§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE
There is a Motion on the Paper in my name—That it is desirable that more extended facilities should be given by legislation, to owners of land to improve their estates by means of moneys borrowed on Terminable Annuities from the State.My object in placing this Motion upon the Paper was to call attention to the present condition of the landed proprietors of this country. In 1846 an Act of Parliament was brought in by Sir Robert Peel, which allowed £2,000,000 to be lent to the landowners for the improvement of the land by means of drainage. In the year 1850 there was a further grant of £2,000,000 under similar conditions to the landowners of Great Britain, and similar advances were made to the landowners of Ireland at the same periods. Leaving Ireland out of the question for the present, the total amount of the advance sanctioned by Parliament for such purposes was £4,000,000; and that sum was advanced to the lauded proprietors of Scotland and England towards enabling them to effect improvements in their land by draining and building suitable labourers' houses at 6½ per cent upon Terminable Annuities of 22 years. This amount of £4,000,000 was exhausted about the year 1870 or 1871. Now, Sir, not one sixpence of this money so advanced by the State has been lost. I have been informed by the best authority that only in two instances there were arrears, which were in consequence of accidental errors having been made in the accounts; but on each of those occasions, immediately the matter was brought before the landed proprietor who was in arrear, the amount in question was immediately sent to the Office of the Inclosure Commissioners. What I want now is to place for a moment the condition of the landed proprietors of this country before the House. On all sides there has been an outcry for further efforts on the part 1451 of the landowners for the improvements of their land. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) proposes to make it a misdemeanour for landowners not to cultivate their land. I certainly think that it is a most desirable thing that they should be placed in a position to cultivate their land. But what is the present position of landed proprietors? There are the same mortgages upon it as there were when the owners succeeded to the property. The tithes on the land are also the same; and although we hear of reductions of rent, we have never heard of one single instance in which tithes have been reduced by 10 or any other percentage; on the contrary, they remain the same as they were upon their accession to the property. In addition, there are charges upon entailed property for younger children; and last, although by no means least, there is a charge for dowers, and what remains longer, as a rule, than any other charge upon the estate, is the charge for dowers. The rent of landed property has declined from 10 to 25 per cent. I am speaking of Great Britain only. I have no wish to exaggerate, but I believe that upon some properties the rent has declined 40 per cent; and many landowners, who are not themselves responsible for the charges placed upon their estates, are called upon now to improve their property, while the taxes on the land have been increased, and the incomes of the owners have fallen. We were told over and over again during the late Election that the so-called owners of land did not own the fee-simple of their estates, but that the fee-simple is the property of the Commonwealth; and that the landlords only hold the property as long as they improve it, and act up to the old spirit of the landed proprietors in the feudal times. Then, in addition, we have heavy local taxes placed upon the land, and beyond those local taxes the Income Tax, which, although it is collected in Ireland upon two-thirds of the rent, is collected in Great Britain upon the full rent. Hon. Members will probably ask why persons engaged in commercial pursuits should not have the same advances made to them by the State to enable them to carry on their businesses as I ask to-night for the landed proprietors? We have heard over and over again that the country is 1452 in the greatest distress; and what is the use of the cheap loaf which Free Trade has given us, and the warm jacket which we can purchase cheaper than at any former period—what is the use of these advantages, if a labouring man, however anxious he is to work, cannot find employment, and has not got a penny in his pocket? We have heard to-night—and I fully agree with the principle—that the only way to meet the distress, now only too well known, which exists in large towns such as London, Manchester, Newcastle, Sunderland, Birmingham, and, including Glasgow, in Scotland, is to draw the honest labouring man back to the land. I do not speak of the men who broke windows in the West End a few days ago, because they are men who ought to write themselves down, as similar people did in India when the last Census was taken, as professional thieves; but I speak of the honest labouring men who are only too anxious to work, but who cannot find employment. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) will see fit to advance another £2,000,000 in aid of the improvement of land, it would immediately have this effect—it would draw the labouring men out of the large towns into the country. The effect would be spread over the whole of Great Britain, and I know of nothing more desirable than that the working men of Great Britain should be so drawn out of the large cities, and employed all over the country upon the land. I have no doubt that I shall be met by Her Majesty's Government with the argument that Companies have been started, and are in existence, who will lend money for the improvement of the land. But hon. Members will remember that private Companies would cease to exist if they did not make a profit. And now, when the landed proprietors' incomes are so much reduced, it becomes impossible for them to go to Companies for advances for improving their estates and employing labourers. It is well known that the value of land is so much depreciated at the present time that a large proportion of the land which requires draining would not pay the interest which any private Company would be obliged to charge in order to secure a profit. What I ask now is that there should be a further sum of money ad- 1453 vanced by the State for the purpose of giving employment to the labouring men; and the only useful employment which could be spread over the country for our unemployed working men would be the construction of drainage works. I believe that if