§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN (Tyrone, S.)
said, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he had on a former occasion drawn the attention of the House to the case of the glebe purchasers in Ireland. It was conceded then practically, he believed, that those purchasers were obliged to purchase their holdings, whether they liked it or not, and that they had never been able to get any relief from their burdens during all those years. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that their case was a very deplorable one, and that the Government were desirous of rescuing them from their unfortunate position. He (Mr. W. O'Brien) believed the Government were willing that a clause should have been introduced into the Land Purchase Bill if it had got into Committee; but, of course, they all knew what had become of the Land Purchase Bill. At all events, whether there was to be a Land Purchase Bill or not, he took it for granted that the Government would not find it very difficult in the Autumn Session to make some adequate provision for the relief of those poor men. All he asked in the meantime was that the Government would see that the Land Commissioners should not press too harshly 1858 or unduly for the old arrears that were due, those being the arrears that prevented them from getting any benefit under the Land Purchase Bill of 1885. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) on the last occasion admitted that the arrears due from those tenants were something very small. The arrears were a mere bagatelle to the Treasury, but a matter of great injustice to those poor tenants. He understood they were at present being a good deal harassed and threatened with legal proceedings for those arrears. Those arrears were due to an Irish fund, and nearly £1,000,000 of that fund had been already expended in wiping out arrears of a similar character, so that nobody would be damnified by the delay in their payment.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY) (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
said, his hon. Friend (Mr. W. O'Brien) had given a very accurate account of what was in the mind of the Government, as expressed by himself and the Secretary to the Treasury not many weeks ago. They felt that the condition of the tenant purchasers of the glebe lands was a particularly sad one, and his hon. Friend had not at all overstated the meritorious attempts which those purchasers had made to keep up their instalments. He (Mr. John Morley) had to-day a Report from the Land Commissioners, stating that the whole amount of the arrears of all the purchase money standing out on mortgage on the 31st of March last was £41,000. But the remarkable part of the case was that of that £41,000 of arrears only £13,000 or £14,000 was due from tenant purchasers properly so-called. All the men who had bought their own holdings under the Act had paid up their purchase money, except a small sum of £13,000 or £14,000, and the balance between that sum and the £41,000 was due by those who were not purchasers of their own holdings but outside buyers. The question as to whether the Land Commissioners had exercised due discretion in enforcing payment of those arrears, he could not answer very authentically; but he could assure his hon. Friend, from his own knowledge, that there was no desire whatever on the part of the Commissioners to press with any harshness on 1859 those unfortunate purchasers during the interval, whether long or short, before legislation took place on the subject. The prospect of legislation was not a little obscure; but the lines upon which legislation should go, whether it should proceed from the Government or private Members, were pretty well admitted in all quarters of the House. It was the desire of the Government when they had an opportunity to legislate on this subject, and they would seek to extend to tenants under leases for 21 years the benefits of previous legislation confined to tenants from year to year. There would also, he understood, be little objection on the part of the Treasury to allow the arrears to be added to the capital sum due and to treat simple mortgages as instalment mortgages.