§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. FINDLATER
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was a very short and simple Bill, and its object was, if possible, to remove the present congestion of business which undoubtedly existed in the Land Court by enabling fair rents to be settled and ascertained without the necessity of continuing adverse proceedings between landlord and tenant. He thought everyone would admit if that could be done in a simple manner it would be extremely satisfactory to the people of Ireland, and he thought the manner suggested by the Bill was extremely simple and satisfactory. It appeared by the last Return, dated the 24th of February, that there were 72,408 applications to the Court to fix fair rents, and that up to that period only 3,209 cases had been disposed of, exclusive of 2,180 cases settled by agreement. At the rate of progress which was now going on, there was not much chance for a considerable space of time of the rest of the cases being decided; therefore it was obvious that some facilitating progress was required, and it would be supplied in this way. The Bill proposed that when an originating 953 notice had been lodged, instead of proceeding with the hearing of the case as a contentious matter likely to excite bad feeling between landlord and tenant, the Court should proprio motu, send down two valuers to value the property and ascertain what would be a fair rent; notices should be given to both the landlord and the tenant of the attendance of the valuers, and also of the amount of valuation when it had been returned into Court. Then, if neither party objected within one month, the valuers' award should be accepted by the Commissioners, and fixed as a judicial rent. That would be equivalent to a settlement out of Court, without the necessity of any negotiations between the parties. He believed this method would be largely availed of, and that both landlords and tenants would have confidence in it. The Bill also proposed to make the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act of 1881 more operative than they were at present by removing an obstacle in the sale of an estate held by a tenant for life. At present the proceeds must be invested in Three per Cent Stock, which reduced the amount of income. The Bill would enable a valuation to be made of the interest of the tenant for life, and then the tenant for life should either receive the amount, or it might be invested in Government or India Stock, or in Bank of Ireland Stock, which would produce a larger income. These provisions were very easily understood, and he hoped the Bill would be assented to by the Government, so that it might be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Findlater.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, as it would be impossible for the Government to accept the Bill, it would be impossible to let it proceed to a second reading. The object of the Bill appeared to him to be this—that whereas cases might now be heard judicially in one way, or, by the consent of the parties, disposed of in another way out of Court, the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Findlater) proposed to establish a third method, under which valuers were to go down and make a report which would dispose of the case. It appeared to him that if this were adopted, all agreements out of Court would be at once put an 954 end to, whilst judicial action would be postponed, and an unnecessary step would be added to the action of the Court. The present mode of settlement by consent was very simple, and consisted in the appointment of one valuer by the landlord and another by the tenant. He would call attention to a case that occurred the other day of a large property in the South of Cork, in which the two valuers having taken three days to make their valuation, the whole matter as between landlord and tenant was settled in three hours, except with regard to 10 tenants, who were remitted to an umpire appointed by the valuers. It was undesirable to discourage that process of settlement by a new one, and the object was to keep up a good feeling as far as possible. As to the proposed dealing with the Purchase Clauses, it was wholly insufficient; and on these grounds he asked the House to reject the Bill.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, he would not take part in the controversy between the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Findlater) and the Government. But any arrangement which would have the effect of mitigating the delay and expenses of the present system of procedure in the Land Court, and of facilitating the operation of the Purchase Clauses would certainly have his support. Whatever else might be said for or against the working of the Act, there could be no doubt hat the expenses it entailed were out of all proportion to any good it could possibly do. On the one hand the tenants were involved in a very considerable expense, and on the other hand the landlords were actually getting their backs broken by the expense of litigating these questions in the Land Court. He heard from landlords every day who said that almost the worst effect of the Act was the frightful cost it entailed. As to the working of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act, they were positively paralyzed, and had no effect at all. It was quite certain that they were, so far, wholly inoperative, and yet they were to his mind the most important by far, for they were the only part of the Act which was at all likely to put an end to the unfortunate controversy between landlord and tenant. Therefore, if he could only see that this Bill would facilitate the working of these clauses, and would cut down the expenses of the present procedure, he should be very glad to support it. How- 955 ever, after the answer of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, it seemed almost useless to proceed with the consideration of the measure. He would impress upon the Government the necessity of putting an end to the consequences which indirectly followed from the operation of the Land Act, in putting large sums of money into the pockets of the lawyers, accumulating costs against both landlord and tenant, further embittering the relations between them, and making them less hopeful than ever that they would ever get out of this apparently endless litigation.
§ MAJOR O'BEIRNE
said, he could corroborate, in some measure, what had fallen from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket). He (Major O'Beirne) was one of those who voted for the Land Act; but he never would have done so if he had thought it would be worked as it was at present. In fact, he considered the manner in which the Act was worked was simply a deception and a fraud, and numerous speeches of the Prime Minister could be quoted in support of that opinion. No one supposed for a moment, when it was passed, that the enormous expense was to be thrown upon the landlords of valuing their own property. That was an expense which ought to be borne by the Government itself, and in that way the working of the Land Act had been most unjust. It had been most unjust to the tenants also, for in one case which had been quoted by the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) in the papers that morning a tenant, in order to get a reduction of £4 in his rent, had to pay £105 to the lawyers. That case alone showed the utter absurdity of the Land Act as it was at present. He would be very glad, indeed, to give his support to the Bill if he could see any chance of the controversy being carried on to that length.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, that although he could not sympathize with much that had fallen from either of the last two speakers, inasmuch as he believed the Land Act contained germs of great benefit to the people of Ireland as regarded both landlords and tenants, yet he was quite prepared to support the measure of amendment which was now before the House. He did not know if his hon. Friend (Mr. Findlater) 956 intended to divide the House; but, if he did, he (Mr. Richardson) should certainly follow him into the Lobby. Not that he believed exactly that the means which his hon. Friend advocated were the best for facilitating the operation of the Act; but he wished to record the strong feeling he entertained that something must be done beyond what was being done to quicken the hearing of the cases before the Commission. In the county which he had the honour to represent—Armagh—there were 5,000 cases awaiting hearing, and in Tyrone there were more than that number; making about 11,000 cases for the two counties. There was only one Sub-Commission for hearing those cases, and when they were to be heard Heaven only knew. In the meantime, the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland were, to a certain extent, strained. The other night he put a Question on the Paper, asking the Government if any increased facilities would be given for hearing the number of eases which clogged the Courts in Armagh and Tyrone, and the answer he received was not very satisfactory.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, the subject of expediting the hearing of the cases was, he believed, engaging the attention of the Land Commission.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
