§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [19th August.]—[See page 96.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.383
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Mr. Speaker, I am strongly disposed to demur—in fact, I think it is my duty to demur—to the inference which has been so freely drawn in this debate, and which has been alluded to in the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, as to the result of the recent Elections. I myself do not feel at all that the question of Irish self-government has been disposed of, much less finally disposed of, by the recent appeal to the country. In looking at the results of that appeal, I see that Her Majesty's present Government have been returned to power not as the Representative of the majority of the country, and certainly not as the Representatives of a majority of the House. I see that they are only in Office, and that they can only remain in Office on sufferance—on the sufferance of a certain number of Liberal Members of this House who call themselves Liberal Unionists; and only so long as that section of Members determine that the Irish Question—that the withholding of the right of self-government from Ireland—is more important to the interests of the Empire than all other English and Imperial questions put together. Now, Sir, I do not think that that time can last very long. Ireland is a very small and insignificant country. She has been able, of course, to give a great deal of trouble; but it cannot be pretended that the necessity of bullying and keeping down Irish national aspirations is of such importance as to require that the people of England, in their great domestic and Imperial concerns, should continue to be directed and governed by a Tory policy. In my judgment, the time will come, sooner or later, when the people of this country will signify, in no very doubtful fashion, to that section of the Liberal Party who are keeping the Tories in power and enabling the Tories to govern not only Ireland, but England and the Empire at large, that their patience has been exhausted, and that their desire that England should cease to be governed by the reactionary factions and the Tories, and that the great results of the extension of the franchise to the masses should be allowed to have their full play. As regards our own position, we have every reason to feel, I will not say satisfied with the result of the General 384 Election, but certainly satisfied with our present position. For the first time in the history of the Irish national movement a large section, the great majority, of the Liberal Party have declared at the polls that Ireland is entitled to autonomy. That declaration has been endorsed in the country by the great majority of the Liberal electors—the vast majority. If I look at the Election Returns, I find that the Conservative Party were in no instances helped by anything but an insignificant section of the Liberal voters in the constituencies. I find, on the other hand, that where the Tories gained seats, it was due to hesitation on the part of a considerable section of the Liberal electorate. I am not surprised that they should have shown this hesitation, in view of the extraordinary attempts made to deceive them, and to raise false issues; and in view of the great weight which was lent to such false issues by such men as the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), and the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for another Division of Birmingham (Mr. John Bright). I am not in the least surprised that there was sufficient hesitancy on the part of a section of the Liberal Party, so as to enable the Tory Gentlemen opposite to take their seats on the Treasury Bench; but I do not think that if the Elections were to take place now, you would see such a result. I do not believe that if even three weeks' more time had been given for fuller examination of this question, the Tory Party would have been able to profit by that hesitation. Certainly, after the present Government have exhibited themselves as a spectacle for gods and men for a year or two, in their attempt to govern Ireland, I am convinced that there will be no such hesitation, so that we have every reason to be patient. We have every reason, as the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, the senior Member for Newcastle - upon - Tyne (Mr. John Morley), said the other evening, to be moderate, and to urge on our people at home to be moderate, and to keep them within the limits of loyalty, as far as any advice of ours can possibly so keep them, because 385 ours is a winning cause. It can only be damaged by excesses of any kind; and if the speeches which have been made from the Treasury Bench and in "another place" within the last day or two have been intended to exasperate Ireland, then I believe they will very seriously fall short of their effect. At the same time, I am bound to say that there must be considerable difficulty in that country in the coming winter on the question of rent; and I seriously regret that the Government have not appeared to estimate, at its full gravity, the position in Ireland with regard to this matter. They talk of issuing a Royal Commission for the purpose of inquiring into the question. But such a Commission cannot possibly report until the winter has gone over, and it is in the winter when the pinch must arise. I shall refer more fully to this branch of the question a little later on; but I would wish to say that the Government, although they have put forward a Speech from the Throne of a non-committal character, have not followed up that Speech in their explanations to both Houses of Parliament. On the contrary, they have foreshadowed—all the principal speakers who have addressed Parliament on the part of the Government have foreshadowed—very extensive changes in the law of the land. In addition to announcing a policy of what they call firm administration of the law in Ireland, they have also announced, and they have very boldly foreshadowed, very extensive changes in the law of the land. The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), and, last night, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), have all, in the most unhesitating and unqualified manner, announced that the policy of the Government with regard to the land in Ireland will be to substitute for the dual ownership established by the Land Act of 1881 a system of single ownership by the occupying tenants. Now, Sir, that is a policy which cannot be carried out except with the expenditure of a vast sum of money. I have made my estimate in times past as to what would be a reasonable sum to spend on a settlement of the Land Question by purchase, and I put it at £100,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Member 386 for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), I think, placed it at £150,000,000. [Mr. W.E. GLADSTONE: £113,000,000.] £113,000,000! But the leading Members of the Conservative Party, in their speeches in the country last year, placed it at £250,000,000. And if there is to be this radical alteration in the settlement attempted to be made by the Land Act of 1881, if—in the words of Lord Salisbury, of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of the Chief Secretary for Ireland—the system of dual ownership in Ireland is be replaced by one of single ownership, it can only be replaced, and, certainly, it can only be replaced under a Tory Government, by the expenditure of very vast sums of money at the risk or expense of the English taxpayer. My position has always been a perfectly clear one in respect to this matter. Perhaps I shall be told that I agreed to the Land Purchase Act of 1885; but I did not agree to it with coercion in prospect. I agreed to it because I believed that a settlement of the National Question was about to come concurrently with a settlement of the Land Question. I agreed to it because the Government of which the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and Lord Salisbury, were Members, had sent over to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant an avowed Home Ruler, whom they knew to be an avowed Home Ruler, whom they knew to be in favour of a separate Constitution for Ireland. ["Order, order!"]
§ SIR WILLIAM HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
I rise to Order. I cannot allow it to be stated—["Order, order!"]—by any hon. Gentleman—["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is not a question of Order. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork is in possession of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of making any correction afterwards.
§ MR. PARNELL
Well, Sir, if Lord Salisbury did not know that Lord Carnarvon was a Home Ruler, I wonder why he took such pains in the beginning of last July to tell Lord Carnarvon, on his acceptance of Office, that he had not yet arrived at the belief that Home Rule was possible for Ireland. And I wonder why Lord Salisbury was not able to say that he had ever expressed an opinion adverse to Home Rule to Lord Carnar- 387 von after that time. I also wonder why Lord Salisbury, in his celebrated Newport speech, made pointed references to the settlement which had taken place between Austria and Hungary as a settlement which he feared might not be possible in Ireland, but which he hoped would be. At all events, that, Sir, was my main reason for supporting the Land Purchase Act of 1885. Circumstances are now, however, entirely changed. We have not Lord Carnarvon as Lord Lieutenant any longer. Why have we not Lord Carnarvon as Lord Lieutenant any longer? It is true, Sir, we have a Home Secretary who, in 1870, contributed £30 to the funds of the predecessor of the Irish National League—the Home Rule League—one of the principles of which Body was that no power except that of the Queen, Lords, and Commons of Ireland had any right to make laws for that country. Sir, I am very sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not changed his colours with his position, and that some day or other we shall have from him a bold, able, and eloquent justification of his real belief in the position which he then took. I sincerely hope we shall. But, Sir, to return to the Land Question. I would wish to say that the settlement of the question of the purchase of land in Ireland, concurrently with that of the national question proposed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, would have been a safer one for the British taxpayer under the limitations and restrictions which were attached to it. Under those limitations and restrictions the Imperial authority would not have been obliged to come into contact in the process of the collection of rent with a single tenant. Every penny of the principal and interest required for the £50,000,000 would have been paid out of the Customs and Excise, which were all absolutely under the control of the Imperial authority, who would not in the collection of the money, which, is as safe as the Bank of England, ever come in contact with a single labourer or tenant in Ireland. But what is the position taken up by the present Government? They contend that it is not quite safe to buy the congested estates in the West of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant tells us that he hopes in the future to establish a system by which Local Authorities in Ireland—to be also 388 established hereafter—will be able to give county guarantees in order to protect the State from the risk of buying these rotten estates in the West of Ireland. That is a very kind offer indeed of the right hon. Gentleman to make to us. First, that he is going to establish Local Authorities who will be constituted in such a way as to be foolish enough to become guarantors for the purchase of these rotten estates, upon which there are, according to the letters of Sir James Caird, 528,000 tenants absolutely unable to pay any economical rent at all; and, secondly, that these estates are to be purchased. Well, Sir, if his local government is going to be in that shape, I should say that the less local government we have from the right hon. Gentleman the better. If he succeeds in establishing Boards in Ireland which, by a liberal infusion of the ex officio or landlord element, will be in a position to put taxes upon these impoverished counties in the West, the result will be no safer to the Imperial Exchequer than if he had not established these County Authorities, and nothing bearing a good effect will have been done at all. Sir, the Western counties in which these congested estates are situated are as poor as the estates themselves. The poor rates are often excessively high there, in many cases as much as 5s. in the £ of the total valuation. At times of exceptional pressure and distress they frequently run up to 10s., and in the time of famine they went up to 20s. in the £. This, Sir, is the property which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to lay his hands on, under the guise of local government, and of securing, by a county guarantee, the Imperial Exchequer against loans for purchasing congested estates, a plan which would be absolutely valueless in the times of pressure which annually occur in Ireland. That is a portion of the policy of the Government. But another policy would be to purchase other estates not so valueless, and not in such congested districts. This is in action now under the Act of 1885, and I have seen some details of purchase which certainly make me believe that the transaction will not be a safe one for the Imperial Exchequer. Under that Act the landlord is entitled to guarantee one-fifth of the purchase money by allowing it to remain as a sort of security. The practice on the part of those representing 389 the landlords, in some recent sales, I am informed, has been to say to the tenant—"If you offer to give a higher price than you think the land is really worth to the extent of that one-fifth, we will never call upon you to pay that one-fifth; we will allow you to repudiate that one-fifth." Is that a very safe way of commencing to deal with the tenantry, even on the most solvent of estates, leaving alone those in the congested districts? Should you commence by telling them almost absolutely to repudiate one-fifth of the purchase money? Sir, this idea of repudiation will become instilled into the mind of the tenantry—it will take root and extend beyond that one-fifth. I wish to clear my hands entirely of any responsibility in reference to the working of the Land Purchase Act of 1885, or any loss which may arise to the Imperial Exchequer hereafter, any loss which may arise from the proposed gigantic schemes of Land Purchase which the Government have foreshadowed, by saying that, in my opinion, in present circumstances the prices likely to be given by the tenants, under the pressure of what is called the stern enforcement of the law—perhaps, almost certainly, under the pressure of an additional Coercion Act next year—will have such an effect as to render it an exceedingly dangerous thing for the State to entertain the matter at all. What was suggested, Sir, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in my opinion, would in Ireland have been met with the united efforts of the people to pay the amount to the last penny. And, Sir, if the question of the settlement of the land is divorced from the National Question—if Sir, it is intended to alienate national feeling, it will be found that the Government will have got hold of a very thorny stick by the wrong end. I have myself, Sir, always desired a fair consideration of public money advances for Irish objects; because I believe that if the Land Question were once settled, the way would be made easier for the settlement of the national question of self-government; but I should certainly be most dishonest if, out of any desire to see the Land Question settled, I were to join in the designs which the Government appear to have upon the pockets of the British taxpayers when they announce, as has been done by Lord Salisbury and 390 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the judicial rents are sacred; that if they are too high they must be reduced, not at the loss of the landlords, but in the loss of the Imperial Exchequer No, Sii1; the honest policy is, that the land should pay as much as it can pay in fairness—that is, what it pays in England. The English landlords re-duce their rents when a crisis such as that in Ireland comes upon them; they voluntarily reduce the rents 30 or 40 per cent. The land, in many cases, is thrown out of cultivation for want of tenants. The English landlords, Sir, do not come to the State and beg it to advance fabulous and gigantic sums, for the purpose of enabling them to keep up to the high level of judicial or any other rent. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant was put up manifestly to smooth and explain away the too candidly open utterances of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It appears to me, Sir, however, that he has succeeded in making the position of the Government worse; because, whilst he admitted that the question of rents that were not judicial rents should be a fair subject of negotiation between the landlords and tenants with a view to their reduction, he said the judicial rents could not be made the subject of any arrangement or reduction.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
No; I did not say that.
§ MR. PARNELL
I do not know, then, what the meaning is of the extract which I shall read from the right hon. Gentleman's speech last night. If it be not that, I am afraid it has no meaning at all. He says—There would be no difficulty in doing this in Ireland as in England; no difficulty in the cases where the tenants may find it impossible to pay their rents in the coming autumn, if landlords and tenants were free to make their own bargains for themselves. The Act of 1881 contained a provision meeting cases where the tenant whose rent has not been fixed by the Court may apply to have eviction stayed until the Court has adjudicated, and I know no reason why the Court should not act with perfect fairness in such a matter. Now, I come to another matter—the question of tenants holding under judicial rents. My noble Friend has already put before the House the position of this question. Under the Act of 1881 Commissioners were appointed; and can it be supposed that these Commissioners, who were considered amply qualified by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, 391 fixed the judicial rents without taking into consideration the fact that the price of produce must necessarily vary? But was this a temporary or a permanent matter? We find the tenants, as I have already stated in reply to a Question, can afford to give enormous sums for the tenant right. These are matters which surely deserve grave consideration, especially by those who are responsible for the Land Act of 1881, before they undertake to say that the judicial rents were fixed so unfairly that when a fall in prices comes those rents must be revised. On the other hand, Her Majesty's Government have never, from the beginning of this matter, looked upon the Commissioners who have decided rents as infallible, either in their methods or in their knowledge of the question. We admit that it is possible that they may have been a good deal wrong; and, therefore, we include this matter in the inquiry which we propose. It is not for me to forecast what the result of that inquiry may be on either of the two points affecting the payment of rents specified for inquiry in that Commission,Therefore, according to the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the distinction is that the rent which is not a judicial rent maybe settled between the landlord and tenant as it would be in England; but all questions affecting rents that have been judicially fixed must wait until the Commissioners have completed their inquiry. That, Sir, I consider to be a fair representation of the right hon. Gentleman's utterances. What will be the consequence? That is hard to say; but it is certain that the tenants who have relied upon this House and upon the efficacy of the Act of 1881 to put them in a secure position will be punished by the right hon. Gentleman because they have relied upon that measure, because they have applied to the Courts to fix their rents. Now that a great fall in prices has taken place, they are to be debarred from any relief, at all events before the Commission has sat and inquired, and afterwards they are not to be relieved by the lowering of the rents, but at the expense of the Imperial taxpayers. But what, Sir, about the tenants who remained out of Court in 1881, in obedience to the "No Sent" Manifesto, the tenants who have been fighting their way outside the Courts? Why, they are to be taken under the wing of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and are to be told that it is quite right and proper for them to bargain with their landlords, as tenants in England do, in order to obtain a reduction. If that is the way in which the Chief Secretary is going to teach the Irish tenant farmers and 392 people to rely on the law of the land and the justice of this House he is on the wrong tack. Now, I want to say a few words about the appointment of General Buller. I would like to know if the Government intend that that officer should administer the civil or military power? Is he to have control of the magistracy? The Stipendiary Magistrates are gentlemen who have passed through a special study and training. They are acquainted with the law in Ireland; they know familiarly what the Civil Law is; and they have spent many years in acquiring their broad experience. Is General Buller to be given any opportunity of making himself acquainted with the law of the country which he is to administer? What has been his experience in the past? Has he ever administered the Civil Law in any country where that law existed? I never heard that he had. I rather think that his experience is confined to the administration of Military Law in savage countries where no law had ever existed, or where it had been superseded by that martial law which is the abolition of all law. Inter arma silent leges, and I suppose we shall be told that General Buller will be entitled to manufacture in Kerry a code of his own adapted to the situation. Has he any knowledge of the Civil and Criminal Law of Ireland, of the duties of the Constabulary, of the duties of the Resident and ordinary Magistrates? I do not wish to say a single word against the great gallantry and the military ability of this officer; but I cannot but think that the Kerry "Moonlighters" will think themselves highly complimented at having among them to effect their subjection so gallant a General, backed, as I suppose he will be, by a very considerable portion of the British Army. But I think we ought to know what is going to happen, and what he is going to do. Is he going to strain the Civil Law, or is he going beyond it; and, if so, do you intend to apply to Parliament for Acts of indemnity for such excess as was done in the Rebellion of 1798? That course was followed at that time; but even in Kerry things are not so bad as they were then. The Government have in their service many civil officers from among whom, they might have chosen one for this special duty. They might, for instance, 393 have recalled Mr. Clifford Lloyd from his Colonial post, where it is reported he is not getting on very well with his superior. But why poor General Buller should be selected, and be sent over to Kerry for the purpose of attempting to catch "Moonlighters," that is a thing beyond my comprehension. But I suppose that the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his desire to introduce a now policy, desired also to do something startling. He has told us that he entirely disagrees with what he terms the traditional policy of the Liberal Party—namely, that the redress of grievances and the maintenance of social order are closely and intimately connected. But although he has told us that, he has rather shown his firm belief in the truth of that connection by appointing a Commission which is to inquire both into the question of social order and the question of agrarian legislation with regard to redress of grievances. The Commission is appointed to inquire into any combination which may exist to resist the enforcement of legal obligations, and also the fall in the price of produce. It is also to inquire to what extent there exists any general desire among the tenants to avail themselves of the provisions of the Land Purchase Act of 1885—that is to say, it is to inquire into the question of social order, and also to inquire into the question of agrarian legislation—two questions which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has always contended are intimately connected, and which the experience of the history of all countries has shown to be intimately connected, but which the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer denies there is any connection between whatever. Now, Sir, I want to ask the Government, with regard to the Royal Commission, as to its constitution. I wish to ask how soon they intend to inform the House as to the Members of which it is to be composed? Something may depend upon the constitution of this Commission; at all events, the matter appears to have been under the consideration of the Government for some time, and they surely will be in a position to inform the House now as to the constitution of such an important Body. I shall be glad to know if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham is going to be a 394 Member of it. The right hon. Gentleman was going to pay a visit to Ireland a year ago in another fashion—he was going to inquire, for his own information, in regard to the merits of the Irish Question. It will be very interesting for the right hon. Gentleman to go over to Ireland and complete the inquiry, which was shortened before by the ill-advised threat of Mr. Healy that they might duck him in a horse pond. He will have an opportunity now of going over under different auspices, and under the protection of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and he will not have the slightest risk of any such fate as that foreshadowed by Mr. Healy under the changed conditions. I should also like to know whether they think it right that Members of the Nationalist Party should serve on this Commission? It was announced that due regard would be had to the due representation on the Commission of all Parties and sections in Ireland; and I wish to know whether the National Party will have a representation to the extent of five-sixths of its number? I do not see in what other way you are to carry out the pledge made the other night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in respect to this matter. But we are not only to have a Commission charged with the duty of inquiring into the Land Question, and we are not only to incur, in all probability, a vast future expenditure in connection with that question, under circumstances which yield but little hope of its ever being repaid—we are also to have a Commission appointed to consider the subjects of railways, tramways, roads, harbours, and the industrial resources of the country generally. You therefore contemplate committing the dishonesty of attempting to bolster up the system of landlord and tenant in Ireland by the expenditure of vast sums