§ Order for Consideration of Postponed Amendments made by the Lords to the Commons Amendments and Lords Reason read.
§ Lords Reason for disagreeing to the Amendment made by the Commons in page 6, line 21, considered.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) Manchester, E.)
, in moving that the Commons do not insist upon their Amendment, said, it would be in the recollection of the House that one of the fundamental and elementary principles of the legislation of 1881 was to withdraw from the operation of the provisions of the Act of that year, which gave fixity of tenure and right of free sale to the tenant, all accommodation land in the neighbourhood of towns. That principle of the Act of 1881 was also the principle of the clause which the Government introduced into the Bill, and the sole reason that they introduced it rested upon the fact not that they disagreed with the 967 legislation of 1881, or for the purpose of revising it, but that that principle had been more or less departed from in practice through certain technical difficulties as to what constituted town parks under the interpretation put upon the Act of 1881 by the Land Commission. The Government therefore proposed by the clause which they inserted in the Bill to free the Land Commissioners from certain restrictions and definitions fixed by the Act of 1881, and to permit them to exercise an equitable jurisdiction as to what was, or what was not, a town park, and as to what should, or should not, be withdrawn from the provisions relating to fixity of tenure or free sale of the Act of 1881. That being the principle of the clause, after a certain amount of discussion had taken place in that House, an arbitrary limit was introduced into the clause, making the Land Act of 1881 apply only to town parks in the neighbourhood of towns having loss than 2,000 inhabitants. The limit had been struck out by the House of Lords, and the question was whether the House would assent to the Amendment, or whether they would adhere to that arbitrary limit, and carry still further the controversy with the other House of Parliament. What was the justification for the introduction of this provision? and what did it do? Why, by adhering to this limit of 2,000 they would be transferring a large amount of property from one set of owners to another. There was nothing, in his opinion, which rendered it necessary to apply the principles of free sale and fixity of tenure to accommodation land. Before the Act of 1881, tenant-right did not exist in town parks. [Cries of "Yes, it did!" from several Irish Member.]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, that it had existed before that Act j and, in fact, had always existed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, it was his belief that, in practice, tenant-right had never existed with regard to accommodation lands near towns; and he was informed that such was the case by gentlemen who were far better acquainted with Ulster than he was. In towns under a population of 2,000, the property of the town parks had always been vested solely in the landlord, and they now proposed to transfer part of it to the tenants. The tenants of town 968 parks, under the clause as it stood, could get full compensation for their improvements, and there was no grievance to complain of on account of the Amendment which had been introduced by the other House. Although the clause, as it stood when it left that House, would injure the landlords whilst it conferred benefits on tenants of town parks, that was not his principal ground of objection to this limit of 2,000. His objection was that they did serious injury to those persons who did not now possess accommodation land, but who would in future desire to possess it. Those were the class of persons they would injure, and by injuring them they would injure the towns in which they lived. Under the proposal, the class of persons to be benefited would be the present individuals who happened to hold town park lands; while the classes who would be injured by it would be the landlords, those who succeeded the present holders of the lands, and the towns themselves, which would be deprived of the building land in their neighbourhood necessary to provide for the future increase in their population. He was aware that the number of such towns in Ireland was not very great. For that the condition of disorder and insecurity that had unhappily so long existed in Ireland was largely responsible. Though the majority of the small towns of Ireland were not towns to whose future growth one could look forward with much confidence, there were some towns, having now a population under 2,000, which had a better outlook before them, The future of those towns would be seriously injured if the accommodation land adjoining them, which might otherwise be devoted to building purposes, was alienated. But another point to be borne in mind was this—that this Amendment would transfer to the tenant of accommodation land the benefit that ought really to belong to the landlord. The result would be to put it in the power of an individual who might hereafter have no connection with the town at all, of holding land which ought to be accommodation land for the residents of the town, and it would transfer to him the increased value of the land due to the prosperity and extension of the town. Why in such a case should this increased value be transferred from the landlord 969 to the person who rented the land? What possible right or claim had such a person as this to the increased value of the holding, which arose by no industry whatever of his? It was the landlord, if anyone, who was entitled to benefit by such increase in the value of the land. He freely recognized that the great majority of the Representatives from Ireland, representing, as he presumed, the balance of pressure brought to bear upon them by their constituents, were strongly of opinion that the Amendment inserted in that House ought to be retained. He did not deny that it was their duty to represent the views of their constituents, but he, however, appealed to the House at large to say whether that was not one of those questions in which, in the interests of those who wore not then town-park occupiers and of those who were not yet born, the House at large should act as umpire, and see that permanent justice is done. There was always a danger that where a change was strongly desired by a certain class, the Representatives of that class should press their views upon the House, as if only those views were deserving of consideration. But the House had to consider not merely one class of the community, but had to see that no principles were carried into effect in regard to property in land in Ireland which might have an injurious effect on future generations. It was in the exercise of this high function that he asked the House to accept the Lords' Amendment. It was quite true that the Amendment which the Lords' Amendment proposed to strike out had in Committee on this Bill been accepted by himself, on behalf of the Government in the House of Commons as a matter of compromise. ["Hear, hear!"] That was quite true; but when Gentlemen opposite cheered, they must admit—indeed, he took it as an indication that they regarded the principle of compromise as being one that might very legitimately govern the action of Parliament as between Party and Party, and as between one House and the other. He apprehended that that was a very sound principle, and he would ask the House to consider the history of that measure. It must be remembered by hon. Members that it had been very much modified, for the House of Commons had struck out two clauses from the Bill which were regarded as of 970 great value by noble Lords in "another place," and had refused to agree to their reinstatement—he referred to the clause dealing with the Court of Appeal and the clause dealing with rating—and there were many other instances in which the House of Commons had refused to accept the Bill as it came down from the House of Lords. The House of Commons, therefore, had altered the Bill which came down from the House of Lords and had insisted on many alterations, and it appeared to him that if that spirit of compromise was to be carried out as it ought to be, irrespective of the merits of the question to which he had already referred, and which he believed were quite convincing, the House of Commons would do well to accept this Amendment of the House of Lords, and he accordingly moved that the House do agree with the Amendment of the House of Lords.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth not insist on their Amendment to which the Lords have disagreed."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
said, he had listened with considerable surprise to the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman had, for the first time, put forward to defend himself from—it might not be a breach of faith, but a backing out of a compromise entered into with the House. The principle on which the right hon. Gentleman had proceeded, and the grounds on which he now sought to sustain the Government in agreeing with the Amendments of the House of Lords was, that a town park, as understood in Ireland, was accommodation land, that it had boon taken by the tenant on a special contract; that there was no interest in it; that it was absolutely the case of the stranger coming into a place and bargaining with the owner to so take the land. But that was a complete fallacy. He (Mr. O'Doherty) did not know what might be the case with regard to the other Provinces in Ireland; but he could say, and he spoke from experience, that in the Province of Ulster there never was a proposition more false in fact than to say that tenant-right did not exist in town parks. It was a monstrous statement to make, either in that House or in "another place," and especially monstrous to be made in the other House 971 by a former Member for Ulster, who must have known in the very county from which he came the decision of the Land Court, deciding under the Land Act of 1870, that though the practice of tenant-right did exist in regard to town parks, yet by the definitions of the Act of 1870 it was not legalized by that Act. There never was a statement made by a Minister in that House which so clearly proved the necessity of discussing these things in their own country, where the statement could be contradicted and the monstrous assertions howled down. The Chief Secretary had stated that the principle of the Land Act of 1881 was that where tenants had property in their land in consequence of the practice in Ireland of screwing out rent by notices to quit, the Land Act of 1881 became necessary. That was the very same principle which the Government proposed now by introducing to the benefits of the Land Act the leaseholders who were excluded by the Land Act of 1881, and the principle upon which they had so acted was because the leaseholders had property to be protected like any other class of tenants. What was the fact with regard to legal interests? What was the interest of the tenant in a town park in Ireland? In the first place, by law he was presumed to have made all improvements; by law he was bound to get every penny he paid for his good-will; and yet the Chief Secretary had the boldness to state that tenant-right did not apply to those tenants. What was the meaning of the Act? What was the meaning of saying that tenant-right must be paid, if he was disturbed? Not only was this right recognized under the 5th and 7th sections of the Act, but Section 4 applied in a fuller manner to town parks than what it applied in the case of leaseholders. By some unfortunate oversight in the Act of 1870, while the tenant's interest in a town park was recognized, and it was provided he should have the benefit of the money which he paid, and the improvements which he made, it neglected to legalize the tenant-right usage which always prevailed with regard to it and similar usages. With regard to Ulster, a case was decided in Ireland that although a town park had a tenant-right usage by the usage of the estate, yet the provisions of the Act of 1870 excluded them 972 from compensation as to tenant-right. Then, there started an agitation among the people of Ulster, but he did not intend to speak of that now. When the Land Question became urgent and when the Land Act of 1881 was introduced, the grievances of the holders of town parks was most strongly impressed upon the Government and Members of Parliament. He did not think it necessary to follow the right hon. Gentleman all through his argument, which was based on a false assumption. The right hon. Gentleman said that where land was taken as accommodation land only by a person living in a town under a free contract for the accommodation of his land or trade, he should have no interest to come in under the Act of 1881; and he (Mr. O'Doherty) confessed he could not see any right of a man who had not his tenant right in it, to claim to have the benefit of the Act of 1881. But their legislation did not carry out that principle, and their Judges took care they would not apply that principle of justice. The way in which this question had always been treated was this—the Land Courts had decided that they would not look whether the tenant had an interest or not, but simply see whether it was accommodation land. In the case of the town parks there had clearly been a confiscation of the tenant's property, and a transference of it to the landlord. He was aware that there were in Ulster 20,000 people who possessed 5,000 town parks on which they and their forefathers had spent millions, and which would lie at the mercy of the landlords. When these people came to know—as the Irish Members would take care to tell them—that the landlords were using the Union to rob them, a different feeling would very soon prevail in Ulster from that which now prevailed with regard to the Union. It was said, too, that these lands were held almost entirely by shopkeepers. Who were the shopkeepers? Many of them held miserable shops in towns, and as the market day was the only day in the week they did a little business, they spent the other five days of the week on their farms. In England, a town grew up from the necessities of the surrounding district; but in Ulster, the people settled in towns and spread the agriculture from the towns. He wished the House to understand clearly what he 973 meant by a town park and what he desired to have protected. He desired to have protected any parcel of land which had been taken like all the farms in the country, and which had been used and had paid taxes like all the rest of the land in the country. By the Land Act of 1870, the right of the tenant in his property was recognized, and under that Act if his landlord attempted to evict him he was to receive compensation. Then came the Land Act of 1881, and in that there was a very curious point, to which he would call the attention of the House. In that Act town parks were included. The Purchase Clauses applied to town parks, though, it was true, only in the interest of the landlord. Both the law and the facts proved that dual ownership existed in town parks. The proposition the right hon. Gentleman now sought to establish was utterly foreign to all practice. How did the question of town parks stand with reference to this Bill? What were the words of the clause as it appeared in the Bill as originally introduced into the House of Lords? As introduced into the Lords the clause stood thus—A parcel of land shall not be deemed to constitute a town park unless it has been deemed to have been let as accommodation land and not as a farm, and is in other respects within the definition.But the consideration of the matter in the House of Lords eventuated in a totally different set of words. First of all the words "a parcel of land" were changed into "a holding," and the clause was made to say that a holding should not be deemed to constitute a town park unless it were let and used as an ordinary agricultural farm. The effect of the Amendment was to make the tenant prove that a holding was let and used as an ordinary agricultural farm. But anyone who knew anything of the practice with regard to town parks in Ireland would understand how impossible it was to prove that any particular holding was used as an ordinary agricultural farm. The result of such a provision would be a crop of litigation such as had never been seen before. The Lords had changed the original draft of the Government Bill, and what they appeared to have given in one case, they qualified in another. Even if it were proved that a holding was used as an ordinary farm in the opinion of the Court, 974 it must not interfere substantially with the development of the adiacent town. To whom had they to look for any improvement in the towns? Not to the landlords, for they hated the towns and had never done anything for them, because there they found intelligence and could not exercise their rights oppressively. It was to the tenants they must look for the improvements of the towns if they were protected from robbery and plunder in the interests which they held. The Chief Secretary's idea of a town park was purely English, and was as different from the town parks of Ulster as two things could possibly be. It was a very curious thing that the opposition, to the clause in the House of Lords came from Ulster, and when the people of Ulster, or the section of the people of Ulster—whose only opposition to Home Rule was because of a dread that under it the Pope would come over and take possession of Ireland—when these people came to know what the Union really meant—and no effort would be spared to let them know what it meant—a change would come over Ulster. In his (Mr. O'Doherty's) opinion this question of town parks raised a more vital issue than the question of the enfranchisement of the leaseholders. The leaseholders were protected by their leases, the landlords could not evict them or raise their rents; but the landlords could raise the rents on occupiers of town parks or evict them. Their interest in their holdings had been recognized over and over again, and even in the Report of the Devon Commission it was shown that the tenant right existed in town parks as part of the general custom of Ulster. Speaking as an Ulster Member, he declared that there never was a matter which so stirred the people of Ulster as this question of town parks. It would be fought out to the death, and year after year would be made a crucial question in Ulster.
