public policy it would be wise to encourage individuals to avail themselves of these advances. The question was one of general policy; and, from that point of view, he did not think there was much to choose between the two proposals. If the Government could see their way to meeting the wishes of the Irish Representatives, he, for one, should be very glad of it; but, on the other hand, he must say that if, after due consideration, they thought it necessary to stand on the clause, and take it to a division, he should certainly vote for them, for the reason that, like the country generally, he owed a deep debt of gratitude to the Government for having brought in the Bill, and for the manner in which they had conducted it. He could not help feeling, as a practical man, that the best way to pass the Bill was to give up their own crotchets and particular views, and to give the Government, on these contested questions, as large a majority as possible, in order that difficulties might be avoided in "another place." He would advise hon. Members opposite not to press this Amendment to a division, because they must know that they could not carry it, and that great difficulties would be placed in the way of its re-consideration by the Government. No doubt, if between this and the Report the Govern- 439 meat re-considered the matter and found they could meet the wishes of the Irish Members, they would do so.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, that, as he was responsible for the Amendment, he would say a word as to the suggestion of the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Laing). He (Mr. C. Russell) very much regretted that a division had not been taken on the Amendment before this. The division should have taken place at the Morning Sitting; but he was not responsible for what had occurred. He would say at once, in answer to the hon. Member (Mr. Laing), that if the Prime Minister were to hold out any reasonable expectation that the not pressing of the proposal might meet with a favourable result—he did not ask for a definite pledge with regard to its acceptance—as far as it rested with himself he should not press the Amendment to a division. But if the Prime Minister had—to use an expression more than once adopted during these discussions—put his foot down, then he failed entirely to see what he had to gain by not pressing the Amendment. Before he sat down he must say that he utterly and entirely repudiated the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), and the suggestion which had come from the other side, that this was an attempt on the part of the Irish Members to make an attack upon the Consolidated Fund. Hon. Members who said that entirely misunderstood the position of this question. The question of the amount of advance which was to be made by the Land Commission out of the Consolidated Fund was already settled, was a thing past and gone, and he did not hesitate to say yesterday—at the risk of some misconstruction on the part of some hon. Members in the House, and on the part of many more people out of it—that he did not and could not support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan), who desired to give discretion to the Land Commission to advance the whole, and moved to render it compulsory upon the Land Commission to advance four-fifths. He did not wish to see the growth of a peasant proprietary artificially forced on those who were not willing to make efforts to secure ownership. But what he (Mr. C. Russell) had advocated was that the Land Commis- 440 sion should have the power of lending up to four-fifths and no more. His Amendment had been spoken of as one which would render it compulsory on the Land Commission to allow 52 years for repayment; but that was an entire mistake. All that was desired was, in the appropriate language of the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw), that there should be, in this respect, a reasonable elasticity in the Bill. In the measure, 35 years was laid down, and all that they proposed was that there should be a proper elasticity between 35 and 52 years. He could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister should have such an intensity of feeling as he had several times manifested on this question, when the sum and substance of the whole matter was simply to give the Land Commissioners the power, if they chose in a proper case to exercise it, to extend the period for repayment. He (Mr. C. Russell) was extremely pained to hear the Prime Minister, during the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite, applaud the suggestion that he was extremely mortified at the course taken on this Amendment. He (Mr. C. Russell) should be extremely sorry to be a party in that House to giving mortification to the right hon. Gentleman, unless compelled by a sense of duty to do so; but the right hon. Gentleman would forgive him for saying there was not the slightest cause for pain or mortification. No one had said more emphatically than he (Mr. C. Russell) had himself, over and over again, that this was a Bill of a great statesman. He had said it out of the House, and he had said it in the House, and he should never cease to think so. But surely the Prime Minister was too magnanimous to be mortified at their strenuous efforts to make this Bill, upon which his (the Prime Minister's) fame would so materially rest in the future, effective for the objects for which he sought to pass it. He might be wrong in the Amendment, and he should be sorry pertinaciously to set up his judgment against the right hon. Gentleman's; but each man must act to the best of his belief. The opinion he (Mr. C. Russell) had formed, from communications made to him from many and different quarters, was, as had been already observed, that the really trying time of the operation of this Bill 441 would be the earlier years; and, therefore, it was desirable that the tenants should not be denuded of every penny they had in the world in the first two or three years after the purchase, they should be left some small capital to work upon. The tenantry, when they acquired possession of the land, should be in a position to develop their holdings with advantage to themselves and to the State. He begged again to repeat that this was not a question of putting their hands any deeper into the pockets of the Consolidated Fund.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) has expressed the pain he felt at having to differ so widely from my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government upon this matter. I may say that I feel the same pain that I have to differ on the subject of this Amendment with the hon. and learned Gentleman, who knows a great deal about Ireland, and has not only written very ably about it, but has in this House rendered much assistance in carrying through many portions of this Bill. Therefore, he will understand that I do not rise immediately after him for the purpose of quarrelling with what he has said, or the temper he has shown in the observations he has made. And when I say temper, I mean the moderate and proper temper he has shown. It seems to me that the discussion of the question before us is very much like that which we had yesterday. The Government proposed £75, and Members from Ireland were, I think, unanimous in wishing that the advance should be £80 in the £100. Some who were in favour of the whole £100 being advanced by the Government moved an Amendment for the larger sum. The question, as it presents itself to my mind, and as I think it would if I were not an occupant of this Bench, is this—looking at it as a whole, 75 per cent and 35 years for repayment appears to be a broad, generous, and reasonable offer. It cannot be an unreasonable proposition. I think it might be accepted almost as unanimously by the Irish Members as it has been by some, and by Members who are not from Ireland. I hold it, therefore, to be a reasonable and great proposal, and one which I think, were I an Irish Member or an English Member sitting upon any other Bench, and looking to the mea- 442 sure as a whole, I should be willing to support the Government in endeavouring to carry through Committee. As I said yesterday, I have as strong a feeling in favour of this portion of the Bill as any Member of this House can possibly have, and I object to the Amendment as a friend of the policy of creating proprietary occupiers in Ireland. I object to it simply on that ground. If I did not care so much about it, if it were not a matter of interest to me, I should feel less on this question than I do at this moment. One thing is certain. If you adopt 52 years, you postpone for every man who becomes a buyer the time when he becomes entirely the owner of his property, and I think in that way you diminish in some degree the interest that he feels in his holding, and I am afraid you will thus diminish—and that was the argument used by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland—the stimulus you wish to give the cultivator—and which is nowhere more required than in Ireland—to do his very utmost to redeem himself and the land from the burden which for so many years must rest upon him. I think one of the great misfortunes of Ireland, partly owing to