§ Clause 12 (Sale of tenancy without notice of increase of rent).
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, he wished to ask a question on a point of Order. He had risen at 1 o'clock in the morning to move an Amendment, which he had had upon the Paper for about two months; but, before he could move his Amendment, an Amendment to the same clause was moved by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. At the close of the discussion upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment, the Chairman called upon him (Mr. Macfarlane) to move his Amendment as it originally stood on the Paper, and as it remained unaltered, except that the additional words moved by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had been added to the clause. On being called upon by the Chairman to move his Amendment, he thought he had the right to assume that, in having been so called upon, the Amendment itself was in Order; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, assuming for a moment the functions of the Chair, got up and told him that the Amendment was not in Order, that it could not be moved in that place, and that if it was to be moved at all, it 1375 should have been moved before his own Amendment. The question he now wished to ask the Chairman was this—who was to regulate the order in which Amendments were to be called? Was it the Chairman, or hon. Members who had Amendments on the Paper? He would not say that his Amendment was of very much importance. He said nothing about its importance or non-importance. That had nothing to do with the question. What he wished to call attention to was the effect of the proceeding, because, upon another occasion, it might have the effect of striking out some very valuable Amendment. He (Mr. Macfarlane) had accepted the ruling of the right hon. and learned Gentleman last night, acting in the place of the Chairman, and he had accepted the right hon. and learned Gentleman's decision that the Amendment was out of Order; but, at the same time, when Amendments had been placed on the Paper, he thought it was a duty the Chairman owed to the Members who gave Notice of them to see that they were taken in the proper place. The Amendment of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland was only a week old, whereas his (Mr. Macfarlane's) was at least two months old. He wished to know who was to regulate the order in which Amendments were to be called, whether it was the Member in whose name an Amendment stood or the Chairman?
The question of the hon. Member is a natural one from his point of view; but there was no irregularity in the course that was actually taken. Whenever there are a number of Amendments in the same place, which in this case was the end of the clause, the Government Amendments, by the practice of the Committee, have precedence. The Amendment of the hon. Member, coming after the part relating to the Ulster tenant right custom at the end of the clause, would have been in Order had not the Committee, at the instance of the Government, added a number of lines which prevented the Amendment of the hon. Member from being put in that place, because it then had no connection with the words which appeared previously in the clause. But the hon. Member is not without redress. He will have full opportunity of moving his Amendment on the Report.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAw)
said, his hon. Friend (Mr. Macfarlane) must have misunderstood what he had said. He did not object to the proposal of the Amendment on the ground of Order; but because, if it were proposed after the adoption of his (the Attorney General for Ireland's) Amendment, it would make nonsense of the clause. It had reference entirely to the Ulster Custom, and if it were tacked on to the end of the clause after the words which had been added to the clause, it would have made the latter part of the section quite insensible.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he wished to point out, on the question of Order, a matter which ought to act as a guide and warning to the printer of the Votes. There were two sorts of additions to a clause. One was the addition of part of a sentence which was to be read with part of another phrase. The other was the addition of entirely new matter, such as the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had proposed in this instance. Therefore, as a point of Order, he would submit that a sentence which formed, with the concluding sentence of a clause, one harmonious whole, ought, by every right of reason and grammar, to have precedence of Amendments which, although coming at the end of a clause, had, nevertheless, no connection with it.
With respect to Clause 12, I may remind the Committee that the well-understood purpose of the clause was simply to provide for a possible interval between the engagement of an incoming tenant and an outgoing tenant, and the incoming tenant being accepted by the landlord. But I am now assured by the legal authorities, who are unanimous on the point, that alterations made in a later clause of the Bill will secure the object this clause was intended to meet, and therefore Clause 12 will be quite unnecessary.
§ Question, "That Clause 12 stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.
§ Postponed Clause 15 (Provision in case of title paramount).
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
moved, in page 11, line 25, after "holding," insert "the estate of."
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted, "put, and agreed to.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
moved, in page 11, line 26, to leave out from "is" to during "in line 27, and insert "determined."
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That the word 'determined' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
moved, in page 11, line 27, after "tenancy," insert "from year to year, whether subject or not to statutory conditions."
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. GIBSON
said, the clause, as originally proposed, would have given rise to the most extraordinary and startling consequences. If it had not been amended, this strange consequence might have been the result—namely, that a man might have got a lease of 10 years from the immediate landlord and the lessee might have sublet a large portion of the holding at a nominal rent for 1,000 years, and the head landlord would have found himself saddled with this lease for 1,000 years, and would only be entitled to this nominal rent. The Amendments proposed by his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland obviated a result so startling, and they were very much an advance on the original clause in the direction of common sense and simplicity. But he thought that a case had not been made out for even so wide a change as was now applied. It appeared to be a hardship that in the case of a long lease the sub-lessee who, with his family, might have been in possession of the farm and holding for generations should at the termination of the lease, and at the end of the tenancy, find himself, from no fault of his own, deprived of his holding. On the other hand, the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend was so widely drawn that a man who came in as a sub-tenant six months before the termination of a long lease would be given all the benefits which the Act of Parliament, and 1378 this section, conferred upon a present tenant. The clause, therefore, was much wider than the exigencies of the case demanded. It would be better to say a "sub-tenant from year to year who had been in occupation "for a certain definite period, naming the period. The clause entitled the sub-tenant to the immense rights and privileges it was now proposed to confer on a present tenant; and it would be clearly unreasonable to the head landlord, under all the circumstances of the case, to permit such a state of facts, that a week or a month before the termination of a long and an old lease the lessee might create a series of sub-tenants from year to year, who would come in with the right of having their rents fixed and to a statutory term granted. He did not propose at the present moment to challenge further the introduction of the words submitted by his right hon. and learned Friend; but he had thought it right to point out what he considered to be a fair and reasonable objection to them. He would, however, ask his right hon. and learned Friend on the Report to introduce words which would prevent the landlord from being deprived of his rights in consequence of a lessee unfairly dealing with the property shortly before the termination of the lease.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, he would consider the matter before the Report; but he did not think that the difficulty suggested by his right hon. and learned Friend was likely to arise. On the contrary, the arrangements made by the lessee whose tenancy was about to expire would be for his own advantage, and not for those of another person. He would, however, consider whether it was not desirable to introduce an Amendment which would prevent a mischievously disposed lessee from sub-letting for the purpose of doing harm to the property without securing any corresponding amount of good for himself.
§ MR. MARUM
pointed out that if a head landlord originally conferred a right upon a middle-man, it would only be the consequence of his own act if the lessee availed himself of such right. He could not take advantage of his own wrong, and could not complain if the power he had originally given was exercised.
§ Amendment agreed to.1379
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
moved, in page 11, line 29, to insert after the word "in" the word "the."
§ Question, "That the word 'the' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. HEALY
moved, in page 11, line 31, at the end of the clause, to insert—Every tenancy to which this Act applies shall be deemed a present tenancy until the contrary is proved.The hon. Gentleman said the Amendment would have come better in the next clause, and it was by a mistake on his part that it had been connected with the present one. It could, however, do no harm at the end of Clause 15, and therefore he would move it. His object was to throw the burden of proof in all cases upon the landlord. There could be no injustice in making such a provision, for this reason—that the landlord and his agents were the persons who kept the books, the legal documents, and all the estate dockets; whereas the tenant was generally an illiterate man, who kept no books or records at all. Of course, an Amendment of this nature would have very little effect at the present moment; but at the end of 30 years, when it became necessary to prove that the tenancy was a present tenancy, the burden of proof instead of being thrown on the illiterate tenant would rest with the landlord, who would have kept all the books and records. He did not think it was too much to ask under such circumstances that the onus should rest upon the landlord.
In page 11, at end of clause, to add—"Every tenancy to which this Act applies shall be deemed a present tenancy until the contrary is proved."—(Mr. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, he did not think that the words proposed to be added by the hon. Member would come in well at the end of the present clause. It would, therefore, be more convenient to discuss the matter on the Report, and he would undertake to consider it before the Report was brought up. The hon. Member admitted very fairly that the difficulty would not arise immediately, but was one which was only likely to 1380 occur at some future time. In the meantime, proof would be easily available that the tenancy was a present tenancy, or, at least, it would be only in very rare cases that any difficulty could arise.
§ MR. HEALY
said, they were told that it was not the object of the Bill to drive the tenants into Court; but he was afraid there would be a great number of disputes in reference to ordinary tenancies, where the aid of the Court would be invoked. The tenant would claim the rights of an ordinary tenancy, and unless the landlord filed an objection to that claim it would be allowed.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, he hoped the hon. Member would withdraw the Amendment and bring it up on the Report. He thought it was possible to devise some means of putting the tenant's claim on record, and of thus preserving the rights of the tenant for the future.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he was anxious that the House should not be required to thrash all these questions out again upon the Report. They were subjects that would be much more satisfactorily dealt with in Committee. On the Report, an hon. Member would only be entitled to make one speech; and it would be inconvenient to be followed on the Report by hon. Members who took very little interest in the matter, without having the power to answer them. He would be content, however, if the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland would promise to bring up a new clause.
There would be great force in what the hon. Member says if it were not for two considerations—in the first place, that the words cannot be inserted here, and the matter must, therefore, be postponed; and next, that the other parts of the Bill will afford conclusive proof as to the nature of the tenancy.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he was glad that the Attorney General for Ireland had engaged to consider the matter. It would be a great disadvantage if the want of a record should prejudice the rights of the tenant.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That Clause 15, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.1381
§ Postponed Clause 27 (Supply of money to Land Commission for purposes of Act).