, resuming, said, that the House was very well aware of the enormous amount of business which had fallen upon the Land Commission, and he should not feel it right to be severely critical either upon those gentlemen or on the Government; but he did impress on the Government, in the most respectful way, the feeling that he entertained, and which was brought before him every day in letters from his constituents, that something must be done to reduce the block.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, it appeared to him to be evident that this Bill was only an Ulster balloon sent up in order to see whether the Government would accept any amendment of the Act or not. [Mr. FINDLATES: No, it is not.] Well, the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Richardson) said that if his hon. Friend (Mr. Findlater) wished to go into the Lobby, he would go with him; but he (Mr. Synan) doubted very much whether the hon. Member for Monaghan intended to go into the Lobby at all. What was the objection of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attor- 957 ney General for Ireland to the Bill? Only that it would interfere with the arrangements between landlord and tenant. How would it interfere? If the landlord and tenant voluntarily arranged to arbitrate, their arrangement was taken by the Court as final. If they had not so arranged, the Court was simply to adopt a cheap mode of fixing the value of the farm; and then, if the landlord or tenant did not object, that value would be made a rule of the Court. It would be a part of the judicial proceedings of the Court; but if the landlord or tenant did object, then they would go into the Court and prove their objection. Surely that would not interfere with any voluntary arrangement, and he thought it was not a bad method of dealing with the congestion of business. What he wanted to know was whether the Government intended to keep up the present congestion in the Court or not? Did they mean to tell the House that, whereas the Act required that the rents of Ireland should be re-valued in 14 years, as a matter of fact, it could not be done in 30 years? If not, they must adopt some method of coping with it; and if this method was not sufficient, let them point out one which would be sufficient, or let them amend the proposal in Committee. He thought it was much better to have two valuers than two Sub-Commissioners, who simply made a flying visit to the farm, and valued it as they would a cheese, by simply putting a stick into it, and then went away within half-an-hour. Surely it was much better to have competent valuers; and he had been astonished the first moment that the Act came into operation to find that the farms were not being valued by competent valuers. Independent valuers were much better fitted for the work than men having judicial authority, who were exposed to the influence either of the Government or of the landlords. For his own part, the result of the discussion was almost a matter of indifference, for if a division was forced upon the Ulster Members after the opposition of the Government, he should not be surprised to see them go into the Lobby against their own Bill.
§ MR. WILLIS
said, that as an English Member he cordially supported the Bill, because he believed it would not only not interfere with, but would aid, the 958 working of the Land Act, and would diminish litigation and its cost. He was sorry that the subject was discussed with reference to the manner in which the Land Act was passed, and that the epithets of deception and fraud were used, because there was no foundation for them, for it was not supposed at the time of the passing of that measure that the cost of litigation would be anything like so great as it had proved to be. It appeared to him that two valuers, appointed under the Land Act, would enable both landlord and tenant to abstain from the employment of lawyers until after their report had been made, and he thought those valuers should be paid by the country, and not by the suitors. He supported this measure because he believed it would be to the interest of England as well as Ireland that the Land Act should become generally operative, and he should be glad now to support any measure by which the value of the farms could be determined without the employment of lawyers. He trusted that the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Findlater) would press his Bill to a division. If so, he (Mr. Willis) should vote with him, because it would be one step towards relieving the Courts and providing a cheap method of determining fair rents.
§ MR. O'SHEA
said, the working of the Act so far had been a great disappointment to the tenant farmers in the county Clare, who understood that official valuers would be appointed. He had spoken with many of them, and they objected to a partly perambulating tribunal, some members of which went about valuing land on their own account. He thought the Commission ought to sit permanently in the towns, and take the advice of qualified professional men as to the value of the property with which they were dealing. The appointment of valuers ought to be for a certain number of years, because, in order to keep men impartial, they must have a considerable tenure of their places. He was extremely sorry to find that the Bill was brought in more as a matter of form than with the view of passing it.
§ MR. O'SHEA
was very glad to hear that. However, it would be very advantageous to know whether the Govern- 959 ment intended to bring in a Bill this year for the amendment of the Act, because there was a most important point upon which the Act ought to be amended, and that was with regard to arrears. The whole advantage of the Act would be lost to a great part of the Irish tenants, unless the Government took clearly into view the fact that the Arrears Clause had hitherto been of no use whatever. When Parliament passed that clause, it was distinctly laid down that tenants in arrear should have as much right as any others to consideration under the Bill. That principle ought now to be carried out, and some means ought to be devised which would give an inducement to landlords to settle. There was no doubt some temptation must be offered if they were to have any finality in this Act as a remedial measure. There was another point to which he wished to call the attention of the House—namely, that the provisions for making loans to tenants were greatly hindered by the limitation of farms to £100 value. There were a great number of improving, steady tenants, who would be very glad to take advantage of these provisions, but the valuation of their farms was not sufficient to make them eligible. Only the other day he put before the Treasury the case of a man who had more than one farm, neither of which was in itself sufficiently large to entitle him to a loan, whereas, put together, they exceeded the valuation, and yet he was refused a loan. Instead of laying down a hard-and-fast rule, shutting out thousands of industrious and solvent tenants by reason of a small deficiency in the amount of their rents, all cases of the sort he had instanced ought to be considered on their merits, not only carefully, but rapidly, because, if they were going to have the advantages which they were led to expect from the Bill, time was an essential element. Any Bill of the kind now before the House, which went in. the direction of amending the Act, as experience proved it ought to be amended, was worthy of support.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he would not follow the last speaker (Mr. O'Shea) into the question of arrears or advances to tenants, because they were outside the scope of the Bill. With regard to the actual measure before the House, he understood hon. Members who supported it to say they thought it very desir- 960 able to remove the congestion in the Land Court, and that any change which would have that tendency would be a decided improvement. He did not, in fact it was impossible to, deny that there was a very large number of cases before the Land Courts, and that no very large proportion had yet been settled; but there were one or two facts to be considered. In the first place, the number of cases which had been disposed of recently had been greater in proportion than it was before; and, unless his information misled him, the number of cases settled out of Court was very much increasing. He did not think that, at the present, they were in a condition to know how far the congestion of business would continue, or to what extent it would exist in two or three months hence. He submitted to the House, therefore, that it would be a serious matter to take such a step as that of accepting the second reading of the Bill, which would induce parties interested in Ireland to expect a change in the procedure which was very carefully sanctioned last year, and they ought not to take any such step unless they were quite clear that the change would be for the better. The question of valuers was discussed last year, and the House came to a decision against appointing valuers in connection with every Sub-Commission. [Mr. SYNAN: The Court has power under the Act to appoint valuers.] His hon. Friend would find, if he referred to the Act, that it was a question whether the Sub-Commissioners or valuers were to inspect the farms, and that question had been decided against the valuers. In order to get over the difficulty, the hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Willis) had proposed that there should be two valuers; but if the method now proposed were carried out, the number would be more likely 200. [Mr. WILLIS: I mean 200, if they are necessary.] In that case, if the Bill were to pass, he thought he should have to ask for the assistance of his hon. and learned Friend to help the Land Commission to find valuers, for that would