of public money, the repayment of which is quite uncertain and highly problematic; you propose to commit the folly of spending large sums of money in building harbours of refuge on the West Coast for fishing boats that do not exist; you propose to commit the folly of lowering the bed of the great arterial lines of drainage—the Shannon, the Suck, and the Barrow—at a cost of £750,000, when, according to the Report of the Committee which has already sat upon the subject, and the estimates of the 395 chief engineer to the Board of Works in Dublin, the lowering of the bed of the River Suck alone would cost £650,000, and when the whole work must really involve an expenditure of fully £10,000,000. You propose, also, to commit the dishonesty of endeavouring to stimulate Irish manufactures by liberal doses of English public money. I believe, Sir, that the Irish people utterly refuse to sell their national birthright for a mess of pottage. I dare say the expenditure of the money will be very gratifying to many people—to people who live upon jobs. They will be very much pleased. I wonder why we have not heard of a project for cutting a tunnel through the Whinstone Rock, between Scotland and the North of Ireland, or making a ship canal through the Bog of Allen to Galway. However, I suppose the five harbours of refuge are sufficient for the present. But after you have spent all this English public money you purpose, you will have the satisfaction of finding that at least three-fourths of it will be absolutely wasted, and that you will not be thanked for your expenditure of the other fourth. You have not in Ireland, at the present moment, a single competent engineer in the Department. The Irish Board of Works has strewn the coasts with monuments of its ignorance and incompetence as an engineering body. I have myself some little knowledge of this question of the development of the industrial resources of Ireland, and I believe that the more State money there is given to such a purpose the less satisfactory will the result be. The best and only way to develop the industrial resources of Ireland is to allow the Irish people to do all these works themselves; and I think, having done them themselves, they should be allowed to have a right to the profit. This question of the influx of capital into Ireland, although we hear so much as to the necessity of it, is entirely beside the question. We do not want an influx of capital; we have got plenty of it of our own. What we want is to be allowed to keep the capital we have got in the country. At present, all the Irish capital comes over to England. There is scarcely an Irish bank that does not place five-sixths of its capital in this country. What we want is to be allowed to help ourselves. [Laughter.] Self-help according to Mr. Smiles, 396 is one of the greatest of your national virtues, and I am surprised to hear English Gentlemen deride the idea. Certainly, no nation in the world is so conspicuous an example of the successful results arising out of self-help as the English nation. You have been allowed to help yourselves; you have been allowed to devote your own. energies under your system of self-government in this House to the development of your own resources; but if you had some Pasha over in Constantinople, deciding what canals you should have cut, and what swamps should be drained, what sea lands should be reclaimed, what harbours of refuge established, you would have found the results less satisfactory, and you would probably have been in a worse condition with regard to these matters than you are to-day. These five harbours of refuge which are to be established on the West Coast, when they have been built at a vast cost—for I take it they will be constructed to admit vessels of large tonnage—will be found perfectly useless for fishing smacks. Everybody knows that fishing smacks require small harbours at small intervals. Fishermen do not require these gigantic harbours. They require harbours near their fishing grounds, and it is no advantage to them to have these large harbours 50 or 60 miles away. Such harbours of refuge, so far as the advantage of the fishing on the West Coast of Ireland is concerned, would be of very little advantage. The fishermen would require to be within easy access of the fishing ground, and to be able to run to a port near at hand. However, this is another example of the largeness of mind and breadth of view of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We are to be treated to an entirety new policy from top to bottom, and if the poor British taxpayers suffer it cannot be helped but we have liberated our souls—we have declared we shall be no party to this fraud. It will be for Her Majesty's Government, having got into Office by misrepresentations—I will not add by wholesale lying—to continue their policy by establishing a vast system of corruption and bribery in Ireland, not by means of money taken out of their own pockets or of the candidates, but out of those of the unfortunate Imperial taxpayer. Now, Sir, I will turn to my Amendment; it has 397 reference to the question of social order in Ireland and to the Land Question. My Amendment draws attention to the fact that there has been a very serious fall in the price of agricultural produce in Ireland; that this fall has taken place since the bulk of the judicial rents were fixed; that the Irish tenants, as a body, will experience considerable difficulty in the payment of their rents, and that many of them will be unable to pay these rents at all; that the rights which were given and guaranteed by the State to the Irish tenants under the Act of 1881 are likely to be confiscated, owing to the evictions of tenants; and that these evictions, if carried out, will cause wide-spread suffering and endanger the maintenance of social order. Further, Sir, I deprecate any attempt to transfer the loss likely to arise in consequence of the inability of the tenant to pay the present rents from the owners of land to the taxpayers of Great Britain and Ireland by any extension of State-assisted purchase on the basis of rents fixed when prices were higher than they are now. Now, Sir, let me say a word as to the question of these judicial rents, and the difficulty in all cases, and the inability in many cases, of the tenants to pay them. It involves an admission to some extent that the rents are too high, at all events in the present season. Why are these rents too high? They are too high for several reasons. In the first place, they are too high because the House of Lords mutilated the Land Act of 1881, and destroyed, or nearly destroyed, all the value which existed in the Improvement Clauses of that Act. The rest of the value of these clauses, left by the House of Lords, was destroyed by the decision of the Supreme Court in Dublin in the celebrated case of "Adams v. Dunseath," where the majority of the Appeal Judges, being Tories, on a very narrow division carried judgment in favour of the landlord, and against the tenant. The Lord Chancellor, who piloted the Bill through this House, was one of the Judges, and voted in its favour. The decision of "Adams v. Dunseath" deprived the Improvement Clauses of the Land Act of any value that they had. The third reason why the Act of 1881 fixed rents too high was the weakness of the Land Commission, or rather the weakness of the portion of it which 398 was supposed to be friendly to the tenant. There was a certain number of the Commissioners who were supposed to be friendly to the landlord, and a certain number who were friendly to the tenant. Judge O'Hagan and. Mr. Litton, who wore the friends of the tenants, allowed themselves to be browbeaten by the clamours of the Orange newspapers in Ireland and by their Colleagues to such an extent that the tenants lost all confidence in the fair administration of the Land Act of 1881. I think those three causes very clearly describe the reason why the rents fixed by that Act were too high, and have not given satisfaction. I regret very much that an opportunity was not taken to settle the Land Question under the principle of the Laud Act. I fear that the opportunity may not come again so soon; that there maybe much trouble, much distress, and some crime caused by the relations between landlord and tenant before the work that was commenced by the Land Act of 1881 is taken up again. But we have to deal, with things as they stand, and we find that the rents fixed, owing to these three causes, are too high to allow the tenants to live and thrive. What is to be done? We cannot, in the present Session of Parliament, go into a revision of the Act of 1881, and I do not propose that in my demand. But the Government, oven if they are unwilling to do anything, might at least have refrained from inciting the landlords to wholesale evictions. ["No, no!"] The language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Salisbury, although somewhat modified by the language of the Chief Secretary for Ireland last night, gave the keynote for it. It can have no other effect. Evictions and outrage or agrarian crime in Ireland have always followed in each other's footsteps very closely; and if hon. Members will examine the statistics of eviction and outrage they will find that there is a very close correspondence in the relative numbers. They will find, for instance that in the county of Kerry, where there is so much complaint made, and justly made, of agrarian crime of a very terrible character, evictions are nearly as numerous as the whole of Munster put together, and the agrarian crime is in the same proportion. If they trace the thing they will find that in the counties where 399 there are few evictions agrarian crime is almost unknown. You cannot deal with Ireland as though it were a country where agrarian crime is universal; because, according to the admission of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, agrarian crime is confined to Kerry and one or two districts in the South and West of Ireland, and it is in these districts you will invariably find that evictions have been pressed to their utmost. What is the belief of the people of Kerry with regard to this "Moonlighting?" Why do they refuse to give evidence? Why do they refuse to identify the men who come to their doors and batter them down, and take away arms, fire shots, and, in some cases, take money? If you ask the people you will find that it is from a universal belief that were it not for "Moonlighting" Lord Kenmare would not leave the roof over any of his tenants. That is not a justification of "Moonlighting;" but it is one of the causes of "Moonlighting." I do not wish to say that "Moonlighters" are entirely governed by considerations of the agrarian question; but it is the belief of the people that they are largely governed by these considerations, and that the "Moonlighters" constitute a protection for them against the rapacity of the landlord. They are, therefore, willing to allow them to levy black mail. This has often happened in other countries where the Constitution has been suspended or withheld. It happened in the Southern States of America after the suppression of the rebellion. The Federal Government refused to restore the Constitution to the States that rebelled. They said that they were not fitted for self-government, and that they would be a danger to the Union if their Constitution was restored; they said, in effect, what the Liberal Unionists and the Members of the Government were saying up and down the country during the General Election; and on this pretext they suspended the Constitution of the Southern States, and gave them a somewhat similar Government to that which you have in Ireland. They had what is known as a "carpet-bagging Government." They sent people from the North who had no connection with the country, and who, coming with a very small amount of goods, got the name of "carpet-baggers." Well, one consequence of that was that a secret con- 400 spiracy strikingly resembling, in many of its features, the different secret conspiracies which have existed from time to time in Ireland—the old White boy conspiracy and the present "Moonlighting" conspiracy—arose in the Southern States and several of the other States, and practically administered the law of the land. The Federal authorities were unable to afford any protection to the classes who are represented by the landlords in Ireland. I do not mean that the negroes of the Southern States are anything like the landlords of Ireland; because they, the negroes, are a hard-working lot of men, do all the work of the country, and were unable to obtain protection, as were also the Whites who belong to the Republican Party. The Government tried their very best to keep order in the country—they suspended the Constitution for several years; but until they gave back their Constitution to the Southern States they were not able to restore law and order, and to put an end to the Ku Klux. This was the case with Ireland. No statesman, until the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, had been wise enough to see that law and order could not be maintained in Ireland without coercion, except by the Representatives of her own people. The right hon. Gentleman introduced his Bill, and it was defeated in this House, and afterwards defeated in the country, and the present Government are now left to face the problem of maintaining law in Ireland. They say that they are going to do it without coercion—I do not believe they will do any such thing. I think it will be necessary for the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to urge their fires, to sharpen their pincers, and prepare their scorpion whips. They will find that the Irish people will never submit to be governed by a Government which is not their own. They will be patient, I have no doubt—they will have abundance of patience. But the incitements which have been addressed to the Irish landlords to evict their judicial tenants, the tenants under the protection of judicial leases, by wholesale, for the non-payment of an impossible rent, will bear fruit. Evictions will take place, and exasperation will follow; and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant will find that it will be impossible for him to 401 collect rents which do not exist, and the landlords will cry out to him for coercion, and will force him to bring forward a measure of coercion. It is not a very pleasant prospect to look forward to—it is not a very pleasant prospect for us. I had hoped and had believed that this question between the two countries might have been settled peacefully with the consent and in the interests of both. That is not to be, at all events for the present. I shudder to think that the state of Ireland may not be so good in three or four months as it is now. Undoubtedly, the distraction of the attention of the people of England to a policy of coercion in Ireland will damage the national prospects and the prospects of Irish autonomy completely. I would do much—I would willingly do anything—to avoid coercion; but things have gone against us, and we are powerless. We see what is coming, and we believe that it will be coercion, and that very soon it will be coercion which will not stop at criminals, which will not be content with taking, or seeking to take, the breakers of the law, but it will be coercion directed against your political opponents in Ireland. It will be directed against the expression of their opinions, publicly or privately, in Ireland, against freedom of speech in the country, against the right of public meeting, against the freedom of the Press. No English Minister hitherto who has administered a Coercion Law has discriminated between political opponents and criminal opponents—he has bundled them together into one; he has shut his eyes and struck at whoever came in his way. That has been our experience in the past, and we do not suppose that the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary are better or more discriminating—however less discriminating—now than their Predecessors have been. We should have wished that some peace would be given—that there should be some truce in this agrarian war. We had hoped that the Government would say, as Lord Carnarvon said this time last year, that he hoped the landlords would exercise their rights with leniency, and give time to the tenants to pay the rents, which they have not. But we have heard nothing of the kind. We have not now a Government which is dependent upon the Irish vote. We have now a Government 402 with which they think they can sail along for a while without us. I do not wish to prophesy, but from my study of the history of the past few years I believe that no system of coercion will be effectual in Ireland. Even though England should accompany it with the suspension of the Constitution, of the rights of Ireland both in this House and out of it, you will not succeed. You must administer your Coercion Bills as Russia does. Then that will be coercion worthy of the name; but to keep up a pretended Constitutional system in Ireland, and to allow 85 Irish Members to come into this House and expose the working of your coercion, that will not be a successful system. You will find that out sooner or later. You may put down liberty of speech in Ireland; you may put down the right of public meeting; and having imprisoned as many of your political opponents without trial as you can lay your hands upon, you will have to come over here and carry the war into the House of Commons, and terminate the sham Constitutional system of representation which you offered to Ireland at the Union. And now Ireland has turned it into a reality, and used it for her own good, you will find it to be intolerable. If I were to offer a suggestion—and I suppose I ought to offer a suggestion—as to what should be done in Ireland now, I would venture to say this. The judicial tenancies were fixed for 15 years. At the time they were fixed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was in doubt as to whether the period should be 15 years, or a shorter period of five years. We declined to take any responsibility upon ourselves with reference to the matter, and the term was fixed for 15 years. In the Scotch Act it was fixed at seven years. I would take even a shorter period, and would fix the period for a revision of the rents at three years according to the prices, and I would admit the leaseholders to the benefit of the Land Act, a proposition which has been named by a Member on each side of the House, the Members for North Armagh and South Tyrone respectively. I would make the term shorter. I would make it three years, and decide what reduction should be given according to the fall of prices. In the case of judicial rents, it could be fixed by a man in an office at Dublin, 403 and without the necessity of sending all over the country. I do not advance this as a settlement of the Irish Land Question; but I advance it as a very pressing necessity for the present winter, and I think if you adopted these two suggestions, and gave some such powers to a Court as are given under the Land Act, to discriminate as to evictions, where the tenant lodges two-thirds of the money into Court, you would relieve the pressure very materially. These are my suggestions, and I offer them humbly with a sincere desire to benefit Ireland; and I should hope that if they or any of them are adopted they would be accompanied by some announcement on the part of the Government similar to that made by Lord Carnarvon this time last year, that they hoped the landlords would remember that they have their duties as well as their rights. This is a time of very serious and sore pressure—a time upon which very much may turn. It surely cannot be the desire of the Government to enter into a deliberate conflict with the tenantry of Ireland, to exterminate them by many thousands. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not see any other result if they proceed on the lines of the declarations we have heard from the responsible officials of the Government. However it may be, I am confident that whether the Government go on in the course which they have chosen, and whether they recognize the pressure which is upon the agricultural community in Ireland, the National Question, the question of autonomy for Ireland, now that it has been raised, will be always first in the hearts of the Irish people. The large Liberal majority—the vast majority of the Liberal Party, who have voted for the solution at the General Election, will vote for it again, and their ranks will then be replenished by those doubters whose hesitancy lost the battle on this occasion, and whose conversion will gain it for u; at the next. I beg to move as an Amendment to the Address the words which stand in my name.
At the end of the last paragraph, to add the words,—"And humbly to assure Her Majesty that we fear that, owing to the heavy fall in the price of agricultural produce, the greatest difficulty will be experienced in the coming winter by the Irish tenant farmers in the payment of their present rents, and many will be unable to pay these rents. That numerous
evictions confiscating the rights vested in the tenants by the Land Act of 1881, causing widespread suffering and endangering the maintenance of social order will be the result. That we deprecate any attempt to transfer the loss likely to arise due to inability to pay the present rents, from the owners of land to the taxpayers of Great Britain and Ireland, by any extension of State-assisted purchase on the basis of rents fixed when prices were higher than they now are."—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (Mr. PLUNKET) (Dublin University)
I am exceedingly reluctant to stand, even for a short time, between the House and the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone); but as the speech which has been delivered, if it was spoken in support of any case, was spoken in support of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, I am sure he will not think I am exceeding the limits of courtesy if, for a short time, I intervene in the debate. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Parnell), in the very remarkable speech he delivered, commenced by demurring to the inference which he said was drawn from recent events, that the question of Home Rule was disposed of. He said that if there were a General Election now to take place a very different result would follow. Well, I am bound to say that I cannot trace any signs of the times, so far, at all events, that go to support that supposition. What I know is that within the walls of this House we had last night a very signal instance of the accord which subsists between hon. Members on both sides of this House who are linked together for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the Union of the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland; and outside this House, at every election that has hitherto taken place, at every opportunity there has been of testing public opinion, the majorities obtained by candidates supporting the Government have, in every instance, been increased. The hon. Gentleman went on to say something about General Sir Redvers Buller, on which I cannot enter. For, as the hon. Member is very well aware, he having moved an Amendment to the Address, every speaker who follows him must confine himself to the terms of that Amendment. However, I suppose it is not outside the limits of that Rule to refer to the question which he 405 has put to the Government. He has asked us how soon we are going to inform the House of the composition of the Commission which is to be issued? Surely this is a novel course for the hon. Member to adopt! after having, by his supporters in this House, for the last three nights, by every means in his power, thrown ridicule and discredit on the proposal to issue that Commission, having himself, in his own speech, done all he canto damage whatever beneficial effects it might have, he seems to make it a grievance—or a request—that he and his Friends should take part in the proceedings of that Commission. It is really a very difficult thing to follow the particular line of argument which the hon. Member has adopted this evening.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I did not ask that I and my Friends should take part in the Commission. I referred to a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I asked whether he was going to carry out that statement?
§ MR. PLUNKET
The House will agree with me that it comes to very much the same thing; but the hon. Member is very anxious to get a grievance against the Government in any way he can. He nest went on to deal with the question of Land Purchase, and I think the line he adopted on that branch of the subject was as audacious as almost anything else he said in his daring speech. It was evident he was extremely anxious to wash his hands of any complicity in the Act of 1885, known as Lord Ashbourne's Act; and for that purpose he raked up a number of personal charges against Members of the present Government, which have over and over again, in each case, been most absolutely and categorically denied. The hon. Member will not listen this evening to any proposed extension of the operation of the Land Purchase Act, because he says you cannot depend on anything in the nature of local guarantee. He says, and with great truth, that his estimate of the cost of carrying out the system of Land Purchase in Ireland was £100,000,000. On the same occasion the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian estimated that the operation would coat £300,000,000.
§ MR. PLUNKET
I am going to read it. I say the right hon. Gentleman estimated, 406 at the time I am referring to, that if the proposal then made were carried out it would require £300,000,000, and this was at the time the hon. Member for the City of Cork estimated it at £100,000,000. It was on the 12th of June, 1883, when my noble Friend the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) brought forward a Resolution; and it was in the debate on that Resolution that the right hon. Gentleman spoke as follows:—I may state, however, that the proposal would involve the question of a State guarantee to the extent of several hundreds of millions—£300,000,000 or £400,000,000."—(3 Hansard,  451.)The hon. Member for Cork immediately said "£100,000,000;" and in his own speech, on the same occasion, the hon. Member alluded to the subject, and said that he was greatly in favour of single ownership; that he was opposed to dual ownership; and that the only chance for the salvation of Ireland lay in every occupier being his own landlord.
§ MR. PLUNKET
Very well, I am glad to hear it; but I venture to say the hon. Member left an impression on the House that he was opposed to it. He then said he was "speaking for himself," as this evening he told us he was speaking for himself, when he argued just now that—Nothing could be more untrustworthy than a local guarantee, and he was always of that opinion.
§ MR. PLUNKET
But in 1883 the hon. Gentleman said—As far as regarded the advance of money on the security of the local rates, the interposition of the Local Authority, and the advance of the whole of the purchase money, he saw no objection to the former, and he approved of the latter.The Local Authority was good enough as security for the advance of the whole of the purchase money in 1883; but to-night the Local Authority is not at all reliable for less than the whole.