We now come to Clause 27. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) has given Notice of his intention to move the omission of this clause, with a view of submitting a plan of his own; but I think I shall be able to show some grounds why the right hon. Gentleman should not press his Amendment. The points which I wish to state principally are these. First and foremost, it is quite obvious that during the present Session—I do not say during the present financial year—we can make no other than a purely provisional and initial arrangement. I do not speak now of the plan of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, with respect to arrears. That is a definite plan, and can be treated apart from every other financial question. It contemplates drawing money from the Church Fund; but I do not hesitate to say that if hereafter it is found desirable to make the Church Fund available for any other and larger purpose than that of arrears, we should be quite prepared to move any obstacles in the way of the plan, by carrying over the whole of the arrear arrangement bodily to the Consolidated Fund for the sake of getting it out of the way. But, speaking of the other great financial demands which may arise under this Act, first and foremost come the advances required for the purchase of estates, and behind that come the questions with respect to the reclamation of land, agricultural improvements, and emigration. With respect to these questions, it is quite impossible that we can have any light whatever, or any means of estimating what we ought to propose, until the Act is passed, the Commission has met, and its establishment and offices have been got into working order, and until it has begun to receive applications from persons proposing to take advantage of the provisions of the Bill. We can only make a proposal in the present Session—I distinguish broadly between the Session and the financial year—because in February next it is quite possible and highly probable that we may be able to propose a more definitive and broader arrangement. We only propose to take the clause which constitutes a charge on the Consolidated Fund. We shall have to ask the House, on the Public 1382 Loans Act, to vote £1,100,000 for advances in Ireland under Acts already existing; and we shall propose, in order to have an ample margin for any calls that may arise—although it is really difficult to say whether any serious call could arise before the month of December—we propose to raise that sum to £2,000,000. That could not prejudice any conclusion to which the House may desire to arrive. That is my first point. My second point, is to notice the plan sketched out by the right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. W. H. Smith) in his speech on the second reading of the Bill, and which he has since embodied in certain clauses, with one object and principle which apparently lies at the root of his ideas. He is desirous of constituting an Irish Fund, and he conceives that that can be done, first of all, by providing an insignificant nucleus from the resources of the Church Fund. Although that nucleus is inconsiderable in itself for purchasing purposes, compared with the large sums that would be required for the purchase of land in Ireland under the provisions of the Bill, it must be remembered that the money that is laid out in purchasing operations would immediately begin to trickle back, if I may so say, into the Exchequer, through the re-sales, and a very considerable fund, we hope, will be provided in that way. But it is not possible at this moment to say what proportion the nucleus which would provide the means for the first advances would bear to the amount of the sales; and the nucleus which the Church Fund would afford would only enable us to set out on a somewhat limited scale. Until we know what the scale is on which we will have to set out, we cannot enter with advantage upon the consideration of this question. If the demands appear to be likely to be spread over a considerable space of time, it will be possible to organize, with general satisfaction, a plan on the footing proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. But I may say this, that, so far as we can make a calculation at present, and speaking very roughly, we are inclined to say that about £10,000,000 of purchases may be made on the, basis proposed by the right hon. Gentleman within a period of six years. That is the best information I can give, and it must be taken with some indulgence and 1383 some liberty, for nobody can tell at this moment whether that would be an adequate provision or not. Therefore, the upshot of what I have to say is that the Government propose to adhere to this clause for the time, without prejudice to any future action. But, as it is absolutely necessary to make some provision at the present moment for possible contingencies, it is eminently desirable that a more definitive statement of the provisions we propose to make should not be made now, but that it should be reserved. With these few observations, I would propose to retain the clause as it stands.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Clause stand part of the Bill."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, I shall not persevere with the Notice which stands on the Paper in my name. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that I have not given that Notice with any feeling of hostility to the proposal to set up a peasant proprietary in Ireland. On the contrary, I am convinced, from the experience which I gained when in Office, that the present system has been practically a failure. There has been, up to the present moment, something like 800 peasant proprietors in Ireland constituted under the Act of 1870, and less than one-half of the sum of £1,000,000 sterling which was authorized to be advanced by the Act of 1870, has been appropriated for the purpose. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will feel that fair play has not been given to the scheme, and that the difficulties connected with the administration of the money, and the circumstances in which the Fund was placed are so great, that I am not sanguine that any scheme on the same lines can be really successful. In the first place, it will be understood that it is the duty of the Treasury, and very properly so, to exercise a wholesome check upon the expenditure of the public money, and to be extremely jealous as to the value of the security which is offered for public loans. It must also be borne in mind that under the provisions of the Bill as they now stand it will be necessary from time to time, and from year to year, to apply for an Act to authorize the expenditure of the money; and as there is likely to be a discussion 1384 in which different opinions may be expressed, I do not think that any public financial authority can be very earnest in its desire to give full effect to this scheme. I have the greatest confidence that the proposal which I intended to lay before the Committee would have been found to work sucessfully in practice. That proposal was, that an Irish Fund should be established on the security of Irish property, and administered by Irishmen in Dublin, competent men and desirous of insuring its success. I am confident that such a scheme, if carried out in that way, would have had fair play given to it. In the first place, it is quite certain that many of the purchasers of land who will avail themselves of the facilities which will be afforded under any scheme will be more or less unsuccessful. It will require strong and vigorous hands to see that the object the Government have in view in constituting a solvent, an independent, and a thriving peasant proprietary is attained. In order to do that, it will be necessary to deal from time to time with a man who has proved to be a complete failure, and to turn such a man out of his holding and sell it, because he is utterly unable to comply with the conditions which are necessary in order to secure success. I venture to say that a Government officer, acting on the responsibility and on behalf of a Government having a Chief, whose position must always be regarded from a political point of view, would really be placed in a position of the greatest possible difficulty, and would hardly be able to discharge his duty—so that the success of the whole scheme would be imperilled. We should have growing up a number of men with small means—weak men with a load hanging round their necks—and a new Encumbered Estates Bill and a new application of the public money would be necessary; and we should arrive at this position—that, at the end of four or five years, there would be a general admission that the scheme had failed, because the officers of the Government were really incapable, under the circumstances, of giving effect to it. Then I come to consider how the scheme would work if you constituted what would practically be a Land Bank, with officers alike responsible to the Government and the country and to the people of Ireland, for the manner in which they carried out the scheme and administered the fund 1385 intrusted to their charge. We should have to consider first of all what the security would be which the intended bondholder would give. He would have to give the security of the margin of 25 per' cent, either of his own money or of money obtained from his friends. The Commissioners would have the security of the new interest given by this Bill to the tenant and the occupier, and the tenant himself would have the great individual security that the fund would be preserved intact for the benefit of the whole community. That, I think, would a powerful and a strong additional security. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that the sum of £2,000,000 placed at the disposal of the Commissioners, taken by itself, would be a comparatively small sum on the strength of which to undertake very large operations; but I am convinced that, taking that sum with the security I have referred to, strengthened by an honest and careful administration, a very large sum might be raised by means of debentures secured on the property which the Commissioners would have to administer. Let us consider how the system would work. There would be an income at once secured to the Commissioners of £60,000 a-year from the fund of £2,000,000 placed at their disposal, which would be far more than sufficient to make good any deficiency in the repayments by the purchasing tenants of the capital advanced to them for the purchase of their holdings. I think it must be clear that, unless the administration is ineffective—and I believe it might be made thoroughly effective—the deficiencies which would occur would make a very small demand indeed upon this annual income of £60,000 a-year. But the value of this income would be that any investor desirous of taking up these land debentures would have his interest secured on the day on which it became due, and the absolute security of payment on the day it became due would make a great difference in the circumstances under which the debentures are issued. They might be issued with great ease at even a lower rate of interest, in the present state of the market, than 3½ per cent. We have had, in a limited way, evidence of the success of an Irish Reproductive Loan Fund. According to the last Report, out of £30,000 advanced, £20,000 1386 have been repaid, and there are only £800 of arrears altogether at the present moment, and of that sum a considerable amount has been repaid since the Report of the Commissioners was printed. That affords evidence, in a small way, that sums not easily recoverable are repaid in Ireland, if it is an Irish fund administered by Irishmen, and the Irish people have confidence in it. As the right hon. Gentleman has admitted that the scheme of the Government is not intended to be a final scheme at the present moment, and as I fully admit that it would be impossible to frame a measure that would be completely satisfactory in a short space of time, it is desirable that I should refrain from going further into the proposal which I have submitted. It was intended merely to suggest the way in which a successful attempt to deal with the question might be made. It was intended not by any means as a complete scheme, or as an indication of the extent to which the scheme might go. But I hope some good will have been done by directing the attention of the Government and of the Committee to a question which I believe to be one which, if followed up, would prove to be extremely beneficial to Ireland, by inducing the people of Ireland to rely on their own resources rather than to trust to assistance to be derived from the Imperial Exchequer. In our past experience there has been nothing more depressing than the feeling that there are Irishmen who come to this country with the idea that we possess resources which can be and ought to be placed at their disposal, in order to get them out of any misfortune into which they may happen to fall. That is not consistent with the principle and spirit on which the future of a great and prosperous country, such as I sincerely trust Ireland will become, ought to be built up. I believe there are material resources in Ireland which, if properly applied, should make her as prosperous and her people as vigorous as any people on the face of the earth; and it is my desire to see those resources applied by Irishmen for Ireland in a spirit of true independence, rather than see her come to this country for aid from the Imperial Exchequer. For the reasons I have stated I do not propose to proceed with my Amendment.