not be a very easy thing to do. But there was this great doubt about the proposal. He was by no means clear that the proposal would not be simply to add another stage to the litigation under the Act, and that would make things not better, but worse. If the House, while agree- 961 ing that there should be valuers, should also insure the acceptance of the decisions of the valuers, then there would be no great ground for the objection; but he thought there was very title ground for believing that the decisions of the valuers would be accepted. Again, it was not at all clear that the two valuers would agree together, and their disagreement would necessitate the appointment of a third as umpire. He did not deny that the working of the Act required the closest attention on the part of the Government and of Parliament; but he did not think they were in a position to make any change. If the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Find-later) pressed his Bill that day, the Government would certainly be obliged to vote against it, because the reading the Bill a second time would be to excite expectations in Ireland of a change which would be very undesirable. He would suggest that it would be as well to adjourn the debate; but, in saying that, he did not wish to create any false impression. He did not say that two or three months hence the Government would accept the Bill. What he meant was that if the congestion in the Courts increased, or did not considerably diminish, undoubtedly it would be the duty of the Government to look about for a proposal to deal with the difficulty; and, without saying they would accept it, he would be sorry that the proposal of his hon. Friend should be shut out.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he thought the announcement which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. W. E. Forster) had just made had taken the House somewhat by surprise. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. W. M. Johnson), a few moments ago, had given two, and to his (Mr. J. Lowther's) mind very convincing, reasons why the House should not consent to the second reading of the Bill, and a good deal had apparently happened, in the meantime. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan) threw out the suggestion that the promoters of the Bill were not in earnest, and that in the event of its not receiving the support of the Government it would not be persevered with. It appeared that, whether or not the promoters were in earnest, Her Majesty's Government had not yet made up their minds. The right hon. Gentleman the 962 Chief Secretary for Ireland had, however, made one very considerable advance since the discussion from which he was conspicuously absent the other day, for he said the working of the Land Act required, in his opinion, "the closest attention on the part of the Government," and, he was good enough to add, "of Parliament;" but the close attention of Parliament had been expressly repudiated by Her Majesty's Government. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The Prime Minister shook his head; but he (Mr. J. Lowther) would remind the House that this discussion occupied a fortnight of the attention of Parliament, and much time was engaged in discussing the proposal brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman, upon the expressly-stated ground that any inquiry at the hands of Parliament was unnecessary and inexpedient. He (Mr. J. Lowther) was glad to find that the result of that important discussion had not been without effect on the minds of Her Majesty's Government; but there were other lessons which the House might draw from the discussion which had taken place that afternoon. He was sorry the Prime Minister was not in the House when he might have heard the candid opinion expressed as to the merits of this great so-called "remedial Act" by the hon. and gallant Member for Leitrim (Major O'Beirne). The views of any hon. Member sitting in that part of the House, or the views of any Irish Member who acted independently, would, he was well aware, carry no great weight with the right hon. Gentleman; but his (Mr. J. Lowther's) impression was that the hon. and gallant Member for Leitrim was classed amongst those who were the habitual Supporters of Her Majesty's Government. And what were his opinions as to the Act of Parliament which had been in operation now for some months, and from the working of which such great expectations were entertained? He said, first of all, that the Act was passed by deception and fraud. He (Mr. J. Lowther) would venture to say nothing of the sort, for if he did, he did not know but that some right hon. Gentleman on the opposite Bench might call the Speaker's attention to the matter, and would ask whether the law of the land ought to be spoken of in any such terms, or whether the action of the 963 Government and their motives should be thus criticized? The hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to speak of some of the provisions of the Act as "most unjust;" and that was a remark which, if it had emanated from any other part of the House, would have called forth some scathing observations from the Ministerial Bench. Then he went on to speak of the "absurdity of the Act." That was a climax which would have succeeded in arousing the Prime Minister to indignation. He (Mr. J. Lowther) did not make himself responsible for the endorsement of those epithets; but, at the same time, he was not prepared to occupy the time of the House by refuting them. The hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Bill (Mr. Findlater) had pointed out that there was a complete block in the Land Court, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland himself admitted that the progress of business in that Court was not eminently satisfactory, and said that close attention thereto on the part of Parliament was desirable. Now, the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, in the reasons which he urged against the Bill, omitted to mention one very strong one—namely, that these valuers were to be appointed by the Land Commission; and he (Mr. J. Lowther) emphatically said the impartiality of that Land Commission had not been clearly demonstrated. The Land Commission was a tribunal constituted in a singularly one-sided Party manner; and he thought it did not commend itself to those whose interests were affected, that the two valuators to decide between the contending parties should not be nominated one by each of the contending parties, as was the case elsewhere, and that they should appoint an umpire to decide between them, instead of the indefensible plan that both should be appointed by a tribunal which had certainly not proved itself to be, as the Prime Minister would say in relation to certain other bodies, "wholly devoid of prejudice or bias." When the proposal was made that a fair and impartial Parliamentary inquiry should be made into the whole working of the Land Act, they were told by Her Majesty's Government that it was inexpedient, and that they could not entertain it, although, as he mentioned just now, it was a matter of satisfaction that 964 the education of the Government with regard to that subject was proceeding at a very rapid rate. But what reason had the Chief Secretary for Ireland given for throwing over his Law Officers and adjourning this discussion? He asked that the House should adjourn this discussion; but what reason did he give? They thought that something might occur in the meantime which would throw light upon the situation. He (Mr. J. Lowther) thought the Government were bound to state clearly whether, in their opinion, any amendment of the law was required. If an amendment of the law was needed, that amendment should be introduced by Her Majesty's Government, they having formally undertaken to deal with the question of the Land Laws in Ireland, and they should not delegate to a private Member, however intimately he might be connected with their Party, the duty of remedying the transparent and glaring defects in the Act which should be undertaken by themselves. That the Act had completely collapsed, and that the proceedings of the Land Court were generally repudiated, not merely by one class of the Irish people, but by all classes and interests in the community, was evidenced by these discussions, and must, he thought, make manifest to the Government, as many Representatives of every political Party in Ireland had pointed out, that there were very serious hindrances and evils in the present system. They had had Representatives of the landlords denouncing the block of Business, and in many cases the gross injustice of the tribunals appointed fey the Government. Members representing the Irish interests below the Gangway on this side of the House had not been at all remiss in the force of their argument. They had pointed out the defects from their point of view, which, of course, differed wholly from his (Mr. J. Lowther's.) [Mr. GLADSTONE made an observation which was inaudible.] He (Mr. J. Lowther), unfortunately, was unable to catch the remark of the right hon. Gentleman, which he concluded must have been to the effect that a general consensus. of opinion throughout all classes, sections, and interests in Ireland had distinctly pronounced itself against the measure of last year. However, the House was clearly entitled to a definite expression of the opinions of Her Majesty's Go- 965 vernment, as to whether they were prepared either to support or oppose the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