the money I ask for were advanced the country would be immediately covered with gangs of drainers, earning from 18s. to 25s. a-week. I hope that in this matter I may have the sympathy of hon. Members opposite who sit below the Gangway, because a large proportion of the men who are usually employed in those works of drainage are Irishmen; and after an experience of 25 years in the constant employment of gangs of drainers I am able to say that there never was a more industrious, orderly, sober, and persevering man than the Irish labourer. Then, again, what would be the immediate effect of giving this inducement to the landed proprietors to commence works of this nature? It would re-act, I believe, over the whole of the country. I would even make an appeal to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), who I regret is not in his place, and other hon. Members who watch so very closely every appeal that is made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I believe they know as well as I do that the improvement of the land will immediately give an impetus to the expenditure of money in other profitable ways—for instance, more fencing would be undertaken, and wire would have to be purchased; and if additional employment is given to the labouring classes, houses will have to be built for their accommodation. Speaking from 25 years' experience, I know that cottage property, over and over again, has been allowed to fall into ruin, because the proprietor has not been able to see his way to put it into that state of repair which the Local Government Board consider necessary for the houses of the poor. I do not complain of the decision of the Local Government Board in this matter; but the practical result is that the houses are allowed to fall into a state of ruin, and no new cottages are built. If this advance were made by the State, there would be an immediate inducement to the landed proprietors to build fit and proper cottages, not only for their labourers, but for other persons engaged in improving the land, and in 1454 keeping up a proper state of cultivation upon the land, whether in grass or in tillage. Only yesterday we heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. Trevelyan) that all over Scotland there is a great wish that every labouring man should have sufficient pasturage for a cow. In the North of England we have endeavoured to carry that out. In many instances these cows graze in common, and go home, if I may say so, each to their own domestic hearth. And what happens? The other day the Inspector of a Local Government Board found a cow residing in an apartment which was under the same roof as the owner, and that was against the rule of the Board in regard to sanitary arrangements. It, therefore, became necessary either to pull that cow-house down or to build a now cottage. The cottager was not in a position to do that, and he paid no attention to the notice; and I think the Local Government Board exercised a wise discretion in not having taken further proceedings. It is out of the question for the Local Authorities to build cottages. It was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. Trevelyan) last night that not only in Scotland, but in other parts of the United Kingdom, are the sanitary laws and regulations infringed. It is all very well to say that the proprietors can go to private Companies and apply for advances from them. But a proprietor who takes that step will considerably diminish his income for the rest of his life; and it must be remembered that a landed proprietor who has younger children to provide for, and, in some instances, widows also, is bound to consider these things; and the result is that, practically speaking, very little improvement, either in the cultivation of the land or in the condition of the houses of the labouring classes, is going on in any portion of Great Britain at this moment. And when I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to grant an advance from the National Exchequer, I wish it to be remembered that the State has actually made a profit by the advances which were made in 1846 and 1850. I believe that the loans have been excellently well managed by the Inclosure Commissioners. I admit that the State has not realized a large profit; but it has made a small one. The Office has been 1455 very well managed; and three-fourths of the expense, speaking in round numbers, has been met by the fees paid by the landed proprietors who got the advances. Now I hope that Her Majesty's Government will feel disposed to look into this matter, and grant the advance which I ask for. But there are one or two points in which an alteration would be required in the system under which former advances were made. In the first place, it would be necessary to lend small sums in advance by the State without waiting for any part of the work to be done in the first instance; because at present, when a proprietor receives aid from a private Company, he has to borrow from his bankers, in the first place, until the first instalment of the work is completed. There are many details in connection with the question with which I will not trouble the House. My main point is that the State should do now as it did in 1846, when it advanced £2,000,000 sterling, and as it did again in 1850, when a further advance of £2,000,000 was made to the landed proprietors of Great Britain. I will not refer to the case of Ireland, because that country has had special facilities for purchasing land and improving property granted to it only last year, when I think the sum of no less £5,000,000 was voted by Parliament for the purchase of land at the extraordinarily low rate of 4 per cent, spread over 49 years, such payment for 49 years extinguishing both principal and interest. I do not grudge the people of Ireland their good fortune in obtaining that advance, because I think it was no more than justice to Ireland for the State to make it; but I do say that we poor Saxons should receive some benefit from the State, especially when we consider that the advance, such as I suggest, would not cost the taxpayers of Great Britain anything; but, on the contrary, there would be a profit to the State from the transaction. No doubt, right hon. Members on the Treasury Bench will ask why I do not bring in a Private or a Public Bill to carry out this object, and they will point out that such a course is quite open to me. I have made careful inquiry, and, from the information I have received, I find that it would be utterly impossible for any private Member to succeed in passing a Bill of this nature through the House of Commons 