I only rise to express the pleasure with which I have listened to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. I receive with, due respect, for future consideration, all the remarks which he has made; and there are two things which I feel specially bound to say—first, I am very glad to see that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman has been received in a favourable spirit by many of the Irish Members; and secondly, that I do not think we ought to depart from this discussion without an expression on my part of my sense of obligation to my right hon. Friend for the entire spirit with which he has approached the question. Upon the scheme itself I can give no opinion now, except this—that it may be possible to frame a plan which may take the form of an Irish Fund, and, at the same time, not be permanently dissociated from the Consolidated Fund.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I wish to ask one question of the right hon. Gentleman. I understood him to say that, according to the demands at present made on the Exchequer for advances for the coming year, and which have to be provided for under the Public Works Loans Act for this year, but irrespective of any matter under the present Bill, they amount to about £1,100,000, and that he proposes to increase the power of advance from £1,100,000 to £2,000,000. Will that additional £900,000 be money that will be advanced in respect of obligations that must be met before the 31st of December, or will it be of a more general character? I put the question in this sense. According to the principles we have adopted in dealing with these Public Works Loans, the applications for the money that would be required in the coming year have to be sent in by a particular day, so that we may be able to know what the demands would be. With regard to this amount, will it be applicable to demands that may be made before a particular time, or generally applicable to loans applied for at any time?
It must be made applicable to demands made before a particular time. That seems to me to have been the principle adopted by the right hon. Gentleman when in Office. It might, however, be right to make that time as late as the close of the financial year.
§ MR. SHAW
said, he wished to express on his own behalf and on behalf of the Irish Members their full appreciation of the admirable spirit in which the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. W. H. Smith) had been made. If there were Irish Members or Irishmen who were of opinion that the Imperial Exchequer was the source upon which they must rely for relieving them of all their difficulties, they must be peculiarly constituted. Such an idea had long ago been revolutionized, and it would be a great misfortune for Ireland if it ever got hold of the Irish people in any way again. It was certainly not the object of Irishmen to rely for assistance upon the Imperial Exchequer, but upon their own resources. Their real object was to work on the lines of the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman had sketched out, not in the present Session, because that would be impossible, for reasons which had been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister; but, as a permanent mode of carrying out the frame-work of the Bill, he entirely approved of the scheme of the right hon. Member for Westminster for the establishment of a great Irish Fund to be administered by Irishmen. He believed that such a fund would be easily obtainable. It was not necessary to discuss now the mode in which it, was to be accomplished; but as the Prime Minister had suggested, it might be absolutely necessary, to a certain extent, to depend upon the Consolidated Fund. He thought that such a fund might in future, with great benefit to Ireland, be rendered available for purposes other than those indicated by the present Bill, and that it should not be confined exclusively in the promotion of the objects of the Land Commission. Nothing was more wanted in Ireland than money. There was an immense amount of wealth in the country in the shape of raw material, and there was also an immense amount of power in bone and sinew. But there was no country in the world in which its resources had been less used. He believed that a marvellous change would be brought about if the Irish people were only allowed, to some extent, to manage their own affairs. If that principle was once brought into action, the further it could be extended the more contented, 1389 happy, and prosperous Ireland would become.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
wished to say a word as to the effect of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister with regard to an Irish Fund, and the sources from which such Irish Fund was to come. He desired to place before the Committee the impossibility of any Irish Fund depending upon money drawn in any way from the Irish Church Surplus. He hoped this would be made public, because they heard a great deal about the way in which that Fund might be rendered available. Everybody cried out that the State might go the Irish Fund for this object and for that. The Government had recently written off a sum amounting to £2,000,000 advanced for the payment of arrears of tithe, and which the Treasury had until recently always hoped to recover from the surplus property of the Irish Church, and it was an absolute impossibility to make many further demands upon it. At the present moment the Fund only brought in an income of £75,000 a-year; and how were they going to pay off £2,000,000 out of an annual income of £75,000? Moreover, this income of £75,000 by the year 1890 would be diminished to £40,000 a-year. The sum of £2,300,000 advanced during the Famine was advanced out of this Fund, on the understanding that it was to be returned to the Church Surplus Fund; but it would be impossible to repay it, so that, in point of fact, if they made further demands upon it, they would be, in reality, drawing upon the Imperial Exchequer—an object they professed to discountenance. He hoped that when the right hon. Gentleman proposed his clause as to arrears, he would be prepared to say whether the arrangements under which advances were to be made would be carried out in their integrity, or whether it was intended to set aside the arrangements come to with respect to loans, and to put a further charge on the Church Surplus Fund; and also that the Prime Minister would state what really remained of that Fund.
said, he thought it would be vain to enter on the subject of the Church Fund now. All he could say was that the estimate as to the probable amount of purchases was the best estimate that could be made on the 1390 available data; but, of course, there was a certain degree of uncertainty in the calculation.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he could not let the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) pass without some expression of opinion from the Irish Members. He accepted with gratitude the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, in which, acting on the germ theory, he thought he could detect in an embryonic form an advocacy of local self-government. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman paid a just and fair tribute to the solvency and good faith of the Irish people with regard to advances made to them. The result of the Irish Reproductive Fund and the loans under the Church Act had shown that the people of Ireland could be safely trusted to discharge their lawful debts; but there was immense force in the right hon. Gentleman's argument against the whole principle of Government action in this matter. He pointed out with irresistible force the enormous difficulties in the way of the Government in driving their bargain with the Irish tenant to its ultimate issue in case he failed to meet his liabilities—that was to say, turning the tenant out. That placed the Government in a most difficult position, and he would point out a solution of the difficulty. What was wanted for the Government was the sanction and support of public opinion. That support would be wanting to any Government that attempted to rule Ireland from Westminster; and until the Government had at their back the full support and sympathy of the public their action would be very much impeded. The future of Ireland must be largely dependent on Irishmen being allowed to devote all their enegies to the advancement of their country; and it would be much better if Irishmen of ability were allowed to do so.
§ Clause agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Postponed Clause 34 (Constitution of Land Commission).
said, his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland proposed to introduce an Amendment which expressed with perfect fidelity the intention of the 1391 Government on full consideration of the circumstances of the case.
In page 21, line 20, leave out from beginning to "pleasure and," in line 24, and insert,—
A Land Commission shall be constituted under this Act consisting of a Judicial Commissioner and two other Commissioners.
The Judicial Commissioner, and every successor in his office, shall be a person who at the date of his appointment is a practising barrister at the Irish bar of not less than ten years' standing.
The Judicial Commissioner for the time being shall forthwith on his appointment become an additional judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Ireland with the same rank, salary, tenure of office, and right to retiring pension as if he had been appointed a puisne judge of one of the Common Law Divisions of the High Court of Justice.
He may be required by order of the Lord Lieutenant in Council to perform any duties which a judge of the said Supreme Court of Judicature is by Law required to perform; but, unless so required, he shall not be bound to perform any of such duties.
The first Judicial Commissioner shall be Mr. Serjeant O'Hagan."—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
We have been moved to this selection of names to be submitted to Her Majesty upon a very full consideration of the circumstances of the case. Of course, it was intended that the Judicial Commissioner should be a person of judicial rank, equal to any member of the High Court of Justice, and capable, if need be, of taking part in the ordinary duties of the Court in lieu of the Commissioner at any time. That being so, it was natural to consider whether it would be more expedient to appoint a person already a member of the High Court of Justice, or a person who would be recognized by public opinion as fully qualified to become a member of it. I believe it will be admitted that Mr. Serjeant O'Hagan is in the first rank of the Irish Bar, and that his appointment to the High Court of Justice on the occurrence of a vacancy will be welcomed by the public opinion of Ireland. He has had practice in the administration of the Land Act of 1870, and it is an advantage, though not a capital consideration, that he is of the religion of the majority of the Irish people. It is desirable that it should be so, and that the Commis- 1392 sion should consist of Irishmen, as matters of race and nationality are associated with the question, and popular jealousies may be excited. It was thought wiser, on the whole, to appoint a gentleman thoroughly qualified to go into the High Court of Justice rather than a member of it. The office of a Judge is one of great dignity and responsibility, but not on the whole of excessive labour. The work to be performed under the Bill will be rather of a novel kind, and it was felt that it would hardly be fair to ask a Judge to change his habits and address himself to this novel and constructive work. It was believed that a man having the highest qualifications for being a Judge, and at the same time not so far advanced in life as the Judges are, would, on the whole, be better able to address himself to this work with the prospect of being able to carry it out in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. It was on these grounds that the selection was made.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he did not desire to raise any objection to the particular constitution of this Commission, but he desired to elicit some information as to its power and duration. He inferred that it was intended that the Judicial Commissioner should be the sole arbiter of everything connected with this Bill at the end of seven years. He inferred that the office of the Judicial Commissioners was to be a permanent one, and that the appointment of the other Commissioners would be for seven years only. If they died or resigned within seven years, there was power to appoint successors for the residue of that term, but not beyond; and then he inferred that the vast powers of the Commissioners would devolve on the Judicial Commissioners. Was that intended, or was it intended to reserve power, to appoint someone to divide the responsibility with the Judicial Commissioners? Were the Commissioners to be amenable to the criticism or jurisdiction of Parliament in respect of plans of emigration and reclamation, and the exercise of patronage in the appointment of Assistant Commissioners? If they were, the names, salaries, qualification, tenure of office, and duties should be submitted to Parliament earlier than they could be in the annual Report, as the Prime Minister was understood to have promised; but there was no Amendment on the Paper indi- 1393 cating that the Commissioners were to be bound to furnish this information. A further question was whether the whole patronage was to be at the absolute disposal of one Commissioner at the end of seven years. Of course, the Treasury would check the number of appointments; but the Government would have the right to recognize, as it had done in the selection of Commissioners, only one side in politics.