§ MR. PLUNKET
When the hon. Member takes such pains to wash his hands of all responsibility for the Act of 1885 I would venture to suggest to the 407 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and to the House that it may make people a little cautious of the kind of undertakings which the hon. Member has lately given in support of the twin proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister. In the next place, the hon. Member for Cork proceeded to deal with judicial rents. He assigned, as I understood, three reasons why judicial rents are too highly assessed. The first was that the House of Lords mutilated the Land Act of 1881; the second was that the judgment in the famous case of "Adams v. Dunseath" gave an unjust preference to the landlords; and the third was that the Land Commissioners had allowed themselves to be brow beaten. I should like—as the House contains a good many new Members—that they should know the views held by the late Government on this question of judicial rents, and also particularly as to the case of "Adams v. Dunseath." There was a Bill brought forward by the Member for Cork in 1883, and it was opposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in a very eloquent and powerful speech. It was also opposed by the then Solicitor General, afterwards Lord Herschell, and Lord Chancellor in the last Administration. Lord Herschell said the judgment in "Adams v. Dunseath" was perfectly correct, and he maintained that the provision in Clause 5 of the Bill was opposed to the decision in that case. They must, Lord Herschell said, take his scheme as a whole, and taking it in that way it came to nothing but this—that everything beyond prairie value would be deemed to be the property of the tenant. Therefore, I think the House will be slow to adopt the view of the hon. Member for Cork as to the unfairness of judicial rents against the authority of the great legal personage whom I have cited. The hon. Member alleges that these judicial rents have been unfairly fixed; and he says that owing to the fall in prices the greatest difficulty will be experienced in paying the present rents. No doubt there has been a certain fall in prices, although the estimates of that fall have been greatly exaggerated by the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends. What I want to put before the House is this—that it was the duty of the Sub-Commissioners, and I know it was their practice, 408 to take into account, when fixing these judicial rents, the probability of a fall in prices. They fixed these rents in a falling market. ["Oh, oh!"] If it were at all necessary I would quote one or two instances of that kind. I will give one case. Mr. Commissioner Riordan, in December, 1881, dealing with a certain case, said that the rents had not been altered for a century, and the tenants and landlords were on the best of terms. The tenant right also had been valued at a high price on the estates. All these facts, he said, seemed to show that the rent was a fair one. Still, as the landlord had once given a reduction on a bad year, the Commissioners decided to reduce the rent, and Mr. Riordan added—In my opinion, a fair rent should be such a rent as the tenant could pay through good years and bad.In the next place, the hon. Member goes on to say that there will be numerous evictions, causing widespread suffering. First, as to the probability of this great number of evictions taking place. I think the House will be glad to hear that, so far from an increase in evictions lately, within the last 18 months the tendency has been to decrease; and, furthermore, as to that month of next November which is held up as so formidable in this matter of evictions, they are usually fewer then than in any other month of the year. The fact of the matter is, that you cannot obtain your decree until January at earliest. The evictions for the year 1885 were 3,127 tenancies. In 1,540 of these cases there was no actual disturbance of the tenants at all, and I am informed that it was officially calculated for the late Government that on an average it is in one only out of every five cases that the tenants are actually dispossessed, the rest being restored to their tenancies on their redeeming, or by arrangement with the landlords. Therefore only 600 are actually evicted, while 2,500 would be restored to their tenancies. I think that is a very important fact, which the House should be in possession of when they hear of these large number of evictions.
§ MR. PLUNKET
I am informed that this information was obtained for the late Government within the last year. Fur- 409 thermore it was stated the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) that there were means provided under the Land Act of 1881 by which tenants whom it was sought to evict could obtain, on showing proper cause, a stay of proceedings from the County Court. That is absolutely the fact; but, says the right hon. Gentleman, how are these poor people, who are very squalid and miserable, to take advantage of it? As a matter of fact, they do take advantage of it, as they took advantage of a more complicated Act—the Arrears Act—an Act specially passed to meet the case of these very poor people. As to the third part of the Amendment, the hon. Member has himself treated it in a very perfunctory manner, and I think I have already disposed of the matter by quotations from his previous speeches. The object of the Government is to carry further—and we believe successfully to carry further—the policy of the Act known as Lord Ashbourne's Act, and I am sure the House will be happy to hear that the number of persons applying to purchase their tenancies under that Act is steadily and rapidly increasing. Of course, that depends on one consideration. The possibility of the complete success of that Act, and of the other proposals of the Government for the improvement of the material condition of Ireland, must depend upon the success of their endeavours to preserve social order. So far as the Government is concerned, no one, I think, can accuse them of having taken any action or adopted any policy—hitherto at all events—whatever else you may criticize in our policy, that was not conceived in a spirit of conciliation. The hon. Member for the City of Cork drew a contrast—as he is very fond of doing—between the present Ministers and Lord Carnarvon, who was late Chief Governor of Ireland. He said that Lord Carnarvon had appealed to the Irish landlords to exercise their rights with, mercy as well as justice, and he said—"Why did you not do so?" I think if the hon. Member had read, if he did not hear, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks - Beach) last night, he would not have made that remark. My right hon. Friend made as fair and as effective an appeal of that kind as it was 410 possible to make. But when the hon. Member accuses us—as he seemed to accuse us—of a desire to draw the people of Ireland into a resistance to the law by the policy which we propose and the words which we use, what shall we say of the words that he himself has just now used, in, I must say, his most cold-blooded manner, on this subject? He used that language to this House, to the Irish people, and to the world; that our policy of conciliation must fail, and he prophesied that we shall be driven to have recourse to stringent coercion in Ireland. Sir, it is only possible for Her Majesty's Government to endeavour to adopt a policy conciliatory to the Irish people; and I say in the presence of this House that the responsibility which the hon. Member for Cork has taken upon himself to-night is a responsibility awful and terrible in my mind.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
When I had the honour of addressing the House on Thursday evening last, at no great length, I confined myself to the matter of the Speech delivered from the Throne, which I conceived would be in conformity with usage; but entirely new matter has been submitted to us by Her Majesty's Government on the present occasion. I, therefore, did not enter into any of the important questions which were opened after I sat down by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Do not let it be supposed that I am making it a subject of complaint; but the course which has been taken has been a very unusual one. I do not think that I can recollect, in the long course of years of the last half-century and more, a single occasion when the Government has thought it politic to use the Address to the Throne as the opportunity for explaining its policy beyond the compass of the Speech from the Throne. The present Government will, no doubt, have considered their own convenience and advantage—that is to say, the advantage to their policy—as they were entitled to consider. I am making no complaint of what they have done. I think that they will gain no undue advantage from it. One of the best-established maxims of all Parties and all legislators I have known in this country has been to keep back all statements of your principal intentions of policy, the principal enactments of the Bills you intended to introduce, until 411 you could present them in the Parliamentary form in which you meant to give them. The present Government has given us, however, the main outlines of its policy on the occasion of the Speech from the Throne. Of course, I do not make it a matter of complaint on our side. They have done what I suspect, if it became a general practice, will be far from conducing to the interests and cause of legislation. Yet, although I make it no matter of complaint, it requires some comment upon the announcements which have been made. Part of that comment comes in the form of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), which forms the immediate alternative to the adoption of the Speech. It is not my intention to take any part in the division on that Amendment, should a division be pressed. I can perfectly understand why, with the knowledge which the hon. Member possesses, and with the responsibilities which he feels as an Irish Member, he should find himself entitled and bound to make declarations respecting the difficulty of the payment of rent in Ireland and respecting the probability of evictions, in which it would hardly be warrantable on my part to join, though, on the other hand, it is not in my power to assert the contrary of what has been stated by the hon. Gentleman. The reason why I do not wish to enter into a proceeding of that kind is this—that I think, upon the whole, it is for the advantage of the country that no attempt should be made by the House at large, as distinguished from the Representatives of Ireland, and those who may think fit to act with them—that no attempt should be made to procure a precipitate or hasty decision by the House upon the policy propounded by Her Majesty's Government. It would not be fair to the Government; it would not be fair to the House. We have no sufficient opportunity of understanding all the details and particulars of that policy, though much has been told us; and I do not think that the interests of the country would be promoted by endeavouring, on the occasion of the Speech from the Throne, to obtain a definitive judgment from the House. Well, Sir, but that is no reason, I think, why there should not be free comment upon the policy which has been declared to us. That free com- 412 ment has, indeed, been offered by Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and by Gentlemen on this side of the House not altogether accordant in their views. The first observation I make is, that his policy has been presented to us in forms materially different. The Chancellor of the Exchequer presented it in he form which he thought proper on the night when the Address was moved. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland again presented it last night in what we conceived to be a reduced and modified form. On the other hand, in "another place," with not less authority, the form of that policy was presented larger than either; and there is some difficulty in determining which of these three forms is the most authentic and the most to be relied upon. If that largest form had been definitely withdrawn, I do not hesitate to say that it would be a matter to me of comfort and satisfaction. But it has not been stated that it has been withdrawn. Probably it may be admitted that there is the difference which I think will be seen in the statements of the three Ministers to whom I have referred. The leading points in this policy I think are five. In the first place, the issue of the Commissions; in the second place, the introduction of the subject of public works; in the third place, the subject of land purchase; in the fourth place, inquiry into land rents; and, in the fifth place, the reference to local government. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary drew a contrast between this policy and the policy of the late Government, and said that, whatever else this policy might be, he considered it a sober policy. Sir, I am not able to give to it that particular epithet. I will say that the light in which it presents itself to me is that of an eminently complex and an eminently difficult policy. In speaking of the policy of the late Government during the Elections I ventured to say that it presented an extremely simple issue. I did not mean that the measures necessary for carrying it into effect were simple measures; they were, on the contrary, of a very complex character. But the issue presented to the country was, notwithstanding, a very simple issue. It was whether you would, or whether you would not, give a Statutory Parliament to Ireland?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL) (Paddington, S.)
I rise to a point of Order, Sir. I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman; but I am obliged to direct the attention of the Chair to the terms of the Address, and to ask whether it is competent, under the terms of the Amendment, for hon. Members following the speech of the hon. Member for Cork to travel to any extent wide of the definite terms of that Amendment?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The ruling of the Chair has been that when the general debate on the Address appears to have terminated by the introduction of an Amendment, then the general discussion on the Address is closed; and when an Amendment is proposed the discussion, is confined to the subject-matter of that Amendment. Of course, when the hon. Member for Cork introduces his Amendment he refers, before proposing the Amendment, to a variety of subjects; but he concludes with an Amendment. Having concluded with an Amendment, it is a specific Amendment before the House, and the general question of relevancy applies. It would be out of Order, for instance, in my opinion, to refer to the question of Burmah on the specific Amendment. Though the subject of land will be in some degree pertinent to the Amendment, it would be more strictly in Order if the debate were henceforth more strictly confined to the specific terms of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I think myself rather hardly used. It has been the invariable practice for a great many years in this House that the Leader of the Opposition should speak on the Speech from the Throne; and the very fact that that has been the invariable practice shows that the debate is confined to the matter of the Speech till Amendments begin. Now, Sir, for the first time for half-a-century large plans of policy are introduced after I had addressed the House, not by Amendments, but by Her Majesty's Government; and, therefore, Sir, I make my petition to the House. If the House think sit right that in consequence of my conforming to the practice and maintaining in my own person a practice which is convenient to the House, 414 but beyond all things for the convenience of the Government, I should be excluded from making any remarks on the policy which the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced after the speech I made—if, Sir, that be the judgment of the House, if it be your judgment, I am perfectly content to give way at once. But I have known many instances—[Loud Ministerial cries of "Order!"]. If I am forbidden to speak upon the policy which, contrary to usage, the noble Lord on the part of the Government introduced in a manner unknown before—[Cries of "Order"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I really think I must, for the convenience of the House, state this much. Though I do adhere to the ruling I have given, that after an Amendment has been proposed discussion should be relevant to that Amendment, I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that when the Amendment is concluded the Address again open to amendment in the interval between that Amendment and possibly a subsequent Amendment. But when an Amendment is before the House I am only interpreting the Rules by saying that the discussion must be generally relevant to the subject-matter of the Amendment.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I rise, Sir, to ask a question on the point of Order. I need not point out to you that my right hon. Friend could not speak at the stage to which you refer, because he had already spoken on the Address when it was generally before the House. I wish to ask you whether, if it be necessary, in consequence of the objection taken by the noble Lord to my right hon. Friend being allowed an opportunity of discussing the policy of the Government, that another Amendment should be moved, it would not be possible—though, unfortunately, it would protract the Sittings of the House—at a later stage, if such an Amendment be moved, for my right hon. Friend to make a statement on the subject of the Government policy?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have laid down my ruling perfectly indifferent to the convenience of any hon. or right hon. Gentleman. Of course, it would be competent for an Amendment to be subsequently moved if the right hon. Gentleman desires to go into the subject-matter of the policy of the Government.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I hope, Sir, that no person will suppose that I questioned one syllable that has fallen from you; but I have frequently known occasions in this House when, in consequence of peculiar circumstances in a debate, indulgence has been extended by the House. My application is for that indulgence. ["Order!"] I have no intention of detaining the House at great length. If there is a disposition to grudge that indulgence I will not press the suit; but if it is granted I will venture to make a few remarks.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I should be most anxious myself to grant any indulgence necessary to the right hon. Gentleman; but I would desire to remove what appears to me to be a misapprehension. What I have doubts about and am most anxious about is the prolongation of the debate which is likely to occur if all hon. Members were to recur to other matters.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I shall endeavour to use with very great moderation that indulgence for which I have asked, and for the occasion of which I do not hold myself responsible, since my object in rising on Thursday night was to conform to a practice eminently convenient to the Business of the House, and most convenient to the Government of the day. I was in the act of saying that when we proposed to give a Statutory Parliament to Ireland, our meaning was that we should at length let Ireland transact her own affairs upon her own responsibility, and should relieve ourselves of the management of her internal affairs. Well, to that plan, I think, there was one incidental exception, with respect to the purchase of land, upon which I will not now dwell; but what I wish to point out is that the policy now announced is the absolute inversion of that policy. I am not making it a matter of blame; but it seems to me a necessary consequence of the footing upon which the Government have taken Office that Ireland is not to transact her own affairs, but that England is to assume a number of responsibilities, heavy beyond anything, involving the most complicated discussion, and, in my opinion, rendering progress of the most essential and difficult and important Business of Great Britain impossible. I say that because 416 I see what has now happened in the outline that I have drawn of the proposals of the present Government. Here are three great subjects—namely, first of all, the appointment of Commissions; secondly, the scheme of inquiry with respect to public works; and, thirdly, the subject of land rents, which are complete additions to what we had before the House. Well, with regard to these Commissions, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland thinks he has been reproached—he may have been reproached, I do not know it—with having advised these Commissions as a means for protracting his tenure of Office. He protested, and I think very properly, against the putting of any such construction upon the appointment of the Commissions, and when it was intimated that he himself had given in to that practice he said emphatically "Never." I beg to refresh the memory of the right hon. Gentleman. In the month of May or the beginning of June we stated that it was our intention, should the Bill for the better government of Ireland receive the sanction of the House on the second reading, that as we could not finish that Bill and likewise the Land Question within the ordinary period of the Session, we intended to ask the House to adjourn further progress with it until the beginning of October, and the right hon. Gentleman said—"Oh, see what this means; this is, in point of fact, to be a Continuance in Office Bill." Now I quote this in no invidious or polemical sense; but I heartily rejoice that the preaching of the right hon. Gentleman is better than his practice. Moreover, I am convinced it is his preaching, and not the mere accidental reference to which I have now alluded, that exhibits the true state of his mind. These charges of advising inquiries for the sake of continuance in Office are not worthy of the House, and not worthy of political Parties in this country. Sir, I make no such charge; but I must not be precluded from observing that the appointment of these Commissions, and especially of the Commission with respect to land, does introduce most serious delay into the progress of this House with the Public Business, and especially with the Irish Business of this country. What is laid out before us is that probably in the end of the Spring the Commission may 417 report. We are now in the month of August; in the end of the spring the Commission may report upon the subject of rents. I think anyone can see that it is no exaggeration to state that if the Commission is to inquire into rents and report upon rents in the end of the spring, and if the Government is then, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, to give "immense consideration" to what the Commission may report, the chances of legislation upon this subject, immediately and closely connected with social order, even during the next year, are very slight indeed. With respect to public works I will not say more than a word, because I think that what has been stated by my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) last night, and stated tonight by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), in his powerful speech, shows but too well upon how dangerous a course the House is invited to embark. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) said £750,000 is not a very alarming sum. No, Sir, it is not a very alarming sum, if I am to consider it as an amount of money; but there are two modes of dealing with these pecuniary questions. The first is for the Gentleman who makes the proposal to state some initial expenditure that is afterwards to receive some indefinite expansion, and the other is to state at the very outset the outside of the whole expenditure to which you think the principle of your proposal, if fully adopted, can by possibility lead. Sir, it was for taking that course with regard to our Land Purchase Bill that both the Bill itself and the sister Bill with respect to the Government of Ireland suffered so heavily at the hands of Parliament. I know very well that you are liable to suffer heavily for taking such a course. You may frighten, you may alarm and shake the nerve, so to speak, of Parliament for the moment; but, at the same time, I think it is a better course than that which has happened in the case of almost all the greatest and most costly works of fortification that we have attempted during my Parliamentary life, when a few hundreds of thousands of pounds are first submitted to Parliament as the ascertained expense, and then in course of time from year to year those hundreds of thousands are expanded into millions. 418 What is the object of the right hon. Gentleman in this plan? It is not merely to execute works useful in themselves; but he very fairly stated that his object was to find employment for a large portion of the people of Ireland who cannot obtain an adequate subsistence from the holdings that they occupy. But is an outlay of £750,000 to attain that great national object? On the contrary—