1456 without the assistance of the Government of the day. At this late hour I have no wish to detain the House; but there are one or two points which I would like to mention. I am informed that the actual cost of the Inclosure Commission last year for the administration of the Commission was £23,000, and that there was received by fees a sum of £17,000. I do not think that the additional work which my proposal would entail upon the Commissioners would very materially add to the work of that Office; but it would greatly increase the amount of fees received. I daresay the Government will say that it is impossible to advance the public money for this purpose without an Act of Parliament; but in this House we are constantly asked to vote hundreds of thousands of pounds which have already been spent in war, and I do think it is not too much to ask Her Majesty's Government to allow £100,000, or £50,000, or even £20,000, to be advanced at once for this purpose, while an Act of Parliament is being brought forward, out of consideration for the starving multitudes to be found now in every city throughout Great Britain. If the Treasury were to allow advances on the old system, which did so well, and by which the State actually realized a profit, I believe it would have the effect of immediately drawing out of the towns those starving masses who are now crowding them, and who are increasing the distress of the regular population of our large cities. Not only that, but it would afford an opportunity for properly housing the labouring population, and keeping the labouring men of the country fully and well employed, an end we all desire to see accomplished. Then, again, let me turn for a moment to the allotment question. I believe there is an anxiety on both sides of the House to provide allotments for the labouring classes in some shape or other. At all events, I know a very strong feeling on this side of the House does exist in favour of allotments. But what is the use of allotting to anybody land which requires draining? It must be drained in plots of 40 or 50 acres before it can be rendered of any service. Perhaps hon. Members are not aware that in the North of England, and even in some parts of the South, there are 1457 enormous tracts of land which could be turned, by a proper system of drainage, from sheep-walks into fair cattle pastures. With these remarks I will conclude by urging that the appeal which I now make to Her Majesty's Government, and to this House, is not only reasonable, but opportune, practical, and, above all things, urgent.
§ MR. McCULLOCH
In the absence of the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare), I rise for the purpose of seconding the proposal of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire (Sir John Swinburne). Although I represent a city constituency, I have been considered conversant with the details of rural economy, and I may say that in my candidature for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow the Land Question attracted considerable interest; and I am sure that in seconding the appeal of the hon. Baronet I shall be supported by landlords on both sides of the House. I believe that the policy which has been adopted towards Ireland may with advantage be extended to the United Kingdom. Although it may not be considered wise to advance the public money for such purposes as this, I think it would have the effect of relieving the landed proprietors from some of the difficulties of their present situation, and enable them to improve the cultivation of their estates, not only with advantage to themselves, but to the labourers whom it would be necessary to employ. The hon. Baronet has told us that in the advances which wore made in 1846 and 1850 there was not the loss of a penny to the State. I believe that was so; that they benefited the farmer as well as the landlord, and gave a large amount of employment to the labouring men of the district in which works of improvement were carried out. The security is, I think, indisputable; and the Government, in making advances, would take care that the proportion of the money was such as would be repaid. The increased product would at least help to pay the interest, and I believe that in 19 cases out of 20 in Scotland the interest was actually paid out of the increased produce of the land. That of itself is a consideration of no small moment; and, even in the interest of the unemployed, it would be a good application of some portion of the 1458 public money, because encouraging reproductive works that would not only pay the interest upon the money advanced, but otherwise be amply secured. Therefore the State would run no risk whatever; a public advantage would be effected, and employment would be given to a large body of working men, who do not know at present where to obtain employment. Under these circumstances, I think the proposal is one which should have the very earnest consideration of Her Majesty's Government, and I think it has been proved that the State would incur no risk whatever, having the security of the whole estate for advances spent on a portion. All would share in the benefit, not only landlords, tenants, and labourers, but the people of towns also, and I think that past experience is enough to justify all that the hon. Baronet has put forward. If those who think it dangerous to spend the public money in this way will only look at the past, they will see there is not the slightest risk incurred by the Government. Although the prices of agricultural produce are now greatly depreciated, I believe that they cannot go much further in that direction, because no foreign country can continuously send in its produce at lower prices than at present; and I think, whether or not the State is prepared to advance a portion of the public money in the way suggested by the hon. Baronet, we ought not to lose confidence in the future of British agriculture.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is desirable that more extended facilities should be given by legislation to owners of land to improve their estates by means of moneys borrowed on Terminable Annuities from the State."—(Sir John Swinburne.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHANCELLOE OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT)