the system of land tenure, and partly to long habit, is that there is great slovenliness in cultivation. I say nothing as to the desire of the Irish people to save money, because I believe they carry their thrift absolutely to penuriousness, and make more sacrifices to save than probably any other class of persons in the Three Kingdoms. But, owing to the state of things in the country, there is great slovenliness of cultivation, and, therefore, the stimulus ought to be the greater. Another thing presents itself to my mind. If you were to agree to advance the whole of the amount, and then fix a long period for repayment, you would have every tenant in Ireland immediately anxious to become the purchaser of his farm. Hon. Gentlemen would say it would be a very good thing if all the tenants were in possession of their farms. I do not deny that at all in bulk; but I say there are a great number of tenants to whom, at present, I think it would be no great blessing to be in the position of owners. I have no wish to drive out landed proprietors from Ireland. I should like to see estates in Ireland from £10 up to £10,000, so long as land is free, and 443 not held by the force of law. Then let great, and middle size, and small estates exist, as they naturally would exist, throughout the country. Any proposal for driving out proprietors from Ireland is one which I should say was not warranted by a sense of justice, or a real knowledge of what is best for a population. Suppose you gave a larger advance, or a longer period for repayment, you would, in my opinion, urge beyond what is reasonable and useful, the tenants of Ireland to buy their farms on any terms, and I believe the result would be that there would be, as there always is—I am not blaming the Irish tenants for it, for probably all men would do the same—there would be a rash rushing forward to obtain possession of farms at almost any price, and I believe that would tend very much to increase unduly the price of land in Ireland. Perhaps you might give the proprietors whom you get rid of—and that might be a consolation to Gentlemen opposite—a larger price than they would otherwise get; but I believe the ultimate result would be that the tenantry would lose as much on the one side as they would gain on the other. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk, following the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw), spoke of elasticity in regard to this matter. Why should not the Commission have power to do as they liked for the 52 years? Elasticity must act within 52 years, and by the present Bill within 35 years. But if you put 52 years in the Bill, the very same thing would happen as with 35 years. The 52 years would become the rule in the one case, and the 35 years would become the rule under this Bill. We know there are persons—I hope there are many such persons—who would not require 35 years; who would be anxious to pay off their liability much within that time; and, in so far as the action of the Commission went, I believe that if the Amendment were carried it would be laying down a rule from which the Commission could not in any considerable degree, if at all, swerve, and the 52 years would be a common line with regard to this question. That, I think, answers the argument upon which the hon. and learned Gentleman laid some stress. The fact is, there never was a Commission or a Court established, I believe, by any sane assembly that had more power 444 given to it, and in which there was more elasticity, than there will be in regard to this Court. When you come to a question of money, and it has to be advanced or repaid, it appears to be absolutely necessary and wise to fix the point beyond which the Commission shall not go. If you do not fix upon such a point, we know not where they will go; but if you fix the point at 52 years, I have not the smallest doubt that that period will become the rule throughout the whole of the transactions under this Bill. I said I was as much interested as any living man in the success of this measure; but my opinion is that the success of the measure will be more consulted by adopting the line of 35 years than the line of 52. I do not wish to see a great rush of the tenantry of Ireland to get all their farms under this Bill. I would rather see it work steadily, beginning with a moderate number of applications on two or three considerable estates in the first few years, and increasing as experience followed with the growth of the whole scheme; but I believe it is possible you might invite or induce so many tenants to buy that in ease there should be any considerable fall in the value of land, and in rents a corresponding fall, and a fall in the price of products in the next few years, you might have hundreds, and possibly thousands, of tenants who, having become possessed of their farms under this Bill, found themselves in great difficulty, and would then turn upon Parliament and the Government and say we had invited them and urged them to a course which had produced great embarrassment, and possibly ruin, to many of them. That is one very strong reason we have for adhering to the 35 years' rule. I am sure that in great transactions like these it is far better to proceed steadily, and within lines which you feel you understand, than to go beyond them and run the risks we think we might if we were to invite tenants, with little consideration and much recklessness, to endeavour to become the owners of their farms. These are the reasons which make me believe—and not because the 35 years' limit is in the Bill, for I held this opinion before the Bill was framed, and which I should hold now if I sat on any other Bench—these are the reasons why I am satisfied, profoundly anxious as I am that this Bill, 445 and this particular part of it, should become a great success in future years, we shall do wiser by taking the Bill as it stands than by taking the Amendment offered by my hon. and learned Friend.
§ MR. M'COAN
said, he would confess that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Bright) staggered his intention to address the Committee; but there were one or two considerations which he thought would justify him in intruding on the Committee for a few minutes. He felt that the Premier in making the offer of a three-fourth's advance for 35 years had, from his point of view, done a very generous thing for the Irish people, and made a concession for which the Irish Members would be grateful. When, however, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) intervened in the debate, his respect for that right hon. Member's financial conscience was not equally strong. The difference between the consciences of the two right hon. Gentlemen was as wide as the poles asunder. He felt a little "riled"—if the Committee would forgive a homely expression—at the unfriendly spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) had spoken of Irish interests. It ill-became the right hon. Gentleman to manifest such a spirit, and his financial conscience should not be so tender. His financial antecedents might have made him less liberal on questions of this kind; but when he assumed a tone of authority, and pronounced strongly against the Irish people, he (Mr. M'Coan) felt it his duty to express his opinion of the right hon. Gentleman's action. Both the Irish people and the Government appeared to be in accord in the feeling that the real solution of the Irish agrarian difficulty was the establishment of a peasant proprietary. The Irish people and the Irish Members had looked forward to this part of the Bill as the one grand cure for the evils of the present land system in Ireland; and they had hoped, when the limit of 35 years was fixed, that that term would be extended, or, failing that, that a lower rate of interest than 3½ per cent would be charged, if the whole of the purchase money were not granted. But when the Government put their foot down and adhered to 35 years, they were not carrying the concessions in this Bill very much beyond the Bill of 1870, 446 which was practically a non-success. The main inducement to the Irish tenants to avail themselves of these purchase provisions would be the hope of purchasing at a cheaper rate than their present rents. The existing generation of Irish tenants would not be greatly tempted to go and buy their land at the cost of an increase; but they would be tempted by an extension of the term for repayment, or a reduction in the rate of interest. Unless the tenant was shown that by purchasing his farm he would obtain a practical reduction of his present rate, he would not buy, but would leave his sons or grandsons to do so, and be content to avail himself of the "three F's" clauses. Seeing that the Government would incur no danger, he thought it was not asking an undue concession from the Government to ask the Prime Minister before Report to re-consider the determination to which he had hastily come to-day. If the Premier would make some concession, however small, it would be gratefully regarded by the Irish Members; and in the future stages of the Bill the Prime Minister might, he believed, rely upon their support.