§ Clause 1 (Settlement by Land Commission of arrears of rent).
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON moved the insertion, after the word "satisfied," 36 in line 18, of the words, "at the customary date." It appeared to him that, unless some such words were introduced in order to fix the exact period at which the tenant must pay his rent, a difficulty might arise. He understood that the object of the Bill was to enable certain tenants to avail themselves of the benefits of the Land Act of 1881, but who would, from the arrears of past years, be liable to eviction before their cases could come before the Land Court. Unless some such words as those he now suggested were inserted, that object would not be accomplished. His reason for arriving at that conclusion was this. The tenant was required to recognize the obligation of paying rent in respect of certain years—1880 and 1881—but in the Bill it was provided that the rent payable in respect of the year of the tenancy expiring on the last gale day of the tenancy, in the year 1881, should have been satisfied before the application was entertained by the Commission—that was to say, that a tenant who did not lodge an application until the year 1883, and which could not come on for adjudication for a period of 18 months, would not be obliged to pay rent during that time. He had consulted some of his legal Friends as to his reading of the clause, and he believed he was right in putting the case in this way. The consequence would be that, although the tenant recognized his obligation to pay rent, he might not fulfil it, and the landlord would be without the power of enforcing his rent except by serving a notice to quit upon him. It was suggested, in the discussion which occurred upon this question last night, that the exact date at which the tenant ought to comply with that obligation should be inserted, or that the object of the Bill would be defeated, and the date proposed last night was the 30th of November. There were, however, certain objections raised to that date, and the Amendment was rejected. The object of the present Amendment was to provide that it should be proved to the satisfaction of the Land Commission that the rent payable in respect of the year of the tenancy expiring on the last gale day of the tenancy of 1881 had been satisfied "at the customary date." He believed these words would carry out the idea he had understood the Secretary of State for 37 War (Mr. Childers) to express on a previous occasion. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that he had no objection to the insertion of such words on the part of the Government; but he suggested that they should be inserted in Sub-section 8. He (Lord George Hamilton) thought that anyone looking at Sub-section 3 would see that it was not possible to insert those words there; and, therefore, he proposed to insert them in the sub-section now under discussion.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 18, after "satisfied," insert "at the customary date."—(Lord George Hamilton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, there was no question of principle between the noble Lord and the Government; but the Amendment seemed to go somewhat further than the statement made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, to which the noble Lord had referred. If the landlord required payment of the rent earlier, he had his usual powers, and could resort to the exercise of such powers. That was a matter altogether outside the Bill; but, as far as the proposals of the Bill were concerned, it was quite enough if the rent had been satisfied at the date when the matter came before the Court.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, he did not see how it was possible for the Committee to adopt these vague and uncertain words. What did the words "customary date" mean? On some estates it might be customary to fix a date for the payment of rent, while on other estates it was not. According to the custom of some estates, there was a hanging time, leaving the rent due in November to stand over until the following May, while upon other estates there was no such hanging date, and it was required that the rent should be paid in November.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he did not think that the matter was clear or satisfactory as the clause now stood. Sub-section (a) was of immense importance, bearing in mind the statement made last night by the Secretary of State for War. That statement was perfectly clear and intelligible, and the object of the Amendment of his noble Friend (Lord George 38 Hamilton) was to make Sub-section (a) what it should be, and complete in itself. The first condition was that the rent of the particular year should be satisfied either by a cash payment or an arrangement with the landlord, or in any other mode that was deemed satisfactory. His noble Friend, in order to make the matter complete in itself, and to make it clear that there should not be a hard-and-fast line, and that the rent should not be paid at the very hour it became due, proposed to put in the words actually used by the Secretary of State for War last night—namely,"at the customary date." But there was no magic in those words, which simply meant the time at which the rent was usually paid. His (Mr. Gibson's) point was that the sub-section should be made complete, and that it was not necessary to have any subsequent gloss upon it, which would be certainly left if it were retained in its present shape. As to Subsections 3 and 4, he confessed that, for the life of him, he could not understand them. He had read them carefully that morning in the light which the right hon. Gentleman had thrown upon them; but he had failed to reconcile the statements of the Government in regard to those sub-sections with the Bill itself. When they came to Sub-section 3 it would be found that it was a perfectly worthless and useless sub-section, except that its object was to readjust the sub-section the Committee were now engaged upon. It might be that, in 1881, the landlord might have accepted in full discharge 50 per cent of the arrears accrued in 1879; but that was a transaction of 1879, and not of 1881, and it would be so stated on the receipt given upon the understanding and arrangement come to between the parties. Therefore, such an acceptance ought not to be placed to the credit of the year 1881; and he wanted to know if the Government intended to apply this unnatural construction to the payment of arrears? His own opinion was that such a construction would be absurd, ridiculous, and grossly unjust; and he wanted a clear statement from the Government as to whether they contemplated any such possibility.
said, the question which had just been raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman had nothing whatever to do with the Amendment of 39 the noble Lord. The Amendment of the noble Lord raised a very small point in comparison with that raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and it was one upon which the Government had distinctly given their reasons for not accepting it. When they came to Subsection 3 the subject might be reopened.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he understood the Government to attach importance to the payment of rent in the year 1881, and his noble Friend's Amendment would carry out that object of the Government. Any person who had paid his rent in a good year like 1881, and had resisted the allurements of illegal organizations to keep it back, would be placed at a disadvantage by the Bill as it stood. In point of fact, those who had lent their aid to the discouragement of the schemes of the Land League would be deprived of all the benefit of the Act, and he gathered that it was the object of the Government to help those who had paid their rents and had resisted illegal organizations. If that really was the object of the Government, they ought to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. GIVAN
said, there was nothing in the clause to preclude arrangements such as that suggested as between landlord and tenant, or to deprive a landlord of his ordinary remedy. There was no really fixed time for the payment of rents on Irish estates; but there was a certain lax practice prevailing in regard to the payment of rents. No hard-and-fast line was drawn; but if they were not paid at the particular time when they were considered to be due the landlord had his ordinary remedy.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Givan) pointed out that the landlord would not be precluded from the employment of his ordinary remedy. Now, what did that mean? It meant that if a tenant did not pay the rent, he would receive notice to quit and be evicted. He thought it was the object of the Bill to stop evictions. Nevertheless, when he ventured to point out an unquestionable flaw in the 1st sub-section of the clause, and which he proposed to amend, the Government told him that it was a point of minor and secondary importance. He was aware that in the North of Ireland there was considerable anxiety as to the date of the payment of rent, but 40 his object was to prevent unnecessarily harsh steps being taken, and to make it perfectly clear to the tenant what the date was at which he must comply with one of the preliminary conditions of this section. He had proposed an Amendment last night giving ample time for this purpose—namely, about 10 months. This should be quite long enough a period to enable the tenant to satisfy the rent of the preceding year; but the Amendment he had proposed was not accepted, and, acting on the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, he now proposed to insert the words, "at the customary date." If, in consequence of the Government declining to make the obligation of the tenant perfectly clear, they forced the Government to take proceedings against the tenant with the view of enforcing payment or evicting him, the Government alone would be responsible for it.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he had followed the observations of the noble Lord, and thought he understood his meaning; but the noble Lord had described as the object of the Government that which was not their object at all. The noble Lord said the object of the Bill was to prevent evictions. The object of the Bill was not to prevent all evictions, but to prevent evictions for the non-payment of arrears of rent. That was the sole point at issue, and if they travelled beyond that they would be at sea.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
proposed an Amendment to provide that the payment of arrears should be a bonâ fide payment. He said he should have been glad if he could have proposed an Amendment last evening, substituting the word "paid" for the word "satisfied." He had been struck on considering Sub-section (a) by the fact that the language of the Government uniformly throughout the Bill was that the payment was to be made by the tenant; and, if lie remembered rightly, when the right hon. Gentleman opposite introduced the Bill, the payment of a year's rent by the tenant was made a condition precedent to his accepting the benefits of the Bill, and was relied upon as affording an important security before any 41 portion of the public funds were advanced. If that were so, it might have been expected that the language of the clause would run in this way, "that the rent payable in respect of the year has been paid;" but the word used was "satisfied," and not "paid." His noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton) had relied upon the use of the word "satisfied" by the Secretary of State for War in the discussion of last evening, and he had proposed to add to it the words, "at the customary date." When he looked at Sub-section 4, he found an interpretation there given of the word "satisfied." The sub-section said—A remission by the landlord of the whole, or any part of the rent, payable in respect of the year expiring as aforesaid shall be deemed to be a satisfaction of the amount of rent so remitted.Therefore, it was hold out to the owners and occupiers of the land that they had only to agree between themselves that no rent should be asked for or paid in respect of the year so expiring, and thereupon they would be in a condition to apply to the Government for the payment of the year's rent out of the public funds. If all he had heard as to the impecunious condition of these tenants were true, it was only reasonable to suppose, as was stated in a letter to The Times of that morning, that they were no more capable of paying a year's rent than they were of paying off the National Debt. If that were so, what was the use of this issue of public funds, which could be of no advantage either to the tenant or the landlord? He must say it seemed to him not only to render possible a collusive arrangement between the owner and occupier of a small tenancy, but really to invite such collusion, with the view of securing the payment of the public money in discharge of the arrears. For his own part, he had relied very much on the idea that by the issue of public money for wiping out the arrears, advantage might be conferred upon the tenants, and he entirely agreed with the view expressed by the Prime Minister yesterday, when the right hon. Gentleman complained of the mischievous practice of adding up arrears against the tenant from year to year, the tenant being entirely unable to pay the money due for the current year's rent out of that year's profits and receipts. He was quite 42 willing to consent to an Arrears Bill on the basis of getting rid of this objectionable practice, which was certainly not a practice adopted in England; but if the tenant were unable to pay any considerable portion of the year's rent, his business could not be considered a going concern, and it did not seem to him (Mr. Sclater-Booth) in any way expedient that the resources of the State should be ladled out for the support of such a person, or for the retention of his holding. He gathered from the speech which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), on a previous occasion, that this clause was to operate as a means of getting rid of hopeless arrears; but if it were really meant to relieve landlords by the use of public money, let them have it so stated, and they would know what they were about. He should object to anything of the sort, and he was curious to hear how the Government would justify the language of Subsection 4, which gave an interpretation of the word "satisfied." He now proposed to qualify that interpretation by adding the words,"bonâ fide payment." A bonâ fide payment was a difficult thing to define or describe; but the Commissioners, taking a common-sense view of the matter, would understand what was meant by a bonâ fide payment in respect of rent. The Commissioners would know directly whether it was merely an illusory payment, a nominal payment, or no payment at all, or whether it was a really bonâ fide payment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, at end of paragraph (a.), after "satisfied," insert "by a bona fide payment."—(Mr. Sclater-Booth.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, the right hon. Gentleman himself had referred to Sub-section 4 of the Bill, by which it was intended to explain what would constitute satisfaction. Why, then, import the consideration of the matter into an earlier portion of the clause, seeing that it was adverted to in a later portion? The right hon. Gentleman would see that to enter upon the discussion now would only confuse and prolong the labours of the Committee. He would only say at the present moment that it was 43 intended by the Government that the satisfaction should be a bonâ fide payment. He hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
thought the right hon. Gentleman was scarcely correct in saying that the Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Sclater-Booth) ought to be deferred until the 4th sub-section. If his right hon. Friend proposed subsequently to amend the 4th sub-section, and deferred the present Amendment until that sub-section was reached, he might be met at once with the statement that the point had been already practically settled by the Committee in passing the words now under consideration. That would be the natural conclusion at which everyone would arrive. His right hon. Friend wished to prevent a collusion between the landlord and the tenant by which the whole or any part of the rent due would be forgiven in order to enable the parties to obtain the funds granted by the State. He was afraid that the mouth of his right hon. Friend might be stopped if he did not press the Amendment now. The matter was one of immense importance, at whatever time the Amendment might be taken, and he ventured to say that the present was the proper time. What his right hon. Friend drew the attention of the Committee to was the fact that collusive transactions might be entered into between the parties, and the payment of rent might not be really a bonâ fide payment, but a transaction altogether behind the back of the Commission and of the taxpayer, and altogether outside the scope of the Bill, and that by means of such devices improper demands might be made upon the public purse. Surely, that was an important matter which should not be passed over by the Committee, and he trusted that it would be fully discussed at whatever might be considered the proper time.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, that all these Amendments had quite clearly one object, and that object was to defeat the intentions of the Bill. He should like to ask the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite who had taken part in the discussion, who was to be satisfied in this way? Was it not the man who ought to receive the money—namely, the landlord? Whether the landlord took only a proportion, or insisted upon his full right, was a matter which could 44 not concern anybody who wished really to protect the tenant. He wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth) whether he had considered this point, that if he insisted upon the tenant having made what he called a bonâ fide payment, he meant that that payment should be a substantial sum, because, if so, it would amount to the penalty of eviction upon 100,000 or 150,000 persons within the next few months in the West of Ireland. Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to encounter such a state of things? If he was so prepared, then he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) would say that the landlords and people who had to live in Ireland would not be able to live at peace with their neighbours. He therefore trusted that the Committee would not accept any of these Amendments, however simple they might appear at first sight, but that they would regard them as—what, in fact, they were—indirect attempts to defeat the Bill.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sclater-Booth) to take the advice of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), who stated last night that the word "satisfied" was the correct word.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that what he had stated was that the word "paid" or the word "satisfied" would be correct; and, personally, he did not think it unreasonable to allow the landlord voluntarily to make his own arrangements. If the landlord, with his eyes open with respect to particular arrears, desired to make an arrangement with his tenant he would leave him perfectly free to do so.