My hon. Friends who have moved and seconded the Amendment have made an appeal which demands, and which I am sure will receive, much consideration and sympathy from both sides of the House. If anything can be done in the present state of the agricultural interest to alleviate the distress from which we 1459 know that it is now so heavily suffering, I feel certain it would command the sympathy of the House and the Government. But the question is, whether the proposal of my hon. Friend (Sir John Swinburne) is really calculated to relieve that distress? It is quite true that soon after the repeal of the Corn Laws Sir Robert Peel proposed and carried, first of all, one grant of £2,000,000, and then another of £2,000,000 more, which I believe were very usefully employed in effecting improvements on land; but we know at that time the land of England was comparatively undeveloped; it was in a condition of hope and expectation; and there was a general confidence, and I think, also, a disposition to invest money in the improvement of land. I am afraid that that sentiment hardly exists now. What were the terms on which money was advanced at that time? The advances were repayable by Annuities at £6 10s. per cent. I cannot help asking myself whether the landed proprietors of Great Britain would be disposed to borrow money at £6 10s. per cent in order to invest it in improvements in land? I am afraid they would not do so at the present time. I do not think they would see their way, on such terms, to any improvements on which they are now likely to receive a return. [Mr. MCCULLOCH: Capital and interest.] No doubt it was capital and interest. There was a Sinking Fund. That is what was meant by Terminable Annuities. But that was what the landowners would have to pay for 22 years. I ask whether it is likely, if a measure of that kind were proposed, the Government would have any demand for investments of that sort. My hon. Friend behind me (Sir John Swinburne) has held out a tempting picture of a number of things that would be done—of cottages that would be built, and the many other improvements that would be carried out under his proposal. But I suppose that few persons can build a house that is suitable for a man and his family for much less than £200. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] Then my hon. Friend's experience is better than my own. I doubt whether a cottage can be built for a labouring man and his family for much less than that. And the interest at £6 10s. on £200 is £13 a-year. If, therefore, you only charge the interest 1460 for the cottage it is certainly a high rent. If you could, your experience must have been particularly fortunate. £5 a-year is much nearer the rent that would be charged, and that would involve a loss of £8 a-year on every cottage for 22 years. It is not, therefore, a transaction that can be engaged in, to any large extent, without seriously diminishing the landlord's income; and I doubt, therefore, whether there would be any large demand for advances at £6 10s. per cent. Indeed, I doubt very much, from what I know of the present condition of the agricultural interest, whether there would be any real demand for money on such terms for purposes of this character. I quite admit, however, that if advances were made without disadvantage to the country or to the Exchequer it would be faithfully repaid; and I believe that of the loans made in 1846 and 1850 there is only a sum of £17,000 still outstanding. That is not absolutely arrears; but it is money still due, and will be repaid. There has been no loss; but when one is asked to embark in a large loan of this description, one asks one's self what profit will accrue to the borrowers at such a rate of interest; and I confess I did not think that there would be any great demand for money for these purposes. There is no reason to suppose that the State can supply money for all purposes for the advantage of various sections of the community. Be it remembered that it is not to be taken from the local rates, but from the Consolidated Fund. People do not seem to know where the money of the Consolidated Fund comes from, but seem to have a belief that it comes from the pocket of the Chancellor of the Exchequer personally and his Colleagues, and that the Treasury have a well from which money can always be drawn. Persons who are continually asking for grants from the Consolidated Fund do not realize the fact that it comes out of the pockets of the people. If hon. Members realized that the Consolidated Fund is made up from the taxes of the people whom they represent—if that were more frequently realized, I do not think they would show such a constant desire to draw upon it. I do not say that to advance the money for the purpose which my hon. Friend has in view would be a loss 1461 upon the Exchequer; but I confess that I am not satisfied, from the information I have received, that there is any great demand on the part of the landed interest for borrowing powers such as my hon. Friend has indicated. I may say that there are many private societies such as those referred to by my hon. Friend which give any accommodation for this purpose; and I do not know that the interest asked is very much higher than that demanded by the Treasury. It may be a little higher, and I suppose it is about 7 per cent. [An hon. MEMBER: 6½ per cent.] 6½ per cent, as I have said, is exactly the amount charged by the Government; and if the demand is not excessive it appears to me that there is a supply from private societies which would meet the particular contingencies that may arise from day to day. It is always a serious matter for the Government to embark in a loan transaction of this kind; and I think my hon. Friends must show a larger case of demand and more complaint of a want of supply than that which exists at the present time.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
I should be as willing as any hon. Member to afford the greatest possible facilities for making improvements at a very low cost; but the hon. Baronet (Sir John Swinburne) who moved the Resolution failed to consider and inform the House what the landed proprietors ought to pay; and therefore we are driven to the conclusion that they would have to pay 6½ per cent. Speaking from a somewhat long experience, partly of my own, and partly of those who have gone before me in the management of landed property, I know very well what difficulties were experienced when the loan of £2,000,000 sterling was permitted to be spent on land by Sir Robert Peel. Instead of having the land well drained, it was very badly drained. Although there were Government Inspectors, it was found that many of the Inspectors were very ignorant, and the work was done so badly that it had to be done over again at the expense of the private proprietors, while the interest added largely to the burdens upon property. Then, again, men were induced to do far more lavishly what might