§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [5th July], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair" (for Committee on the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) (re-committed) Bill).
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, while willing, in case of emergency, to grant money from public funds for
purposes which it believes are for the best interests of Ireland, declines to proceed with a measure which imposes taxation for objects which, in its opinion, must tend to demoralize the people of that Country,"—(Mr. Chaplin,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
Sir, I will not detain the House by any prolonged remarks. Indeed, I only desire to make a single observation. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), in his speech yesterday, stated that there were many cases in which tenants had signed leases which had not been broken by the Land Court, and he expressed his apprehension that the benefit of the Bill would be denied to tenants who are so situated. Now, I wish it to be widely known in Ireland that, by the 3rd clause, the benefit of the Bill is distinctly extended to tenants holding under such leases as are described by the hon. Member. If the lease was made anterior to the Act of 1881 the leaseholder would be within the scope of this Bill. If it was made subsequent to 1881 no arrears could be accumulated of the nature of those with which this Bill proposes to deal. I am anxious that this should be known, because the Government have laboured to make this Bill as final and as comprehensive as possible, and it could not be comprehensive and final unless leaseholders were included along with the other tenants.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Sir, the section of the Land Act of 1881 which dealt with the payment of arrears provided that, at the option of the parties concerned, the State should interfere and should make grants out of public funds for the settlement of private debts between debtor and creditor. That has always appeared to me to be a grave and questionable proposal; but I do not want to discuss it now, because Parliament has already sanctioned it. What we have to consider now is the position in which we are placed by the proposal of the Government to extend that principle. There is no question that the section of the Land Act relating to arrears has failed as completely as other provisions of that Statute which were of equal importance and of greater permanent 1628 interest. I do not say it would be proper to allow this Session to expire without an attempt being made to pass some measure which will carry out that which that section of the Land Act was intended to perform. Nor will I enter now upon the reasons for the failure of that section. Many reasons have been assigned, the principal one, which I believe was well-founded, being that Her Majesty's Government were on this and other subjects of a squeezeable nature, and that if, by some little delay, and possibly by winking or conniving at the perpetration of further outrages, the consciences of Her Majesty's Government might be reached, they might give more favourable terms than Parliament had already accorded. At all events, it seems to me to be a serious matter that this measure should have originated, not with Her Majesty's Government, but with hon. Members below the Gangway. The people of Ireland will place to the credit of the Members I referred to, and not to the credit of the Government or goodwill of Parliament, any benefit which they may obtain under this Bill, and they will believe it has been forced on the Government by those who at the very time they dictated these proposals were detained in prison upon suspicion of treason and crime. The intention of the Government I take to be something of this nature—they desire that the tenants in Ireland, under £30 valuation, who are unable from poverty caused by past bad seasons to meet the arrears which accrued during those seasons shall be relieved by the settlement of their arrears, in order to save them from eviction and to secure to them the benefits of the Land Act. Looking to the fact that the section of the Act of 1881 is already law, that proposal seems to me to be one of a reasonable character. There are these differences between the Bill and the Act of 1881:—The interference of the State, which under the Act of 1881 is optional with landlord or tenant, is by the Bill to be made compulsory. The money to be provided is to be a gift instead of a being loan, and a part of it—and I suspect it will prove to be a very large part of it—is to be provided from the taxation of the people. I do not think anyone could have paid attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland), delivered yesterday, without feeling that the last statement I have niado—namely, 1629 that a very large portion of the money required for the purposes of the Bill will have to be provided by the taxpayers—is a statement only too likely to be too well-founded. My hon. Friend proved with complete clearness the questionable nature of the Church Surplus on which the Prime Minister relies. I am not about to touch on the question whether his estimate of the arrears which had to be provided for is too sanguine. He has given us a vague and shadowy estimate that they will amount to £2,000,000; and if he is unable to give anything more definite on this point than the statement which he has made, I am utterly incompetent to form any estimate whatever; but, supposing the expenditure may amount to £2,000,000, is it likely that the Church Surplus will amount to that sum? The Church Surplus depends upon a factor, which as it seems to me has not not been thoroughly, if at all, considered by the Government. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Downpatrick, the Church Surplus, if it accrues at all, will accrue in this manner:—The Church Temporalities Commission can borrow money at 3½ per cent and invest it to return 4½ per cent, and if that process is continued long enough there must be a considerable progress; but it is a question whether the 4½ per cent is likely to be received for any length of time. What kind of security have we as to the permanence of the income which the Church Temporalities Commission now derive from property in Ireland? I fear that the permanence and security of any income arising from landed property in Ireland, excepting that which accrues to the cultivator, is of a doubtful, I will not say of a vanishing character. It seems to me but too probable, looking to the legislation which Parliament has already sanctioned, to the agitation that is being continued, to the legislative proposals now before us, and to the possibility of further advances in the same direction, that even the head rents and the quit rents due from landlords to the Church Commissioners are by no means so secure as they have hitherto been estimated to be. When we come to the consideration of other rents more of a rack rent character, or to the repayment of the instalments which are due from those small proprietors who have purchased property from the Church Commissioners, I fear that their income is likely 1630 enough to be considerably reduced indeed. If that be so, what is likely to become of the surplus on which the right hon. Gentleman has so confidently calculated? I fear that a larger sum than £500,000, and possibly a large portion of the total expenditure under this Bill, will fall upon the taxpayers of the United Kingdom. I trust that this matter will be thoroughly sifted by the House. I am quite certain the country will properly require from us some greater security and knowledge than it possesses on this subject, if this measure is to be sanctioned, or if our proceedings are to meet with approval. I do not say that if I thought the proposals contained the elements of a permanent settlement of the Land Question, or were not likely to inflict on Ireland far greater evils than even those that would be suffered by the poor tenants evicted if this Bill did not become law—I do not say that for such a purpose as this I would not be prepared for one to impose a very considerable burden on the taxpayers. Hardly any sum could be too much if, by the payment of it, we could restore peace and contentment to Ireland. But I feel, in the first place, that there is nothing whatever that is permanent in the proposals of the Bill, that they are a temporary sop to tide over a temporary difficulty, and that the difficulty to be temporarily met by these proposals will be certain to recur before long. You may wisely draw large sums from public sources for anything like the promotion of emigration, where the size of the occupations is too small to enable tenants to live, or for converting tenants into freeholders, where that can be done with safety and probable success; but it seems to me that by this proposal to devote this large sum merely to the settlement of a temporary difficulty you are sowing the seeds of similar difficulty in the future. The Chief Secretary for Ireland defended this as an exceptional Bill to meet absolutely exceptional circumstances. I deny that we are dealing with absolutely exceptional circumstances. He compared the condition of Ireland in 1879 and 1880 with its condition in the famine year of 1847. Well, there was a great distress in 1879 and 1880, but it is ridiculous to compare it with the famine of 1847; there was in the two years very great distress in limited portions of Ireland, but there 1631 was nothing approaching to the distress in the famine year; there was nothing more than, I fear, under our present Irish land system, may be but too sure to recur with bad seasons in Ireland, or with want of employment on this side of the Irish Channel. If that be so, what becomes of the argument of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold), who is almost the only independent Member who has spoken in favour of this Bill? He said that in order to justify the proposed assistance it was necessary to establish that the case was unique, and that it could not recur. Why, it is absolutely certain to recur. He suggested that small occupiers would be likely to sell their tenant-right and to emigrate. There is nothing less likely to enter into their minds. They are practically, by their own desire, tied to their small occupations, and not only by their own desire, but also by the recommendation of those in whom, in political matters, they place absolute confidence—namely, the Irish Members below the Gangway. I fear that the idea under which the hon. Member for Salford gave his support to this Bill is entirely unfounded; and if we spend £2,000,000 or £2,500,000 in the manner proposed, we shall simply be wasting money which might be much better employed—we shall be worse than wasting it, for the manner in which the money is to be spent—namely, by way of gift, instead of by way of loan—seems to me to be fraught with great evils. I am very sorry that on this point the Government have not been able to adopt what is really the opinion of the majority of Irish Members, and what is recommended by both the hon. Members for the County of Cork. There is no one whose opinion is entitled to greater weight than the senior Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw), and his view would also be supported by other Members from Ireland in this part of the House. It is very well to say that, after all, there is no difference between a gift and a loan at a low rate of interest. There is a most material difference between them, because a loan, even at the low rate of 1 per cent per annum, would act as a kind of safeguard against fraudulent applicants. It would be felt to be a just arrangement by all, and especially by those honest and law-abiding tenants in Ireland, who would 1632 see, even if so low a rate of interest as 1 per cent were asked, that those who were not honest and not law-abiding were not placed in a better position than themselves, and that the aid given by the Government would cost those persons something, as any aid should cost them, if it is to be safeguarded at all. Now, I confess in this matter I am disposed to think much more of the number of Irish tenants who, having under every difficulty and discouragement paid their just debts, now see themselves put aside by the provisions of the Bill; and I do not believe that any very large number of persons ought to be benefited by such a measure as this. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant alluded yesterday to the large increase of late in the number of evictions; but we have no information as yet as to the number of cases which are fit subjects for relief under this Bill, and until we have that information, and until we know that those who are to be relieved are unable to pay, I trust this measure will not pass into law. The Government surely will not say that the provisions of this measure ought to be extended beyond that class, and, if so, how can the condition of being able to pay be ascertained? But what have the Government done? They have proposed to intrust the decision of this most difficult and important matter—a matter where there will be every possible attempt at fraud—to a Court utterly overburdened with work for the next 15 months, and that at a time when they are pressing upon the House the necessity of the prompt action of those Courts. How can that difficulty be remedied by the insertion in the Bill of provisions as to the employment of fit persons? The Land Court and the County Courts must decide the cases which require decision, and, though they may have reports placed before them by those who are to be employed for that purpose, they have no time whatever to consider such reports; and, therefore, we are reduced to this—that the decision of cases arising under this Bill must practically be left to the persons to be nominated by the Land Commission with the sanction of the Treasury. There is no qualification laid down for these persons; they cannot be possessed of higher qualifications, or be superior to those who have been appointed Sub-Commis- 1633 sioners, in whom nobody has any confidence. The consequence will be that you will have this whole inquiry into the solvency of the tenants' affairs degenerating into a mere farce; and I cannot help thinking that it is on this account that you have secured the support of hon. Members below the Gangway. They think that this Act will be administered much as the Land Act of 1881 has been administered—that the gift of money for the settlement of arrears will be as indiscriminate and unexpected in amount, and as unjust as the reductions of rents under the Land Act of 1881. What will be the result of that? Can such a vigilant guardian of the Public Purse as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer contemplate with satisfaction the imposition of such a burden upon the taxpayers of this country? I think we had some light thrown upon the feelings with which the Government view this proposal by the answer given by the Chief Secretary for Ireland to a Question put to him as to whether the value of the tenant right was to be taken into consideration in estimating a tenant's solvency. The right hon. Gentleman stated that it would be inconsistent with the words of this Bill to require that the tenant, in order to discharge his debts, should be deprived of his holding. I understood this to mean that the value of his tenant right would be taken into consideration by the Sub-Commissioners in determining the solvency of the tenant, provided only that sufficient were left him to enable him to carry on his farm. But the Prime Minister thinks this question must be left to the good sense of the presiding officer in each case.
was understood to say that the Government would consider the desirability of introducing words into the Act for the guidance of the officials.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Quite so. His present determination is to leave the matter as it is—that is, to the good sense of the presiding officer. No directions of any kind are to be given him as to the mode in which he is to find out the solvency of the tenant. This is following the precedent—the bad precedent—of leaving everything to the discretion of the Court, just as was the case in fixing a fair rent in the Act of 1634 last year; and I trust that before the Bill leaves this House the Government will see the difficulty and dangers of such a course, and provide such a definition of solvency as may secure the House against fraud and wrong. Would the House allow a tenant on one day to receive a sum of money from the Government in respect of his arrears, and the next day to sell his tenant right at the full price he could get for it, and put that price in his pocket? [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I am glad to see in the expression of opinion which has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman some sign that he may be disposed to look with favour upon such Amendments as may prevent the measure from having any such operation. But if such Amendments are not inserted, how can anyone suppose that permanent satisfaction, or even temporary relief, can result from the measure? On the other hand, how many classes will be injured by it? I refer almost with apology to Irish landlords—they are a class not much favoured in Parliament; but, at any rate, it will be a bad thing for Ireland if you are determined to deter Irish landlands from lenient treatment of their tenants. But let us see how the Bill affects tenants. It does not apply to tenants of over £30 valuation, although they have suffered quite as much as their smaller neighbours. And, not only will these tenants not be benefited by the Bill, they will contribute, in common with our constituents in England and Scotland, to the relief of persons by no means more deserving than themselves. The very poor tenants, likewise, will experience no benefit from the Bill, for it will be impossible for them to provide the necessary year's rent. Meanwhile, those who, at the risk of injury to themselves or their families, have paid their just debts will be subject to what many of them will feel to be worse than the suffering they have hitherto endured—namely, the contempt and ridicule of their lawless neighbours, who will see themselves placed in as good a position as they. Even those who, being in distressed circumstances, benefit by the Bill, will be subject to another danger. I should like to know in how many cases it will happen that where a tenant has been relieved of his arrears to the landlord his tenant right will be pounced upon by the harpies who surround 1635 him—the gombeen man, the attorney, the village shopkeeper—who will evict him more surely and rapidly than any landlord would have done. It appears to me that, under this measure, all law-abiding people in Ireland will be discouraged, and that the lawless classes will be encouraged to further outrages and crimes. I cannot but feel that this has been too much the effect of legislation under the present Government in Ireland during the past two years. This Bill, we are told, is to restore peace and contentment to Ireland. The same was said of the recent Land Act. How can we believe prophecies already falsified? Why are we to be forced by prophecies of this kind to pass a measure which, in its principles, is abhorrent, not merely to those who sit on this side of the House, but, I will venture to add, to many who sit behind the Government? In spite of this Bill, we see the land agitation about to be renewed in Ireland by men who are more popular there at present than any Members of this House. We see falsified the hopes expressed by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) on the introduction of this Bill. Serious and numerous outrages still continue in Ireland; and people who have reaped the advantage of measures passed by Parliament within the past few years are but encouraged to make further demands. The Land Act of 1881, which was to be a peaceful settlement of the Irish Question, has, within 12 months, been followed by the most stringent measure of repression known to the present generation—a measure which we have been compelled to support by the notorious condition of Ireland, and by the assurances of the Government that without such powers they could not be responsible for the control of a country honeycombed with secret societies. This state of things, to my mind, is very largely due to the vacillation and half-heartedness of the Irish Administration of the Government. I do not believe it will ever be possible to restore peace and confidence in Ireland by conceding to those who are really responsible for crime measures not just in themselves. Great harm—perhaps irreparable harm—has been done by the introduction of this measure by the Government; but I trust Parliament will spare the country the greater harm apparently in store for it by determining that, unless the defects 1636 I have pointed out are remedied, the Bill shall not become law.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has touched upon a good many topics in his speech. Some of these I need not comment upon, except to express my surprise at his observations. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman said that among the harpies of Ireland that prey upon the tenants were the respectable and numerous body in Ireland—the village shopkeepers. I suppose the village shopkeeper is as necessary to the farmer as the farmer is to the village shopkeeper; and I think, in discussions of this kind, it would be better to omit phrases on that subject, which can do no good, and which none, I think, on consideration, can believe to be just. The right hon. Gentleman has given us another edition of that general condemnation of the Land Act of last Session, of which we heard so much in that Session from hon. Gentlemen opposite. If that Act was so unjust, and if every man who knows anything of what political economy is, or of what is due from the law to all transactions between class and class—if they believe it to be so unjust, how was it that in the other House of Parliament it was allowed to become law, as it could do only by the consent of that august and ancient Assembly? If I sat on that (the Opposition) aide of the House, and were in sympathy with the other House of Parliament, as hon. Gentlemen opposite are supposed to be, I think I should let alone the question whether the Land Act, in all its parts, was wise or just. I should accept it as the act of the united Legislature, and endeavour, at least, to support that opinion among the people of this country, and to hope the best from the operation of it as year succeeds year. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by discussing the question of the existence of the Church Surplus. One thing we are certain of is that in Churches not disestablished there is a very considerable fund. We are now asked to believe that in a Church that has been disestablished everything in the shape of a fund has vanished. Hon. Gentlemen opposite believe, notwithstanding the statements of my right hon. Friend, (Mr. Gladstone), that there is no such fund—[Mr. GIBSON: Hear, hear!]—and that, therefore, any reliance upon it is a 1637 delusion that Parliament ought to be warned against. I shall not enter into the question. I do not dispute the authority, to some extent, of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland). I daresay he has paid a good deal of attention to this matter; but, on the whole, I incline to think that both Houses and the country will be disposed rather to accept the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has had a good deal more to do with these matters than any other Member of the House, and who is believed, and nowhere more entirely believed than on that side of the House, to be the very best authority in this country on a question of this kind. I speak from observations which I heard repeatedly from Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is of opinion that the burden, which will rest somewhere under this Bill, if it becomes an Act, will be a heavy burden on the taxpayers of the United Kingdom; not the £500,000 only which may possibly have to be advanced, but I think he has convinced himself, on the authority of the hon. Member for Downpatrick, that the whole of the £2,000,000 will have to be so advanced.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