§ MR. BULWER
said, he had listened attentively to the discussion, and after the explanation of the word "satisfied" given by the Prime Minister, he thought the proper Amendment would be to insert the words, "has or has not been Satisfied.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he had no wish to divide the Committee on the Amendment if there was a general desire that it should not be pressed; but he would give Notice of an Amendment on the subject later on. He objected to the practice of allowing Amendments to stand over until a further stage of the Bill. There was nothing in the Amendment which, in his opinion, would pre- 45 vent the landlord from giving the tenant all or part of the rent; but what he contended was that transactions of a colourable nature ought not to be permitted for the purpose of obtaining from the Government a sum of money out of the public funds, and nothing had fallen from the Government to intimate that precautions would be taken to guard against such a proceeding.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. DILLON moved to insert, after the word "satisfied," the words "or that the holding is valued at not more than ton pounds a year." The object of this Amendment was to add to the preliminary application to the Commission proof that the tenancy was of the value of not more than £10 a-year, and the effect of it would be to enable a small class of tenants to obtain the benefit of the Act without having made any payment at all. He did not know that he had much chance of inducing the Government to accept the Amendment; but he would state why he was convinced that an Amendment of this character was absolutely necessary in order to make the Bill a success. In the first place, there were a number of holdings which this provision would apply to. There were an enormous number of holdings in Ireland of a value not exceeding £4, or £5, or £8 a-year, and he thought the Government ought to fix some value below which they would not enable the landlord to proceed for rent. The number of holdings which the Amendment would set free from the obligations of the clause would be about 200,000. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had stated that it was perfectly true that if any tenant of this class was required to make any substantial payment of rent in the West of Ireland, the Act would lead to the eviction of between 100,000 and 150,000 persons. He was satisfied that a great number of landlords would be prepared to act in the spirit of his Amendment—that was to say, that they would be perfectly content to take a year's rent from the Government now and another year's rent from the tenant in November, and be very glad to get it. Then, why should they leave it in the power of a man who was neither humane, nor reasonable, nor just to defeat the intentions of the Bill by evicting the poorest of his tenants? 46 There was not the slightest doubt that the vast number of landlords in Mayo and the West of Ireland would be extremely glad to take a year's rent from the Government now, and on that condition would let off their tenants from all arrears; but there were a certain number of men who had harassed the Government by their action during the last two years, and had made this Bill a necessity, because they were neither just, nor reasonable, nor humane. It was owing to the fact that the tenants of these men were utterly unable to pay or able to meet their landlords by any arrangement that the landlords might insist on their full right of evicting them. At least 50,000 persons would be at the mercy of the landlords, and would be left in such a position that the landlords might at once proceed to evict them. It had been truly said by the Prime Minister yesterday that if this Bill was anything at all it was a substantial financial boon to a great many of the landlords of Ireland; and, considering the amount of time which the Government had been compelled to waste on Irish questions, it was only fair to ask them even to sacrifice those men who were neither humane nor just. He believed that if this Amendment were not introduced into the Bill the measure itself would prove ineffectual, and the condition of affairs in Ireland would be exactly what it had been during the last two years, the poorer tenants being placed entirely at the mercy of men who neither cared for the Government nor for the tenants. The Amendment was intended to benefit the most wretched class of the population on Irish soil, and not to prevent them from emigrating. No scheme of emigration the Government could introduce would prove effectual. They could not touch the question of emigration until they were in the position to assure the Irish people that their emigration was not to be a forced emigration. When they could satisfy the Irish people that that was the case, they would find that many men would not be unwilling to emigrate. At present they only resisted all attempts that were made to drive them to emigration; and this Bill, with such an Amendment as this, might prepare the path for those who were desirous of introducing reasonable schemes of emigration. But, unless they protected the poorest class of the Irish people from that which they 47 dreaded.—namely, a forced deportation, the Government could not, and dare not, tolerate any scheme of emigration.
Before I put the Question, I wish to say that I have listened attentively to the remarks of the hon. Member, in order to see if I understood the meaning of the Amendment. As I understand it—but I may be wrong—the hon. Member intends this as a Proviso to exclude the tenants of under £10 from the operation of Sub-section (a,) in the Proviso that they shall not be bound to pay a year's rent.
§ MR. DILLON
said, it was an alternative to the conditions contained in the clause. He proposed to exclude tenants of under £10 from the obligation of satisfying the rent before they could obtain the benefit of the provisions of the Bill.
Do I understand that it is a Proviso that a certain class of persons shall not be bound to pay rent. If that be so, I do not think that the Amendment would be in Order.
§ MR. DILLON
said, that that was not the object of the Amendment; but its purpose was to make one of the preliminary conditions of the application to the Commission proof that the holding was valued at not more than £10 a-year.
In page 1, line 18, after "satisfied," insert "or that the holding is valued at not more than ten pounds a year."—(Mr. Dillon.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, that, of course, he fully accepted the ruling of the Chair in regard to the formal character of the Amendment; but he had no doubt the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) would be prepared to hear him say that the Government could not accede to it, and on more grounds than one. In his opinion, the Amendment would give the Bill the appearance of having been framed, contrary to the intentions of the Government, in a spirit of hostility towards the landlords, whereas they had declared otherwise, although he could not say 48 their declaration had had much effect on hon. Members on the other side of the House in regard to their reception of the Bill. They had endeavoured to found the Bill on principles of equity, and even of liberality, towards the landlords. [Cries of "Oh!"] He was sorry to hear that interruption; but he had arrived at the conclusion that there was no opinion, however innocent, that could be given by a Minister in his place, that was not liable to an interruption, such as, until within the last few years, was totally unknown in Parliament. He made that statement to the House for the information of those whom it might concern. The Government had endeavoured to balance together the various considerations, and to make the Bill operate with uniform fairness to all parties; but it was quite obvious, to take no other objection to it, that if indiscriminate indulgence were allowed to the tenants it would immensely increase the temptation which they had endeavoured to exclude as far as they possibly could—he did not say they had absolutely excluded it—namely, the temptation to the tenant to pretend inability to pay. For these reasons Her Majesty's Government could not accept the Amendment.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. VILLIERS-STUART
said, the Amendment he was about to move was introductory to his second Amendment on the next page of the Notice Paper, and the object of it was to eliminate from the Bill an element of injustice. The Prime Minister, on introducing the Bill to the House, had laid down the axiom that if the Bill was to be compulsory it must be just. That principle, he believed, would be at once accepted by every right-minded man. He was anxious to point out that the clause, as it stood without the Amendment which he proposed, would not carry out this principle. The Bill proposed to enforce the liquidation of arrears of the years 1878, 1879, and 1880. Of course, this was a very startling proposal, and the justification of that project lay in the exceptionally bad seasons and other circumstances connected with those three years. With regard to those particular arrears, it might be admitted that the argument was just; but he would point out that this justification would not extend to arrears antecedent to the year 49 1878, when there had been a series of good seasons. Now, unless the Bill was modified in the direction of his Amendment, a very great injustice would be done, and a large number of landlords, and especially to that class who were most deserving of consideration—namely, those who, in the midst of distress which existed in Ireland, on the appeal of the Government, had not pressed their claims upon the tenants, and increased the difficulty and embarrassment of the times. A certain number of landlords had responded to the appeal of the Government, and the consequence was that an amount of arrears antecedent to the period he had referred to remained unpaid. Now, he put it to the Committee whether, in consequence of those landlords having listened to the appeal of the Government, it was right that they should find the arrears in question entirely confiscated without any consideration whatever being shown them? He would for a moment stop to consider the ways in which many of those arrears had arisen. In some cases, the tenants would go to their landlords and say they had had to provide for the expense of emigration for some of the members of their family; another would say he had married off his daughters, and had to provide their portions; others had bought stocks, or had become security for their neighbours. It was upon grounds of this kind that the tenants applied to the landlords for further time for the payment of their rents. In consequence of these appeals, the landlord would not press for the rents, looking to the security of the tenant right. On almost every large estate in Ireland there was a certain amount of arrears antecedent to the years of distress. Well, when the years of distress came, those arrears were dealt with by landlords in different ways. There was the indulgent landlord, who refrained from pressing his claims, and there was the exacting landlord, who, even in the time of distress, showed no indulgence, and got his arrears paid by the tenants out of the money at the bank by the sale of stock or otherwise. Now, it was proposed by this Bill to give those landlords who so got their arrears an amount of compensation which, in their case, would be very fair. The Government offered them something like 5s. in the pound on the three years' arrears, which, no doubt, 50 they might fairly accept. But his complaint was that the same terms were offered to the landlords to whom he had referred as having refrained from pressing their claims at the request of the Government. If no modification were made in the direction of his Amendment, it would be simply saying to these landlords—"You have been allowing your antecedent arrears to remain over on the faith of the tenant right; that tenant right was a security which we ourselves pointed out to you as giving an additional security for arrears; but we shall now strike down that security: we will sponge out the arrears and declare the tenant whitewashed." The arrears, in fact, would be confiscated. Now, he put it to the Committee whether this was in accordance with the principle that, if this measure were to be compulsory, it must also be just? He would now take two classes of tenants—the thrifty, industrious tenant and the careless and thriftless tenant. With regard to the industrious tenant, he would be placed in this position—that, although he had strained every nerve to keep his tenant right free from incumbrance, if this Bill were left as it then stood, he would be in no better position than the man who drank away his money as fast as he could get it instead of paying his debts. That could not but have a demoralizing effect, and would certainly be a discouragement to industry, inasmuch as it would show the industrious tenant that all his self-denial and thrift had been exercised in vain, and that they were about to place his thriftless neighbour in as good a position as he was himself. He ventured to say that this was not in accordance with the principle laid down with reference to this Bill, and that the lesson which the landlord would learn from it was that he must never make any concession whatever to his tenants—that he must never meet their wishes for temporary accommodation by allowing his rents to stand over. The consequence of this would be that the rents would henceforth be exacted to the day. Now, he would point out that the landlords had been in the habit of charging no interest upon the rents allowed to stand over, and that was the reason why the tenants so much preferred to go to the landlord and ask time for payment rather than go to the bank and raise the money at a cost of from 6 to 10 per cent. It would 51 be a great disadvantage to the tenant if the kindly relations—if the practice on the part of indulgent landlords of considering the convenience of their tenants in giving them time—were to be brought to an end; and he hoped, therefore, that he might appeal to the Government to give a favourable consideration to the Amendment which he proposed. That Amendment would not impair the efficacy of the Bill so far as its main object was concerned, that object, as he understood it, being to check evictions. He did not propose to give the landlord power of eviction for these antecedent arrears; but he asked that they should be secured, and that the landlord should only derive any benefit from them when the tenant came to sell his interest. If that principle were adopted, it would remove another objection to the Bill—namely, its demoralizing effect, because the industrious tenant would be still in a better position than the tenant who allowed his tenant right to become incumbered. That surely was an important point, and upon it he felt very strongly. He had given his support to the Bill up to the present moment, but he could not sanction that which he believed to be injustice; and, therefore, unless some concession were made in the direction of the Amendment which he begged to move, he should be unable to give any further support to the Bill.