have been done much cheaper; and, instead of en- 1462 couraging economy, extravagance was the order of the day, not only in regard to draining, but in other matters as well. If a landed proprietor can induce persons to take his land who can make a living out of it, there would be no difficulty in finding 6½ per cent interest; but when the landed proprietor has to do all the improvements himself, and cannot charge one farthing for interest on the capital expended, it would be madness to go to the Government and say—"I will give you 6½ per cent if you will advance a certain sum." I would appeal to the House generally whether that is not the case at the present time? A landlord has to carry out many improvements; and if he spends thousands of pounds upon his land, what does he get in return? He may know that his land is in good order, and well cultivated, and that the tenants are doing their utmost to keep up in these bad times, and steal a march, if possible, upon them; but the struggle is nevertheless a hard one, and many, alas, are failing in their attempt to do this. Then there is another matter which must not be lost sight of. It is said that the landed proprietors are driving many of the cottagers into the towns, and the consequence is that labour is leaving the country. One reason is that a great portion of the land of the country is now so well drained and so well cultivated that there is no employment to be found such as was to be found a short time ago, not only with regard to drainers, but even with regard to the more intelligent of the labouring men. That being so, there is no doubt a disposition on the part of the farming population to gather together in the towns rather than isolate themselves in the country. It is, therefore, not worth while for the landed proprietor to spend large sums of money, ranging from £150 to £200, in building cottages, in order that he may have the satisfaction of saying—"I have got so many more cottages on my estate than I formerly had." It is a great satisfaction to know that his cottages are in good order and repair; and that is all the landed proprietor can reasonably be expected to do at the present time. I have no doubt that this question will come up again in the Bill which is proposed to be laid upon the Table before long; and it will certainly surprise me if the 1463 Local Government Board are not prepared to make advances on the part of the Government to assist those landlords who are anxious to give good cottage accommodation. For the reasons I have stated, I cannot support the Amendment; and I certainly do not suppose that the hon. Baronet who moved it will, although not coinciding with the views which I have expressed, divide the House.
§ CAPTAIN VERNEY
I rise to answer the challenge of the hon. Member the Seconder of the Amendment (Mr. McCulloch), who assured us that there was no landlord to be found in this House who would oppose the Resolution. Now, I beg to say that I am a landlord, and I oppose it with all my heart and soul. I consider that nothing could be more disastrous than to adopt this system of outdoor relief by the way of loan for the advantage of landed proprietors. I think that the suggestion made to us to-night is one which belongs to a bygone House of Commons, in the days when Members were returned by the landlords, and when the people had no voice in controlling affairs. We all admit the evil of which complaint is made. It is quite true that the landowners are, to a great extent, a poor, miserable, and wretched class, and many of those who drive about in their carriages have not a sixpence to bless themselves with. I do not know any class of the community, taken as a class, who live a more improvident life than the average landowner. In the various professions and businesses of life something is usually done for posterity; some provision is made for widows; some self-denial is exercised, and something, however small, is put by for successors. But in the case of the landed proprietor he never saves a penny; he habitually provides for his widow and younger children by further burdening his property; he lives up to his income; and when any work is to be done on the estate he cannot find the money to do it with, and in times of depression he is sorely pressed. I cannot forgot that an Act was passed by a Tory Lord Chancellor, the late Lord Cairns, to relieve the landed proprietor in the hour of his necessity; and it is by availing himself of this Act, and not by further burdening his property, that he must seek relief. He has possession of the plate and pictures which have been 400 or 500 years in the family, 1464 and these he can dispose of. Perhaps he would not be in so unfortunate a position if he had not the electioneering bills of the last century to pay. I could quote more than one instance in which those debts have not yet been paid, but where they remain to this day as a charge on the estate. If an embarrassed landowner really wants to do his duty to the estate let him sell one-half of it, and let some self-made man with ample capital buy up the other portion, found a now family, and do his duty to the country more in accordance with the tone and feeling of the 19th century. So far as the old historic families are concerned, they would be able in that case to do their duty on that smaller scale to which they have been so justly and righteously reduced by their own want of thrift and foresight.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
The remarks which have fallen from the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Verney) who has just sat down, combined with those which fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt), induce me to ask the House to allow me to offer one or two remarks which possibly did not occur to those hon. Members before they addressed the House. The last speaker, I have every reason to believe, is a great friend of the agricultural interest. He was returned to Parliament by a portion of a very important county, and he came into Parliament as one whose constituents were fully assured that he would confer, if he could, great benefits upon the agricultural interest as a whole. Now, Sir, I see sitting opposite to me the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), who is also a friend of the agricultural interest as a whole, and who wishes to restore the prosperity of the land in England. I wish, therefore, to draw the attention of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) to, and, indeed, I will invite him, if possible, to make some remarks on this subject as it now presents itself to the House of Commons. It