, in rising to move the adjournment of the debate, said, he did not desire to force the Government to any premature decision upon the question under consideration, neither would he enter into the debatable matter which had been spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. Lowther). He thought that circumstances were far too serious for them to make this a matter of Party politics; but he was sure they could only regret from what they heard that the right hon. Gentleman was not a Member of the House when the Land Law (Ireland) Bill passed into the Statute Book, as he might have contributed his valuable assistance in aid of that operation. There was a desire to settle this debatable question in a way that would be conducive to the tranquillity of the government of the country; and, in his opinion, it would be a very serious matter if his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland were to fall behind the real meaning of the words that fell from him just now. He spoke of an improvement taking place in Ireland in the direction of the working of the Land Act within the last two or three months, and said that if an improvement did not take place, he should feel it his duty to consider the whole position of affairs. Now, he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had always held that his right hon. Friend had been a great deal too sanguine in his views about Irish affairs. Ireland was very much like a patient whom the doctor assured was always improving, but in the end the patient died of good symptoms. That, he thought, was very much the state of Ireland now. He had rather see the right hon. Gentleman boldly grapple with the situation as it existed, and say either he believed that nothing more was necessary, or that he would set his mind to remedy the great evils that existed. No one could doubt that the Act was not working in the way that Ireland expected, that the Courts were blocked, and nobody could hope that anything in the shape of a real clearance of that block could be made for a great length of time. He ventured to say the Bill before them was, as a rule, simply reverting to the original intention of Parliament in passing the Act at all. The right 966 hon. Gentleman, in his opinion, fell into one tremendous mistake when he came to carry out this Act. He fell into that legal abyss which existed in Dublin with open mouth and ravening jaw ready to convert everything into the benefit of the Legal Profession. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had repeatedly pointed out during the passing of the Act through Parliament that the endeavour should be, not to make the Bill a matter of legal administration, but rather to make the Courts Courts of Conciliation; and over and over again he urged that, in the appointments, persons should be chosen who would go about in different parts of the country to different estates with note-book in hand and without legal records or paraphernalia of any kind, and endeavour to reconcile the differences between landlords and tenants as to their rents. Instead of that, what was done was this—Immediately, a number of Courts, with barristers and attorneys at the head of them, were constituted and sent through Ireland, every one of them——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have to point out to the hon. Member that the question before the House does not touch the Land Act of last Session, and I must ask the hon. Member to keep to the question before the House.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, the object of the House was to appoint arbitrators to stand between the landlords and the tenants, and he was endeavouring to show that the Bill was only reverting to the original intention of the Act. In the most ridiculous reductions, say, a reduction of £2, the cost to the tenant was an enormous sum; and that arose entirely from the mode in which the Act was carried out. It was never intended that Sub-Commissions should be appointed of three persons to go round the country, and that these were to sit like Judges of Assizes to determine trumpery questions as to the value of land. The only persons who had benefited by the Act were the Legal Profession and the amateur valuators. Ireland was inundated with amateur valuators, who went about the country, telling the tenants that they would be sure, if they would only allow them to value their lands, to get a reduction of their rents. They were levying upon those poor ignorant creatures a fine of 1s. in the pound, and people who knew nothing 967 whatever about land, some of whom were publicans, and others broken-down persons not very scrupulous in their ways, were extracting from the people hundreds and hundreds of pounds. If the Government were to appoint reputable men as valuers, they might expect some improvement to be made. His right hon. Friend evidently thought much good would be done by the Act, and he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) went with him some way in that direction; but he believed more good would be done if hon. Gentlemen would agree to take the opinions of those Irish Members who were anxious for the tranquillity of the country, and not of those who supposed the only wisdom to be found was amongst the permanent officials of the Government, who had the management of the country from first to last, and who had advised the right hon. Gentleman to make this Act a matter of legal Courts and expensive processes.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
supposed, then, the right hon. Gentleman excogitated his own method of procedure and consulted nobody. He could not for the life of him see how this Act would work at all. The right hon. Gentleman had not been remarkable for paying any attention to the wishes of those who were anxious for the tranquillity of Ireland. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) found himself in the greatest difficulty in making any suggestions. ["Oh, oh!"] He knew it was very disagreeable to hon. Members who thought everything the Government did was right; but the question was of the country in which he lived, and he knew the condition in which it was now, and what it was likely to be. Unless something was done immediately, and unless a totally different view was taken of the circumstances, Ireland would get from bad to worse. He therefore took this opportunity of declaring that as his opinion—and he did so on his responsibility as a Member of Parliament, quite regardless whether that opinion was agreeable or disagreeable—because he believed it to be true. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider this Bill; and he believed, even now, if the Government appointed a number of really well-disposed men—men of ex- 968 perience—to go round about amongst the tenants as arbitrators, where tenants were willing to accept their services, a great impetus might be given to the working of the Land Act. But as long as they relied upon attorneys and barristers, on pleading and expenses, that could not be expected. He had just received a letter, which had also appeared in the papers, in which he was informed that nearly £300 had been expended with the result of reducing a rental by £3 or £4. He could hardly stop to speak of some of the things that had been done in Connemara—how many persons had gone from there, and how many were starving on the hillsides who had been ejected from their homes, and how there was no more chance of their benefiting by the Courts than there was 10 years ago. This matter of arbitration was urgent. Then the evictions must be dealt with; and, thirdly, some means must be adopted for disposing of the question of arrears, which the tenants could not pay, and which the landlords could not do without. Unless these things were attended to, the troubles of Ireland would continue unabated, and undoubtedly they would get no benefit whatever from the working of the Land Act. He begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Mitchell Henry.)
asked, whether it was originally intended that the Commission appointed to carry out the Land Act should appoint deputies to administer it throughout Ireland? That was one of the things he had strongly objected to in the first instance, and yet it was now proposed that these deputies should have deputies, who should do the work in their places. It was quite evident that if valuers were appointed in every county in Ireland to value the property, and if it was to be optional, in the first place, for the landlords and the tenants to adopt their valuations as a basis of agreement for 15 years, the other parties would go to the Land Court for the purpose of having the cases decided, and their valuators would be the arbitrators of the land. He did not know what would be the effect if that conclusion were carried out. If the Government were going in any way to agree to have 969 laud valued by Government officials, in Heaven's name let them have a valuation over 15 years, as Griffith's valuation was. But if they were going to have a helter-skelter method of two men here and there, whether those men had any education or not, they would have the same kind of criticism as they had now about the Sub-Commissioners, asking who they were, where they came from, and what title they had to be rulers of the destinies of the Land Question in Ireland? He thought that after the Bill was passed so short a time ago as last year, and if there was an objection against having a question asked, either by that House or by the House of Lords, as to the working of the Bill, it was really a little too soon to have the whole thing upset by making a new arrangement.