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will endeavour to explain what I did say to the best of my recollection. I referred to the foundation, so to speak, of the deep sea fishing industry on the West Coast of Ireland as affording employment and means of subsistence to the practically almost starving population of the West Coast; and I referred to the expenditure of £750,000, not as affording employment, but as carrying out that system of drainage in Ireland of which, indeed, the smaller parts are already carried out, but which it is necessary to complete by arterial works.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I perfectly understood that; but the right hon. Gentleman referred to the defective employment of a large portion of the people of Ireland who cannot properly subsist upon their holdings, and the advantage of finding labour for that portion of the population. That, in my opinion, is a work in itself most difficult for this Parliament, and, through the administration known as the Dublin Castle administration, perfectly hopeless. But I will not dwell upon that subject or enter into its details. I wish to say one word upon the subject of Land Purchase. My noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), last night, in referring to the Land Purchase Bill, stated, I think, that he considered the security upon which the advances under that Bill had been made was a very deficient and bad security. I am not going now to defend it; but that security was the entire Revenue of Ireland, as well as the entire land rents of Ireland. That security is deemed an insufficient security. Well, Sir, I hope that those critics who showed such patriotic vigour in dealing with the 419 security proposed under our Bill will be no less patriotic and rigid in considering the security under the Government proposals. We are now promised a large extension, if I understand it, of Lord Ashbourne's Bill, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork is deemed to be very inconsistent because he did not entirely condemn the guarantee of Local Authorities under Lord Ashbourne's Bill and at the same time objects to that guarantee under the present circumstances of the case. But, Sir, I must observe this—that the guarantee of Local Authorities may be tolerable at any rate in the very limited transactions where in any one county in Ireland it was most improbable that more than a very few hundred thousand pounds could be laid out. But that is not the state of facts now before us. The object of the Government apparently is to have a large scheme of Land Purchase; and, Sir, I must confess I cannot express too strongly my opinion that the guarantee of Local Authorities for a plan of that kind, whatever be the intention of the Government in proposing it, would, if adopted, prove the veriest delusion to the country, and would be totally ineffective for the purpose of securing the advances that might be made from the Treasury. No doubt, this is a very large scheme. This is not a question of £5,000,000 or of £10,000,000; it is a question of converting dual ownership into single ownership—that is as far at least as our plan went. Our plan excluded from operation all rents held by landlords, all demesnes, all residences, and made other important deductions from the total of the land of Ireland. I will not pronounce any opinion on this matter at present further than that to the point of security for advances the closest and most vigilant attention of the House must be directed, and also to the extension of the system of creditor-ship and debtorship between the Exchequer of this country and the individual occupier of the land of Ireland. The first of these points demands the most jealous inspection; and, as regards the second, considering the broad objections to be taken, on the ground partly of economical and still more of political danger, Her Majesty's Government will find that they have undertaken no holiday task. But much more formidable than the question of Land Purchase is the question of Land Rents. The right 420 hon. Gentleman thinks that the sober plan of appointing a Commission to examine into the whole of the land rents of Ireland, or the judicial rents—I am not quite sure whether we are to understand that the inquiry will be confined to the judicial rents—[Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: To the judicial rents.] Well, Sir, the subject-matter may in that way be limited, but the difficulties of principle are increased. Here the doctrine has been laid down, and we ought to know from Her Majesty's Government without delay whether that doctrine is to be maintained or not, that in cases where judicial rents are extravagant, where the real rent which the land will bear is below the judicial rent, the tenant is to be charged on the basis of the real rentable value, that the landlord is to be paid on the basis of the judicial rent, and the difference is to be found elsewhere. That statement has been made, and made by adequate authority, on the part of Her Majesty's Government. It is not an unfair or an extreme proposition to ask Her Majesty's Government whether such an intention is or is not entertained. Whether they may carry it into law or not I will not ask, for no power on earth, no power within these walls or beyond them, will succeed in carrying into law such a proposition. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord opposite have made no reference to this subject. They seem to be what is called "shy of it." While those more immediately interested in the question of the money are no doubt entitled to attach the greatest importance to such a declaration, on the other hand, the taxpayers of this country are entitled to and must attach the greatest importance to it; and not only the taxpayers of this country, but all the debtors in this country, all men who find that their incomes are in an uncertain condition, and that the obligation which others have undertaken towards them cannot, under the existing circumstances, always be fulfilled. In principle such a plan is, in my opinion, totally inadmissible. It establishes a distinction between judicial rents and other rents in respect to the title of the landlord which we have never admitted and never can admit. The title of the landlord receiving rent, in the one case, is just as good and sacred in every point as it is in the other. Even if the plan of the Government could be 421 adopted, I do not believe that any power on earth could confine it to judicial rents. You would find the claim of the receiver of non-judicial rents in Ireland perfectly irresistible after the claim of the holder of judicial rents had been admitted to receive compensation from the State. Then I come to the question of this appointment of a Commission upon rents considered in relation to the question of social order. We did not touch the question of rents in our policy at all. We endeavoured to give Ireland the management of her own affairs, and give the Irish landlord the power of transferring his estate to the Irish authority upon fair market terms. Here I must say a word upon what fell from my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale last night. When he spoke of this proposition that the State should pay the difference between the judicial rent and the rent that the land would bear, he said that there was something of that principle in the Land Purchase Bill. Well, my noble Friend did not give us his opinion upon the proposition that the State should bear the charge, and I am sorry that he did not do so. But I most emphatically say, as one connected with the Land Purchase Bill, that there was not one shred or tittle in that Bill of the principle that the State should pay an unreal value. The principle in that Bill was that we were to discover as well as we could the real, fair, equitable, market value of the property and purchase it on the basis of that value. You will say that we offered 20 years' purchase. We took 20 years as the best result we could arrive at; but it was merely the expression of our opinion upon a very difficult and complex question; and the House of Commons, most certainly, if that Bill had proceeded, would not have taken 20 years upon our credit and authority. It might have been shown that the period was too long or that it was too short. I do not enter into that question now. I must say that it appears to me that nothing could have been more unfortunate than the relation of this Commission upon rent to the social circumstances of Ireland. The Commission is to report late next spring. It has been shown by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Plunket) who has just sat down—and no doubt he is accurate—that no 422 decree can be obtained for the November rent before January at the soonest, and that a further time must elapse before evictions for those rents can actually take place. That may be so; but I do not think that the institution of a multitude of processes of evictions, perfectly well known to the people, next winter, and even before the decrees, can have a very favourable effect on the social order of the country. Even on the showing of the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself these evictions will take place before the Report of the Commission, and, a fortiori, before it is possible that there can be any legislation upon it. Therefore, we are in this position, that we are saying to the tenant—"You must pay your rent in November on pain of eviction;" and, at the same time, we are insinuating—and more than insinuating, we are carrying with considerable authority into his mind—tho belief that his rent is an unjust rent by appointing a Commission to inquire whether it is unjust or not. No one can doubt that the mere fact of appointing such a Commission tends to favour evictions in November; much more does the most unfortunate declaration of the noble Lord tend in that direction. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary did all he could to soften that declaration in his speech, of the tone of which no one has any title or disposition to complain. But the noble Lord did undoubtedly and emphatically assert the title of the landlord to the full assistance of the law in the exaction of his full rights, and did not accompany that statement with any appeal to the landlords for a clement and moderate exercise of those powers. He must have had the circumstances of Lord Carnarvon's appeal some months ago in his mind; but passing by that appeal altogether he makes this declaration as to the landlord's title. Who doubted the landlord's title? If the landlord's title is the subject of no doubt why was that declaration made; and how, again, can it be construed in Ireland except as an encouragement to the landlords towards the prompt and extensive exercise of the right and the power of eviction upon the non-payment of rent? It is an encouragement to evictions, and something else besides. It is not only an encouragement to eviction, but it is a great discouragement to remissions. What 423 landlord having a judicial rent can be expected to make remissions, however great the pressure of the times, in the face of the inquiries of this Commission? By making remissions does not he admit that his rent is too high, does he not prejudice his case before the Commission? Why, Sir, I do not require to travel far for an authority. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down supplied me with the authority. If he were to repeat the words that he quoted from Sub-Commissioner Reardon under the Land Act, they would express the very feeling that I describe. The landlord referred to refused to make a remission of his rent, because, he said, it would prejudice his case before the Court. Well, if it would prejudice the case of the landlord before the Court where a tenant claimed a reduction, exactly on the same principle if a number of humane and considerate landlords reduced their judicial rents in face of the inquiry before the Commission, how do you escape the consequence that those judicial rents will be likely to be prejudiced by the act of the landlord himself, and that they will be taken to be too high for the tenants to pay? There is one other point on which I must say a word. The Government have intimated to us their intention to introduce a measure for the establishment or extension of local government in Ireland. As far as I apprehend the case, that announcement on their part is not accompanied with a repetition of a declaration made in January by the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary for Ireland—namely, that the then Government would propose no measure for the establishment of popular local institutions in Ireland of a nature that could possibly be used as a leverage for obtaining further change. I hope I may infer that, as that ominous declaration has not been repeated, it has been dropped. Undoubtedly he will be a very ingenious man who would introduce popular institutions of any kind in any part of Ireland, and at the same time take effectual security that they should not be used as a leverage for further change. I am glad, so far, to observe that this announcement is apparently liberated from that serious encumbrance; but I do not believe that the announcement can or will be satisfactory while it is 424 coupled, as it is coupled by the noble Lord, with the necessity of conforming to what England and Scotland may now think necessary for their own local institutions. I will not enter in detail into these questions, but I will say that such a limitation is most unjust to Ireland and hardly less unjust to Scotland. Scotland has given no thought to this great subject of extended local government. The mind of Scotland has not ripened upon that question. It would be a very unfortunate state of things if you take the measure of Scotland's desires before those desires have been matured, and when, in fact, they have scarcely ever found vent at all, and say that you will grant to Ireland nothing beyond the limit of those desires. There was an important point referred to by my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale last night upon which I would say a word. My noble Friend spoke of local government, and said he reserved his judgment. But what I want to know is, does my noble Friend adhere—I feel convinced that he does—to the principles he himself declared on the subject? My noble Friend's progress in this matter has been slow, but I think it has been sure in one and the same direction, and during the Elections my noble Friend in one of his speeches declared certain principles upon which he was ready to grant local government—a considerable measure of self-government—to Ireland. It was the more emphatic because my noble Friend himself gave emphasis to the change, or at least to the expansion, of his opinion. He said that the change of circumstances had convinced him that much must be done in this direction. My noble Friend laid down four conditions of great importance on both sides. The first was that the Imperial Parliament was to continue to represent the whole of the United Kingdom, and that the Irish Members were to retain their seats in this House. The second was that powers were to be given to the Irish Legislature by delegation and not by surrender. I do not believe that any Gentleman below the Gangway would make the smallest difficulty on that subject, for I do not believe it is possible for the wit of man to devise any legislative measure by which you could do anything but delegate powers or by which you could contrive to surrender them. The third was that the Irish 425 Legislative Body was only to have control in certain subjects which were to be enumerated—instead of enumerating the exceptions—he laid great stress on that—and they were still to be subject to a right of control or revision within the walls of the two Houses of Parliament—a provision undoubtedly of very great importance as a limitation, it may be said, perhaps, a mutilation; at any rate, as an effective limitation and restriction of the plans proposed by the late Government. The fourth was that the administration of justice was to remain under the authority and responsibility of Parliament. I do not know how far my noble Friend is to carry that proposition; whether he wishes to deny to a Body legislating in Ireland, for certain enumerated purposes, the power with respect to the police and justice which is given to every municipality in this country. I do not know, but I take these conditions as they stand. They were conditions perfectly incompatible with the Bill we had the honour to submit to Parliament, and quite impossible to be accepted by the authors of that Bill—conditions that I never could regard as giving any full or final satisfaction to the reasonable wishes or wants of the people of Ireland. Now, let me look from the other side upon these conditions, because there is a matter of great importance to be observed on the other side. They, one and all of them, proceed upon the assumption that there is to be one Central Body governing and legislating in Ireland for certain enumerated purposes. That is the policy to which my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale has advanced; that is the policy which he believes to be necessary, having undergone a process of expansion, in his opinion, in consequence of the change of circumstances which has taken place. Does my noble Friend adhere to that policy? Does he think Ireland is entitled to ask for the institution of such a Central Body? Will Her Majesty's Government entertain that principle? "Will they try whether by the adoption of that principle they can establish what is called a modus vivendi between themselves and the Irish people? I make this suggestion with no concealment of what my own views are; but, at same time, with this sentiment—that there are those in this House—for example, my noble Friend—who wish 426 to do much for Ireland, though they will not do that which we ask them to do. Surely, after the part which my noble Friend and those around have taken, after the manner in which, by their indefatigable exertions, the late Government suffered defeat in this House and at the polls, he has a good claim on the present Government to extend a little the unnatural and factitious limit which they profess it to be their intention to place on local government in Ireland, and to see whether they cannot at least bring their liberality up to the point—which we must presume to be a very safe one—proposed by my noble Friend. There is another point connected with local government on which I wish to make an appeal. I have been speaking with great regret of the delay which it appears to me will be introduced into Irish and English legislation in consequence of the appointment of more than one Commission on subjects upon which I believe ample information is already in the hands of Parliament. But I am inclined to hope, listening to what has been said, that that delay need not affect the plans with regard to local government in Ireland.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Certainly not. At any rate, then we may hope that at the commencement of the next Session of Parliament the Government will be prepared with their plans for local government, and that they will not depend upon any previous inquiry by their Commissions. I gather that from the reply of the right hon. Gentleman, and I receive it with satisfaction.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I do not wish my reply carried further than it was intended to go; what I meant was, that, except in regard to the points named, an inquiry into those two questions upon which Commissions were to be issued would not in any way delay the consideration of the question of local government. How the Government would approach that was stated by my noble Friend, and also by myself.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I quite accept the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. I have no right in any way to tie the right hon. Gentleman by his words to any particular course with regard to local government beyond this. I must own, in conformity with what 427 fell from me on Thursday night, I am quite at a loss to understand how the Government should find it necessary, in the month of August, to postpone to February their measure with regard to local government, and we reserve our right to make any comments we may think fit to make upon the course which the Government may take in that respect. I trusted the proposals with regard to local government would not be affected by the delay incidental to the operation of the Commissions so far as that is concerned, and I think the right hon. Gentleman has given me ample satisfaction by a distinct answer. I have not intentionally exaggerated, or said, or done anything either to introduce heat into the debate, or to darken unnecessarily the prospect which is before us; but I own it is not in my opinion other than a very dark prospect. I see in it a very large and great widening of the field of Irish legislation. I see in it an enormous augmentation of the bulk of Irish Business. I see in it, therefore, a very great addition to that which at present, by the magnitude it already offers to us, is the main obstacle to our transaction of the proper and immediate Business in regard to England and Scotland. I see in it, Sir, a delay which is, to my mind, a grave mistake in connection with national questions which have been raised with respect to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said last night that he considered that the difficulties of governing Ireland had been much increased in consequence of the propositions that we had made. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that in that announcement he was in diametrical contradiction to the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because when I asked that noble Lord—"How is it that, having thought coercion necessary in January last, now, although there has been no diminution but rather a slight increase in crime, you think coercion to be unnecessary?" the noble Lord answered—On account of the enormous change of circumstances; you have become the leaders of the Nationalists in Ireland, and therefore we are entitled to presume that legality will he now the general rule in that country.If legality is the rule, that is the greatest diminution of the difficulties of government, and is not an increase of them. One thing I must say; hon. Gentlemen 428 seem ready to catch at the imputation that we have become the leaders of the Nationalists in Ireland, as if that were a serious charge against the late Government. For my part I am delighted to have had any share or part whatever in becoming either leader or follower, I care not which, in any movement that tends by soothing the people of Ireland and by encouraging them to hope for the realization of their just claims—I am delighted to think that we shall have had a share, according to the noble Lord, who gives us in his bounty a very large share indeed, if not the whole, in establishing better ideas with regard to legality in Ireland. But this I must say—it is not in our power to answer for the state of Ireland as long as you choose to continue a system under which you have this sad fact staring you in the face, that whereas law in England is administered in an English spirit, and law in Scotland is administered in a Scotch spirit, law in Ireland is not administered in an Irish spirit. With that state of facts staring you in the face we may teach legality, and we shall teach it to the best of our power, but you cannot give security for social order in Ireland. I think I have shown to the right hon. Gentleman the Irish Secretary, on the authority of his Colleague, that we have done something, not to increase, but to diminish his difficulties, which I quite grant are serious enough. But what I fear is that the policy now advanced will again increase those difficulties which we have been struggling, apparently with some success, to diminish, because the Government point out to Ireland the adjournment of her hopes at the very best and the pursuit of measures which she does not want, and which, although offered to her as boons, she is likely to receive rather with resentment than with gratitude. In fact, the noble Lord and his Colleagues offer a prolongation of a controversy already too long, and the postponement as long as their efforts can postpone it, of that consummation which alone can give rest and repose to Ireland, and alone can bring to a close the period of its political agitation.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
said, that the other night he had thought it necessary, in view of recent events that had occurred, to point to future dangers that would inevitably arise in Ireland, and he was sorry to say that they had already 429 come into existence. In the South of the County Galway, the Eastern portion of which he represented, disturbances had already taken place, owing to the determination of the Marquess of Clanricarde, an absentee Nobleman, to exterminate his poor tenantry about Woodford. The noble Marquess never visited Ireland, and never paid any attention to the large interests that he had under his charge in Ireland, except the interest of collecting his rents. His poor tenantry in that wild mountainous district had mainly reclaimed their holdings from barrenness; and if they were to be paid for their improvements, the noble Marquess who was now engaged in the terrible work of evicting them would have very little indeed to add to his receipts in the way of rent. It was a pitiable thing that this noble Marquess should be allowed to evict and to exterminate these poor people. There appeared to be a general feeling in both Houses of Parliament in favour of the creation of a peasant proprietary; but how was it that such proprietaries were not established? He could not understand why it was that Parliament should get into a state of paralysis with regard to the Irish Question. It was admitted that the establishment of a peasant proprietary in Ireland was the only final settlement of this question. Yet the House did not legislate on the subject, while it refused to allow an Irish Parliament to take it in hand. If the House was in such a paralytic condition that they could not legislate properly in regard to Irish affairs, they had much better allow Ireland to do so herself. If the people of Ireland had the government of their country under their own control for 12 months, they would establish a peasant proprietary on a just and sound basis. The hon. Member was going to speak of the bearing of religious differences upon Irish tenants, when he was interrupted by
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
, who, rising to Order, inquired whether the hon. Member's remarks were relevant to the Amendment?
§ MR. HARRIS
, resuming, said, he did not see why the House should look with such especial tenderness on the rights of landlords, or treat them differently from other men who found their means of living in other ways than from the land. They were only entitled to get the market value of their property, and they were not a class of men who were deserving of consideration by reason of the consideration they had shown for the people.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present,
§ MR. HARRIS
, resuming, said, a very slight acquaintance with the state of things that existed and had existed in Ireland, England, and Scotland, would show that the landlords were the most merciless, inconsiderate, cruel, inhuman, anti- social, and anti-national class of men that existed.