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I must say that I think that this discussion is an illustration of the inconvenience which arises from boldly throwing aside all the rules of political economy, and telling us that there are higher motives which ought to guide us in our dealings; but really I do think that the proposal which is now made is one which the House would be very unwise to assent to. We have before us a most liberal proposition on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and I own I think, if it sins at all, it sins on the side of being too liberal. The immediate effect of a proposal of that sort is to suggest demands for something further; and if I rightly understand the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. M'Coan) his contention is that the tenant should pay something less than his present rent, and finally become the owner in fee simple of the land he occupies. These suggestions remind me of the passage in Horace—Dam septem donat sestertia, mutua septem Promittit; persuadet uti mercetur agellum.We are to give certain advantages to the tenant with one hand, and promise him loans with the other, persuading 447 him by all means to be so good as to buy his holding. We are told that his position as a tenant under the Bill will be so excellent that he will need a great deal of persuasion to buy, and we must offer something still sweeter than we have offered him before. If we go on in this way, heaping temptation on temptation to induce the tenant to take our terms, the conclusion one must come to is that we are on a wrong path. For myself, I confess that I do not like the proposals which have been made by the Government. I have endeavoured, as far as I can, to accommodate myself to them; but I am certainly not disposed to go beyond them.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he wished to join in the appeal to Government to re-consider the position they had taken in regard to this Amendment. The Irish Members had been met with a plea that this touched very nearly the financial conscience of the Prime Minister; but that financial conscience of the Prime Minister was not so tender when he was heaping additional financial burdens upon Ireland some years ago. They had found out, from time to time, all through the history of their country, that the consciences of English Ministers, and of the English Government, had stood very much in the way of justice to Ireland. At one time a religious conscience was in the ascendant, and Ireland suffered centuries of persecution. England's political conscience had imposed subjugation on Ireland, and the destruction of Irish liberties.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he was using these illustrations to show that the idea of a financial conscience ought not to be allowed to stand in the way of any concession of ordinary justice to Ireland. The commercial conscience of England had resulted in the ruin of the trade of Ireland. What should be the first dictate of the financial conscience? To pay what you owe; but had England paid to Ireland what she owed her? No; neither from the financial point of view, nor, indeed, any other, had she discharged her debt to Ireland, and the Prime Minister had admitted the fact. England owed Ireland hundreds of millions of money; England had pauperized Ireland, and still owed her a very large 448 debt of reparation. England had robbed Ireland by over taxation.
The hon. Member is not confining himself to the Question before the Committee, which is whether 35 years shall remain in the clause?
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN,
continuing, said, they were told that the Prime Minister had put his foot down; but a well-known American writer had said that no man could go through the world with his foot down. The Prime Minister had put his foot down before now, and had also had to take it up again. There was quite as much honour sometimes in taking a foot up as there was in putting it down; and he thought the present was an occasion when the Prime Minister might very properly, if he had put his foot down, take it up again. It was all very well to speak of smoothing the passage of this Bill; but surely the great object was not to smooth the measure in Parliament, but rather to smooth it for Ireland. The proposal was a reasonable one. It would cost nothing to the English Exchequer; and he urged the Prime Minister, seeing that Irish opinion was so unanimous, and that the proposal was supported by reason and common sense, not to stand upon the financial consideration he had dwelt upon, but to improve the Bill in order to commend it to the Irish people, thereby adding to the chance of its producing the great results desired.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 152; Noes 70: Majority 82.—(Div. List, No. 297.)
§ MR. M'COAN
proposed, in page 14, line 37, to leave out the word "five," in order to insert "four." The Government, he remarked, had resisted the appeal of the Irish Members to extend the term of 35 years, and they had been justified in that by the division; but he felt that he had just as much faith now as he had before in the friendly desire of the Government to do what was right to the Irish farmers. He would, therefore, urge upon the Prime Minister, as he would not consent to extend the term for the advance, he would consent to a reduction of the interest to be paid on the advance. The proposal would not prejudice in any way the Imperial Exchequer, and he hoped the Prime Mi- 449 nister would therefore be disposed to accede to it.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 14, line 37, to leave out the word "five," in order to insert the word "four,"—(Mr. M'Coan,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'five' stand part of the Clause."
thought the hon. Member could really not be serious in making this proposal, because it was asking the Government to deduct £20 out of every £100 which was to be paid back to the Government. That was a proposition which only required to be stated to be rejected, and he was sure the hon. Gentleman would not press the Amendment.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he did not think the proposition was so absurd as the Prime Minister supposed, and thought that the right hon. Gentleman rather overstated the case against the Amendment when he said that the Amendment asked the Exchequer to make a present of 1 per cent to the tenants per annum.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he understood that the State in this country could borrow money at 3 per cent. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Oh, no.] He understood the State could borrow even at 2½ per cent, Consols being above par. If that were so, the Government would be able to pocket½ per cent per annum from the transactions under this Bill, at the very least. That would be charging the Irish tenant l½ per cent more for money advanced than they would have to pay themselves. When they saw the United States Government funding its National Debt—the old Debt—at 3½ per cent, and looking forward to a time when they would be able to fund it at 3 per cent, it was not unreasonable to suppose that the Government would always be able to borrow at 3 per cent, and for a short time at 2½ per cent. He would suggest that, as the interest had been calculated at 3½ per cent, in making out the financial payment at 5 per cent, leaving 1½ per cent for a sinking fund, 3 per cent interest should be taken, that being the rate at which Government were borrowing money in the open market, and that these holdings should be charged with an annuity of 4½ per 450 cent over 35 years, instead of 5 per cent; otherwise the Exchequer would make an annual profit of ½ per cent on every £100 they advanced.
said, that what he had stated was a very simple proposition—a much more intelligible plan than any other. But when the Government proposed to obtain 5 per cent for principal and interest for 35 years, 4 per cent was offered them, and that meant deducting 20 per cent of interest and 20 per cent of principal. With regard to the hon. Member's description of the money market, and the power of the Government to borrow, he must say it was exceedingly kind of the hon. Gentleman to instruct them on questions of finance; but he denied that the British Government could borrow at 3 per cent. If they went into the market at the present moment for £20,000,000 at that rate they could not get it. But that was not the question. It was not like the case of £20,000,000 for the emancipation of the slaves, when the Government had to borrow the money at once; for in this case that would have to be done over a series of years, and 3¼ per cent was the rate at which over a series of years the Government could borrow. But did the hon. Member suppose that all the operations could be conducted, the balances kept, offices maintained, and salaries paid without any addition to the charge? Did he (Mr. Parnell) suppose that if he were turn banker he would be able to lend money at the same rate at which he borrowed? This sort of instruction was a thing no one who had been in a responsible position could accept, and he could not but regret the pertinacity with which these proposals were followed up one after another in a matter where it was impossible for the Government to yield.