is proposed to give to landlords facilities for the development of their land by loans. How did the hon. Member who has just sat down describe it? He said it was a gigantic project of outdoor relief. Yet the hon. Member who said that supported the hon. Member for Ipswich on the Amendment to 1465 the Address which destroyed the late Government, that Amendment being nothing more nor less than a gigantic proposal of outdoor relief by way of loans to a class. I am not finding fault with the hon. Member for Ipswich, but I am finding fault with the inconsistency of the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Captain Verney), who poses as a great friend of the landed interest, and who voted with the hon. Member for Ipswich. The hon. and gallant Member described the landlords as very poor, miserable, and impoverished persons. [Laughter.] The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella) laughs. That was precisely the description which was given of the agricultural labourer by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings). [Mr. JESSE COLLINGS: No.] I knew that I should carry the hon. Member with me. But observe the inconsistency of the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham. He supports the hon. Member for Ipswich in advancing State loans at a very low rate of interest—3 or 3½ per cent, I believe—to this very poor, miserable, and impoverished class of agricultural labourers; but he utterly declines—and, indeed, denounces as flagitious—the proposal to grant loans at a low rate of interest to an equally poor, miserable, and impoverished class. What further marvellous analogy did the hon. and gallant Member draw between the two classes, and on behalf of the Party whose interests he came into Parliament to serve? He said that the landlords lead improvident lives, and that is exactly what was said of the labourer in the argument of the hon. Member for Ipswich. He has always said that the circumstances of the agricultural labourer's life are so indifferent and so unsatisfactory that they have no stimulus to thrift. Now, why is it more desirable that facilities should be given by the constituted authorities to assist the one class, and that they should be refused to the other, when it is said that each has equally spent the money which ought to have made him comfortable in his old age? According to the hon. Member, exactly the same thing applies to the landlord as to the agricultural labourer. Then what is the meaning of the Resolution of the hon. Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire (Sir John. Swinburne), which says— 1466That it is desirable that more extended facilities should be given by legislation to owners of land to improve their estates by means of moneys borrowed on Terminable Annuities from the State.Why is it more desirable that more extended facilities should be given "by legislation to owners of land to improve their estates by means of money borrowed from the State on Terminable Annuities?" Why should the owner of a large amount of land have less facilities than the owner of a small amount? The hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment is an authority on the Land Question; but will he, or will any intelligent man explain to the House why a person holding 100 acres of land should have less extended facilities afforded to him by way of loans on Terminable Annuities for the improvement of his estate than a person holding only three acres? I invite the hon. Member for Ipswich to explain why extensive facilities for borrowing money should be given to the person who owns three acres, and not to the person who owns 100 acres. I ask the House to observe the policy of the great Liberal Party this evening on the Land Question in England, on which we are led to believe, from an authorized person, the Government are prepared to submit to Parliament a distinct and intelligible policy. We have the hon. Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire getting up and proposing that extensive facilities should be given by legislation to the owners of land to improve their estates. That has been denounced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I never heard a more contemptuous way of treating the proposal of the hon. Member for Ipswich. Why does the Chancellor of the Exchequer denounce the present proposal, and why did he support the proposal of the hon. Member for Ipswich that owners of land on a small scale should have extensive facilities?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Oh! The right hon. Gentleman has made a tremendous assumption, and one which has been altogether set aside by recent land legislation. It is stated that the State can only advance money to these poor, miserable, and wretched persons who have led such an improvi- 1467 dent life. Why at 6½ per cent? Is there any precedent for that?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Yes; but we are not living in the days of Sir Robert Peel. We have lent money to Irish landlords in exceptional circumstances, and, I think, at 1 per cent, for the purpose of primarily giving employment. [Cries of "No!"] That was the ostensible purpose. Whether it was carried out or not I will not say; but the ostensible purpose of Parliament in advancing loans to Irish landlords at 1 per cent was to meet exceptional distress and to give employment to persons out of work.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE
I do not know whether I have made my proposal thoroughly understood. The first object of my Motion is that I think the lending of the money to landed proprietors is not so much desirable as the giving of immediate occupation to a vast mass of people who cannot get employment.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Of course; I entirely concur with the hon. Member, and I am arguing in his sense against the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That was exactly the principle which the House of Commons adopted in 1880 when it advanced money to the Irish landlords at 1 per cent; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the purpose of demolishing the case of one of his supporters—the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings)—assumes that by no possibility could the State advance money to the English landlord for the purpose of improving the land and giving employment at a less rate of interest than 6½ per cent.