§ MR. HEATH (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said, that the Conservative Members had been told that they were, by the Irish Land Purchase proposals of the Government, called on to violate or give up all the pledges which they had given at the last Election. Now, he did not deny that most of them were steeped to the lips in pledges against the Land Purchase Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and the Conservative Party had, no doubt, gained many seats by those pledges; but he (Mr. Heath) contended that the proposals of the present Government stood on a very different footing from the proposals of the late Government. He represented a constituency containing 8,000 agricultural labourers, and he should be the last man to support any policy which risked any part of their hard-earned money. Now, the investment of the English taxpayers, money, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian proposed, was one on which no prudent man or man of business would have lent his money; because, if the Home Rule Bill of the late Government had been passed, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his followers would have been in power in Ireland. That hon. Member had said that rent ought only to be paid on Irish land at prairie value—something like 3d., 6d., or 1s. per acre. How could he, after saying that, tell the 431 Irish, people that they ought to pay for the holdings at the price of 20 years' judicial rents. Was it likely that the hon. Gentleman and his supporters would have gone back when in power, on what they had said when out of power? It was clear that those who would have been in power, if the Home Rule Bill had passed, could not compel the people of Ireland to pay their existing rent, or anything like it, to the Government instead of to their landlords; and that was why he went against the Land Purchase proposals of the late Government. But it seemed to him (Mr. Heath) that the so-called Land Purchase proposals of the present Government were very different. In the first place, they did not reach to nearly so large an amount as the £150,000,000 which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) calculated would be involved in the proposals of the late Government, and the security of the money to be advanced, if it was advanced, was the whole power of the British Government, the pledges of the present Government, and the existing law under which a certain amount of rents in Ireland, and all rents in England, were now paid. All that the Chancellor of the Exchequer desired was simply to carry out in an enlarged and improved form the Land Act of 1885, for which they were indebted to Lord Ashbourne. The money hitherto advanced under the Act had so far returned the rate of interest at which it was lent. Then, the Government of Ireland was not now in the hands of Gentlemen who maintained that land in Ireland was only of prairie value. The English money advanced to Land Improvement Companies was now considered to be invested on as good security as any in England. If money was advanced by the Government, as they now proposed, it would be the first charge on the land under a settled and established Government. He did not believe that the Conservative Leaders were going to ask their followers to revoke or in any way to go against their pledges, and they would support them confidently in the belief that the proposals they made were in no way contrary to the pledges hon. Members had made. The proposals did not contemplate the transfer of the land of Ireland forcibly from one class to an- 432 other, nor did they involve the Government of Ireland being placed in the hands of men who held, as he already said, that the tenants in Ireland ought to have the land at prairie value. He looked with entire approval on the proposal to establish fishery harbours on the West Coast of Ireland. Surely, the great cause of the misery on the West Coast of Ireland, as it was on the West Coast of Scotland, was that there were too many people on the land; and, therefore, unless they were emigrated—a course which he deprecated—the only way to make them flourish was to give them other means of making a livelihood—means that would enable them to eke out their precarious gains from the land by reaping the harvest of the sea. Then, with respect to the proposal to promote works of arterial drainage. In the first place, the construction of these works would immediately furnish a large amount of employment to a large class of the populace by whom it was greatly needed. Then, in the second, the works, when completed, would enable a much larger part of Ireland than at present to be cultivated. He was sorry to see that the population of Ireland was diminishing. By the extension of arterial drainage, that tendency would be checked; because, if they virtually increased the size of the land, they would enable it to support a greater population. Then it was said that the Members on that side of the House were representatives of a class, and that they were proposing to take money from the English people and give it to the Irish landlords. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, it was true that, in one sense, he represented a class, for he represented a nearly purely agricultural constituency, including, as he had already said, 8,000 labourers; but he should certainly be very sorry to propose any expenditure of money by which they would lose, and he did not believe that any loss would be incurred by the expenditure which the Government proposed. He believed that if money was advanced in the manner and under the conditions which they proposed—so far as he understood them—no risk would be incurred by the English taxpayer, and that the Irish would pay the interest on such loans in the same way that they now paid the interest on the money advanced on drainage loans. In fact, he believed that as long as Ireland was 433 united to England, and was under the same Government as at present, there would be a good and safe security for such advances as the Government proposed to make for the promotion of Irish improvements. But he believed that if the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Parnell) and his followers were in power there would be no security at all for any money which might be advanced for Irish purposes.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol)
said, that in his belief a great many of the proposals which had been made by the Government merely meant the improvement of the value of landed property in Ireland at the expense of the English taxpayer. The Land Purchase scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian might have been right, or it might have been wrong; but, at any rate, it had this merit, that before one penny could be touched, Ireland was pledged to meet the obligation. Whatever might be said as to the merit of the late Government's proposal, the safety of it could not be questioned. He (Mr. Cossham) listened with great attention to the speech the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered the other evening, and was bound to congratulate him upon the great improvement in his style. He, however, could not agree with the noble Lord's conclusions. The noble Lord maintained that he and his Party had been sent to the House of Commons to maintain the Union with Ireland. He (Mr. Cossham) maintained that the Union had never been seriously attacked. Men might differ as to the methods by which the Union was to be maintained; but those who held the views he did asserted that the best way to secure real union with Ireland was to give the Irish people self-government. So far from endeavouring to quench the national aspirations of the Irish people, they ought to hail them with satisfaction. However much they might fence with the question, he felt confident that they must give Ireland a large share in the control of its own affairs. Every section of a nation knew its own wants bettor than anyone else; and it would be a very happy day, and they would be relieved of a very great deal of anxiety, when they invited the Irish people to manage their own affairs. That night they were called upon to deal with the Amendment of the hon. 434 Gentleman the Member for Cork, and he (Mr. Cossham) intended not only to support the Amendment by his voice, but by his vote. He regarded the Amendment as the natural reply to the speech of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he elaborated the schemes by which the present Government intended to meet the wants and wishes and difficulties of Ireland. The proposal to make up the rents of the Irish landlords out of the taxes of the English people was one of the most extraordinary that could be made. Seeing that the noble Lord had ventured to make such a proposition, the hon. Member for Cork had been well advised in bringing forward this Amendment. He was ready to admit that right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench meant to treat Ireland fairly; but he (Mr. Cossham) contended they were mistaken in their views. They took into their view the interest of the landlords simply. He wanted to take into view the interests of the people. He felt that the fundamental error that existed in the minds of many hon. Members was that the people existed for the Government, whereas the Government existed for the people. He had been disappointed that so many hon. Members confined their attention to what was best for the governing classes, and not to what was best for the people in Ireland. It was quite clear that something would have to be done; and he hoped that even from the present Government the House might hear some proposals by-and-bye, out of which they might produce some measures that would tend to the pacification and the future happiness of Ireland. He pleaded that night as an English Member representing a democratic class of people who had to pay taxes—people who would get no advantage out of the making up of the rents of the landlords. On the behalf of these people, he entered his strongest protest against this attempt to prop up the rents of the Irish landlords out of the English taxes. If that proposition ever took a form in which the House could deal with it in a substantial way, he predicted that however much the Government might boast of their majority, that majority would soon melt away. In conclusion, he hoped that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial Benches would not 435 assume that, because the Elections had gone against the view he (Mr. Cossham) and his Friends held, that decision was permanent. More than 2,000,000 of people voted for Home Rule, and a much larger number would have voted for Home Rule had it not been associated with the Land Purchase scheme. The Land Purchase scheme of the late Government was mildness itself in comparison with the view expressed by the present Government, and, therefore, he hoped to see adopted the Amendment which the hon. Member for Cork had moved in a speech of singular ability—a speech in which he appealed not to Irish prejudices, but to English common sense.
§ MR. LIONEL COHEN (Paddington, N.)
said, he believed that the principles raised by the Amendment would, if they were affirmed, not only injuriously affect the condition of the Irish tenants, but they would also affect, in a large degree, the legislation of the House in a sense which anyone who regarded the economical policy pursued by this country for many years past would regret to see followed. He contended that the terms and language of the Amendment were inconsistent and illogical, and that its scope and tendency were dangerous and mischievous in their nature. As a Member of the recent Commission on the Depression of Trade, he would say that there was no more striking evidence of the depression which affected land in Ireland than that of Mr. M. O'Brien, the Land Commissioner, who superintended the sales under the Act of 1881. It had been stated by the Irish Members that the prices of agricultural produce had fallen 40 per cent since 1881; but that was not the case. Taking all agricultural produce together, it was established that the fall was from 18 to 20 per cent. Of course, it was notorious that the price of wheat had fallen from 30 to 40 per cent; but in Ireland the area of land which produced flax was very nearly as large as the area that produced wheat; and the average fall in the price of flax since 1881 was from 18 to 20 per cent. The reduction made by judicial rents since 1881 up to January 5 this year had been 18.13 per cent; but there had been a fall in rents prior to 1881, whereas the fall in prices was since then; while in the three preceding years, 1878 to 1881, prices 436 were higher than they were in 1881. It was illogical and inaccurate to say that it was owing to the fall in the price of agricultural produce that great difficulty would be experienced in the payment of rents. He granted that the difficulty would be experienced; but it ought not to be connected entirely or mainly with the fall since 1881 in agricultural produce. It was not a question of rent alone in Ireland, or even in England. In many instances in Ireland if the tenants had the land for nothing they could not make a decent living out of land parcelled out into such minute holdings. It was the system of land tenure, and not the rent of the land, that was at fault. As long as it was supposed to be the rent which ground down the people, so long would attention be diverted from the real remedy. In Ireland there were 79,000 tenancies under five acres, 161,000 under 10 acres, and 226,000 under 15 acres. Of the holdings under five acres many were even under three acres. It was absolutely impossible for a man with a family to live out of three acres of the poorest land. It was not alone that economical conditions were different from what they wore years ago; but the condition of the peasants of Ireland placed them at a disadvantage as compared with the peasants of Europe. Comparisons had been made between the peasants of Berne and those of Ireland. The peasant girls of Berne were trained to dairy farming, and the children of Berne acquired technical knowledge at school. Kindred advantages in Ireland would do something to relieve its depressed condition. Could any proposition be more dangerous, and, at the same time, more illogical than that contained in the second sentence of the Amendment, which declared that evictions confiscating rights would cause suffering, and endanger the maintenance of social order? He could not understand how evictions could confiscate rights vested in the tenants by the Land Act. If the rights were vested in them, no eviction could confiscate them. A man did not lose his rights by being turned out of doors. If a right were vested in him eviction could not deprive him of it. As to the third sentence of the Amendment, no proposal had been made to transfer the loss arising from the inability of tenants to 437 pay rents from landowners to taxpayers. An attempt had been made to fasten upon words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer a meaning which they would not bear. Land tenure had been put before the House as a political question and as an agrarian question; but it was neither the one nor the other. It might be made political in the same way that any other question was. There was nothing in it that was agrarian, except in so far as the word agrarian implied connection with land. But there was much in the Land Question that was economical. There was much the House had done by which this economical difficulty had been produced. The Land Act of 1881 was the greatest breach of all economical traditions. The fact was they were suffering now from past legislation, and they were asked to repeat that mistake. They were asked to step in again, and to stay evictions and fix rents, not for 15 years, but for three years. The only effect of such policy would be to prevent capital being applied to the land. To embark on a continued course of interference with the relations between Irish landlords and tenants, and to persevere again in the policy on which Parliament erroneously entered into in 1881, would be a fatal step for the House of Commons to take. It had been erroneously said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured to urge the Irish landlords to exact the last pound of rent. He (Mr. Cohen) did not think it was the province of statesmen to urge payment on one side or absention on the other, but to deal with the subject in a judicial spirit. The hon. Member for Cork had alluded to the payment of rents being exacted by a system of Prussian coercion. But there was in Ireland a coercion worse than even Russian—and that was the coercion of the National League. [Home Rule laughter.] They had an illustration of its power and tyranny in that House, where statements and arguments were met by mechanical laughter. In conclusion, he trusted they had come to the end of the period of mismanagement, and that the House would promote the real welfare of Ireland by supporting the well-considered measures shadowed forth, by the Government, which were calculated to raise the condition of the Irish people.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
, said, that as a Liberal Unionist, he had the greatest possible sympathy with the Irish tenants in regard to their holdings. If, as no doubt was the case in England, the farmers were not able to pay their rents, they might fairly assume that much more so was that the case in Ireland, where they had a population depending almost entirely upon agricultural labour. The circumstances of England and Ireland differed in this respect—that in England, and also in Scotland, the agriculturists in addition to their own labour had the advantage of manufactures. In Ireland, they had not this advantage to the same extent, and the result was that the agriculturist in Ireland was entirely dependent upon the land for the upbringing of his family. Having this sympathy with the Irish tenant, he thought the scope of the Commission was too narrow, as he thought it should be extended so as to inquire into the extent and size of the holding; because it made no difference how small the rent might be, if the amount of land upon which the tenant laboured was too small to bring up his family. Therefore, the size of the holding was as important, if not more important, than the amount of rent, and the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer would do well to include this in the terms of the Inquiry. Whilst they greatly sympathized with the Irish people, they must nevertheless look at matters as they stood. When the present Government came into Office they found the rent was fixed by Act of Parliament passed by the Liberal Party, and if there ever was an obligation that was to be presumed to have been fair, it was the rent fixed by the Act of 1881. It therefore came to this, were the Government going to see that legal obligations, which had been fixed as right and proper by Act of Parliament, were to be carried out? If legal obligations undertaken under the Act of 1881 were not to be enforced, then what security had the country that, under the Land Purchase Act of the late Government, the rent fixed by that Act would not equally have been repudiated? The prosperity of the country depended upon its ability to enforce and recognize these legal obligations; and if they once destroyed confidence in this direction, the country 439 was bound to go down, and they would soon have no security at all. He admitted there were cases of hardship in regard to the Irish tenant; but had they not cases of hardship in other matters of contract than those relating to landlord and tenant? Had they not banks, where innocent widows and orphans had been brought to starvation by the failure of the banks? And yet the Excutive were never appealed to to interfere in their behalf; and in these cases it really amounted to eviction, for, in many cases, even the household furniture was sold off. Were they to interfere in these cases also? Whilst they must acknowledge and might regret the hardships of the law, there was no doubt that the security of the State depended upon maintaining the law, and enforcing just and legal obligations. That being so, he held that the Government coming into power, at the time they did, should give no countenance to any doctrines that did not enforce legal obligations; and surely if over there was a legal obligation that ought to be enforced it was that entered into under the responsibility of an Act of Parliament. The legal obligation was not of their making; it was the making of the Liberal Party, and it was acknowledged to be just by them in every particular. Reference had been made to the matter of the reduction of rents in England and the generosity of landlords on the Treasury Bench. In the latter instance, the reduction of rents was the result of voluntary action on the part of the landlords; but if these gentlemen had come to the Executive and said—"We wish the legal obligation enforced," the Government of the country must have enforced it here as well as in Ireland. Instead of adopting that course, however, the landlords took the matter into their own hands, and gave the reduction of rent as a matter of generosity to the tenants. What, then, was the distinction between the two cases? It was this—the tenants in Ireland had no legal right, as some maintained they had, to ask Parliament to interfere with the settlement of the Land Act of 1881. They might have a moral right to ask the landlords to make a reduction in the rent; and if they so approached the landlords, he hoped the landlords would meet them in a generous spirit. But, by the teaching that had sprung up, these 440 tenants were not taught to go, as they were in duty bound to go, in the spirit of asking a favour from their landlords, and of receiving a reduction in the same way as that reduction was received in England and Scotland. They were led to believe that they had a legal right, with regard to which this House could interfere, to prevent the landlords from receiving almost any rent at all, whether the land could pay it or not. It seemed to him, therefore, that the Government might have been in the position of saying, strictly and honourably, that they would adhere to the terms of the Act of 1881; but they had gone a little further than that, and had adopted a more generous view—they had said they would inquire into the Act of 1881, and see whether anything could be done for these tenants or not. That, he said, was a concession on the part of the Government which they were not bound to have made, but having made it, it should be generously received, and generously acknowledged. The terms of the inquiry had been explained. If the Government were going to alter the terms of an Act of Parliament, they were bound to take the utmost care by inquiry, before resorting to any change, and that was exactly what the Government proposed to do by the Commission to be issued. The Government did not commit themselves to anything; but they proposed to inquire into whether there were any grounds existing for the change. He was astonished that the debate should proceed upon the supposition that the Government were about to bring forward any scheme of Land Purchase; he thought it irrelevant to go into the question, as there was no such thing referred to in the Queen's Speech, nor in the proposals before the House at the present moment; and it was, therefore, altogether out of Order to be discussing a Land Purchase Bill which was not before the House, and which, according to any information they had from the Government, would not be before the House until the end of next spring, if it was even then. With regard to the first portion of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), the House had no information regarding the fact there stated, and could not of their own knowledge, as a Legislative Assembly, affirm an assertion such as that. With regard 441 to the second part of the Amendment, which dealt with, possible numerous evictions, they had no information as to what might take place; and as to the last part of the Amendment, deprecating the loss likely to arise to the taxpayer by the purchase of land from the owners, they had no such proposal before the House, and, therefore, he failed to see how they could deprecate that which was not before them. Under these circumstances, he thought it was his duty to state that, whilst he had the greatest possible sympathy for the Irish tenants, and should like to see the Commission extended in the direction he had indicated, he held that the House was bound to support the legal obligations undertaken by Act of Parliament; and that, if it did interfere with these legal obligations, it was bound to do so with the greatest possible caution, and that the Government, after inquiry, would have to consider how far it could interfere with vested interests conferred by Act of Parliament.
§ MR. MASON (Lanark, Mid)
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Caldwell) had treated them to a view of the question very much from a legal stand point of view. This, however, was a question of practical importance, affecting the well being of a great many of our fellow-subjects in Ireland, and as necessity had no law he was afraid they must deal with it in a very different way than looking at it from a legal point of view; and as Parliament had made the law of which they complained, Parliament was perfectly entitled to take steps to amend the law. That, he thought, was a view of the case that would commend itself not only to the House, but to the country. He presumed he was precluded from making any general remarks on the Queen's Speech; but he might be at liberty to make some remarks on the development of the policy which had been divulged by those who had spoken upon the Ministerial side of the House explanatory of the Speech from the Throne. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, he would endeavour to keep within the limits as much as possible. The speech of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave them a view of what the Government intended to do with regard to Ireland, and then they had a very full commentary upon the Speech from 442 the Throne in "another place," to which, however, he would not further allude. They also had had a speech from the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), and one from the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who seemed to have inspired the whole matter. It was quite clear that from his speech last night the policy of the Government had very largely emanated, and he tried to explain away that by stating that the policy was not yet before the House in the shape of a Bill, so that there was plenty of time to discuss it when it came before the House. Although the Liberal Party were in a minority in the House, yet, with the aid of the country, he believed they would be able to prevent that policy ever becoming an Act, if ever it should get the length of being embodied in a Bill. They would contest it inch by inch, the policy being that they should pay a rent out of the taxpayers' pockets to the landlords of Ireland. [Cries of "No, no!"] That seemed to him to be the policy foreshadowed by Her Majesty's Ministry, and he was satisfied that the Liberal Party would be backed up by the country in resisting it to the uttermost. Scottish Members had not much to do with that debate; but representing an industrial and commercial constituency in Lanarkshire, the most important county in Scotland, he intended to enter his protest against the policy that had been foreshadowed by Her Majesty's Ministers. What was that policy? First, it was one of social order, and the whole of these measures the Government were about to introduce were intended to produce a better state of social order in Ireland. He was afraid the Government were going to give Ireland a bribe, and perhaps, also, another taste of coercion; but he thought they had already had enough of coercion. What they wanted was, neither bribery nor coercion, but a policy of conciliation.
§ MR. GENT-DAVIS (Lambeth, Kennington)
, rising to Order, said, he wished to ask if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) was still before the House, and if the indulgence granted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was to be extended to private Members?
§ MR. SPEAKER
No question arises as to whether the indulgence of the 443 House is to be granted to any hon. Member; but it is my duty to remind the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mason) that, while indulgence was extended to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, the hon. Member himself is not confining himself to the subject before the House, which is, the inability of the tenants to pay rents, and the consequences following thereon.