In page 1, line 19, after "rent," insert "which became payable subsequent to the last gale day of the tenancy in the year one thousand eight hundred and seventy-nine."—(Mr. Villiers-Stuart.)
§ Question proposed, That those words be there inserted."
said, he had listened with considerable interest to the speech of his hon. Friend, and he was bound to say that he had never listened to one which less persuaded him that the object of it could possibly be adopted by the Committee. The speech of his hon. Friend was interesting, inasmuch as it shadowed forth new matter in connection with the arrears in Ireland; and the Amendment which it introduced, when taken in connection with the other Amendment which the hon. Member had on the Paper, pointed to a method of dealing with a portion of the Irish difficulty. It had been carefully considered, 52 and, had it been earlier introduced, he thought the hon. Member might have found himself in consonance with a certain portion of the House; but it was impossible for the Amendment proposed now to be considered by the Government, because it undoubtedly struck at the principal object which the Government proposed to themselves in dealing with this matter. The point of the Amendment seemed to be to make the arrears of rent begin where the Government intended they should leave off. The Amendment proposed to make the arrears commence at the last gale day of 1879.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
The hon. Member proposed that the arrears of rent up to 1878 should come within the operation of this Bill, and that those before that period should not be wiped out, but should remain—a certain amount of them, at any rate—as a debt guaranteed by the tenant right, and which, when that tenant right was sold, should be paid to the landlord. The hon. Member said that the main object of the Bill was to check eviction. He admitted that that was one object of the Bill; but it was not the only object. Besides checking eviction, it was intended to give some hope to the tenant who had suffered during the bad years in Ireland, and some indication that he was a free man, and that in his hard life he was not to be entirely ground down. But the Amendment of the hon. Member would leave him under a heavy burden, which, when he desired to turn his tenant right into money for the benefit of his children at home, or their support in a new country, would reduce the value of that tenant right almost to nothing. Again, in principle he thought the hon. Member's proposal was untenable, because, if the Government once began paying arrears, he asked which arrears ought to be paid first? Surely, in all cases of debt the universal sense of mankind was in favour of a period of limitation; and it was invariably held that the new debt should be paid in preference to the old. To consider a debt of extremely long standing as of equal importance with one of recent date was obviously against all principle in the matter of accounts and liquida- 53 tion; and, certainly, to consider an old debt as an equally grave and serious matter as a more recent one was against all principles of legislation, whatever it might be with regard to the principles of morality. Again, this view of the case might also be defended upon the grounds of morality, because, if there was anything which could demoralize those relations which ought to exist between man and man, it was to encourage the idea that to allow long arrears to run up was a proceeding which could not be blamed from a moral point of view. The Government felt very much for those landlords who, in bad years, had remitted rents to their tenants; but they also considered that, taking the landlords of Ireland as a whole, the outstanding arrears were compulsory rather than voluntary. As a rule, they were unable to recover their rents to a very great extent during those bad years; and, therefore, the Government could not feel that, on the whole, they were doing an injustice to the landlords in Ireland. What the hon. Member said with regard to the industry and thrift on the part of some tenants very well deserved a hearing; and had the speech of the hon. Member been delivered on the second reading, he believed it would have constituted a powerful argument as directed against this Bill, and he had no doubt that the votes of some hon. Members would have been influenced in consequence. But on the present occasion he thought it would be hardly a logical and convenient method to adopt for hon. Members to vote in favour of an Amendment which would have the effect of wrecking the Bill. He hoped the hon. Member for Water-ford County would not press his Amendment to a division.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the most valuable possession of the tenant being secured. As he did not quite understand what this meant, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would kindly explain.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he referred to the tenant right. If the right hon. Gentleman would look forward on the Notice Paper he would see a very interesting and carefully drawn Amendment by the hon. Gentleman who had just moved, which would explain the meaning of his remarks.
§ MR. WARTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman had declared that the Amendment came too late; but he must remind the Committee that justice in this matter was of more importance than time. He thought this serious appeal on the part of the hon. Member for Waterford County had not been treated as it deserved. It was quite true that the speech of the hon. Member was of an interesting character; but there was something beyond that to be considered in connection with it, and it was that he himself was one of those indulgent landlords who had listened too readily to the various excuses put forward by his tenants for the purpose of gaining time, and it was because he was suffering from the effects of his own kindness that he now came forward to ask the Committee to consider this reasonable Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had spoken of the tenant parting with his possession. But who gave him that possession? Why, it was conferred on him last year by that House; and was it not simple justice that when property had been created for the tenants of Ireland out of the property of the landlords it should be charged with the payment of some portion of the antecedent arrears? He thought if justice was altogether to be dispensed with in the application of this measure, that appeals to justice should be abandoned once for all in defence of it.
§ Question put, and negatived.
said, that it had been stated by the Government on introducing this Bill, and by the supporters of the Bill itself, that it was intended to facilitate the working of the Land Act of last Session. He would point out to the Committee that the object of the Amendment he was about to move was to facilitate the working of this Bill when it passed into law. The Committee would see that there were certain preliminary stops to be taken by the Land Commission before this Bill would apply. For instance, they had to see that the rent payable in respect to the year 1881 had been satisfied, and that antecedent arrears of rent were due to the landlord. Now, he proposed that when the Land Commission had satisfied itself that those antecedent arrears were due to the landlord, the inquiry on 55 the part of the Land Commission should go no further—that the Land Commission should assume that the tenant was unable to discharge such antecedent arrears. He maintained that this assumption might be fairly made by the Land Commission. The Committee would notice that at the end of the 1st clause he proposed to add a Proviso that when the landlord should receive an intimation from the Land Commission that there was a certain sum available for him he should then have power, if he thought proper, to move the Land Commission to inquire into the financial condition of the tenant. He wanted to throw the onus of such a step entirely on the landlord. Nothing in the world was easier than to lay down principles which were true in the abstract, which had a fine logical sound, and which captivated the understanding through the ear. But they were bound to ask themselves whether everything relating to the case with which they wore dealing had been treated in accordance with strict principle? It was impossible to conceive any greater violence to the principles of political economy than resulted from the system of rack-renting which troubled Ireland; and he contended that in endeavouring to compensate for that injustice there was no violation of principle whatever. Why wore the Irish tenants in arrear? Was it because they were robbers, or because they were habitually lazy? For neither of these reasons. They were now in arrear owing to the combined influences of bad harvests and rack-renting. Rack-renting, he maintained, was the chief cause of their being in arrear, because, if their resources had not been impaired by years of unjust exaction, it was impossible to suppose that two, or three, or four years of bad harvests would have utterly destroyed those resources. In justification of the Amendment he was about to move, he wished to say that this system of rack-renting had been of long standing; it had existed there from time immemorial, and in the year 1790 an Irish nobleman, who was not particularly given to taking an indulgent view of his countrymen, used these words—I am very well acquainted with the Province of Minister, and I know that it is impossible for human wretchedness to exceed that of the miserable tenantry of that Province. I know that the unhappy tenantry are ground to powder by the rents they have to Pay56 Now, what was true of the tenantry of the Province of Munster in 1790 could be said with perfect truth of the tenantry of every Province in Ireland at the present time. Again, in the year 1836, he found Lord Derby, in the course of a debate upon the Irish Poor Law in that House, saying—He should have been most desirous of seeing a Bill introduced, by which the poor rate levied might have acted as an absolute cheek upon that which he held to be one of the greatest evils of Ireland, viz., the exorbitant rents fixed upon it. For now a landlord imposed a rent of 50s., knowing, at the same time, that he could not get more than 40s., but trusting to what he could screw out of the tenant, while the poor tenant, from the great competition for land, undertook to pay 50s., knowing well, at the same time, that he could pay no such sum.In fact, as Lord Derby said "elsewhere," the tenant had to pay the rent in some way, and, in consequence, he was obliged to live in a state of starvation. Again, in order to prove that rack-renting had come down to the present time, it was only necessary to turn to the decisions of the Land Commission, and to the reductions of rent which the landlords themselves were every day making to their tenants out of Court. Now, he contended that it was quite impossible for hon. Members in that Committee to free themselves from responsibility for the state of things which existed in Ireland. For years they and their predecessors had resisted all attempts to bring about a just settlement of the Land Question. They had supplied the Irish landlords with that physical force which enabled them to extort exorbitant rents from their unfortunate tenants. It was true that the law sanctioned rack-renting; but it did not follow that the Irish tenantry were obliged to accept that plea in satisfaction of all their claims for redress. Now, his object, as he had already pointed out, was to facilitate the working of this Bill, and he contended that all that the Land Commission ought to inquire into was, as to whether the tenant really owed his landlord antecedent arrears. Supposing the Land Commission decided to make payment to the tenant on behalf of the landlord, what did this miserable concession amount to when contrasted with the rack-renting of generations? He trusted the Government would agree to his proposal that the Court should merely in-onirointo the fact of the tenant's owing 57 money to the landlord. He was especially anxious upon this point, because he hoped they were about to have on the soil of Ireland a population to whom they could turn round and say that legislation had done for them all that legislation could possibly do. For these reasons, he hoped the Government would not make a stand upon a point which, in simple truth, had no foundation in justice.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 19, leave out all after "and," to "arrears," in line 21.—(The O'Donoghue.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
said, he was sure the hon. Member would see that the Government could not admit the Amendment he had just moved without departing from the elementary conditions of their proposal. If inability was to be proved, that inability was just matter for the cognizance of the public authorities, and it was not right that the Government should leave that matter entirely as between the landlord and the tenant, because, in cases where a tenant falsely professed inability, the landlord would be the main resource for showing that he was able to pay, for if the tenant were able to pay, the landlord would think he was not bound to make the sacrifice which this Bill called upon him to make. He was sure his hon. Friend must be convinced that all along he had not considered this matter from the most popular point of view. The Land Act of last year included this very condition—namely, proof by the tenant of his inability to pay; and he could not state too frankly that Her Majesty's Government would not take the responsibility of asking for the application of a public fund with the contingency of a grant from the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of discharging arrears which the tenant himself might be able to pay. It was the bounden duty of the Government to have the inability of the tenant to pay ascertained. He might also say that, although the very general inability of large masses of the smaller tenants in certain parts of Ireland to pay these arrears constituted the whole basis of the Bill, the mere fact of the existence of great arrears in Ireland would not justify it. The Government thought the 58 Bill justified, because, although there might a certain proportion of the tenants in arrears, yet there was a very large number of tenants unable to pay, and they felt that the line between ability and inability in this matter was one which ought to be maintained.