Yes; I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has not much confidence in any portion of the money being obtained from the Church Fund. Then he proceeds to say that after all—and in this he followed the example of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin)—that the Bill will be ineffectual, and that, in point of fact, it is only a sop offered to the discontented classes in Ireland. Well, the House of Commons has been in the habit for the last two centuries, and particularly for the last 50 years, of offering a good many sops to discontented people; and, on the whole, I think, that course has proved to be a wise one. But the most alarming sop we have seen offered to discontented people in Ireland during the present Session, or, indeed, in any preceding Session, has been the sop offered by a Committee of the other House of Parliament, and which I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith), in some shape or other, is disposed to recommend to this House. [Mr. W. H. SMITH assented.] I am not 1638 finding fault with him at all; it may be a very wise thing; but I think there are a good many objections to it, as will probably be seen if the proposal comes before the House. The right hon. Gentleman suggests two courses which he says the Government might take, either of which he thinks would have been much better than the one which they have adopted, although, in my opinion, that course in no way would interfere with the after consideration of the others. The right hon. Gentleman refers to the question of emigration. The right hon. Gentleman knows that last year a clause was introduced into the Land Act with the view to promote emigration. That clause, I am willing to admit, was not very satisfactory or very complete to my mind, even when it was first offered to the House; but, as hon. Members know, it met with a very strong, and, in my opinion, most unwise and most unjustifiable opposition from hon. Members opposite, who professed to express the opinions of the smaller farmers and holders of land in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman, however, appears to have exactly the same feeling on the subject now, because in his speech he has told us to-day that the tenants of these small holdings of five or six acres are so bound up in their little plots, upon which they were born and bred, that no temptation that could be offered them would induce them freely to emigrate.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Allow me to explain that what I meant was this—the Land Act offers no temptation to those persons to emigrate, nor, so far as I can see, does the present proposal of Her Majesty's Government, and, therefore, they had no temptation to leave; but if you had an emigration plan, worthy of the name, it would unquestionably offer a great temptation.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
Yes; but I understood the right hon. Gentleman to give his opinion that they would not, even though it was worthy of the name, sell their tenant rights in order to enable them to emigrate. That is an opinion which the right hon. Gentleman is quite free to hold; but I hold the 1639 contrary opinion. I know that according to an experiment which was tried recently by a Committee sitting in London, in which a very old and valued friend of mine, Mr. Tuke, has been a most able and active worker, that exactly the contrary is the case. Mr. Tuke found that the priests, who are sometimes charged, I think unjustly, with wishing to keep the people on the land—even in their poverty—were extremely anxious that a system of emigration should be established, and that 15 out of 20 families who were visited in a small district were desirous of emigrating. I think that the course which hon. Members opposite have taken in this matter is a shocking one—I cannot get exactly the word I wish to use, and I am afraid of using stronger language than I intend—but the course which hon. Members opposite have taken has been an astonishing one, and it the more convinces me, either that they do not understand the condition and the interests of the population they profess to represent, or that they do not deal honestly with the House in reference to it. Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to another question—that which relates to the purchase of farms. The Bill of last year contained very large powers for enabling tenants to purchase their holdings—powers which have scarcely at all been brought into action. But that is not because those powers were not extensive enough, but because the time has not been favourable to their action. If those powers had been brought into action in 1870, there would by this time have been scores of thousands of tenants who would have become proprietors by 1879, by which time the condition of things in Ireland would have become far more satisfactory than it actually was in that year. But at present, in my opinion, there is no chance whatever for those powers coming into extensive action. The disturbed state of the country militates very strongly against such action, and the unfortunate irritation which exists between the landlords and the tenants prevents them from coming together to discuss what can be done in the matter. It is also said, although I think that the danger is grossly exaggerated, that the competition coming from America may permanently reduce the value of the produce of land in Ireland, and so reduce the amount which 1640 a tenant would be willing to give for his holding. All these grounds, in my opinion, are those which make it impossible at present that there should be anything considerable done to the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act. But, like other things, it may come into action when conditions are more favourable, and if the country becomes more tranquil. I am one of those who believe it will. Notwithstanding the present state of things, you will find that clause, even though no more is done, will come into growing and extensive action, and it may not be necessary to do more. But I am not one of those who would strongly object to any alterations being made in those clauses which some people, perhaps more acquainted with the question than I am, may think would be advantageous. The right hon. Gentleman said that what the Government proposed to do by this Bill is really only to waste so much public money—I am not sure that he did not say to worse than waste it—and he advocates the proposal which we have heard of before, that the tenants shall be assisted in the payment of their arrears, not by a gift, but by a loan; and I understand that he is willing to accept the proposal which has been made in some quarters that the interest to be charged on the loan shall be fixed at 1 per cent. Some persons, indeed, have proposed that the loan shall be made without interest, and that all that need be done is to make a provision for the repayment of the loan at stated periods. The right hon. Gentleman called in support of his views the testimony, which is entitled to great weight, of the hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw). The right hon. Gentleman argued that if the money were advanced by way of loan, that would be a great check upon the amount of the advances that would be asked for, and that people who were not in a position to want the loan would not ask for it. For my part, however, looking back to certain facts in Irish history, I suspect that a good many persons would get their loan with the suspicion, and, perhaps, with a strong hope, that the probability would be that they would never be called upon to repay it. So far, therefore, from the fact that the advance was in the form of a loan operating as a check upon the amount of the advances applied for, I think that it 1641 would have exactly the contrary effect. I understood from the hon. Member for the County of Cork that he proposed that the £30 limit should be given up, and that tenants generally who were in difficulties might come and borrow money, and in that case no proof would be required of inability to pay, because, as you are only lending the money, and not giving it, you would not suppose that people who did not require the loan would come and ask for it, and, therefore, the check upon the advances would come into operation.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
The right hon. Gentleman did not; but still, taking the opinion of the hon. Member for the County of Cork and some other opinions of weight, that I supposed would probably take in their whole view, and not only a portion of it. If the limit of £30 is to be given up, and the loan is to be made without interest, I ask hon. Members who are acquainted with Irishmen, either in their own country or in this country, whether there would not be a constant and universal demand for advances upon those terms from the Government? Now, how could you refuse it? You would not have to inquire as to whether the man was likely to repay you. You would not, I presume, take a direct mortgage upon his property. You would advance the money, and you would believe that so generous an act would be met by generosity and justice hereafter, and that there would be no difficulty in collecting from some hundreds and thousands of tenants in Ireland either the small interest or the repayments necessary for the whole of the loan. My own opinion is that if the Government had adopted that plan, instead of having to provide from the Irish Church Fund and from the taxes the sum of £2,000,000, they would have to provide for advances to the amount of £4,000,000, £5,000,000 or possibly £6,000,000. The result of such a plan would be to give rise to a spirit which we should not like to see prevalent among the tenants of Ireland, and which would land us in a quagmire from which it would be impossible for Parliament or the Exchequer to extricate itself. On the whole, therefore, I think that the course which the Government propose to adopt is infinitely better than any 1642 which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. Then the right hon. Gentleman wants to know how we are able to distinguish between those who are able to pay and those who are unable to pay. I admit that the matter is one of considerable difficulty. Under the right hon. Gentleman's plan we should give the applicants exactly what they asked for without inquiry of any kind; but under our plan every person applying for an advance will be forced to render an exact account of the state of his affairs. We shall know what sum he has due to him, what sum he has in the savings bank, what stock he has on his farm, the value of his furniture, and the general circumstances in which he lives, and we shall thus ascertain whether he is in that state of destitution which will enable him to come justly and ask for a portion of this gift. We must also bear in mind that the landlord would not wish to go into this arrangement with a tenant of whose power to pay he was assured. The landlord, of course, would oppose it, and he would ask why he should take half the arrears, which the Government by this Bill proposed to give him, when he knew the tenant was perfectly able to pay the whole? Therefore the landlord would step in before the Court which is to adjudicate, and object, wherever he thought, by making use of the powers of the law, he could obtain the whole of the arrears; and that, I think, would be a very considerable check, and also would remedy, to a considerable extent, the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman has pointed to. Another point of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which requires careful consideration is the case which he gives of a tenant holding a farm, the tenant right of which, under the Act of last year, is worth more or less a considerable sum of money. What is to be done, he says, in such a case? What I think should be done is—not to say, as was proposed by the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) yesterday, as I think unreasonably, that in no case should any inquiry be made as to what the tenant right of the particular holding may be worth. Suppose a man had a farm of 20 acres worth £20 a-year. It is well known that the tenant right of this would be worth £10 or, say, £5 an acre; that would make £100 or £200, as the case might be. Well, in that 1643 case the arrears extending over two or three years would be £40 or £60; and would it not be unreasonable to say that the Government should advance a sum of money to him, and that the tenant right should be untouched? The tenant right is his own property. He could not be evicted from his farm. The property is secured under the Act of last year. It should be, therefore, quite competent to those who adjudicate upon the matter, to ask the question and ascertain the value of the tenant right just as well as that of the cattle on his farm. This money is not to be given out with a shovel to any person who comes to ask for it. Every precaution which is fair to the tenant and just to the State must, of course, be observed, and it would be quite easy for the Court to say to the tenant—"Your tenant right is worth so much; it is worth £200; surely there can be no difficulty in your obtaining a loan of £50," which, in all probability, would be the whole he would be called upon to pay. Therefore, when this comes to be dealt with as a practical question, by practical, just men, who are appointed to adjudicate, I think the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman has fairly referred to would not be found to exist, or, at any rate, that it would be found to be very much smaller than he thought it would be. There was one thing which I was sorry to hear in his speech, and which, even from his point of view, I should not have referred to. He spoke of the injustice of the Act of last year. The fact which he assumed to be true I believe to be not true. That is, that the Land Commissioners in Ireland were totally without and unworthy of the confidence of the people in Ireland.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
I thought the right hon. Gentleman said "unworthy." At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman said they did not possess the confidence of the people of that country. I may observe that, in my opinion, that statement is entirely without justification. He has no knowledge of the opinions of the people of Ireland. I would appeal to the hon. Member who sits below the Gangway, but who is not now in his place—I mean the hon. Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan). He stated here in the early part of the Ses- 1644 sion—and he has not favoured us with so many speeches as some of his neighbours—that he was not one of those who would say anything against the Land Act of last Session. He said—"I know that it has already made happy many homes in my country." I have not the least doubt now, notwithstanding all the difficulties we see in Ireland, that the operation of that Act is gradually extending over a wider and wider area, and that, wherever it spreads, into every farmhouse where it penetrates, it gives peace not hitherto possessed or enjoyed; and you may rely upon it, it must do something to soften the feeling of the inhabitants of that cottage, and to give them a sense of security and justice which has not hitherto been felt by the great body of tenants in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Land Act was a failure. Everything the Government has done in regard to Ireland, he says, is a failure. I do not believe the Land Act is a failure, and those who are here half-a-dozen years hence will be better able to judge than we are now as to that. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what is a failure beyond denial, and that is the land system which prevailed previous to the Act of last year.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
No, no; I am not speaking of any particular Act of our time. The Land Act of 1870 was a large step from what existed before, and last year there was another still larger step. What I say is this—do not let it be forgotten that hon. Gentlemen opposite were, for the most part, just as much opposed to the Act of 1870 as they were to the one of last year. I am referring to what existed before 1870. There is no Gentleman here from Ireland—I think there is no sensible man in the country—who does not admit that the landed system in Ireland down to 1870 was an entire failure. I recollect seeing a letter written by one of the most intelligent and best-informed land agents in the South of Ireland when the Act of 1870 was being discussed. It was a letter sent to the present Lord Lieutenant, and he showed it to me last year. He there said that such was the state of things before the Government of my right hon. Friend touched the question that it was on the cards whether there would not 1645 be a general combination throughout all Ireland to resist the payment of rents. I assert this, and am ready to maintain it, that where there is that state of things, unless you believe that all men are dishonest, and dishonest even to madness, no such condition could have arisen in a landed system which was worthy of support and continuance by the Parliament of this country. The right hon. Gentleman says what is greatly to be deplored is the half-hearted-ness and the vacillation of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and his Colleagues. These are phrases in great use on the Opposition Benches. They do not mean much, except that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like anything proposed from this side of the House; and as it is supposed to be their duty, as Her Majesty's Opposition, thus to find fault, these phrases are of immense use in rounding paragraphs and sentences in Opposition speeches. But, at any rate, there are some hon. Gentlemen who think the action of the Government to have been very strong, and very urgent, and very despotic. It is not very long ago that hon. Gentlemen opposite complained bitterly that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) handled his tools with a great deal too much ease and tenderness towards the people of Ireland; but the moment he left Office I find they had an entirely different opinion; and just in proportion as before they joined in every condemnation of his policy, since he left Office they found out that he was a most admirable Chief Secretary for Ireland, and they approved of everything he had done. I judge from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) that there is one thing on which we agree, and that is that the condition of Ireland is very serious, whether it be improving or not; that it deserves to be treated in such a manner as that we may arrive at the truth; and that that is the desire of hon. Gentlemen just as much on that side as on this. As to our being half-hearted, I must say that I should be very sorry to be a Member of a Government that rushed into violent proceedings under circumstances such as have existed in Ireland. It would be quite easy, no doubt, by means of military and police to overawe the people, and to make it impossible for freemen to meet together anywhere to discuss griev- 1646 ances; but I hold it is far better to take a more patient course, and to take more time in regard to the matter. These great maladies of nations, like those great maladies which sometimes afflict ourselves, are not cured in a moment. I believe there is no virtue more necessary, both in Parliament and in Great Britain, than that patience should be exercised in regard to the condition of Ireland. All the people of Ireland are not discontented, all are not disloyal, all are not dishonest. Many look to this House and Government, and to the legislation of this Session, for the restoration of peace and order in that country. Rely upon it, there are thousands—nay, hundreds of thousands—who are weary of the anarchy which has prevailed. Being weary of anarchy, they will be willing, as far as they can and as far as they dare, to support the Government in every effort to restore peace to the population of that country; and I do not doubt—I have a sanguine hope, at any rate—that the Bill which provides more power to the Lord Lieutenant and the Executive, used as it will be, not against any innocent person, but only for the purpose of repressing disorder and putting an end to crime, will have, notwithstanding the speeches we have heard against it in this House, the general support of the thoughtful and loyal portion of the population of Ireland. That is my firm opinion, and I shall be very glad to see on the part of all Members of this House—I make no appeal to the dozen Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway, but to hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite—I ask them to consider this question in all gravity, and to see if there be not some way in which the faculties of the Opposition—without making it appear constantly as if everything that the Government does with regard to Ireland is wrong and is a failure, is done with faint-heartedness, without earnestness—might be employed in favour of peace; and whether they cannot give such support as I think any Government in their position has a right to ask for from every loyal person who occupies a seat in this Parliament.
§ MR. ECROYD
said, he had no want of sympathy with the sufferings of Ireland or the difficulties of the Administration in dealing with that country. He did not find fault with the intentions of the Government, though he challenged the methods which they adopted. He 1647 wished to touch upon two points in the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The right hon. Gentleman had said that a loan on easy terms would probably never be repaid, and the people would take it that the Government was not anxious to be repaid. But it would be possible to make the loan a charge on the holding, and to enforce the repayment of the capital on the sale of the tenant right. Then the right hon. Gentleman had said if the advance were a loan there would be a temptation to dispense with inquiry. But he imagined that in either case an equally searching inquiry must be made; and if the advance were a loan, only the interest could be lost, as the principal would be a charge on the tenant right. No doubt, as had been observed, there were many cases in which the poor tenantry would feel that they had been delivered from a state of great uncertainty; but were there no cases in which the landlord would have in his mind a rankling sense of injustice, entertained upon good grounds, and from which he would never be able to free himself? One gross injustice, at least, had been perpetrated upon the landlord. He had already been deprived of that which was the common right of all free citizens—the right of obtaining the best price for what he had to dispose of—and this Bill would inflict another injustice upon him. He (Mr. Ecroyd) would have no objection to the employment of the public funds for purposes which would promote the permanent pacification and prosperity of Ireland. But as he had no belief that the present Bill would have any such effect, he would support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). They were told that this Bill could only be justified by the extremely exceptional circumstances which existed; but he feared that those exceptional circumstances must be continually expected to recur if they gave the Irish tenant encouragement to depend in future upon the bounty of Parliament. The Bill offered no radical cure for the evils of the country. All debts but one would be left as they were before. Only the debt owing to the landlord was to be interfered with, and that alone was an injustice so flagrant that it ought to condemn this measure in the view of the House of Commons. The debt of the 1648 usurer was frequently the most onerous debt owing by the tenant farmer, and if they delivered him only from his obligation to the landlord, it was clear that they would simply increase the amount of assets available either for present payment to the usurer, or as security for his future loans, which would press with ever-increasing weight upon the shoulders of the tenant. The debt owing to the landlord was usually the most just and reasonable of all his debts, and it represented interest not exceeding 4 or 5 per cent on the capital of which the tenant had had the use, while the debt owing to the usurer might probably represent a loan with interest at the rate of 8 or 10 per cent. The effect of present and past legislation had been to withdraw from competition the price of the tenure of farms; but in all other respects competition was left to exercise its full force upon the tenant farmer, and the rate to which the tenant right might be run up by competition was a most serious element in his future prospects. No doubt, much might be done for the improvement of the condition of the tenant farmer in Ireland; but that work would still remain to be commenced after present legislation had exercised its full force. What was required in Ireland was that complete assurance of the security of life, property, and personal freedom, which would bring capital to the country, which would encourage greater enterprize of every kind, and which would no longer leave the poor tenant farmer no chance of occupation except the cultivation of his small miserable plot of land. But if they intended to bring about such a state of things they would have to proceed upon lines quite contrary to those on which recent legislation had been based. How could they expect men to invest capital in Ireland, when they saw at recurring intervals not only an utter absence of security, but also legislative invasions of the rights of property and the freedom of administration of its owners? The Irish population in Lancashire and Yorkshire had shown themselves to be a quick-fingered and industrious people. He could not, therefore, believe that there was any incapacity on the part of the Irish people for the successful pursuit of native industries. But the Government were cutting off the possibility of the creation of large industries, such as 1649 might bring into play the enormous water power which existed, and afford employment to the people. There was also the question of the promotion of fisheries; and if only some assurance could be felt that capital would ever be secure in Ireland, and its owners free to rise it under open competition and according to their own best judgment, he thought a reasonable hope might be entertained of permanently improving the condition of the Irish population. What ought to be done in Ireland was to cease to encourage hopes which were impossible of fulfilment. If any help were given to men, let it be help to help themselves; and if any encouragement, let it be to those who had striven to help themselves. But the Bill before the House contained an encouragement to that class who had least of all endeavoured to help themselves or to discharge their duties in civil society. It was because he believed that the Bill offered a reward to evil-doers, and a profound discouragement to those who had done well, that he considered it his duty to offer it the strongest opposition.