§ MR. MASON
said, he thought the question of social order was raised under the Amendment, but he bowed to the Chair on the question, and he would confine himself to the question before the House. The question of judicial rents had been raised in consequence of the Irish Land Act of 1881 having fixed the rent for 15 years. That appeared to him at the time to be a blunder, and experience had proved it to be so. As he understood it, they were fixed in 1881 on a basis of the value of produce for the five years preceding. If, then, the value of produce had since fallen 20, 30, or 50 per cent, it was quite clear that rents must now be too high for the people to pay. Under these circumstances, he thought it would be well if the Commission which the Government proposed to appoint would proceed to work at once. Rents were payable in November, and evictions were already going on. That being so, it seemed only just and proper that Parliament should interfere to amend the Act of 1881, that Act having failed by not making provision for such a fall as had taken place. He thought it would be wise for the Government to follow up the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cork, and act promptly with regard to the reconsideration of rents in Ireland. They should send out one of their Commissions immediately, to ascertain what was the actual fall in the price of produce during the last five years. He was sure that if it were found desirable to pass any Act to amend the Land Act of 1881, the House would really do so, and the result might be to prevent a winter of trial and suffering to many of the people of Ireland, and at the same time do a great deal towards preserving social order in that country. That was his practical suggestion, and he would only add that he thought the Amendment which had been proposed by the hon. Member for Cork was wise and well-timed, and he intended, on a division, to give his vote in its favour.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said, he felt bound to preface the observations he wished to make by saying that the practice of allowing speeches to be made by any Member of the House, however distinguished or illustrious, to which no other Members could be permitted to reply without being out of Order, appeared to be inconvenient in the extreme. He desired to limit his observations to the Amendment before the House, and if by any mishap he should travel beyond its scope, he hoped he would receive not less indulgence than was accorded to the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Mid Lothian in the long and discursive, and in some respects thoroughly mischievous, speech which he delivered that afternoon. One thing had been too much lost sight of in conection with all their discussion about Ireland; but it had been made perfectly clear by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork, and that was that, although, no doubt, the hon. Member was using them for his own political purposes, the causes which lay at the root of all their troubles and difficulties in Ireland were economical rather than political in their character. For that reason, although it met with so much ridicule and opposition from the Opposition side of the House, there was no part of the policy of the Government which commended itself more to his mind than that in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer disclosed the intention and desire of the Government to deal with the question of the development of the material resources of Ireland. The Amendment dealt specifically with two questions—social order and the Land Question. The chief difficulty in Ireland now, as for many years past, was the Land Question. The right hon. Member for Derby had told the House that it was hopeless ever to think of dealing with that question unless they first discovered what was the real evil afflicting the country. He should have thought the right hon. Gentleman might have known what the real evil was. It was that over a large part of the country there was scarcely any means of subsistence for the population apart from the land, and in consequence there had always been an excessive and unnatural demand for its possession. It had been summed up over and over again in debates in that House, and had once been described as "the cancer of the coun- 445 try." It was, and would continue to be, a fruitful source of trouble, unless some means were found of lessening it. If the result of the labours of the smaller Commission promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer should result in the production of some effectual measures in the direction of encountering that evil, if it should be the means of diverting the attention of any part of the population from the soil and of providing the people with other means of subsistence, it would do more to mitigate and remove the real evil in the country than could be done by any other means that it would be possible for human ingenuity to devise. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had spoken at some length upon the question of rents in Ireland that night, and for his (Mr. Chaplin's) own part he could say that in his humble opinion there was no other man in this country who was so responsible for the present situation with regard to rents, and with regard to the present situation of the Land Question altogether, as the right hon. Gentleman. With all his influence, all his authority, and all the unrivalled power which he had exercised in the House of Commons for so many years, the right hon. Gentleman had never, so far as he could remember, raised a little finger to do anything at all towards attempting to deal with that question, with the exception of two miserable clauses in the Land Act of 1881—one dealing with the question of emigration, and the other with the reclamation of land—both of which had been dealt with in so feeble and ineffectual a manner that he believed he was right in saying that from that moment to this they had remained a dead letter. He remembered that in 1870, when the right hon. Gentleman had introduced his first great Irish Land Bill to the House, the right hon. Gentleman had said—"We take the circumstances and the conditions of Ireland as we find them." Yes; and it was precisely because the right hon. Gentleman had done so—because he took them as he found them, and because he had left them as he found them—that the circumstances and conditions of Ireland had been far more potent than the measures of the right hon. Gentleman, and had vitiated and rendered futile all his great legislative measures. "What were those circumstances and conditions? They were perfectly notorious. They were to be 446 found in the miserable condition of the people, especially in the West of Ireland, who were crowded together upon holdings which in a good year were hardly able to afford the means of a miserable subsistence, and which in a bad year meant misery and starvation. The right hon. Gentleman, instead of doing, or attempting to do, anything with this state of things, had confined his attention entirely to the property of one class in Ireland—a class which was numerically small, and which was insufficiently represented in that House—and he had thought that by a sweeping confiscation of their property, and by transferring it to others, he would accomplish the regeneration of Ireland. This policy he had carried out in spite of all protests, with consequences and results which were patent to the world to-day. Among those results was the system of judicial rents, which had been the subject of so much discussion that afternoon. He remembered that in 1870 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had denounced that system, and had proved to demonstration that it could only end in one thing—namely, the complete demoralization of the people of that country. But afterwards, in 1881, the right hon. Gentleman had suddenly found that it was a panacea for all the evils and mischief in Ireland. That system had now completely broken down. Anyone who had viewed the system candidly and without bigotry or ignorance must have seen—and as he always had prophesied—that it must break down. Then the ridiculous pretence was put forward that the coming fall in prices—which had been in everybody's mouth at that time—had never been taken into account by the Commissioners in fixing the judicial rents, and was never contemplated at all by anyone. Why, he himself recollected hearing debates in that House in the year 1881 over and over again—and in which he had taken a considerable part—on the question of the probable fall in agricultural prices; and all the results which would follow from it had been put prominently forward. He had himself moved an Amendment having reference to those very subjects, and had stated his opinion that this constituted a fatal blot in the scheme. That opinion had then been scouted and repudiated by the right hon. Gentleman. The right 447 hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) the other night had made very merry about the number of Commissions now being proposed to be appointed by the Conservative Government. For his own part, he (Mr. Chaplin) had not a single word to say against those Commissions; on the contrary, if the Government required more information than they had at present, it was not only their right but their duty to appoint them. But he would remind the House that there had been a good many Commissions already upon these and upon cognate subjects, and that vast stores of information were already at the disposal of the Government and of the House. A Commission appointed three years before under the Duke of Richmond had reported in 1881 upon the whole question of agricultural distress in Ireland. That Commission had been appointed by Lord Beaconsfield; but in the same year—1881—a Commission had been appointed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, known as the Bessborough Commission, which had also reported on the condition of Ireland, and especially upon the working of the Land Act of 1870. Besides these a Committee of the House of Lords had since then inquired into the working of the Land Act of 1881. He wished to remind the House of one or two passages from those Reports, because they bore upon the question of the fall in prices and judicial rents, and whether or not that fall in prices had been taken into account by the Commissioners. The Richmond Commission had reported that, in common with the rest of the United Kingdom, the agricultural depression of the years 1877, 1878, and 1879 had greatly affected Ireland, and that the effect had been increased in Ireland by the absence of manufacturing interests and other sources of employment; that undoubtedly the depression had fallen with extreme severity upon the smaller farmers and small holders in the West of Ireland; and that they were satisfied that, with the slightest failure of the crop of these people, they would be unable to subsist on the produce of their farms even if they paid no rent at all. It made no difference whether the failure was in the crops or in the prices, and this Report showed that that there was evidence which must have led the Commis- 448 sioners to take these matters into account. But in the Report of the Bessborough Commission there was much stronger evidence to this effect, and the principle of the Act of 1881, which had created these Commissioners, had been framed to a very large extent upon the Report and recommendations of that Commission. In their Report they had expressly referred to the question of future variations in the price of agricultural produce as affecting the length of time for which rent should be fixed. In the face of such evidence he would ask how it was possible to contend that judicial rents had been fixed in the past by the Commissioners without taking into account any probable fall in prices? The Commissioners appointed under the Act of 1881 were supposed to be men not merely of ordinary common sense but of exceptional ability, and yet now the hon. Member for Cork told them that they had taken no consideration of these Reports. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had taken the Chancellor of the Exchequer considerably to task for some language which he had used in the opening night of the debate, and had said that the speech of the noble Lord was not only a direct encouragement to evictions, but was a direct discouragement to any remissions of rent. For his (Mr. Chaplin's) own part, he thought that was a totally false construction of the speech of his noble Friend, and one which was not in any way warranted by what had been said. What the noble Lord had said was, that if the rents could not be paid then the landlord was entitled to the restoration of his land. A contrast had been drawn to-day by the hon. Member for Cork between the practice in England and the practice in Ireland, and said that they should follow the practice adopted in England between landlords and tenants when the latter got into difficulties. But great difference in practice was one of the mischievous results which followed from the Land Act of 1881, and which had been always foreseen and predicted. They should remember that measure destroyed all the old, what were sometimes called the "feudal," but what he believed were the kindly relations which existed between the vast majority of the landlords and tenants in Ireland. He was not going to defend all the landlords in Ireland; they knew very well there 449 were black sheep in every flock; but would the hon. Member for Cork tell him that it was not the old landlords who were looked up to and revered, and that it was not the new landlords who had been guilty of many of the evil deeds he so frequently denounced? By that Act hon. Gentlemen destroyed all those kindly relations for the future and placed their countrymen on a strictly legal and commercial footing, and they made it their boast at the time that they had done so. Therefore the burden of the care of those poor impoverished people ought to fall, not upon the landlords, but upon the shoulders of those who had brought such a state of things about. When the Act of 1881 was passed a solemn binding contract was entered into between the State on the one hand and the landlords and tenants on the other. He did not mean that the State guaranteed that the landlords should always receive the full judicial rent; but it distinctly guaranteed him two things—first, that until the expiration of the statutory term there should be no interference with the judicial rent so far as the action of the State was concerned; and, secondly, that if from any cause the judicial rent should not be paid the landlord should be restored to the use of the land which belonged to him. That was a distinct obligation of honour and good faith between the State on the one hand and the two contracting parties on the other; and if he had to choose between honour and good faith and the spoliation of the landlords, he could not depart from the obligations of honour and good faith, even if he was left no other alternative than that the Irish tenants should be evicted, or that the burden of purchase should be placed upon the shoulders of the State. He regretted it exceedingly, but the fault lay not with hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, but with the authors of the measure. The present state of things was the first chapter in the lesson which he suspected vast numbers of the English people had yet to learn—namely, that their admiration, their worship, and their blind support in all his foolish measures for many years past of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was going to turn out, in the long run, the most expensive luxury that ever was indulged in by any people in any country in the world. The hon. Member for Cork 450 concluded what had been described to-night as an "impressive and cold-blooded speech" by a suggestion which he desired to notice. He proposed that the whole of the judicial rents in Ireland should be revised, and the statutory period reduced from 15 years to three. Had the hon. Member forgotten the number of years that were taken to fix the judicial rents in force at present? If he had not, he would have known that his proposition was totally impracticable. Unless he was misinformed, there were at the present moment 4,000 applications for judicial rents which were in arrear; and yet the hon. Member was good enough to suggest and recommend to the Government that the whole of the judicial rents in Ireland should be revised, and that was to be accomplished before November next. [MR. PARNELL: Upon the basis of prices.] There was no official record of agricultural prices, so far as he (Mr. Chaplin) knew; and, if that was so, that made the hon. Member's position worse than it was before. He did not wish to delay the House. He only desired to make one observation more. The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman contemplated further disorders in Ireland; and he gathered from the hon. Member that he endorsed the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian as to the imprudence of postponing the next Session until February instead of holding it in the autumn. Well, he confessed that at one time he had some considerable misgivings on that subject himself. But whatever doubts he had entertained were dispelled by the clear, able, and conclusive speech which fell from his noble Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the opening night of the debate. He ventured to offer his hearty and sincere congratulations to his noble Friend on the statement which he made on that occasion, and also, if he might be allowed to do so without being chargeable with undue presumption, on his having attained the distinguished position in which it became his duty to deliver it. One thing, at all events, was made perfectly clear by the statement which the noble Lord delivered—that Her Majesty's Government most certainly did not underrate the importance of the question of social order and the means of restoring and 451 maintaining it in Ireland. For they announced their determination, to leave absolutely nothing undone, within the resources of the ordinary law, to restore it. And, more than that, his noble Friend gave the House and the country a plain and specific pledge that if by any mishap the Government found the ordinary law unequal to the task, and failed them, then they should not hesitate to summon Parliament together without delay and ask for further powers. To this, at least, his noble Friend said he could pledge the Government—that the very moment they became conscious of their inability to perform the first duty of a Government—namely, to enforce the law—at that moment they would call Parliament together, and ask with confidence for whatever measures they might deem necessary. Nothing could be more emphatic than that declaration, and it ought to dispel any anxiety with regard to the upholding of the law in Ireland. He might not, he supposed, say a few words upon the general policy of the Government; but with the indulgence of the House he would ask to be allowed to say that, on the whole, he cordially approved and endorsed the policy indicated in the speech of his noble Friend. There was one point, however, on which, he was sorry to say, he differed altogether from the Government. He differed in the views which his noble Friend announced with regard to the extension of a large scheme of local government to Ireland concurrently with England, when Parliament met in February. But he would not dwell upon that question now, because there would be many opportunities of doing so when the measures of the Government were before the House. Hon. Members from Ireland had been exceedingly courteous to him on this occasion, and he would conclude with one word of appeal to them. The hon. Member for Cork had told the House that he did not regard the late decision of the country as conclusive in any degree. How could the hon. Member and his Friends ever hope to fight the question under more favourable auspices? They had fought it under the most powerful and most popular statesman the country had seen for years. More than that, they had appealed to an electorate which had just been enormously enlarged by the 452 same right hon. Gentleman, and in whose favour, by every sense of gratitude and interest, that electorate was likely to be prejudiced rather than the reverse. But, notwithstanding all that, no question was ever decided in a more complete and emphatic manner, and it was decided against them.
§ MR. MASON (Lanark, Mid)
rose to a point of Order. He said he had been stopped in his remarks, and had been called to Order for discussing the general question; and the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be allowed to go beyond the discussion of the Amendment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that he was the judge of Order in that House; and he would call any hon. Member to Order if occasion required. He must be allowed to say that, although, certainly, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman had no immediate connection with the Amendment, yet he understood the right hon. Gentleman was about to conclude his remarks; and, therefore, he (Mr. Speaker) did not interpose.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he would best consult the convenience of the House and the propriety of the situation if he should conclude by one word of appeal to the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends, and it was this. After all Ireland had gone through, after all the trouble she had endured for many years, after the decided verdict which had been given at the General Election, was it not evident to them that it would be for the welfare and the prosperity of Ireland that they should let that unhappy country have, at least, an interval of peace?
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's County, Ossory)
I hope, Sir, that in speaking for the first time I may receive from the House, as a whole, as much kindness as I have received from individual Members, of all shades of opinion, when making my way through the House. In regard to the present debate, I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) may fairly be called the Cassandra of Irish politics. Again and again he has told English Governments what he knows about the state of Ireland; what he believes will be the proper course to pursue, in order to restore peace and order in that country, and what the consequences will be if his advice is disregarded. Yet over and over again the 453 hon. Gentleman has been told that his knowledge is of no account; that his advice will not be listened to, and that his prophecies are all wrong. But, Sir, in spite of all that the time will come when English Governments will discover that the advice tendered to them was not so bad, and the prophecies not so foolish, as they, in their arrogance and self-conceit, suppose. The hon. Gentleman has suggested certain changes which he thinks will, in some measure, tide the Government over their present difficulties. One of his suggestions is that the judicial rents should be fixed for three years; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford (Mr. Chaplin), who has just sat down, says that this would take a great deal of time, and when he is reminded by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork that he has said "on the basis of prices," the right hon. Gentleman says there is no authentic source from which the basis of prices can be ascertained. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has ever heard of Thom's Almanack; whether he knows that there is any such person as Thorn; that there is such a publication as Thorn's Almanack; that, as a matter of fact, Thorn is the Queen's printer in Ireland; and that the information which he supplies to the public is of the most authentic character? Then the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork says that leaseholders ought to be included within the benefits of the Act. Well, I scarcely think that any Member of this House will regard that as a very foolish suggestion on the part of the hon. Gentleman in the face of the fact that the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) and the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) have introduced a Bill with the very object of including leaseholders in the benefits of the Act. Therefore, I take it for granted that no one will regard the proposal of my hon. Friend as absurd and extravagant. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) told the House to-night that the hon. Member for Cork had drawn a fearful picture in those cold-blooded tones to which the House is so much accustomed. Well, I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot have a particularly good ear; for I venture to think—and I believe my ear 454 is tolerably good—that I have never in my life heard words spoken in a tone which implied more deep concern than those which were spoken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork. We in this part of the House do not find the hon. Gentleman cold-blooded; but then we are only his followers and friends. We think we know him; we are sure that you do not. I shall keep, Sir, in the few observations I propose to address to the House, very closely to the terms of the Amendment, as I am very anxious—and I hope I shall always be so—to obey implicitly the ruling of the Chair. The Amendment, as I understand it, deals with four principal questions—judicial rents, evictions, social order, and the land proposals of the Government. Now, with regard to judicial rents, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down declared that they were fixed by the same Commissioners who were the authors of the Bessborough Report. [Mr. CHAPLIN: No!] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon if I am misrepresenting what he said.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
What I said was, that provision was made for them by the Land Act of 1881.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD
I am quite aware that the Commissioners were appointed in pursuance of the Act of 1881; but it does not follow that as there were different Commissioners, and as the rents were fixed by a number of Sub-Commissioners who were different persons altogether, that, therefore, every word contained in the Report of the Bessborough Commission was carried out. The truth is that those of the Sub-Commissioners who were particularly friendly to the tenants were either dismissed or not re-appointed; and the Sub-Commissioners in general fixed the judicial rents, not according to any defined or well-understood principle, but according to the political exigencies of the time. At the time they were first appointed Ireland was in a state of tremendous agitation; it had just been passing through the most terrible crisis it has passed through in our day; and as a consequence, because there was this outcry, the judicial rents were pulled down considerably. But, as time went on, I think I am correct in saying—although if I had time 455 I should prefer to quote the Reports which the Commissioners have published year after year—the abatements in the rents became less, because the country was more quiet. In regard to the fall in prices I say—and I defy any hon. Member on the other side of the House to disprove my assertion—that the Sub-Commissioners did not take into account the permanent fall in the price of agricultural produce to the extent which they ought to have done. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) asks whether the House can believe that the Sub-Commissioners could have fixed the rents without considering the bad years? Now, the right hon. Gentleman has a singular faculty for misconceiving the point of his opponent's argument. No one on these Benches ever stated that the Sub-Commissioners had disregarded bad years. What we did say was that that which was patent to all the world was neglected by the Sub-Commissioners—namely, that the foreign competition—the competition of American and Australian produce—was not likely to get less, and that instead of standing still it was calculated to increase as the facilities of intercommunication increased, and that with that increase of facilities the fall of prices would continue, and so there would be brought about, as a necessary consequence, a further inability on the part of the tenants to pay rents. We maintain that these things ought to have been taken into account by the Sub-Commissioners. But we are told that the judicial rents are to be enforced in full, and that they are to be enforced with all the power of the law, because the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who opened the debate on the part of Her Majesty's Government, does not believe the statement as to the tenants being unable to pay the judicial rents. Well, Sir, we do not know how the noble Lord arrived at that conclusion. I am afraid that he arrived at it in virtue of that faculty of intuitive knowledge which he so modestly disclaims for himself and his Colleagues. Certainly, the authorities are all the other way; but then they are authorities who only profess to base their opinion on facts and experience; and we all know, of course, that intuition is higher than either. The authority of Sir James Caird has been quoted; but it has been said that Sir 456 James Caird, in a subsequent letter to The Times, explained that he had been misinformed, and that he was misunderstood. Now, I maintain that no words could have been plainer than those which were written by Sir James Caird—namely, that from 538,000 holdings in Ireland all economic rent had for the present disappeared. These words are plain enough to anyone who knows anything of political economy, although, perhaps, there are some hon. Members on the other side of the House who do not know very much about political economy. All I can say of the words of Sir James Caird is that if these words are not clear and plain they have certainly been used for the purpose of concealing his thoughts. Then there is another authority I do not think the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer will feel disposed entirely to dispute—I mean Dr. Walsh, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. Dr. Walsh says that he looks with the gravest apprehension to the coming winter in Ireland; and he endorses the opinion, so freely expressed in other quarters, as to the inability of the people to pay the judicial rents in full. ["Oh, oh!"] Will any hon. Member venture to affirm that Dr. Walsh, with his episcopal authority, would state a fact like that, or be a party to any assertion which did not appear to him to be clearly true? [Renewed cries of "Oh!"] I am sorry to hear that mark of disapproval from that side of the House. I am myself an Irish Protestant; but I have learned to respect the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Ireland; and I may tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that if they only knew Ireland one-thousandth part as well as these gentlemen know it there would be a much better chance that they would be able to govern it. Judicial rents are to be enforced to the full, and the enforcement is to be carried out by all the power of the Crown. Well, Sir, I say that as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, so sure, when the judicial rents are thus enforced, will there be crime in Ireland. There must be crime in Ireland, because of the record which the Irish landlords have in the past, and because of the terrible consequences which must result to the tenants if these evictions are carried out. We have been told by the right hon. and learned Gen- 457 tleman the First Commissioner of Works that evictions are becoming fewer in Ireland; and in proof of that assertion he has quoted some authority or document, which he does not exactly define, which is a year old, and which, as far as I can make out, is a document which has never been laid on the Table of this House. Sir, has the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and have Her Majesty's Government, read of the evictions in Gweedore last week? Do they know anything about those evictions? Do they know anything whatever about Gweedore? Probably a good many of them never heard that such a place existed. I, however, have visited it; and I know Gweedore well. I can assure hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that there is such a place, and that the parish priest of Gweedore is a clergyman whose name is held in honour in every cabin in Donegal. I can also testify to the industry of the people of the district, who go every summer to Scotland in order to try and earn enough to pay the miserable rent that is due to the exacting landlord. They are honest; they are industrious; and, so far, there has been no crime among them. The land which they occupy is of the most miserable kind, consisting of stones and rocks, interspersed with little patches of clay upon which the people plant their potatoes and oats, which are the only means they have of subsistence, except what they earn by working in other countries. These are the people whom the landlords have been evicting; and it is scenes like these, in every part of Ireland, which your policy will protect. Sir, we have heard of the desperate condition of the county of Kerry. I know Kerry. I visited it in 1883; and what did I find there? I found a gentleman, whose name has been more than once quoted in these debates—Mr. Hussey, who was formerly the agent of Lord Kenmare and of a number of other gentlemen having property in the locality, who thought him an exceedingly efficient agent. But he carried out his work with very little regard for the feelings of the people. I was assured that not only had Mr. Hussey, the land agent of Lord Kenmare, put the people out upon, the roadside—men, women, and children—to perish, or take refuge in the workhouse or in an emigrant ship, but, as if to make the cup of their misery over- 458 flow, he actually burned their cabins to the ground after he had turned them out upon the roadside. [Laughter.] Sir, any man who can laugh at that must have the heart of a stone. Are these the scenes hon. Members opposite desire to see in every part of Ireland?—for if the policy of Her Majesty's Government be carried out they are certainly the scenes you will see. And do you suppose that such scenes can pass off without outrages and crime? I am satisfied that if one-half of the tyranny were exercised by the landlords of England that is exercised by the landlords in Ireland the people would long since have risen as one man, and got rid of the whole squad of landlords. No, Sir; there will be crime as a result of these evictions; and how do you propose to deal with the question of social order? You propose to deal with it entirely by itself. I should have thought you had had enough experience of the folly and absurdity of a course like that. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) told us the other night something about the absurdity of this policy of treating the question of social order by itself. He did not quote—possibly he could hardly have been expected to quote that, which there will be no impropriety if I quote—namely, a precedent in recent Irish history, which must be fresh in the knowledge of hon. Members, and which most conclusively proves my point—I mean the case of Earl Spencer. Earl Spencer governed Ireland from May, 1882, until February or March, 1885. When he entered upon that task he had an advantage, from your point of view, which you are not likely to possess again. Public opinion had been so outraged by the Phœnix Park assassinations that the House of Commons was willing to give the noble Earl very exceptional powers by passing such a Coercion Act as had been unknown during this generation. Earl Spencer was empowered to prevent the reading and circulation of all American newspapers in Ireland. He could stop public meetings; he could allow juries to be packed; he could change the venue to such an extent that Irish-speaking peasants from Connemara could be tried in Dublin by people who did not know one single word of their language. He could do this, and he could do a great deal 459 more; and he did it. And what was the result? You say that he restored social order. Everybody knows, as was publicly stated by Lord Monteagle in a letter to one of the London journals, that at the time when that coercion reign of Earl Spencer came to an end England was hated in Ireland as she had never been hated before. Now, Sir, that is a very pertinent example for this House, and it bears most closely upon social order. Do you expect to succeed where Earl Spencer failed? If you do, you have a much better opinion of your own capacity than hon. Members on this side of the House entertain. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works said that the hon. Member for Cork had drawn a terrible picture. No doubt it was a terrible picture, and if it should come true it will not be through his doing, but yours. The hon. Member showed exactly how it will be brought about. First of all, you will insist upon carrying out the law to the full, and it is all to be done as a sacrifice to the delightful English fetish of law and order. That will be the first thing. There will then be evictions, and these evictions will be followed by crime. Her Majesty's Government will then come to this House and demand fresh powers. They will probably get them; a Coercion Act will follow. We (the Irish Members) will stand by our people, and the consequence will be that you will not distinguish between criminals and your political opponents; and so, ultimately, in order that your dark deeds may not be exposed by us on this side of the House, you will suspend the Constitutional rights of the Irish people, and govern Ireland like a Crown Colony. [Cries of "Question!"] That is what I maintain. Well, I do not know, of course, how far all that will happen; but I do know this— that the Conservatives in this House appear to consist of three classes; first of all, the Conservatives who mean kindly towards Ireland, and who acknowledge all the good qualities of the Irish people; secondly, those who take the very unjust view with respect to Ireland which is exhibited by hon. Gentlemen of the mental and moral calibre of the hon. Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool (Mr. W. F. Lawrence), who spoke the other night after the right hon. Member for Newcastle- 460 on-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), the late Chief Secretary for Ireland; and, thirdly, there is another class to which Conservative Governments belong—men who shut their eyes and refuse to see what is patent to everybody else. I say that those things may come about, and it will, indeed, be a very terrible picture. But, Sir, if they do come about, there will be a streak of dawn after the night, and it will arise in this way. What do you suppose the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne, or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, or the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) will be doing when Her Majesty's Government are thus violating the Constitution, and bringing all these measures to bear upon Ireland? [Cries of" Question!"] I believe I am speaking to the question, for I am dealing with the question of social order. What do you suppose these right hon. Gentlemen and those who sit on this side of the House will be doing while you are thus violating the Constitution? They will be carrying on the education of the masses of the English people; already something is beginning to be known of the abominations of English rule in Ireland—already something is beginning to be known, through the writings of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and others, about the horrible acts of Irish landlordism; and the English people, knowing all this, will not long be satisfied to keep the present Administration in power.