§ MR. MOORE
said, he thought that arrears ought to be blotted out once for all. He was, however, sure he could not move the House from the decision they had arrived at; but there appeared to prevail amongst hon. Members an opinion that there were to be two investigations. That, however, was not the case. But he thought they had a right to know what the character of the investigation was to be. He had no wish to create difficulties; but if the investigation was to be of a legal character, he was bound to say that it would prove to be another source of confusion and delay. If the Government were determined to have this investigation, which he regarded as a sham, and as placing a premium on dishonesty, he said they had a right to ask to whom—to how many Courts—it was to be delegated.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, that no provision had been made to meet what would amount almost to a certainty under this Act. Application would be made by the tenant, and a certain time would elapse during which the application would be considered; in the meantime great pressure would be put upon the tenant by all his other creditors to liquidate their claims, and, if necessary, to place him in a position to come under the Act by giving them the money upon which the landlord would otherwise have the first claim. It would soon become a notorious fact that in a short time he would receive a certain sum of money from the Government, and the shopkeepers and money-lenders would at once make demands upon him for their debts. Now, he submitted that a man who had money at the bank sufficient to discharge his liability to the landlord ought not to 59 claim a year's rent under the Act. In order to prevent this he begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, and sincerely trusted the Government would accede to it.
In page 1, line 20, after "tenant," insert "at the date of his application was and now."—(Mr. Brodrick.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, the hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to think the strongest reasons existed for the insertion of the Amendment he had just moved; but he was bound to confess that he did not see any reason to justify its acceptance. There were, no doubt, practical objections to the Bill, and some difficulties with regard to its operation, not the least of these latter being presented by the investigation to be made by the Land Commission. While the Government said the Bill was a necessity, they admitted that it would entail great labour, expense, and some delay. Now, it seemed to him that by the Amendment before the Committee the hon. Gentleman proposed to substitute two investigations for one. He proposed that the Court should be bound to ascertain at the time when the adjudication was made that the tenant was then unable to pay, and also to go back to a former date and examine as to whether any change had taken place in the circumstances of the tenant. The hon. Member must himself admit that this would constitute a large addition to the labour, delay, and expense of investigation. Again, he thought the case a most improbable one, in which there was likely to be abuse of the Act in the manner indicated. The hon. Member said the tenant might have money at the bank, which might be appropriated to the payment of debts to shopkeepers or moneylenders. But, supposing that money were appropriated to the payment of his lawful debts by the tenant, he was not prepared to say that such payment was such a sin on the part of the man as to disqualify him from receiving the benefit of the Act. What was really material was the man's inability to pay at the time the application was made. Her Majesty's Government wore willing that a proper investigation should be made; but they objected to add gratuitously to 60 the difficulties of working the Bill, which it appeared to him they would be doing by acceding to the hon. Member's proposal.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he thought the motive which actuated his hon. Friend in proposing this Amendment was one which deserved more consideration from the Government than, as he gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, it was likely to receive. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to draw a distinction—a rather unfair one in his opinion—between the lawful debts of the tenant and his debt to the landlord for arrears of rent. Now, he understood his hon. Friend to argue that a notice of application to the Court would, in fact, be notice to the creditors to come down on the unfortunate tenant for the purpose of squeezing him to the utmost for the whole of their debts, which at present the law considers as secondary to the debt due to the landlord; and that, when the Court decided the matter, the landlord would be the sufferer, because the money which ought to have paid the rent would then become applicable to the payment of debts of a secondary character. That was undoubtedly a hardship to the landlord, while, at the same time, the tenant was in no way benefited by it. He hoped there would be an opportunity of discussing the point raised by his hon. Friend at some time during the passage of the Bill through Committee. He thought, however, that the question as to when the investigation should be made—whether at the time of application or adjudication—was better raised by the Amendment of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin had given Notice; and, therefore, he suggested that the present Amendment should not be pressed.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he had no wish that the time of the Committee should be occupied in twice discussing the same question; and, therefore, he was willing to ask leave to withdraw his Amendment. But he wished to point out that the payment of the creditors other than the landlord would go on in the cases indicated in the face of those tenants who had paid their rents, and would constitute a premium on dishonesty which the right hon. Gentleman, he believed, never intended.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.61
§ MR. H. G. ALLEN
said, the object of the Amendment he was about to move was to make a distinction, so far as the benefit of the Bill was concerned, between the two classes of tenants mentioned a short time since by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Villiers Stuart)—the thrifty and industrious tenants, and those who spent their money as fast as they received it. He desired to make it clear that the former class were to be relieved from the effects of bad seasons, and that it was not intended to relieve the latter from their liability under circumstances such as had been referred to. He thought it clear that inability to pay was not alone a sufficient claim to a relief in its nature exceptional. Suppose a man, in consequence of dissolute and drunken habits, never were to sow seed in his ground. It was obvious that such a man would be "unable" to pay rent, still more unable to pay off arrears. Would it be contended that, for such a man, his arrears were to be discharged out of the taxation of the nation? Surely not.
In page 1, line 20, after the word "unable," to insert the words "by reason of failure of crops or disaster to stock, and without fault on his own part."—(Mr. H. G. Allen.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, he was afraid he must decline to accept this Amendment, on grounds which were the same as those which applied in the case of that which was last before the Committee—namely, that it proposed a very large extension indeed of the Amendment necessary to be made. It added largely and gravely to that difficulty, which was the main difficulty of the Bill—that was to say, the ascertaining of the tenant's inability to pay, a difficulty which the Government had encountered for the most serious moral and social reasons. But he could see no ground why those moral and social reasons should carry them so far as to adopt the words proposed by his hon. Friend. Now, there was no doubt of the fact that with regard to the great bulk of those whose cases this Bill would include, they were unable to pay owing to the failure of crops or disasters to stock, or other causes beyond their control. He quite agreed with his hon. 62 Friend that it would be an excellent thing to exclude the drunkard, the unthrifty, and worthless fellow from the benefit of many Acts of Parliament; but it was hardly in the power of the Legislature to do it, and it was not very important that it should be done in a case of this kind; because the cases of persons who had ruined themselves from excess were quite exceptional, and the process of distinguishing and separating would be such that the labour entailed by the invidious nature, and the whole character of the investigation, would far more than outweigh the infinitesimal advantage to be derived from it.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, no doubt it was an important fact that some inquiry was to be made under the provisions of the Bill. There must be investigation if the Government were to justify themselves in the face of those who looked after the interest of the taxpayers. And, inquiry being necessary, however inconvenient, in the name of common sense, let it be a real and not a sham inquiry. If the Government intended that this money was to be had simply for the asking, they might as well enact that everybody who applied for it was unable to pay. The Amendment before the Committee said that the incapacity to pay should be by reason of the two points stated; but the Prime Minister had gone beyond them altogether, and his remarks had led him into a series of considerations that might be very well aired before a Social Science Congress, but which had nothing whatever to do with the Amendment before the Committee. The hon. Member who introduced the Amendment never suggested that it should be inquired into whether a man was moral in his habits, or whether he was reduced to present distress by drunkenness. For his own part, he considered the Amendment dealt with subjects that might very well be the subject of inquiry on the part of the Land Commission, and he thought it should be seriously and gravely treated by the Committee. They could not, in considering this Bill, and the circumstances under which it was presented, ignore what had been going on in Ireland for the last 18 months, and what was still going on there. It was no good to shut their eyes and pretend not to see what everyone outside the House saw very well. Everyone admitted that there ought to be discri- 63 mination with regard to the circumstances and position of the applicants under this Act. Some tenants, owing to the failure of crops, disasters to stock, and without any fault on their own part, were entitled to receive every sympathy; and if any just and wise measure were proposed to relieve them from arrears, and keep them in possession of their farms, it ought to receive fair consideration. But there were other tenants who had had no failure of crops or disasters to stock, but who, with distinct fault on their own part, had hearkened to the teachings of the Land League; and he contended that these men ought not to he allowed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the innocent tenants to participate in the national largesse. Therefore, he said, whether it was convenient or inconvenient, it was necessary that this should be a real inquiry; that the Commissioners should satisfy themselves, as they could do by inquiry carried on in the neighbourhood, whether the people who applied were those who had abstained from paying rent in obedience to the "no rent" manifesto, or whether they were of the class who had formerly paid their rents from gale day to gale day, and who, in recent years, from real or pretended terror, or sympathy, joined the League, refused to pay, and fell into arrears in consequence. Was it to be tolerated or suggested that tenants of that class had the same right to the relief afforded by this Bill as the tenants who had fallen into arrears in consequence of the failure of crops, or disasters to stock, and without fault of their own? If the inquiry were to be real and such as the taxpayers of the country had a right to expect, he ventured to say that the topics suggested by the Amendment ought to be considered and judged of by the Committee. Words something similar to these were submitted to the judgment of the House by the Government in the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. It was admitted, of course, that the process would occupy some time, and the exercise of some discretion on the part of the tribunal; but it was considered that the relief proposed should not be given without consideration of the circumstances under which the inability to pay had arisen. Was it not fair that the Land Commission should consider, not 64 only whether the applicant was unable to pay, but whether he was unable to pay honestly, from no fault of his own, or dishonestly, because he had united himself with a criminal agitation, and from that time refused to carry out the obligations which previously he had reasonably and fairly endeavoured to discharge? If some safeguard of the kind proposed were not put into the Bill it would be both unjust and demoralizing. Could anyone conceive, in the wildest stretch of imagination, more demoralizing teaching than to say to a man—"You deliberately did not pay your debts, not because you could not do so, but because you thought you could evade the law under the œgis of criminal terrorism to which you wilfully bowed your head; but having fallen into arrears in. consequence, we will now come in and help you, equally with the honest man, and while there are some classes to be helped who are poor, courageous, and honest, you will also be assisted who have been dishonest and cowardly?" If this were to be a real inquiry—one that would satisfy the public, must not some discrimination be shown with regard to these different classes of applicants? The only mode which had been suggested of arriving at that end was that contained in the Amendment before the Committee. If the Government could indicate some other means of discriminating between the two classes of tenants referred to, he would be ready to consider it; but, in the absence of any better proposal, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Pembroke.