Sir, the discussion appears to me to have wandered from that which is before us. The question before the House appears to me to be one confined in narrow and reasonable limits by the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Bill (Mr. Findlater), and by the general sense of the House. It is not a question of inquiring into the operations of the Land Act; it is not a question of how we are to deal with the Law of Eviction or the Law of Arrears, or whether we are to attempt to reform the processes of law altogether, or to lay down a legal system to increase the ease and facility with which voluntary arrangements may be made. These are all very large questions, but they are not the questions before the House. The question before the House is whether the time has come when it is necessary to attempt to introduce an improvement into the machinery, or to adopt an extension of the machinery provided to give effect to the Land Act, in consequence of the vast mass of business which has arisen for the Courts to transact, in comparison with that which they have transacted? That is not, I think, an unfair statement of the case. Of course, it is not to be expected that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther), who has come back fresh after a short recess of liberty, should not avail himself of his opportunity to prosecute his great design of casting opprobrium on the Land Act, especially when he had such a godsend presented to him as 970 that of a speech for the first time on this side of the House indicating an opinion that the interests of landlords were being unjustly dealt with. I feel too much respect for the right hon. Gentleman to expect from him such self-denial as that he should forbear making such a declaration as he has. The right hon. Gentleman again avowed his hostility to the Land Act, and avowed that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on that side of the House were likewise not remiss in the duty of discrediting and endeavouring to destroy it; but, as the right hon. Gentleman said, they acted from a different point of view. I made an observation to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Forster), and in order that the right hon. Gentleman's curiosity may not remain unsatisfied, I will now venture to say what that observation was. It was that the fact of a great difference in point of view between hon. Gentlemen who sit above the Gangway and hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway did not appear to me to constitute any great obstacle to tolerably hearty and frequent co-operation. However, the right hon. Gentleman made a substantive proposition in his speech, with which I agree. He stated that this is a matter for the responsibility of Government. In that I quite agree, not meaning thereby exclusively the Executive responsibility of the Government, but meaning that it is the duty of the Government to provide, as they may believe to be best with the powers at their command, proper machinery for giving effect to the Act, and in case the powers were insufficient it is their duty to come to Parliament and ask for further powers. The Motion just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gal-way (Mr. Mitchell Henry) is in conformity with an invitation, if not a suggestion, in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. We are of opinion that it would be highly advantageous not to pronounce an opinion which would perhaps seem to have the effect of rejecting a Bill of this kind, and to pronounce on the 15th March in this year 1882, that it is quite clear that the machinery of the Act will require no legislative addition. We do not wish to pronounce an opinion upon that at this date. We would much rather that the question stand over. We fully admit that it is 971 the duty of the Government to pronounce a responsible judgment, in the first instance, upon that question at the proper time; but the question is, What is the proper time? There will also be the further question. What is the proper addition to make to the machinery, if an addition should be made? Now, with regard to time, the House will not fail to observe that there has been, although the congestion of business may still be said to continue, yet there has been a very considerable acceleration in the practical proceedings of the Courts—that the Return for the month of February is, in fact, quite a different Return as to the quantity of ground covered from the Returns that had preceded it, and we wish to see yet for a certain time longer what the real powers of the Courts are before considering the question whether any new mode of action should be provided for the machinery in order to cope more effectually with the great duty devolving upon them. Therefore, my suggestion would be that we should support the Motion of my hon. Friend. And if I am asked what I mean by this adjournment, and if the Government is to be the Mover of the Bill after an adjournment of, say, a couple of months, or whether the Government will leave the Mover of the Bill to take his chance, in the still more congested Business of this House, for raising the question?—my answer is, I do not mean, in acceding to the proposition for adjournment, that the Government should take up the Bill, but that at or about that time it would be our duty to give a statement of the view of the course it were best to take with regard to this machinery. Criticisms have been made as if the Commissioners have done something extraneous from the Act, or something apart from the views with which the Act was passed by Parliament. It has been suggested by some that the three gentlemen whose names were inserted in the Act ought to have conducted personally the whole business arising under the Act, and that there has been some virtual contravention of the intention of Parliament in appointing a large number of Sub-Commissioners, who have gone over the country and attended to the cases to the best of their ability. But, on the one hand, it is quite clear that no man could 972 prophecy at the time when the Act passed what would be the actual and exact amount of business before the Court, and it is equally clear, I think, that every reasonable man must have foreseen that at least it might happen that a large amount of business might come before the Court; and that, if so, it was quite inevitable that a very large number of Sub-Commissioners must be appointed, and that the principal Commission could discharge only a very small proportion of that business. Therefore, I must hold that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Lord Lieutenant have simply performed the duty which it was obvious for them to perform in the appointment of these Sub-Commissioners, and that they have endeavoured to constitute these Courts in the very way Parliament meant them to be constituted. That is to say, that whilst they should be in substance and in operation Courts of Justice, acting solely under judicial motives and considerations, whilst we clearly approve of the intention of Parliament, yet, on the other hand, they should have among them a number of members who should be competent to deal practically with agricultural questions, and on that account they would be able to transact the business more rapidly, more easily, more cheaply, and more effectually than if the Court had been composed almost