§ MR. SHAW
hoped the Amendment would not be pressed, and said, in a case where the Government were making concessions which might amount to a large sum of money spread over many years, it would be impossible for them to lend so close up to the borrowing rate. They must have a margin, and he thought the margin was so small that the Government would not gain anything. At the same time, he hoped the Prime Minister would not think the Irish Members acted unnaturally, for this was a question which had been 451 very prominently before the Irish farmers, and the Irish Members were anxious to see the Bill made as acceptable as possible to the farmers. Still, he hoped his hon. Friend would accept the provision as it stood.
§ MR. M'COAN
suggested, with a view to saving the time of the Committee, that "four and a-half" should be substituted for "four" in his Amendment. He did not, he said, do this in any haggling or bargaining spirit, but with the hope that 4½ per cent would supply a sufficient margin for the Government.
The hon. Member cannot amend his Amendment in that way. The proposal before the Committee is that the word "five" stand part of the Bill. That is a question which it is possible to withdraw, but not to make an Amendment to.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
thought the objection of the Prime Minister to the withdrawal would not do much to promte the progress of the Bill, and said there was no precedent for an hon. Member being refused leave to withdraw an Amendment, not by the Committee, but by the Prime Minister.
said, he did not insist upon the Amendment at all, but the time of the Committee was occupied by a multiplication of these proposals; and if this Amendment were withdrawn without the judgment of the House being taken upon it, it might be revived on a subsequent occasion, and further time taken up by discussing it.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
pointed out that the question was whether "five" should stand part of the clause. The Committee could perfectly well decide upon that, and then "four and a-half" could be proposed.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, the Irish Members attached very great importance to the difference between 5 and 4 per cent, and suggested that the Government might make up the difference by means of the Church Surplus Fund.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
wished to remind the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) that whatever the rate upon which a country might borrow money at a particular moment, its credit depended upon whether there was peace 452 within its borders. The reason why the United States could borrow at a reduced rate was that they had composed their differences, and become one united nation. The hon. Gentleman had been engaged throughout in reducing the credit of this country.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
failed to see that an argument showing why the Government of this country could not always borrow at 3 per cent was not germane to the question. He denied that the Government would make a profit on it advances; and he was convinced that the rate at which a country could borrow depended entirely on the relations she had with the external world. These proposed advances would be made, not on the credit of England, but on the credit of the United Kingdom; and that credit depended on whether this Bill would make the country so united that there would be no desire for a dissolution of the Union, and whether people would be willing to pay the proposed rate for 35 years. If they were not, they could not borrow at 3, or 6, or even 7 per cent; and Gentleman who accepted the low rate were bound to maintain the credit of this country by ceasing their efforts to dissolve the Union.
§ MR. RITCHIE
stated, that of all the witnesses examined before the Agricultural Commission in Ireland, not one advocated a less interest than 5 per cent on advances for the purchases of holdings. He was sure the Government could not advance money safely at a less rate.
§ MR. BIGGAR
remarked, that the Prime Minister seemed to think that the Committee should agree at once to his terms without hearing what could be said against them; but, with all deference to the right hon. Gentleman, he (Mr. Biggar) did not think that was the proper way in which to conduct an important Bill. A charge had been made against the Irish Members collectively that whenever an attack was to be made on the British Exchequer, they were unanimous in support of that attack; but, for his part, he had as frequently voted against proposed grants for Irish purposes as in favour of them. As to the present question, it was known that 3 per cent was rather above the market 453 price, and he did not see why the Government should make a profit of ½ per cent on loans, when the interest and security were undoubted. The principle upon which the Government were now acting was very different from the principle on which they acted in regard to the Bill of last year. When they were proposing to lend money to landlords, they offered the loans at 1 per cent, and gave one or two years free; but when they were dealing with the unfortunate tenants, they wanted 3½ per cent from the first day of the advance. A great deal was said as to the gratitude due to this very Liberal Government; but he failed to see with any great clearness that, if the farmers had to borrow at this high rate, any great gratitude was due.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 196; Noes 35: Majority 161.—(Div. List, No. 298.)
§ Clause agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 23 (Provision as to purchases and sales by Land Commission).
There are several Amendments to this clause of the same kind as that of the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. M'Coan)—namely, to require corporate bodies to sell their property upon compulsion. One Amendment makes it compulsory on Corporations and Companies, and a further Amendment extends the obligation to limited owners to sell their estates to the Land Commission. Parliament has been careful to protect the rights of property by various Standing Orders. These Orders are ordinarily applicable to Private Bills; but wherever it appears that private rights of property are affected by a Public Bill it is usual to refer such Bill to the Examiners in order to ascertain whether the securities provided by the Standing Orders have been afforded to the parties interested. On no matter has Parliament been more particular than in making provision for the compulsory purchase of lands. Undoubtedly, there is a distinction between a Private Bill and a general measure of public policy; but I believe it to be without precedent for a Committee on a Public Bill to entertain an Amendment which, without Notice and without the consent 454 of the parties interested, proposes to take compulsorily the lands of a particular class of proprietors, and, so far as I am concerned, I am not prepared as Chairman to make a new precedent. This Amendment, therefore, cannot be put.
§ MR. LITTON
said, he had placed an Amendment at line 12 which he thought would be of great value. The Irish Church Commissioners, under the Irish Church Act, were not only authorized but directed before they sold Church property, to offer to the tenant of that property the opportunity of purchasing their holdings by way of a right of preemption; and he suggested that the Committee might add a similar provision to this clause. The question of corporate estates in the North and other parts of Ireland had excited a great deal of interest; and if corporate bodies, looking forward to future legislation, were disposed to offer their estates for sale, it was desirable that they should not be at liberty to sell to private individuals until they had offered to the tenants the right of buying on equitable terms. The words he proposed to introduce were taken from the Church Act of 1870, and would carry out the principle of that Act, that public bodies should not be allowed to sell their estates to private individuals regardless of the claims of the occupiers.