§ VISCOUNT LYMINGTON
said, that in the discussion which had taken place the House had been led away by hon. Gentlemen opposite from a discussion as to "the expediency" of the Arrears Bill to a criticism of the general policy of the Government. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had described the measure as an Act of confiscation, and in alluding to what he considered the failure of the Irish policy of the Government, he said that the Land Act of last year had failed. But he (Viscount Lymington) thought it was premature to pronounce any opinion as to the effects of that Act. This was not the time or occasion to discuss that measure. It was an intricate and complicated measure, and as to its merits, they could only be decided by time, after the social condition of Ireland had become more settled. He believed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) that there was a large body of Irishmen who were weary of the agitation, who were not disloyal, and who were not dishonest. There was a large number of men with whom he was acquainted who had never for a moment failed in their loyalty and their honest practices; and while it was impossible 1650 for him to say on their behalf that they had not shared, as all tenants in Ireland had shared, in advocating the cause of tenant right, he could say for them that they had never lent themselves to the deplorable practices which had of late been disgracing their country. But if the Land Act of 1870 and that of 1881 had failed, the policy before 1870 adopted by the Irish landlords had ignominiously failed also. Parliament had acknowledged the fact that for a large number of years many landlords in Ireland had endeavoured to force upon the people a tenure which they never had and never would accept. One great point of opposition to this measure which came from the other side of the House was that it was a gross violation of the principles of political economy. He thought that at a critical time like the present they ought to endeavour to look at Irish legislation not so much from a theoretical as from a practical point of view. What had been the principle of the legislation which they had, unhappily, been obliged in the House to accept during the last few weeks? They had been obliged to pass a Coercion Bill; and what was the whole principle of that measure but a violation of every principle which Englishmen had hitherto considered salutary and desirable? What was it but a violation of all Constitutional principles? He maintained, however, that that violation was necessary, that the extraordinary condition of Ireland rendered it necessary; but just as, in his mind, coercive legislation was defensible on the ground of political expediency, so was this measure necessary, even essential, as an accompaniment of the Coercion Bill towards the restoration of law and order in Ireland. The one Bill was specially aimed at the detection and punishment of the perpetrators; this Bill was aimed at the prevention of some of the causes of crime. From an academical point of view there might be something in the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire that this was a measure of confiscation; but, as a matter of fact, a very large portion of the existing arrears of rent were arrears which he did not believe landlords would have ever got, and which he did not think they even expected to get. A great amount of arrears in regard to small holdings applied to the West of Ireland; 1651 and it was a notorious fact that in a great number of cases the rents of those small holdings were really fictitious, in the sense that the landlord or his agent never expected to get them systematically and periodically paid. There were two reasons why landlords were always induced to keep up rents of nominal sums—namely, because it enabled them to exercise a certain influence over the tenantry, and had the effect of enabling encumbered landlords to get more money for the purpose of mortgaging. But he did not think those landlords would really like to see this proposal thrown out; and he should be extremely surprised if it were thrown out in the other House. He had never looked at the measure as one entirely in the interest of the tenant, for he regarded it as one quite as much in the interest of the landlord. He did not think it necessary that he should detain the House by endeavouring to reply to the very general and sweeping accusations which had been made by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, who had asserted that the present condition of Ireland was entirely due to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, and that they were, therefore, responsible for the necessity for this measure. Party recriminations of a vague and intangible character were not calculated to lead to any practical and reasonable discussion of this measure. He sympathized with the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) in favour of introducing clauses to promote emigration in the manner provided for by the 32nd clause of the Act of 1881. In certain parts of Ireland there was no remedy but emigration, unless the people were to be assisted by the State to purchase their holdings. When a man's rent was only £2 10s. it made little difference to him that it was reduced by 50 or 100 per cent; he must depend for his livelihood upon sources extraneous to the cultivation of his land; and if those failed, whatever might be done in the direction of rent, they would still remain on the verge of starvation. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), who had won respect by many honourable traits of character rather than by violent speeches in that House, had countenanced the prejudice that emigration was advocated by those who desired to get rid of the people of Ireland; but 1652 that was really not their desire. What they wished was that persons living in such congested districts should be removed to some place where they would have some scope for the employment of their energies and a better chance of living in comfort. The real justification for the Bill was that it was wanted to put a stop to evictions and to start the Land Act. A certain number of evictions were being carried out by landlords—to some extent under compulsion, because their estates were encumbered—and the effect was to turn out of their homes and holdings tenants who, not in all, but in some cases, belonging specially to those of the very small holdings to which this Bill chiefly applied, could not pay rents because they were exorbitant. There were a sufficient number of these cases to disturb the peace and tranquillity of Ireland. The House had to adhere fairly and strictly to the principles of the legislation of last year; and its operation would be inequitable if men were evicted because they could not pay exorbitant rents, and were thus deprived of the privileges and rights of the Land Act. There was strong and clear ground for this legislation, which should be regarded as the complement of the Land Act and of the policy of the Government. The Administration had had a very difficult and arduous task; but, despite the adverse criticism to which they had been subjected from time to time, he believed the Land Act had had the effect of breaking down a most dangerous conspiracy—a general strike against rent. What they ought now to do was to start the Land Act on a just and strong foundation, to remedy exceptional and admitted hardships, and to show that while, on the one hand, the House was determined to put down outrages, and reclaim the people of Ireland to a sense of honesty and to a sense of conscience, they were, on the other hand, desirous of losing no opportunity of removing, so far as it was possible, the grounds and the reasons upon which the present agitation was founded.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, he had had some difficulty in determining what course to take on this Bill, and had not been assisted by the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), because he did not adduce a single argument in favour of the Bill. 1653 No doubt there must be bickerings and heart burnings until something was done with the arrears that had accrued before the passing of the Land Act; but we might pay too dearly for the settlement, and create evils greater than those removed. The Bill seemed to violate the laws of political economy for the purpose of doing the minimum of good and the maximum of evil. Tenants in arrear were divisible into three classes. There were those who, from their poverty and the smallness of their holdings, never had been able to pay their rents; there were those who had not been able to recover from the effects of two or three bad seasons; and there were those who could pay their rents, but refused, either under the dictation of the Land League, or because they dishonestly desired to avoid paying their debts. The Bill practically dealt with all three classes in the same way. Every tenant who was in arrear would avow his inability to pay, and there would be little or no chance of convicting a tenant who suppressed the state of his finances, for he would be tried before a sympathizing jury of men who had probably been in the same position as himself. He believed the tenants of Ireland were never better off than now, and as a class they were far better off than the tenants of England. The tenants of England had had six or seven bad years in succession, and there was no doubt of their distress; but that was not the case with Irish tenants, as tested by the money they had in the banks. He was told by a banker of the North of Ireland that hundreds of thousands of pounds were being sent over to this country for investment. [Mr. MUNDELLA: They have always done so.] No doubt. But it was being done to an extent which was never done before. The Irish had more money than they knew what to do with at home, and, as nearly all this money came from the land, it was a striking proof of the prosperity of agriculture. There was yet another test. Merchants who had travellers in Ireland said that their bills were more readily paid in that country than they were in England; that trade was, on the whole, better in Ireland than in England. But there was another objection which, to his mind, was far stronger, and that was that, whereas this was supposed to be a tenant's relief Bill, it was nothing of the kind. It was a rent con- 1654 fiscation Bill. Why should they relieve the tenant from his liability to his landlord, and leave him at the mercy of the usurer? In the same way as this Bill would injure the landlord it would improve the position of the general creditors. At present the creditor was unsecured, because the landlord, having the power of eviction, could turn out the tenant. But the moment they took from the landlord that power the creditor's position was improved, because he would have the value of the tenant right as a security. What they ought to do was to treat the Irish tenant as if he were an English tenant, and make the effect of his obtaining this relief the same as if he passed through the Bankruptcy Court. For, if the creditor knew that he would lose his debt if the tenant obtained relief, instead of inducing the tenant to simulate poverty his interest would be to have the matter fully investigated, and to give all the information in his power as to the property of the tenant. They had now one of the best possible opportunities of dealing with emigration. In giving a great boon to the tenants they were entitled to propose to them a system of emigration. If it were wrong, to ask, or almost to force, those people to emigrate, he would not press it. But he differed from the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) when he said that they loved their homes too much to go away. He rather agreed with the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) that many of them would be very glad to emigrate. Mr. Tuke's mission had been going on only a few months, and he had sent out a number of families—a number only limited by the smallness of his funds. But how much more good might be done if the money of the Government could be largely drawn on for the purpose? He could understand why the hon. Member for Tipperary and his Friends would do everything in their power to induce the people not to emigrate. It was not for the benefit of the Irish; it was not because they were concerned about the welfare of the people of Ireland; but because it was only among a discontented tenantry that disorder and sedition could prosper, and because these Gentlemen feared they might lose the hold they now had upon the people for their ulterior object of separating Ireland from England. The reasons which he had given were 1655 to his mind fatal to the Bill, and as he believed it could not be mended in Committee, he felt bound with great regret to vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, that he was by no means enamoured of the proposal of the Government, and he could not in any way commit himself to the approval of of the Bill. He objected to it because the principle of it was to pay individual liabilities out of public funds. Such a principle must be repugnant to anyone. At the same time, he had come to the conclusion, from the Returns that had been laid before Parliament, that the Government had made out a fair case for their assumption that the Irish Church Surplus Fund would suffice for the purposes of the Bill. Further explanations of those Returns were necessary, but there would probably be a sufficient amount to pay the annual interest, and ultimately the capital sum that it was now proposed to borrow; and, that being the case, he would dismiss the argument that an inordinate burden would be laid on the taxpayers of the country. It appeared to him, however, that, in applying a public fund to private liabilities, the Bill proceeded on a vicious principle. It led men to expect to have their debts paid by the taxpayers of the country out of some public fund, from whatever source derived, and this naturally and necessarily tended to demoralize the people. If one man saw another man's debt paid from the public fund, he would expect to be treated in the same way. He trusted before this Bill was parted from some scheme might be devised whereby a portion of this large fund could be advanced to the Irish tenants, and made applicable for the purpose of assisting their emigration. The present proposal was to advance money to men who, on the showing of the Government, were hopelessly insolvent, and to continue them in their holdings and in the very circumstances that had already rendered them penniless. Instead of rooting them in a part of the country where they could never prosper, it would be far better to remove them to other lands in which they might live and thrive with advantage to themselves and their families. Of course, it would be impossible to make emigration anything like a condition of assistance; but, considering the great success with which Mr. Tuke had applied a comparatively small sum, a 1656 part of this large grant might well be devoted to the work of emigration. At all events, he intended to give Notice of a clause that would operate in that direction, and which, he trusted, would receive the favourable consideration of hon. Members when it came to be dealt with in Committee. Such an application of the funds would, he was sure, not only be beneficial to the poorer Irish tenants, but also to the State. Then, again, in ascertaining the ability of the Irish tenant to pay, they would have a task of the utmost difficulty. It would be extremely difficult to elicit what was his actual condition. But before aid could be given them, their inability to pay arrears must be ascertained. Now, truth was not an important element in the character of the Irish peasant, and, in the present case, it would be his interest to conceal it. The Bill provided that persons convicted of obtaining grants on false representations should be punished; but that would not obviate the difficulty, and could not, after all, prevent the misapplication of the fund. He should be prepared to hear the fullest explanation on the part of the Government, and hoped they would endeavour to improve the Bill in the direction he had indicated. At all events, he trusted whatever they did they would give their earnest consideration to the proposals he intended to submit to them when the House was in Committee on the Bill. However, it was to the principle of the Bill rather than to its details that he had the greatest objection; and he should enter his protest against the measure by voting, on grounds of principle, for the Resolution of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire.
§ MR. DONALDSON-HUDSON
said, he had carefully attended to the arguments coming from the Ministerial side of the House, but had failed to hear a single one advanced in favour of the Bill. He admitted the desirability of legislating for the settlement of this Arrears Question, provided it could have been done with due regard to the laws of justice and the principles of political economy. Even Liberal Members with whom he had conversed on the subject had either admitted the unsoundness of the Bill or had damned it with faint praise. His own opinion was that it violated alike the principles of political economy, of morality, and of justice. 1657 The Bill had been termed a necessary supplement to the Land Act of 1881; but he feared that it would require to be still further supplemented. Although it might oil the wheels of the Irish Governmental machinery for a time, it would teach the tenants to re-open the old agitation as soon as their thriftless-ness had involved them in new difficulties. If he might presume to say so, he thought that in the view of some of the Members of the Government, if this Land Question were finally set at rest it would be somewhat unfortunate, for it was known how utterly subversive of the existing order of things appertaining to the Land Question were the views of some of the Members of Her Majesty's Government. If the sore were constantly kept open, it would lead to a better opportunity for dealing at some future day with the great Land Question when it was brought over to England. He believed the present Bill was in many ways a very bitter pill for many hon. Members on the Government side to swallow. They knew it violated all the principles which they had hitherto upheld, and it was only on account of the necessities of the situation that they supported it. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had that evening invited the Conservative Party to assist in the task of pacifying Ireland; but though they had given the Prevention of Crime Bill a loyal support, they could not continue that support to a measure which would only encourage pauperism and thriftlessness in that unfortunate country. For his own part, were he an Irish landlord, he would prefer to lose the whole of his rents in arrear rather than consent to receive a benefit by the operation of a scheme which would tend to pauperize the country. He ventured to predict that if this Bill passed, though there might be a momentary effect on the peace of Ireland, it would be found that the canker remained, and that disaffection would only take new roots and flourish more than ever in Ireland.
MR. MAC IVER
said, that in a volume of the published speeches of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster there was a passage which the right hon. Gentleman himself seemed to have forgotten, but which was particularly applicable to Ireland at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking many years ago, said— 1658The great cause of Ireland's calamities is that Ireland is idle. I believe it will be found, on inquiry, that the population of Ireland, as compared with that of England, does not work more than two days a week. Wherever the people are not industrious and are not employed there is the greatest danger of crime and outrage. Ireland is idle, and therefore she starves. Ireland starves, and therefore she rebels. We must choose between industry and anarchy.[Mr. JOHN BRIGHT: What is the date of that speech?] The date was August 25, 1848. [A laugh.] Hon. Members opposite might laugh; but he maintained there was much in that speech which was true at the present day. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the only means by which Ireland could be brought to a state of prosperity were theCreation and diffusion of capital, and the establishment of those gradations of rank and condition by which alone the whole social fabric can be held together.That proposition was undoubtedly true; but was it met by the present Bill? Had, in fact, any of the measures of Her Majesty's Government tended to restore the conditions upon which the prosperity of Ireland depended?
MR. MAC IVER
said, he begged to differ. He voted against the second reading of the Bill with considerable hesitation, and that was because, like many other people, he took the view that it was necessary to do something to meet the terrible condition of Ireland. But he asked whether it was necessary to do this particular thing? He could not help feeling that the measure was as ill-advised as anything could be for the relief of Ireland, and yet he would be far from saying that that House ought not to contribute largely out of the funds of the United Kingdom for the good of Ireland. He could not help putting the matter on what, perhaps, some people might call a low ground, but which seemed to be a ground of common sense. If Great Britain could, by the payment of a large sum of money, raised by large taxation, get rid of this dreadful embarrassment in Ireland, he believed it would pay this country well to make Ireland prosperous. He would not object to paying money from the pocket of the British taxpayers if it were really for the good of Ireland; but he asked that it should be for the good of Ireland, 1659 and not for the destruction of all hope for the future of that country. He did not wish to use any language for which he would be called to Order, and would be sorry to apply those words to any individual Member of the Government, which alone could express that which he really and honestly felt in his heart as regarded the policy that the Government had pursued as a whole. He did not personally dislike any Member of the Government; but he distrusted them as thoroughly as any man could do, and he disliked their policy, and had no better opinion of them than to believe that there were those among them whose principal motive in this and other legislation had been to keep an open sore with a view of making trouble between landlords and their tenantry. He wished to point out that the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster were circulated far and wide by means of the organization which at one time was presided over by the right hon. Gentleman's Colleague, and were used for the purpose of stirring up angry feelings against the Conservative Party. When the right hon. Gentleman accused the Conservative Party of having for the last two centuries adopted towards Ireland a policy of alternate sops and coercion, should he not have referred to the Mid Lothian speeches of the Prime Minister, who had declared that the Clerkenwell outrage and the shooting of the police at Manchester had brought the disestablishment of the Irish Church within the region of practical politics? After such teaching as that, he said, let the Government get out of the difficulty, which they themselves had created, in the best way they could.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, he had hitherto taken no part in the discussion of the Bill, because he felt the difficulty in?which the Government were placed; and he had been anxious, so far as possible, to support the Government in any manner which conduced to the benefit of Ireland. When the Bill was brought in it behoved everyone to carefully look into its provisions, and to form to the best of his opinion an independent judgment as to how far it would promote that which they all desired to accomplish—namely, the pacification and peace of Ireland. So far as he could form an opinion, the Bill, instead of 1660 bringing a blessing to Ireland, was calculated to be destructive of those principles of honesty which were the basis not only of their individual, but of their national life. One of the great objects of the Bill, as it seemed to him, was to give to dishonest men that assistance which was denied to the honest man. Soon after the introduction of the Bill a friend of his travelling in Ireland heard a discussion between two farmers. One said to the other—"I always told you you were a fool for paying your rent. I've not paid any rent for three years. Now you are done, and I've got the benefit of this Bill." That spoke volumes, and that was how this Bill would be looked at by the generality of the class with which it proposed to deal. The difficulties in regard to Ireland lay far deeper than perhaps was known by Members of that House. Some years ago, whilst travelling in Ireland, and sailing up the Shannon, he remembered asking the captain of the boat a question with regard to some works on the banks of the river, which were entirely empty. The captain, looking round, said, "Don't let us be overheard," and then he mentioned to him (Mr. Whitley) the cause of the stoppage of the works. Several years before, he said, they gave employment to 600 men and were a paying concern; but they had been stopped owing to the interference of the priests. Some years after he (Mr. Whitley) met the owner of the works, who fully corroborated the statement of the captain; and he also added, as showing the difficulties of dealing with the Irish, the following incident:—At 1 o'clock one morning one of his men waited upon him. He said to him—"What do you want at this time in the morning?" The man, pulling up his trousers, took £200 in Irish bank notes from the bottom, and said they were his savings for years, and he wished his master to take charge of them. "What," replied the master, "I did not think you were worth £5 in the world." "No," was the reply. "If any of the priests or my fellow-workmen knew I had saved this money I should not be the owner of it long." He asked the House how it was possible to find out whether men were honest or dishonest, when men like this were to be found living in miserable huts and able to save £100 or £200, and yet that was the class of men 1661 with whom this Bill would have to deal. He could not help thinking that a Bill like this, which appealed to the worst instincts of mankind, was calculated to demoralize the whole national character of Ireland, and that not only would it tend to aggravate the evils under which Ireland was suffering, but would give an encouragement to large classes in England and Scotland, who would ask themselves—"If this is good enough for Ireland, why is it not good enough for England and Scotland?" Now, the Government had told them that the only reason why they had introduced the Bill was on the ground of expediency. That principle of bringing forward a measure on the ground of expediency was one which was very difficult to justify; but those who supported it ought to be able to show that the aim they sought would be attained by the means in view. The Government, no doubt, believed that the Bill would attain the end sought; but was that the opinion of men they met in the streets? He had spoken to many, high and low, rich and poor, and he ventured to state that nine men out of every ten looked with the greatest horror upon this Bill and the principles which were contained in it. He could not conceive how any Member of the Government could deceive himself with the hope that this Bill would be productive of the end they sought. If the Government believed that the Bill would promote peace and prosperity in Ireland, he could well understand that they should strive to accomplish by every means in their power the passing of the Bill. But there were many Members on both sides of the House, and many people throughout the country, who believed it would have a precisely opposite effect; and it was, therefore, the duty of hon. Members to do all they possibly could to prevent the passing of a measure which the people of this country honestly believed would be productive of great misery and future degradation to Ireland. Anything that tended to make a man feel that he might break his contracts with impunity, and leave to others the duty of paying his just debts, must be prejudicial to the best interests of our common country. The Prime Minister, in introducing the Bill, said there were three necessary qualifications for the Bill. Firstly, it must be equitable; secondly, it must be safe; and, thirdly, 1662 it must be efficient. He (Mr. Whitley) asked the House, now that they had heard the provisions of this Bill, and now that they had heard it so eloquently defended by the Premier and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, quietly and calmly to consider whether they thought these three elements were contained in the Bill. How was the Bill equitable? In his speech the Prime Minister made it out to be so because it gave something to the tenant and something to the landlord. But surely there were others to be considered besides the tenant and landlord. He had always held, and he thought the Prime Minister himself would acknowledge, that in all public measures they ought to seek not the advantage of one class of the community, be that the landlord class or the tenant class, but the benefit of the country at large. Representing as he did a great commercial community, whose guarantee of success and prosperity in life was the sacredness of contracts between man and man, and seeing how many hon. Gentlemen in that House were Representatives of similar communities, he asked for himself and for them, what was there in this Bill to commend it to these great commercial communities? Were they merely to tell them that this measure was to benefit the landlords of Ireland on the one hand and the tenants on the other? Would they not rightly reply that they did not think that the general community should be taxed for the benefit of one class? The Government were entering upon a most dangerous system of legislation when they sought to benefit a class at the expense of the nation. They did not know, they could not tell, and he defied the Prime Minister himself to tell, where this legislation would end. It was true the operation of the Bill was limited to tenancies of not more than £30 per year of rental; but was there any finality in that? Was there any substantial reason why, if anybody was to be assisted, tenants at more than £30 per year should not share the assistance? Should they not in a short time have an agitation on the part of these tenants, many of whom were as poor as their brethren that paid less rent? Then there was no provision in the Bill for the benefit of a large class who, they were told, were in the most wretched poverty—he meant the labourers of Ireland. Did hon. Members not think 1663 that they would agitate when they saw the farmers assisted and themselves left out in the cold? The Government were seeking another danger when they benefited one class and forgot the wants of a kindred class. It was not the province of those sitting on his side of the House to say what remedial measures should be brought forward in the interests of Ireland. He fully realized the responsibility which rested upon the Government, and he should have been glad, irrespective of Party, to have done anything in his power to aid them in legislation which would conduce to the real welfare of Ireland; but when he was asked to support a Bill utterly devoid of principle, a Bill which would bring men to believe that dishonesty instead of honesty was the best policy; when he was told by those who had intimate knowledge of Irishmen that, however honourable many of them were, there was a large class among them who would avail themselves of this Bill; when he looked forward to the end, and saw that they should have called forth from every class a desire to be supported by public money, he trembled for the future of Ireland. Wherever he went he heard the same opinion with regard to the future. Was there any hope that the Bill would promote prosperity? How had it been received by the Irish people, whose attitude was a good answer to that question? Judging by what he had heard from those who knew Ireland intimately, there was no general belief, even in that country, that the measure would be productive of good. The Irish landlords, who were supposed to be about to receive benefit, thought its provisions were of such a character that they would intensify the difficulties of the situation. Events at the present time in Ireland were so awful, and there were so many causes of deep anxiety, that he should have been very glad—and many of his Friends on those Benches would have been glad—if they could have supported this measure. He had hoped that the Government would introduce a Bill dealing with the great question of emigration. He listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) with the conviction, which must have been shared by all who heard his address, that whatever was the relief to be afforded by this Bill, many of the unhappy tenants in Ireland could not possibly exist on the land alloted to them.
1664 That being so, why was not the difficulty grappled with at once? He was very glad to hear the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) say an hour or two ago that he, for one, deplored that there had been not much advantage taken of the Emigration Clause of the Bill of last year, and he was in hopes even yet that the Government would take some step in that direction. If they did they would receive much support, not only from his side, but also, he believed, from hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite Benches. They were all anxious for the prosperity of Ireland. They believed that it was closely connected with the prosperity of England, and he hoped the time never would come when Party differences should prevent them from acting honestly together in the framing of measures conducive to the welfare of their common country. He had never thrown taunts against the Government. He believed their policy to be mistaken. He believed that the Land Act of last Session was a mistake, and he was bound to oppose it; but the measure was introduced on the responsibility of the Government, and he gave a silent vote against it. When, however, a Bill was brought forward which touched England as well as Ireland, a measure which would ultimately tax Englishmen for a purpose that they could not approve, he felt bound to raise his voice against it, not because he had any hostility to the Government, but because he believed from his heart that this measure, instead of being a message of peace, would be a message of discord and dissatisfaction, and because he thought its principles entirely alien not only to the welfare of Ireland, but of England, Scotland, and Wales also.
§ MR. VILLIERS-STUART
said, that having had experience in the management of a large Irish estate, he wished to express his belief that the passing of this measure would be of great importance to Ireland. Allusion had been made to the hardship of imposing additional taxation on the struggling farmers of England and Scotland, in order that the debts of Irish farmers might be paid. But he protested against this view of the question, inasmuch as the taxpayers of Ireland were often called upon to contribute towards English and Scotch objects, in which they had little or no concern. Moreover, it was for the 1665 interest of the taxpayers of England and Scotland that this question of arrears should be settled, considering what enormous additional expenditure was thrown on this country, in consequence of the present state of Ireland. A few days ago the Secretary of State for War informed them the increase for military expenditure in Ireland during the last five years amounted to £8,700,000. Every penny of that came out of the pockets of the taxpayers of the United Kingdom—a moiety of that amount would meet the requirements of this measure; and those who desired to see peace in Ireland, and that great military expenditure decreased, should support the Bill in every stage, and speedily put it in force. He did not say the Bill was either a perfect or a just Bill, but there was nothing to prevent its being made so in its course through Committee. It was to be regretted that the Government did not attach greater weight last year to the opinions of Irish Members on the subject of the Arrears Clauses. The Irish Members were all agreed that those clauses would not succeed, and more than one Irish Member suggested Amendments which would have made them a success at far less cost than would now have to be incurred. Besides, he believed that a considerable majority of the Irish Members were of opinion that the principle of a loan would be less demoralizing than a gift. Indeed, he hoped that even at the eleventh hour the Government would give effect to the opinion of the majority of the Irish Members on this subject. They would not be so persistent in putting forward this view were it not that they had good grounds for knowing the needs of the case. Many of them, too, were loth to see the Church Surplus Fund sacrificed for the sole benefit of the tenant farmers, as other classes had a claim upon it; and the labourers, he might observe, had benefited nothing by the legislation of the last few years. He would only add, in conclusion, that he believed the pacification of Ireland would be cheaply purchased at an expenditure from the Imperial Exchequer 20 times greater than the £500,000 now asked for.