said, the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed only to be quarrelling with words, because he did not entirely approve of the Amendment before the Committee in its present form. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said if the Government did not approve the words they should alter the Amendment. But he (Mr. Gladstone) had stated his objection to the Amendment in the words in which it was expressed, and those were words which imposed two conditions—one being that the inability should arise by reason of the failure of crops or disasters to stock; the other, that there should be no fault on the part of the applicant. He had pointed out that it was inexpedient in the highest degree to in- 65 sist that the tenant's inability should be without fault on his own part, and in doing so he had referred to the case where the moral conduct of a man had reduced him to destitution. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said the Government had not proposed anything which he approved for dealing with this matter; but, if that were so, why did not he put forward a suggestion of his own? The right hon. and learned Gentleman was clearly supporting an Amendment which he did not approve. Again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman throughout his speech had frequently used the expression—"If there is to be a real inquiry." But the Amendment had nothing to do with the reality of the inquiry; it had to do with its scope and intent only. The inquiry into the tenant's inability was a real inquiry, quite apart from the question whether or not they were to examine into the cause. He believed the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not dispute that, and, if so, it justified him in putting aside the portion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech which referred to the reality of the inquiry. And now he must point out that the right hon. and learned Gentleman went a little further. The right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted there was to be no inquiry into morality, so that the drunkard and thief, or the drunken fellow generally, was to have no difficulty placed in his way. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had said let them enact on the face of the Bill that which they really meant to enact. If he (Mr. Gladstone) understood him rightly, what the right hon. and learned Gentleman meant was, that the man who was really unable to pay his rent at the time of the investigation, but who was at one time able to pay, and did not pay, owing to the instigation of the Land League, ought to be excluded from the benefit of this Act. He had endeavoured to understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and that was what he understood him to mean. He thought he was quite correct, for the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted of no other conclusion. He could only observe, that if that had better appear on the face of the Bill, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had better move a Proviso, which it was quite easy to suggest, providing that in case it should ap- 66 pear that a man, unable to discharge these arrears——
asked why, in that case, the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not wait until his own Amendment came up, instead of wasting his animated advocacy on an Amendment of which he did not approve? He would not hesitate to go great lengths with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in condemning the conduct of that class of people who held their harvests, or kept their rents in their pockets when they were able to pay them, under any instigation whatever. But even with regard to those he would draw some distinction which the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not draw, because many of the people acted under terror; and if he (Mr. Gladstone) could separate those who acted under terror and those who proceeded wilfully, he might go a long way with the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. After what he (Mr. Gladstone) had said, and after what the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself (Mr. Gibson) seemed to admit, it was evident that they ought not to proceed by the acceptance of the words now before them.
§ COLONEL BARNE
said, that this clause was really a premium to idleness. Suppose some idle tenants did nothing but stand about with their hands in their pockets, like many of the "corner boys"—which he thought men who loitered about street corners were called—suppose they came to the Land Commissioners, and said, "they had got no money, and they had got a holding for which they were unable to pay rent," were the taxpayers of Great Britain to put their hands into their pockets and pay taxes towards the idleness of those men? It appeared to him (Colonel Barne) that some Amendment of this sort was necessary to avoid that contingency. The words at the end of the Amendment of the hon. Member (Mr. H. Allen),"and without fault on his own part," would entirely cover that contingency, and it seemed to him the Amendment ought to be accepted by the Committee. He trusted the hon. Member would press his Amendment, which should certainly receive his (Colonel Barne's) support.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, they must assume that the Land Commis- 67 sioners would exercise common sense in the discharge of their duties, and if they found a gross case of fraud, they would not find it necessary to make an advance. Under the circumstances, he could not think that the Amendment was necessary.
said, he had listened to the two speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister; but he had not heard the right hon. Gentleman use one argument, or give one reason, against the Amendment. he spoke of the extent and scope of the inquiry, but he urged no valid argument against the Amendment as a whole. If the Amendment was not accepted, or some qualification put in in regard to the man unable to pay rent, the Committee would find themselves in rather a strange position. Suppose for a moment a man was unable to pay his rent, although he had met with no failure of crops and had not suffered any disaster to stock, and there had been no fault on his own part. What was the natural con-elusion? He had had a fortunate time and good seasons, and still he was unable to pay. It was evident he was living in a holding for which he could never pay rent even under the most favourable circumstances. He thought that such a qualification as was now proposed was absolutely necessary in the clause to prevent cases of fraud arising.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the hon. Member who spoke last had gone a little beyond the subject which was immediately before the Committee. The main point which the Committee would be interested in deciding was this, whether those who had held the harvest should be entitled or not to the boon which was going to be conferred. He thought this was a fair issue which was raised by the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Allen). Would the Government be disposed, if it were possible to find language to express it clearly, to insert a provision that those who by any wilful default of their own found themselves now unable to pay their debts, should not be entitled to this great boon? He would suggest the adoption of some words of this kind—that those "who were unable by failure of crops and not by any wilful default of their own." He had no particular liking for those words, and he would be perfectly satisfied if the Government would accept the principle 68 of his suggestion, and say that they would consider the point. He believed that the words "wilful default" would guard against the terrorism of which the Prime Minister had spoken.
§ MR. DILLON
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had talked about men holding the harvest, and other hon. Members had spoken about the instigation of the Land League in regard to the holding of the harvest. When, however, did the Land League tell the Irish people to hold the harvest? Why, they told them to do so in 1880, after the famine—after the Members of the House of Commons had voted public money to feed the Irish people and kept them from starvation. They advised the people to hold the harvest in 1880, when this House had acknowledged, and the English public had acknowledged, that in large districts for months and months, thousands and thousands of families—he might almost say hundreds of thousands of families—were living on a few pence a-day. That was the occasion on which the Land League told the people to hold the harvest. What did men mean when they talked about this Bill coming to the help of people who had not paid their rents in consequence of the advice of the Land League? If hon. Members would recollect, they must know that the Land League never advised any tenants in Ireland not to pay their rents until last autumn. According to the provision of this Bill the tenant must have paid his rent on the last gale day, 1881, and, certainly, at that time, the Land League had not advised any tenant not to pay rent, and it had not, as it had now, spread its influence throughout Ireland. It was perfectly absurd—and it was only spoken in ignorance—to talk about the Land League either terrorizing the people or advising them not to pay their rents previous to the year 1881. It was in the autumn of 1881 that they told the tenants not to pay their rents, and it was only then for the first time that such a charge was made against the Land League. As he understood the Bill, before any tenant could claim any advantage under it, he must have satisfied the landlord in respect of the rent of the year 1881, and, therefore, it was of no avail to say that people had acted upon the instigation of the Land League.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS BEACH
said, he did not think the Committee would accept the assurance of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), that there was no wilful non-payment of rent in Ireland before the date to which the Bill applied. It appeared to him (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) that there was great force in the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), and therefore he would venture to move an Amendment on the Amendment now before the Committee, in order to carry the suggestion into effect. Instead of the word "fault," in the second line of the Amendment, he would move to insert the words "wilful default." The Amendment would then read—' "by reason of failure of crops or disaster to stock, and without wilful default on his own part," and he thought it was one which might fairly be accepted by Her Majesty's Government, as really containing, both in its spirit and in its letter, what hitherto they had always understood to be the intention of the Government by this Bill.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out the word "fault," in order to insert the words "wilful default,"—(Sir Michael Hichs-Beach,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the word" fault "stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ DR. LYONS
trusted the Government, even on the recommendation of so important a Member as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), and also on the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), would not consent to turn the Bill into a system of Political inquisition. Nothing could be more certain to defeat the object of the Bill and more sure to raise up fresh agitation of a violent kind than the adoption of the principle of retrospective action with any semblance of vengeance. He was not here to defend in any manner the action of the Land League. He had openly denounced the "no rent" manifesto, and he did not intend to defend the Gentlemen who had taken a violent course in Ireland during the last two or three years. He regretted their action exceedingly; but to attempt to introduce into the Bill the principle of retrospective 70 vengeance upon the unfortunate victims of that agitation would be utterly disastrous. The great object of this Bill, if it had any political or social object at all, was that it should act as a healing measure throughout the country. He did not believe it had been framed in the best and wisest way; but still the Government were entitled to great credit for having attempted to deal with a great Irish question in the way which to them seemed best for the country. He maintained that the chief object was to inquire whether any individual tenant, who came forward to claim relief, was actually, at the time he claimed relief, unable to pay his rent. This was really the main and sole issue before them, and to attempt to mix up any other question with this would be to utterly wreck the Bill. What would be the effect if they omitted a large number of people from the benefits of the Bill? He quite agreed with what the Prime Minister had said, that a great number of persons did not pay their rents because of terror; but what became of the money in the meantime was an entirely different question. It was quite proper that a close inquiry should be made whether the tenant had now got the money or not. Many of them had misspent the money, and it was not now forthcoming. That was another question. Were the Committee to leave any considerable number of men, who were technically entitled to relief under the Bill, out in the cold? If they were left out in the cold what would become of them? They would become a prey to agitation, and feelings would arise of the most violent and unfortunate kind. He trusted the Government would stand firm on the proposal now before them, and not yield to the representation of even so important a Member as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen).