In page 16, line 12, at end of Clause, add "No body corporate, public company, trustees for charities, commissioners or trustees for collegiate or other public purposes, shall sell to the public the fee simple of any land which is held immediately from or under them by virtue of any lease or tenancy in writing until they have given notice to the lessee or tenant that they are willing to sell the fee simple to him for a price to be fixed by the Land Commission, and such lessee or tenant has declined to accept their offer within the prescribed period."—(Mr. Litton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, that he had to make the general acknowledgment to his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Litton) that there was in this Amendment and in the subject-matter with which the Amendment was connected, what well deserved the attention of Parliament; but he was afraid that he could not go 455 further than that there were many observations to be made on it. One, for example, was that many of those parties had no power to sell, as he (Mr. Gladstone) understood, their estates. They had power given them under the Bill to sell to the Commission, but no sale otherwise than to the Commission. Then, it must be very hard upon any body, whether they held the land under mortmain or not, to place them under limitations of this kind with respect to each particular part of an estate which they held, because they might produce such a honey-combing of their estates as might be inconvenient and objectionable in the highest degree. But he would base his objection on the more general ground—namely, that however important it might be, it was not in its place in the middle of the clause. These were clauses for regulating purchases by the Commission, and this proposal was entirely independent of that. He would rather, therefore, stand on that point as a more comprehensive objection than to prosecute the matter in its present shape. It did not even take in the matter on grounds of public policy.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
wished to elicit some information from the Government with reference to the question which they had just decided; and, to put himself in Order, he would end with a Motion. ["Oh!"] Well, for reasons which were perfectly justifiable to his mind, he was entitled to take that course. If he caught the ruling of the Chairman aright, the Committee were precluded from considering the question of compelling Companies principally in the North of Ireland to sell their estates—that was, that it would not be permissible for a private Member to propose in this Bill the insertion of any clause to have that effect.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Quite so; without the necessary safeguards. What he wished to do was at once to learn from the Government whether they were prepared to take that matter in hand, because the ruling would be quite compatible with a Minister of the Crown dealing with this question. From what he knew, especially of the North of Ireland and from several Members of that part, the opinion there was very strong 456 that the experiment of establishing peasant proprietary should begin with the properties that were under the control of those Companies; and therefore he thought it was only due to the people of the North of Ireland, who were looking forward to this matter with the gravest anxiety, to tell them whether they had any reason to hope that the Prime Minister would, in the course of the next week or so, consider whether there was any way of dealing with this question. To put himself in Order he would move that Progress be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. T. P. O'Connor.)
§ MR. T. COLLINS
could scarcely believe it possible that the Chairman should rule that power should be denied to a private Member upon a question of public policy in a Public Act to move any single clause dealing with the rights of private individuals, and to allow a Minister of the Crown that power. It was impossible to conceive that Ministers of the Crown had any special privileges of that kind.
said, it would appear that Ministers of the Crown had certain duties or privileges with regard to the taxes laid upon the people and to questions affecting the property of the Crown; but they had no privileges with regard to property other than those which he had described. In answer to the questions which had been put to him, he must repeat that it was really and absolutely beyond his power and that of his right hon. and learned Colleagues, engaged, as they were, with the Bill and the consideration of Amendments upon it, in the course of their ordinary Business to touch this matter. He made this frank admission, that if he endeavoured to introduce it into the subject-matter of the Bill, even if it were politic, that it could not be done.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the question of corporations and absentees was undoubtedly a very important one. He did think that it might be in the power of the Government to draw some distinction between absentee landowners and residential landowners. It had always, in Irish legislation, been the practice to draw a practical distinction 457 between absentee landowners and those who resided in Ireland; and there were a great number of the large owners in Ireland whose estates were rented at the present moment at a fair rent, but who, very probably, under the provisions of this Bill, might be tempted to raise those rents. A practical way to meet the absentee difficulty would be to prevent absentee owners from raising their rents any higher than they were at present. It surely would not have been too much to ask for the tenants on the estates of absentee owners that the Government should consider whether it would be fair to allow those owners the same right to raise their rents as other Irish landowners had, or whether they might not impose some limitations on them. This was a matter which would not press upon the absentee landowners very hard—at any rate, those of them who had allowed their estates to remain at a fair rent; but some of them might feel that when this Bill was put into operation that they were put on their strict rights, and they might make a move in the direction of rent-raising, which might cause great confusion and strife on the estates in Ireland. Therefore, he hoped when the Government had had its attention called to this matter that they would consider whether they might not insert a clause in the Bill depriving absentee landowners of the right of raising their rents any higher than they were at present.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that he had paid a great deal of attention to this subject, and he had come to the conclusion that from an Irish tenant point of view there were no landlords so good as the absentee landlords. They did not worry their tenants or interfere with them, and they did not take excessive rents. What he had found was that the agents of the absentee landowners were something like Indian collectors, for they had a great deal of sympathy with the people, and they entered into their feelings and were inclined to do the best they could for them.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy sometimes told them that they were wasting time by discussion. He hoped that the hon. Member would except the present discussion from that censure.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he would withdraw his Motion to report Progress. 458 He did not wish to interfere one moment longer than was absolutely necessary; but he had a strong impression that the Companies themselves would be as glad to sell as their tenants would be glad to buy, and he was sure that there was nobody in "another place" who had the least desire to preserve these Companies in their property.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LITTON
asked leave to withdraw his Amendment, remarking that the explanation of the Prime Minister was most satisfactory.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 24 (Conditions annexed to holdings whilst subject to advances).
proposed to omit sub-section(a.) The holding shall not be sold by such proprietor without the consent of the Land Commission until one-half of the whole charge has been discharged.They had considered this matter, and they had come to the conclusion that this limitation was unnecessary, and would restrict the purchaser's power of borrowing. He did not see that the Land Commission had any interest in this restriction.
§ Amendment agreed to; sub-section struck out accordingly.
§ MR. LALOR
moved the omission, in page 16, line 22, of the words "or sublet." He said it was generally agreed in Ireland that tenants would purchase under this Bill, and if these landlords were allowed to grow up in Ireland on the strength of this Bill they would be the very worst class of landlords. The people of Ireland had a great objection to these purchasers being allowed to sub-let the land. Instead of sub-letting, however, it would be in the power of the Court to allow them to sell it, and thus get rid of it.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 16, line 22, to leave out the words "or sub-let."—(Mr. Lalor.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'or sub-let' stand part of the Clause."
said, that the hon. Member (Mr. Lalor) wished to take 459 away one limitation, in order to impose one of a different character. The Government thought that they ought not to sub-let while being largely indebted to the Commission. But considering the Amendment, and fully admitting that there was considerable practical truth in what the hon. Member had said about the abuse by the small landlords of their powers, still he did not think that it was possible to affect with a perpetual disability a certain proportion of the land of the country in regard to the powers which the proprietor of that land possessed of setting out the land as he pleased. However well the Amendment might be meant, it was one that they could not agree to.