§ MR. GUY DAWNAY
said, he deemed it his duty to enter a protest against this unprincipled and unjustifiable measure. He thought the Government were to be 1666 congratulated on the blind obedience of their big battalions. If hon. Members opposite were left free to follow the dictates of their individual consciences this measure would be relegated to a place among the other stillborn curiosities of Liberal legislation. He believed that some of them were acting against their own convictions of right and justice. All the principles which they as English men had been educated to regard as the first instinct of political morality they now bartered away against their own conscience from unworthy and unpatriotic considerations of Party and power. It was useless to bring forward arguments after the crushing ones which had been adduced against the measure by the hon. Member for Mid Surrey (Mr. Grantham). Notwithstanding the essential objections which had been urged against the measure from the Conservative side of the House, the supporters of the Government preferred to remain within the shelter trenches of stolid silence rather than face the heavy shot of their opponents. If ever the brute force of a numerical majority were on one side, and all the force of argument on the other, it was upon the present occasion. He had heard no reasons in defence of the measure, although he had listened to the three or four excuses which had been used in favour of that most unprincipled departure from all the primary recognized principles of just legislation. Yesterday the Prime Minister hoped that the House would not undertake the responsibility of rejecting the Bill, and he believed this consideration weighed more than any other argument with the rank and file of the House. The Government had not proved, as it was incumbent on them to do, that exceptional circumstances demanded this extraordinary amd exceptional measure. They could not believe that this sop would be sufficient to pacify Ireland, nor did the Irish Members share the expectations of the Government as to the beneficial results to follow from it. Although it had been said that 200,000 tenants would participate in the advantages of the Land Act, a very large proportion of that number would not be effectually relieved if the whole of their arrears were remitted and their rents given them in addition. The Bill could not benefit the nine families, consisting of 57 persons, who were trying to eke 1667 out a miserable existence on land of the annual value of £10 in Connemara. Nothing but emigration could help the most of them. And it ought not to benefit tenants like the man who at the last moment, to avert eviction, produced what he believed to be a £5-note, but which proved to be a £50-note, amid the laughter of his neighbours, who approved of the deception he had attempted to practise on the agent. It was said that the Bill offered the only hope of tranquillizing the country, but this was the fourth time in four years that these words had been echoed in Parliament. The Bill might win the support of released Members for Liberal principles, but it could not have a beneficial influence. It could not be final, for its principle would have to be acted upon after future bad seasons. It was not a mercy that would be twice blessed; for it would not bless the giver, and it would demoralize the recipient. It would be one more measure added to the historic list of Liberal schemes for the pacification of Ireland yielded in weak compliance with unjust demands and criminal agitation.
§ MR. MOORE
said, that, after the castigation which the Bill had received from hon. Members opposite, it would be as well if they on the Government side of the House were allowed to state a few words as to what they thought about it. He would endeavour to direct the attention of the House to one or two particular points—practical points in connection with it. In the first place, he would like to remind the House as to the character of the investigation which was to take place as to the tenants' non-ability to pay. This was a point upon which there should be some sort of satisfaction—that it would not bring a poor man, whether landlord or tenant, on the one side, and placing a sum of money on the other, ask him to swear to matters in which the money was involved. Under such circumstances, he would not give much—he was sorry to say it—for a man's oath. It was not a fair position in which to place a man, and unless, therefore, they were very careful as to the character of the investigation, it would be somewhat in the nature of a farce, and not only so, but a farce of a very demoralizing character. He trusted that this defect in the Bill would be remedied. Taking a practical view of 1668 the matter, he thought that the books of the estate of the tenant's receipts, and, in fact, all matters connected with the tenancy, should be produced, and that from these amongst other matters, and in the absence of distinct proof from the landlord that the tenant was withholding his rent, the Court should assume the inability of the tenant to pay more than a certain proportion. This would be the more honourable and the more moral way of settling the question, and would avoid the iniquitous proceeding of placing a man under such circumstances on his oath. Then, as to the Court which was to carry out the Bill. The Land Commission Courts were so worked at present that they were perfectly inadequate to undertake the work; not only so, but these Courts were not fitted for the task. What he would like to see was some competent men, used to the management of large properties, well acquainted with the details of the matters they would have to consider, and the manners and customs of the estates, appointed to administer the measure. He was very glad to find that leaseholders were to be included; but if they were to so legislate that the tenant right of the occupant was to be considered an asset under the Bill, it would be simply worthless. Rather than include it they had much better thrust the measure out of the House at once. Let them take the case of a man with a £5 rent, and who owed, say, three or four years' rent. His tenant right might be worth seven years' purchase, which would be £35. If they were to make him realize money on his tenant right, it would be only another name for eviction; it would be only another way of saying he must sell, and thus the very object which the Bill was intended to defeat would be brought about. If the tenant were compelled to borrow, his liability would be transferred to the money-lender, who would charge interest while the landlord did not. It was ridiculous to suppose the Bill would have any value for the smaller tenants if they were to be compelled to realize their assets. No one, not even the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), who had spoken so sympathetically of the poor tenantry in the West of Ireland, had greater sympathy for them than himself; but when they came to hand over public money—Irish money—in 1669 the way proposed, it would simply be demoralizing them. There was no reason whatever why they should not be allowed money to tide over temporary difficulties till better times came; but the tenantry themselves could not comprehend the idea that the money was to be a gift. He believed that it would be much better that the money should be given on the basis of loans, and, if they wished to give satisfaction, and give tranquillity, they could not do better than extend the operation of such a measure, proceeding, as he advocated, by way of loan, as much and as wide as possible. He truly confessed that he was not a very warm admirer of the Bill, and he fully appreciated the very strong objections urged against it. He thoroughly acknowledged the great difficulties the Government had in dealing with the subject. For his own part, he believed that the loan advocated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) was the best way of securing peace to Ireland, and he trusted that they had not heard the last of that scheme for increasing the number of those holding property, and who had some idea of the rights of property.
§ MR. PELL
said, he felt bound to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) and to vote against the Bill. One must consider what would be the result of applying even one portion only of this measure to England. They had become so accustomed to special legislation for Ireland that there was a tendency to overlook the important principles that should underlie all legislation. What was there about Ireland that had brought the conntry to its present condition? First, the land was owned by a few, and occupied by many. That was not the most fortunate position for any country to be in, least of all for Ireland. Then there was a redundant population dependent almost entirely upon agriculture, with a bigoted faith that they could find sustenance out of it for themselves and their families. Famine had warned them in vain against such a belief. With a bad climate and a poor soil, upon what could the farmer rely? Then there was a strong home affection which none could disapprove of, though it was to be regretted that it should interfere with the prosperity of the country. Then they 1670 were told that this Bill was rendered necessary by the Land Act of 1881. The reasons for the introduction of this Bill were not sufficient to justify him in voting for it. With reference to the question whether the money should go by way of gift or by way of loan, he had listened to the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who, he thought, did not handle the subject fairly when he said the money would be handed over by shovelsful without any precaution being taken or any inquiries being made, and that they would be more careful how they applied the money when it was handed over by way of gift rather than when it was by way of loan. It appeared to him, however, that just as much, if not more, precaution should be taken with regard to a loan as with regard to a gift. In making a loan, it was expected that the borrower would satisfy the conditions of repayment, and care was taken to see that he would avail himself of a fair opportunity for repaying the money. However, this was a question which would more properly be considered in Committee. The Government expected a favourable result from this measure. They expected that when the tenants were freed from this load of debt, they would endeavour to make a new start in life, and would be able to turn their attention to other industries; but the hon. Member behind him (Mr. Dillon), who knew his country thoroughly, had said that the only legitimate object of this Bill was to retain the people in their holdings. Nothing could be more disheartening. If this Act was to be used by the Land League or by any other combination for the purpose of keeping people on the land, then they had passed a measure fraught with the most evil consequences. With reference to the money part of the question, which had been very ably and concisely handled by the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland), there was, no doubt, a very grave doubt in the mind of the Government as to what the proceeds of the Irish Church Fund might be. There was greater uncertainty as to how much would be required from the general funds of the country to supplement the Church Fund for the purpose of carrying out the objects of the Bill.
I wish to correct a misapprehension. I have never stated that, in my opinion, there was any serious 1671 uncertainty as to the proceeds of the Church Fund. What I said was that it would be difficult to do more than conjecture what the amount of the claims would be.
§ MR. PELL
said, that the Treasury Minute just issued showed that the amount which would come from the Church Fund could not be estimated with anything like certainty. Did anyone believe that this proposal would ever have been made if there had not been that fund to base it upon? Whether the amount which was to come from that exhaustless fund, the British Exchequer, was large or small, the principle was the same. He could easily foresee a time when the English people, in dire distress, like the Cotton Famine, would call upon the Government of the day to apply the same principle to their wants as the Government was at the present time applying to Irish wants. He would like to know how that demand was to be resisted; distress could be felt as much in England as in Ireland, and the merits of the case which they had for relief from Imperial funds were just as strong. He felt that he should not be doing his duty to his constituents, or justice to his own feelings, if he did not vote against the House going into Committee on this Bill.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, that, having been actively interested in 1847 and ever since in Irish difficulties and the remedies proposed for their solution, he hoped the House would not deem him presumptuous if he asked for its attention for a very few minutes on a point which he hoped would, to some extent, be dealt with in the measure now before the House. He was not going to trouble the House with any arguments as to whether the Arrears Question ought to be settled on the principle of loan or gift; but he believed that, without some settlement of the Arrears Question, it would be impossible to obtain that breathing time which was necessary to enable the beneficent clauses of the Land Act to do their work or the repressive clauses of the Prevention of Crime Bill to become effective. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had spoken of this measure as only being an anodyne; but anodynes might often be necessary to make it possible for remedies to do their work. Other hon. Members seemed to consider emigration as 1672 the only remedy for the remaining evils of Ireland. It appeared to him that our persistent failure thoroughly to settle the Irish difficulty arose from the fact that Englishmen would not take the trouble to understand it or to know how complicated it was. Ireland was like a person who had so mismanaged herself and had been so mismanaged by her doctor that she was suffering from a complication of maladies; and they could only hope by patient, careful, persistent effort to deal with every form of her evils. Emigration did not require to be assisted in the greater part of Ireland. It was probably going on as rapidly as was desirable, and probably much more rapidly than it would go on under any form of assisted emigration; but, on the other hand, there were districts of Ireland so poor and so over-populated that if they were to set them free from arrears and give the land absolutely to the tenants they could not maintain themselves with decency in good years, while in bad years they must starve or be supported by public or private charity. For these districts—fortunately, they were limited in extent—emigration was the only possible remedy; and, in his opinion, it would be an effectual remedy, because, if they could once reduce the excessive population caused by the minute subdivision of land, the natural operation of certain clauses of the Land Act would discourage a return to such excessive subdivision of holdings. The landlord would not be tempted to subdivide when he could no longer exact higher rents by so doing. It would be found on examination that the great bulk of these congested districts was contained in 15 Unions, the average holdings of which were under £8 annual value. Those 15 Unions contained a population of 366,600, and their valuation amounted to £339,700. Even in these Unions, only certain electoral districts would require to be dealt with—those in which the holdings averaged under £4, most of the holdings being, of course, of much less value. It was not, as they found in dealing with Mr. Tuke's fund, a question of inducing people to emigrate from these districts. The fact was, the only choice there was between starvation, the workhouse, or emigration—and if only the means were offered to them, no one could prevent them from emigrating; and he did not be- 1673 lieve that anyone with a particle of patriotism or humanity would attempt to do so. He would refer those who wished to go into the matter to the Report of the Duke of Bedford's Committee of the Tuke Fund, and to Mr. Tuke's article in The Nineteenth Century, and he would only give one instance, which he thought would show conclusively how, from change of circumstances, it was impossible for these people to remain where they were and live. It was not so much the raising of the rent, as they could not live on their holdings if they owned them, but the diminution of grazing rights, and, still more, the almost annihilation—fortunately, in this instance, from no fault of the English Government—of the industries by which these poor people lived. On the West Coast, by kelp burning, for the manufacture of iodine from seaweed, many poor families had been in the habit of earning from £10 to £40 per annum; but now, owing to other inventions, the price of kelp had fallen from £7 to £2 10s., and, of course, this resource had failed them. They could probably hardly support themselves while they were engaged in the work, and had nothing left either to pay their rent or maintain themselves with during the remainder of the year. Evictions were going on there, and would go on in such districts, in spite of any Arrears Bill; and, unless some steps were taken, the poor rates charged with the maintenance of this mass of people must utterly break down, and then they would be driven, as they always waited to be driven in Ireland—and that had been the curse of our Government there—until they were in the presence of a dire necessity, which they could only meet by some hurried, wasteful, and, as experience had shown, ineffectual measure. He had not detained the House without being prepared to suggest a practical remedy, and, fortunately, it was one which only required that the 32nd section of the Land Act should be made effectual for the purpose which it was intended to promote. This clause devoted £200,000, spread over three years, to the promotion of emigration, with the pretty general consent of the House. But it had been ineffectual, partly because it had been held that the clause was so worded as not to include Unions among the public bodies 1674 who could borrow under it. Now, if by a clause in the Arrears Bill the Government would consent to make that section of the Land Act effective for the promotion of emigration in families from the excessively congested districts of Ireland, he thought they would do much, he would not say to conciliate the supporters of the opponents of the present Bill, but to mollify opposition. The limit as to the amount of money to be provided by Government might be adhered to; but part of it might be given as a grant where the Guardians were willing to borrow an amount to meet such grants, either under the terms of that clause, or even to be repaid, with 3 per cent interest, in 20 years. It might be necessary to postpone repayment of the first instalment of the loan for, say, two or three years until these depressed districts had recovered a little from their present depression and excessive rating. He believed Boards of Guardians would be prepared to borrow the sums required as local contribution to enable them to participate in the benefit of the Government grants, rather than face the inevitable rise in the rates which would in many cases amount almost to confiscation if the evictions in those districts went on—and he feared they must go on, notwithstanding any Arrears Bill—and no provision was made for dealing with these poor creatures, whose only available resource from starvation at the wayside was the workhouse. It must be borne in mind that the emigration of these people could be done at about the cost of one year's maintenance. It would not be difficult at the right time to suggest how a system of emigration could be practically worked by a Commission acting on general principles laid down for their guidance, having regard to the population and taxation of each district, and the action of the Commissioners restricted to a portion of the country clearly defined, but leaving to them the determination within the limit of the amount of local contribution to be required from any Union or electoral district before a grant to such Union or electoral district is made, as well as the same to be expended on emigration in each place. He believed that the Commissioners might make admirable use of voluntary effort in selecting, in conjunction with the Guardians, emigrants, and making the necessary 1675 arrangements for the journey of the emigrants, and their reception on arrival in America. The action of the Duke of Bedford's Committee, through Mr. Tuke and otherwise, had obtained most valuable experience which would be useful in such a matter. He hoped he had not detained the House with too much detail; but he thought it necessary to show that there was nothing impracticable in what he had suggested. The difficulty, serious as it was, was much more limited and within a smaller compass than was generally supposed. He had ascertained that what he had proposed could be carried out in the present Bill if the Government would consent to do so. Should the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) not divide the House on his Resolution, he (Mr. Rathbone) proposed to move an Instruction to the Committee, which, with the consent of the Government, would enable them to make the 32nd section of the Land Act effective for its purpose. If the hon. Member divided the House, and an Instruction could not be moved, it would still be possible for the Government to take steps during the progress of the measure in Committee to give effect to what he believed to be a very general, if not the nearly universal, wish of the House.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, he thought the Government was to be congratulated on the fact that a number of speeches had been made on the Opposition side of the House, because speeches such as the last three which had been delivered on the Ministerial side of the House did not give much support to this Bill. The speech which had just been delivered did not refer either to the Bill as it stood or to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire. It proposed a different plan for relieving the distress in Ireland. However admirable that plan might be, it was not only not included in the Bill, but it could be demonstrated to be in direct conflict with the Bill. The object of that plan was to promote emigration, whereas the object of this Bill was to discourage emigration by fixing by artificial means the population on the soil of Ireland. But, whatever might be thought by the Government of the speech which had just been delivered by one of their sturdiest supporters, the House had had two speeches within the last hour from Irish 1676 Members on the other side of the House, one from the hon. Member for the County of Waterford (Mr. Villiers-Stuart), and the other from the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Moore), and both of them repudiated two main proposals of this Bill. They were told by the Prime Minister, when introducing this Bill, that the two principles on which it rested were the principles of compulsion and of gift. The principle of gift had been repudiated in strong, almost indignant, terms on the part of their fellow-countrymen by both of the Irish Representatives who had spoken on the other side of the House. He hoped that in due time the appeal of those two hon. Members to the Prime Minister to withdraw from one of the two cardinal principles of this Bill would be answered, and that before this Bill left the House of Commons it would be modified in that direction, and they would escape by that modification not only from that which he believed to be an immoral course of conduct with regard to this emergency—namely, an encouragement of what had taken place by a gift of public money; but also from the difficulty of giving money from the Consolidated Fund for the purposes of this Bill. But, passing from that, let him ask the House to consider what the hon. Members said. The hon. Member for the County of Waterford got up to support this Bill, but he ended his speech by saying that though he would vote for the Bill, it was an unjust Bill. The hon. Member was going to vote for what he declared an unjust Bill, in the hope that it would be modified in Committee. He had listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Clonmel, for it was clear that the hon. Member was at issue with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with regard to taking the value of the tenant right into consideration as assets. Then, what could be a greater condemnation of the Bill than the justification offered in its behalf by the hon. Member for Waterford, an Irish Member sitting on the Ministerial side of the House? The hon. Member said Ireland was in so terrible a state now that millions of money were being spent in the maintenance of law and order. Under this Bill they would spend £500,000 Let them try the experiment, and see whether that £500,000 would not go further to secure peace and order in Ireland than the millions they were spend- 1677 ing upon military and police. He (Mr. Edward Clarke) ventured to say that was an argument which was unworthy of the consideration of the Parliament of a free country. If they were asked to give public money for purposes which were manifestly purposes of justice and right, let them give it by all means, give it with a free hand and an open heart. But if they were asked to give public money in order that they might buy off at less expense those whom their authority had failed to bring into obedience to the law, it was unworthy of the people whom they represented in that House that such an argument should be offered to them. Better far, in his opinion, that millions should be spent in the attempt to preserve law and order than that the Government should try that most feeble and extravagant expedient of giving money to rebels in the hope of subduing rebellion.