§ SIR WILLIAM. HARCOURT (Derby)
said, that considering the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary rose for the purpose of deliberately throwing over the compromise which the Government had entered into, he (Sir William-Harcourt) thought the subject might have been introduced in a speech a little less aggressive and a little less exasperating in its tone. The Chief Secretary, not for the first time, had exhibited 975 a most marvellous ignorance with reference to the fundamental basis of the question with which, he dealt. The right hon. Gentleman was endeavouring to settle the Land Question in Ireland, but he did not know the A B C of the question. Anyone who had paid the slightest attention to the question of Irish land would never have laid down that which the right hon. Gentleman had affirmed to be a self-evident proposition—that there never had been any tenant right in respect of town parks in Ireland. That statement of the Chief Secretary met with a chorus of exclamations from everyone in the House who knew anything about Ireland; but what could they do with a Government who under took to deal with Ireland in this state of crass ignorance of everything with which they were proposing to handle? The idea that there was no such a thing as tenant right in town parks must be dispelled. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: Hear, hear!] The other day he had got a letter from the elected Guardians of the Ballycastle Division of Ballycastle Union, County Antrim, representing 100 tenants of town parks in the suburbs of that town, drawing attention to the grievances which these people would suffer owing to the action of the Lords. The town or village, they said, had a population of about 1,400, so it was outside the limit fixed by the Lords. The parks or fields had been sold from time to time and bought by their present tenants, or their representatives. In extent they varied from an Irish acre to 30 acres, and tenant right has been paid for them as high as from £30 to £10 per Irish acre. What did the House suppose, ha (Sir William Harcourt) asked, the people of Ballycastle thought of their Chief Secretary, who declared they had no tenant right in the lands? They would say probably—"This is the sort of man the Union sends us to Ireland." No wonder the people of Ireland wished for a little more self-government of their own, directed by someone competent to minister to their affairs, and not by men who were ignorant of the elementary conditions under which they lived. The Guardians of Ballycastle went on to say—All the improvements have been made by the tenants, and in no case has the landlord or his predecessor within the memory of man expended a shilling on improvements.976 That was pretty much the conduct of the landlords all over Ireland in respect to their properties. [Cries of "No, no!" from the Ministerial Benches.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite might shout "No, no!" but it nevertheless was the fact, and it was mainly the reason of the present condition of Ireland. The letter then dealt with the subject of rent, and said that the present rents for the holdings in these times were simply ruinous, about 30 per cent over the Government valuation. These town parks had been held in continuous occupation and tenant right had been admitted by the landlords, farther declared the gentlemen from Ballycastle. But the Chief Secretary had declared there was no tenant right in these town parks. To use an American expression, "the bottom of the tub had been knocked out," it had disappeared, and he (Sir William Harcourt) wanted to know what the right hon. Gentleman had got to hold water, and for what possible reason were these town parks to be distinguished from the rest of the holdings in respect of the assessment of fair rent? It was said that those town parks might be wanted at some time or another as building land; but if that was the only objection, then they could introduce a power of resumption for the purpose. But everyone knew who knew anything of Ireland that, unfortunately, the land would not be required for the extension of these small towns, and building land was talked of in London for the purpose of throwing dust in the eyes of ignorant legislators. It was one of those frauds and illusions employed for the purpose of defeating justice. That was the purport of the evidence given before the Cowper Commission; and if the Government chose to make a condition of this kind in order to satisfy a supposed necessity, well and good, but he asked them not to refuse justice in respect of a revision of fair rent to these tenants. The Chief Secretary further argued that this was an unheard of proposition, but it was certainly recommended by the Cowper Commission, certainly a landlords' Commission if ever there was one. The Commission said—We recommend that all town park holdings exceeding five statute acres in size joining towns of less than 5,000 inhabitants should be admitted to the fair rent provisions of the Land Act of 1881 subject to the landlord having the power of resumption for building and improve- 977 ment purposes and on paying compensation for the improvements.Why did the Government not carry out that proposal? It was obviously fair, and it was all that was asked for. Mr. Litton, one of the Chief Commissioners, who could not be accused of very advanced views, stated in his evidence—I would approve that the town parks rents may be revised by the Commissioners, the landlords to have the power to resume possession any time for building purposes, giving condensation for actual improvements.Then the Chief Secretary said that the proposal benefited only the existing class of tenants; but they might apply that argument to the whole Act of 1881. Who were the Irish Members that were going to support the Government in assenting to the House of Lords' Amendment? The other day he (Sir William Harcourt) regretted the absence of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). He now congratulated the hon. Member on his return from his victorious campaign in Northwich, to which, he understood, the hon. Member largely contributed. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would now spare some time to attend to the interests of Ulster. He should like to hear what the hon. Gentleman had to say to the settlement of the question by the Government? In the course of his speech, the Chief Secretary made use of a rather singular phrase. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Members for Ireland were acting under the balance of pressure from their constituents. He (Sir William Harcourt) did not know whether the remark applied particularly to the hon. Member for South Tyrone. What was this balance? The balance of pressure from the landlords, or the balance of pressure from the tenants? On the whole, he thought the balance of pressure from the tenants might possibly prevail. He thought that was likely, because those were times when the Government had to consider the balance of pressure. But who were the Members from Ireland who were going to support the House of Lords? The hon. Gentleman had boasted the other day that there would not be a town park left in South Tyrone; but the Government had taken that boast out of his mouth. Lord Salisbury had laid down a proposition in the House of Lords—a most unstates-manlike expression—for he had said the 978 only thing the Government cared about in Ireland was the opinion of Ulster Yes; the Government cared nothing about the majority of the people of Ireland, so long as they satisfied a small section. But what did Ulster now think about the legislation of the Government? How many of the Ulster Members would stand up to support the landlords? He did not even know that the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) would support them. They were about to pass a Bill on a most material question, which affected a most material part of the population of Ireland, and they were going to legislate upon it against the unanimous, or all but unanimous, opinion of every part of Ireland. How could they hope to effect a real settlement of the question under those circumstances? Probably the Chancellor of the Exchequer would defend it on some of his high-flowing transcendental principles. He hoped, however, the right hon. Gentleman would permit him to remind him that the Ulster vote was at stake, and that therefore he might find it of importance to sacrifice these transcendental principles. The Ulster men were virtuous men; but like all men they had their price—it was not a high one—it was only the sacrifice of the principles of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and if that was so, he thought the bargain might be struck. The Chief Secretary had appealed to posterity against the present interests of the holders of town parks. The right hon. Gentleman said that no principle that was deleterious to future generations ought to be admitted into the Bill—that it was the high function of Parliament to exclude principles that were deleterious to future generations. Now, he (Sir William Harcourt) thought that the very basis of the Tory idea of that Bill was that it was full of deleterious principles. The deleterious principles of the Act of 1881 were to be extended, and Lord Salisbury said it would be necessary—To develop or push on those unsound principles in order to attain those elementary objects for which all society existed.And so they were pushing on those deleterious principles in order to attain the elementary objects for which all society existed. But, if they had got so far as that, it seemed to him that they need 979 not concern themselves about posterity, but should concern, themselves a little more about the interests of the holders of town parks. It was quite plain that the holders of town parks had a right to stand in many respects, if not all, exactly on the same footing as the holders of other lands in Ireland. All that they had to do was to secure them an assessment of a fair rent, and they could protect those small towns for which they professed to be so solicitous, by merely having a clause of resumption such as they already had in the Bill in reference to the protection of the interests of towns. Thus they would accomplish an object of simple justice, and do no injustice whatever to these towns. He hoped that the House, acting in accordance with the universal opinion of the Members for Ireland, would reject that Amendment of the Lords, and carry out the compromise into which the Government had entered, but from which they were now endeavouring to depart.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, he should not have risen to take part in that debate, if it had been his duty to follow an Irish Member, without the apprehension of showing some ignorance in regard to the situation of Ireland; but he was under no such apprehension when he followed the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. Was it possible to conceive that right hon. Gentleman was one of the principal authors of the Act of 1881?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
And now, sitting on that Bench, he had, it is to be presumed, learned better things; and he had acquired not only a different knowledge of Ireland, but also different conceptions of justice. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) failed to see that that which was said to be justice now was not justice when the right hon. Gentleman, in his great ignorance, took part in passing that great Bill which it was now the duty of Her Majesty's Government to amend. Could anyone con- 980 ceive, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that the clause on which they were now engaged was one for protecting interests which were not protected, but were left alone, by the authors of the Act of 1881?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes; that was so. They gave a promise in 1881, and it was now 1887. It appeared to him that the redemption of that promise had been somewhat slow. He did not remember that any efforts were made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his Friends to redeem their promise before Her Majesty's present Advisers came into Office. But the right hon. Gentleman now got up, when they were dealing with a clause which was actually an amending one, endeavouring to protect interests that were not protected by the previous legislation of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, and found fault with it on the ground that it did not go far enough in extending the protection which was given for the first time by this Bill. From some of the observations made one would have thought that by that clause they were forfeiting interests which had already been created—that they were going back and depriving some of the tenants in Ulster, or elsewhere in Ireland, of rights which they had already acquired. The hon. Member for North Donegal (Mr. O'Doherty) had, indeed, spoken as if they were transferring, by means of the clause, millions which belonged to the tenants in Ulster to the landlords. They did not, however, transfer a single farthing. It was not a question of transferring, but of extending new protection, and of how far they should extend it. By the Bill they created no fresh rights in the landlord, they were limiting his rights, and the only fault that was found with them was that they did not limit them enough. The proposal was made that they should so amend the clause as to actually create a dual ownership in regard to town parks, not only in Ulster, but in all the other parts of Ireland where it did not exist. It could not be contended that that alleged right of tenants in town parks, which was supposed by some hon. Members to exist in certain parts of Ireland, really now 981 existed all over Ireland. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] The tenants of town parks all over Ireland were protected in the sense that they could claim compensation for their improvements under the Act of 1870. But now some people were proposing to create new rights on behalf of the tenants in large portions of Ireland where they did not exist, and that was done in the name of justice. Justice, he presumed, was not so entirely one-sided as the right hon. Member for Derby would represent it to be; and there was such a thing as protecting the rights which belonged to all classes, as well as the rights of the one class which the right hon. Member for Derby now—if not in 1881—took under his special protection. The right hon. Gentleman had not dealt with the argument which came from many persons in Ireland—namely, that the inhabitants of many of these towns desired to have the free use of that accommodation land, and did not want it to be stereotyped as agricultural holdings. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of its not being frequently required for building purposes, although, in some towns, it might and probably would be so required; but he did not touch the argument that the free use of the land was not only valuable to the landlord, but also to the community which was concerned. Agricultural tenants might be in the majority, but there was a minority in the towns who were interested—as had been so clearly explained by the Chief Secretary—in maintaining the freedom of the land around the town. The interests of those people, however, it seemed, were to be disregarded, and consideration was only to be given to the interests of the tenants who were for the moment in possession of accommodation land. It was not advancing Liberal principles to hold that there were no others to be considered except the particular tenants now in occupation of that land. In this case it was not, as in the general case of agricultural holdings, a question simply between the owner and the tenant, but it was a question between the owner and the tenant and the community at large, and those who required accommodation land around towns. There was one consideration which might commend itself to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and that was—where 982 there was a question of sub-letting, were they going to give the present tenants all those rights, if they transferred the property from the landlord to them, without any security whatever to the inhabitants of the town generally? He did not wish to discuss the matter at any length; it was a subject which he admitted should rather be discussed by the Attorney General for Ireland. He had, however, ventured to intervene after the speech of his right hon. Friend (Sir William Harcourt), whose notions of justice had changed as much since the year 1881 as his knowledge appeared to have remained stationary.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, he had referred to Hansard's Reports, and he contended that in 1881 the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W.E. Gladstone) would have accepted a similar clause but for Mr. W. Shaw. If the House agreed with the Lords' Amendment, he would like to move, if in Order, that at least one of the provisions of the Land Act of 1881, the fair rent provision, should apply to town parks, and this Amendment, if he were permitted to move it, would exhibit the hypocrisy of the Government. He had always thought it was a good way for a Government to get a Bill through Committee to accept all the Amendments, and then have them chucked out in the Lords. The Government had treated the Irish Members while the Bill was in Committee with an absolute want of candour. The Irish Members postponed discussion on this question of town parks owing to the concession of the Government. A Member could speak as often as he liked, and move as many Amendments as he liked in Committee; but in order to get the Bill through Committee the Government accepted an Amendment. They then got the Amendment struck out in the Lords. The Bill was then sent down to the Commons, with the Speaker in the Chair, when a Member could only speak once, and was pinned to the particular point on which the Lords disagreed. He could say that the Bill had been Balfoured. The Chief Secretary had invented a new mode of' procedure in legislation. The Government seemed to think that the question of free sale was the important question involved in this matter. But hon. Members from Ireland did not give a button for this free sale—what they 983 wanted was to be allowed to stop in I their holdings. The Common Law gave them free sale. The free sale of the Act of 1881 was a mockery, a sham, and an encroachment on the rights of the tenants, and he denounced it as such at the time. What they wanted was a fair rent. The Government pretended to be anxious for the development of Irish towns. This was a miserable hypocrisy. The pretences in the House of Lords they all knew were miserable hypocrises, because towns in Ireland, instead of growing, were shrinking. There was a decrease of population equal to the population of Birmingham —if he might use the sacred name—every year in Ireland. Probably when English Gentlemen heard the term "town park" they thought of some thing like the Rosherville Gardens, or some magnificent demesne. But what was the fact? An Irish town was a miserable, decaying place, with a row of houses without any thatch, the people invisible, and the only inhabitant seen being a duck, a goose, or pig. That was one of their towns. The park was a potato ridge, the property of some unfortunate man, unable to live by a shop, which brought him a profit of about 3s. a-week. These were the so-called shopkeepers—miserable huxters he called them, for they were nothing else—and yet it was sought to prevent them having the benefit of a fair rent on the pretence that the towns were hidebound, whereas in most of them there was room for hundreds or thousands of houses. Bad as was the law of 1881, it would be almost perfect if it were not for the way in which the Courts had acted. He defied anyone to say what a town park was. The Land Commissioners did not know, and almost every appeal had produced a fresh definition. The truth was the adoption of the term town park was a mere dodge on the part of landlords to get out of having fair rents fixed. The term was never heard in Ireland until the Land Act, and immediately every landlord had innumerable town parks on his estate. The landlord who had the most town parks was a brother of a Cabinet Minister, the Marquess of Abercorn, who almost called the space around the town pump of Strabane a town park. It was a false pretence that this legislation about town parks was in 984 the interests of the towns, for which the landlords did not really care. He would not mind if they robbed them without hypocrisy; but what made the blood boil was to hear the Government say they did it in the interest of the tenants. In Lismore, his (Mr. T. M. Healy's) father requiring to build a house could not get a lease for more than 81 years, and in the town of Bantry, the lord of the soil would not give land to build a gas works on which to illuminate the town. They did not want free sale in this matter. All that the landlords did for the towns was to rob them; and it was a hideous and hypocritical pretence that town park lands were to be treated exceptionally for the benefit of the towns. With a view to testing the bona fides of the Government in this matter, he desired to know whether he would be in Order in moving a provision that Section 8 of the Land Act should be held to apply to such holdings with this modification—that the landlord might at any time during the continuance of the statutory term resume possession of the holding?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the Amendment would raise a separate question which might be entertained when the House had decided whether it would agree with the Lords' Amendment.