I will offer a few words in reply to the remarks of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, as to the scope of the Commission. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says—he does not found any charge upon it—that we have appointed this Commission from one side of politics, as, he frankly admits, it was in our power to do. Of course, we were in this difficulty—that to appoint Commissioners who did not enter into the spirit of the Bill would quite plainly be an absurdity. We were very happy at the time of the Church Act in appointing Mr. George Alexander Hamilton; but he was a man who had had large experience, and who we knew was a man who would act precisely in the spirit of the commission he undertook. Nor was there any difficulty in that case, for, once having passed the Act and appointed the Commission, our desire was that everything should be done in the most liberal way, and not as between the Parties. Therefore, we were glad to appoint a gentleman who was in marked opposition to ourselves. But in this case the Commissioners are to deal with a vast number of questions, and the most difficult part of their duty will be between the Parties; and it is absolutely necessary that those appointed should be persons entering into the spirit of the Bill as between the Parties. At the same time, it was our very great desire that at least one of the Commissioners—our choice was very limited, as there are few Gentlemen on the opposite Bench who are so associated with the leading ideas of this Bill as to make them possible subjects of selection—but we were very anxious that one of the Commissioners should be a person who was totally disassociated with political action, and who was not under suspicion on that ground. I believe with regard to Mr. Vernon, that it would be impossible to describe him as a Party man in 1394 any sense. I only know that he voted against the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) in favour of the Tory candidate. That being so, it is an indication of the opinion of the political character of Mr. Vernon. It is not necessary to state his qualifications; but I believe that if all the land agents in Ireland were to be placed in their rank and importance and experience, without any prejudice at all, probably by general suffrage Mr. Vernon would be placed at the head. Mr. Vernon's connections and associations are almost entirely Conservative. He has been the agent of Lord Pembroke, Lord Bath, and many other landlords, most of whom are of Conservative politics; but what is more is this—he has had charge of the relations between 5,000 tenants and their landlords since the date of the Land Act, and he has never had a single contentious case. I think that of itself constitutes a eulogy which cannot be disputed. As to the other specific point with regard to the reporting of the names of the Assistant Commissioners, the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) perfectly understood and accurately represented the effect of what I said, that it appeared to me that any anticipation of any annual Report—for, after all, we cannot very well have an annual Report for 1882—and that immediately on the appointment of the Commissioners, or within an approximate time, Parliament should be made acquainted with the names of, and particulars relating to, the proposed Assistant Commissioners. But it appears doubtful whether it is necessary to put that into the shape of a positive enactment; and we think, perhaps, we are not asking too much, having made a positive statement on the point, that the House should leave that matter in our hands on the assurance that has been given. Now as to the general scope of the observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. In that respect he has not correctly gathered the general view and contention of the Government with regard to the limitation of time in the Act. The whole meaning of the enactment on that subject does not confine us to the precise limit; but, viewing on the one one hand, the probable extent of their duties, and, on the other hand, the uncertainty as to what degree they may continue to be as difficult and re- 1395 sponsible, and to involve such large considerations in future years as there are likely to be in the first year, we have thought it our duty above all to endeavour to provide for bringing the matter of the constitution of the Commissioners again at a reasonable time under the review of Parliament. That is the meaning of the whole affair. How do we do that? We do that with regard to the lay Commissioners, by saying that they shall hold office for seven years; and it is a common thing on the part of Parliament in cases of this kind, where a limit of years is fixed, if it is found that the duties are continued, and that the same kind of emolument is required to prolong the office. But as to the Judicial Commission, that is a different case, for we cannot expect any man of eminence at the Bar to accept what is to be a judicial office upon any other footing than that upon which judicial offices are generally accepted—that is, with permanent tenure of office, and salary or pension for life. Therefore, we are obliged to go that length with regard to the Judicial Commission. But we have done the only thing we could do by leaving the door open to the Judicial Commissioner, for he may be required by order of the Lord Lieutenant in Council to perform any duties which an ordinary Judge is required to perform; so that we have left the door open for any future change even as to the Judicial Commissioner, and the entire aim of this provision is not to leave him upon a solitary throne, at the close of seven years, but to make sure that the whole matter shall, before that time, be brought, without prejudice, before Parliament. I hope these facts may give a more favourable turn to the views of hon. Members.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
It appears to me, then, that the proposals have in view to practically give seven years' effect to the present measure, because this is a provision which will, as a matter almost of certainty, bring under the view of Parliament at the end of seven years, if not before, the whole working of this system. Considering the position in which we are going to leave the question, and the scope of the measure, which places the reconstruction of the agricultural and, to a great extent, of the social relations of Ireland in the hands of the Commission, this is a very 1396 important statement, and the importance of it is not diminished by several hints and suggestions thrown out by the Prime Minister, and the questions that are still left open for consideration. We can only feel that we are in the hands of the Government, and that they have a work to do which will be of great importance to the future of Ireland. Further, very much will depend upon the carrying out of details by the Assistant Commissioners. It is, therefore, important that it should be known, as early as possible, who they are to be and how they are to perform their duties.
I am afraid that, although I have not a word to say against the spirit of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, I do not see how we can give the names of the Assistant Commissioners during the time that is to lapse before the passing of this Bill, or during the present Session. It is quite evident that the Commission cannot meet until the Act has been passed, and they will certainly require several meetings before they can make even a skeleton scheme for the appointment of Assistant Commissioners. I assure the Committee that our great desire is to keep down the patronage of the Executive Government on this matter to the lowest point, and obviate, as far as we can, all jealousies. We do not object to give the names of the Assistant Commissioners without waiting for their Report; but I am afraid we could not give a promise with regard to that being done this Session, as it may be only a few days before the Prorogation that this Bill becomes law.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he understood there was no objection to give the names, qualifications, salary, tenure of office, and other information in regard to the Assistant Commissioners at the commencement of next Session. It was a matter of the highest importance that there should be complete confidence in the equity, fairness, and justness of this Act, and the greater part of the work must be done by the Assistant Commissioners; and in order to give that confidence these names and particulars should be given at the earliest possible moment after the meeting of Parliament, in a Report which, it was understood, should be made before the financial year.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
agreed that it would be right to give the names on the 1397 meeting of Parliament next Session, and promised to do so.
§ MR. HEALY
observed, that the Prime Minister was perfectly right in saying that the appointment of Mr. O'Hagan to the High Court of Justice would be welcomed in Ireland; but it did not follow that he would be welcomed as a Commissioner. In Ireland, a man of the character of Mr. O'Hagan would be welcomed in the High Court, because it was very difficult for the Government to get honest men for that position in Ireland. Anybody upon whom the British Government put its seal was immediately looked upon with distrust by the great body of the people, and to say that Mr. Serjeant O'Hagan had managed to go through life without leaving behind him sufficient traces of bitterness as to make his appointment to a Judgeship not unwelcome was not saying very much. The Prime Minister had rested the appointment of Mr. O'Hagan also on the fact of his being a Catholic. At all events, he allowed the fact of his being a Catholic to enter favourably into the question of his appointment. Now, they in Ireland did not care whether a man was a Thug or a Tartar, so long as he was an honest man. They did not care whether he was a Catholic or not. What they wanted was an honest man; and he must say they had had a great deal too much experience of the pious political Catholic in Ireland. They had had Mr. Justice Keogh, and other great ornaments of the Judicial Bench. Neither did he hold it to be absolutely necessary that in addition to the man being a Catholic he should be an Irishman. He held that in addition to being an honest man he must be an able man. And that being his opinion, his expectation would have been that men like Chinese Gordon and Sir Evelyn Wood, associated with a Judicial Commissioner, would have been appointed. They had had some experience of the way in which a man like Sir Evelyn Wood had conducted delicate operations, and he believed such an appointment as that would have had the whole confidence of the Irish people. Colonel Gordon had been to Ireland at Mr. Bence Jones's invitation, and his dictum was that the people of Ireland were the most suffering people he had known℄worse than Bulgarians and Chinese—and that they had full ground for their agitation. It was desirable that 1398 on the Commission they should have honest men, altogether irrespective of race or religion; and he protested against the dictum laid down by the Prime Minister that they were to accept a gentleman because he was an Irishman and a Catholic, irrespective of other qualifications.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he was one of those who know the very great difficulty there was in making such appointments as these, and he also knew that the first thing to create confidence was that the Commission should be strong. He ventured to say, however, that both in the House and out of the House, this Commission had been looked upon as one that was neither strong, nor one that would have the full confidence of those with whom the Commission would have to deal. He had nothing to say individually against any one of the gentlemen selected; but he was bound to say that if the right hon. Gentleman would look at the public organs of opinion, he would see that the Commission had not been received with that favour which might have been expected in regard to a Commission selected by the right hon. Gentleman. The Church Commission was a strong Commission, and one that commended itself to all parties. He also thought the Committee would like to know exactly how the Assistant Commissioners were to be appointed. This Commission would change the whole state of affairs in Ireland, and, in truths, re-arrange the whole social condition of that country; and he wished to know whether these Assistant Commissioners were to be appointed for political, or for other purposes connected with the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman could not disguise that the Bill, ably as he had handled and well as he had conducted it, had not attracted that attention in this country which a great Bill of this kind usually would have attracted in England; and he ventured to say that it was looked upon with apathy, if not with something else.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