said, he must point out that it was quite impossible to dispose of this question satisfactorily at the present moment, and upon the present Amendment. He had come down to the House prepared to discuss any Amendment that had been before them, and, amongst others, to discuss the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, the junior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson); but a question had been raised of con- 71 siderable importance and of the utmost delicacy, in respect to which he should be exceeding his discretion if he attempted to give an opinion without consulting his Colleagues. Although the question might not be one of very large operation, yet the principle involved was one of extreme difficulty; and he would also observe that it was not properly before them now. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman did not bring it properly before them, because he still left in the Bill a double condition—a condition that there should have been no failure of crops or disaster to stock, and no wilful default on the part of the tenant. The Act of 1880 offered no precedent whatever on this matter. It was an Act fully in favour of the tenant—a one-sided Act—upon the necessity of the case undoubtedly in favour of the tenant, and without any sort of compensation or consideration to the landlord. The fact that Parliament thought it necessary to limit that to failure of crops was no proof that this ought to be limited to failure of crops. Supposing it had been due to harvest employment in England, these words would prevent any relief being offered the tenant. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman would see that the question was really one deserving of the most serious examination, and that it was not fairly raised by the Amendment, oven with the improvements the right hon. Gentleman had introduced in it. He hoped they would be allowed to dispose of it now, and deal with the question in another form.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he thought his duty to his constituents obliged him to insist upon this question being discussed and decided at the present stage of the Bill. What was it they were asked to do, if the Government would not provide that wilful default in the payment of rent should not be included in the term inability under the Bill? What was it they were likely to find themselves compelled to do, when the Bill was interpreted by the tribunals to which it had to be referred? Just this, and nothing else—that the money of the loyal taxpayers of Great Britain and Ireland would be given to those whose debts to their landlords were due, not to poverty, but to the fact that they had been members of a criminal organization. The right hon. Gen- 72 tleman had told the Committee that this was a matter that it was necessary for him to consider with his Colleagues before he could decide how it should be dealt with in this Bill. Why, was it possible that Her Majesty's Government had brought in this measure without full consideration and without the knowledge that this question would arise? If the Government had listened to any one of the speeches which had been made on the second reading of the Bill, or on the Motion to go into Committee, they must have recognized throughout those speeches a dread on the part of Members on both sides of the House that the Bill might be so interpreted as to bring about a result which he should have supposed Her Majesty's Government and the whole House, except some hon. Members sitting below the Gangway, would entirely disapprove. It was absolutely necessary that they should have some definition of inability inserted in this clause of the Bill; and if Her Majesty's Government did not approve of the words now before them, he would ask them to suggest some other words that would guard them from what they dreaded. They had an example before them which none of them ought to forget of what could be done by legislation of this kind, in which the interpretation of a Statute was left to the discretion of a Court without any rules for its guidance. Did anybody suppose when the Land Act of last Session was passing through Parliament that the section of that Act relating to the fixing of fair rents would be interpreted as it had been? Would anyone assert that this Act would have become law in the shape in which it did become law; that it would even have passed through that House in its present incomplete form, if there had been the slightest idea that it would have been thus interpreted in a manner contrary to the express declarations of Members of Her Majesty's Government, who said there was no risk of the results which were now found to have taken place? And now they were told by the right hon. Gentleman, when it was asked that the benefits of this Bill should be denied to members of the Land League, or to those who had been willing coadjutors of the Land League, that the question was one which required great consideration. The right hon. Gentle- 73 man did not even tell them that he would take care that this Bill should not be interpreted in their favour; and yet he pressed this Committee to pass a clause which might have in its present shape such an effect as he had described, with no further declaration of opinion on his (the Prime Minister's) part than that this question merited the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman had said that, after all, the words of the Amendment did not cover every case.
I beg your pardon; I did not say so. I said they covered a great deal more than they ought to cover.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he had misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, who had, however, said that the words of the Bill of 1880 would not include the case of persons whose misfortune had resulted from the failure of employment in England, and, therefore, would not in themselves be perfect. Surely such a question as the precise words of a definition might, if necessary, be very well again entertained on Report. But he did hope they would not part with the question of principle now unless something definite was arrived at; and that now they saw how true it was that the Government had adopted the measures of hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Irish Benches below the Gangway, they would take care that, at any rate, this Bill should not pass the House of Commons in its present shape as a measure which commended itself to the British Parliament.
said, he must say he was rather surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, who had discussed the matter in a temper in which it had not been discussed in the House before. He (Mr. Gladstone) did not understand why all this heat should be imported into a discussion. He was not aware of having said anything or having suggested anything to justify it. He had simply said that the question which was raised by the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was a question that was not upon the Paper, nor among the Amendments standing on the Paper for discussion to-day; that it was a matter of such importance and delicacy that he desired to have the opportunity of considering it before he ventured to 74 give the views of the Government upon it. The right hon. Gentleman opposite then rose in great heat, and said that because he (Mr. Gladstone) had asked for time to consider the question, which he regarded as of great delieacy and importance, and which was not placed before them by the Amendment—that because he asked for time and the power of consulting with his Colleagues before he gave a final judgment, it was plain he had done nothing but accept the dictation of the Land League. Was not that speaking with heat? His right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) referred to the matter in a totally different spirit. He said that it was, in his opinion, right that those whose inability to pay their rents had arisen from wilful default on their own part, should be punished for that wilful default by exclusion from the benefits of the Act. To introduce anything final in the operation of a measure of this kind was a serious matter, and that was all he (Mr. Gladstone) stated, and, being a serious matter, he asked the House to give him the power of considering it. That was the offence which had drawn down upon him the condemnation of the right hon. Gentleman; but he must bear it as he best could. It was quite true that the question had never occurred to him and his Colleagues; it had not occurred to him in considering the numerous points of difficulty that wore connected with the framing of this Bill—it had never occurred to them to examine the question whether it was worth while to introduce such words as were now proposed; but he had told the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) that he perfectly agreed with him as to the view which was to be taken of the offence of those who wilfully withheld their rents when they were able to pay them. The Executive had done their best to make those people pay their rents. He had shown conclusive reasons why they should not require as a condition of receiving relief that the parties should prove that their distress had arisen by reason of failure of crops or disaster to stock. And the right hon. Gentleman invited him to put this into the Bill, in order to strike it out on Report. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: No, no!] What was the proposal? The proposal was that they should adopt the Amend- 75 ment as it stood, and consider it further on Report.
said, the right hon. Gentleman told them it was a matter for further consideration, and yet when he (Mr. Gladstone) wanted time for further consideration, the right hon. Gentleman would not give it to him. It was plain that the right hon. Gentleman insisted that he (Mr. Gladstone) should adopt a variety of mischievous words, in order that he might reconsider them on Report. He was not inclined to introduce into the Bill that no inability should be taken into consideration unless it was by reason of failure of crops or disaster to stock, because, although this would be, no doubt, the general description of a vast number of cases of inability to pay rent, there would be a great number of cases of inability arising from other causes which would thereby be excluded. He, therefore, wanted time to consider the Amendment fully; and certainly if he was not fit to be trusted upon a point of this kind, it was plain that he was not fitted for any of those functions which had been placed in his hands.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, the position which the Prime Minister took up was really a very extraordinary and a very embarrassing one. He could not understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant by saying that this was a point which had only just been brought before them, and that there was no Notice on the Paper. It was, of course, conceivable that in the midst of other occupations the right hon. Gentleman might not have paid full attention to the Notices that had been given on the Paper, and might not have studied what their exact meaning was; but that was no reason why the right hon. Gentleman should interpose to prevent the Committee, who were acquainted with and who did understand the point, discussing with freedom the very important suggestion which was contained in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. H. Allen), and of deciding upon it now. The precise wording of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman was, perhaps, open to some question, and was open to further discussion on Report, if necessary; but the 76 principle upon which the hon. Member's Amendment was founded appeared to be one that was perfectly clear to anybody who took the trouble to consider what it meant. They knew perfectly well that from the beginning of all those questions with regard to compensation or the remission of arrears which they had had before them, one of the most difficult points was what was meant by inability. And it was evident from the state of the Notice Paper that many hon. Members had felt that it was impossible to leave this matter entirely loose, and to be decided according to the discretion of a tribunal—the composition of which they did not know, but with regard to which they certainly felt some slight uneasines. The hon. Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. H. Allen) tried to grapple with this difficulty; and he placed upon the Paper a proposition affirming that it should be proved that inability to pay had arisen by reason of certain failures, and through no fault of the tenant himself. It might be that the hon. Member had not enumerated all the causes of failure which ought to be taken into account. That was very possible; and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had suggested one which ought to be enumerated. There might even be others, which might be suggested in Committee, or which might be suggested at a later stage of the Bill; but that part of the hon. Member's Amendment was wholly distinct from the second part of it—namely, that there should be no fault on the part of the tenant himself. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that those words had no meaning in them at all? Was it possible that anybody could read those words without recognizing their meaning or their object?
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that, of course, he was in a difficulty owing to his being absent from the House when the Prime Minister was speaking; but what he understood was that the right hon. Gentleman did not appear to comprehend fully the purport and meaning of the words which were on the Paper, because he said fault on the part of the tenant might imply bad and intemperate habits, or slovenly farming, or many other things. The Committee 77 had those words before them, and they could judge as well as the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. H. Allen) or anybody else what those words covered. Fault on the part of the tenant might consist in carelessness or drunkenness, and the like, and these causes must be taken into consideration; the words must also cover the fault of a tenant wasting his money or employing it to improper uses, and they must cover the case of the man who had dissipated his means by attracting to himself those associations which had the art of extracting a good deal of money from his pocket. But "without fault on his part" was a point which undoubtedly covered the case which was put by the Amendment that had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen); and whether it was upon the face of the Amendment or not, it was a point which must have occurred, and which certainly ought to have occurred, to Her Majesty's Government when they were framing this Bill. Was this meant to be a boon given to those who had taken no active part in the "no rent" movement, or was it not? If it was not intended to be a boon to them, it was quite reasonable and proper that the Bill should contain a provision excluding such persons from its benefits. It was not proposed to fine them, but it was only proposed to exclude them from the benefits which were to be given at the expense of other people. Who were those other people? They were, in the first place, the landlords, and, in the second place, the taxpayers of this country. He thought nothing could be more unjustifiable than that the Government should bring in a Bill of this character involving such a very novel proposition as this Bill did, without having considered the question now under discussion. The question was now, at all events, well before them; they had the means of pronouncing an opinion upon it; and if the Government thought it necessary at a later stage to make any further condition to clear up the point which was raised by the first part of the hon. Member's Amendment, they would be perfectly able to do so. It did seem to him that they were in a position now to decide the question of wilful default, and, being in that position, there was no reason whatever why a decision should not be arrived at.