§ MR. SERJEANT MADDEN (Dublin University)
said, that most of the speeches which had been made on the opposite side of the House had been addressed to the exclusion of town parks from the Act of 1881 rather than to the exclusion of town parka with a smaller population than 2,000 from the present Bill; but whether they passed this Bill as it left that House, or as it came back to it, the legislation of 1881 with respect to town parks would remain. Still he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite were quite right in arguing the question as they had done; because the only argument in favour of the 2,000 limit was, that the legislation of 1881 with respect to town parks was radically wrong and should be minimized as much as possible. That showed how far the argument on the other side went, and as the point had been raised he must say a few words upon it. Now, in order that the Court can hold land to be a town park, the Court must come to the conclusion that the land adjoins, or is near, a city or town, and that it bears 985 increased value as accommodation land. The first question, therefore, that the Court has under the present law to decide was, whether the collection of houses which the land adjoined was a town within the meaning of the Act. On that point, he found there was a series of decisions from which it appeared that 764 had, by judicial decision, been adopted as the lowest population that would induce the Court to hold that a particular collection of houses was a town within the Act.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that Mr. Justice O'Hagan, in his evidence before the Cowper Commission, said that places with a population of only 500 or 600 inhabitants had been determined to be towns.
§ MR. SERJEANT MADDEN
said, that might be so; but the authority to which he had referred gave 764 as the lowest limit. However, that did not affect his argument. Whatever might be the previous decisions of the Court as to the collection of houses which would constitute a town for the purpose of making land adjoining a town park, it was now said that these decisions were not to be acted upon, that a now line was to be arbitrarily drawn, and that nothing was to be considered a town if the population was under 2,000. What was the sense or justice of that? This was an. important question; because having looked through the list of towns having populations between 764 and 2,000 in Thom's Irish Almanac, he found that there were 124 such towns. He asked if the laud near a collection of houses, such as, before this Bill, the Court considered to be a town within the meaning of the Act of 1881 were held to be accommodation land what was the sense or justice of drawing a different line? He could understand the position of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who would have all town parks included in the Act of 1881; but what he could not understand wag why, if they adopted the principle on which that Act proceeded with respect to town parks, they should now adopt the arbitral limit of a population of 2,000 in the present Bill? What was the principle of the exclusion of town parks? As he understood it, this was not a tenant farmer's question at all. [Cries of "It is."] He would explain why he thought it was not. They had heard a great deal about the question, and so far as it could equitably be 986 done, he agreed that it was desirable to root the tenant farmers in the soil, but why should they root the baker or the butcher of a town in his potato garden? He lived in the town. He was not a tenant farmer, and he did not inhabit his holding. It had been said that town parks came within the operation of tenant right, and that the tenants were entitled to compensation for improvements under the Act of 1870. Be it so. The more rights they already possessed the less claim they had for the extension of their rights, or to be included in the present Bill. These town parks were used for the accommodation of the inhabitants of the town, who thereby got hay and grass for their cattle and ground for their potatoes. What would be the effect of admitting the present tenants of these holdings to the benefit of the Act of 1881? You would by this means enrich them. But you would not enrich the class intended to be benefited by the Act of 1881. But what would be the effect on other classes? Could it be imagined that if the tenants of this accommodation land were admitted to the benefit of the Act of 1881, that the inhabitants of the towns would have the accommodation they needed at a lower rate for the future? He believd that the tenants of town parks were just the class who would consider that anything which they could extract from the inhabitants of the town was no more than a reasonable remuneration for them. The effect of such legislation as hon. Members opposite desired in replacing the limit of 2,000, would be to create in these small towns a class of middlemen, for these town park holders could and would sub-let the land for grazing or conacre. It would also place round the towns a circle of perpetuity owners, each one of whom, would have to be dealt with whenever new buildings were wanted for the extension of the town. The effect of this would, he thought, be most unfortunate; and he believed that it was a sound principle on which the Legislature excluded from the Act of 1881 the tenants of town parks, who merely held their land for the accommodation of their houses in the towns. If a holding was a farm in any sense of the term which would entitle its tenant fairly and equitably to come under the Act of 1881, it must be remembered that such a tenant would be 987 admitted to the benefit of the present I Bill. As he had said at the commencement of his remarks, the question of the exclusion of town parks from the Act of 1881 was not then before the House. The question they had to consider, then, was why, if the principle embodied in the Act of 1881 was held to be right, they should draw a hard and fast line, and say that towns above a certain limit should be included within the provisions of that Act, but that, if their population was below that limit, they should not be so included. In conclusion, there was, he was glad to say, a great number of towns in Ireland which did not answer to the melancholy description given of them by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy).
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Serjeant Madden) had asked whether there was any justice in excluding from the Land Act these town parks. Well, he (Mr. Dillon) said frankly that when they were dealing with the class of towns below 5,000 population, there was no justice or reason at all in such an exclusion. Of all the preposterous pieces of hypocrisy that he had ever listened to, he knew of none greater than the pretext that the opposition to the inclusion of these town parks was based upon tenderness for the interests of the inhabitants of the towns. He listened with astonishment, even knowing as he did the character of certain noble legislators who inhabited "another place," to noble landlord after noble landlord rising up and saying that the last thought in his mind was the interest of the landlord class, and that his whole anxiety was for the interests of the towns. The hon. and learned Member said, let landlords who put forward this plea leave this matter to a plebescite, or vote of the inhabitants of the towns. That hon. and learned Gentleman knew that not one vote out of every 10 would be given against the inclusion of the town parks. The landlords who, more than any Other class of living men, had interfered with the development of the towns of Ireland, who had starved and robbed and plundered the towns of Ireland, were now posing before the people of this country as so anxious for the interests of the Irish towns that they denied to the inhabitants of those towns security for their improvements. The 988 Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour), in one of his usual philosophic addresses, asked what it was proposed to do by this alteration made by the Commons, and which he consented to without much debate. He said that this proposal would simply transfer a vast quantity of property from one class of the population to another, and for no object whatever. Why did the Chief Secretary agree to so dishonest a proposal? He had a majority of 100 at his back, and need not have accepted it, unless he was convinced of its justice. A more untruthful description of the clause than that given by the right hon. Gentleman could not possibly be invented by the wit of man. What the clause proposed to do was to put a stop to a system of wholesale robbery and intimidation practised by the landlords of Ireland with regard to these town parks. But whose property was it that this clause dealt with? Surely, not the landlords. All they—the Irish Members—wished to do was to get the present holders confirmed in their holdings at a fair rent; and everybody knew that in fixing a fair rent the circumstances of the additional value of the land by its proximity to the town would be fully considered by the Court. What was the position of the Chief Secretary and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University? It was a position most cynically and frankly acknowledged by a noble Lord in the other House, who said—"Is it not hard when you are going to fix a fair rent on the landlords' land outside town parks, that they will not allow him to charge as much as he can get for town parks?" The position taken up the Chief Secretary and the hon. and learned Member was that it was a cruelty and hardship to prevent the town park holders of Ireland being rack-rented, because that was all they wanted. It was utterly impossible to controvert the statement that these town parks owed more than half their value to the enormous expenditure and improvement of the tenants; and yet so necessary was the accommodation of these lands that they paid fancy rents, and were compelled to pay heavy rents on their own improvements and outlay. If it was the idea of hon. Gentlemen opposite that they should continue to be compelled to pay heavy rents on their own improvements, he did not envy them. 989 their ideas of justice. A great tenderness had been suddenly developed by hon. Gentlemen opposite lest the expansion of Irish towns should be interfered with. He wished very much they could see any opportunity of any measure interfering with the expansion of any towns. No towns that he knew of in the three Southern Provinces were threatened with any such expansion; but, certainly, a great number of them were sinking and decaying away. The hon. and learned Member stated that if the Amendments were not agreed to, they would be surrounding the towns by a set of middlemen. Whoever talked about middlemen? Did not hon. Members know that a statutory tenant could not sub-let, and how then could they have middlemen? They did not want power given to town park holders to sub-let; but they did want power given them to have a fair rent fixed and free sale. They wanted, first of all, a fair rent fixed; and secondly, some machinery by which they could recover, if they were obliged to leave, the money they had expended on the land. Whatever little bit of prosperity existed in these Irish towns was not owing to the landlords, but to the shopkeepers and traders who laid out whatever little money was expended, and who held the land around the towns in which they lived. How, then, would they interfere with the growth of these towns? Would any hon. Gentleman get up and say what the Irish landlords had done to develop the Irish towns? He knew towns where the landlords owned the entire towns and miles of the county around, and he said, as a rule, the action of the landlords had been hostile and inimical to the prosperity of these towns; and it was monstrous for hon. Gentlemen to get up and assume that these men who had done everything in their power to injure the towns would be more anxious in the future for the prosperity of the towns of Ireland than another class of men who lived in the towns and were interested in their progress, and who undoubtedly would make sacrifices such as no Irish landlord could make to bring about the development of the towns, if for no better motive than their own interest. If there was one curse greater than another to Irish towns it was the multiplication of public-houses. He saw the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. 990 Johnston) agreed with him in that. What had the landlords done to improve the towns? They had given every encouragement to the building of little public-houses, and their own agents, acting as Petty Sessions magistrates, had given in every instance a license along with the lease in order to stimulate the building of these little shebeens, and then create by that means property for the landlords. By the granting of licenses to these little houses by their own agents, they had been enabled to charge fictitious rack-rents for them. Was that an enlightened way of extending the towns of Ireland? The landlord extended his own rents by multiplying public-houses until, within his own knowledge, he could show hon. Members towns in the West of Ireland, with a population of 1,200, which had 56 licensed houses. He made hon. Members a present of noble Lords who looked after the interests of their people and towns in such a way as that, and he declared that a more monstrous and false contention than that the prosperity of these towns was in any way threatened by this Amendment was never put before the House. The question at issue was one of pure unadulterated selfishness. The Irish landlords would not be able to plunder the Irish shopkeepers. The Cowper Commission, composed at it was of a majority of English landlords, reported in favour of a 5,000 limit. He asked, were Irish landowners to be allowed in some measure to recoup themselves for the reduction of the rack-rents of ordinary farms, by putting their hands in the pockets of Irish shopkeepers? He thought the limit of 2,000 a preposterous limit, and if he were asked to fix it, he should fix it at 10,000. As a compromise, they accepted 2,000 as better than nothing. A friend of his had drawn up a list of Irish towns, which he would commend to the attention of English Members. Of towns of a population between 500 and 1,000 there were 172, above 1,000 and under 2,000, 90; above 2,000 and under 3,000, 31; and above 3,000 inhabitants, there were only 36 towns. Therefore, this proposal of a limit of 2,000 inhabitants, included 262 and only excluded 67 towns in the whole country. Of course, that consideration was present to their minds when they accepted the Amendment, and the Irish landlords who knew the 991 condition of the country for which, of course, they were largely responsible, appreciated the Amendment, and having operated successfully in Ireland, considered a town of 500 inhabitants as a quite respectable and large town. Was it not a monstrous perversion of terms to call a place of 1,000 or 2,000 inhabitants town or city? He was perfectly convinced when the Committee debated the matter in 1881, it never entered their minds that the words "town" or "city" would be applied to a collection of houses of that size, and it never occurred to them that the Commissioners would so fix the limit. It was not until the Commissioners fixed the limit at 764, a rather singular limit, that the question became a burning one, and a very strong and bitter agitation rose in Ireland. The Chief Secretary had said a deal about the injustice proposed to be done by transferring the property of the landlords to the tenants. He had received a letter from a gentleman in Ballycastle, County Antrim, which statedAll the town park holders of this town have paid a large price per acre for their town parks —in many instances as much as £40 an acre. They were obliged 20 years ago to take out leases, and the leases expire in the month of November, 1838.That was a pretty state of things, and undoubtedly the landlord, if he was impecunious, and the rents of his ordinary farms had been reduced, would proceed next November twelve months to levy off the shopkeepers of Ballycastle some recompense for the loss he had sustained in other parts of his estate. He was perfectly certain, from his knowledge of the general customs of town park holders, that this £40 per acre did not represent all they had laid out, and consequently it would be in the power of the landlord to rob them of this £10 per acre, if some such protection as that which they had introduced in the Commons were not allowed to remain in the Act. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had absurdly argued that the increase in the value of the land would go to a tenant when a town did not expand; but what they wanted to do was to protect tenants from robbery and oppression. He must confess he was surprised to see the attitude adopted by hon. Members from Ulster in reference to this matter. He knew from correspondence which came to him 992 from Ulster that the action of the Ulster Representatives in this matter did not meat with the approval of their constituents. They would soon have an opportunity of consulting the town park holders and the townsmen of Ulster on this question, and he ventured to say there was no part of Ireland in which there would be seen more bitter disappointment and stronger agitation on this question than in the Province of Ulster; and if they consented to this Amendment by the Lords, they were only preparing for themselves annoyance and trouble in coming Sessions, for this question would appear again and again in the shape of Bills and Motions, until some measure of justice was provided for the town park holders of Ireland.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in closing his speech, made what I think a rather ungenerous charge both against the Representatives of Ulster and against the people of Ulster. The right hon. Gentleman said that we represent the pressure of certain parts of the country, and that the House ought to stand as umpire between the Members and the pressure of their constituents. That was a polite way of saying that the Irish town park holders were anxious to rob the landlords of what they called property, and that the Ulster Members were mean enough to stand by and help them in doing it. I do not think that is much of a compliment, either to the Ulster Members or the Ulster people. If I thought this was an effort on the part of the tenant farmer to rob his landlord, I should resist it. I am not sure that it is not the other way round; but I am quite free to make a confession in this matter. The County Tyrone has been described by one hon. Member as the heart of this town park difficulty. I dare say it is. I am free to acknowledge that the pressure of this town park question has been felt, perhaps, more in that county than in any other part. But, notwithstanding that, I am not going to argue this question as if it had but one side. It has two sides, and I have had to choose between the two. I entirely agree with the Chief Secretary that, as the Bill stood when it left the House of Commons, some injury might have been done to the landlord, and some injury might have been done to the 993 shopkeeper who, in the future, might wish to have accommodation land, and not be able to get it. If the Bill passes with the Commons' Amendment, the owner of a town park holding will have a legal right created in the holding which he had not before, and it may be very difficult to deal with the holder of a town park should the holding be required for a town improvement. [Cries of"No, no!"] I know of a case where a farmer in the neighbourhood of one of the largest Ulster towns owns a field which the Local Authority required as a cemetery, and the idea of the farmer as to the value of the land differed very materially from the view entertained by the public body of the town. In the second place, the landlord will be made into joint owner, instead of sole owner. Now, that is the case against the contention of those who are in favour of the Bill as it left the Commons. What is a fair and reasonable answer to the proposition? In the first place, the tenants have, in innumerable cases, purchased the tenant-right. I was amazed when I heard the Chief Secretary tell us that there is no such thing as tenant right in town parks. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) read a letter from Ballycastle, of which I have received a copy; but the case does not stand on letters or on the statement of tenants. The Ulster custom was abolished in 1870, about the time the tenants of Ireland were mainly represented by landlords in this House, and nothing was put in the place of the custom which was abolished. I put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, whether he is willing to protect the tenant right in town parks where it exists? The question of transferring the property of the landlord to the tenant has been frequently referred to. This is not a question of transferring the property of the landlord to the tenant. All I ask, and all any Representative of these men ask, is that they shall have a right to have a judicial rent fixed. We ask for the creation of no tenant right where it does not exist. We ask for no tenure that will put a band of iron round any of the towns or villages that are capable of being improved or extended. I am told that the definition in the Bill makes everything all right. Let me draw the atten- 994 tion of the House to this definition. In Committee I tried to secure the omission of the words "let and." What are the words? "Nor shall it be deemed a town park if it is let and used as an ordinary agricultural farm." Why are these words "let and used" put in? The reason is perfectly plain—the letting will be all right, whatever purpose the holding is put to, and it will be quite impossible for that clause to bring any benefit or advantage to the holders of town parks. What are we doing in the matter? The Government issued a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole question of Irish land. They investigated on the spot; and what advice did they give to the House and the Government? They advised that only a place with a population of 5,000 and upwards should be regarded as a town. When the Bill was going through Committee in this House, the Government, on their own Motion, inserted an Amendment construing the word "town" to be a place of 2,000 inhabitants. They resisted 10,000, they resisted 5,000, the recommendation of their own Commission, and they inserted 2,000. The House of Lords, where the tenants have no Representatives—where the landlords are all-powerful—struck out the Government's own Amendment, and we are to knuckle down. We are told that town park holders are shopkeepers, publicans, and gombeen men, and have not the same claims as ordinary agricultural tenant farmers have to judicial rents. I admit they are very far from being in the same position as ordinary agricultural ton-ants; but the fact that a man is a shopkeeper, a publican, or a gombeen man is not a reason why he should be charged an exorbitant rent. He has a right to have a fair rent fixed; and I do entreat the Party with whom I act not to vote with the Government on this matter—not to raise a fire in the province of Ulster that will not be easily quenched.