§ MR. GENT-DAVIS (Lambeth, Kennington)
I rise to a point of Order. I wish to know whether the bon. Member is speaking to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell)?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member (Mr. Gent-Davis) will observe that in the Amendment the words "the maintenance of social order" appear. At the same time, I may remark that the mere existence of those words in the Amendment, taken with the context, do not raise the question of social order and make it the principal subject of discussion. The Main Question now before the House is the question of the eviction of Irish 461 tenants, and the debate must be confined to that.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD
Well, Sir, I can only say that when the result shadowed forth in the speech of the hon. Member for Cork is brought about these right hon. Gentlemen will not be idle, and the true character of your government will be patent to the people of England. And when that day arrives the present Administration will be hurled from Office amid ignominy and disgrace, because they will have brought shame upon the name of freedom-loving England, and because they will have proved their utter incapacity to govern Ireland at all.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
Like the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Macdonald), I venture to make a very earnest appeal for that indulgence which this House always extends to a Member who rises to address it for the first time. The Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) practically raises the question upon which my own election was carried in Tyrone. I cannot possibly give a silent vote upon it, and my sense of duty does not allow me to walk out of the House without giving a vote. I was returned for a typical agricultural constituency. I was sent to this House by the tenant farmers of South Tyrone. These men resisted every appeal to their cupidity that could be made; they threw aside the tempting creed of agrarian Socialism that was placed before them; and although, Sir, I am very reluctant to speak in this House during the first week of its meeting, I do not think that I should be justified in allowing the views and the feelings of the farmers of South Tyrone to pass without some explanation in this House. Sir, as regards the question of judicial rents I desire to put before the House the case which was put before myself by these farmers. I submit that the men who sent me here have no desire to rob any landlord, or any desire to confiscate any man's property. What they said to me during the contest amounted to this. The judicial rents were fixed in 1881, 1882, and 1883. Under the conditions then existing they were fair rents; and had those conditions remained intact we should have felt ourselves bound in honour to pay them without a murmur. But it is right I should inform the House 462 that those conditions, in the opinion of my constituents, do not continue to exist. Butter, which is one of the staple commodities of Ireland, was 1s. per lb. in 1882; it is now selling in the Ulster markets at 6d. Stock brings only half the price it fetched in 1882 and 1883, while all other kinds of agricultural produce have suffered a like depreciation. My constituents were constantly assuring me throughout my contest that if that depreciation in agricultural produce was to continue the rent would become impossible of payment; and they would not be able, and they did not think they ought to be asked, to bear the entire burden. Sir, I desired to recognize the justice of the case as regarded both parties; and I said then to the tenant farmers, on a score of platforms, what I venture to repeat to this House now. These facts bring grave duties to the door of every Irish landlord. If the land does not produce the rent, the rent cannot be paid. But, Sir, I was always careful to tell my constituents what I fear that hon. Members below the Gangway are apt to forget—that if the landlord had grave duties corresponding duties lay on the tenant I told these men, as fairly and as squarely as I could, that while landlords were bound to consider the situation—and I know, of my own knowledge, that many of them have done so, and are ready to do it again—it was also the duty of the tenants, by the exercise of thrift, industry, skill, and sobriety, to do their share in the desperate circumstances in which they are placed. Now, Sir, that is the tenants' case; and let us hear, in all fairness, what the landlord has to say for himself. He has also a case. I heard the speech of the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Galway (Mr. Harris) the other night—and if that hon. Member can say it I think the entire Party can say it also—that it is not unjust for the landlord to look for his rent. The landlord's case is this—if a tenant complains to him, and he is a needy man—for all landlords are not rolling in wealth—he probably tells the tenant that he had nothing to do with the fixing of his rent; that that was taken out of his hands by the measure passed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone); that that rent was now fixed by a tribunal perfectly independent of him, the landlord. 463 The landlord would also, in all probability, remind the tenant of what is true at this moment, regarding the Province of Ulster at any rate—namely, that there is a promise, I am thankful to say, of a more than average harvest. [Cries of "No!" from the Home Rule Members.] Sir, I will admit the fall in prices; but I would ask the tenant, if the prices had gone up, would the landlords have been benefited during the existence of the judicial lease? I maintain that this House is bound to look at both sides of the question; and it would commit a very grave error, indeed, if it came to a decision on the mere statement of either one party or the other to the quarrel. The Government are face to face with a grave difficulty. They do not propose to shut the door in the tenant's face. If they did, I should vote with the hon. Member for Cork. They simply say that being called upon to undo a great national contract, solemnly entered into, they cannot do so without adequate inquiry into the facts of the case. Sir, I think they are right; and allow me to add this. This inquiry has been much ridiculed. Now, I venture to say that if we had had a little more inquiry lately and a little less haste in legislation, the Liberal Party would not have been in the state of confusion in which they find themselves to-day, and the country might have been spared the turmoil of a General Election, which it had no desire to engage in. Sir, the real question, to my mind, is this—do the Government mean business by this Commission? I am a young Member of this House. ["Hear, hear!" from the Home Rule Members.] Yes; but I have spent a great many years about these premises, and I candidly confess that I am very hostile to Royal Commissions and inquiries of this kind. They frequently mean delay, and they are very often floated for the mere purpose of shelving inconvenient questions. If I thought delay was possible in this case I should vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork. It is because I think the Government is bound to inquire—because I think there is a case for inquiry; and because I think they are honest in their determination to inquire, and to legislate, that I shall vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork, if he carries it to a division. I do so because I think the 464 Government entitled to time; because I think it more to the tenants' interest that an inquiry should be held; and because I desire to see the rents settled in the manner pointed out by the hon. Member for Cork on the basis of prices, and not by any rule of thumb in the Sub-Commissioners' Courts. Hon. Gentlemen have been talking here to-night about the principle adopted in a Land Court for the settlement of rents. Sir, there has been no principle whatever adopted—none; and I am satisfied that if any hon. Member were to go into the Court and ask any one of the Commissioners upon what principle he has acted in giving his decisions he would not get a rational answer to the question. Many of the Sub-Commissioners appointed under the Land Act were men who knew nothing about land at all. They went into the Court, and simply struck an all-round reduction of 23 or 24 per cent; and the consequence was that the good landlords—the men who had never raised their rents—were the very men who were punished severely. Landlords who had raised their rents within the last 12 or 15 years simply suffered the same reduction as other landlords who had not raised their rents for 50 or 60 years. I support Her Majesty's Government because I desire to see this inquiry undertaken, and because I desire also to see the leaseholders included in the Act of 1881. Why were they excluded? I do not think it is fair to found an impeachment against the Government upon that ground; because the main reason why the leaseholders, who number 100,000, and are composed of the very cream of the tenant farmers of Ireland, are outside the scope of the Land Act has been the persistent refusal of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), and right hon. Gentlemen acting with him on the Front Bench, to allow them to come in. I desire further to see the holders of town parks and the purchasers of glebe lands brought under the Act of 1881, so that they may share in the benefits which that Act confers. I therefore prefer taking my chance of the result of the proposed inquiry, with its possible effects upon the tenant, to voting for a mere empty Amendment for which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) himself declines to vote. I have no desire to occupy the attention 465 of the House; but I wish to say that no matter what may be said about national sentiment—and everybody in this House knows the strength of that sentiment—the real question in Ireland—the question that goes down deep into Irish life, is the Land Question, and not the National Question. If Her Majesty's Government can do anything for the 120,000 small farmers who are starving in the West, and in the wilds of Donegal—if they can, by any development of Irish resources, take the pressure from the land and let something like daylight into the dismal cabins there, they will have done a service for which the country will be bound to speak them well. Sir, I shall vote for the Government all the more readily, because I do not enter this House as a partizan. I came to this House determined to vote as my conscience directed me, either for or against the Government.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member has made use of a most improper and un - Parliamentary expression, which I must ask him at once to withdraw.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Sir, I shall vote all the more readily with the Government on this question, because I believe that their programme is a wise one. They have undertaken to make a resolute effort to restore law and order in Ireland; and whether that effort is made in Belfast or in Kerry I am with them in the making of it, and I hope that they will resolutely adhere to the task they have undertaken. They have promised to consider various other matters going deep down into the condition of Ireland. I trust they will proceed resolutely, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left in what they consider to be the path of duty.
§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
As one of the Gentlemen who, for three years, served as an Assistant Commissioner under the Land Act, I may, perhaps, be allowed to claim the attention of the House for a short time. In November, 1881, I was offered an appointment under the Land Act, which I gladly accepted, because, at that time, I heartily approved of the action of the Liberal Government with reference to 466 the Land Question in Ireland, and I felt grave doubts whether my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) was fully justified in the opposition which he raised to the Government at that time. But, Sir, three years of hard work in connection with that Land Commission—three years spent in inquiry into the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland—have convinced me that my hon. Friend the Member for Cork was not only justified, but that his action was absolutely necessary. That is the reason why I now consider it an honour—and a very high honour—to belong to the Party which my hon. Friend so ably leads. The present Government, as I understand, take their stand on the Act of 1881. I have read, Sir, of a law which came from a higher source than even the law of this land; and I have read of a body of men who, while regarding literally and most exactly the letter of the law, managed so effectually to kill its spirit that they escaped from some of its most essential obligations. Sir, the spirit of the Act of 1881, if I understand that Act at all, is divided into three main principles. The landlord was not to have the power to demand from the tenant more than a fair rent, which rent was not to encroach upon the property of the tenant. So long as the landlord received such rent he was not to have the power of evicting the tenant. The third principle was that the tenant was to have the right to sell his interest in his holding. But, Sir, as regards the statutory term of 15 years, which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to consider such a sacred thing, I maintain that it was a mere accident of the Bill, and that it is in no way one of the principles of the Act. Then, if we can show that the maintenance of this mere accident would destroy the spirit of the Act, I think the Government must either abandon their present position, or else they will stand convicted of a desire to strangle the spirit of the law by a strict adherence to the letter. Now, as regards judicial rents, the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us he is not prepared to admit that they are too high, even under present circumstances; and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant asks this question—"Can it be supposed that the Com- 467 missioners did not take into consideration any possible fall in prices?" Now, Sir, I am afraid that, unless they were inspired—and I, for one, was certainly not inspired—they could not possibly have foreseen the terrible state of depression which has overtaken the agricultural interest. What was the state of things when we began our work? We had passed through a period of great depression which culminated in the year 1879. From that time until the year 1882 things began gradually to improve, and in the year 1882 we had reached a year that was certainly very much better than the three or four preceding years, and unfortunately, as it has since turned out, very much better than the subsequent years. The period during which I took part in fixing the judicial rents extended to the year 1884, and I will take the liberty of comparing the prices of the six preceding years ending with 1884. I find that the prices of the six previous years were considerably higher. Butter was 20 per cent higher; mutton 5 per cent; beef, 15 per cent; milch cows, 7 per cent; and two-year-old stock, 20 per cent. Now, in quoting percentages I would ask the House to notice that the percentage by no means conveys the effect on the profits of farming. The cost of production varies but little, and any change in prices falls mainly on the margin of profit. To explain clearly what I mean I will give an example. Suppose that the value of a particular article is £10, and the cost of producing that article is £5; if, by some means or other, a reduction in value of £2 10s. is brought about, the reduction on the margin of profit would not be 25 per cent, but 50 per cent. Now, Sir, I would ask what qualification a rent fixed for a period of years ought to possess? There can be no doubt that it ought not to be a rent which could be paid in a bad year. In that case it might be unfairly low for an average year, and decidedly too low for a good year. But, for the same reason, it ought not to be a rent which could only be paid in a good year; it ought to be a rent which the tenants could pay in an average year, and then, in an extra good year, they would be able to realize sufficient to carry them over a bad year. That is the only principle on which a fair rent could be fixed. 468 We have been asked whether the Commissioners took into consideration the recommendations of the Bessborough Commission. My answer to that is this. The Bessborough Commission sat, I think, before the period of depression had ended; and the improvement of prices which has taken place since certainly made us look on matters in a different light. Now, Sir, were we, in fixing the rents, to ignore entirely the high prices which existed previously to the year 1879? I do not know on what basis we could do so. I do not know what the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer may think now as regards our duty in that particular; but I feel confident that if at that time he had held a brief for the landlords, and had appeared for them in one of our Courts, he would have urged upon us most strongly that we were bound to take into consideration that period of high prices in fixing a rent that was to last for 15 years. What were the rents that were fixed? We believed them at the time to be rents that could be fairly paid in an ordinary year. We believed that we had passed through the period of depression; and judging by past events—and, as far as I can see, that was the only substantial ground upon which we had to stand—we believed that the period of depression was over, and that before it returned there would be some decidedly good years. We believed that the worst was over, and we were strengthened by the fact that the year 1882 was a very much better year than the three preceding ones. But what has happened since? Have our expectations been verified? We have had one year that might be called an average year, but we have had several years below the average. We have had none—not one single year in which the tenant could save sufficient to carry him over a bad year. This state of things has been followed by a period of depression; so great that in our wildest dreams we never contemplated it. Now, I confess that I am totally ignorant of English agriculture—about as ignorant as some hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to be of Irish agriculture, and that, I think, is saying a good deal. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant said yesterday—speaking of that part of England with, which he is personally acquainted—that 469 large reductions in the rent had been necessary there in the year 1885 on account of the great fall in the price of wheat. Although I know nothing of the prices of English agriculture, I have been able to refer to the average price of wheat; and I find that, taking the price of wheat in the year 1885, and comparing it with the average price in the six previous years, there was a fall of 13 per cent. I by no means mean to say that that has not rendered a large reduction of rent necessary; but taking the price of the staple articles in that part of Ireland with which I am acquainted, and comparing the price of those articles in 1885 with the six previous years, what do I find? Not a fall of 13 per cent, as was the case in wheat in England, but a fall in butter of 20 per cent; in beef of 18 per cent; in mutton of 19 per cent; in milch cows of 18½ per cent; in two-year-olds of 42 per cent; and in yearling stock of 22 per cent. This, Sir, is the fall in prices which has taken place since the judicial rents were fixed, and yet the Chief Secretary for Ireland expresses a deliberate opinion that Irish farming has not been so very much affected by the fall of prices as English farming. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: No, no!] I certainly understood the right hon. Gentleman last night to acknowledge that the rents required reduction in the South of England, because of the fall in the price of wheat, and unless my memory is very faulty, the right hon. Gentleman expressed a decided opinion that the same did not apply to Ireland.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
I am sure the hon. Member has no desire to misrepresent what I stated. My remark was, that the fall in the price of wheat had had a great effect in the South of England, and that it had led to a reduction in rent. I did not make any further statement than that.