altogether of professional persons. That was the reason why Parliament seemed so little disposed to give any practical share of its confidence to the Bill Courts of Ireland; and I think I remember exerting myself considerably to be able to keep for the Civil Bill Courts as an alternative the place which they now have in the Act. My right hon. Friend, then, in asking for an adjournment, has most justly and necessarily reserved the freedom of judgment of the Government; while Parliament, of course, will reserve its own freedom with respect to the nature of the amendment which may have or may not have to be made in the machinery of the Act. It may be our duty to consider in the interval, if the debate be adjourned, whether we ought not still further to enlarge the machinery that is now at work by some further appointments. With respect to the method suggested by my hon. Friend the Mover of this Bill to appoint valuators, I at once recognize the perfect uprightness, 973 in the Parliamentary sense, of the intention of my hon. Friend, which is directed to forwarding, and not to altering, the Act; but, at the same time, the hon. Gentleman has originated a very great difficulty in the method of proceeding that is suggested. One has to consider in what way this Bill, if it were carried, would work; and my hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Macartney) has pointed to considerations in that direction that are, in my opinion, of very great weight. The question at once arises, Are we to appoint and select with great care a very limited number of valuators, upon whose authority implicit reliance could be placed, and if we select that necessarily very limited number, how are we to suppose that some of them will always be forthcoming in every suit to conduct the initiatory process? We may get into the same difficulty with regard to an adequate number of competent valuators that we seem now to be in with regard to the number of Courts as compared with the work they have to do. And there is another consideration. You must observe that these valuators, in order to give them confidence, would require to be appointed for a term of years. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Willis) seemed to allude to the appointment of two valuators, and it was suggested that it was more likely to be 200, and my hon. and learned Friend said he was quite ready for 200 valuators. Well, before a Bill of this kind is passed, it would be well to understand whether we should appoint 200 valuators in Ireland, and each of them for a term of years, to obtain and to give confidence to the parties. I only say this in reserving to ourselves freedom, and not as implying that there is any foregone conclusion absolutely adverse to the ideas which are embodied in the measure. Our meaning is that, recognizing the necessity of considering carefully the question whether it may be necessary or not—upon that I do not at all give an opinion—to have any extension of machinery under the Land Act during the present year, that at any rate the time has not yet arrived, and therefore we hope that the House will be disposed to accede to the Motion which has been made to adjourn the debate.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
, in supporting the Bill, said, that if there were to be Land 974 Courts at all, they ought to work speedily; and the question concerning the valuators was, whether they would proceed at a quicker rate than the present Courts? In his opinion it was quite likely. As the present Court was composed of legal and non-legal members, carrying out the judicial work with the work of valuation, the one had to wait upon the other, and considerable delays were inevitable. The consequence was that a dead-lock ensued, for the legal members of the Court were doing nothing, while the others were going round and valuing the farms. He would suggest that the valuators to be appointed by the Bill should value whole lots of land together; and he believed if that were carried out, it would facilitate the valuation of large districts, and the result of that would be that ten times the number of cases would be settled out of Court. It would supply the defect in the machinery of the Land Act, and winnow the uncontested from the litigated cases, thus expediting the settlement of the country and doing injury to none but the lawyers. It was perfectly impossible that Ireland could prosper or get rich in the present condition of affairs, and he earnestly trusted some remedy would be speedily effected.
§ MR. MULHOLLAND
said, he could not quite understand from the Prime Minister's speech the exact object he had in view in adjourning the debate; because, if the Government after a time decided to bring forward a measure for further improving the machinery of the Land Act, he (Mr. Mulholland) did not see why they could not do it equally well if they gave a direct negative to the Motion now before the House. He need hardly say that he was in favour of such a change of procedure as would have the effect of diminishing the excessive costs to which the landlords and tenants were being put in the Land Courts, and also putting an end to the present suspense and anxiety; but in the present Bill it was impossible to find any solution of these matters. In regard to valuation, he thought that if the present Parliament was to fall back upon the principle of valuation suggested, it would be more mischievous than beneficial. If there was to be anything in the shape of valuation in Ireland, it was needless to say that the greatest care should be taken that the valuation should be a just and impartial valuation made by 975 professional men without bias, who would have laws laid down for these valuations. It was said by the Prime Minister when the Land Bill was passing through the House that the Sub-Commissioners should not be mere valuators; but he (Mr. Mulholland) now asked them what it was they really were? It had been confessed by the Commissioners themselves that the evidence which came before them was not very valuable, and that many of the valuations made were mere opinions. He saw where a Sub-Commissioner the other day said the evidence of the tenant was ridiculous, and another Sub-Commissioner said he attached no importance to the evidence of paid valuators. That was clearly not the intention of the Act; and he asked if it was too late to fall back on such a system of valuation as would be both skilled and consistent? The landlord could get no evidence except that of paid valuators, so that if the evidence of the landlord and tenant were disregarded they could only fall back upon their own valuation. He had foreseen from the first that the Sub-Commissioners under the Land Act would be simply valuers, but the suggestion was always repudiated. With respect to the Bill before the House, he quite agreed that the final settlement of the disturbing element in the air of Ireland was more to be looked for in the satisfactory working of the Bright Clauses than any other; but as yet they had been quite imperative. He trusted, however, that as they had been particularly alluded to in the debate, they would receive the consideration of the Prime Minister. He was glad to hear there was a prospect of that part of the Act being revised; but probably the Government were awaiting the result of the inquiry in "another place."