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Of course, the 1 per cent included the repayment of capital. [Mr. BIGGAR: No.] Many hon. Members below the Gangway appear to be acquainted with the circumstances of the case; but my belief is that I am correct in that statement. ["No!"] At any rate, I am correct in this—that the rate of interest was 1 per cent, and the repayment of capital was so low that it certainly did not reach 3 per cent. I wish to know, therefore, why money is to be advanced to Irish landlords at that very low rate 1468 of interest, while money is refused to English landlords—that poor, miserable, impoverished class, who have been leading improvident lives, at less than 6½ per cent? I hope the hon. Member for Ipswich will explain to the House his view on the Land Question on a more extensive scale than he has hitherto done. Why, I ask, is money to be refused to the English landlord at a less rate than 6½ per cent, and to be granted to another class, equally poor, miserable, and impoverished, at a rate of interest less than 3 per cent? When the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his speech, was he aware that the hon. Member for Ipswich had introduced a Bill to facilitate the creation of allotments and small holdings of land which has upon its back the names of three Members of the present Government? Surely that may be regarded as, at any rate, an approximate Government measure.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
It was certainly an attempt on the part of the hon. Member for Ipswich and his Friends to put, in the form of a Bill, the Amendment by which he turned out the late Government, and the Amendment which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer supported. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman was content to take advantage of the hon. Member's proposition. I would, in this matter, ask the House to endeavour to extract from Her Majesty's Government a serious opinion on the subject raised by the hon. Member for Ipswich. Her Majesty's Government upset the late Administration on the question of the land as connected with the agricultural population. [An hon. MEMBER: Not Ireland?] I prefer to take the facts as I find them. The view just expressed from the other side of the House may probably occasion some awkward reflection in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland now sitting opposite to me (Mr. John Morley). As I have said, the late Government were, to my mind, upset on the question of the land, and on the question of advancing the money of the State for the purpose of benefiting a particular class. But I find, shortly after the defeat of the late Government, an earnest sup- 1469 porter of the Liberal Party fulfilling the promise of bringing forward a question connected with the land, and advocating State loans at an easy rate of interest for improving the cultivation of the land, while the hon. Member for Ipswich advocated loans for another class of the agricultural population. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the name of the Government, absolutely refuses to have anything whatever to do with the advancing of a State loan, except at a ruinous rate, for that particular class of the agricultural population which the Liberal Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire has taken under his protection. And yet we are told that the Liberal Party are anxious to re-invigorate and restore prosperity to the agricultural population. I cannot imagine a more melancholy divergence of opinion ever exhibited by a Government before upon a subject which is probably one of the largest which can possibly come before the House of Commons. I would appeal, therefore, to the hon. Member for Ipswich, whom I see sitting there on the Bench opposite in so very pensive an attitude, to seize the opportunity for enlightening the House with his views on the question which has been raised by the hon. Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire. I have a good reason for appealing to the hon. Member for Ipswich on this occasion, because both with regard to the question which arose in the last Parliament as to medical relief in connection with enfranchisement and on the subject of allotments for the agricultural labourer the hon. Member has undoubtedly led the Liberal Party. And he has been supported by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister in the lead which he gave to the Liberal Party. It would be cruel now, when no Party interest can possibly be involved, and when the House is anxious to arrive at a practical conclusion, if the hon. Member for Ipswich, in the face of such disunion, is to leave the House to-night without any guidance.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
The House will be glad to congratulate the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) on the recovery of his old tone. For myself, I felt nothing but the purest pity for him when he was sitting on the Treasury Bench, because then he was only the shadow of himself; and really his ap- 1470 pearance, and the way in which he seemed to be overweighted with a sense of responsibility, rendered his appearance distressing to the last degree. The noble Lord has referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) sitting pensively upon the Treasury Bench; but I must say that the tinge of melancholy which overshadowed the countenance of the noble Lord when he was called upon to assume an attitude of responsibility certainly did not sit happily upon him. The noble Lord has twitted the Liberal Party with want of cohesion, and the Government with want of unanimity; but he cannot have listened to the speech made by one of his own supporters, who, speaking immediately above him, doubted the wisdom and advantage of these loans, and expressed his belief that the landlords would not be willing to ask for or accept them. Certainly, then, the disunion on this side of the House is fully matched by the disunion on the other. The noble Lord charges the Chancellor of the Exchequer with ignorance of the terms on which these loans have been granted; but the noble Lord has himself shown that he knows nothing about these loans at all. He referred to the loan made to the Irish landlords. But that was done by a Conservative Administration. It is true the rate of interest, after the Sinking Fund was provided for, was not more than 1 per cent. But let me draw attention to the fact that when the subject of that loan and its profligacy were brought under consideration there was not one of the Irish Members who were identified with the tenant's interest who did not look upon the loan as of no advantage whatever to the Irish tenant. I regard the appeal now made by the hon. Member for the Lichfield Division of Staffordshire as the last cry of a decayed and