§ MR. MAHONY
I am glad to hear that the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary does not maintain the opinion that the fall in agricultural produce in Ireland has not affected the question of judicial rents. I certainly thought that he did maintain that opinion, and I am delighted to hear that he does not. I think, Sir, I have shown by the account I have given of the considerations by 470 which we were influenced when we fixed the judicial rents, and by the statement of the fall which has taken place in the prices of agricultural produce since those rents were fixed, that if they were fair at the time we fixed them they must most decidedly and certainly be unfair now. At any rate, I give that as my opinion, whatever that opinion may be worth; and it is an opinion upon which some thousands of the judicial rents have, to a very large extent, been based. It is certainly my opinion now, that the rents which for three years I took part in fixing, are at the present moment decidedly too high. I further give it as my deliberate opinion, from the knowledge I possess of a very large part of Ireland, that a majority of the tenant farmers in Ireland at the present moment are unable to pay the judicial rents. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) has quoted a high authority to show that the tenants' improvements have not been interfered with by the decision in the case of "Adams v. Dunseath;" but he omitted to mention that portion of the judgment which laid down that a tenant could be compensated for his improvements by the enjoyment of them. That is a doctrine which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) distinctly stated formed no part of the Act of 1881. In regard to the improvements, there is one other point to which I should like to direct the attention of the House. It would strike one as an ordinary matter of fairness, if we simply wished to arrive at a just decision between landlord and tenant, that, where it had been the custom for the tenant to make all the improvements, and the custom for the landlord to make none—in such cases, at any rate, the onus of proof should be thrown on the landlord. But, Sir, in any case the unfortunate tenant has to produce legal proof that the improvement has been made by him or his predecessors in title; and that fact alone has enabled the landlords, and has compelled the Land Court, to fix rent on the tenant's improvements. And now, Sir, I would like to say a word as regards those tenants who have not had judicial rents fixed. There are more things to be considered in reference to these persons than I think has yet been brought under the 471 notice of the House. We have heard of the question of making applications to the Court. Hon. and right hon. Members do not seem to consider that the question of expense is any great bar to the tenants of Ireland; but in poor districts, such as some parts of Galway, Mayo, and Donegal, even a shilling fee, which is an absolutely necessary expense, is a matter of great importance. Besides, it is a well-known fact, to anyone who knows anything about the working of the Irish Land Act, that a tenant has little chance of pleading his case successfully unless he has legal assistance, which cannot be obtained for 1s. I am well acquainted with a large portion of Donegal. I know one district where I do not think a single tenant farmer would have been able to enter the Court, except for the energetic and charitable and patriotic action of the parish priest. I allude to Father McFadden, of Gweedore. And the system he adopted was this. On a small sum being guaranteed to him by the tenant, he undertook to bring the case before the Court, and to return to the tenant whatever amount he received from him in the event of failure to obtain a reduction. What was the result of the action of this gentleman? Why, on one estate which up to that time had been looked on as a model estate amongst the landlords the tenants got a reduction—I am speaking now from memory—of, I think, 37 per cent. That created a tremendous flutter amongst the landlords; the Chief Commissioners were immediately besieged on the subject, and they, most improperly, I think, did a thing which they did in no other case—namely, resolved to hold a special sitting, to decide at once whether these frightful reductions on this model estate were justified. Owing to some disagreement this special sitting did not come off; but these cases have since been re-heard by the Chief Commissioners, and the decisions have been confirmed. There is another point besides the expense that has acted as a great bar to many tenants availing themselves of the Land Act, especially the small tenants, and that is the question of the right of turbary. On many estates it has been the custom to give the tenants the privilege of cutting turf at a merely nominal figure. Well, some landlords, to my certain knowledge, have made use of their power over the 472 right of turbary to prevent their tenants from going into the Court. They have warned their tenants that if they went into the Court they would have to look for turbary elsewhere. Other landlords, after the tenants have been into Court, and have obtained a reduction of their rent—and to the small tenants this has been a serious injury—have recouped themselves to the full amount of the reduction by increasing the sum charged for turbary. The same system and practice has been pursued with regard to other privileges usually accorded to the tenantry, such as mountain grazing. Here is another matter that the landlords use as a lever to prevent the tenants from going into the Court, and that is the hanging gale. It is the custom in many parts of Ireland not to ask for the payment of the rent that falls due in March or May until the following September or November. Many landlords, after the judicial rent has been fixed, have departed from this custom, and have forced the tenants to pay the new rent on the day on which it fell due. By refusing the old-established privilege of the hanging gale to their tenants holding under judicial rents, and by continuing to grant it, not only to those who hold under their old rents, but also to those who settled with their landlords out of Court, they have put a premium on settlements out of Court; and they have, in many cases, forced their tenants to agree to pay higher rents by arrangement out of Court than those tenants would have had to pay if they had gone into the Land Court. This, Sir, is the way in which the landlords have facilitated the carrying out of the Act on which Her Majesty's present Government take their stand. These are the tenants which the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant says have no grievance—I mean the tenants who do not hold under judicial rents—because, as the right hon. Gentleman says, they can apply to the Court to fix judicial rents, and can also apply to the Court to put a stay on eviction proceedings. Unless I am very much mistaken, in order to do these things the tenants must apply to two Courts; because the Court to which the landlord applies for power to evict is the County Court, and the Court the tenant applies to to fix a fair rent is the 473 Land Commission Court; and unless I am much mistaken they must apply first to the Land Commission Court to fix a fair rent, and then apply to the County Court Judge and ask him to put a stay on the proceedings for eviction. And suppose the tenants succeed before the County Court Judge, and get a stay on the proceedings, what advantage will they gain? They will be put on terms to pay a certain amount of rent, pending the settlement of a fair rent, and when that fair rent is fixed it will only take effect from the next gale day, and up to that very day they will have to pay the old rack-rent just the same as before, so that I fail to see what benefit the tenants will derive, even if a stay of proceedings is obtained. They will not be in a bit better position to pay the arrears. They will have to pay all the arrears at the same old rent. The Court has no power whatever to deal with that. Now, Sir, I should like to ask the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, how it happens that the Government have omitted to mention altogether what they intend to do as regards leaseholders? I think I am right in saying that no Member of Her Majesty's Government has given us even an inkling of what they intend to do with regard to leaseholders. Now, what is the position of leaseholders? Many of them took their leases in order to escape from the power of the landlords to raise the rent. That power became so intolerable that the Government stepped in and deprived the landlord of the power to raise the rent; and the very men who felt that power in the most bitter manner, and to whom it was so galling that in order to protect themselves they undertook to pay for a term of years a high rent, so that it might not be perpetually raised, are deprived of the benefit of the Act which the Government passed. If there is a case to be brought before the notice of the Government more weighty than another it certainly is the case of the leaseholders. Besides the ordinary case of the leaseholders, there is the case of those who have accepted leases since the Act of 1870—since the time when Parliament put a premium upon leases in Ireland. It has been proved, over and over again, that many landlords forced 474 their tenants to take leases, and in order to meet that difficulty a clause was put in the Act of 1881 enabling the tenants who had been unjustly forced to take leases to break them. But the Chief Land Commissioner in Ireland, Judge O'Hagan, has stated that it would pass the wit of man to understand how, according to the interpretation of the Court of Appeal in Ireland, there could possibly be an unjust lease. So that that clause of the Act of 1881 has completely failed. Sir, the only hope of the amendment of the Act of 1881 which Her Majesty's Government has held out is the amendment of the Purchase Clauses. I should say by all means put the landlords in a position to come to an agreement with their tenants. Give the Courts more power to deal with head rents and head landlords like Trinity College; but see that the tenants are free to make their contracts too. The case to which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) referred looked to me rather as if the landlord, under the threat of eviction, or by some such power, had managed to make his tenants agree to terms which were unfairly high. Certainly, the Commissioners must have considered the terms unfairly high, or they would not have refused to sanction them. I am aware of some cases in which the landlords and tenants have come to terms as regards purchase, and the Chief Commissioners have sanctioned those terms; and in the same county, almost in the same district, they have refused to sanction the terms on which agreements, or so-called agreements, have been made, and I think they were right in doing so, because the amount one gentleman, at any rate, sought to charge the tenants was very much higher than any other landlord in the district was able to obtain. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland does not appear to think that the terms were unfairly high, because the Land Commission refused to sanction them; and he deliberately proposes to make such an alteration in the Act that extra security shall be given for repayment of the purchase money by the Local Bodies in distressed districts. I think that, before he has been very much longer in Office, he will discover that the Local Bodies in the distressed districts 475 of the West of Ireland are not very well suited to the giving of security. I think he will find that he has difficulty enough in getting these Local Bodies to pay the rates, which will, undoubtedly, be very high, in consequence of the manner in which the distress in these districts has been dealt with. And now, Sir, Members of the Party to which I have the honour to belong have been accused of being ready to agree to the provision of 20 years' purchase in the Act introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian last Session. As well as I remember, I do not think that any Member of that Party expressed approval of the 20 years; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian has told us that the 20 years was no principle of the Bill. It was clearly an accidental provision, and the right place to discuss that provision would have been when the Bill got into Committee. If the Government are determined to take their stand on the Act of 1881, I would appeal to them to take their stand on the spirit of that Act, and not on the letter. We know that they are inclined to prefer the letter to the spirit. We know that they are inclined to grasp at the shadow and lose the substance; we know that they sit on those Benches because they prefer a dead and soulless piece of paper to a real and living union of hearts. They say they have the mandate of the constituencies for that; but I do not think they can claim any mandate for maintaining the letter of the Act of 1881 in such a manner as to kill the spirit. If they cannot make their Government agreeable to us, at any rate they can make it bearable as a temporary and necessary evil. But if, instead, they adhere to the policy which has been explained by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer—if they adhere to this policy of exciting the landlords to exact to the uttermost their legal rights, then, indeed, we have reason to be alarmed. We have been told there is no need to fear the state of things in November, because ejectments cannot be obtained until January. I should like to ask what right hon. Gentlemen opposite have to say about the September and November rents payable in March and May, and the March and May rents payable in September and November, for which ejectments have already been 476 obtained? How are we to escape from them? Are the landlords to be trusted to exercise their rights with moderation? I was lately in a distressed district in the West of Ireland—in one of those special districts where the population were undoubtedly in danger of starvation unless proper means had been taken to give them assistance—and in that very district I saw enough to assure me how little the landlords are to be trusted. In the village of Muckenagh the inhabitants were turned out wholesale. A large force of Constabulary was present at the evictions, and a gentleman who saw every house in that village emptied of everything it contained did not see one single potato taken out and only a few handfuls of meal from some of them. The Constabulary were so affected by the whole scene that they emptied their knapsacks and gave the starving people all they had to eat. That is an example of the moderation practised by some landlords. The hon. Gentleman the Member for one of the Divisions of Queen's County has alluded to the ejectments that have taken place in the Gweedore district—a district quite as poor, I believe, as any of the distressed districts in Galway; and if landlords have acted in the past few months in that manner, what may we not expect from them under the direct encouragement given to them by the Government to exercise their legal rights to the utmost? But, Sir, if the Government think that they are going quietly to get rid of the people of Ireland I think they mistake the present attitude of the Irish people. They do not appreciate how much of the peaceful attitude of the Irish is due to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in the name of the English people, extended to us the right hand of friendship. They do not appreciate the fact that we now have friends in this country, and that they are a strong, numerous, and united Party—united to one another and to us, not merely by a common opposition to one particular Bill, or, perhaps, it might be more accurately described, as a common opposition to one particular man, but by the broad platform of similar ideas and similar projects. What we want to do for the Irish Democracy according to Irish ideas, the Party with which we are joined in England want 477 to do for the English Democracy according to English ideas; and they will not only join us in denouncing crime, but they will also join us in denouncing those outrages that are committed under the protection and in the name of the law.
§ MR. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
I do not wish to speak at great length on this Amendment; but I desire to congratulate the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) on the character in which he is appearing in connection with this proposal—figuring as he does before the taxpayers of England as their champion, because the latter part of the Amendment, I observe, deals not with the interests of the people of Ireland, not with the interests of the poor suffering people who, as indicated, are about to go through such a dreadful winter, but with the interests of the taxpayers of England. He says—That we deprecate any attempt to transfer the loss likely to arise due to inability to pay the present rents, from the owners of land to the taxpayers of Great Britain and Ireland, by any extension of State-assisted purchase on the basis of rents fixed when prices were higher than they now are.Well, I hope the hon. Gentleman will succeed in obtaining some little popularity from the taxpayers of England, because of the care and attention he is paying to their interests; but I trust the population of Ireland will observe that the hon. Member is prepared, from that point of view, to sacrifice their interests in the coming winter, because, so far, the only proposition which is before the House—or I should rather say not before the House, but which has been foreshadowed in the speech of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill)—was the suggestion that there should be a Royal Commission appointed for the purpose of inquiring whether or not judicial rents in Ireland are too high, and of considering what should be done in the matter. In truth, there was nothing before the House that could justify this condemnation which comes in his speech by anticipation. I cannot help thinking that we should look between the lines of this Amendment in order to ascertain the hon. Member's real purpose. You do not find it clearly expressed. Clearly it is not the point here mentioned, because there is no 478 measure before the House proposing to tax the English taxpayers; and if there were, it is obvious it could not come on before next spring, whereas the difficulties pointed out in the Amendment are difficulties which would be experienced by the Irish tenants during the coming winter. Therefore, it is quite clear that that is not the object. It seems to me that the real object of this Amendment is to put on record a sort of grievance on behalf of the Irish tenants, and to foreshadow that which I have no doubt is in the power of the hon. Member and his followers to accomplish—namely, that if Her Majesty's Government do feel it their duty to enforce the law in protecting the officers of the law in carrying out necessary evictions there shall be social disorder, and those outrages which we are told will follow evictions. That seems to me to be the real indication contained in the hon. Member's speech. It would not have done for the hon. Member to have embodied in his Amendment a direct recommendation that evictions were to be suspended. First of all, there would be the answer that Her Majesty's Government would not feel it in their power to accept such a recommendation. Then it is quite clear that a Bill for that purpose could not be carried. But what does appear to be intended is to point out that as the consequence of evictions there will be outrages, hence we have the words—Numerous evictions confiscating the rights vested in the tenants by the Land Act of 1881, causing wide-spread suffering and endangering the maintenance of social order will be the result.Not only the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork, but the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) also seemed to think that it was important to point out to the House that outrages and evictions were in some way or other connected. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland gave us figures which I, for one, am not prepared to contest. Each of those three right hon. Gentlemen seems to think it was incumbent on him to point out that in proportion as there were evictions, so, also, there were outrages. I am not going to question the 479 accuracy of the assumption; but what does that prove? No doubt evictions have been followed by outrages; but why? Because the outrages were intended to deter landlords from proceeding to eviction; and those who are opposed to evictions are determined to see that there shall be no evictions which shall not be followed by outrages. No doubt, in the warfare here indicated, evictions, as well as outrages, are the result of the conspiracy of the National League, or whatever it may be called, to resist the payment of rent; but if you have a conspiracy of the kind, what happens? If you have a conspiracy to resist the payment of rent the landlords are bound to appeal to the law, and those who administer the law are bound to carry out evictions by way of putting down the conspiracy. If we are to give up evictions merely because they are to be followed by outrages, it would be nothing else than a complete surrender to the National League. But I venture to think that Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to make any such surrender. I know that in this House the late Chief Secretary for Ireland announced such a policy as seems to be desired by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell)—namely, that evictions should be suspended. I was appalled to hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that he was not prepared to use the forces of the Crown to enforce what he spoke of as the shadowy rights of the landlords. Sir, I submit that Her Majesty's Government have no choice in this matter, and the right hon. Gentleman himself seemed to modify his words when he found that the Government of which he was a Member thought he had gone a little too far. No Government has a right to refuse the assistance of the law to those who have the right to claim it; and I repeat that it would be a complete surrender if we were to give up these rights merely because evictions are to be followed by outrages. It is spoken of as if it was some very great hardship that there should be evictions for non-payment of rents. For my part, I fail altogether to see any hardship in it. We must bear in mind what is the position and nature of the present tenure of land in Ireland, as well as the present rights of the landlords. First, we have the fact that a large number of landlords in Ireland were purchasers under 480 the authority of the Encumbered Estates Court; that many landlords paid a high price for land under a Parliamentary title, in the belief that such title was to be regarded as indefeasible. What happened? Under the Act of 1881 we have the rights of landlords considerably curtailed by the establishment of tenant right. Under that Act the Irish tenants who had no right in the land, except that given by yearly tenancy, acquired what is called tenant right. Whence have they acquired that right? It was at the expense of the landlords. Before that the landlord was the owner of the estate, and he was afterwards deprived of his right to the extent of the right of which the tenant is now possessed. The landlord, when that arrangement was made—which, by the way, was forced upon him by the Act—at all events received some consideration, because the tenant became part owner of the property, conditionally, upon the payment of rent; the tenant became a sort of copyholder of the land, just as in the case of a tenant in England who is subject to ground rent—that was the way he was spoken of, I think, by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. But one of the chief points in the contract made at the time was that, at all events, the rents should have some degree of permanency. So that the landlord, taking his chance of good and bad years, should have, at least, a settled and fixed income in consideration of the abatement from his rights which went to the tenant. I am not prepared to admit that there has been a fall in the price of produce—I take the statement that is made, however; and I ask, even if there has been a considerable fall, is it fair that under the circumstances the rights of the landlord should be further curtailed? I say it is not. And I ask whether, if there had been an advance in the price of produce, the tenant would pay a higher rent? I apprehend he would do nothing of the kind, and therefore the proposal is unfair to the landlords, because it is an attempt to deprive him of what is given him by the Act of 1881. It has been said that if the land does not produce the rent it cannot be paid by the tenant; but the very terms of the Act of 1881 were that the Commissioners, in fixing the rent, should take one year with another. That was one of the duties imposed on the Commissioners, and is it to 481 be supposed that each tenant is, year by year, to be dependent upon the annual produce of his holding for the payment of his rent? It may be so in some cases; but there must be some tenants who have very considerable savings in the banks, and anyone who will refer to a statement of the late Prime Minister will see that it is so. Why, then, if they have been able to make a profit in successful years, should they not draw upon the savings' banks to pay the landlord his rent? I know of several instances, and I have been told of others by hon. Friends to-night, of men who, having refused to pay their rent on the plea of poverty, allowed the eviction to proceed and the Sheriff to take possession, but as soon as they saw that the landlord was in earnest put their hands in their pockets and paid the rents with the money that was kept there until necessity should arise. If, then, it be true in some cases, it is not true in all, that the tenants cannot pay. Supposing, then, that a tenant cannot pay his rent. I know of no law and no principle of morality or justice which can entitle a man to continue to retain possession of a piece of land held in consideration of the payment of rent, and which allows him neither to pay the rent nor give up the land. It seems to me that a man who cannot pay his rent has one duty to discharge, and that is to give up the land. It may be that if he cannot make the land pay someone else could. We cannot judge of the amount of rent to be paid by the result of the farming of an idle and incapable tenant; it is the result of the exertions of a good farmer which is the measure of the rent which should be paid. If I should hire a piano or furniture for a house on certain terms of payment, you would not say that I was entitled to keep possession of them if I could not keep up the payments; and therefore I say let the tenant give up the land, the rent of which he cannot pay, and the landlord would then have a chance of getting a tenant who could pay. The truth is that we have got into difficulty by interfering with the economic laws which regulate these matters. Parliament, in passing the Act of 1881, was led astray in the attempt to settle by law that which ought to have been left to be settled between the landlords and the tenants 482 themselves. We have found by experience the truth of the statement of Earl Grey, who said that the economic laws had never been broken by any nation with impunity; and yet we are now asked to do what I hope the House will refuse to do—namely, further to infringe those laws.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir Thomas Esmonde.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL) (Paddington, S.)
Sir, the Government would not think of offering any opposition to the adjournment of the debate to-night; but I may take the opportunity to remind the House that this is the fourth night on which we have been engaged on the Address. It is clear to many hon. Members that this debate should not be unduly protracted; and I, therefore, venture to express the hope that it may be concluded on Thursday next.
§ MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S., and Belfast, W.)
My recollection is that, in recent years, the debate on the Address has occupied 12 or 14 days, and that at times when there was much less ground of debate, and less pressing necessity in the interests of Ireland than there are on the present occasion. I do not understand that the debate upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) has been at all fully developed, inasmuch as there are other facts to be urged in support of that Amendment which will be well worthy of the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. I would also remind the noble Lord that there stands on the Notice Paper other Amendments to the Motion. I have given Notice of one with reference to the disturbances in Belfast, in moving which I shall have to call attention to the connection between those disturbances and the action of the noble Lord himself.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.