§ MR. HUGH SHIELD
said, that if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford North-cote) was anxious to take a division now, he (Mr. H. Shield) was prepared to state his opinions strongly as to the unadvisability of adopting the Amendment either in its original or present, shape. By common consent an inquiry was to be made as to the circumstances of a man before he was entitled to relief under the Bill. That inquiry was to be as to his ability or otherwise to pay, and the man who came out of that inquiry successfully would come out with a certificate that he was unable to pay. What hon. Members opposite seemed to require was that if a man came out of the inquiry successfully he should come out with a certificate not only that he was not able to pay, but with a certificate of good conduct in times past, and especially that he had not hearkened to the teachings of the Land League. He did not think that such a process as that would facilitate at all the progress of the Bill. He understood the right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) to positively reprove the Prime Minister because he did not discover in the words "fault on his own part," that there might be involved in those words that reprobation of the Land League to which this House was so ready to give expression. The reproach of the right hon. Baronet was wholly unfounded. His hon. Friend (Mr. H. Allen) expounded his own Amendment, and had said not one word about the Land League; he was desirous that the men who were unable to pay their rent through failure of crops or a disaster to stock, or through no fault of their own, should receive the boon which the Bill conferred; but his hon. Friend—and he honoured him for it—did not allow himself to travel into those regions of heat into which the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) so readily plunged, and into which he was anxious to drag the Committee after him. He might encourage the right hon. Baronet and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), whose object plainly was that the men who had belonged to the Land League should not be benefited by the Bill-—he might encourage them to think that this was already provided for, 79 for if the men had hearkened to the teachings of the Land League, what was the lesson that had been taught them?—"Don't pay your rent." If they had hearkened to that while they had money in their pocket, and the fact could he ascertained, their inability to pay their rent would be at once disproved, and they would be denied all share in the benefits of the Bill. He thought the Committee would do well to limit the inquiry. It was proper to inquire if a man had any money in the hank which he had not disclosed, or whether he had other means which he had secreted; such inquiries were perfectly relevant; but he did not think they ought to inquire whether a man had hearkened to the teachings of the Land League or not, as such an inquiry would not be only irrelevant, but grossly mischievous.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he would not interfere if he thought he stood in the way of a division; but as he saw there wore several hon. Gentlemen disposed to consider the matter a little further, perhaps he might be permitted to address a few words to the Committee upon the Amendment. He objected to the Amendment, because he was anxious, like the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), that there should be a real and full inquiry, and his objection to the Amendment was based upon the ground that the words of the Amendment would fetter the decision of the Court, and, instead of ex-tending, would narrow the character of the inquiry, and it was for that reason that it specified certain legitimate causes for the non-payment of rent, but did not exhaust, according to the impression of the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Conservative Opposition, the number of legitimate causes for the non-payment of rent. In what position was the Committee at the present time? It was, first of all, in this position, that it was asked to pass an Amendment ostensibly for the purpose of making an inquiry into the inability of the tenant to pay—for the purpose of making a real and full inquiry, and the acceptance of the Amendment that was presented to them on those grounds would defeat its own purpose. He thought the Committee would do well to recognize the scope of the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. 80 Goschen). He was in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, because it really meant what it said, and it would carry out in the fullest and best manner the professed object of hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon laid down a very simple proposition—namely, that the tenant who had failed to pay his rent by wilful default should not be entitled to the benefits of this Bill. He would like to ask the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach"), who moved the Amendment on the Amendment, whether he wished to exclude from the benefits of the Bill a tenant of any other class? The suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had been substantially agreed to by the Prime Minister. [Criea of "No, no!"] He understood the Prime Minister to say that he would insert some such provision in the Bill. ["No!"] He certainly understood the Prime Minister to say that he deemed the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman worthy of mature examination; and he was not prepared at the present time to state any objection to it. He might have drawn a wrong inference from the declaration of the Prime Minister, who distinctly objected to put in the words" failure of crops and disaster to stock, "or to enumerate the legitimate causes for the non-payment of rent. That being so, it seemed to him to be a waste of time to discuss the matter further. It seemed to him they were invited to carry on a discussion when the Leaders of both sides were not really decided as to the point in dispute; and he would, therefore, respectfully suggest that they should come at once to a decision on this question, or that the Amendment should be withdrawn, on the understanding that, at a later stage, the Government would declare its decision in refer-once to the suggestion made to the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen).
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the Government had stated that they were willing to consider this matter, and, therefore, those who were really anxious that a clause of this kind should be inserted, and receive the full consideration of the Government, could not desire that a division should be taken on the question now. It appeared to him that the great 81 anxiety for a division was out of place when the Government were unable to state to their followers what view they would ultimately take; and, in his (Mr. Goschen's) opinion, great prejudice was often done to the object of an Amendment by forcing a division when a portion of the House preferred to have it deferred.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he quite agreed with his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen) that it would be well to await the final decision of the Government; but he confessed he saw immense difficult}' in the way of carrying out the proposal which his right hon. Friend had made. He understood that the main question before them was, whether they should introduce in this sub-section words to the effect that the tenant was unable, from wilful default on his own part, to discharge the antecedent arrears. What did this really mean? The antecedent arrears were arrears that were due before November, 1880. Well, this surely meant that the Commissioners, in order to be satisfied that the man was unable to pay his antecedent arrears, was to go back to the history of the year expiring in 1880. He believed it would be almost impossible to do that; and he believed that if they attempted to do it, they would provoke an amount of ill-feeling, and probably of hard swearing, that would make it absolutely impracticable to hold the inquiry. The object of those who were supporting the Amendment was to meet the case of those tenants who would have been able to pay their rents if they had not listened to the teachings of the Land League, and who, having spent the money, were now unable to pay. He presumed that was their object. To a very great extent it was not in many cases that those persons existed, because the successful teaching of the Land League not to pay rent and to hold the harvest applied to rent that was due after that time; and, therefore, the question was not a very practical one. No one who knew the condition of the parishes in Ireland could suppose that gentlemen could be sent out who could be able, with a degree of thoroughness, to go into an inquiry of the exact condition of affairs in 1880. He stated, when he troubled the House on the second reading of this Bill, that he thought that what happened in the course of the spring of this 82 year had very much diminished the danger which they all acknowledged existed in that measure. He believed that most people who were able to pay rent had paid it. In some cases the people had felt they dare not pay it, and the Committee had now to deal with the arrears of persons who were really unable to pay. To attempt an inquiry as to how they became unable to pay the antecedent arrears would be almost impossible, because now so much time had elapsed. If the inquiry were to be made into the circumstances of the present year, the thing would be very different. He believed that on inquiry it would be found that many of the people of Connaught and Mayo were unable to pay the arrears because they could not get employment. How did those people pay their rack rents? Not out of the produce of their own soil, but out of the produce of English and Scotch soil; and owing to the state of the harvest in England, and the change in cultivation, they had not been able lately to earn as much as formerly. They might just as well have no Bill at all as not to consider the cases of such people; and he really thought that if they were to accompany this Bill with a kind of inquisition, as was proposed, they had better drop the Bill altogether.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had adopted pretty much the same action with regard to this Bill as he (Mr. Newdegate) had done. He had not voted on the principal stage of the Bill because he wanted to know the real nature of the measure, and this, as yet, had not been fully explained. It appeared to him that if they voted against the Government now they would place themselves in a certain minority, and would be voting on a matter which Her Majesty's Government had said they had not fully considered, and the difficulties as to which the Prime Minister had said had not suggested themselves to the Government. They would, as might be inferred from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), be paying the money of the people of England and Scotland to sanction a system of fraudulent bankruptcy. He thought he might infer this from the speech made by the hon. Member near him, and especially from that of the 83 hon. Gentleman the Member for Tippe-rary (Mr. Dillon). Feeling that it was dangerous to be committed unadvisedly to evil principles in the matter of landed property, he should certainly vote for the deferring of the conditions of this measure until it had been duly weighed by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, one main cause of arrears had been completely overlooked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), and that was that for years past the tenants of Ireland had been required to pay exorbitant rents. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed a deep interest in the pockets and welfare of the English taxpayers; but the English taxpayers must remember that their pockets were not being drawn upon to pay landlords the money that was justly due to them. He thought it would be the duty of Her Majesty's Government, when they had taken further time to consider this matter, to include in the causes of failure the requirement on the part of the tenants to pay exorbitant rent.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, he hoped that the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had proved to the Committee that it would be unwise now, or at any future time, for the Government to give countenance to so mischievous an Amendment as was now proposed. His right hon. Friend had clearly shown that the arrears which were to be dealt with had accrued up to the year 1880, and, therefore, before the teachings of the Land League, or the terrorism of the Land League, had obtained sway in Ireland. There was no Member in that House who had spoken out more boldly as to that teaching than he (Colonel Colthurst) had done; but he maintained that this teaching and terrorism could have nothing to do with the antecedent arrears. He hoped the Government would not give any pledge as to the reconsideration of this question; but would take their stand on the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster).
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, before they proceeded to a division he should like to point out that this Amendment, like many of the Amendments proposed last night and that day, had been found so very defective that, before being put, it had either to be recast or post- 84 poned. What did the Government say? It said this—that as to the first part of the Amendment, it was so entirely inadmissible as it stood, even in the opinion of those who advised something of the kind, that it could not by any possible means be adopted at that moment; and as to the second part of Amendment, the Government ought to have time to consider how they should deal with it. But Her Majesty's Government, having asked for time to consider the Amendment, the Committee was now asked to arrive at an immediate decision—it was asked to force its opinion in such a way as to put both sides of the question in a very embarrassing position. He thought that the advice which had been given by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) was good advice; and, therefore, he hoped the Committee would not pass the proposed Amendment, but would allow the Government further time for its consideration.
said, the Committee was assuredly in a very embarrassed position. The Government had asked it to defer until the Report the consideration of this question because the Government themselves had not considered it. The question was whether or not the money of the British taxpayer should be given to those who had been guilty of absolute and intentional fraud; and it had been clearly stated in that House by the responsible Ministers of the Crown and the Guardians of the Public Purse that they had not considered whether they ought to take steps to prevent the money going into the hands of those who had been nothing less than swindlers. The Committee had, no doubt, listened with great attention to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), because whatever fell from him always came with peculiar weight. To him (Earl Percy), what had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman appeared to form one of the strongest arguments that could be urged against the measure, for the right hon. Gentleman had said it was almost impossible to prevent the money of the British taxpayer being expended in an improper manner by being given to persons who really did not deserve it. If, then, the Committee were in this position—that the right 85 hon. Gentleman said it was impossible to prevent a gross misapplication of the public funds, and the Government said they required further time to consider whether or not they should even take into view the desirability of such an expenditure as the Committee were asked to defer the further consideration of to the Report, the best plan, as it appeared to him, would be for them to adjourn, so as to give time to the Government to fully consider their position.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would not press his Amendment, as it was evident that if he did so the Committee would reject it. If the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Amendment the Committee would then proceed to a division on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. II. Allen), and the matter could be brought up again on the Report.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, what appeared to him to be essential was that they should on that occasion have the decision of the Committee on the principle that tenants who were wilful defaulters should not receive benefits under this Bill. He would withdraw his Amendment on condition that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) would bring up his words as an Amendment to the Bill.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he had merely thrown out a suggestion for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. He had listened with great interest to the debate; but he was not prepared to embody his suggestion in an Amendment at that moment. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in his opinion that the principle of the decision of the Committee should be taken upon the principle that the tenants who were wilful defaulters should not be benefited under the Bill. The other part of the recommendation he considered satisfactory; but, at the present stage, he was of opinion that both Amendments should be withdrawn.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, that if the proposal contained in the Amendment were accepted, it would double the work of the Land Commission, and materially lengthen the time of their sitting. It was stated last night from the Conservative Benches that hon. Members opposite wished to see the Bill in operation 86 as quickly as possible. If, however, the Amendment were adopted, it would be necessary to have two investigations instead of one. They would have men coming forward to prove that in 1879, owing to the prevalence of rot or foot-and-mouth disease, they had only got one-half of the money for their flock of sheep that they obtained the year before. It was well known that the loss in some instances, in this way, had been enormous.