§ MR. VILLIERS-STUART
rose to explain that what he said was in reply to the hon. Member for Mid Surrey (Mr. Grantham), who complained that England and Scotland were being taxed to contribute towards the payment of Irish arrears. His reply was that it was in the interest of the taxpayers to do so—that it would save their pockets.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, he thought he had not misrepresented the hon. Member. From what the hon. Member had just said, he again drew the inference that he proposed to buy off the rebellion, which was too expensive and coercive, and he repeated that that was an unworthy argument. It was not too late to discuss the principle of the Bill. He believed that before the Bill, in its present shape, passed into an Act of Parliament, they should have an opportunity of discussing its principles elsewhere than within those wails. He did not believe that the Parliament of England would pass the Bill in its present shape, and he should be well content to pass out from those walls that night, or next week, to the constituencies of England—and to ask them for their judgment upon the matter; because it seemed to him that at the bottom of the Bill, and necessarily inclosed in it, there was a principle against which it was the manifest duty of the Tory Party to make its emphatic and resolute protest. It was not a question of detail, or a question to be settled by compromise between land- 1678 lord and tenant. If it were simply a question of Irish landlord and Irish tenant, there might be much to be said for the Bill. In one sense it would be a relief to landlord and tenant alike. They had heard a remarkable argument from the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant on Wednesday. It having been said by a previous speaker that the property of the landlords in Ireland and the rents that were due to them were as much their own as the coat which the Prime Minister wore upon his back was his, the right hon. Gentleman retorted by saying that that was quite true, but that, while the Prime Minister really possessed the coat which was on his back, the landlords' money was not in their pockets. That was a curious answer to come from the Treasury Bench. Why, he asked, was it that a great deal of their money was not in the landlords' pocket? Because the payment of that money had been prevented by two organizations—he would not use the word "conspiracy," for that expression hurt the susceptibilities of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway—but the two organizations were, first, the Land League, and, next, the combination of Gentlemen forming Her Majesty's Government. Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) warned the Government that a suspension of evictions would mean a suspension of the payment of rent. Yet the Government were induced to accept a suggestion from, one of the Home Rule Members and to bring forward the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. Now, what they did then they had again done this year, for, just as two years ago they accepted the suggestion to which he had referred, so now they had adopted one-fourth of a Bill which had been brought forward for second reading by an hon. Member below the Gangway in April, and by taking that course they had again practically suspended the payment of rent in Ireland. In 1880, therefore, the payment of rent was checked by the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, last year it was checked by the "no rent" manifesto, and this year it was again checked by the introduction of the Bill before the House. That being so, a most curious argument was used by the Prime Minister, who said—"You cannot override what we have done by bringing in this Bill; so far as it affects the payment of 1679 rent, we have checked it; the mischief is done; now you had better pass the Bill as soon as possible;" so as to make the Government happy, and enable them to congratulate themselves as having taken another step on the path of conciliation. Before that Bill passed, however, he hoped a resolute stand would be made against it, not only by the Irish Members, but also by English and Scotch Members, because it involved a bad principle. What was the bad principle? It was this—that they were going to give donations of public money, not for any services rendered to the State, not for anything done which should entitle the recipients to it, but because the persons to whom it was offered were placed in a difficulty, in part, he agreed, by the failure of their crops through the inclemency of the seasons, but in part, also, by their having been the willing or unwilling servants of that which had been a treasonable agitation. They could not get away from the fact that the money to be given under this Bill to the Irish tenants would be received by them and recognized by them as money for which they were indebted to the Land League they had supported, and which the Government had vainly tried to destroy. With regard to the sources from which the money was to come, he would only say that he should regret to see the Irish Church Fund extinguished in this way, for he had hoped that that surplus might have been applied to the purpose of advancing education in Ireland. He was rather glad, however, that the intention was to supply from the Consolidated Fund some of the money which the tenants were to receive, because that would draw the attention of the people of this country to the objects for which the money was demanded. The Chief Secretary admitted that the measure was exceptional in character, but adduced as a precedent the gift of seed potatoes and similar necessaries made to the Irish people a few years ago in times of dire distress. What possible parallel could there be between the two cases? The famine of 1879 was terrible, and, without the Relief Act, there would have been a more terrible famine in the next year. But here we were saying to the tenants—"We will pay rents you are not able to pay, and so keep you on holdings where you can get an existence, perhaps, in 1680 profitable years, but where you will be exposed to famine when bad seasons set in." The hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons) said that there were 420,000 occupiers in Ireland under £10 valuation, and they could not induce them to emigrate at once. But, surely, the consequence of that would be, not that they should keep that enormous body of people upon a soil that could not support them, but that they should allow the natural process to have its course in that as in other cases. Famine was the teaching of Nature as to the distribution of people in a country and as to the mode of their existence, and when famine came it was a warning that they could not continue to occupy the country in which they were placed. Therefore, it was a most serious thing to give public money to keep them where they were. True, the famine was exceptional, but the causes of the famine were constant. There was a large population, the crop on which they depended was precarious, and so long as both these conditions existed, there was an absolute certainty of the return of famine from time to time. They were asked by this Bill to leave these people in the occupation of farms which they could not safely occupy, and for the occupancy of which in the future they must depend upon the charity of a country which, with short-sighted policy, was taxing itself to produce this evil result. For these reasons he trusted that a resolute stand would be made against the principle of the Bill. From the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it appeared that a most outrageous provision of the Bill was now to be modified. As the Bill stood, it was clear that the loan authority might allow the State to relieve a person of a part of his rent, and leave him in possession of the saleable tenant right of his holding. That, surely, was a preposterous proposition. Suppose a man who paid £25 a-year for his farm owed three years' rent, and could get £300 for his tenant right, the proposal of the Bill as it stood was that £25 should be given him as a gift. ["No!"]
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, that as the Bill stood it stated that the tenant was to satisfy the authority that he 1681 was unable to pay the rent, and there was no direction to the authority to deal with that matter; and if it were so perfectly clear, as a matter of construction, that the authority was to take into consideration the value of the tenant right, all he could say was that hon. Members from Ireland on his side of the House would probably be much dissatisfied with the construction which was put upon the Bill. He confessed he could hardly believe that this Bill, as it had been introduced by Her Majesty's Government, was their own view of what was just and right with regard to the administration of public money. Some 12 or 15 years ago, when he was connected with an organization which was endeavouring to assist the emigration of a great many London artizans, who, by the sudden change in our commercial policy, had been thrown out of employment and reduced to destitution, the Government was asked to give ships to carry them across the Atlantic; but the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said that he objected to any gift of public money, except upon the ground of services rendered to the State. The Bill, as originally introduced, was of a very suspicious character. On the 27th of April there was read a second time in that House a Bill introduced by the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond), but which, in the course of the debate, was declared to be the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). It was declared by the hon. Member who brought it forward that it was the smallest Bill that would be accepted by those on whose behalf he spoke. On the 28th of April the hon. Member for the City of Cork had communicated to him what took place with respect to the Bill, and he wrote the famous letter in which he stated that if this matter of the arrears was settled upon the basis of gift and compulsion, and if other matters were dealt with, he would be able to assist the Government, and he made that promise which had now become historical—the promise which was suppressed—that he would assist the Government in that House, as well as in preventing outrage in Ireland. But if there was any hope that the Bill was to be a final settlement of matters in Ireland, that hope would be dispelled by reading the letter which the hon. Member for the City of Cork wrote. The 1682 Bill brought forward by the hon. Member for New Ross contained clauses about leases and about purchase, as well as about arrears, It was only one-fourth of that Bill which was now under consideration. What reason, then, was there to expect that this Bill would put an end to the pressure which was brought to bear upon the Government? That promise of precious and universal support made on behalf of persons "reasonably suspected" was made, not upon the faith of this Bill only, but upon condition that measures should be brought forward with regard to two other matters. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The Prime Minister shook his head. But the writer of the letter of the 28th of April said that the Purchase Clauses and the Lease Clauses must be dealt with as well as the arrears, and then he went on to say—If this programme be carried out, we shall be able to help the Government to produce a cessation of outrage and to co-operate with the Liberal Party.It was not in the case of a Bill of this kind, which involved a serious issue of principle, that he cared to lay stress upon the political accidents or pressure that had brought it before the House. He would be far better pleased to fight it out there, upon the question whether the principle was mischievous, and whether the measure was likely to be injurious in its results. There were two reasons for concluding that this could not be a final settlement. One was that it dealt with evils the causes of which were constant, and were not touched by the remedy proposed; and the other was that it had been brought into the House at the dictation of a Party which had already declared to the Minister who brought it in that they would not be satisfied with the measure.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he regretted the impossibility of giving the benefit of the Act of last year to all for whom it was intended. The country was now asked to pay a very large sum of money, and he should like to know what would be the result of the payment? He had read the Treasury Minute with great care, and a very interesting and curious document it was; but he still felt the difficulty of ascertaining exactly how much was to be paid. His own impression was that it was just as likely that £4,000,000 would be required as 1683 £2,000,000; and, that being the case, it was very doubtful whether a great part of the money would not have to be paid by the taxpayers of the country. If so, it was his bounden duty to ask whether the payment of the money would produce a good result or none at all? He had listened yesterday with much interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), and to-day to that of the hon. Member for Clonmel (Air. Moore), and he found them both of the same opinion, that if the value of the tenant's interest in his holding was to be taken into account in estimating his ability to pay arrears, the Government might as well abandon the Bill at once; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said he would do nothing of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman's argument to the tenants was—"I gave you last year property that you never had before—a valuable property in the land—and now you say that it is not to be treated as any part of your assets." Last year the House was told that the tenant right would be one of the landlord's securities; this year it was to be eliminated altogether. Thus, on the very threshold of the Bill, there was an extraordinary diversity of opinion as to its effect, and surely the House was entitled to know the real opinion of the Government on this subject? The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had passed this point over very tenderly, and had said that it must be left, to a great extent, to the discretion of the Judges and the Commissioners; but that, he believed, could not be done, and the principle on which so important a point was to be decided ought to be settled by the House itself. If this were left an open question the Irish Representatives said that the Bill would be valueless, and certainly it would be strange to spend so much money and do no good after all. The money was to be a gift to the Irish tenants and not a loan. No Amendments intended to convert the gift into a loan would, as he was informed, be in Order in Committee; and, therefore, he could only take this opportunity of saying that he had rather lend the money than give it. There was another aspect of the Bill which much increased the difficulties of the question, and that was the justice or injustice with which it treated different classes of tenants. Mr. 1684 Townsend, of Skibbereen, had written a letter to The Times the other day which gave a curious illustration of the way in which the Bill might help an unworthy tenant. The following was a striking passage from the letter:—The arrears of my own tenants offer a very interesting case in point. Shortly after the passage of the Land Act of 1870 I sold half my property to the tenants; they paid some 23 years' purchase, and, having borrowed most of this money from the Government, they, from that day to this, have paid their instalments regularly. Now, let us look at the other half. Almost immediately after the present Government came into office my tenants ceased paying any rent, and now owe about two and a-half years'. I offered 15 per cent reduction on rent and arrears, but my offer was refused; and possibly the Land Commission will reduce these rents by 20 per cent. None of my tenants' rents have been raised for 29 years, and it certainly does look hard that the honest men who bought at a high figure from me and paid regularly the old rent to Government as purchase instalments every six months since, should now see their neighbours paying no rent, a strong prospect of having one-fifth taken off their nominal obligation, and, besides, half the arrears paid by Government.It was important to notice that the amount of arrears differed largely in different parts of the country. One noble Lord had told him that the Bill would suit him very well, because the amount of arrears on his estate was small. There were other estates where the amount of arrears was very large, and where the loss to the landlord might be very heavy. But the Government, in reply to all objections, said that they wanted to help the very poorest people in the land—the 40,000 very small holders of land in Ireland. He doubted whether it would not be wiser to keep their money in their pockets than pay it for such a purpose, for anything which came short of emigration would not cure, but at best only palliate the existing evil. On the other hand, there were thousands of persons in Ireland desirous of going away—he himself had been the moans of helping some to emigrate—and he only wished they had been more firm in dealing with the Emigration Clauses last year instead of accepting Amendments the result of which was that the clause would not work at all. He desired to help those poor people as far as possible, but it was a very serious thing to vote away public money to pay private debts. The only answer the Chief Secretary had to that objection was that it was an exceptional 1685 measure. It certainly was, and he trusted it would be some time before another such exceptional measure was introduced, or perhaps some similar Bill might be pressed for by the people on this side of the Channel also. If the Treasury would listen to such appeals they would have plenty of applicants for their funds. They were told last year that the Land Act was to settle the question. Now they were told that it was not settled at all. He confessed he should be anxious to know what explanation the Government intended to give. Was this or was this not a measure which would satisfy the Representatives from Ireland? If it was not, what was the use of doing that which was an offence against the laws of political economy? If he could feel assured that the measure would tranquillize the country, he would vote ten times the amount asked for by the Government; but if he could not, if they were only going to raise hopes and encourage further demands, he felt some hesitation with regard to the course the Government were pursuing. He trusted, however, that the explanation of the Prime Minister would be satisfactory, and, therefore, he would support the Bill.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down had asked some questions of the greatest importance. He had asked whether the measure would do good or would fail—whether it would give satisfaction, contentment, and peace? If they listened to those who claimed to speak on behalf of the people of Ireland, they must answer those questions in the negative. Both the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney) had spoken of the measure as unique. Indeed, it was remarkable that not one single Member of the Liberal Party had given to the measure an unreserved and unqualified support. All the hon. Members from Ireland had found fault with it, and those Irish Members whose judgment, experience, and loyalty the House valued most highly, had uniformly rejected the principle of gift, and expressed their conviction that the present proposal was immoral and dangerous, and that the principle of loan was the one which ought to have been adopted. The language of those supporters of the Go- 1686 vernment whose experience and knowledge of Ireland were most extensive ought to make them very cautious in accepting the principle of the Bill. He had listened attentively to the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and he could discover little argument in it, and little else but a criticism of the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). It was a defence—an apology—of the policy of the Government. It was an exhortation to patience. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Exercise patience; in five or six years you will see peace and contentment in Ireland." Five or six years was not a long period in the history of a nation. But the right hon. Gentleman had told them concession had been shown for 200 years—that we had been constantly giving way to the demands of Ireland, and yet, in the same breath, that the condition of Ireland was appalling; and he had appealed to Gentlemen on the Conservative Benches not to give way to excitement, but to wait patiently for five or six years. But when it was proposed to bring about a period of contentment and prosperity by the application of a measure which was unsound and wrong in principle—a measure which had followed other measures which had not proved successful—it was impossible to expect that the anodyne which some Members of that House had described the Bill to be—the dose of opium which it had been called—would not have to be renewed if Parliament decided on that occasion to administer it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had referred to the financial portion of the Bill, and had expressed preference for the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the opinion of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland). But, like his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler), he had paid some attention to the Treasury Minute which had been laid on the Table. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had stated that the Treasury actuary spoke with confidence of the sufficiency of the Church Fund to bear the charge which was to be imposed upon it. He thought he should be understood when he said that the value of that fund ought not to be pledged above its 1687 value. A banker who should advance money in excess of the real value of a security would act most rashly. What was the value which the Chancellor of the Exchequer attached to the Church Fund in 1869? The property consisted mainly of tithe rent-charge, whether commuted or held in perpetuity. The permanent tithe-rent was ordinarily sold for not more than 16 or 17 years' purchase. But the right hon. Gentleman felt himself justified in asking the proprietors to pay 22½ years' purchase, because he offered them a loan of the money at 3½ per cent. The highest estimate put on the charge was 17 years and a fraction. Yet, notwithstanding the offer of the money at 3½ per cent. not quite half of the landlords had availed themselves of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's offer. They held that 22½ years, with 3½ per cent interest, was not a good bargain for them; and, instead of accepting it, they were willing to run the risk of incurring the same charge for 52 years, under the probably well-founded belief that some Bill would be introduced into Parliament which would relieve them altogether of the charge or would considerably modify it. At the present time the landowners were paying the same charge, although the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881 had largely cut down their rents. He had no doubt whatever that some day a successful agitation would be got up against this tithe rent-charge, which was due, not to individuals or to the landlords, but to the State, and that when the votes of Irish Members were required to support a tottering and feeble Government, sufficient reasons would be found why this charge should not be enforced. What was proposed to be done in the circumstances? Here was a property, which was absolutely unsaleable, which was made a security for an advance at 3½ per cent interest by the National Debt Commissioners. Would a banker advance a single farthing upon such a security? He should say certainly not. But what had been the language on another occasion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? On the 3rd of May, 1869, the present Prime Minister said—There was no doubt that it was equivalent to enacting that landlords should continue for a given term of years, which he proposed to fix at 52, to pay to the Commissioners, or a. body 1688 representing the State, the very same sum which they had hitherto paid to the clergymen, and that at the end of that term they should cease to pay anything at all, and that the rent-charge should absolutely merge."—[3 Hansard, cxcvi. 25.]And the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that, as regarded the Church Fund, a property usually sold at 17 and a fraction years' purchase was to fetch 22½. That was not a bad transaction for the Church Fund. It was inconceivable that this language should not be brought up against a Chancellor of the Exchequer between the present time and the end of the 52 years. As regarded the perpetuity rents, there was provision in the Act that they might be bought up at 25 years' purchase. There was a further provision in the Act that the Commissioners should have the absolute right of selling the property by auction if they thought fit to take that course, although it was absolutely unsaleable in the present condition of the country, and had been so for several years. Did anyone think that an income derivable from unsaleable property was a good security for a 3½ per cent loan? The Church Commissioners had sold a considerable amount of Church property, but on terms which required the purchasers to pay interest at the rate of 4 per cent; but he had no hesitation in saying that if an agitation were got up, and the Government were applied to, the Government, with the consideration which they always showed to their supporters, would admit their equitable claim to a modification of those terms under the changed circumstances of the case. On the 16th of February, 1880, the right hon. Gentleman, now the Secretary of State for War, when the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was endeavouring to obtain the consent of the House to certain conditions with respect to the Relief of Distress Bill, said—He had asked whether the Irish Church Temporalities Commissioners had any funds or not. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said they had not. The Irish Church Commissioners, therefore, while owing a very large sum, to be repaid by instalments, in order to get money, must borrow or suspend, to a certain extent, repayment of their debt. What the matter came to was this—they were asking persons to lend money who had no money whatever to lend."—[3 Hansard, ccl. 713.]Since that date a charge of £20,000 per annum had been imposed by the present Ministry on the fund for the Royal Uni- 1689 versity, and now this fund, which had no money to lend, must postpone the payments it was liable to make, in order that it might become the security on which the National Debt Commissioners might advance money. He was perfectly satisfied that the National Debt Commissioners, if left to act independently of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would not lend a single halfpenny on such so-called security. There were many thousands of small payments which would not be paid at all except under the influence of the Government. That, certainly, was not a security which would be considered altogether of a satisfactory nature. There was one part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which he had listened to with great interest, and that was as to the provisions dealing with tenant right. He could not agree with his hon. Friend behind him that they ought to exclude any considerations as to the ability of the tenants to pay the rent. He thought there could be no doubt that the terms of the Bill almost required that the tenant right should be taken into consideration in determining whether or not the tenant was able to pay. The remarks of the right hon. Gentleman upon that subject certainly went some way to meet the very serious objections he had to the Bill. There was one consideration, however, which, he confessed, dismayed him. It had been said that the means taken to ascertain the ability of the tenant must be complete, and that the officers employed should be thoroughly satisfied as to the truth of the tenant's statement. But when they came to consider the matter in detail, he was quite staggered at the immense task which the State assumed. There were 400,000 holdings or more to which the measure would apply, and at least 150,000 of them would require to be examined as to this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had spoken with confidence of the Land Commission, and said that at least 60,000 cases would be disposed of by August of next year—that was within two years. But he added this important qualification—namely, that a large proportion would be disposed of with the consent and arrangement of the landlords. But the decision as to whether a man was able to pay his rent, or was entitled to 1690 claim assistance from the State, did not admit of consent on the part of anybody. The right hon. Gentleman said that the landlords would object to the tenants obtaining relief, because a portion of the rent would be cancelled. Well, he was afraid that he took a rather low view of the possibilities of the case. He thought there were persons in Ireland who would not think it wrong to obtain money from the State somewhat easily. [Mr. GLADSTONE: And in England also.] He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman when he said, "And in England too;" and his fear was that, once this Bill found its way into the Statute Book, it would excite a great deal of feeling in England—that people would say it was most unfair to confine such a measure to Ireland, and that a demand would be made for a Bill to pay the debts of poor agriculturists in this country. Another objection he had to this Bill was founded on the time it would take to ascertain who were entitled to its benefits. If justice were done, the cases under this Bill would require careful consideration, and if it took the officials of the Land Court two years to settle the rents of 80,000 persons, he wondered how long it would take a similar number of persons to ascertain whether 150,000 persons were or were not in a condition to pay their rents. This might seem a small point; but he did not so consider it, for they were asked to pass this Bill to give peace to Ireland, and if they postponed the decision of the cases in which there should be relief, then it appeared to him they would postpone the time when they would get peace. Still another objection was that the parts of Ireland which suffered most from the inability to pay rent were those to which this Bill would not apply, because the people there had no means whatever to pay the necessary year's rent, and the Government, which had had two years' notice of the condition of these people, was taking no steps whatever for their relief. For the chronic misery of a large portion of the population of Ireland there was no remedy but emigration. The unfortunate people must be removed from a position in which it was absolutely impossible for them, even in favourable years, to obtain a decent livelihood. He felt that this Bill would do more harm than good. He believed it would raise expectations that could 1691 not be realized. The only way to settle the difficulty was to grapple with it in such a manner as would provide a permanent remedy. It was said that this would take time; but he thought he had shown that this Bill would also take time, and meanwhile the Government were doing nothing to vindicate the character of England as a country that could deal with the difficulties of Ireland in a broad, wise, and statesmanlike manner.