§ MR. PARNELL
was sorry that the Prime Minister did not see his way to accept this Amendment. The large holders of Ireland might purchase them under the Purchasing Clauses; and he very much feared that one of the results would be that pointed out by the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Lalor), that they would have such persons, after having benefited by the action of the State in putting an end to one system of landlordism, setting up another and a worse system of landlords than that which existed before. He thought that the principle which his hon. Friend sought to have recognized was a very fair one. The State stopped in and did a very unusual thing. It offered to lend money to those tenants for the purpose of enabling them to become owners of their holdings. It did that from the point of view of public policy; and, of course, if the State pleased to impose on that transaction a condition that that land should not be sub-let by the new owners, he did not see how the new owners, taking advantage of the arrangement, could grumble at such a limitation. If they did not wish to be owners under that limitation, they could remain tenants, and they would have nothing to complain of. But if they wished to become owners under the limitation that the House of Commons pleased to affix, he did not see why they should complain of the limitation. There was another way in which this question might, perhaps, be dealt with—namely, by making them the present tenants, instead of future tenants, as they would be under the operation of the present Bill. In that way they would encourage 460 a system of sale where an owner had more land than he could profitably employ or cultivate himself; and he thought it was to the encouragement of the system of selling land in Ireland, instead of letting it, that they must look to escape from the present entanglement. Owing to a variety of circumstances, which it was not necessary to allude to, the system in Ireland had been to let and not to sell land. Both owners and occupiers generally preferred to let it or rent it. If they encouraged the system of selling land, instead of letting it, and thus perpetuating the pernicious system of landlordism, it would be much better.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, it appeared to him that the point deserved earnest consideration. Of course, so far as the security of the Treasury or the Land Commission, or whoever might be regarded as the person who advanced the money, was concerned, there could be no doubt that it was very reasonable that proposals should be made which should secure the repayment of the money; and, as sub-letting or subdividing, without the consent of the Land Commission, might endanger the repayment, it was very reasonable that there should be a proposal that the holding should not be sub-divided or sub-let without the consent of the Commission. All the Commission would do would be to see that what was done did not imperil the security on which they had advanced their money. Well, but the hon. Member proposed to leave out the words "or sub-let." That would appear, at first sight, as if he intended to allow a purchaser, under this clause, to sub-let Without the necessity of going to the Land Commission; but lie proposed, subsequently, to put in words which restrained the proprietor, who had purchased under those peculiar conditions, from sub-letting at all—that was, from turning himself into a landlord. He understood that the whole of this proposal was to get rid, sub-modo, of landlordism, and he understood that the proposal of the hon. Gentleman was to carry that into effect—that was, to prevent the present tenants from becoming landlords. If it were otherwise, they would have all the evils of landlordism brought up again, and the land would be in the hands of persons who had been assisted to become landlords by the aid of the 461 State in turning out the previous landlords.
§ MR. SYNAN
was at a loss to understand how an owner in fee, which at least a purchaser would be at the end of 35 years, was to be restrained by law from exercising his ownership in fee by attaching a condition to it which would be totally inconsistent with the estate. Who was to enforce the condition? Was the State to enforce that condition against an owner in fee, and say that he was not to sub-let or sub-divide his ownership in fee? He did not care whether he had 1,000 or 10 acres, the condition was inconsistent with the estate, and they could not have such a condition on any estate in this Bill or any Bill.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
suggested that the object of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Lalor) could be met consistently with the view which his hon. Friend (Mr. Synan) had recognized, to some extent, by making a distinction between the present tenants and those who came after.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
was quite satisfied that some such provision as this Amendment contained would be necessary before the tenants would become the proprietors. On the Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), it was made quite clear that they could not prevent the purchasing tenant from mortgaging, or sub-letting, or doing anything he liked with his land. He must become the natural proprietor, and that would be the chief inducement to pay the instalments during the 35 years.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, they must not look only to the present requirements, but to Free Trade in land in Ireland. They could not hamper it. It was in that way that many of the provisions of the Bill which seemed now to hamper the relations of man and man with regard to land were to be remedied; and he thought it was utterly impossible to restrain purchasing tenants by any such conditions as were now proposed in this Bill. He thought it would not be possible to prevent the consolidation of these peasant proprietary holdings in Ireland in face of the difficulties which must be obvious. As far as subletting was concerned, they would have to contend in Ireland with the same difficulties which had been experienced 462 in other countries where what was called land hunger had prevailed. There would always be found intending tenants ready to take land at high prices; but that did not, in his opinion, refute the objection which he held to any attempt to prevent the free sale of land in Ireland or elsewhere. He did not think it was possible to trace any of the difficulties now complained of to the wish of a large section of the Irish people for freedom of sale in land.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, his main objection to the clause was that it would give ample opportunity for the exercise of their calling to land-jobbers in all parts of the country, and would effect such a change in the legislation as could only have the effect of injuriously affecting tenants who would be powerless for their own defence.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, the clause was bad enough; but it would not work so injuriously if the Amendment was adopted, for no one could doubt that, in the point of view of the tenants, a system of sale was preferable to one of sub-letting.
said, that, whatever might or might not be the relative merits of sale and sub-letting, he did not think any hon. Member could legitimately urge that it was raised by the present Amendment. He thought when the Committee came to consider the whole principle involved in the clause they would arrive at a somewhat different view of the matter from that which had been laid before them by some hon. Members.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
objected to the clause, and supported the Amendment on the ground, mainly, that it would not have the effect of facilitating the sale of land in Ireland. It was not only the ideal but the real land system in many European countries, and particularly in France, that the ownership of the land should be distributed over as large a number of the inhabitants of the country as possible; and he hoped that principle would not only be recognized in theory by the Government, but would be acted up to in practice.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, he hoped the Amendment would not be pressed, 463 inasmuch as in his view the present was not the most opportune moment for raising the great principle which was involved in it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment agreed to; word struck out accordingly.
§ Amendment agreed to; word inserted accordingly.
§ On the Motion of Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND, Amendment made in page 16, line 30, by leaving out the words "or judgment."
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Reclamation of Land and Emigration.
§ Clause 25 (Reclamation of land).
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
moved, in page 17, to leave out line 15, and insert the words "the Land Commission may, with the concurrence of the Treasury." The general impression among a large section of the Irish people was that the Irish Board of Works had not used their powers for the benefit of the country at large, and had thus become very unpopular and were ineffective.