§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
said, that the speeches of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) were not meant to hurt anyone—they were like fireworks, they were meant to be looked at and admired. The hon. Gentleman asked why the Government put the words "let and used" into the clause when the Bill was passing through that House, and he provided the true answer 995 when he said it was to injure the tenant farmers of Ireland. But that was the object of the present Government in all the Amendments they proposed to the Bill—they endeavoured to limit and restrict it, to do as little as they possibly could for the tenants, and to appeal as if they were doing a great deal. The hon. Member for South Tyrone now complained of the action of the House of Lords, and yet it was not long ago that he went down to an election for the Northwich Division of Cheshire in the company of sons of those very noble Lords.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is now diverging from the subject of the Amendment which is now under consideration, and which deals with the question of town parks.
§ MR. MAHONY
, resuming, said, that unless the hon. Member for South Tyrone brought some more effective pressure to bear upon those with whom he was generally supposed to act than he had hitherto brought, he would probably not cause much satisfaction among his constituents. Then, once more, he would discover the force of the old difficulty of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. The Government were now proposing to break a solemn compact that had been made when this Bill was in Committee. It, however, was not the first instance in which promises had been made by the present Government and then broken. The arguments that had been used against allowing the tenants of town parks attached to small towns to obtain the benefits of the Land Act of 1881 were just those which had been used against that Act itself and which Parliament had overruled. They did not propose to take away from the landlord any right which he could justly claim. The only right which they proposed to take away from him was the power to charge an unjust and exorbitant rent. They desired that the Fair Rent Clause should apply to town parks. All that the Irish Members asked of the Government was to adhere to the compromise to which they had agreed. When they wished to stop discussion upon the Bill, the Government made what they considered a concession, and the whole arrangement was essentially of the nature of a compromise. From the terms of that compromise the Chief Secretary had distinctly departed. 996 At that he (Mr. Mahony) was hardly surprised, inasmuch as he had previous experiences of breach of pledges on the part of the right hon. Gentleman; but he now appealed to him, even at the eleventh hour, not to go back upon the solemn compact which he made with the Irish Members, and not to send this Bill up to the other House with the stain of a broken promise upon it.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS (Antrim, N.)
said, he believed that was the second occasion within the last few days on which the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) had taken an interest in his (Sir Charles Lewis's) political faith. The right hon. Gentleman had said it was surprising that he did not take any part in these debates. One reason for his abstention was that the right hon. Gentleman himself took so great a part in the debates. On behalf of a large number of independent Members, he asserted that the way they were treated by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench had become an intolerable nuisance. On all questions the right hon. Gentleman would get up and for an hour or for an hour-and-a-half, would enter ore rotundo to an account of his new faith as compared with his old one. Si monumentum requiris circumpice. Then they might behold the most conspicuous example in our time of political inconsistency.
§ MR. MAHONY
, interposing, asked whether the remarks of the hon. Baronet were relevant to the Question before the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the Question before the House was whether it should agree or disagree to the Lords' Amendment.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS
, continuing his remarks, said, that he was endeavouring in a very humble way to reply to the personal reference to himself made by the right hon. Member for Derby. Listening to the diatribes of the hon. Member for North Donegal (Mr. O'Doherty), and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, anybody who did not know bettor would suppose that this Bill was an attack upon the interests of the tenants of Ireland; but the fact was, that the Bill proceeded from beginning to end on the lines of a sincere endeavour to improve the position of Irish tenants. Listening to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, 997 no one would suppose that he was the author of a Bill which refused to leaseholders the very benefits which it was proposed to confer upon them by this Bill. Speaking for himself, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby that he did not need any spur from him in order to induce him to do his duty in reference to this clause as it affected the holders of town parks. He came to the House that night for the especial purpose of declaring that it was not his intention to support the Amendment of the House of Lords in reference to the clause. He must say, however, that he did not understand the compromise which it was said had been arrived at in the House of Commons on this matter. It seemed to him that hon. Members on the other side had left the holders of town parks in towns of over 2,000 inhabitants out in the lurch. ["No, no!" and cheers.] They had, it appeared to him, not only left them in the lurch, but were quite ready and anxious to leave them in the lurch. [Home Rule cries of "No, no!"] What he should like to know was the principle upon which the line was drawn at 2,000? The right hon. Gentleman said he had a Memorial on this subject from 100 people in the constituency which he (Sir Charles Lewis) represented; but he believed the Memorial was really only signed by three persons, and they did not recognize the right hon. Gentleman as the determined opponent for years of all attempts to do justice to the holders of town parks. They did not recognize in the right hon. Gentleman the man who had for years been opposed to the rights of tenant farmers. They only saw him in his new clothes with his warpaint on. Why, the right hon. Gentleman had been one of the greatest criminals in this matter, and instead of railing at Her Majesty's Government, the Irish tenants ought to rail at the right hon. Gentleman. The Memorialists did not know the right hon. Gentleman so well as he was known in the House, or they would not have chosen him to espouse their cause. They, on that side of the House, at all events, knew that it did not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to use those high sounding words about property and consistency which he was so fond of employing, and which came with such ill grace from 998 him. The right hon. Gentleman sat upon the safety-valve, and shut down the voice of the Irish tenants as long as it suited his purpose to do so. But when he scented danger, and became afraid of an explosion he got off and set the safety-valve free. Now, what he (Sir Charles Lewis) had to say upon the principle of this clause—what he had to say was, that if they left out the obnoxious provision which was objected to, the clause was from beginning to end a decided alleviation of the position in which the holders of town parks were left by the Act of 1881, for which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was responsible. But he must again repeat that he did not understand the principle on which the 2,000 limit was introduced. He could not for the life of him understand why 2,000 was a better limit, for instance, than 5,000. He could not support the Amendment of the House of Lords, which introduced an obnoxious principle into the Bill, but he was afraid there was no means now of introducing an Amendment challenging the principle of this clause. If it were in Order—which he feared it was not—to move the substitution of 5,000 for 2,000, he should be happy to move it, or he would support any hon. Member who would move it. Otherwise, he should be in favour of restoring the clause to the exact shape in which it was when it left the House of Commons. It was altogether a mistake to say that there was no such thing in Ireland as tenant right in town parks. As regards Ulster, at all events, there were many precedents, and plenty of evidence that the sale of the tenant right in town parks was a by no means infrequent occurrence. He had ascertained that to be a fact not only from his own constituents, but from other sources, and, therefore, he thought it to be his duty to correct the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who thought, or appeared to think, that there was no such thing as tenant right in Ireland in town parks. He considered that the Government having assented to a compromise in this matter, it was a very hard and a very unfair thing that an attempt should now be made to depart from it, and, therefore, he was bound to say that he would not vote for the Lord's Amendment. But in announcing that resolution, he 999 was bound to say that in all other respects this Bill was one for which the Irish tenants ought to be, and he believed would be, sincerely grateful to the Government which had introduced and made such strenuous efforts to carry it into law. He would also wish to point out this further question for the consideration of the House, that in the case of small villages, where it might be said small farmers had congregated in large numbers, they were protected already. The Land Courts had protected them under the provisions of the Land Act of 1881. He was of opinion that the limit of between 500 and 600 would protect the small farmers who occupied houses in the small country towns of Ireland.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said, that it was all very well for the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Lewis) to be able to do without the spurs of the right hon. Member for Derby; but he could not do without the spurs of his own constituents. No doubt if he were left to his own unaided judgment in this matter, the hon. Baronet would not be found advocating an alteration from 2,000 to 5,000. That movement on his part was full of suspicion. The hon. Baronet had accused the Irish Members of having left all towns of over 2,000 in the lurch, thereby asserting that their conduct and action was deliberately pursued in order to exclude certain towns in Ulster; but was it not the fact that it was only the result of a compromise that the line had been drawn at 2,000? There were other towns in Ireland interested in this question of town parks besides those in Ulster. The clause as it went up to the other House was undoubtedly a compromise, and the Irish Members naturally expected that the Government would have consistency enough to stand by a compromise which had been arrived at after such an amount of deliberation and exertion on both sides of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave in his speech what he was pleased to call "economic reasons" for the attitude of the Government; but there would be no difficulty in putting words into the clause that would meet all the objections the right hon. Gentleman had raised. Englishmen and Scotchmen were no doubt plunged into error by the use of the term "town parks" in connection 1000 with this question. Towns of 2,000 inhabitants in Ireland were nothing more than long, straggling villages. There might be some force in applying a clause of this kind to towns like Bristol or Leeds; but in the case of Ireland, where towns were decreasing and industry languishing, it was absurd to go into economic reasons which had no bearing whatever on the case. Under the clause nothing would be taken from the landlords, for the Land Commissioners in fixing the rents would take into account the contiguity of the land to a town. He viewed the adoption by the Government of the Lords' Amendment to the clause as a matter of political necessity, which had obliged them to enter into a compromise with forces outside the House, and over which they had no sort of control.
§ MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
said, that representing a Scotch constituency, he certainly had no pressure from any of his constituents with regard to this subject; but knowing as he did the feeling that existed in Ireland on the town parka question, he felt very strongly that the Government had made a very decided mistake in adopting the Amendment introduced in "another place," and in not adhering to the compromise that was entered into in this House. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had stated that tenant right had not existed in town parks prior to the Land Act of 1870. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Not as a rule.] He had in his pocket a receipt for money paid for tenant right in a town park which was offered by auction in 1863. He was bound to say that the words "town park" did not occur in that receipt; but the term was unknown in Ireland prior to 1870, when it was introduced by the Land Act. There were two sides to the question of town parks. There was the side of the inhabitants, and those who held the town parks at the present time. There could be no question a great mistake was made in the manner in which the Land Act dealt with town parks. The Courts in Ireland had held a certain piece of land at once to be a town park, and not to be a town park. When sub-let it was held to be a town park, because the person to whom it was sub-let lived in the town, but not a town park because the original lessee lived outside. There were other difficulties in connection with the question 1001 which called for further legislation; but it would be ridiculous to attempt to legislate during the present Session, He would therefore suggest as a compromise that the present position should be accepted by the House if the Government took upon themselves the responsibility of introducing fresh legislation dealing with the whole question next Session. They were told that a large measure of purchase was to be brought forward, and other difficulties, comprising the numerous ones raised by the case of "Adams v. Dunseath," would! have to be dealt with. He would therefore urge the acceptance of the compromise he had suggested.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, the hon. Member for North Cork (Mr. Flynn) said that the clause as it stood would not affect the landlords' rights. He (Mr. Macartney), however, desired to point out to the House that it would affect the rights of other people—the occupiers of towns who did not hold town parks at the time of the passing of the Bill—because it would diminish the accommodation land now available for their holding, which they were now able to purchase by public auction, and would, therefore, raise the price of the land. But he had a stronger objection to the clause as it stood. The reason why, under the Act of 1881, certain rights had been given to the tenant farmers of Ireland, was because it was asserted, with great truth, that the tenants of Ireland depended for their livelihood upon the land they held; but that could not be urged on behalf of the holders of town parks. They were to a great extent men of substance, though he knew very well that they objected to pay the rent, which was, he admitted, above the value of the agricultural land adjoining the towns; but that rent had been raised by the competition of their neighbours in the towns. He had heard men of substantial position—doctors, large grocers, and men not in any way dependent for their living upon their farms—complain very strongly of the competition rents they had to pay. That did not, however, appear to be any reason for transferring to them, as undoubtedly the Bill when it left that House did transfer to them, the property which existed at the present moment in the landlords' hands. With respect to the question of tenant right, he admitted, 1002 with the hon. Member opposite, that it was difficult to lay down a hard-and-fast line upon it. He did not dispute that there were cases in which a sum of money had been given to the holder of a town park which might strongly resemble payment for tenant right upon ordinary agricultural farms. He dissented, however, from the view that tenant right universally applied to town parks throughout Ulster, though he would guard himself from saying that it might not have existed in particular instances, and in particular towns. He would also wish to guard himself from being supposed to base his support of the action of ''another place" upon the ground put forward in the Upper House. He did not rely upon the enlargement of the towns of Ireland, for he was obliged to admit that in the great majority of the towns and villages of Ireland there was no sign of any probable large building increase in the future. He wished to rest his support of the Bill, as it had come down to them, on the ground that the benefits that were proposed to be conferred on the holders of town parks were benefits which they were not entitled to on the grounds on which rested the rights conferred on the farmers of Ireland by the Act of 1881. He would also wish to point out this further question for the consideration of the House, that in the case of small villages, where it might be said small farmers had congregated in large numbers, they were protected already. The Land Courts had protected them under the provisions of the Land Act of 1881. He was of opinion that the limit of between 500 and 600 would protect the small farmers who occupied houses in the small country towns of Ireland.