observed, that the question of how the patronage was to be distributed could not be discussed, for by the 36th clause it was provided that the Lord Lieutenant, with the consent of the Treasury, should appoint the Assistant Commissioners; but the Commissioners themselves were to determine 1399 the number and other conditions with respect to the Assistant Commissioners. It would, therefore, be impossible for him to give the names of the Assistant Commissioners until the Assistant Commissioners had met and complied with the instructions of Parliament. He did not know that it would be well to prolong this discussion any further; but the hon. and gallant Member seemed to take two things for granted—first, that public opinion did not approve of the Commission; and, secondly, that it was the business of the Government to consider the reception of the names of the Commissioners by the organs of public opinion. So far as Ireland was concerned, if the hon. and gallant Member would look at what was stated in the organs of public opinion there, he would find that the reception had been quite as good as could have been expected; but, after all, the first duty of the Government was to consider the fitness of the gentlemen appointed, and he could only state his conviction that it would be impossible for more care to be taken in choosing fit and suitable men than had been taken by the Prime Minister in choosing these Commissioners.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he must protest against the constitution of the Commission, although he had no sort of objection, in a personal point of view, against any of the three gentlemen named for the appointments. He thought the Prime Minister had entirely misappreciated the position by the names he had chosen, inasmuch as the duties the gentlemen would have to discharge were not, as in the case of the Church Commission, merely administrative, but constructive, and would, therefore, require statesmanlike qualities, which neither of those Gentlemen could be said to possess, or, at any rate, to have displayed. The work which the Commissioners would have to do—to borrow a picturesque expression of the Premier when speaking on another question—would be to "restore a ruin," and that was rather more than could be expected of the gentlemen who had been nominated. He thought it a distinct disadvantage that two of the gentlemen should be lawyers. That one of them should be was all very well and proper, inasmuch as the Commission would have to interpret Acts of Parliament and legal documents; but 1400 in dealing with the agrarian question in Ireland they did not want law, but common sense, and that not of the spurious character known by the name in England. The common sense they wanted was that of Irishmen, who understood the Irish Question. If he had had to make a choice he would either have asked the Viceroy of India to select from his officials three Irishmen practically acquainted with the work of the Land Laws existing in India, or would himself have appointed the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), Sir Richard Temple, and Dr. W. K. Sullivan, President of the Queen's College, Cork. Who would deny that the Irish Church Commission was a far abler and a far more vigorous Commission than that proposed to be appointed? [Mr. GLADSTONE: I.] The right hon. Gentleman would deny it. Well, to contend against the right hon. Gentleman's denial he would be led into an unpleasant personal analysis, and that was a thing not at all to his taste. He would not go into a personal discussion unless it were absolutely necessary; but he thought most people would say that the three gentlemen appointed on the Church Commission were far more eminent than the three persons named as the Land Commissioners. He spoke now from the bosom of the Tory Party. [Mr. WARTON: No, no!] Well, he spoke physically from the bosom of the Tory Party, and if that Party would allow him on this occasion to be the interpreter of their opinions and their wishes—[Mr. WARTON: No, no!]—if they would allow him, for once, to be the interpreter of their opinions, he would say that they were utterly weary of the internecine struggle that had been going on between the landlords and tenants in Ireland for the last few years. Was it not better for the interest of the landlords, as well as for the interest of the tenants, that this question should be settled on the broad lines of common sense and statesmanship, in place of having the weariness of litigation between the parties? He thought the Prime Minister, by the appointment of this Commission, had done his best to minimize the good effect of his own Bill. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had completely grasped the situation in Ireland, because all through these debates he had spoken more as a Conservative. 1401 ["Oh, oh!"] All through this discussion the right hon. Gentleman had spoken from the point of view of a still unregenerated Conservative with regard to Ireland, and he (Mr. O'Connor) thought it was the right hon. Gentleman's desire not to transform, but to maintain as much as possible, the old system of things in that country. He would give the right hon. Gentleman fair warning that the old system of things was dead, and could not be brought back to life again, even through the indirect and complicated agency of this Land Bill; and he could assure the Government that it would be far better to face the realities of the question, and put on the Commission men who had the intention of laying the foundation of a new and better state of things in Ireland, than to appoint such men as they proposed to do.
§ MR. STORER
said, he did not wish to dictate to the Government who were to be the Assistant Commissioners; but he agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) that the country expected, that though the law should be dominant amongst those who had been appointed, yet care should be taken that the Assistant Commissioners should be persons thoroughly conversant with the value of land and agricultural produce in Ireland. This was a most important matter, and it was also of the highest importance that the Assistant Commissioners should not be men chosen from one side of politics. There was one passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite which was calculated to alarm even the humblest Member of that Committee, because even that Member had a constituency. The right hon. Gentleman said he knew Mr. Vernon had voted for a strong Tory instead of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar). That statement was one which might well terrify Members of that House, because if the right hon. Gentleman was able to ascertain who voted for Members of Parliament the electors of the country would grow fearful, and the confidence which they had hitherto felt in the Ballot would be seriously weakened.
§ MR. DALY
said, he had not intended to take part in this discussion, and he should not have done so had it not been for some remarks which fell from the 1402 hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) and from the hon. Member for Galway City (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). The hon. Member for Wexford had stated, in expressing his opinion, that he spoke on behalf of the Irish people, and had declared that it was unimportant to them whether the Commission was composed of Englishmen or Irishmen. Well, in expressing that opinion the hon. Member for Wexford was certainly not expressing his (Mr. Daly's) view. He should be sorry to endorse any such sentiment as that the Commission might be composed of any but Irishmen. The Prime Minister had said, incidentally, that he was glad the Official Commissioner was of the same religion as the majority of Irishmen; but he guarded himself from saying that a Roman Catholic had been expressly appointed. The right hon. Gentleman said that, as a concurrent matter, it was a good thing that Serjeant O'Hagan was of the same religion as the majority of Irishmen. He (Mr. Daly) was inclined to think that it was a most important fact. The first function of this Commission would be to generate confidence amongst the Irish people. Well, he knew that Serjeant O'Hagan possessed the confidence of his country so far as he was known. As to the other Members of the Commission, it was not a matter of importance to Irishmen that one was a Presbyterian and the other a Protestant. The Presbyterian was thoroughly in accord with the feelings of the tenants of Ireland on the Land Question. His (Mr. Daly's) only knowledge of Mr. Vernon was derived from reading his evidence before the Land Commission. He knew him to be one of the Governors of the Bank of Ireland, and, as such, he was greatly struck with the fairness of his evidence; and he must say that such evidence, given without any idea of any subsequent appointment, stamped him as a person fit to exercise the functions of a Commissioner. As a matter of fact, whoever the Government had appointed, someone or other would have objected to them. So far as he (Mr. Daly) was concerned, he was glad the three Commissioners were Irishmen, because he believed it would have been a great source of pain and regret to the people of Ireland if they found that the important functions of the Commission were to be discharged by any but their 1403 own countrymen. With regard to Dr. W. K. Sullivan, who had been mentioned as a man whom it would have been well to appoint upon the Commission, so far as he was able to judge, no fitter person could have been appointed; but he should be sorry to say that there were no fit men in Ireland to be appointed outside the three who had been selected, which would not include in their number Dr. W. K. Sullivan. As far as regarded the Commission, when appointed, there would, of course, be a great deal of anxiety as to their first acts and operations; but it was important that they should not be jealously watched. It was important that when they began their operations they should have the confidence of the Irish people, and that the great chance which was to be given to the nation should not be marred by any defect in the administrative function of the Commission. He would not give an opinion as to the personal capabilities of the gentlemen to be appointed; but, judging from external circumstances, he thought the Government had made a reasonable and fair selection.
§ MR. BLAKE
regretted to be obliged to say that he conceived a very great blunder in one respect had been committed in the appointment of this Commission, and he was glad that the Prime Minister was in his place, in order to hear what he had to say. He did not wish to utter a word against any one of the gentlemen who constituted the Commission, for he believed they were all exceedingly competent and honest men, and he had the fullest confidence that they would discharge the important duties entrusted to them with satisfaction to the Government and the country; but, at the same time, there were many men who could have been found in Ireland just as competent. He thought the serious mistake that had been made by the Cabinet in the appointment of the Commission was in neglecting to nominate some one gentleman who was marked by strong sympathy and great effort in the cause of the tenantry. If such a gentleman had been appointed it would have given confidence to the mass of the tenantry of Ireland. If this Commissioner's predilections in the direction of the interest of the tenantry had been too strong, there would have been the other two Com- 1404 missioners as a sufficient counterpoise. Some of the journals in the interest of the Government had taken credit to the Government for having offered the appointment to three gentlemen, all of whom would have given the utmost satisfaction. One of these was Lord Monck, another the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law), and the third the senior Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw). The Government might very well have anticipated, and he dared say they did anticipate, that none of these gentlemen would accept the position. They knew that Lord Monck had worked very hard on the Church Commission, and it was generally believed that he was pretty well tired of the hard work, and that he did not intend to undertake such arduous duties again. The Attorney General for Ireland, from his learning and ability, they knew, might very well aspire to a much higher position than that of Judicial Member of the Commission, and to a post, at the same time, much easier in point of work. Of the third gentleman—of whom he should speak very freely, because he had made strong efforts to conquer him on the point, and had been defeated—he had no information except that which he obtained from the public journals. If appointed on the Commission, to everyone in Ireland the hon. Gentleman would have given unbounded satisfaction. But they knew the hon. Member occupied a most important commercial position. He was at the head of an important banking establishment in Ireland, and the world gave him credit, and no doubt correctly, for being in possession of an independent private fortune. Besides this, he was glad to see the hon. Member was fond of hard Parliamentary work, and it might very well have been anticipated that this hon. Member would not—as he did not—accept the position. But on both sides of the House there were hon. Gentlemen who nearly approached the hon. Member for the County of Cork in ability, and who held as high a character in point of probity, and who entertained as much sympathy for the Irish tenantry as the hon. Member, and, he thought, a serious mistake had been made in not adding some gentleman of that description to the Commission. He understood that it was probable that in 1405 "another place" an attempt would be made to increase the Commission from three to five; and should that take place—and he thought there would be ample work for five Commissioners to do—he earnestly trusted that the Prime Minister would remedy the very great blunder which he had made in the formation of the Commission. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) that it would have been a matter of indifference to the people of Ireland if Tartars or Thugs had been appointed on the Commission. In the one instance they might have found that they had caught a Tartar; and, in the other, no one would have wished to see the Thug Commissioner, in carrying out his religious convictions, now and then chopping off the heads of the landlords and tenants. He could only say that the function the Commission now appointed would have to perform would be of great importance and moment to the people of Ireland. He had the very utmost confidence that these duties would be performed in a conscientious and satisfactory manner, and he merely rose for the purpose of expressing his views in a perfectly disinterested manner.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
said, that as marked reference had been made to Serjeant O'Hagan, he wished to give expression to his conviction that a better selection could not possibly have been made. There was no man in Ireland who more commanded the respect, esteem, and confidence of all who knew him than Serjeant O'Hagan. He (Mr. Smyth) was confident that the voice of the country, without distinction of Party, would ratify in his regard the wise selection of the Prime Minister. With regard to the Commission as a whole he believed it to be an admirable one.