In page 17, leave out line 15, and insert "the Land Commission may, with the concurrence of the Treasury."—(Mr. Charles Russell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'The Treasury may authorise the Board of Works to' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. GIVAN
said, the Board of Works in Ireland was entirely made up of a system of red-tape, and it was impossible to get a loan through the Board for any purpose under the sun without an immense amount of unnecessary trouble. As a justification of what he said, he might mention the action of the Board with regard to advances under the Act of 1870. In the clause that 464 enabled the Board to advance money to the tenant, the words were—Where a tenant is desirous of purchasing his holding he may apply to the Board of Works to advance any sum not exceeding two-thirds of the whole amount;but the Board actually refused to advance the tenants any money, unless they applied before they purchased at all to the Board for an advance on an amount which they did not know, because it was said the words of the Act were—"Where the tenant is desirous of purchasing." They, therefore, held that a purchase made by the tenant without consulting the Board first of all, while the transaction was inchoate, and which, in fact, was no purchase at all, did not comply with the provision, "where a tenant is desirous;" and the Board would not advance any money at all. The result was, that numbers of purchasers, supposing they had a clause in the Act of 1870 enabling them to purchase, went into the Landed Estates Court and made a purchase of their holding, having one-third to pay; but, when they went to the Board, the Board said they could not advance the two-thirds balance because the application was not made before the purchase. And so an Act of Parliament had to be passed through the House to get rid of this miserable technical objection that the Board raised to defeat the object of the clause altogether. No wonder the Board of Works was unpopular, because no more frivolous objection was ever made than this under the 47th section of the Act of 1870. If the Land Commission was to have the working power under the present Bill to carry out the peasant proprietor part of the scheme, it should have in itself all that power, and certainly a part of it should not be relegated to the decision of an unpopular and obstructive Board.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, of course, it was easy to find fault with the Board of Works; but that Board was a Department that had assigned to it one of the most important, delicate, and invidious duties it was possible to discharge. The history of the case was this. Parliament was prepared to sanction advances of certain money for certain purposes in Ireland under certain restrictions. The conditions under which the advances were to be made were laid down in an Act of Parliament, and ex- 465 pressed in that Act the mode in which it should be done, and charge of the machinery. The Board of Works was devised as the machinery for the work being carried through; and it was the duty of those gentlemen who formed the Board to adhere strictly to the orders that were given by Parliament. If Parliament had made its orders more strict than necessary, they might require alteration, and the House had the opportunity of making alterations in the conditions on which Parliament chose to advance money; and it was open to Parliament to make those conditions more or less stringent, as it pleased. But do let them have fair consideration for those who had to carry the orders into effect; they were pressed in every manner, as any body was which had in its charge the disposition of public money; and it was the duty of the House to support those engaged in this administration. He was not prepared to say that the Board of Works had made no mistakes in their administration, or that there had been no mistakes in the administration of the Treasury in relation to these matters; but he was certain that great honesty, great ability, and great firmness had been shown in cases where, if these qualities had been wanting, the public would have been serious losers. He therefore hoped that justice would be done to those employed in a disagreeable, but important, task. He thought that the Board of Works, under the authority of the Treasury, was the best proposal for the machinery that could be devised, and he hoped that proposal would be adopted.
said, he gave his concurrence to what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), and he wished to point out that only one particular case had been stated against the Board of Works as to the manner of their administration in which there had been something like a miscarriage. In regard to that—first of all, it must be said that the duty imposed upon the Board of Works was an exceptional duty outside its proper functions and province; and, secondly, he would go further, and say that he thought it was impossible, if there was blame due—he was not saying whether this blame was due, or was not—it was not possible to stop at the Board of Works; it must be carried to 466 the Treasury, for the Board of Works was simply an instrument of the Treasury, and it was impossible to bring any serious charge against the Board without the Treasury taking that charge on its own shoulders. As to what had been said about the unpopularity of the Board of Works, perhaps that made less impression upon his mind than it did on the minds of some. He had never heard that the Treasury was popular—it might be so, and he hoped it was—but the fact had never come to his knowledge. Under an economical Administration, it was held to be extremely penurious in the disposition of public money; and when the Administration was more disposed to be liberal, then the appetite grew faster than the supply, and the Treasury was never enabled to establish itself permanently in the good graces of those who made the demands. In furtherance of what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman, he must say that, seriously, the faults of the Board of Works were those of the Treasury; and, if they existed, it was in Parliament and before the House that the Treasury were liable to be questioned, and were bound to answer; there they could be tried, and the blame should not be laid upon a body which, after all, was but instrumental and subordinate. He did not wonder that, at first sight, the notion should impress itself that this work should be intrusted to the Commission; but let the Committee consider whether they had not gone far enough in the duties they had charged upon the Commissioners. There had been laid upon them the working of a judicial duty connected with the administration of new Land Laws; and, having done that, having gone into a new system, and a new application of a system of advances, the working out of which had been laid on the Commission, a part of the Bill was now reached entirely separate and distinct from these matters, and which, in point of fact, was an extension of what now existed, and had nothing to do with the subject-matter on which the Commission would be engaged. It was to extend an Act that now existed, to allow public money to be advanced in aid of private and individual purposes in Ireland, and, therefore, the Committee must look beyond the machinery of the Bill. Having done their part, the Commission would not 467 have the experience, the engineering staff, nor, he might be allowed to say, the leisure to discharge this new duty. He confessed he almost trembled when he thought of the calls that would be made upon the care, the mind, the thought of the Commissioners; but where there was a body which had an engineering staff and great capacity, and which, also, was an authorized body under the responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown, he could not help thinking that the mind of his hon. and learned Friend would be satisfied, and that he would himself think that the Government were right in maintaining the position of the Bill as it stood.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, the very work that the Board would have to do was the very work it did most successfully, until, unfortunately, some years ago, the system was changed, and drainage was taken from the direction of the Board of Works and handed over to Drainage Boards. Therefore, it seemed to him that the Board of Works was specially qualified for any work in the nature of drainage and the reclamation of waste lands. As to the charge which had been made against the Board, he did not wish to undertake their defence; but he was certain that the accusation made against the Board in relation to the "Bright Clauses" was not due to their own action, but the course they took was imposed upon them by the Treasury. There was one thing, however, he would mention in reference to the Board of Works. A Committee, some years ago, recommended the reorganization of the Board and the retirement of the Chairman, and he would appeal to the Government to consider whether that recommendation could be carried out. No doubt, the Chairman was an old and valuable servant; but there was no doubt, also, his ideas were not in harmony with what was expected from the Board, and, surely, he might now be relegated to that retirement he had so well earned.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, he hoped the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) would not press his Amendment to a division. It was evident that the Board of Works was best qualified for the work. He was far from saying that the Board did not want improvement. It did; but the Board had the staff and means of 468 carrying out the work which the Commission would be unable to carry out, unless a similar staff was created. As to the charge brought by the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan), he was very much struck by what he said, that after the Board had raised technical objections abiding strictly by the rules laid down, the point had to be made the object of another Act of Parliament to enable the thing to be done as tenants desired; and that, at all events, showed that it was not the Board of Works or the Treasury which had to bear the blame, but it was due to a defect in the Act of Parliament.
MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he would, with the leave of the Committee, withdraw his Amendment. ["No, no!"]