The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY (Mr. W. H. Smith) (Strand, Westminster) and Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
rose together; but the former gave way.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
said, that he would only ask the indulgence of the House for one or two minutes while he referred to the Amendment under debate. They had now been discussing this question, which was only one of the infinity of details raised by this Bill, for nearly five hours at great length in every particular, and on its merits, as if it had never been under the consideration of the House before that 1003 evening. He confessed that he could not altogether acquit the Government of responsibility for the prolongation of the debate under the circumstances. If they were now discussing the matter as if it were a new question, it was because on this Lords' Amendment in the middle of August, and with all the Business of importance which they had before them, the Government had made a distinct and an important change of front. He ventured to think that the sole issue before the House was not whether upon the merits, if the question had come before them for the first time, they should decide in favour of the Amendment made by the House of Lords, but whether, having decided in a certain way after full discussion, with the consent of the Government, in that House, they were now to change their course, because it had pleased certain noble Lords in "another place" to destroy their work. If the arguments they had heard that night in favour of the Lords' Amendment were solid and valid, he could not understand why the Government consented to send the Bill up in the form in which it left that House. These views were before the House in Committee. Then all the questions about the position of the small towns, as they were called in Ireland, or villages, as they would be known in England, were fully before the Government, and he said they should have answered them, and not have that debate prolonged. But the Government supported, accepted the Amendment in reference to town parks, after they had very fully debated the whole question, and they then appeared to be impressed with the knowledge and the necessity of not creating new vested interests in land in Ireland. Then he said the Government accepted, and accepted readily, the change in their Bill. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Not readily.] He said accepted readily an Amendment which gave to all the holders of town parks in the neighborhood of towns of less than 2,000 inhabitants—[Mr. A. J. BALFOUR again dissented.] Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that it was forced on the Government? He (Mr. Chamberlain) declared for himself, and very likely also for those with whom he generally acted, that at that time they had an open mind on the subject. They were ready to hear all that could be said by the Government in defence of the 1004 Bill as it stood. It was the Government, and not he and his hon. Friends, who allowed the Amendment to pass, and to be accepted under serious pressure, but, as they were now told, not readily. Whether the Government accepted the Amendment readily or not, however, it appeared to him that it was a matter of the gravest inconvenience that Amendments which had been accepted by the Government in that House, and which had been accepted as the basis of a compromise, by which discussion had been shortened in that House, should be overthrown in "another place" with the consent of the same Government. He ventured to say that what the House had now to look to was this—had anything been discovered since the matter was debated before, which should lead the House to change the opinion which they and the Government then arrived at? The House was told that the House of Lords had discovered that this Amendment was not in the interest of the community. He had rather that the community found it out for themselves. He had the greatest respect for the House of Lords; but he had not been accustomed to regard it as the special representatives of what he called "the community," and he would very much prefer that an Amendment in the interests of the community should proceed from another quarter. It was the Commons House of Parliament who had to look after the interests of the community, and not the House of Lords; and he confessed, after having listened with the greatest care to the discussion which had taken place on the Amendment made by the House of Lords, that he did not think the interests of the community were in any danger. What, then, was the, position? As regarded all towns above 2,000 inhabitants, there was no difference of opinion; it was understood that they were outside the provisions of the Act of 1881. But as regarded the condition of those towns or villages under 2,000 inhabitants, what had happened in their case? What the Government was asked to do was this—that town parks in such circumstances should be brought under the jurisdiction of the Land Court, and that a fair rent should be fixed for the tenants of such tenancies. Did that create any vested interest which would be to the disadvantage of the com- 1005 munity? He could understand that it would do so if it were possible for the tenants to have a permanent interest in the holding, from which they could not be dispossessed, even if the interest of the community in the town or village required it. But the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) had suggested to the Government an Amendment on which, as far as he (Mr. J. Chamberlain) knew, they had not expressed an opinion, and as to which the House ought to have an opinion from the Government. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford had suggested, in this case, that the landlord should he given a right of resumption for any purpose mentioned in the 5h section of the Land Act of 1881—that was to say, for allotments, building land, sites for schools and churches, and generally for the improvement of the towns and villages. It appeared to him that if the landlord could resume for these purposes, there could be no injury to the community whatever in any provision allowing the Court to fix a fair rent for those tenancies, so long as they remained in the occupation of the holders. He had risen principally to ask the Government to state their opinion as to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford; but in any case he could not undertake to defend the interests of the community at the instigation of the House of Lords; and if the House had failed to defend those interests in previous discussions, they had much better adhere to the opinion and the decision which they previously came to.
§ MR. PINKERTON (Galway),
in arguing that the right of free sale and the power to have judicial rents fixed should be extended to town park holdings, rather than that a state of things should be permitted to exist where the man who wanted accommodation land must first bribe the agent and the bailiff, said, he would refer to a public meeting held in Ballymoney, and the resolutions passed in favour of the extension of the limit from 2,000 inhabitants to 5,000, and the large sums paid for the tenant right of town parks. He was very glad that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) had advocated the popular view on this question. If he had not supported it, 1006 he (Mr. Pinkerton) would have advised him not to extend his autumn pilgrimage in Ireland to the towns in the North. This was a burning question in Ireland, and if it was treated with contempt and with a disposition to minimize its importance, an agitation would be created which would go far to destroy the boasted loyalty of the North, on which the Government prided themselves so much.
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, he thought that they ought to have some expression of opinion from the Government as to what they thought of the Amendment as it was proposed to amend it, or rather add to it, as was proposed by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford. He quite agreed with the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Chamberlain) that the Government ought not to give way on that Amendment of the Lords without having first given full consideration to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford. He (Mr. Lea) could also assure the Government, as the previous speaker had done, that the question of town parks was a most important question—in fact, a burning question in the whole of the North of Ireland. There would be strong feeling engendered in the North—over Ulster generally—if the Lords' Amendment in this respect were agreed to. They had been discussing the whole question in that House for five hours, although, when it was before the House originally, there was a protracted discussion, and the Government accepted the Amendment as a compromise, and yet there was no definite reply from any Member of the Government. He considered that, as the Government in that House had accepted the Amendment, and in order to shorten the debate, they should now, apart from what had boon done by certain Members in the House of Lords, stick to the Amendment that they had adopted. They had not said that they had accepted the clause under any misunderstanding, and, therefore, in his opinion, they ought to retain it in the Bill. He strongly advised the Government to insist on the Bill as it stood when it went to the House of Lords He was sorry to foul compelled to say that the Government had not acted according to their best judgment in the matter by considering the opinions of 1007 two or three Members of the House of Lords, or a few landlord Members from the North of Ireland. If the Bill were passed with the 2,000 population limit left out of it, it would do a great deal to bring about an agitation in the Province of Ulster which would gradually spread, and which he, for one, as an Ulster Member, would deeply regret.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:— Ayes 206; Noes 164: Majority 42.1010
|Addison, J. E. W.||Crossman, Gen. Sir W.|
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.||Cubitt, right hon. G.|
|Ainslie, W. G.||Curzon, Viscount|
|Aird, J.||Dalrymple, Sir C.|
|Allsopp, hon. P.||Davenport, H. T.|
|Ambrose, W.||De Cobain, E. S. W.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P.|
|Anstruther, H. T.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||De Worms, Baron H.|
|Baden-Powell, G. S.||Dickson, Major A. G.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Dimsdale, Baron R.|
|Baird, J. G. A.||Duncombe, A.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Dyke, right hon. Sir W. H.|
|Banes, Major G. E.|
|Baring, T. C.||Ebrington, Viscount|
|Baring, Viscount||Egerton, hon. A. de T.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-||Elliot, hon. A. R. D.|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Ewart, W.|
|Bates, Sir E.||Eyre, Colonel H.|
|Baumann, A. A.||Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.|
|Beach, W. W. B.|
|Beadel, W. J.||Field, Admiral E.|
|Beckett, W.||Finch, G. H.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. C.||Fisher, W. H.|
|Bentinck, W. G. C.||Fitzgerald, R. U. P.|
|Bethell, Commander G. R.||Fitz-Wygram, Gen. Sir F. W.|
|Bickford-Smith, W.||Fletcher, Sir H.|
|Birkbeck, Sir E.||Folkestone, right hon. Viscount|
|Blundell, Colonel H. B. H.|
|Forwood, A. B.|
|Bond, G. H.||Fowler, Sir R. N.|
|Bonsor, H. C. O.||Gardner, R. Richardson.|
|Boord, T. W.|
|Borthwick, Sir A.||Gedge, S.|
|Bristowe, T. L.||Gibson, J. G.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Gilliat, J. S.|
|Godson, A. F.|
|Brookfield, A. M.||Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.|
|Bruce, Lord H.|
|Burghley, Lord||Gorst, Sir J. E.|
|Campbell, Sir A.||Goschen, rt. hn. G. J.|
|Campbell, J. A.||Greenall, Sir G.|
|Carmarthen, Marq. of||Grimston, Viscount|
|Cavendish, Lord E.||Hall, C.|
|Charrington, S.||Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.|
|Coghill, D. H.||Hamilton, Col. C. E.|
|Colomb, Capt. J. C. R.||Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.|
|Commerell, Adml. Sir J. E.||Hanbury, R. W.|
|Hankey, F. A.|
|Compton, F.||Hartington, Marq. of|
|Cooke, C. W. R.||Havelock-Allan, Sir H. M.|
|Corry, Sir J. P.||Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-|
|Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Mount, W. G.|
|Hermon-Hodge, R. T.||Mowbray, R. G. C.|
|Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.||Murdoch, C. T.|
|Northcote, hon. H. S.|
|Hill, A. S.||Paget, Sir R. H.|
|Hoare, S.||Parker, hon. F.|
|Hobhouse, H.||Pearce, Sir W.|
|Holland, rt. hon. Sir H. T.||Pelly, Sir L.|
|Plunket, right hon. D. R.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Plunkett, hon. J. W.|
|Howard, J.||Powell, F. S.|
|Howard, J. M.||Puleston, Sir J. H.|
|Hughes, Colonel E.||Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.|
|Hunt, F. S.||Rankin, J.|
|Hunter, Sir W. G.||Rasch, Major F. C.|
|Isaacs, L. H.||Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.|
|Jackson, W. L.||Robertson, J. P. B.|
|Jarvis, A. W.||Robinson, B.|
|Jeffreys, A F.||Ross, A. H.|
|Johnston, W.||Round, J.|
|Kelly, J. R.||Royden, T. B.|
|Kennaway, Sir J. H.||Salt, T.|
|Kenyon, hon. G. T.||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. M.|
|Kerans, F. H.|
|Kimber, H.||Saunderson, Col. E. J.|
|King-Harman, right hon. Colonel E. R.||Selwin-Ibbetson, right hon. Sir H. J.|
|Knowles, L.||Selwyn, Captain C. W.|
|Kynoch, G.||Sidebotham, J. W.|
|Lafone, A.||Sidebottom, W.|
|Lambert, C.||Smith, right hon. W. H.|
|Laurie, Colonel R. P.|
|Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.||Smith, A.|
|Lawrence, W. F.||Spencer, J. E.|
|Leighton, S.||Stanhope, rt. hon. E.|
|Lewisham, right hon. Viscont||Stephens, H. C.|
|Stewart, M. J.|
|Llewellyn, E. H.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Long, W. H.||Tapling, T. K.|
|Lowther, J. W.||Temple, Sir R.|
|Macartney, W. G. E.||Theobald, J.|
|Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Vernon, hon. G. R.|
|Maclean, J. M.||Vincent, C. E. H.|
|Maclure, J. W.||Waring, Colonel T.|
|Madden, D. H.||Watson, J.|
|Makins, Colonel W. T.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Malcolm, Col. J. W.||Webster, R. G.|
|Mallock, R.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Manners, right hon. Lord J. J. R.||Whitley, E.|
|Whitmore, C. A.|
|Marriott, right hon. W. T.||Wodehouse, E. R.|
|Marum, E. M.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Matthews, rt. hon. H.||Wroughton, P.|
|Maxwell, Sir H. E.||Yerburgh, R. A.|
|Mayne, Adml. R. C.||Young, C. E. B.|
|Mills, hon. C. W.|
|More, R. J.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Morrison, W.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
|Abraham, W. (Glam.)||Bradlaugh, C.|
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Bright, Jacob|
|Brunner, J. T.|
|Allison, R. A.||Buchanan, T. R.|
|Ballantine, W. H. W.||Burt, T.|
|Barran, J.||Byrne, G. M.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Campbell, Sir G.|
|Blane, A.||Campbell, H.|
|Bolton, J. C.||Carew, J. L.|
|Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.||M'Arthur, A.|
|Chance, P. A.||M'Arthur, W. A.|
|Charming, F. A.||M'Cartan, M.|
|Clancy, J. J.||M'Carthy, J.|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||M'Donald, P.|
|Cobb, H. P.||M'Ewan, W.|
|Coleridge, hon. B.||M'Kenna, Sir J. N.|
|Collings, J.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Commins, A.||Mahony, P.|
|Condon, T. J.||Mappin, Sir F. T.|
|Connolly, L.||Mason, S.|
|Conway, M.||Mayne, T.|
|Conybeare, C. A. V.||Molloy, B. C.|
|Corbet, W. J.||Murphy, W. M.|
|Cossham, H.||Neville, R.|
|Cox, J. R.||Newnes, G.|
|Craven, J.||Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Crawford, D.||Nolan, J.|
|Cremer, W. R.||O'Brien, J. F. X.|
|Crilly, D.||O'Brien, P.|
|Deasy, J.||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Dillon, J.||O'Brien, W.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||O'Connor, A.|
|Dodds, J.||O'Connor, J. (Kerry)|
|Ellis, T. E.||O'Connor, J. (Tipperary)|
|Esmonde, Sir T. H. G.|
|Fenwick, C.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Ferguson R. C. Munro-||O'Doherty, J. E.|
|Finucane, J.||O'Hanlon, T.|
|Flynn, J. C.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Foley, P. J.||Parker, C. S.|
|Forster, Sir C.||Parnell, C. S.|
|Fox, Dr. J. F.||Pease, A. E.|
|Fuller, G. P.||Pickard, B.|
|Gardner, H.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Gilhooly, J.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Gill, H. J.||Pitt-Lewis, G.|
|Gill, T. P.||Portman, hon. E. B.|
|Gladstone, H. J.||Power, R.|
|Gray, E. D.||Priestley, B.|
|Gully, W. C.||Provand, A. D.|
|Haldane, R. B.||Pyne, J. D.|
|Hanbury-Tracy, hon. F. S. A.||Quinn, T.|
|Redmond, J. E.|
|Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V.||Reynolds, W. J.|
|Harrington, E.||Robertson, E.|
|Harrington, T. C.||Robinson, T.|
|Harris, M.||Roe, T.|
|Hayden, L. P.||Rowntree, J.|
|Hayne, C. Seale-||Russell, T. W.|
|Healy, T. M.||Schwann, C. E.|
|Heneage, right hon. E.||Sexton, T.|
|Hooper, J.||Sheehan, J. D.|
|James, C. H.||Sheehy, D.|
|Joicey, J.||Sheil, E.|
|Jordan, J.||Shirley, W. S.|
|Kennedy, E. J.||Sinclair, W. P.|
|Kenny, C. S.||Smith, S.|
|Kenny, J. E.||Stack, J.|
|Kenny, M. J.||Stanhope, hon. P. J.|
|Kenrick, W.||Stansfeld, right hon. J.|
|Lane, W. J.||Stewart, H.|
|Lawson, H. L. W.||Sullivan, D.|
|Lea, T.||Sullivan, T. D.|
|Leahy, J.||Summers, W.|
|Lefevre, right hon. G. J. S.||Sutherland, A.|
|Swinburne, Sir J.|
|Lewis, Sir C. E.||Tanner, C. K.|
|Macdonald, W. A.||Tuite, J.|
|MacInnes, M.||Waddy, S. D.|
|MacNeill, J. G. S.||Wallace, R.|
|Watt, H.||Woodhead, J.|
|Williams, J. Powell-|
|Winterbotham, A. B.||Flower, C.|
|Woodall, W.||Morley, A.|
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
then rose to move an Amendment in the clause relating to town parks. His proposal was that the tenants of holdings of that class should be entitled to the benefit of none of the provisions of the Land Act of 1881, with the single exception that they should be entitled to have a fair rent fixed. The Government must be prepared to go in the teeth of the recommendation of their own Commissioners if they would not allow those tenants to have a fair rent fixed. His proposal was that a landlord may, during the continuance of the statutory term, apply to resume his holding. Under ordinary circumstances, a landlord could not resume the holding. He thought they had got the Tory Party in a fix on this point. They either objected to these men having a fair rent fixed by their own tribunals, or not—they were either in favour of fairplay for these men, or they were not.