§ MR. FINDLATER
said, that as other Irish Members were expressing their opinion upon this matter, he would venture to express his. It appeared to him that the Commission would be an admirable one, and would possess the entire confidence of the people of Ireland. He believed he was the only Member of the House who knew each of the Commissioners personally. Mr. Vernon was a man of broad views and enlightened spirit, and would approach the subject in a proper manner. As to Serjeant O'Hagan, he had had many years knowledge of him, and knew him to be 1406 a distinguished lawyer, a man of ability and sound views, and thoroughly acquainted with the subject with which he would have to deal. He had been for many years a County Court Judge, and he had never heard of any of his decisions being quarrelled with by the Irish tenants. He had been very sorry to hear the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) give a quiet sneer at the piety of this gentleman. He knew Mr. 0' Hagan to be a thoroughly religious and pious man; but he could not see that for that reason he was less worthy of the confidence of the Irish people. He (Mr. Findlater) knew that the learned Serjeant had the confidence of everyone who had come into contact with him. As to Mr. Litton, everyone in the House had an opportunity of appreciating his ability and his thorough knowledge of the Land Question. He (Mr. Findlater) had been brought closely in contact with him since the commencement of the present Parliament, and he felt convinced that he was a thorough worker, who never spared himself when business was to be done. He also possessed qualities which would be invaluable to him in his new position—an excellent temper and great patience and judgment. He (Mr. Findlater) had no doubt whatever that he was "the right man in the right place."
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, there had been no impugnment from that (the Ministerial) side of the House of the fairness of the Commission. What made him rise was an observation which had fallen from the hon. Member for the county of Waterford (Mr. Blake), in which that hon. Member expressed his regret that no person of a more distinctively tenant-class character had been nominated on the Commission. Very lately in the county of Tipperary there was a meeting held in connection with the Land Question, and one of the most distinguished Roman Catholic clergymen in the county, who, he believed, held an official position about the person of the Archbishop of Cashel, had declared on that occasion that if there was to be any confidence reposed in this Commission there was one man who should be appointed on it, and that gentleman was Mr. Serjeant O'Hagan. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) merely made this observation in consequence of what had fallen from the hon. Member for the county of Waterford. To him it was not necessary 1407 to speak of Mr. Serjeant O'Hagan. He had had the advantage of being his class-follow in the University of Dublin, and from that time, in common with all the learned gentleman's countrymen who had come into contact with him, he had entertained the greatest respect for him. As to the tone and character of Mr. Litton, they all knew what they were; and it would be unbecoming for him (Sir Patrick O'Brien) to say anything about the hon. Gentleman. But as to Mr. Vernon, it might be said that he was, to some extent, a representative of the landlords. Well, no one could say that the landlord party ought not to be represented on the Commission. From all he had been able to learn of Mr. Vernon, in connection with the agencies he hold in different parts of Ireland, everyone spoke in the highest terms of his high-mindedness, his broadness of view, and freedom from narrow prejudices. In common with all Irish Members, he (Sir Patrick O'Brien) had received letters referring to possible patronage in connection with the Commission; and an opinion prevailed, so far as he could gather, in Ireland, which, if it were accurate, would show that the Assistant Commissioners might be anything but a satisfactory body. That opinion was that these Assistant Commissioners were to be formed into local Courts, and that men were to be appointed for a special county or for their own district. He ventured respectfully altogether to disapprove of such a system. If they were to have Assistant Commissioners under this Act, those officials ought to be removed from every tinge of local feeling. If it were possible they should act more like Circuit Judges. Special care should be taken that these gentlemen should be segregated as much as possible from the localities with which they were connected.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, the discussion was as to the appointment of the whole Commission, though, technically, the question before the Committee was only as to the appointment of one of the body. He gave the Government full credit for possessing an anxious desire to appoint the very best men for the difficult duties which were to be performed; but he thought there was a matter of principle at issue as to the appointment of one of the Commissioners. They all know that the ambition of a lawyer was to get into Parliament, because it was supposed to 1408 be a short cut to the Bench. Now, he was one of those who thought that that was not the best way of getting the best law upon the Bench. In making these observations, he did not so much refer to the present Parliament, because there were more lawyers in this Parliament than there had been in any other he had ever known, and he had no doubt that if they examined these hon. and learned Gentlemen they would all show they were greater pundits of the law, and had a greater knowledge of the law, than any learned gentleman out of the House. But, as a matter of principle, if they wished to get the best men on the Bench, it did not follow that those men were necessarily such as had succeeded in captivating a constituency, and who had subsequently captivated the House by their eloquence. [An hon. MEMBER: They never do that.] An hon. Member told him that they never did that; but he had known some who had done it, and everyone knew that Ministries were frequently captivated by these gentlemen being good political partizans. When a Ministry was captivated these gentlemen were put on the Bench to administer the law of the land. But what had they here in connection with this Commission? They had the most special and peculiar law that had ever been passed in the recollection of anyone in this or in any previous Parliament. This was essentially a Party measure, if ever there was one, and who were to be appointed to administer it? One gentleman was Mr. Serjeant O'Hagan, of whom he knew nothing; another was Mr. Vernon, of whom also he knew nothing; but the third was a gentleman whose views he had had the opportunity of listening to, and whose actions he had watched in common with every other Member of the Committee during the whole of these discussions. The hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton), who was to be one of these Commissioners, was an earnest partizan. He objected to such an appointment not because, personally, he found fault with the hon. and learned Gentleman, or because he doubted his ability, but as a pure matter of principle. When they had au Act of this kind which was admitted to contain a new kind of equity, giving a power that no Equity Judge had, and when they knew that the Commissioners were not to be guided by the 1409 ordinary rules of equity, he thought that, as a matter of principle, they ought not to select from the House of Commons—and he did not care on which side of the House he sat—a Gentleman who had taken an active part in the framing of that measure to sit upon the Commission. That was his objection in principle. He would recall to the remembrance of the Committee a speech which the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone had made in Belfast in April last. He (Lord Elcho) had called the attention of the House to it at the time, and he should have said no more about it if it had not been for the fact that the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone had been nominated as one of the Commissioners. The hon. and learned Member, at a great meeting of the Liberal Party, had said, speaking of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, that the Government were surrounded by certain difficulties, which they had endeavoured to get rid of by the skill with which the measure had been prepared, and not by trying to overpower them by mere force. The hon. and learned Member said there was "a strong Opposition in the House," and if Mr. Gladstone had come forward with a Bill distinctly declaring that every tenant in Ireland must have fair rent, free sale, and fixity of tenure, he would have found it impossible to carry it.Mr. Gladstone had aimed at in this Bill—and he thought that in his Bill he had secured—fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure, but secured not in a direct way, and not in such a manner as he who ran might read, for if the Bill had been so framed, there would have been a hostility to the Bill that those who framed it were anxious to keep back.That was distinctly an approval of the Bill being brought into Parliament under false pretences, and the tone of mind exhibited in that speech did not appear to him (Lord Elcho) to be such as should characterize one of the Gentlemen who would have to administer the measure.