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he thought it was a matter beyond dispute that something must be done in regard to the administration of the Land Act, and the Prime Minister, if he understood him rightly, promised him that something should be done when the proper time arrived. Taking into consideration the administration of the Act in a few counties in Ulster, he thought the proper time had arrived when something should be done to facilitate the working of the Act, or else it would be, and would remain in many counties, a dead letter. 976 In one small district in Ireland—that where he resided—there were 1,500 cases entered for the fixing of fair rents. These cases were entered in November last, and up to the present only 23 of them had been decided. The Commission had only sat once in the district to which he referred. In the counties of Tyrone and Armagh, with which he was intimately acquainted, there had been 10,000 cases entered, and only a few hundreds had yet been decided. No matter how speedily the Commissioners did their work, fresh cases would take the place of those settled out of Court; and, at the present rate of progress, it would take seven years for the present staff sitting in Tyrone and Armagh to get over the cases already entered for hearing. He estimated that during that time about 10,000 or 11,000 more cases would be entered for hearing, so that the Commissioners would always be about that number of cases in arrears. Under the present system of working, the benefits of the Land Act could not be extended for six or seven years to tenants in whose interest the measure had been passed. They were all anxious for the restoration of peace and settlement in that country; but that was utterly impossible so long as the benefits of the Land Act were withheld from the people. He advocated the amalgamation of the valuators and the Sub-Commissioners, in order that the tenants might have the advantage of trained and skilled witnesses to give evidence to the Court. The Government might, perhaps, succeed in adjourning the question now, on the ground that it would interfere with the working of the Land Act; but they would yet have the difficulty, and he would suggest that they should, by taking counsel with the Land Commission, see in what way the working of the Land Act could be facilitated and the benefits of the Act conferred upon the people within a reasonable time.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he very much concurred with the observations of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry). He thought the hon. Member who brought forward the Bill (Mr. Findlater) would have acted better if he had brought forward a Bill which would amend the Land Act in other particulars as well as in those special parts to which reference was made. He (Mr. Biggar) held that the Bill before them would be 977 of no particular value, and that it would not meet the requirements of the case as regarded the fixing of a fair rent. The four hon. Gentlemen whose names were on the back of the Bill were sterling Supporters of the Government, and, by becoming parties to the Bill, they admitted that the Land Act, at any rate with regard to the fixing of a fair rent, had hopelessly broken down. ["No, no!"] So far as he could see, it was something like treason to the Government to find any fault whatever with the Act of last Session. [Mr. T. A. DICKSON: I never said so.] He did not mean to say that the hon. Member said so; but that was the contention of the Liberal caucuses of England and of the supporters of the Government in different parts of Ireland. The cases before the Court represented only one-eighth part of the number of tenancies in Ireland, and at the present rate, according to the calculation of the hon. Member for Tyrone, it would take 48 years for all the holdings in Ireland to get a judicial rent fixed. If that was not a very considerable amount of failure he was very much mistaken. The only advantage he saw from the present discussion was the intimation by both right hon. Gentlemen—the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary for Ireland—that it was possible that at no distant date—in fact, within a couple of months—the Government would review the state of affairs with regard to the Land Act of last Session. He thought that was a very valuable concession. With regard to the present Bill before the House, he did not think it was of much value, except as an expression of opinion of the failure of the Bill of last year. He did not think there would be any practical advantage derived from it, because the valuators would be gentlemen of less social standing than the Sub-Commissioners, and their decisions would have even less value than the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners. Their appointment would be only loss of time. With regard to the Purchase Clauses of this Bill, he did not think that they would have any appreciable advantage with regard to the matter to which they referred. The purchase system was the only one that could settle the Land Question. A deal more of reform was necessary than that proposed in the Bill now before the House, which would have no appreciable 978 effect upon that part of the Act of last Session. He thought that, but for the expression of opinion it contained, the provisions of the present Bill did not meet the case. As the Bill was before them on the second reading, he would vote for it, because, although he did not think it would do any good, it would, were he not to do so, be proclaimed on every Whig platform that himself and other Irish Members sitting on his side of the House did not want any reform, but wanted to keep up the agitation, and would oppose everything except what was proposed by themselves. He did not believe it would do the smallest amount of good; but he would vote in the way he had said for the purpose of saving himself the trouble of defending his own personal conduct hereafter.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he had no doubt that this was only the commencement of a long series of discussions that they would have on the subject. All he had to say was, that all the remedies he had heard suggested from the other side of the House with reference to the strengthening of the Sub-Commissioners seemed to him to be entirely beside the mark. The real question of increasing the number of Commissioners he thought should be with reference to the full Court of the Commission. It was all very well to send 12 or 20 Sub-Commissioners all over Ireland in the first instance; but the real business, after all, in the shape of final and conclusive re-hearings, was before the full Court in Dublin. He wanted to know whether the suggestions he had heard with reference to the appointment of additional Sub-Commissioners were not really playing with the difficulty? The real point was the strengthening of the Commission trying the cases finally. There could be no advantage in increasing the number of Sub-Commissioners, if that only tended to block up the Court of Appeal. He had expressed the opinion on a former occasion, and it had been found, according to their experience, that the disposal of 500 or 600 cases by the full Commission in the course of the year would be about as great a rate of progress as they could expect. He wanted to know what possibility there was of the Chief Commissioners disposing of the number of cases which were certain to arise upon the books of the Land Commission? He 979 agreed with the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson), when he stated that in his district it would take seven years for the Sub-Commissioners to dispose of the cases, and he ventured to say that the full Court would not get through these cases for 14 years. They should remember that all the small streams of the Commission flowed into the main channel of the full Court. The discussion to-day was only the beginning of a number of similar discussions. ["Oh, oh!"] He was perfectly certain that such discussions would be endless. They must necessarily progress from day to day, because the Act had been taken up and worked from the wrong end; and that was why they found the country in the dilemma in which it now stood. As he had said over and over again, he believed every one of these so-called remedies was of very little value, because the only way to settle the matter was by turning the occupier into the owner by parchment. Any other way of attempting to solve the question would be only rolling stones up a hill to have them roll down again—only a change of place. The only chance of a permanent settlement of the Irish Question would be to give the go-by to the clauses that were obnoxious to the landlords and the tenants of Ireland, and to take up and endeavour to work to their best advantage, with the greatest and most impartial assistance that the Government could by any possibility devise, those clauses which were found to work well.
§ MR. GRAY
said, he thought that if the Bill was passed it might do some good; but the really important point in the discussion was, that the Government had at last come to realize, by the mention of some legislation, the fact that the present machinery of the Land Act was not working. Once the Government recognized that, they would see that the principle of the Act was deficient. He (Mr. Gray) desired to see the Act work; but it was evident to everyone that it was not working, and something better than the clauses in the Bill would be necessary to make it work. In fact, if the Act were not entirely re-modelled, it would be useless to expect any good from it. The hon. Member in charge of this Bill (Mr. Findlater) had made a proposal to meet the difficulty, and it was a very sweeping one. His (Mr. Gray's) 980 suggestion, however, would be simply to fix a Governmental valuation, which should be payable pending the fixing of the judicial rent, and if the judicial rent, when fixed, was different, let the difference be paid. That would settle the whole question at once. The Prime Minister, in a remarkable speech made some time ago, stated that there were only two living powers in Ireland—the Land League and the Land Act. He (Mr. Gray) would read a letter to show him how one of these powers—the Land Act—was working, and in order to show the House that until something was done to facilitate the progress of business the Act could not work. He would read a portion of the letter. It was from Kildare, and dated the 13th instant, and was from a reverend gentleman, who at one time was a very warm admirer of the Prime Minister. There were 50 cases listed for hearing at Athy, and the Sub-Commissioners just heard five of the cases, and then adjourned sine die. A parishioner of the reverend gentleman's, Mr. Edward Lee, had entered the Land Court, on his advice, to have his rent fixed. He had his solicitor in attendance on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and he had his barrister, Mr. Adams, and his valuator also in attendance; and on Wednesday at luncheon-time, the Sub-Commissioners adjourned the Court sine die, leaving him to continue paying his rack rent, and to pay the £20 costs he had been put to. There were 44 poor tenants left in precisely the same position. The proceedings of this Court were a complete farce, lawyers raising points of law, and Mr. Romney receiving them, and the Court being unable to decide anything. The tenants and those who represented them were indignant at the farce enacted, and at one time there was a proposition to retire from the Court in a body and not attempt to seek redress through that channel. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Who is the letter from?] It was from the Rev. James Cavanagh, parish priest of Kildare, who was well known to the right hon. Gentleman, who had met him. He was at one time President of Carlton College, and was at present parish priest of Kildare. [Mr. GLADSTONE intimated that he knew the reverend gentleman.] The matter should be dealt with in a sweeping manner, as it would be utterly hopeless to meet it otherwise.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
, interposing, said, he wished to correct the hon. Member, who had several times made that statement. What he (Mr. Dickson) had really said in his election address was that he thought the Land Act was the first instalment of justice.
