HC Deb 13 June 1881 vol 262 cc338-40

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, If it is true that landlords in Ireland have been demanding and are enforcing by expensive legal proceedings payment of half-year's rent due only in May last, no other arrear being due; if it is the fact that he has had his attention in particular called to the alleged conduct of Colonel Forbes, of county Leitrim, who, it is stated, on the 4th instant, through his solicitor, demanded payment, within four days of the half-year's rent which fell due on the 1st May last, under threat of immediate and expensive proceedings in the Law Courts, no other arrear being due; and, whether the Government have represented, or will represent, to any such landlords the mischief and danger to the public peace of adopting unusual proceedings at a time like the present in that country, and will refuse their countenance and support to such proceedings?


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, before he answers the Question, a Question of which I have given him private Notice, Whether he is aware that the tenant of Colonel Forbes alluded to has lately returned from America, obtained possession of the land, and refused to pay any rent; whether he is not a prominent cause of disturbance in the neighbourhood, and incites others not to pay their rents; whether he has not thrown the bailiff into a drain; and, whether he did not threaten violence if the owner, agent, or bailiff dared to enter on the land?


In consequence of the Question that has just been sprung upon the House, I beg to ask you, Sir, whether there is any protection in this House for people who are the subjects of statements which are devoid of foundation, made under cover of Questions, which I conceive to be a breach of the Privileges of this House?


, in reply, said, he must remind the hon. and learned Member (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) that Colonel Forbes was also absent. Beyond the case referred to, he had no reason to suppose that landlords in Ireland had been demanding and were enforcing, by expensive legal proceedings, payment of the half-year's rent due only in May last, no other arrear being due; but, at the same time, he was not likely to hear of such cases. If a landlord applied for payment immediately after six months' rent was due, he only acted like an ordinary creditor applying for payment to his debtor. Probably, the demand would be in the form of a lawyer's letter in the usual way, and he did not think it was any business of the Government to inquire into the matter, especially as the hon. and learned Member was aware that what very often came before the Government could not follow from that step. Besides, no eviction was possible for one half-year's rent. With regard to the Question of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Tottenham), he (Mr. Forster) had heard the same statement from Colonel Forbes himself, and, judging from that gentleman's character, he was strongly inclined to imagine that that statement was correct.


asked, whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that Colonel Forbes was a justice of the peace for the county of Leitrim, and had within the past two months evicted no fewer than seven tenants for non-payment of an unjust and exorbitant rent?


, in reply, said, that he was aware that Colonel Forbes was a magistrate, and he believed that he was a resident magistrate. It was possible that he had lately evicted seven tenants; but he was not aware that it was for the non-payment of an unjust and exorbitant rent.

In reply to Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN,


said, he did not know whether it was before he received the hon. and learned Gentleman's letter at Dublin Castle that he made inquiry about Colonel Forbes; but when he saw the Notice of the Question he thought it right to make a little inquiry.


asked, Whether the right hon. Gentleman was taking any steps to test the character of evictions which were now and had been going on in Ireland since he undertook last Session to watch carefully evictions going on in that country?


, in reply, said, that that was an important Question, of which the hon. Member ought to give Notice.