I assume that the noble Lord was quoting a speech of one of the Gentlemen whom it is proposed to 1410 appoint to show why that person should not be selected.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he should be glad to see, on Report, a clause inserted declaring that no member of the Commission should have a seat in that House. It might go further, and declare that no person should be appointed who was a political partizan.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
The noble Lord's statement is rather a remarkable one, and I do not think that the Committee will agree with his observations with reference to the strong support which the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) has given to the Bill. In the noble Lord's earlier remarks, I understood him to give an unqualified approval of the Commission; but then he went on to express disapproval at any Gentleman being appointed on the Commission who was a political partizan or a Member of Parliament. That appeared to me to show how entirely he approved of the appointment of Serjeant O'Hagan, who has never had the advantage of having a seat in this House. But when he came to the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone, he gave us a quotation from his speech, and I hardly think that that quotation can afford much ground for objecting to the hon. and learned Gentleman's appointment. Under any circumstances, I do not think that it can be fair to take hold of certain words in a single speech without their context; but, after all, for the sake of argument, admitting it to be fair, what was there extraordinary in the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Tyrone? After all, he only said what has been said, not only by the noble Lord himself, but what almost every Member on the Front Opposition Bench has said about the Bill.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, that the tone of the speeches to which they had been listening showed how difficult it must have been for the Government to make up their minds as to whom to appoint on the Commission. The debate, although critical, was certainly not ill-humoured, and the Government could not but be satisfied with the result. There had been no acrimonious speeches, and no very bitter attacks made against the gentlemen placed upon the Commission, which showed that, on the whole, in spite of the great difficulties which 1411 the Government had had to face, they had not done very badly. He should not have taken part in this discussion if it had not been for the remarks of the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) with reference to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton). Presumably the objection taken to the hon. and learned Member by the noble Lord was a landlord's objection, coming, as it did, from a Member of the House who sat on the Conservative Benches. The noble Lord's objection was that the hon. and learned Member had shown himself to be a partizan—a supporter of the Government and a tenant right partizan. Well, he was quite certain that if the noble Lord read the newspaper reports published in the North of Ireland, he would not find that the hon. and learned Member was regarded by the tenants as a warm partizan of theirs. No one in the House was more pleased than he (Mr. J. N. Richardson) to see the hon. and learned Member appointed a Member of the Commission. No one more deserved the position, and no one was more fit for it; and many of them would be sorry to lose the hon. and learned Gentleman from amongst them, for to them—his Colleagues—he was more like a brother than a person whom they had met for the first time in Parliament. The tenants would have preferred a man much stronger in their interests than the hon. and learned Member. They would have preferred, for instance, a Gentleman whose name he had no hesitation in mentioning, as other names had been given during the debate. They would have preferred the late Member for Dungannon (Mr. Dickson) on the Commission. He regretted that that Gentleman's name was not on the Commission, because he knew the tenants would not always be satisfied with the decisions that were given. They would consider that the rents might be reduced more than, in all probability, they would be; and he could not help thinking that, if they had had such a gentleman as Mr. Dickson on the Commission, the people would have taken an adverse decision uncomplainingly.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, his objection had been to the principle of appointing upon the Commission any hon. Member—on whatever side of the House he might sit—who had taken an active part, either on behalf of the landlord or of the ten- 1412 ant, in the framing of this Bill. He still held that the speech he had quoted was a disqualification for membership of the Commission.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, that the noble Lord had quoted an oration in the nature of a hustings speech, and probably few of them would like to be bound all their lives by declarations made from the hustings. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members apparently did not approve of that courage in others which, on every occasion, they had not themselves. It seemed to him that the noble Lord was entirely mistaken in his apprehensions; it was much more likely that the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) would lapse more into friendliness to those parties amongst whom he usually moved than that he would go forward too strongly in the ranks of the friends of tenant right. The hon. and learned Member for Tyrone had made one or two propositions to the Committee which had not been successful. They were all on the Liberal and tenant side of the question, and he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had succeeded in inducing him on one occasion to withdraw a certain proposal. But he did not think that the hon. and learned Member was a Gentleman who, sitting judicially, would be in any way swayed by the opinions he had expressed when the measure was in an inchoate state in the House. As for Serjeant O'Hagan, he was one of the best men that could possibly have been chosen for the office of Judicial Commissioner. He had known the learned Serjeant for 25 or 30 years, and there was no one with whom he had ever come into contact in whose favour more could be said to recommend him for such a post as that to which he was to be appointed. As to Mr. Vernon, he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) only knew him from his testimony before the Committee which sat upstairs, of which he was a Member; and the idea he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) and some of his friends had formed of that gentleman when he came before them was that if ever a Land Commission was appointed Mr. Vernon would be a most fitting person to select as one of the body.
§ MR. SHAW
said, the noble Lord opposite (Lord Elcho) had said that this was a Party Bill. He (Mr. Shaw) differed entirely from that view. It might be a Bill that the English landlords did 1413 not like; but he could assure the Committee that the Irish landlords from Ulster perfectly agreed with it. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) happened to be the Representative of a Northern constituency resident in Dublin, and a considerable landowner, and that seemed to him to give the hon. and learned Gentleman sufficient qualification for the position to which it was proposed he should be appointed. The hon. and learned Gentleman lived on the most pleasant terms with his tenantry, and he (Mr. Shaw) must say that he did not think he had ever met a broader-minded, or more fair-minded man in his life. He was quite sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman had ability enough and legal knowledge enough for the position. The hon. Member for the City of Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) said that the Commission should consist of great statesmen who should be able to compass great motives. Well, he (Mr. Shaw) believed that nothing could be more unfortunate than to appoint upon the Commission any such men. If they had three men of that class upon the Commission they would keep Ireland constantly in hot water. What they wanted on the Commission were men of capacity, men of honesty, men who could devote their whole time to the work; and he sincerely believed that the Government had found such men. He did not know Serjeant O'Hagan personally; but, as a business man, he had had plenty of opportunities of knowing him by repute. He was acquainted with the position which the learned Serjeant held at the Bar, where he had shown great ability and legal knowledge. As to Mr. Vernon, he believed that the Government could not get in the whole of Ireland a better man for the post. He was a good man, because he knew his business thoroughly, and because his feelings and his attitude towards the tenantry with whom he had had to deal had always been of the most generous kind. And not only was he on good terms with the tenants, but Mr. Vernon possessed, he believed, the confidence of the landlords. The landlords were not at all frightened about Mr. Vernon's action in this respect. This conversation had commenced about the Assistant Commissioners; and he (Mr. Shaw) believed those appointments to 1414 be one of the most difficult works which the Government would have before them, and one to which they could not give too much thought. The Assistant Commissioners would be a Court of First Instance, and would, so to speak, give a complexion to the other Court. They must be careful not to appoint too many lawyers upon that body; and he agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for King's County (Sir Patrick O'Brien) that the Assistant Commissioners should be removed from local influences. There were plenty of men to be found in Ireland fit for the work. He could say of his own knowledge, having gone round Ireland looking at the men whom he believed possessed of the necessary qualifications, that there were, in his opinion, plenty in the different localities who were quite fit for the work. But care should be taken to remove them from the localities, so that they should in no way be influenced in their operations by local opinion.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, that if the Commission was to receive the confidence of the people of Ireland and advantageously work this Act, it was essential that the Government should appoint upon it gentlemen who, as the Prime Minister had said, entered into the spirit of the Bill. He therefore thought the charge of partizanship which had been brought against the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) was one to which no weight should be attached. They should not forget that on more than one occasion that hon. and learned Member had taken up a thoroughly independent position in that House. On one occasion, though a strong Liberal, the hon. and learned Gentleman had stood out stoutly against the Government, and had, furthermore, rendered considerable assistance to the Irish Party on the question of leases, when they on the Home Rule Benches, who were supposed more directly to represent the tenant farmers of' Ireland, were endeavouring to carry Amendments in their favour. On the whole, one of the greatest recommendations that could be put forward for the Commission was that none of the appointments were of a really partizan character. He thought it was something which must be very grateful and welcome to Irishmen to find that the day was past when appointments of 1415 this kind were made in a partizan spirit. The Government might have easily made a much worse selection. With regard to the nationality and race of the Commissioners, he must say that he quite agreed with what had fallen from an hon. Gentleman near him that the point was one of vast importance; and he was satisfied to find that the appointments had only been made amongst Irishmen. The first important requirement of a position of this kind was, of course, that a man should be able. Then, to look upon it from a practical point of view, there could not be the slightest doubt in the world that if Englishmen had been appointed serious dissatisfaction and discontent would have been felt all over Ireland. They had great reason to be satisfied, therefore, that the three Commissioners would be Irishmen. Allusion had been made to the religion of Serjeant O'Hagan, and upon that point he could fairly say that no one could accuse the Irish people of intolerance upon questions of religion—that they set an example of toleration to every part of the United Kingdom, and especially to every part of England. In Ireland large Roman Catholic constituencies returned, in some cases, Protestant Representatives; but yet in the whole of Great Britain there was not one Roman Catholic returned, in spite of the large Roman Catholic element in some of the constituencies. No doubt, great satisfaction would be felt in Serjeant O'Hagan's qualification of religion, in addition to his many other qualifications, about which it would be presumptuous for him to speak. Of the appointment of Mr. Vernon he should not like to offer an opinion, because he knew nothing of that gentleman except from having read the evidence which he gave before the Bessborough Commission. But he thought it a matter for congratulation that whilst they had a man whom they must acknowledge as a fair representative of the landlord's interest, he was a representative of that class of landlords who, unfortunately, had been so few, and the effect of whose conduct, had such landlords been more general throughout the country, would have prevented the crisis which had arisen. Although Mr. Vernon would be a representative of the landlords, he was evidently animated by a spirit of fairness and liberality towards the ten- 1416 ant. So much with regard to the component parts of the Commission. As to the Commission as a whole, he must say that he had felt great disappointment when he heard the names announced, because, in the first place, he thought that the gentlemen who were to compose the body should have been, if he might use the expression, of more eminent standing. He was not speaking of the judicial member of the Commission, and he did not wish to say anything discourteous or unpleasant with regard to the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton); but he had thought that the gentlemen appointed might have been of more commanding ability. On the whole, he could not help thinking that the Commission was a weak one. He believed that the appointment of Mr. Vernon would be of the greatest importance. Mr. Vernon was a man of strong will and feelings; and the other two, albeit that they were most amiable gentlemen, and well disposed, were men of considerable weakness of character. It therefore seemed to him that all the work of the Commission would, practically, be in the hands of Mr. Vernon.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, the hon. Member for the City of Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had expressed disappointment that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), a Scotchman, and Sir Richard Temple, whom he believed was an Englishman, had not been appointed on the Commission. Well, he (Mr. Macfarlane) must say, as a Scotchman, that he was exceedingly pleased that neither the one nor the other gentleman had been appointed; and, in saying this, he did not wish to be misunderstood. He was speaking in regard to the nationality, and not as to the personal qualifications, of those gentlemen. To his mind, it was most important that the Commissioners should be Irishmen.