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, it was remarkable that both the hon. and gallant Member for Cork County (Colonel Colthurst) and the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) had said how excellently qualified was the Board of Works for engineering operations such as the reclamation of land in Ireland; but what had that to do with this clause? Would the hon. Members who vindicated the efficiency of the Board of Works for drainage and other improvements look at the clause, and they would find not a word about engineering operations, but a great deal about executing money-lending operations. Now, he had heard a few people confess that the Board had completely discharged its duty in one or two engineering operations, but he had never heard one man say that the Board of Works did anything but obstruct the advance of public money for useful purposes; and he would ask his hon. Friends who pointed out the advantage of handing the administration of this clause to the Board of Works, to remember what it was. The Treasury might authorize the Board to advance from time to time monies for objects they might think expedient, and for which there was sufficient security; therefore, all that the Board would have to do would be to look after the security for the money. If the Government had any idea of making the clause what it purposed to be—merely a matter for the working out of the Act in harmony with the spirit of a great scheme—surely they should not commit a part of the scheme to one supreme authority, and 469 another part to another. Already in Ireland there was a sufficient number of divided authorities working over the same ground; in fact, he had often said it was one of the banes of the country. Five distinct bodies over the same ground—different taxes, different tax collectors, different officials, different secretaries, and different instructions—and now there was going to be an addition to the evil in this case! If all that Clause 25 proposed to do was to advance money to Companies and look after the security for the money, he would suggest that the Land Commission should be the authority, because the Land Commission would, in the discharge of other duties, have cognizance of the reasons that would justify the recommendation of a particular advance. It was the Land Commission alone that would be charged with the knowledge of all the operations taking place under the Bill, of the reclamation and value of land, and with a knowledge of the whole working of the Act, where it might be that reclamation was needed to relieve the congestion of, population and where not. If, then, the clause had not any purpose but to see that the money had full security, then the Land Commission was the proper authority. This was really so large a subject that it was quite impossible, utterly impossible, to discuss it now; and, therefore, since it was obvious that several hon. Members wished to speak, he might as well say what he had to say and not divide it between to-night and Monday, and he would, therefore, ask the attention of the Committee to one of the reasons why he thought the Government should give the Commission the authority over the reclamation of waste lands in Ireland. He would like to know whether some effort could not be made by the Government to extend this clause to the taking in of foreshores—
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, he must have failed to convey his meaning with sufficient clearness. The Committee were discussing whether the Board of Works or the Land Commission should have charge of Clause 25, and his argument was that if this was only to be a money lending operation, his contention was that the Land Commission could do that as 470 well as the Board of Works. But if it was to be for the purpose of conducting engineering operations, the clause must be altered to give the Board or the Commission, whichever it might be, the power of undertaking these operations. That was his argument. But he did not think anything was to be gained by trying at this part of the clause to make any suggestions, or use arguments in connection with the reclamation of land; and, as they would be more in Order at a further stage, he would reserve his remarks.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he would ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether the Bill would not throw a great deal of work on the Board, and whether it was not a fact that the additional work under the Relief of Distress Act of last year absolutely broke down the Board of Works? Did not the clerks in the office work day and night, and were they not absolutely broken down? Further, he would like to know, was is not notorious that when works were undertaken by landlords under that Act, the Inspector of the Board of Works went down and certified for the work being done, when in fact it was not done, and it was popularly believed, and indeed in some cases known, that the money supplied on account of the work supposed to done was spent in buying heifers—the gentleman sent down by the Board of Works certifying for the work after dining and wining with the landlords? Was it to a body so universally distrusted in Ireland that the carrying out of important provisions in the Bill was to be intrusted? The late Conservative Government a few years ago promised to have the Board represented in the House, but it was never carried out. It used to be the custom, whenever comments were made on the Board of Works in the House, for the Irish official to say—"It's none of my child;" and to state that he was not responsible for the mismanagement, nor would the Secretary to the Treasury acknowledge he had any responsibility. Certainly, if the Board of Works were intrusted with the authority proposed, it would take away any confidence as to the working of the Act.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER,
said, it was quite true that the Boards of Works was not under the control of the Lord Lieutenant or the Chief Secretary; it was 471 under the Treasury, and his noble Friend the Secretary to the Treasury had acknowledged the responsibility. But a question had been asked as to the action of the Board of Works during the distress of last year, and he really must say that, so far as his knowledge went, and what he heard of their action, and especially speaking from his contact with the Board from his official connection with the Local Government Board, he thought that the conduct and management of the Board during the great pressure of the time of distress was such that no fault could be found with it. True, the clerks were hard worked, and so they were in the office of the Local Government Board and other offices under the great pressure; but he confessed his own opinion of the Board of Works was raised considerably by the manner in which they got through the necessities of the distress. The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) alluded to particular charges of which, of course, he (Mr. Forster) knew nothing, and he did not think it was fair to bring forward such charges as acknowledged facts, when he did not suppose any Member of the Committee had heard of them before.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the Committee could not decide on this important question, on which the whole of the clause depended and upon which Amendments hereafter would hinge, at such a late hour, and he would therefore suggest that it would be reasonable for the Government to assent to a Motion to report Progress and to adjourn the discussion to Monday. The Board of Works was introduced into the Bill now for the first time, and the effect was important.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he wished to know whether the Government intended to make any other alteration of procedure in respect to the Bill besides those announced by the Prime Minister at the beginning of the evening? He had stated that when the Committee arrived at Clause 34, he would move that it be postponed; and he (Sir Stafford Northcote) desired to know whether it was the intention to proceed in regular order with the other clauses— 472 and especially he would refer to Clause 36 and the Emigration Clauses; and whether it was intended to proceed with the other clauses having reference to the duties of the Court?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the question should have been put to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister; but, to the best of his (Mr. Forster's) knowledge, there was no intention of making any other alteration beyond the postponement of Clause 34.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, the Committee was getting on quickly, and would very soon reach the clauses dealing with the constitution of the Court and the functions of the Land Commission, upon which he understood the Prime Minister was going to make a statement on Monday. It seemed to him that the Government Amendments would not appear on the Notice Paper till Tuesday, and hon. Members, if not satisfied with the Government Amendments, would have to put in manuscript Amendments, and this would be a little hard upon the Committee. What he wished to ask was, that the Government would make known their proposals and give hon. Members full opportunity of considering them.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
asked, did the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that the Amendments were not expected till Tuesday?
§ MR. GIBSON
said, they were not on the Paper now, and, unless given in within the next 10 minutes, would not appear till Tuesday.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
asked, would the Government undertake not to discuss them until after they could be seen on the Paper?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
hoped that they would not be discussed until they had appeared for a day in print, so that they could be seen with other Amendments.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, the Government would do their best to put 473 them on as early as possible; but they could not undertake to postpone the proceedings for a day.
said, he thought they had been waiting at least a month; and he did not see how it would be possible to discuss the constitution of the Court until the Amendments of the Government and of other responsible, and irresponsible Members were before the Committee.
§ MR. HENEAGE
urged the Government to put their Amendments on the Paper as soon as possible, and said that he had had an Amendment on the Paper for nearly two months, for doing away with all reference to County Courts, and he should be in a difficult position if the Government only produced their Amendments on the day when the clause came up.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.