§ MR. H. ALLEN
said, he was quite ready to withdraw the Amendment he had moved, after the undertaking which had been given by the Prime Minister that the matter would be considered before the Report. He had only one word to add. It had been asked what was intended by the words "without fault on his own part," and the interpretation which had been put upon the words was certainly not the one he had had in his own mind. What had always been in his mind was that the fault on the part of the tenant should be an agricultural fault. For instance, if a man chose to refrain from sowing his land, he should not then be able to recover; and he certainly had not suggested anything so absurd as an inquiry into the moral character of a tenant in any other respect. As far as he was personally concerned, he was quite satisfied with the undertaking given by the Prime Minister, and he was ready to withdraw the Amendment.
I must point out to the hon. Member that he cannot withdraw his Amendment until the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has withdrawn his proposed Amendment of the Amendment.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
desired to say a few words before the Committee divided. He believed he understood the matters at issue as well as most hon. Members, and he was of opinion that it would be more merciful to the tenants of Ireland, and to society in general, that the Bill should be thrown out altogether rather than enter upon a course of refinement like that which had been suggested, and which the Prime Minister had promised to take into consideration. He did not intend to cast the slightest reflection upon the right hon. Gentleman for saying, on the spur of the moment, that he would take the matter into consideration, because he knew how difficult 87 it was for the right hon. Gentleman to realize suddenly what it was he ought not to consider in connection with Amendments of this kind. But the right hon. Gentleman might find himself beset with embarrassments, and he warned Her Majesty's Government that if the Bill was only to become law after it was surrounded by a number of refinements as to the mode of procedure, they would be laying the groundwork for a comprehensive failure which, instead of pacifying, would continue the disturbance of Ireland.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 261; Noes 184: Majority 77.—(Div. List, No. 248.)
§ Original Question, "That the words 'by reason of failure of crops or disaster to stock, and without fault on his own part,' be there inserted," put, and negatived.
§ MR. GIBSON moved, in page 1, line 21, after "arrears," to insert "and was unable to discharge the same when they accrued due, or were usually payable." The question raised by the Amendment was one which was, to some extent, involved in the topic which the Committee had just been engaged in discussing. If this were a Bill which proposed to deal, by way of loan, with the relief of distress, and with the question of arrears, it might be approached in a somewhat different manner from that which challenged so much criticism when the proposal was to pay off the arrears by a gift from the National Exchequer. He thought it was desirable that before any tenant received money by way of gift to pay off arrears, the Commission should be satisfied of his incapacity to pay—that was his incapacity to pay at a date which should be fixed. He presumed that if no particular date were fixed in the Bill, it would be a matter for the determination of the tribunal whether the man was unable to pay at the date of the application, or at the date of the adjudication of the case. That, of course, would be a matter that would be open to grave dispute; but it was not the point of his Amendment. When it was proposed, by way of gift from the National Exchequer, to pay off the debts of other people, it was not enough to say that at the moment of the application the tenant was unable to pay. It was reasonable 88 and fair, as a precaution in the interests of the taxpayers, to say that a person whose debts were to be paid off in such an extraordinary way should be required to prove that he had not been able to pay or discharge his debts at the time when they accrued due, or were usually payable. In other words, this was an Amendment which said that the taxpayers were not to be called upon to pay the debts of a tenant if that tenant was able to pay the rent of 1879 or 1880, at the time it accrued due. Would it not have an element of absurdity as well as of injustice about it to say to a tenant who had in his pocket, when the two gales of the rent of the year 1880 accrued due, ample means to pay off those two gales of rent, and deliberately told his landlord, as was done over and over again, in many counties in Ireland—"I have the money in my pocket; I could pay you if I pleased, but I won't pay you unless you make some substantial reduction," that he should not be called upon to pay the rent of that year? The tenant at the time the rent accrued due, or when it was usually payable, had the money in his pocket or in the savings' bank, and to say to that tenant—"You elected, then, for your own purposes, against every principle of honesty, and yielding to appeals made to your greed, to keep the money in your pocket and refused to pay, as you had hitherto clone, your just and honest debts," and then to allow him to say—"I have now got rid of that money which I ought to have paid as rent; I have divested myself of my property, and now I come helpless and penniless to the State, with an appeal for relief out of the National Exchequer," was manifestly absurd and unjust. He must say that a teaching more thoroughly demoralizing, more thoroughly calculated to encourage dishonesty in the future, and to discourage honesty, it was absolutely impossible to conceive or imagine. He had no desire to repeat any of the topics he had glanced at in dealing with the previous Amendment. The arguments in favour of them had been incidentally largely presented to the minds of the Committee, and it was not necessary to repeat them.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, he would at once, in order to save time, say that this was an Amendment which the Government could not accept. It related to the same matter as the Amendment which the Committee had already rejected; but so far as the subject-matter of the Bill was concerned, he was bound to say that this Amendment appeared to him far more objectionable than the Amendment of the hon. Member behind him (Mr. H. Allen), and which raised difficulties that were comparatively slight. The object of the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be better done by words directly intended for the purpose. That, however, was not his main objection to the Amendment. The argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman went entirely to one limited point—namely this, that it was desirable that the Court should know that the tenant was not only unable at the time of the application to meet the rent, but that he was unable at the time each of the two gales of rent accrued due in the year 1880, or became customarily due. That was the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and a legitimate one from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point of view. The Bill said that, as a condition of proof, the Court should be satisfied "that antecedent arrears of rent are due to the landlord"—antecedent to the years 1880 and 1881—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman required that it should be shown to the Court, not merely that the tenant was unable to discharge such antecedent arrears, and not at all that he was unable to discharge the rent of the years 1880 and 1881, when it became due, but that in each and every year when the rent accrued due before 1880, the tenant was at each period of each year unable to pay the arrears. Under the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman all the old famine arrears would start up, and it would be positively necessary under the clause for the tenant to prove that in regard to each gale of rent which accrued due, even if there were 20 of them, the tenant was unable to pay it. If he was unable to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that he was unable to pay arrears which accrued 90 due 20 or 30 years ago he would be excluded from going to the Court. He did not think that that was the meaning of the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but the adoption of his proposal would have that effect. At any rate, it was quite clear, without going into any details at all, that the Government could not accept an Amendment of that kind.
§ MR. GIBSON
asked what the Amendment was that the right hon. Gentleman himself intended to propose?
said, that his Amendment would be proposed for another purpose altogether; but he could not move it as an Amendment now. It went to a Point which the Government had always admitted to be quite a reasonable point—namely, the question whether a guiding rule was to be recorded for ascertaining the tenant's inability. He should be inclined to leave that to the common sense and experience of the Judges. At the same time, he thought there was a general impression in the House that it would be well to make some provision to this extent, and, undoubtedly, the Government could not object to it on principle. In the first place, on account of any step which would drive the tenant out of his holding, because that would be at variance with the whole purpose of the Bill, which was not to fasten him to his holding any more than to drive him away from it, but to leave him free to stay or leave. Another result which they would object to was any provision which would place the tenant in such a state of restricted means that he could not make a living out of the holding. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, on a former occasion, on behalf of the Government, used the familiar phrase, which would really be a good phrase to introduce into the Bill if it were possible to do so, that they were going to deal with the farm or the holding as a going farm, and they would not do anything that had a tendency to deprive it of the character of a going farm. His proposal was to insert, in the same place as the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, after the word "arrears," certain words which would make the sentence read thus—That it would have to be proved before the Commissioners that the tenant was unable to discharge antecedent arrears without the loss of his holding or deprivation of means necessary for the cultivation thereof.91 That was the Amendment he intended to propose, and the Government believed that it would distinctly direct the mind of the Court to the assets of the tenant, and at the same time limit the operation of the clause, so that there should be no compulsion of sale or any deprivation of the tenant of the means for the cultivation of his holding. He would not enter into details upon the subject now; but that was the nature of the Amendment he proposed to insert.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, it would be premature and entirely out of place to discuss the Amendment of which Notice had to be given by the right hon. Gentleman. He wished, however, that it had been put upon the Paper. He saw very clearly that the Amendment was one which would require much consideration, and it introduced words which would not settle controversy. It did not, in the slightest degree, remove his desire to take the opinion of the Committee upon the Amendment which he had moved.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that, before a division was taken, he wished to say that he disapproved of the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and of any Amendment of the character suggested by the Prime Minister, because it would render the Bill, which there would already be some difficulty in working, still more unworkable; and it might also tend to raise expectations in regard to the beneficial operation of the measure which might prove irritating and unsatisfactory in particular districts. He had no wish to express any further opinion upon the Amendment which the Prime Minister had just read to the House. It would be out of Order to do 60; but certainly the tendency of the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) would be so very largely to widen the area of the inquiry that he did not think the Committee would accept it for a moment. It would extend the area of the investigation in such a way, and would require the tenant to prove so much, that he did not imagine any of them would live long enough to see the termination of the inquiries which the Court would have to enter into. The Amendment suggested by the Prime Minister was open to a similar objection, but not to the same extent. He should much prefer to leave the question to the rough good sense of the 92 Court, in the hope and belief that substantial justice would be obtained. It would be impossible to obtain more than substantial justice, because the essence and efficacy of a Bill of this character depended upon the speedy application of the measure. If the Bill could not be worked quickly as it stood, all the tenants whom it was desired to benefit would be ejected or their interests sold up. Therefore, he objected to all of these Amendments, whether in favour of the tenant or of the landlord, which would open an additional area of investigation.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he thought it was most important to consider how the Bill would work if a series of Amendments of this character were inserted. Hon. Members should take into consideration that one of the necessary ingredients of the passing of any case before the Court was that the landlord must practically obey the decision of the Court, and in some way or other be brought to agree that the tenant was not solvent, and that what was being proposed to be done was the best thing to be done under the circumstances. He wished the Committee to bear in mind what would be given for an agreement between the landlord and the tenant, so that when the case came before the Court it should give rise to no difficulty whatever. The Irish landlords were giving, as it were, a hostage for their opinions, because they were consenting to deprive themselves of something, and they would be liable to severe penalties, as well as the tenant, if they attempted to deceive the Court. Ho, therefore, hoped the Prime Minister would discourage all line-drawn Amendments, and leave the inability of the tenant to pay the arrears, at the time they accrued, to be readily ascertained by the Court on its own responsibility without hampering its action. These repeated Amendments, if adopted, would force the Court to entertain questions which would only involve delay in the working of the measure.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 161; Noes 233: Majority 72.—(Div. List, No. 249.)
In page 1, line 21, after the word "arrears," to insert the words "without loss of his holding,
or deprivation of the means necessary for the cultivation thereof."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ And it being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Chairman reported Progress; Committee to sit again this day.