§ SIR WILLIAM PALLISER
said, with reference to the strong accusations made by the hon. Member against the Irish landlords, he would remind the Committee of the remarks which the Prime Minister had made in his opening address on the Irish Land Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the landlords of Ireland had been placed upon their trial, that their conduct had been subjected to a rigid examination, that, on the whole, they Lad passed through the ordeal with flying colours, and that 1417 they had been fully and honourably acquitted. [Mr. HEALY: As to rents.] He had only one fault to find with the appointments, and that was, they were not permanent; but he was afraid it was too late to remedy that now. At any rate, if the Prime Minister would make some provision by which the position of the two Commissioners would be thoroughly secured, it would be of great importance. If he could give them to understand that they were certain on retiring to receive some other appointment, they would be rendered independent of any influence, from whatever quarter it might come. At the next Election a wicked Tory Government might be returned; and, unless there was some kind of permanency in the appointments, they might say—"Unless you rack rent the tenants we will not maintain you in your present positions." His experience inside that House had not been large; but his experience outside, he was sorry to say, had been considerable, and it was to this effect—that when persons connected with politics were appointed to permanent positions they threw aside all feelings of political partizanship, and were guided solely by a sense of duty. What they required was men of ability, and honour, and high principle; and if they got such men, it did not matter whether they came from the Liberal, the Conservative, or the Home Rule Benches. Nay, he should not even object to them if they came from the Fourth Party itself; but their position should be assured.
I think it only right to say one word at the termination of this discussion. I must say that I think the Government have no reason to be dissatisfied with its general tone, nor with the criticisms which have been offered, for they have been not unkindly; and, so far as any of them were of a severe or of an extreme character, they have to a very great extent equalized and qualified one another. It has been the object and desire of the Government to appoint men who would enter into what I may call the spirit of the Act; and it has been our object, on the other hand, to avoid what would be justly stigmatized—namely, partizan appointments. With reference to the observations that have been made with regard to the individuals, I would make this remark—that the business of appointing 1418 a Commission of this kind is a very serious one, and requires an examination of a great number of topics in themselves and in their combination together—an examination much more searching, if I may say so, than can possibly be tested by that kind of popular impression which betrays itself in the first conception of a Commission of this sort. I remember that more than 36 years ago, when I was Secretary of State in the Colonial Office, a post in the Government of Canada fell vacant. There was a gentleman—I will not mention his name—who was particularly in the public eye at that moment, for he had, with great success and ability, concluded an important Convention on behalf of this country in another quarter of the world, and he was recommended as a fit person to be appointed to the vacancy. I called upon Sir Robert Peel, who was a man of great sagacity and experience, in respect to this appointment, and, of course, the name of the gentleman came up. Sir Robert Peel said that beyond all doubt the appointment of this gentleman would secure popular approbation; but, said he, "he is the wrong man." It is not possible that these things can be tested by the mere impression out-of-doors, which undoubtedly looks for external marks, high titles, and so on. But knowing the full responsibility that we undertake in proposing these names to Parliament, we are contented that it shall be tested by the result. We have the utmost confidence that these appointments will prove satisfactory. Two names have been mentioned in this discussion as those of gentlemen eminently qualified for appointment on the Commission, but whom we have not been able to include in our proposal to the Committee. One is my right hon. and learned Friend near me, the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law). In the face of all Parties and Sections in this House, and through the intricate and delicate discussions which have taken place in this Committee, my right hon. and learned Friend has had an opportunity of showing hon. Members the metal of which he is made. The other is a Gentleman of independent and unofficial position, my hon. Friend the Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw). To all that has been said in regard to that hon. Gentleman, as well as with regard to my right hon. and learned Friend 1419 near me, I subscribe with all my heart and soul; and I admit that the appearance of such names as theirs on the Commission would have been an honour and bulwark of strength to that or any other body. But, Sir, the power of the Government is limited. It is not for us to command the services of those who, in the free exercise of their own judgment, may find that their public duty calls them too much in a direction different to that which we might desire they should take. But having rendered this just tribute to those Gentlemen, I must say that I do not in the slightest degree qualify the declaration I have made with regard to the gentlemen whom we have appointed. We cannot admit that a cordial support to this Bill is a disqualification for a seat on this Commission. We cannot admit that if the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Litton) pointed out anything on a certain occasion which he thought circuitous in our method of proceeding, that it was to be considered in any degree as a fault on his part. It would appear from what the noble Lord opposite (Lord Elcho) said that the hon. and learned Gentleman stated in his speech at Belfast that the "three F's" are in this Bill, although they were not deliberately and directly inserted in it. Well, the controversy as to whether or not the "three F's" are in the Bill is one into which I have not entered. The "three F's" I have always seen printed have been three capital F's; but the "three F's" in this Bill, if they are in it at all, are three little f's. In the communications we have received in Downing Street from the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton), as well as from the hon. Member for the County of Cork, and likewise in the discussions in this Committee, we have derived considerable assistance in the construction of the details of this Bill. I am very glad that the Committee has had an opportunity of considering these names, and that every hon. Member has had an opportunity of offering remarks upon them. But in this matter—in passing these names through the ordeal of public discussion—neither on my right hon. and learned Friend near me, with whom I have been so closely associated in the conduct of the Bill, nor anyone else, would I wish to cast one shred or tittle of the responsibility attaching to the 1420 Commissioners. That responsibility is ours. We accept it, and even court it.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that some Members of the Party to which he belonged more or less differed from him upon this subject; but he was not going to discuss the personnel of the Commission. He was only acquainted, personally, with one of the Commissioners; and, therefore, it would be out of place for him to criticize them at all, and especially for him to criticize them in an adverse manner. The hon. Member for the County of Waterford (Mr. Blake) had laid down a proposition to which he was inclined to take exception. The hon. Member had said that, instead of three Commissioners, it was desirable that they should appoint five; but he (Mr. Biggar) thought two things were desirable—in the first place, that the Government should not have too large a patronage in their hands; and, in the next place, that, as far as possible, public expense should be saved. An hon. Friend near him had made another proposition, to which he should be disposed also to take exception—namely, that the Government should have selected, as far as possible, Members of this House who had been extreme partizans in the interest of the tenant farmers to sit on the Commission. If one thing was more unpopular in Ireland than another, it was the giving of appointments by the Government to men who had openly advocated the interests of the popular party in Ireland. It was believed that those people, forgetful of the interests of their country, associated themselves with the Government for their own personal advantage. He was extremely glad that the Government had abstained from such appointments upon the Commission on this occasion; and he hoped that, in making the other appointments, they would also abstain from giving situations to hon. Members, or to political agitators who were not in the House. Such appointments were always unpopular, and were calculated not only to raise suspicion amongst friends, but also to give rise to suspicion in other quarters. The gentlemen who were so appointed proved themselves not very honest when they expected to be backed up by the Government. The hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had said that too much attention had been paid to hustings speeches——
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
I did not say that too much attention was paid to hustings speeches. What I said was that you ought not to pay too much attention to them.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he could not see any very great distinction between what he had said the hon. Member had stated and that which the hon. Member now declared that he had said. The doctrine that hon. Members when before their constituents were to make one class of speeches, and were to make another class of speeches altogether when they got into the House, was a doctrine to which he could not subscribe. The hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Daly) had said that they should not look upon this question with too much jealousy. He (Mr. Biggar) thought they should watch the conduct of the Commission closely, and that, whenever there was occasion to do so, they should find fault with it. But that was the extent to which he would go. He would not condemn them before they had been tried; but as soon as they had proved their capacity, or their incapacity, as the case might be, he thought an opinion should be expressed upon it.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
wished to remark that what he had said was that too much attention should not be paid to hustings speeches in the House. He had not said that attention was not to be paid to hustings speeches elsewhere.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had, no doubt unintentionally, misrepresented what he had said. He had not stated that the Commission should be composed of partizans in the interest of the tenants, as he would object to too strong partizans of any kind. What he had said was that it was a regrettable circumstance that some one gentleman had not been appointed on the Commission who was distinguished for his pronounced views in the interests of the tenants, and by his efforts in their behalf, and that such a Gentleman could have been found on either side of the House he had no doubt.
§ Amendment agreed to.
I should here explain that the rest of the Amendments go out until we reach the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Gen- 1422 tleman the Attorney General for Ireland at page 4, b.
In page 21, line 27, to leave out from "vacancy," to end of Clause, and insert as new paragraphs—"The two Commissioners, other than the Judicial Commissioner, shall respectively hold their offices for seven years next succeeding the passing of this Act.
If during the said period of seven years a vacancy occurs in the office of any of such other Commissioners by death, resignation, incapacity, or otherwise, Her Majesty may by warrant under the Royal Sign Manual appoint some other fit person to fill such vacancy; but the person so appointed shall hold his office only until the expiration of the said period of seven years.
The first Commissioners, other than the Judicial Commissioner, shall be Mr. Edward Falconer Litton, Member for Tyrone, and Mr. John E. Vernon, of Mount Merrion, Booterstown."—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ Question proposed, "That these new paragraphs be there inserted."
said, he thought it would be extremely undesirable, when there was a general settling down of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, that these relations should be disturbed. Under the Land Act the judicial business in Ireland had been very much less than had been anticipated, and it would be extremely unsatisfactory to the country if any large establishment was being maintained at high salaries in consequence of the Government failing to provide some means of reconsidering the question. Reference had been made to the present indisposition of the Conservative Party to appreciate the value of this Bill; but it must be hoped that when the good results which the Government anticipated from it were gradually realized, he should be slow to believe that the Tory Party would not acknowledge the benefits of the Act. That Party might be in Office for seven years, or might be in Office and thrown out again. Whether that were so or not, he had no doubt that when this important statute came to be recognized as part of the fixed legislation of the 1423 country, no Government subject to the control of Parliament and public opinion would object to carrying it into effect.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.