expiring interest in the country. The noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) endeavoured to strengthen the case of the hon. Baronet by attempting to draw an analogy between it and that of the hon. Member for Ipswich. It is quite true that the case of the agricultural labourer and of the landlord are analogous in one respect—that both are in a distressed condition; but the noble Lord forgot to establish this distinction—that while the landlords are the drones on the land, the agricultural labourer is 1471 miserable, wretched, and impoverished, as the noble Lord described him, because every obstacle has been thrown in his way. I regret that we have these two melancholy extremes of the agricultural interest so prominently before us. Their position is not only before the House, but it is realized by the country, from the dire necessities of the case. What has had such evil effect on agriculture has been the mischievous Land Laws, which have placed such tyrannical power in the hands of an idle class, and have led to widespread impoverishment and misery to other classes. I have a great deal of sympathy with the landlord class of this country, in the same way as I suppose some sympathy was felt for the slave-holding class in the evil days when slavery was recognized in this country. Both have been the victims of an evil and mischievous system. But, Mr. Speaker, there is only one remedy for the difficulties of that class, and it was commented upon by the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Captain Verney). If they are only the nominal owners of the land; if they have not a farthing left; if they cannot relieve themselves from their embarrassments; if selling one-half of their estates will not enable them to free themselves from the embarrassments of the other half, let them do what better people of every industry in the land have been compelled to do from all ages. Why, Sir, nothing is more common than to find men who have struggled against fate obliged to succumb; and who, after offering what they have to their creditors, have gone down to the bottom of the social ladder. I should be sorry that the landlord interest should be obliged to submit to such an ordeal; but why should Parliament be asked to make every sack stand on end? If Parliament has given its almost exclusive concern to the landlord class for the last five centuries, is it too much to give now a very plain intimation to all interested that the future of this Parliament will be to concern itself, not with the relief of the landlord class, but in order to do something on behalf of this sickly interest of agriculture? I can imagine the agricultural interest thriving, although the landlord class may decay; but I cannot understand that the agriculturist should thrive if we are to go out of our way to sustain an idle class. The 1472 Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) has pointed out to us that if the landlords can afford to pay 6½ per cent for loans which are repayable in 22 years, there are societies and means, besides going to the Treasury, through which these loans may be obtained. The Chancellor of the Exchequer doubted, as he might well doubt, the words of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill), and said that in the case of the majority of landlords they were very unwilling to lay out money borrowed at this extravagant rate on their estates. But if they are willing, let them proceed as all in this country in need of money are obliged to do—let them go to the lenders. Let it be understood that the State has no money to lend, and that if it had it must get money out of the taxpayers' purse for the purpose, which would be better employed otherwise. I say that we, who are called upon to be the guardians of the public purse, ought to resist all applications of this kind by a class which has hitherto been the most powerful in the State, and that if we are to set aside the rules of economy it ought to be in the interest of those who have been worsted by what Parliament has done in order to give them a better start in the struggle for an improvement of their condition.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM
Sir, there is one advantage in the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) having come to the rescue of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the present occasion, because we have had from the noble Lord a very distinct avowal that the late Government were turned out of Office on the question of land, and not, as it is sometimes said, on the Irish Question. I am very glad that we have extracted from the noble Lord that very plain statement. The fact is, however, that the Party to which the noble Lord belongs has got from one side of the House to the other. When the noble Lord spoke of the risible attitude of Her Majesty's Government, I could not help thinking that there was a very risible attitude on the part of the late Government—that is to say, they came into power on a promise made to a Party whom, when they got into power, they rewarded with a promise of coercion. That is a risible attitude; and in connection 1473 with it no one has assumed a more risible one than the noble Lord himself. The noble Lord was good enough to remind the House of the loans to landlords in Ireland, under the late Government, in 1879; allow me to remind the noble Lord that this is one of the instances in which the landed interest has overriden the country. We have had loans to the Irish tenants and loans to the Irish landlords—loans at the expense of the taxpayer. But I am glad that this state of things has come to an end. The present Parliament does not mean that this Government should continue in that course. There is a desire now to do justice to the taxpayer, and not to prop up the landlords at their expense, which latter class will have in future to conduct their business so as to produce the best result out of the land, or they will have to give way to better men. It is the interest of the country that we should have the best men on the land; and I am of opinion that there cannot be a stronger reason for reform than that three-fifths of the food required in this country comes from abroad, and not out of the land in which we live; and the only proposal we have made to us by the landlords is that we should lend them more of the taxpayer's money at a rate which the taxpayer will lose by. Sir, I do hope that the result of what has taken place will be that the door will be shut for ever on the part of the taxpayer against the rapacity of the landlord.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."