§ Colonel NOLAN and Mr. GOSCHEN rose together, but the latter giving way,
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he thought that, considering how vitally his constituents were interested in the Bill, it was only right, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith), that he, as an Irish Member, should thank the Prime Minister for having introduced it. It would undoubtedly benefit a very large class of the poorest people of Ireland. He had lately been at Tuam; he was there when the Bill was introduced, and he could speak with authority for the gratitude with which the measure was regarded by the typical agricultural population in that neighbourhood. He should endeavour, if possible, to enlarge the scope of the Bill in Committee; but, under any circumstances, he was extremely grateful for the introduction of the measure. He thought there were one or two fallacies which ran through the speeches which had been delivered in the course of the evening. One was the manner in which the Conservative Members had tried to run the question of emigration against the Bill. He thought that was a great mistake, for it would take a very clever man to say whether the Bill would promote emigration or not. Possibly, instead of putting a stop to emigration, it might promote it by rendering holdings more saleable than they were now. That would be emigration of the best kind, whereas emigration brought about by eviction was emigration of the worst form, every person leaving the country under such circumstances becoming an enemy of the State. Persons emigrating to America, under the provisons of this Bill, would go there with good and kindly feelings towards this country. Then, again, the Bill would make tenant right elastic in the West and South of Ireland, which at the present moment it was not. He thought, also, that the 1692 Bill should be made workable without entailing a heavy cost upon the tenant. A great deal of fuss was made about the sum of £500,000 which might have to come out of the Consolidated Fund. Ireland gave £7,500,000 to the Imperial Exchequer every year, and this £500,000 would not be as much as would be paid for the occupation of Egypt. When they recollected how many of the Imperial burdens they required the people of Ireland to pay, he thought by far too much fuss was made about this £500,000, when their object was to get the country out of a dead-lock. He must say that he thanked the Government very sincerely for the Bill, and he would give it all the support in his power. He knew that in doing so he would be voting in the interests of his constituents—both those who came under the Bill and those who did not.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
With reference to the observation of the hon. and gallant Member, I may say that I should be sorry to stand in the way of any Irish Member who wishes to address the House on a measure which so materially affects Ireland. At the same time, I venture to say that English Members have some right and some locus standi even in speaking on these Irish questions, for I am bound to say that if we have done our duty in the House this year, we have had plenty of opportunities for informing ourselves as to the situation of Ireland, and of learning a great deal from hon. Members opposite. I do not propose to detain the House by any lengthened observations on the matter now before it. This is the fourth evening, practically, on which we have been debating what may be called the principle of this measure. We had two days on the second reading, and this is the second evening of the debate on going into Committee upon it. I certainly do not propose to follow the example of many hon. Members opposite, and to enumerate all the strong objections which may be made to the Bill. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) said that this is a measure which required no apology under the exceptional circumstances of the case. I cannot agree with the hon. Member, nor do I think the Government will admit that he was right on that point.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I understood the hon. Member to use language to that effect—namely, that it needed no apology. I noted his words at the time; but I need not dwell on that point. There has been no Government so strong in eminent financial authorities as the present Government, and I am sure they will admit that the measure requires an apology, and a very strong and a very decided apology. And what is that apology? The apology offered is that the Bill is absolutely necessary for the peace of Ireland. That was the conclusion of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on the second reading. That was the burden of the powerful speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) on the second reading. That has been the burden of all the speeches which have been made on behalf of this measure—namely, that it is absolutely necessary for the settlement of Ireland, that it is absolutely necessary for the success of the Land Act, and that, if we do not supplement that Act by this additional measure, we shall run the risk of the failure of those great sacrifices which this Legislature has made in passing that Land Act. I think that I fairly state the case which is made on behalf of the Bill when I put it as strongly as that, and, if that be so, then I say that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman who lately addressed the House with regard to the surplus of the Church Fund, though dealing with a matter of extreme importance, is one that cannot be decisive with this House. If it be true that this Bill is absolutely necessary, financial considerations cannot stand in its way. Do not let us blind ourselves to the sacrifices which may be necessary. I have listened, and probably most of the House has listened, with interest to the debate as to the value of the Church Surplus Fund. It is a matter exceedingly interesting to the taxpayers of this country. If the hon. Member opposite, who spoke with considerable authority on this matter, be right, the demands on the taxpayers of this country will be very great indeed in order to satisfy this measure, which is alleged to be essential for the peace of Ireland. That sacrifice will be very great indeed, but it must be faced if the necessity exists. On the other hand, 1694 the Government contend that the sacrifice to the taxpayers may be limited to £500,000.
What I said was that I had very good reason to believe that they would have to make no sacrifice; but, by way of extreme caution, I added that they may have to pay that amount.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
My right hon. Friend has put me right in the matter. He says that, by way of extreme caution, we may have to face this £500,000. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Nolan), who has just addressed the House, said we ought not to make too much fuss about a sum of £500,000. I do not follow him in the spirit of that observation, but I follow him in substance. If this measure is absolutely necessary, if it can be shown to be absolutely necessary for the pacification of Ireland, the taxpayers of this country will not refuse, and would not wish to refuse, £500,000 if it be necessary for the purpose. A challenge was addressed to me personally by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the debate on the second reading. I was asked what I should say of this employment of the resources of the taxpayer? I have often heard it said that we ought to deal with Ireland in a just and generous spirit, and I have sometimes asked myself what is a generous spirit in dealing with Ireland? I think that if the taxpayers put their hands into their pockets, and are prepared to make pecuniary sacrifices for the redressing of Irish grievances, that is a much truer generosity than endeavouring by legislation to redress grievances by transferring the property of one class to the pockets of another. It is, I think, a much truer test of generosity. We, perhaps, use the term "generous" a little too much in this House. It is justice, as my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government said, that the Irish demand, and it is justice they ought to have; but, at any rate, I do not think that, when people speak of generosity in any measure which is to do justice to one set of persons, we ought, in meting out that justice, to endeavour to sacrifice the rights of others. I am perfectly content that it should be brought home to the taxpayers of this country that Ireland may sometimes have to be dealt with in a really generous spirit. If this measure is passed, I hope 1695 the Irish may realize that it is a distinct gift to them for the sake of pacifying Ireland, and, perhaps, a very costly gift at the expense of the Imperial Exchequer. It is well we should look the matter in the face, and consider why the money of the taxpayer should be absolutely necessary for such a purpose. Now, if the House will bear with me for a moment, I would wish to examine the point of the necessity and how this necessity has arisen. Having been challenged, I say if this Bill is absolutely necessary, then the money ought to be found. It was stated last night by right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the necessity was caused by exceptional circumstances. The Government and the House will be prepared to admit that it is only the most exceptional circumstances which would justify us in giving our votes for a measure of this kind. I was a little alarmed when my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland commenced his arguments upon that point by speaking of the bad harvests of two or three years, because it seemed to me absolutely clear that unless he could carry the argument a great deal further, to allude to the exceptional character of the harvests as justifying this measure was a very dangerous argument to apply. It was dangerous from more than one point of view. Of course, it occurred to us that these bad harvests had been as severe or more severe in England than in Ireland. But I do not think the right hon. Gentleman stopped short at the exceptional harvests. If it were simply a case of eleemosynary relief to clear off arrears of rent accrued through bad harvests, we ought to reject the Bill, under any circumstances, because, if harvests have been so bad that tenants cannot pay, it seems clear that the landlords would naturally lose their rents, and the State ought not to interfere to protect landlords from the consequences of tenants being unable to pay rents on account of bad harvests. We have, therefore, to examine the further point—why are we to indemnify the landlords? It is for this reason—that it is not only and not chiefly bad harvests that have created exceptional circumstances. The exceptional circumstances seem to me to be these—bad harvests have been contemporaneous with, or have been preceded by, a state 1696 of things which makes it most desirable that the tenants should not bear the full consequences, which the natural effect of bad harvests would have upon them, and, at the same time, that a certain compensation should be given to the landlord. For what? For suspending the evictions which might otherwise take place. That, it appears to me, is the real origin of the Bill, and it is this which makes it a matter of Imperial concern. It is desired that the tenants, impoverished by bad seasons, should not be evicted by their landlords, and that the payment to the landlords should be made practically in consideration of their not exercising their full rights against the tenants, and letting off the tenants from their arrears with this object—that the tenants are to remain in their holdings. We have been told that evictions lead to outrages; and, therefore, the arrears are to be cancelled in order to avoid evictions on the part of the landlords. I think that is a fair statement of the case for the Bill. The case made for the Bill is that this is not eleemosynary relief, but that it is considered of importance Imperially, in order to save the tenants, that evictions should be suspended. I should be perfectly satisfied with this statement of the case except for one circumstance, which certainly has influenced the House in this debate, and has made us regard this Bill with more apprehension than ant thing else, and that is, that while some evictions take place on account of arrears, others take place on account of the war waged against the landlords by the Land League through their directing the tenants to hold the harvest. Evictions may be the arbitrary acts of cruel landlords, but they may also be the just and proper exercise of the right of the landlords in the face of the advice given to the tenants to hold the harvest. We, therefore, cannot distinguish between the evictions, and we are unable to say which are cruel evictions and which are evictions in the legitimate exercise of the landlord's right provoked by the action of the Land League. Had it not been for this, I am sure that this Bill would have been approached with more friendliness in many quarters of this House. But it is to be observed that the dishonest tenant who has held the harvest will benefit by this Bill, while the honest tenant who has 1697 paid his rent will not get any advantage from it. It is that consideration which influences so strongly not only English Members in this House, but also the hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw), who made a stronger speech against the particular form of the Bill almost, perhaps, than any other that was made in this House. It appears, therefore, that the situation is this—that one of the many causes of the hostility—I think the natural hostility—entertained towards the Bill from this point of view is that the dishonest tenant who has held his harvest will get freed from his arrears. That objection can only be met in one way, and that is by a most rigorous exercise of that provision which is put into the Bill, that it is only in cases of inability to pay that this boon is intended to be given. The dishonest tenant will gain and the honest tenant will lose unless stringent provisions are inserted in the Bill that the dishonest tenant shall pay. Then you arrive at this point—that it is, as a matter of fact, the bankruptcy of the tenant which is to be taken into consideration. Now, there is no speech to which I have listened with more satisfaction than that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), who addressed the House earlier in the evening, when it was not nearly so full as it is at present. His language was perfectly straightforward and strong upon the question of the tenant's inability to pay. I admit fully the enormous difficulty of discovery; I admit the argument put forward as to the delay which inquiry involves; but I feel that the principle is so essential to the morality of this Bill, that it is so essential even to its success and to the prevention of demoralization in Ireland, that there is no point to which I venture to call the attention of the Government more earnestly, although I am sure their attention has been already given to it, than the ability of the tenant to pay. Now, we must hope that there will be no definition given at starting by the Commissioners which will throw any doubt upon that principle. I am perfectly satisfied with what has been stated upon this subject by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, who said we shall examine into the state of the tenant's holding, and take into consideration the state of his house and 1698 all the various indications of well-being and prosperity, the stock upon the farm, and so forth. Those things will be taken into consideration; but I trust that great care will be taken that a definition will not be laid down early in the administration of this Bill that the tenant should not pay arrears by selling his stock or by other means, on the ground that he would not be able to conduct his farm. I trust I do not offend hon. Members from Ireland by dwelling on this point, because they themselves have said that this must not be a demoralizing Bill. They have laid it down that they did not want to demoralize, and therefore I trust that the whole House, and afterwards the Executive Government, will look to that point, and that they will see that the real justification of this Bill, and that which will alone excuse us for having passed this measure, will be that it is administered according to the intentions of the Government, and what I believe to be the intentions of the Legislature—namely, that the ability of the tenant to pay is to be taken into consideration. Now, one word on the important question of the value of the tenant right. As far as I can understand it, the Bill appears to be so drafted that the Commissioners will be bound to take into consideration the tenant right. If it is a thing upon which money can be raised, or which can be turned into cash in any way, it enables the tenant to pay. It is, so far, an asset, and I would entreat Her Majesty's Government to consider the point thoroughly when we are in Committee that there may be no misunderstanding whatever on this subject. I can quite understand that it may be held, as it was held by the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), that it would diminish the value of the Bill if the tenant right is to be taken into consideration. If that be so, let us know where we are. For instance, if in the smaller holdings the tenant right is pledged beforehand, or if it is of such a small extent as not to be an available asset, if there are circumstances which will lead to evictions, those very evictions against which the Government wish to provide, let us have the case before us in Committee. Let it be settled there whether, in respect of the smallest holdings, the tenant right is to be taken into consideration; but do not let us afterwards, when the Bill has 1699 passed, put the matter into the hands of the Commissioners. Let it be decided boldly, and, what is most important, let it be decided by this House. I think in some of the smallest cases, possibly, it might defeat the object of the Bill; but let that also be taken into consideration. As the Bill is drafted it would have to be dealt with, it would have to be considered, and an Amendment would be necessary if it is to be excluded. I now call the attention of the Committee to the other cases of tenant right where it is of more value; and, I ask, can we justify it to our constituents to pass a clause, if such were in the Bill, which would compel us to pay the landlord a year's arrears, and which would enable the tenant to sell his tenant right, perhaps the next day, for £200 or £300, and go off to America with the proceeds? On that point, again, it struck me that the intentions of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham were perfectly satisfactory, when he acknowledged that such a state of things could not be permitted. A few words more, Sir, upon the question of loan or gift, which touches this question of tenant right to a certain extent. No part of the interesting and eloquent speech of my right hon. Friend struck me more than the argument he made in favour of the system of gift, as against the system of loan proposed by Irish Members on this side of the House. I cannot put the case as well as he did, but I venture to sum up the point he made as follows. He prefers a gift in the case of those who are unable to pay to a loan to everybody. He contrasted the scheme of hon. Members from Ireland, who proposed that, without any investigation as to the ability or not of the tenant to pay, all should receive a loan for the purpose of paying off arrears, with the Government plan that a gift should only be made in the case of those whose inability to pay is proved. I think he is right, that it would be more demoralizing to make promiscuous loans to everybody than to make gifts to those whose inability to pay is proved. Thus I come back to the main point which influences me so strongly as to cause me to intervene in this debate—let it be clear that there is inability to pay, and let us reject the theory that in all cases of tenants in arrears there should be no examination into their cases. If that were the intention, then I should in- 1700 finitely prefer a loan, which is less demoralizing than a gift, which would, in such a case, be equally promiscuous. I admit that a loan has many advantages over a gift, inasmuch as it makes those who receive it feel that they have to pay; but I acknowledge the force of the argument that in many cases, if the money were given without any examination, men would get it who were not entitled to it. The point seems to be to insist upon two conditions—the tenant's inability to pay, and the £30 line alluded to by the right hon. Member for Birmingham which stands in the Bill. If the House consents to the system of gift with the £30 line, rather than a loan without that line, it will furnish an additional reason for the Government to stand firm at their guns with regard to the limit here introduced. I have only one further suggestion to make—we should bring it home to those who avail themselves of this Bill in some way that the money is lent. Now, the objections to a loan are that it will impose a fresh burden on the tenant, and that it will increase his rent; and I confess that it will be an anomaly, when a fair rent has been fixed for the tenant, to increase that rent by a charge which will represent the interest on the amount of arrears. But I would suggest this, and I shall be prepared to move it, that if a tenant sells his tenant right within a certain number of years by his own action, after his arrears have been paid off for him, then the amount charged to the State should be a charge upon the sum which he realizes for his tenant right. It appears to me that this would meet the difficulty to a certain extent. The tenant would not have to pay a rent increased by the amount of interest, a result which it is desirable to avoid, but would start clear at the commencement of his operations. I think it would meet that blot on the Bill that the tenant should be able to sell his tenant right and keep that money for himself after his arrears have been paid off. I trust that Irish Members will admit that I have not discussed this question in any tone of hostility to their wishes. I believe the wish of all in this House is that we should be able to make progress in settling this question—that we may know that the last demand has been made for legislation on the Irish Land 1701 Question; that the rights of the landlord and tenant have been defined; that capital may once more go to Ireland in the confident expectation that no further legislation is likely to weaken that security which is at the foundation of all national prosperity.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, I cannot doubt that the whole House will re-echo the closing wish of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon that we may soon arrive at the time when no further demand for legislation with regard to the land system of Ireland shall be made upon this House. But although we may re-echo that wish, I cannot see that the feeling of the House in general is likely to be very sanguine as to its fulfilment. Now, the extremely ingenious speech to which we have listened seems to foreshadow a very considerable amount of difficulty which we shall have to encounter when this Bill goes into Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has recounted the arguments for and against the course to be pursued, and he has justified the Bill on the ground of the exceptional circumstances which require the introduction of a measure of this extent and character. Nothing can prove the exceptional character of the measure more than the analysis which the right hon. Gentleman has given of the circumstances surrounding it, and it is perfectly clear that if we are to make anything out of the Bill which will be useful and not dangerous it will be by much careful handling and after-consideration. But the right hon. Gentleman uses the same argument as was used by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant when he says that the Bill is justified by the exceptional circumstances of the time. Sir, we do not object to the Bill because it is exceptional, we object to it because we think it is bad. I do not speak of what the Bill might be made in the imagination of one or another, but of the Bill as we have it before us. And, indeed, it seems to me the Bill in its main principles is bad; because, in the first place, it is unjust with regard to the present; and, in the next, because it is likely to be mischievous in the future. When we are told this is a case of necessity I would warn the House that it is an important axiom that you should be exceedingly careful how you act under the 1702 plea of necessity. Under such circumstances, you are liable to take very wild steps, and to get into very serious error; you are liable to set aside everything in the shape of prudence, because you say there is an overwhelming necessity. I cannot think, though I listened to the clever speeches delivered yesterday and to-day, that the tone of the debate has been one to support the plea of absolute necessity. There has been a large number of Gentlemen, not on this side only, but on that side—not alone English Members, but Irish Members also—who have but feebly supported the Bill as proposed. Objections have been made to the principles of it, and important alterations have been proposed, while even from the Ministerial Benches what we have heard has been much more in the tone of apology than of defence. Undoubtedly, very much has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which is good in tone, and which, no doubt, expresses the convictions which he entertains at this moment; but I cannot help saying with regard to such a point as that, for instance, of the charge on the tenant right, that while the right hon. Gentleman maintains that it would be unjust not to reckon the tenant's interest as one of the assets to be taken into account in estimating the tenant's inability to pay, the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), who represents an extreme section of opinion in this House, denounces that proposal as one which will almost render the Bill worthless. And, what is much more dangerous and significant, the Prime Minister, when he introduced the Bill, left that very point open. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have taken up an intermediate position between the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the hon. Member for Tipperary, because he said that while there was much to be left to those who must administer the Act, he could not but admit that there were circumstances under which he would rather incline to the opinion that the tenant right ought not to be charged. The right hon. Gentleman still keeps himself unpledged on that point, and I am reminded that it is one of the great objections that we feel to this kind of legislation that we never know where we are. Now, Parliament is in an awkward position at this moment. That we are acting under the 1703 supposed sense of extreme necessity rests upon the clear statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen). We are pressed to do something which should be strong and exceptional, and under the guidance of the Government, which commands the confidence of a large majority of the House, and which is able to give effect to that which it proposes; but, at the same time, we are conscious in our own minds, and we know perfectly well by the experience of the past three years, that the initiative in this case has not lain with the Government; but they have devised a scheme of policy which they have invited us to adopt as the one which would be safe and expedient. What they have done has been this. From time to time, when some Member of the Irish Party has brought forward a proposition, they have taken it up first by objecting to it, then by saying it was demoralizing, and then by bringing it forward and pressing it on the House. We have had abundant instances of this in the last three Sessions, beginning with the Compensation for Disturbance Bill; and remembering how that was not the original measure of the Government, but was taken from the hands of the hon. and learned Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), who proposed to introduce a clause to which the Government objected, and to which they would have nothing to say until they saw the necessity of bringing it up as a measure of their own. But the same thing has happened with regard to other measures, and notably in the case of this measure, which is not a measure of the Government. In the Land Act of last year, undoubtedly there was a clause dealing with the question of arrears; but even that was not in the original Bill, but was proposed in the course of discussion. When, however, it was proposed, it was different from this Bill, because it was not compulsory. Objection was taken to it even then, and it was said by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) that the proposal was one which was demoralizing. What was the answer of the Government? That it would be most demoralizing if compulsory. "I cannot," said, the right hon. Member for Bradford, speaking for the Government, "see that there is anything demoralizing in it. It would, doubtless, 1704 be demoralizing, and very demoralizing, if we forced the parties to accept the proposal, and said to the tenants, 'We will step in between you and the landlords,' and said to the landlords, 'You shall not claim more than 50 per cent of the debt due to you,' that would be demoralizing." That is exactly what we are asked to do now. Then we are told that it is necessary for the peace of Ireland, and for the repression of outrage, that we should pass a demoralizing Bill. That strikes me as a very extraordinary doctrine. It cannot be justified on the ground that the Ministers of the Crown are so wise that they must know better than we do what is necessary, and, therefore, we had better take their word for it. Our debates might be very well closed if that is to be the line of argument. I could not help being struck with the expression of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, when he referred to the difficult question of the Church Surplus Fund, and the sufficiency of that Fund for meeting this charge. What was his argument? After paying a well-merited compliment to the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland), he said everybody would be willing to believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather than the hon. Member for Downpatrick. That is just it. We are always to take things on trust on the authority of those who put them forward; but we are not favoured with any real arguments to meet the arguments of the other side. With regard to the sufficiency of the Church Surplus Fund, I do not now wish to enter into that lengthy question. My right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) said what would convince those who looked into the matter, that there is a great deal of force in the remarks of the hon. Member for Downpatrick, and when the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is quoted with such confidence, it must be remembered that the right hon. Gentleman has varied from time to time. Last year we were told this amount would be some £700,000.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