In page 6, line 26, of the Dill, after "thereof," to insert, as a Consequential Amendment, the words "Provided that section eight of the said Act shall be held to apply to such holdings as adjoin towns of not exceeding two thousand inhabitants, with this modification, that the landlord may at any time during the continuance of the statutory term resume possession of the holding, or any part thereof, with the consent of the Court, for any of the purposes mentioned in section five, sub-section six, of the said Act."— (Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he had not risen before to reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) and the hon. Member for South Londonderry (Mr. Lea), because he was under the impression—correctly, it turned out—that he would have this opportunity of speaking on the question. He should now inform the House why it was the Government were precluded from accepting the Amendment. He must first express his sorrow that the hon. and learned Member (Mr. T. M. Healy) thought it necessary in the course of his speech to cast a slur upon the Judges who had got to administer the Land Act in Ireland.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg your pardon—I did nothing of the kind. I 1011 said you appointed and reappointed them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the lion, and learned Gentleman stated—and he was sorry he did so—that the Land Commissioners were the creatures of the present Government. When any hon. Gentleman stated that the members of a tribunal which had got to decide certain questions were the creatures of a political Party, that, he submitted, was a slur on those Judges. In the present case, that was a slur on the Land Commissioners.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
As a personal explanation, may I be allowed to say that if I used the expression quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, I did so following the example of Lord Salisbury, who spoke of these persons—the Land Commissioners—as the persecutors of the landlords.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he did not know what the hon. and learned Gentleman's idea might be of "a personal explanation," but he had started a novel precedent. One objection to the Amendment was that it proposed, under the guise of fixing a fair rent, to give fixity of tenure to those who were excluded from it by the Act of 1881. The main objection, however, was that it proposed to give, to the injury of small towns, perpetuity of tenure to those who might cease to be residents. Take the case of a butcher who might want accommodation for his stock. If they passed the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the butcher would obtain perpetuity of tenure. He might move away, but he would retain the right, and his successor would no longer be able to obtain the same advantages. If perpetuity of tenure were created, and if a landlord wished to resume possession for the sake of building cottages or providing laud for allotments, he would not be able to afford to do it, and therefore he would be precluded from building cottages or giving allotments, not by the terms, but by the effect of the Amendment. That did not exhaust the difficulty. If a tradesman left the town, his successor could not be provided with the accommodation land required, because the landlord could not resume possession. The hon. and learned Member had not met the chief objection to the Amendment which the Government took in the public interest, and 1012 that was that it gave for accommodation lands perpetuity of tenure to the persons who happened now to be tenants of them. But the Amendment differed so little from that on which they had just divided, that, practically, the House might be said to have come to a decision on the matter.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that the Government were being driven from pillar to post. They were abandoning one argument after another, and the last that had been used was the thinnest and weakest of all. The arguments used that night by the Government condemned the Bill they sent to the House of Lords. He sympathized with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary on the subject of the language that ought to be addressed to the Irish Land Court Judges, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would convey the sentiments he had expressed in that House to the Prime Minister. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) was justified in saying that Lord Salisbury appointed a Committee in the House of Lords to attack the Land Court Judges, and that he attacked them himself by name. First of all, the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member got rid of what he might without offence call the hypocritical pretence of promoting the interest of the community, and the saying that land could not be had for cottages or allotments, which was the argument used in the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman said that it involved fixity of tenure. Well, he dared say it did, because there was no use in giving fair rent unless you gave fixity of tenure; because experience showed the animosity felt by the landlords for a fair rent, and that the moment a fair rent was fixed, unless a man had fixity of tenure, he was instantly turned out. What was before the House was the fixing of fair rents for the town parks. [A Ministerial MEMBER: Contract.] But contract was given up even in the case of the leaseholders, so that the hon. Member was behind the age, and behind the Government he supported. It must be clearly understood that the Government were refusing to fix a fair rent for the town parks in Ireland. They had got rid of the community with one exception, which would become known in Ulster, he had. 1013 no doubt, as the celebrated argument about the butcher who was either a millionaire or a bankrupt. When it was known that the great town park question rested upon this hypothetical butcher, the position of the Government would appear as ridiculous as it was unjust. That argument reminded him of a story told by the senior right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John I Bright). A peasant was told that if Free Trade was carried the landlords would leave the country; and he replied, "They bean't going to take the land with thorn, be they? "And so, if the butcher went away, he would leave the land, and it would be let to some resident who would use it. How was the town to lose the benefits of the land? It was quite obvious that the butcher would dispose of it to someone else in the town who would desire to use it, and therefore the community would not suffer. He owed some apology to the House for speaking on this point; but so long as the Government produced such ridiculous arguments it was necessary to show their absurdity. He was not responsible for the waste of time which had occurred in consequence of the arguments which the Chief Secretary for Ireland had produced; but if the Government had nothing better to say for themselves they were in a poor plight. When they had succeeded in rejecting the terms proposed for the holders of town parks, would the matter end there? Not at all. It would occupy i the same position in Ulster and throughout Ireland as the leaseholders' question had occupied for the last five years; and the Government would be obliged to bring in a Bill for the express purpose of undoing all that they had now done. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would get up next Session and say that he held all his former opinions, and was going to support the Town Parks Bill. The Government were only preparing for themselves a new humiliation, and a new exposition of their own inconsistency and want of principle. Would it not be better for them to make a clean sweep of the job while they were about it, abandon their hypothetical butcher, and make a common-sense affair of the Bill? What were they fighting for? For the votes of the landlords in the House of Lords, and nothing else. If the Govern- 1014 ment were fighting for their own principles, why were they abandoning the Bill which they accepted, and sent to the House of Lords? The Chief Secretary for Ireland himself proposed an Amendment accepting the 2,000 limit, and now he had stated that it was contrary to his convictions. The fact was, that the Government had proposed a scheme in the House of Commons with reference to Irish land, and had then used the House of Lords in order to destroy their proposal. That was a situation which would never settle the Irish Land Question. He was very glad that the hon. and learned Member for North Longford had moved his Amendment, because it would make clear to everyone, inside and outside the House, what the ground was upon which the Government rested their case. The whole of the argument with regard to the protection of the community was a sham. [Ministerial cries of "No!"] As long as hon. Members said "No," he should be obliged to repeat his assertion. The whole of that argument as to the interests of the community was a sham. [Cries of "Oh!"] If hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial Benches preferred that method of expressing their opinions he could not help it. He repeated that the argument of the Government as to the interests of the community was all a sham, and that the object of the House of Lords in the action which they had taken on this matter was to maintain the power which they now exercised of charging upon the holders of town parks an unfair rent.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that he wished to say a few words with the object of recalling the attention of the House to the question before them. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) had made a long dissertation upon consistency; but he (Mr. W. H. Smith) did not possess sufficient agility to follow him in his discussion of the point. It was really edifying to hear the right hon. Gentleman discourse upon consistency. The question now before them substantially was nothing more or less than a revival, in a slightly mitigated form, of the discussion which had already gone on since 5 o'clock that evening, and which had just been decided. The hon. and learned Member for North, Longford proposed to the House that towns which were under 2,000 inhabitants should come under the Land Act 1015 of 1881, so far as Clause 8 was concerned. That clause was the operative clause to the whole Act; and, therefore, to all intetests and purposes, the hon. Member proposed, after the House had agreed to the Lords' Amendment, to ask them virtually to disagree, so far as these holdings were concerned. They were hearing over and over again the arguments which had been under discussion for the last five hours. The same clause was substantially being tried over again, and he submitted that they were really wasting the time of the House in discussing once more another phase of the same question. It was on that ground that he claimed that the Question be now put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Question be now put."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
rose to a point of Order, and asked whether it was competent for the right hon. Gentleman, after having made a speech, to move that the Question be now put.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 225; Noes 158: Majority 67.—(Div. List, No. 399.)
That the words 'Provided that section right of the Act shall be held to apply to such holdings as adjoin towns of not exceeding two thousand inhabitants, with this modification, that the landlord may at any time during the continuance of the statutory term resume possession of the holding, or any part thereof, with the consent of the Court, for any of the purposes mentioned in section five, sub-section sis of the said Act,' be there inserted.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 166; Noes 212: Majority 46.—(Div. List, No. 400.)
§ Several Amendments to the Commons Amendments disagreed to.
§ Amendment, in Clause E, line 18, to insert after "respectively," the words "so that the rent fixed under the provisions of this section shall differ by the difference in prices as aforesaid in the respective years," the next Amendment, read a second time.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON) (Liverpool, Walton),
in moving to agree with the Lords in the Amendment which was in-sorted on the Motion of Lord Cadogan, 1016 which provides that "the rent fixed under the provisions of this section shall differ by the difference in prices as aforesaid in the respective years," said, it was an Amendment of a purely explanatory character, placing beyond doubt what the view of the Government was on the point when the Bill was last before the Committee, that view being fully explained by the Chief Secretary. Therefore, he begged to move that the House do agree with the Lords in it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
It must be; obvious to the House that it is quite impossible to proceed with an Amendment of this important character at this I hour of the night (11.45)—an Amendment which was described, and described truly, on the last occasion that this matter was touched upon, as one which deprives the whole Bill of at least one-half of its value to the Irish tenants. I am certainly very much surprised that the Government suppose that the House can for a moment entertain a question of this magnitude at this hour of the night—I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) will see that it is not proper to ask the House to go into a question of this sort now. Sir, I do not wish to touch upon the merits of the Amendment at this time, because I consider that the Government is not entitled to ask us to go into the merits of this question now. The clause, as it stood, was the result of a compromise arrived at in this House after a most exhaustive discussion, and it was a surprise to all of us to find that, at a moments notice, the Amendment which is now under discussion was moved by Lord Cadogan in "another place." The question of judicial rents is one which I would much prefer to see left alone altogether, rather than have it tampered with in this fashion. The Government would do better, in my judgment, to allow the portion of the Bill relating to leaseholders to proceed by itself, and to leave this other question outside, or for future consideration. For, what do you now propose to do? Under the plea of readjusting judicial rents, you condemn the tenants to pay these rents with only a 1017 reduction of one-half the extent they are entitled to. It would be easy to prove, with mathematical accuracy, that, under the words of Lord Cadogan's Amendment, where the tenant is entitled to 20 per cent be will only get 10, and, similarly, where he is entitled to 30 per cent he will only get 15. That is a proceeding which I and my Colleagues can never agree to; and it is absurd of the Government, at this late period of the Session, to introduce, and to persist in introducing, this bone of contention. Rather than accept such an illusory concession to the Irish, tenants who have had their rents fixed, I would see the whole Bill go by the board. I do not think that the Government are justified in flying in the face of their own declarations, and of the Report of the Cowper Commission, by attempting an arrangement of this kind. If you wish to preserve that portion of the Bill which relates to leaseholders, do so by all means—allow the leaseholders to get that reduction which the Bill entitles them to; although, at the same time, I am bound to say that the provisions with regard to leaseholders are maimed and insufficient in their character. Do not offer a concession of this sort to the judicial tenants, which is only half of that to which they are justly and strictly entitled. It cannot have the slightest effect in the settlement of the question which has provided so much disturbance in Ireland of late. A reduction of rents—I will not say based upon prices—but a reduction of rents which, in the words of the Amendment, "shall differ by the difference in prices aforesaid in the respective years," must be illusory and one-sided in many cases, and unfair in the great majority of cases. If you go to a large grazing tenant and tell him that his rent is to differ by the difference in prices as aforesaid in the respective years, you will probably do him justice, and no more; but if you go to the tillage tenant in the North of Ireland who grows flax, and breaks up his land and employs labour, and who is in altogether a different position to the grazing tenant, and tell him that his rent is to differ by the difference in prices as aforesaid in the respective years, you certainly only give him one-half of that he is entitled to. His fixed charges for the cultivation of his holding remains the same, and to tell him that his rent is only to be fixed in 1018 the way appointed by the words of this Amendment, is to say that he is only to get 10 or 15 per cent reduction when he was entitled to 20 or 30 per cent. Now, we have not had the whole of the history of this correspondence between the Government and the Land Commission. We had the other evening a portion of the letter——
§ MR. PARNELL
The right hon. Gentleman did not give us even the date. He gave us a paragraph disconnected from the commencement of the letter.