§ MR. HEALY
said, the next time he made the statement, which he hoped soon to do, he would show chapter and verse for it from the letter written by the hon. Gentleman to his constituents on the occasion of his election. According to the Bill the Land Commission should have the appointment of the valuators, and they would appoint men like John E. Barrett. What possible advantage would it be to the tenants to have their lands valued for them by gentlemen appointed by the Land Commission? He agreed with the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) as to the injustice consequent upon the present working of the Act, which this Bill would not mitigate in the slightest degree. At the same time, as a protest against the existing measure, he would not be prepared to vote against the Bill. He should say that the entire way in which matters were working in Ireland went to prove the great wisdom shown by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) in the action he took in connection with the Irish Land Question. He considered it most fortunate in regard to this matter that he was arrested by the Government, for if he had not——[Mr. WARTON: Question!] It was the question. If his hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) had, if he might so term it, been let loose, and the Act had then become discredited, it would have been said that he had discredited it, and the Party who worked with him. If the hon. Member had not been muzzled, and locked up in gaol, and confined with his staunchest supporters——[Cries of "Oh!" and "Question!"]
§ MR. HEALY
explained that he was only pointing out the defects of the Act of last year, which were proposed to be remedied by this Bill. Temporary measures of this kind were altogether inadequate. The newspapers which had been engaged in pointing out the defects of the Act had been suppressed, and there was no adequate expression from Ireland as to what the real defects of the Land Act were. The gentlemen who would have pointed out these defects had been muzzled. In consequence of that state of things hon. Gentlemen brought in Bills such as the present, thinking that they would remedy the case before there had been any expression of opinion from Ireland as to the working of the Land Act. He did not think the present Bill would be of the smallest service, or mend matters in the least degree, and upon that ground he was not altogether sorry that the Government had taken the step of proposing its postponement. That was perfectly in accordance with their policy in Ireland, which was to let matters drift. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland argued for the postponement of the Bill for two months. In two months' time, he (Mr. Healy) might tell them, the situation in Ireland would be precisely what it was to-day.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he could not help feeling that the Land Act was a mass of imperfections. That was disclosed every day by its inability to cope with the situation. The effect of the passing of the Bill would be to create a misleading impression in the minds of the Irish people that the Land Act did not require immediate amendment on very important points, and it was because he was unwilling to lend himself to holding out such a false impression that he should vote against the measure.
§ MR. FINDLATER
said, he would accept the Motion of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry). With reference to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Lowther), he (Mr. Findlater) wished to say that in bringing in the Bill he was not actuated by any hostility to the Land Act. Indeed, he should distinctly say that he entirely repudiated any intention of the kind, and he must express his regret that the right hon. Gentleman had found 983 it necessary to make such an insinuation.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
(who rose amid great interruption) said, he was of opinion that the House ought to decide upon the Bill at once, one way or another, and, so to speak, put it out of pain. It appeared to him that, after the Resolution they came to the other day, questioning the propriety of making even an inquiry into the Land Act, it would be altogether absurd to send a Bill to the Upper House proposing to amend that Act. He should therefore be most happy to vote against the Motion for adjournment; and afterwards, when the Main Question was put, he should also be happy to vote against the Bill. Not that he was disposed to characterize the Bill as "peddling," or, to use a more familiar Parliamentary expression, "tinkering," though he thought there had been scarcely any Bill presented to that House which was more amenable to such an imputation. The Land Act was not working so badly after all, nor was it working so slowly. He himself had some experience of it; he had a tenant who, since the passing of the Act, appealed to the Land Commission to have a judicial rent fixed. Forty-three years ago the rent of his farm was £113 10s. 10d.; but it was afterwards reduced to £93 10s. 10d., and while under that reduction he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) became the purchaser of the estate 25 years ago. Although the times had improved very much since then, he never raised the rent, but continued the reduction. The tenant, taking advantage of the Act, however, as he had a right to do, came before the Commissioners, who reduced the rent to £75, or £38 10s. 10d. less than the rent he came in under 43 years ago. Inasmuch as he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) contributed to the passing of that Act, perhaps as much as any individual Member of a quiet class sitting on that side of the House, he had sufficient good taste not to object to it, when fairly administered, though he felt the effect of it himself; but he wished to ask the Government how they could expect any class in Ireland to be satisfied with that Act out and out, through and through? When the Bill was before the House, he ventured to say that it did not go sufficiently far for the tenant; that, though it took something from the landlord, it did not take enough; 984 and that it did not compensate the landlord for what it proposed to take away. He was then met by hon. Gentlemen opposite saying the Act would take away nothing; but he had some idea of what it would do, though he assured the House that he was not thinking about himself. The Irish people felt that no legislation was safe or was calculated to attract and retain the confidence of the community, unless it was fair on both sides. In his opinion, the only way of arriving at a settlement of the Irish Land Question was by a complete and thorough modification, in a liberal and Imperial spirit, of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act. He did not say that as a follower of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), because he had held those opinions long before that hon. Gentleman had expressed them. Fortunately, or unfortunately, however, he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had expressed them Constitutionally, and in a mild sort of way, that produced no ill effects, nor any appreciable good. The hon. Member for the City of Cork, however, had expressed his views in a way that produced a very dolorous effect on himself. [Mr. HEALY: No, no!] The hon. Member for Wexford said "No, no!" He was glad to hear the hon. Member did not think so.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must ask the hon. Member to address himself to the Chair, and also to the Bill before the House.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he could assure the House that he did not rise for the purpose of talking the Bill out, but rather with the object of leaving sufficient time for two divisions upon it. He would, therefore, now leave the matter in the hands of other hon. Members.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 171; Noes 86: Majority 85.—(Div. List, No. 48.)
§ Debate adjourned till Wednesday 10th May.