With regard to a careful estimate, I am not prepared to say anything; but on the 21st of July £700,000 was the sum mentioned, I think, by the right hon. 1705 Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). He said—I have arrived at the calculation that in all probability the maximum drain on the Treasury, or, I should say, on the Consolidated Fund in the first place, and on the Irish Church Surplus Fund afterwards, will not amount to more than £700,000, or even so much as that."—[3 Hansard, cclxiii. 1552.]Later on, in the same debate, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—Without entering into details, and looking at the figures as stated by my right hon. Friend, and admitting that it is possible or probable that these claims may reach to £500,000 or something more."—[Ibid., 1566.]That would fall very far short of the sum now stated to be necessary.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
That remark was made with reference to the probable cost of the proposition of last year, and the conditions applying to that proposal. The proposal of this year is different, and the conditions are different.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
We have got beyond last year of course, and I merely mention that as the consideration with which we began. That was a different proposal; but that is not what I particularly wish to mention. Even this Session the Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought forward another estimate. He began by talking of £1,500,000, and then has worked that up to £2,000,000, and yesterday he warned us that it was not, after all, an estimate—that it was little more than a conjecture—and he could by no means be answerable that the sum would be confined to £2,000,000 or to £2,500,000. That shows that there is a considerable degree of uncertainty—that we must, at all events, be prepared for different estimates. Let me now say this—that is not the point; what I object to is the bringing in of the Consolidated Fund. What, I say, is so dangerous as the bringing in of the Consolidated Fund at all? As long as you limited your Proviso to a certain fixed sum, whatever it might be, out of the Church Surplus Fund, there was a limit; but there is no limit of grant from the Consolidated Fund. You may go to it for £500,000 or for £5,000,000, and you are laying in a principle which is of a most dangerous and demoralizing character; and I would call upon the House to be on their guard in this matter, and to regard the interests, not only 1706 of the taxpayer in this country—though those are very important—but even the interests of the people of Ireland, and not to give them the impression that they are to have the whole Consolidated Fund of this country thrown open to them if they can only bring pressure enough to bear on the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster spoke rather contemptuously of the objection taken by some Members to the revival of this system of offering sops to Irish Members. He said sops to discontented men were not unknown to all Parties in Parliament, and he thought they might sometimes be wise. [Mr. JOHN BRIGHT: I spoke of the Irish people.] Well, I admit that there may be occasions on which it may be wise to be generous to the Irish people; but if that liberality takes the form that you are yielding to pressure, it loses all the graces and advantages of the gift, and awakens sentiments which are most dangerous to encourage. The right hon. Gentleman ought to bear in mind that our objection to this proposal is that it is unjust, not only to the English taxpayer, but to the Irish landlords, as you are there dealing with a class of men upon whom you have brought by your policy, as I contend, very great suffering. We have heard about all those evictions, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) says you need this Bill in order to stop outrages, because outrages are caused by evictions; evictions are caused by arrears; and arrears are to be dealt with by this Bill. [Mr. GOSCHEN: That was the argument.] That was the argument which was well stated by the right hon. Gentleman, who very properly put in a caveat to the effect that all the evictions were not caused by arrears; but all of them were caused by the Land League. There is no doubt that a very large proportion of the mischief comes from the language used by those who incited the people against the landlords, and knew very well why they incited them; and they have not scrupled to tell us the reason, through the mouth of their leaders. But we cannot stop there; we must look behind the members of the Land League, and we cannot hold the present Government altogether clear of having used language well calculated to stir up the feelings which have led to these evictions on 1707 the part of landlords as a measure of self-defence. The right hon. Gentleman said the Opposition were to blame because their Party feeling led them to bring charges against the Government of vacillation and half-heartedness. We certainly allege that there has been a great deal of vacillation and half-heartedness; but that is not all, or the principal thing with which we charge them. We say it is the inflammatory language used in former times, which, to a great extent, set this evil in motion. I do not say that is the whole cause of the evil, or that there are no other evils of longer standing in Ireland; of course there are, and I do not say we are to ignore them; but I do say that the language of some Members of the Government, especially before they were actually in Office, and even since they have been in Office, has not infrequently been of a character most dangerous to the peace of Ireland. We have had a great deal of experience now of the policy of the Government with regard to Ireland. It has been of a spasmodic character—sometimes in the direction of coercion, sometimes in the direction of what is called conciliation. What is the result of it? We have had now the policy which was, I believe we may say, initiated 14 years ago by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), when he first took up his parable of the three branches of the Upas tree, and we know how that policy was carried in 1869 and 1870. Since then the present Government has been formed, and what is the result of what has been done? Compare the state of Ireland with what it was two or three years ago. Have we made the improvement anticipated? I remember that last year I was told that the proposal with regard to arrears was brought forward on the ground of justice, and as a message of peace. I ventured to say a few words as to its being a message of peace, and I was taken to task in the most censorious manner, and told to look at the progress Ireland had made in the last 30 years, and was made to look small by the castigation administered. But now are we so very well satisfied with the state of Ireland? Is it so charming and satisfactory? I think we may apply to the condition of Ireland at the present time that word which the Prime Minister applied to a speech recently heard in this House, and say the state of Ireland is "heart- 1708 breaking." The animosities between class and class seem now to be as vigorous as ever, and tending to be more vigorous. We have bitterness against the English people; we have the authority of the law very much set aside; the power of the Executive weakened and sot at nought; the principles—I will not say of political economy—but even of honesty and justice ignored; we have wild hopes raised which are cruelly disappointed, and that engenders those ill-feelings, while, on the other hand, the hopes generated turn men away from those measures which would develop very substantial prosperity, and the language and the acts of the Ministry have tended very much to aggravate that state of things. I will not say that such language exactly as used by the Ministers, but their language as it is understood by the people, tends to that result; and, worse than all, the people are being taught by practical experience that the way to get more than they have got is to agitate. We all desire the welfare of Ireland; we are all anxious that that country should be peaceful and prosperous; and we know she ought to be and might be a great element of strength to the Empire. If she stood on that footing with reference to this country upon which she ought to stand, it would be greatly to our happiness and to hers. But it is the continual agitation which is kept up, whether on the platform, or in the Press, or in the Castle Chamber, which is doing all the harm and preventing the people settling down. And, whether that agitation is in Parliament or on the platform, it is that agitation which is doing all the harm. The right hon. Gentleman said he would preach patience. Well, I want to preach patience as much as possible; but patience is not to be cultivated by bringing forward hasty measures, not of your own devising, but adopted for somebody else—adopted as part of an arrangement by which difficulties are to be got rid of. No, Sir; I say the patience we want is the patience of abstinence from irritating legislation. And when you bring forward legislation let it be complete. Do not let us have a fragment of a Bill, because we know perfectly well that this is not all that is to come. The Government have said that there are other points to be dealt with, and that, we see, keeps alive all 1709 this expectation. Where the last Act was beginning to work it was seen that the tenants were beginning to pay their rents, or to come to arrangements with their landlords, and it was believed that matters would quiet down into something like a reasonable settlement; but all that has been rudely interrupted by the very introduction of this Bill, and now the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes forward and takes advantage of the state of things he has brought about, saying—"This is the condition of affairs—pass this Bill and put an end to it." Talk about "putting an end to it," I cannot see where the end is to be. There is no appearance of finality whatever about this Bill; it is but a further step in the line of progress to which we have unfortunately committed ourselves. Therefore it is that, desirous as I am in every way to forward the true interests of Ireland, I believe that this Bill will be not only inefficient, but injurious to that country in its operations, and will encourage a vicious system of which we shall feel the effect in the coming years, and it is on that account that I am prepared to give my most strenuous opposition to it.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I cannot but think that the House and the country will favourably contrast the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), who immediately preceded the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), with that of the right hon. Baronet. The speech of my right hon. Friend was such a speech as we might have expected from him, or from any Member of this House who desired to discuss this question without passion and on its merits; and I cannot but think that it is to be regretted that the right hon. Baronet—though I confess in some parts of his speech he did allude to the details and general effect of this Bill—thought it necessary on the present occasion to devote so many of his words to denunciation of Parties in this House—from the Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway on the other side to Ministers here—passing altogether, in the latter part of his statement, from the real question affecting this Bill, and dealing almost exclusively with what is much more likely to inflame the passions than to help the judgment of this House. Sir, I will endeavour, in following the right hon. Gentleman, to bring the House 1710 back a little to the facts concerning what he and others have described as the origin of this Bill, and the reasons why it has been brought in by Her Majesty's Government. An hon. Member—the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. E. Clarke), I think—spoke of this Bill as having originated in a measure introduced earlier in the Session. He said that in this Bill one-fourth of the proposals of the earlier Bill are followed and fulfilled. He assumes that the other Bill was the reason for the introduction of this one. Well, if this were really the case, and if this Bill really originated in the earlier measure introduced by an hon. Member below the Gangway opposite, and followed a fourth of the proposals of that measure, I should like to ask what are the facts as to certain other proposals of a very much larger character, proposals affecting the question of the purchase of land in Ireland, which Her Majesty's Government have not thrown upon the Table of the House in haste, as has been suggested in the case of this Bill, but which have emanated from "another place," and which, but for some unfortunate accident, would have been introduced here? Those proposals were far more copies of the sweeping changes recommended by hon. Gentlemen opposite; and, that being stated at the time, no doubt dismayed my right hon. Friend and checked the production of his Bill or his Resolution. What would have been said of that plan compared with this, the origin of which I will state to the House in two or three words? During the discussion of the Land Bill last Session, it was soon seen that it was absolutely necessary to deal with arrears of rent. A proposal was made by the Government—a proposal not, I think, opposed in any part of the House with any vigour, but one upon which there was only one suggestion made in the course of the criticism that took place—and a clause was introduced which was intended by the Government to meet this very question of the necessity of clearing away the arrears of rent. It is now thrown in our teeth that we then estimated that if the clause we introduced came into active operation, it would only have involved the payment of £700,000, whereas the present Bill will involve an expenditure of something like £2,000,000. It is the failure of that proposal—the failure of the proposal in 1711 the Act of last year—which is the origin, and the only origin, of the present Bill; and I do not think that any words of mine are necessary to enforce the admirable description which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) gave of the real character and objects of this measure. Its character and objects are not at all such as have been described by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. The Bill is simply and solely a supplement to the Land Bill of last year, and it is hoped that if it is adopted by Parliament it will soon deal with the existing difficulties in Ireland, and enable the Land Act to be worked satisfactorily. That is the origin of the Bill, and I hope that in our discussions we shall adhere to the plain proposal of Her Majesty's Government, and not connect it with some imaginary ideas such as those which have been shadowed out by the right hon. Baronet opposite, not one of which ever entered into the minds of us who are responsible for the measure. But a good deal has been said on one point—a point which was alluded to in the debate on the second reading. We have heard a great deal about one great difference between this Bill and that of last year, and that is that, in the measure of last Session, it was not considered necessary to introduce as a condition for an advance to a tenant inability to pay; whereas, as my right hon. Friend has very justly pointed out, the necessity of proving inability to pay the arrears before assistance is rendered is one of the cardinal features of this proposal. Well, Sir, upon whose advice did we insert the condition of inability to pay? Why, on the advice and recommendation of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. The only real criticism of the proposal of last year was that it did not enforce the condition of inability to pay. In this Bill we have adopted the suggestion, and, therefore, to have it thrown in our teeth that we have introduced something which is unworkable, but which we believe to be the very essence of the Bill, appears to me one of the most—if I may say so—inconsistent pieces of criticism which in Parliamentary language could be applied by the Front Opposition Bench to the proposal of the Government. Sir, as to the main features and objects of the Bill, I will not repeat, as I have said before, the language of my 1712 right hon. Friend. At this time of night—1.10 A.M.—my doing so would only weaken what I wish to put before the House. I adopt the general description of the Bill and its objects which my right hon. Friend shadowed out, and I believe the terse sentences which he addressed to the House will be accepted by the public as the real justification of this most necessary measure. But one or two expressions have fallen from hon. Gentlemen in the latter part of the debate which I must notice. The hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. E. Clarke) said that if this Bill were one which dealt only with a question between the landlords and tenants in Ireland, and they were the only persons interested in it, much could be said for it. He used strong language to show that the Bill was not one of that kind. He objected to it because it would affect the landlords and tenants of England and Scotland; but the construction he puts upon the origin and character of the measure is not a fair construction. I assert, without fear of contradiction, that the Bill is to bring about a settlement between the landlords and tenants of Ireland, who are the persons primarily interested in it—it is another step in the direction of that important settlement upon which we have been engaged for the last two years. And I hope that, when it is remembered that on the second reading of the measure not more than six Irish Members opposed it, and that of those only one or two were county Members, the House will see that the measure is not rejected by the landlords of Ireland, and that it is known to be in their interest, as well as in the interest of the tenants. On these grounds we offer it to the House, and I trust the majority, consisting as they do of English and Scotch proprietors, will not be led away by the doctrine of the hon. and learned Member, and refuse to adopt what Ireland, by an immense majority of her Representatives, asks for, merely because it may be unpleasant to a certain number of English and Scotch proprietors. But, passing from these general considerations, I should like to refer for a moment to what fell from the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). The hon. and gallant Baronet, in the earlier part of the debate, gave an illustration of the working of the Bill, which, I think, 1713 shows that he, and those who cheered him, do not understand the operation of the measure. He read a letter—every word of which I heard—describing the condition of an estate in Ireland on which rents had been paid for 1880. He was expressly challenged whether the rents had been paid up to May or November, 1880, and he said he did not know; but he said this Bill would be most unfair to the estate on which these rents had been paid. He did not notice the fact that the Bill will not affect any estate the rents of which were paid in 1880. Such estates are outside the province of the Bill altogether, and if those who cheered the hon. and gallant Member did so on the assumption that his illustration was a fair one for the purposes of this Bill, they will now admit, I hope, that in doing so they were entirely mistaken. But there is another and a more important point, as to the action of this Bill. It has been alluded to several times this evening, and, amongst others, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), and I must say that, with but one exception, I entirely agree with the conclusions he drew. The question has been asked and answered, but asked again several times since it was last answered—"How will this Bill affect tenants who claim inability to pay, but who possess a valuable tenant right—will it require them to dispose of their tenant right?" The answer is this—that if the tenant, having the privilege of tenant right, was in such a position that, in order to pay his arrears, he would have to sell his tenant right and his other property, so as to cease to be practically a tenant, he would come under the operation of this Bill. But if, after paying his arrears, he still could hold his farm as "a going concern"—which were the words used on the second reading—being able to raise a sufficient amount to pay his arrears, then, undoubtedly, he would not be in a position of inability to pay under this Bill, and his case would not be included. It is a question of his farm being in the position of what is known in commercial language as "a going concern" or not which would be the test as to whether he ought to be required to raise money to pay up his arrears. I agree with my right hon. Friend that it would be by no means an easy matter to define 1714 ability to pay; but if it should be necessary to introduce any definition, it should be on that basis, and that basis alone. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) will excuse me if I offer a criticism of the suggestion he has made on the subject of tenant right. He has proposed that, should the tenant, after he has had the benefit of this Bill, in some future year sell his tenant right and go abroad, the Government should be able to recover from the value of the tenancy the advance which may have been made. Well, I do not think, as at present advised, that that could be done. What we want is to clear the whole matter up once and for all. It would be necessary, if my right hon. Friend's proposal were accepted, to follow a tenant from year to year, and keeping 200,000 men, as it were, on the books of Government until they sold their tenant right. Now, Sir, I will pass from those considerations to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland), who closely criticized the financial clauses of the Bill. I must say a word as to an expression which fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The right hon. Gentleman said that, as between the present proposal of gift and the other proposal of loan, a gift was an immoral, and a loan, I suppose, was a moral proceeding. I do not see myself the distinction between a loan amounting in all to £6,000,000, of which £2,000,000 would be a gift, and a simple gift of the same amount. If the gift of £2,000,000 is given direct, the gift is as equally immoral as if the sum only formed part of the entire advance of £6,000,000. A loan on which no interest was paid, or on which only 1 per cent was paid, would be, to a great extent, a gift.
§ MR. CHILDERS
No; the only proposition for loan which has yet been made has been made on this side of the House; but the right hon. Gentleman was in perfect sympathy with the suggestion. I must say that, whether the right hon. Gentleman made the proposal or not, he adopted it. Talking of the immorality of our proceeding, what did the right hon. Gentleman tell us? He told us that while the Government, with the consideration that it has for its sup- 1715 porters, would be prepared henceforth to reduce certain payments; he saw excellent reason which would be found for the landlords obtaining a great reduction, and ultimately the abolition of the rent-charges imposed by Act of Parliament.
§ MR. CHILDERS
No, Sir; I must be allowed to correct the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. It was a different sentence which he quoted from the speech of my right hon. Friend. What I have quoted was what he alleged himself as a reasonable arrangement to be obtained by the landlords for altogether abolishing rent-charges; and he said those reasons would be found when Parties were pretty equally balanced, and the landlords of Ireland could throw their swords into the scale. Of all the immoral suggestions I have heard in the present debate, such a suggestion, thrown out to the whole body of landlords in Ireland, was about the most immoral. I must connect it with the other suggestions thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman, and I beg he will allow me to say that on this question I must decline to be bound by the financial morality he has propounded to Parliament. I pass from that to the specific questions before the House—namely, whether £2,000,000 is likely to cover the claims which will be made for grants under this Act, and to what extent the Church Fund may be expected to supply the necessary amount. I will take first the question as to the sufficiency of the sum of £2,000,000. One hon. Member spoke in rather hard words of the Treasury Minute of the 26th of June last, which stated, with great clearness, the grounds on which it was expected £2,000,000 would be the full amount required under the Bill. Will the House allow me to refer very briefly to that Minute? That Minute gives in detail the information upon which the Government felt justified in setting the amount down at £2,000,000. The first of the sources of information upon which the Government relied was the Report of the Commissioner of Valuation; and the other sources of information were the Inland Revenue, the Constabulary, and the Local Government Board, to all of whom we are greatly indebted for the extreme patience and care with which 1716 they have inquired into this most difficult question. The Commissioner of Valuation, it will be seen, estimates on excellent grounds that the amount to be called for will not exceed £1,700,000. The Commissioners of Inland Revenue say that the Government can be called upon to pay £2,400,000, subject to very great deductions indeed—those deductions amounting to at least £400,000. The Constabulary Return comes to about the same amount. It is very difficult to calculate for each county; but if hon. Members take the trouble to go through the facts given us, they will see that according to the Constabulary Return the amount cannot exceed £2,000,000. The Local Government Board estimate that the sum claimed will be about £1,400,000. The Government having before them these four calculations, were justified, I think, in saying that the outside sum might be £2,000,000. I now pass on to consider the calculation of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland). I was, unfortunately, compelled to be elsewhere when the hon. Gentleman spoke yesterday; but I think his speech has been accurately reported in the organ to which we generally look for information. I attach great importance to the figures of the hon. Gentleman, and I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments while I deal with them. The hon. Gentleman adopts a method of computation which, without admitting altogether its absolute correctness, I will accept for the sake of argument. The hon. Gentleman said he had calculated the amount of a perpetual annuity that would be the equivalent of the Terminable Annuities. The tithe rent-charge, he said, at present amounting to £195,000, may be taken at £162,000; the tithe rent-charge already converted into 52 years' annuities would become £140,500 a-year; the land instalments would be represented by £37,800 a-year; rents, £61,000; mortgages on land, £37,000; the relief of distress instalments, £33,000; making a total of £471,000. He deducts £50,000 a-year for taxes, management, and annuities still payable, and that leaves £421,000 as the equivalent of the present income of the Church estate in perpetuity. I will allow a deduction of 5 per cent from the income for the cost of collection, and I will remind the House that that is ample, for in recent years it 1717 has only been 2 per cent—I will allow 5 per cent to be on the safe side. That will amount to £23,000, so that the income will be represented by the sum of £398,000. The perpetuity equivalent to a loan by the Government of £9,574,000 at 3½ per cent, which the hon. Gentleman has assumed—I take his percentage—is £325,000; and, therefore, deducting that from £398,000, there is a surplus of £73,000 available for the purposes of this Bill. Now, the interest on the £2,000,000, which is supposed to be the charge on this Bill, at the rate of interest suggested by the hon. Gentleman, would be £70,000; therefore, on his calculation, there would be a balance, though a very small one, after fully providing for the charge. But I do not admit the fairness in all respects of the hon. Gentleman's calculations; I do not admit that the tithe rent-charge payers will convert themselves into annuitants. If the hon. Member has read the last Report of the Church Commissioners, he will see they give four very excellent reasons why the tithe rent-charge payers should not so convert themselves, why it would be unwise for them to do so. Assuming that half of them do convert themselves into annuitants, there would be a deduction of £16,000 instead of £32,000. I distinctly do not admit that the perpetuity expenses will be £50,000 a-year; and I think it would be fairer to take 3¼ per cent instead of 3½ per cent, as the interest which the Government has to pay. These three items amount to £53,000, and, therefore, the surplus, after providing for the charge of this Bill, will be £56,000 instead of £3,000. This £56,000 will be available to meet those contingencies as to still further deductions of income, which were foreshadowed by the hon. Gentleman. I think I have fairly shown to the House that on the basis of the hon. Gentleman's calculations, and taking his own percentage, there will be a surplus, and that by amending his calculations there will be an ample surplus to meet the contingencies he had darkly foreshadowed. At this time of the night (1.35) I shall not ask the House of Commons to do more than to accept as fair, from the financial point of view, the statement which I have put forward; to accept, from the political point of view, the statement made in such forcible language by my right hon. 1718 Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen); and to reject, from the moral point of view, the ground taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith).
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 283; Noes 208: Majority 75.1721
|Acland, C. T. D.||Collings, J.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Collins, E.|
|Agnew, W.||Colthurst, Col. D. La T.|
|Ainsworth, D.||Corbet, W. J.|
|Allen, H. G.||Corbett, J.|
|Amory, Sir J. H.||Cotes, C. C.|
|Armitstead, G.||Courtauld, G.|
|Arnold, A.||Courtney, L. H.|
|Asher, A.||Cowper, hon. H. F.|
|Ashley, hon. E. M.||Craig, W. Y.|
|Baldwin, E.||Creyke, R.|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Cropper, J.|
|Balfour, J. B.||Cross, J. K.|
|Baring, Viscount||Crum, A.|
|Barran, J.||Cunliffe, Sir R. A.|
|Bass, Sir A.||Currie, Sir D.|
|Bass, H.||Davey, H.|
|Baxter, rt. hon. W. E.||Davies, W.|
|Biddulph, M.||Dilke, Sir C. W.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Blake, J. A.||Dodds, J.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.|
|Borlase, W. C.||Duckham, T.|
|Brand, H. R.||Duff, R. W.|
|Brassey, H. A.||Dundas, hon. J. C.|
|Brassey, Sir T.||Earp, T.|
|Brett, R. B.||Edwards, H.|
|Briggs, W. E.||Edwards, P.|
|Bright, rt. hon. J.||Egerton, Adm. hon. F.|
|Bright, J. (Manchester)||Errington, G.|
|Brinton, J.||Evans, T. W.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Fairbairn, Sir A.|
|Brogden, A.||Farquharson, Dr. R.|
|Brooks, M.||Fawcett, rt. hon. H.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C.||Fay, C. J.|
|Bruce, hon. R. P.||Ferguson, R.|
|Bryce, J.||Ffolkes, Sir W. H. B.|
|Buchanan, T. R.||Findlater, W.|
|Burt, T.||Firth, J. F. B.|
|Buszard, M. C.||Flower, C.|
|Butt, C. P.||Foljambe, C. G. S.|
|Byrne, G. M.||Foljambe, F. J. S.|
|Callan, P.||Forster, Sir C.|
|Campbell, Lord C.||Forster, rt. hon. W. E.|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Fowler, H. H.|
|Campbell, R. F. F.||Fowler, W.|
|Campbell-Bannerman, H.||Fry, L.|
|Carbutt, E. H.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Carington, hon. R.||Gladstone, H. J.|
|Causton, R. K.||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Cavendish, Lord E.||Gordon, Lord D.|
|Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.||Gordon, Sir A.|
|Chambers, Sir T.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Cheetham, J. F.||Gourley, E. T.|
|Childers, rt. hn. H. C. E.||Gower, hon. E. F. L.|
|Clarke, J. C.||Grafton, F. W.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Grant, A.|
|Cohen, A.||Grant, Sir G. M.|
|Grenfell, W. H.||Moore, A.|
|Gurdon, R. T.||Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.|
|Hamilton, J. G. C.||Morley, A.|
|Harcourt, rt. hon. Sir W. G. V. V.||Morley, S.|
|Mundella, rt. hon. A. J.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Noel, E.|
|Hartington, Marq. of||Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Hastings, G. W.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|Hayter, Sir A. D.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Healy, T. M.||O'Donoghue, The|
|Henderson, F.||O'Gorman Mahon, Col. The|
|Henry, M.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Herschell, Sir F.||O'Shaughnessy, R.|
|Hibbert, J. T.||O'Shea, W. H.|
|Hill, T. R.||O'Sullivan, W. H.|
|Holden, I.||Otway, Sir A.|
|Holland, S.||Paget, T. T.|
|Hollond, J. R.||Palmer, C. M.|
|Holms, J.||Palmer, G.|
|Hopwood, C. H.||Palmer, J. H.|
|Howard, E. S.||Parker, C. S.|
|Howard, J,||Parnell, C. S.|
|Illingworth, A.||Pease, A.|
|Inderwick, F. A.||Pease, Sir J. W.|
|James, C.||Peddie, J. D.|
|James, Sir H.||Pender, J.|
|James, W. H.||Pennington, F.|
|Jenkins, D. J.||Playfair, rt. hon. L.|
|Jenkins, Sir J. J.||Porter, A. M.|
|Johnson, W. M.||Portman, hn. W. H. B.|
|Jones-Parry, L.||Potter, T. B.|
|Kinnear, J.||Powell, W. R. H.|
|Labouchere, H.||Power, J. O'C.|
|Lambton, hon. F. W.||Power, R.|
|Lawrence, Sir J. C.||Pugh, L. P.|
|Lawrence, W.||Pulley, J.|
|Lawson, Sir W.||Ralli, P.|
|Lea, T.||Ramsay, J.|
|Leahy, J.||Ramsden, Sir J.|
|Leake, R.||Rathbone, W.|
|Leamy, E.||Reid, E. T.|
|Leatham, E. A.||Rendel, S.|
|Lee, H.||Richard, H.|
|Leeman, J. J.||Richardson, J. N.|
|Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S.||Richardson, T.|
|Leigh, hon. G. H. C.||Roberts, J.|
|Lubbock, Sir J.||Robertson, H.|
|Lymington, Viscount||Rogers, J. E. T.|
|Lyons, R. D.||Roundell, C. S.|
|M'Arthur, A.||Russell, G. W. E.|
|M'Carthy, J.||Russell, Lord A.|
|M'Clure, Sir T.||Rylands, P.|
|M'Coan, J. C.||St. Aubyn, Sir J.|
|Macfarlane, D. H.||Samuelson, B.|
|M'Intyre, Æneas J.||Samuelson, H.|
|M'Kenna, Sir J. N.||Seely, C. (Nottingham)|
|Mackie, R. B.||Sexton, T.|
|Mackintosh, C. F.||Sheil, E.|
|M'Laren, C. B. B.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|Macliver, P. S.||Shield, H.|
|M'Minnies, J. G.||Simon, Serjeant J.|
|Magniac, C.||Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.|
|Maitland, W. F.||Slagg, J.|
|Mappin, F. T.||Smith, E.|
|Marjoribanks, E.||Stanley, hon. E. L.|
|Martin, P.||Stevenson, J. C.|
|Martin, R. B.||Stewart, J.|
|Mason, H.||Stuart, H. V.|
|Mellor, J. W.||Summers, W.|
|Milbank, Sir F. A.||Synan, E. J.|
|Molloy, B. C.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Monk, C. J.||Tavistock, Marquess of|
|Taylor, P. A.||Williamson, S.|
|Tennant, C.||Willis, W.|
|Thomasson, J. P.||Willyams, E. W. B.|
|Thompson, T. C.||Wilson, C. H.|
|Trevelyan, rt. hn. G. O.||Wilson, I.|
|Vivian, A. P.||Wilson, Sir M.|
|Walter, J.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Webster, J.||Woodall, W.|
|Wedderburn, Sir D.||Woolf, S.|
|Wiggin, H.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Williams, S. C. E.||Kensington, Lord|
|Alexander, Colonel C.||Eaton, H. W.|
|Allsopp, C.||Ecroyd, W. F.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Egerton, hon. W.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Elliot, Sir G.|
|Aylmer, J. E. F.||Elliot, G. W.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Emlyn, Viscount|
|Balfour, A. J.||Ennis, Sir J.|
|Barne, F. St. J. N.||Ewing, A. O.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Feilden. Maj.-Gen. R. J.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Fellowes, W. H.|
|Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H.||Fenwick Bisset, M.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Filmer, Sir E.|
|Bentinck, rt. hn G. C.||Finch, G. H.|
|Biddell, W.||Fitzpatrick, hn. B. E. B.|
|Birkbeck, E.||Fitzwilliam, hn. H. W.|
|Blackburne, Col. J. I.||Fletcher, Sir H.|
|Boord, T. W.||Floyer, J.|
|Bourke, rt. hon. R.||Folkestone, Viscount|
|Brise, Colonel R.||Forester, C. T. W.|
|Broadley, W. H. H.||Fort, R.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Foster, W. H.|
|Fowler, R. N.|
|Brooke, Lord||Fremantle, hon. T. F.|
|Brooks, W. C.||Freshfield, C. K.|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Galway, Viscount|
|Bruce, hon. T.||Gardner, R. Richardson-|
|Brymer, W. E.|
|Bulwer, J. R.||Garnier, J. C.|
|Burghley, Lord||Gibson, rt. hon. E.|
|Burnaby, General E. S.||Giffard, Sir H. S.|
|Burrell, Sir W. W.||Goldney, Sir G.|
|Buxton, Sir R. J.||Gore-Langton, W. S.|
|Cameron, D.||Gorst, J. E.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Grantham, W.|
|Carden, Sir R. W.||Greer, T.|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Gregory, G. B.|
|Chaplin, H.||Grey, A. H. G.|
|Clarke, E.||Hamilton, Lord C. J.|
|Clive, Col. hon. G. W.||Hamilton, I. T.|
|Coddington, W.||Hamilton, right hon. Lord G.|
|Collins, T.||Harcourt, E. W.|
|Compton, F.||Harvey, Sir R. B.|
|Coope, O. E.||Hay, rt. hon. Admiral Sir J. C. D.|
|Corry, J. P.|
|Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Cubitt, rt. hon. G.||Hicks, E.|
|Dalrymple, C.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Davenport, H. T.||Hill, Lord A. W.|
|Davenport, W. B.||Hill, A. S.|
|Dawnay, hon. G. C.||Hinchingbrook, Visc.|
|De Worms, Baron H.||Holland, Sir H. T.|
|Digby, Col. hon. E. T.||Home, Lt.-Col. D. M.|
|Dixon-Hartland, F. D.||Hope, rt. hn. A. J. B. B.|
|Donaldson-Hudson, C.||Jackson, W. L.|
|Douglas, A. Akers-||Kennard, Col. E. H.|
|Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W. H.||Kennaway, Sir J. H.|
|Knight, F. W.||Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.|
|Knightley, Sir R.||Rankin, J.|
|Knowles, T.||Rendlesham, Lord|
|Lacon, Sir E. H. K.||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Lawrance, J. C.||Ritchie, C. T.|
|Lawrence, Sir T.||Ross, A. H.|
|Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.||Ross, C. C.|
|Legh, W. J.||Round, J.|
|Leigh, R.||St. Aubyn, W. M.|
|Leighton, Sir B.||Salt, T.|
|Leighton, S.||Schreiber, C.|
|Levett, T. J.||Sclater-Booth, rt. hon. G.|
|Lindsay, Sir R. L.||Scott, Lord H.|
|Long, W. H.||Scott, M. D.|
|Lopes, Sir M.||Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.|
|Lowther, rt. hon. J.|
|Lowther, hon. W.||Severne, J. E.|
|Macartney, J. W. E.||Smith, A.|
|M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J.||Smith, rt. hon. W. H.|
|Mac Iver, D.||Stafford, Marquess of|
|Macnaghten, E.||Stanhope, hon. E.|
|Makins, Colonel W. T.||Stanley, rt. hon. Col. F. A.|
|Master, T. W. C.|
|Maxwell, Sir H. E.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Miles, C. W.||Storer, G.|
|Miles, Sir P. J. W.||Storey, S.|
|Mills, Sir C. H.||Sykes, C.|
|Monckton, F.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Morgan, hon. F.||Taylor, rt. hon. Col. T. E.|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R.||Thomson, H.|
|Mulholland, J.||Tollemache, H. J.|
|Murray, C. J.||Tollemache, hn. W. F.|
|Newport, Viscount||Tottenham, A. L.|
|Nicholson, W. N.||Wallace, Sir R.|
|Noel, rt. hon. G. J.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|North, Colonel J. S.||Warburton, P. E.|
|Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.||Warton, C. N.|
|Welby-Gregory, Sir W. E.|
|Northcote, H. S.|
|Onslow, D.||Whitley, E.|
|Paget, R. H.||Williams, Colonel O.|
|Patrick, R. W. Cochran-||Wilmot, Sir H.|
|Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|Peek, Sir H.||Wolff, Sir H. D.|
|Pell, A.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Pemberton, E. L.||Wroughton, P.|
|Percy, Earl||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Percy, Lord A.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Phipps, C. N. P.|
|Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.||TELLERS.|
|Price, Captain G. E.||Crichton, Viscount|
|Puleston, J. H.||Winn, R.|
Bill read the third time, and passed.
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. GIBSON
before that Question is put I wish to ask a question of the Prime Minister. I should like to know, in the first place, when he proposes to proceed with the operative work of the Committee; and, secondly, I wish to put a question of great importance as to the construction of the Bill. At present the position of the landlord and tenant appears to be involved in great obscurity. 1722 The proceedings, on the application of the tenant, may take up considerable time; and if it cannot be heard for six or eight months after it has been made, what is to be the position of the tenant in relation to the payment of rent and the possibility of eviction? And what is to be the position of the landlord in reference to the receipt of the rent and the power of eviction if the rent is not paid? Supposing a tenant were to make an application, with a view of obtaining the benefit of the Act, within a month after its passing, his application might not be heard for six months afterwards, so that sufficient time would elapse to enable a new year's rent to accrue. Is it intended that the tenant shall remain in possession without paying any of the new year's rent; and is the landlord to remain in possession of his power to evict in case he gets no rent? It is perfectly obvious that this is a most vital point, and that a new year's rent will have become due before you know where you are. I do not know what is the intention of the framers of the Bill; but it is certain that the application of the tenant to get the benefit of the Act, under these circumstances, might be a mere idle form, and not do him any good. It is a matter of primary importance, which must obviously have been thought out by the Government; and I should like the Prime Minister, or some other Member of the Government, to give an answer to the question.
The question of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is one which in its details is not very easy for me to follow, and I shall be unable to give an answer to it to-night. [Cries of "Oh!"] I can assure the House that interruptions of this nature are not calculated to add to the dignity of the proceedings of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gives me more credit for professional acuteness than I am entitled to. But in the Bill as it stands there is, according to the intention of the Government, no provision which alters the position of landlord and tenant in relation to one another during the period before the provisions of the Bill are settled. The question, however, will arise more legitimately when we come to discuss the details of 1723 the measure, and, in the meantime, it shall receive the consideration of the Government.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
In regard to the order of our proceedings, I think it would be very much for the convenience of the House that we should be informed to-night whether there is really any idea of having a Saturday Sitting for proceeding with the Arrears Bill.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I certainly hope not; and it will be a matter of great convenience to have a distinct understanding. I presume that the Report on the Prevention of Crime Bill will be taken to-morrow; and if it be necessary to have a Saturday Sitting for completing that Bill, I understand it will be asked for. But it would be inconvenient to the House, and unfair to a large number of hon. Members, if they are not assured to-night that they will not be required to be in the House on Saturday for the purpose of proceeding with the Arrears Bill. I think we should be assured that it will not be taken until Monday. That would, I think, meet the general sense of the House; and it is really important that we should have the question definitely answered now.
I am unable to state to-night whether the Government will have to make a demand for a Saturday Sitting or not.
It might be for the convenience of Public Business that the House should meet on Saturday, and I am not in a position at the present moment to say whether we shall have to make a demand upon hon. Members or not. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman of the appeal made to me yesterday by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). Our full expectation was that the proceedings on the Prevention of Crime Bill would occupy to-morrow and Saturday; and, that being the anticipation of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, he held out the prospect to us of being able to close the proceedings on the Crime Bill on Friday if the Government would promise to go on with the Arrears Bill on Saturday. Although I was not 1724 able to give the hon. Member an answer to the question, because I had had no opportunity of ascertaining what the feeling of the House might be on the subject, no doubt there would be a certain amount of difference in meeting on Saturday for the purpose of concluding one Bill and meeting for the purpose of commencing a new stage of another. I should, of course, be unwilling to do anything without the consent of the House; but I think it would be an extremely graceful act, in the peculiar circumstances of Ireland and after the many delays that have occurred in the discussion of the Bill, if there were a general willingness on the part of hon. Members to go forward with the Arrears Bill on Saturday.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he is not in a position, at 2 o'clock on Friday morning, to inform the House whether or no this Bill will be taken this day, or Saturday, or when it would be taken. He said that some arrangement was suggested by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and I may, perhaps, be allowed to take the opportunity of observing that this is not the first occasion on which an arrangement has been put forward by the hon. Member for the City of Cork and eagerly accepted by the Prime Minister. I wish, however, to point out that there are many hon. Members who might reasonably claim the indulgence of the House to make some observations upon this Bill, inasmuch as they have abstained from doing so, up to the present time, with the view of expediting the course of the Bill and facilitating the proceedings of the Committee. I venture to think it would be scarcely reasonable that the right hon. Gentleman should not make a statement as to the day on which the Bill will be taken. If he will put the Bill down for Monday next, so as to allow hon. Members to make their arrangements, I believe he will find that in the long run he would be facilitating the progress of the measure.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, it would be of great advantage to the House if the Government informed them at that moment what was the course they intended to pursue with regard to this Bill; but as they appeared not to be in a position to make the desired statement he begged to move the adjournment of the debate, 1725 in order to give them time to consider their position.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Brodrick.)
said, if that Motion was pressed he should agree to it, but should unquestionably move that the debate be adjourned to Saturday.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he wished to point out that his hon. Friend who had moved the adjournment had no other object in view than to save the time of the House, and consult the convenience of hon. Members. The result of the course indicated by the right hon. Gentleman would be that the Question, "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair," would be discussed over again on Saturday, and in that case the whole of the day would probably be consumed, while at the end of the Sitting the House would be in precisely the same position as they were then in; they would not be able to begin the work in Committee before Monday. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman would say he would take the Committee on the Bill on Monday next, the House would be in a position at once to go to a decision upon the Question "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair." However, the matter was one for the decision of the Prime Minister.
said, he had stated as candidly and fairly as possible that, considering the peculiarity of the position, it would be a graceful act on the part of the House to proceed with this Bill on Saturday. In making that appeal he had stated that he would not press the House to take the Arrears Bill unless there was a general disposition to accede to his request; whereupon, up rose the right hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther), who went back to a former declaration of his, which was not at all in question, and had nothing to do with the present situation; after which the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick) rose and said, as he (Mr. Gladstone) had not given a positive answer to the question upon the subject of the Bill, he would move the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, the words he used were, that if the Government could not now give a positive answer he would 1726 move the adjournment of the debate, in order to give them time for consideration.
said, his appeal had been made to the kindness of Members, on which he believed the Government could reckon. It was rather sad that they should have arrived at a time when, if the Leader of the House, however unworthy he might be, made an appeal to the kindness of Members, Gentlemen immediately shouted "No!" as though any appeal to their kindness would be unavailing. He did wish to know from the Leaders of the Opposition whether he might hope for their acquiescence in his proposal to take the Bill on Saturday, which he was aware it was quite in their power under the Rules of the House to withhold?
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he had to state, so far as the Prevention of Crime Bill was concerned, that hon. Members who usually acted with him had no intention of taking any further part in the two stages which still remained for discussion. They had arrived at that decision, not on account of any prospect that there might be of a Saturday Sitting for the Arrears Bill, but because of other matters which it was not then necessary to enlarge upon. They had fought the Prevention of Crime Bill as long as there was any reasonable hope of making alterations in its provisions; but they had ceased to make any further stand against the Bill as soon as they found that there was no chance of carrying any radical Amendment. Therefore, they did not intend to oppose the taking of the third reading of the Bill to-morrow, in the event of the Government asking the House to sanction that course. He should, of course, be glad that the House should take the Arrears Bill next Saturday; but the prospect of a Saturday Sitting had in no way influenced himself or his hon. Friends with regard to the course which they had thought it right to pursue.
said, he was afraid he must interpret the silence of the hon. Members opposite as signifying that they were unwilling to accede to the request he had made. But the declaration which had just come from the hon. Member for the City of Cork with respect to the Prevention of Crime Bill in some respect altered the position, and gave room for the belief that the Prevention of Crime 1727 Bill would probably be disposed of at the Morning Sitting to-morrow; and that at the Evening Sitting they might proceed with the Committee on the Arrears Bill.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, he would ask permission to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.