§ MR. PARNELL
The right hon. Gentleman has not informed us what communication this communication from the Land Commissioners was in reply to; he has not informed us what the communication was which the Government made to the Laud Commission, or whether there has been any; he has not informed us whether this letter was a voluntary communication on the part of the Land Commission, or whether it has been sought for. He has not informed us whether, at the time this letter was written by the Land Commission, the Commission was in possession of the views of the Government with regard to this subsequent Amendment, or whether at any time the Government informed the Land Commission as to the terms of the Amendment before it was proposed by Lord Cadogan and adopted by the other House. In fact, the Government have kept us in the dark as to most important matters, without reference to which it is impossible for us to proceed. I ask the Government whether they intend to lay the full Correspondence before the House—to give us their own letter to the Laud Commission, and the circumstances under which the reply of the Commission was given. Without such full information we are proceeding in the dark. I wish to say, further, that if you think that because the Irish landlords have created an uproar when they have seen the clause as fixed by this House, you are justified in going back 1019 upon the concession you made to the Irish tenants, and that such going back will be satisfactory to the country, you are very much mistaken. The concession which was given to the judicial tenants was one required by the circumstance of the time and the exigencies of the position. It was not an excessive concession; in my judgment it was a smaller alleviation than they were justly entitled to; but the Irish Members accepted it for the sake of peace. We accepted it in good faith, and the last thing that occurred to our minds was that the Government would have adopted such an Amendment as that which they have adopted, one which completely cuts the ground from under the feet of those judicial tenants in their struggle for existence. We have heard a great deal about the Plan of Campaign, and in condemnation of it; but you are supplying fuel for a larger and more extensive and more formidable Plan of Campaign than you have yet encountered. The Irish tenants have been waiting for this concession, more especially in view of the Report of the Cowper Commission, to see what was going to be done for them. The Plan of Campaign was only adopted on 40 estates in Ireland; but if the Government go to the Irish tenants with this illusory concession of 10 or 15 per cent, they will drive them into the Plan of Campaign, and will show them that it is useless to look to this House for redress, that the Government does not know its own mind, that it is driven first to one side and then to the other by every impulse and every breath of wind, and that the result of this Bill is that the Government have been inclined at the last by the strongest impulse they have received. They had made their calculations when they introduced their Bill in "another place," and they thought that they could get through without any concession at all to the judicial tenants. When the Bill reached this House, the Government discovered that they must make some concession, and they made it, not because they thought it was just or right that the judicial tenants should got a concession, not because they deemed that it was inequitable they should continue to pay excessive rents, but for the contemptible reason stated by Lord Salisbury himself in "another place," that it would be impos- 1020 sible for this Government of shifts and expedients to remain in Office if they did not consent to this concession. This is how you propose to reconcile the tenants of Ireland and of Ulster to your Government; this is how you propose to make them believe in the justice and high character of your Government. But after making this concession, for this reason you withdraw it, and for reasons equally contemptible. A good many of the Liberal Unionists who had threatened to vote against you if you refused to reduce or re-adjust the rents of the judicial tenants have left town, and you find, on reckoning up heads, that you can get a majority in support of withdrawing the concession. It is desirable that the Irish tenants should understand this, and that the Ulster tenants should see the motives which sway Her Majesty's Government in this matter. The one great question with the Government is, how best to remain in Office. It is desirable that the English constituencies should understand this also. This is the strong and stable Government which is to wean the Irish people by continual instances of well-doing and good government, and such is the result. You cannot adhere to your own plans for a month together; you change according to the exigencies of the moment. You do an act of justice in order to save your own skin, and then undo it when it appears safe to do so. That is the sum and total of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. It is a most contemptible policy. It is a policy which is condemned not only in Ireland, but in the minds of all right-thinking and just men wherever they are found. The Government might have governed Ireland wisely and well if it only had had sufficient common, sense; but that opportunity is now lost. The concession of the Government is quite illusory, and the reputation of the Irish tenants repudiate it, and call upon the Government to withdraw it. We call upon you to withdraw the whole Bill if you like, and leave the Irish tenants to fight it out unprotected by sham concessions. Leave them with the Coercion Act. They will be none the worse for it. They will get all the better Bill this time twelve months. If this question is left unsettled for a while all the better. You are now going to give the tenants a miserable reduction 1021 of 10 or 15 per cent, when they are justly entitled to 20, 25, or 30 per cent reduction. We warn you that your Bill will break down, especially this part of the Bill; 200,000 tenants have been looking with some hopes to the proceedings in connection with this Bill. They will be bitterly disappointed, and will learn to trust those persons who told them not to look to Parliament for redress, but to look to methods outside the law and outside the Constitution, which, in the long run, have been the only arguments that Parliament have ever listened to. This has been proved over and over again in the history of Ireland, and now you are going to prove it. I hope it will he the last proof you will ever have of making.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. Balfour) (Manchester, K.)
Some of the observations which have fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) appears to me unworthy of anyone holding the position of Leader of any Party, and are not to be justified by any excess of Party zeal or Party bitterness. On the accusations made by the hon. Gentleman I shall dwell for a moment. He has told us that the sole motive which has influenced Her Majesty's Government in proposing in the other House this Amendment which we now desire to advance is that we found that a number of Liberal Unionists have left town, and that we thought we had, therefore, a freer hand in this House; that we took advantage of that circumstance to move an Amendment which, under other circumstances, we should not have had the courage to propose. I leave those accusations to be answered by anyone who has watched the debates in this House. They fall by their own weight, and, as I said before, they appear to me to be utterly unworthy of an hon. Gentleman in the position of the Member for Cork. It would have been well had he restricted his attacks on Her Majesty's Government to the other parts of his speech. The hon. Gentleman has told us that the Bill, in its present state, is not a been which is worth offering to the tenants of Ireland. But I thought that in the earlier part of his speech a suspicion did cross the hon. Member's mind that there were 110,000 leaseholders in Ireland, at all events, who would see the destruction of this Bill 1022 with the greatest regret. The hon. Member actually suggested that the House should retain certain parts of the Bill, and should throw overboard the others, which he declared are of no use to the tenantry of Ireland. The hon. Member is one of the most experienced Members of this House. No one more intimately acquainted with its forms, and the hon. Member must know as well as any hon. Member that it was absolutely out of the power of the Government, and out of the power of the House, having in view the constitution of the House, to drop part of the Bill, as he suggests, and to retain the remainder. The Bill has now got to a point when we must either agree with the Lords' Amendments, or the Bill will be lost in its entirety; and the hon. Gentleman apparently regards that consummation with equanimity. Now, Sir, that attitude of mind of the hon. Gentleman was very remarkable. He has posed always in this House as the chief supporter, defender, guide, and advocate of the Irish tenantry. Well, we are now dealing with a Bill which, beyond controversy, gives a gigantic been to every leaseholder in Ireland. Besides that the Bill gives, under a clause which is very familiar to Gentlemen who have listened to the debates in this House, an equitable relief and stay of eviction under circumstances which it is not necessary now to dwell upon. Besides that, by the admission made by the hon. Gentleman, in the speech just delivered, the clause as amended by the House of Lords will probably have the effect of giving a substantial reduction of rent to every judicial tenant in Ireland whose rent was fixed between 1882 and 1885. It is perfectly true the hon. Gentleman asserts that that reduction is only half what it ought to be. I will deal with that directly, and will show that the statement is entirely inaccurate. The hon. Member admits, at all events, that under this Bill the tenants will get half the reduction which they ought to have, and yet the hon. Gentleman the advocate of the interests of the tenants of Ireland, declares——
§ MR. PARNELL
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; I did not admit that the tenants will get half the reduction they ought to get. What I said was that they will get half the reduc- 1023 tion which they would have got if the Bill had been left as it was when it left this House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think there is much difference between the statement I have made and the explanation of the hon. Gentleman. He never said, so far as I recollect, that under the clause as it originally stood any equitable reduction of rent would be given by the Land Commission; therefore, I am fully justified in my assertion. This is a Bill the loss of which the hon. Gentleman, speaking in the name of the tenantry of Ireland—speaking according to his own pretensions in the interest of the tenantry of Ireland—profosses to see with perfect indifference. Does not the hon. Gentleman see that he, who is so ready to pour accusations on the head of Her Majesty's Government, and who shrinks from no accusation, however dark, when dealing with their motives, lays himself open to the darkest suspicion? Does he not perceive that if there be anybody ready to accuse him, and those with whom he acts, of being anxious for their own purposes to promote disorder in Ireland, he gives them, by the words he has spoken to-night, the strongest justification for that contention? Now, the hon. Gentleman has made some observations with regard to a communication which I read to the House the other day from the Land Commissioners. The hon. Member was not, I think, in the House at Question time; had he been so, he would have been aware that I gave as full an account as I could of all the particulars connected with that letter, that I gave the date, and that I told the House what I think I told them before, that the whole of that letter has already been read to the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) gave Notice at Question time that he would move that that letter be laid upon the Table. I shall not oppose that. But the hon. and learned Gentleman said he should make another Motion. He said he should move for all the correspondence. I will not oppose that Motion either, but I advise the hon. and learned Gentleman not to make it, because there is no 1024 correspondence to be laid on the Table. When the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) suggested in his speech to-night that the action of the Land Commission had been initiated by the Executive of this country, I am sure he would not have made such an assertion had he been present at Question time to-day, when I gave a categorical denial to it. The hon. Member for Cork says that the diminution of judicial rents is not half of what the tenants have a right to, and that that can be explained with mathematical accuracy, and beyond controversy. I can only suppose that when the hon. Gentleman made the astonishing assertion, he had in his mind the argument which was replied to the other day with great ability by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), and which has been presented to the House more than once by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). That argument may be put very simply thus — Suppose the total value in money of the produce of a holding to be £99—I take that sum because it is easily divisible by three—and suppose, for the sake of argument, that one-third goes in working the farm, one-third goes to the tenant, and one-third goes to the landlord, a fall in prices occurs, equal to about 18 per cent, which would reduce the gross value of the produce to £81. Well, if that £81 is divided again into three in the same manner, that will give £27. [An hon. MEMBER: That will not do.] I hope hon. Gentlemen will allow me to finish my argument. I repeat that will give £27 for working the farm, £27 to the tenant, and £27 to the landlord. But the hon. Gentleman says the objection to that is that the working of the farm will not fall 18 per cent, but will remain at £33; and that assertion is supplemented by the statement that the profit of the tenant ought not to fall either. On that theory, of course, the £81 must be divided in this way—£33 for the working of the farm; £33 for the profit of the tenant, and the remainder, £15, for the landlord. That, I understand, is actually put before the House as a fair account of what ought to be done. Some hon. Gentlemen appear to think that the tenant ought to share the loss. On that principle, leaving the working expenses at £33, there would remain £48 to be divided, which 1025 would give £24 to the one, and £24 to the other, being, no doubt, greater than the actual fall in prices. I shall not be contradicted when I say in England or Ireland there is no farm of a kind to which an argument of that description would be without a parallel. In America there are owners of farms who live in towns. They send out labourers to sow and reap, and then they sell the crops, and bring all the labourers back. The farmers do not live on the farms, but simply mate their profits out of the difference between the working expenses and the total sum obtained upon the sale of the produce. There is no farm of that description in England, Scotland, or Ireland. The nearest approach to that condition of things are the large farms of this country; but even when used with reference to those large farms the argument is extremely erroneous. To begin with the cost of cultivation does not remain the same. I admit that the cost of labour has not fallen much. It has fallen somewhat in Ireland, and that is the first item of diminution. Besides that, all machinery—all that you have to buy to work a farm—has also fallen in value. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) brought forward the other day with great force the particular case of a farmer who bought a great deal of stock for the purpose of fattening. That is exactly the point. That man does not suffer in the least by the general fall of prices, because the fall of price of the stock he buys is equivalent to the diminution in the price of the stock which he sells. But that is not all. No man, not even the largest farmer in England or Scotland, sells everything he has on his farm. Every farmer largely uses the produce—even the best farmer. He uses oats for his horses; he uses a large amount of produce on his own table. Then, it must be recollected that even the largest farmers—even they as much as any— have obtained with their farms as one privilege, the privilege of residence—I mean they have houses rent free. [An hon. MEMBER: In Ireland they have built the houses.] That does not touch the question; it alters some questions, but not this one. The question we are considering is how far the fall in prices should affect the rent. It does not matter who built the house so long as a man continues to live in it. Well, that is the case with the big farmer; 1026 therefore, in the ease of the big farmer the House will perceive how inaccurate—how misleading—was the argument advanced a short time ago. Now, take the case of the man who is most to be pitied in Ireland, and whom this House desires particularly to relieve—the case of the small tenant. He works his farm himself; it therefore matters nothing to him whether the price of labour rises or falls. The cost of cultivation is of little importance to him, because he buys comparatively little for the farm, and hires little labour. That is the first item. The second item is that of lodging or house room. How many tenants in Ireland are there paying under £4 a-year? I have not got the figures before me, but I know there is an enormous number of tenants under £4. What does £4 yearly rent mean? The common house rent in England is 2s. 6d. a week; that is what the ordinary English agricultural labourer is in the habit of paying for his house. [Cries of"No, no!"] As far as I know, the average rent paid by the English labourer for his house is 2s. 6d. a-week; 2s. 6d. a-week is £6 10s. a-year, so that the English labourer pays for his cottage 50 per cent more than the small Irish tenants of whom I am speaking pay for their holdings. I do not say that the Irish houses are good; but that is not the point. The point is that the people are living where they wish; they do not desire to live anywhere else; but if they did they would have to pay £6 10s. for their houses instead of £4, which they now pay for their holdings. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] That is so. If they leave their tenancies in Ireland, and emigrate to England, to Scotland, or to America, they would undoubtedly pay, merely for a roof over them, more than they actually pay now for their holdings. I quite admit that does not show they have got their holdings at a fair price; but it shows that one of the great advantages they get in their holdings is not altered one way or another by the diminution in prices. That, I imagine, is absolutely corrrect. There remains the element of the sustentation food of the tenants. The small Irish tenants live almost entirely on the produce of their holdings. Again, therefore, it matters not to them in the slightest degree, so far as food is concerned, whether prices rise or fall. But they 1027 have to clothe themselves, and, so far as clothing is concerned, the fall in prices is entirely in their favour. They gain instead of Jose by that fall in price. There, therefore, remains only that part of their produce which they are obliged; to sell in order to pay the rents to their; landlords. If in 1882 they had to sell 60 many quartets of oats to pay rent, under the provisions of our Bill they will have to sell precisely the same number of quarters of oats, though the quarters of oats in 1887 fetch very much smaller prices than they may have done in 1882 and 1883. Therefore, so far as rent is concerned, the small Irish tenant can in no way suffer if our clause be passed, and in every other respect he gains by the fall of prices. I am afraid I have detained the House at too great length; but I thought this question ought to be cleared up as far as I am capable of clearing it up. I think I have clearly laid before the House the grounds upon which I distinctly hold that, while this arrangement is not unfair to the larger tenants, it is more than fair, it is generous, to the smaller tenants, who live chiefly on the produce of their holdings. There was another proposal—and this is the last word I shall say on the subject—there was another proposal in the very able speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). I confess that the suggestion made was one of an extremely attractive character, and my objection to it is not so much as to the object which it was intended to obtain by that Amendment as to the impossibility of acting on it. There is one particular objection I may mention, which is that if the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham were carried out, rents for one year would be fixed on the principle of rents fixed for 15 years. That is an essential element of his proposition, and that would, though I do not think the criticism of very great importance, so far as it goes, tell against the tenant, and not in favour of him. The reduction in other years that would be got by the Court fixing the rent for 15 years would probably be smaller than the rent fixed for one year. That is only a theoretical objection; but I think there are objections of a practical character against the proposal he made to us. His suggestion amounted to this 1028 —that the head Land Commission should be directed to fix such rents for holdings the rent of which had been previously fixed between 1882 and 1885 as would be fixed if the holdings were coming for the first time before the Court. That was substantially the proposal. But how is the Land Commission to proceed to carry out the directions which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to give it? The first method they would naturally pursue or think of pursuing would be to examine each holding on its merits. But that is clearly out of the question. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not himself wish to press any suggestion on the House which would have that result. The right hon. Gentleman knows that what we desire to obtain is a rough-and-ready plan which can be instantly set in motion, and which will deal with the rents falling due in September and November next. That is what we want, and that is inconsistent with the plan which would require the Land Commission to make a separate examination of each holding. Then, if the Commission is not to examine each holding, how is it to proceed? There are, so far as I know, two possible, and only two possible, methods of proceeding. The first is for the Commission to take as its guide the decision arrived at by the Sub-Commission in the years 1886–7, subsequent to the fall in prices. But, Sir, the decisions of the Sub-Commission, however excellent the Sub-Commission may be as a Court of First Instance, are, in many respects, judging by the alterations that have been made in those decisions, occasionally extremely eccentric, and in no sense to be trusted. Then, if you object to this method—if you refuse to take this course on the ground that I have suggested—you are drawn back to the decision of the head Commission. But the decisions of the head Commission in 1886 and 1887 are so few and are so scattered, and scattered so unequally and so arbitrarily over the country—if I may use the expression— that you might have a large area in which there is no indication, or only a very faint indication, of the kind of reduction that ought to be made; and you may have other areas in which there is no indication as to a reduction at all. Therefore, I do not see how the Land Commission, dealing with this matter on the principle suggested by the right 1029 hon. Gentleman, would have before them adequate data on which to proceed in determining the question. I would point out to the House that, even if there were more decisions than there are, there must be great inequality and injustice in such a proposal, because it is a mistake to suppose that every estate in a given area—in, say, a Poor Law Union — is over-rented in the same degree. The rents are fixed on an entirely different scale. If, therefore, a landlord happens to have property in the neighbourhood of the estate as to which there has been a recent decision giving a very large reduction — a reduction, perhaps, of an excessive rent—however moderate his rent maybe, however good the terms may be on which he lives with his tenants, or however thoughtful he may be of their interests in fixing the rents, the owner of that estate would find himself cut down beyond his deserts for no greater crime than that of having a neighbour who was a bad landlord. And precisely the same thing might happen through living in the neighbourhood of a good landlord. Suppose the case of a good landlord whose tenants went into the Court in 1886, and whose rents had been cut down, say, 15 percent. In his neighbourhood there is a certain harsh landlord whose tenants have not been able to go into Court because of arrears. The rents of this harsh landlord ought, perhaps, to be cut down; but that would not be simply because he happened to live in the neighbourhood of a good landlord. Therefore, if the House proceeds on the attractive principle suggested by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, of trying to put every tenant in the same position under the clause as if he were going for the first time before the Land Commission—you will be putting the Land Commission in the great difficulty of deciding in some cases without adequate data at all, and in other cases of being compelled to choose as their data, data which is misleading and inequitable. Well, Sir, I have pressed what I had to say within the very smallest compass. I have given, I hope, reasons why the Government must adhere to the Amendment they moved in the House of Lords, and I hope the House will not withdraw the support which it has already give to the Bill.
§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will possibly remember that when this clause was before the House in Committee, I moved an Amendment with the object of endeavouring to prevent an injustice which would certainly have taken place under the clause as it originally stood. The Amendment I moved was framed to prevent the Land Commission from being tied down to fix rents according to the difference in prices of two particular years. I pointed out that that would be a great injustice to the tenants who had their rents fixed in the year 1885. The answer I received from the right hon. Gentleman was that under this clause the Land Commissioners had a very fair, equitable jurisdiction; that they were not tied down; and that their discretion was so large that I need not fear any of the dangers which I asserted I foresaw. What has become of this equitable jurisdiction now? The right hon. Gentleman, by the Amendment which he supports to-night, proposes absolutely to take away from the Land Commission; all discretion whatever. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that? Where is his desire now to deny what I saw would certainly come to the tenants who had their rents fixed in 1885? The only answer he had when I pointed that out was that the Land Commission had large powers, and could exercise a large discretion, and that they were not tied down in any way; and now he proposes to bind them hand and foot. He gives us an example of a farm where the produce amounts to the value of £99, and he proceeds to split that amount up into three equal portions. Does he suppose that there is a single farm from the extreme North of Ireland to the extreme South where the working expenses do not exceed more than one-third of the value of the produce? Instead of taking the example given by the right hon. Gentleman, I would take one that was very fairly put by Lord Spencer a short time ago. Lord Spencer said—Let us suppose that the gross produce of a farm valued at £500, and that it costs £300 to produce that—that leaves £200.[Laughter.] An hon. Member opposite laughs. I say it may cost him £300 to produce his £500. If the hon. Member who laughs knows anything about 1031 farming—I do not know what county or borough he represents—but if he knows anything about farming, I ask him to go into any tillage county and point out to me a single farm on which the produce does not cost two-thirds of the receipts to grow.
§ MR. MAHONY
Why, it is notorious in this country—and anyone who knows anything at all about tillage is acquainted with the fact—that the cost of production swallows up all the profit. There are districts where the landlords cannot get tenants for their farms for the very reason that the cost of production reaches such a pitch that there is no margin of profit for the farmers. The hon. Member laughs when I say that a farmer whose produce is worth £500 often has to spend £300 in producing his crops; but that simply shows the hon. Member's utter ignorance of the whole subject. I return to my example—namely, where produce worth £500 costs £300 in production. That leaves £200 to be divided between the landlord and the tenant. I will divide that amount equally for the sake of argument. We will suppose that the rent is £100. If prices fall 20 per cent the gross produce of the farm is only worth £400 instead of £500, and that leaves only £100 instead of £200 to be divided between the landlord and tenant. Now, according to the right hon. Gentleman's arrangement, £80 of that is to go to the landlord, and the tenant is only to get £20. Is that a fair division, and yet it is absolutely what will take place under the right hon. Gentleman's clause? The right hon. Gentleman says the cost of cultivation has fallen and the cost of machinery has fallen. Well, I admit that the cost of production has fallen slightly during the past few years—it increased very slightly before that; but it has again fallen slightly, very slightly, and if it wore not for the fact that the cost of production has fallen slightly, you could not make any reduction without doing away with the rent altogether; and even if you abolished rents the majority of farms in Ireland would be unworkable. You could not work them at a profit. The mere fact that the tenants are able to live on some of these farms at all is absolutely due to the cost of production 1032 being somewhat less than it was. The right hon. Gentleman says that a great many farmers in Ireland are merely labourers, and he compares them to English agricultural labourers, who pay 2s. 6d. a-week for their cottages. But what is the condition of the English agricultural labourer? Where does he live? Why, in a district where he can get work. But in Ireland the state of things is entirely different. There the poor man cannot work; he cannot earn wages; he cannot make a living, except on his own holding; and if it were not that he has the advantage of being able to consume a certain amount of the produce of his own farm, and therefore, to that extent, is not affected by the fall in prices, he would not be able to exist at all. Now let us go from the particular cases which come under this clause to some others. The right hon. Gentleman himself alluded to the case of the large grazier who buys his stock at a lower price than formerly. Although the large grazier buys his stock at a smaller price, the right hon. Gentleman proposes to give him exactly the same reduction—exactly and identically the same reduction—which he proposes to give to the tillage farmer. Whether the cost of production is lessened or not, does he contend that that cost of production on tillage farms in Ireland is not greater than the cost of production on the grazing farms? I defy any hon. Gentleman opposite to get up and contend that. Very well; the right hon. Gentleman proposes to give this class of farmer exactly the same reduction as the other. The tillage farmer, with his large cost of production and his small margin of the profit, is to get exactly the same reduction as the grazier with his comparatively small cost of production and his comparatively large margin of profit. The two are to be treated in identically the same way. Sir, the idea is absurd. I commend to the notice of hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite who represent Northern constituencies the fact that the cost of the production of an acre of flax is very nearly two-thirds of the value of the product, and yet the man who grows flax is to get precisely the same protection as, and no more than, the grazier who is producing beef. Take the case of two different classes of dairy farms. You have in one district all the dairy farms producing three 1033 firkins of butter to the cow. In another district you have them producing one and a-half firkins of butter to the cow. Well, it must be clear to everybody who considers the matter for a second that it must cost more to produce the butter where one cow only yields one and a-half firkins than where three firkins to the cow is the rule. There is infinitely more labour in the one case than in the other. One dairymaid can only attend to about 10 cows, and in the one case 10 cows will only produce 15 firkins of butter, whilst in the other case they will yield 30 firkins. The cost of production, therefore, is nearly double. The margin of profit will be very much less on the poor land, where only one and a-half firkins per cow are produced, yet the right hon. Gentleman applies exactly the same scale of reduction to both cases; and then he tells us that he has particularly at heart the interests of the smaller farmers of Ireland. The fact of the matter is that this Amendment takes away any value there was in the clause. The clause was always unjust; it was always absurd; it was always ludicrous, it always had the mark on the face of it that it was drawn by men who knew nothing about what they were at. But now it is proposed to increase that injustice; it is proposed to make it a more monstrous injustice. The Government propose by this clause to give to the tenants a reduction that will be utterly inadequate; and I have no hesitation in saying that the tenants would be much better off without this clause at all. Why, I do not believe there are 10 landlords in the whole of Ireland who would dare to refuse to give their tenants the reduction—the miserable reduction—that this clause will give them as it is now proposed to amend it. Almost every landlord would offer his tenants 10 per cent reduction in these times, or even 15 per cent. Why, Colonel O'Callaghan did that—even Colonel O'Callaghan. If such a man could give his tenants a reduction like that, I think we may reasonably suppose that the majority of Irish landlords would do it. You will say that you have given some reduction; that you have done something for the tenants; but, as a matter of fact, you will have made the rents far worse —you will have taken away with one hand what you gave with the other. I hate shams. [Cheers.] Yes; I hate 1034 sham concessions; and I will vote against this Amendment because it is an utter and ludicrous sham. Not only that; but I am thankful to be able to believe that the tenant farmers of England in the county constituencies will be able to see through this sham as well as the Irish tenants. I shall devote, I hope, a good part of next week in trying to enable the tenant farmers in a certain county division of this country to see through this sham concession which a Tory Government offers us. It is exactly the sort of concession I should have expected from a Tory Government. I am not in the least disappointed this evening; and if the Government imagine that the tenant farmers of Ireland are in the least likely to be satisfied with such a concession, either in the North of Ireland or in the South, they are very much mistaken. If this is all the Government intend to do for the Irish tenant farmers, it will be the old story over again, and the Irish tenant farmer must take the best means he can to protect himself.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I cannot help saying that I think the House of Commons is doing the deadliest night's work, so far as Ireland is concerned, of the whole Session. They have done work to-night which will bear the most lamentable fruit throughout Ireland before this House meets for another Session. I particularly lament and regret this night's work, and I particularly lament and regret that many of those with whom I usually act in this House have been parties to this work. What, Sir, is the use in connection with a country like Ireland talking about hundreds of pounds expenditure on the working of a farm? Will this House please to recognize the kind of people they are dealing with? Will they look at the fact that they are dealing with a mass of small farmers? Will they take one example showing how this House of Lords' Amendment will work out? Take the case of a man paying a rent of £10 a-year, the saleable produce of whose farm amounts to £40. Now, suppose the Land Commission comes to the conclusion that there has been a fall of 20 per cent in the price of agricultural produce, what does that mean? It means that he is to get an abatement of £2 a-year on his rent, whilst he has lost £8 through the 1035 fall in prices. Bind the Land Commissioners to a proposition like that, and you take away from them at the bidding of the House of Lords the equitable jurisdiction which you yourselves placed in their hands. What else do you do? You do not take into account at all the question of yield or produce. You are going to tie the hands of the Land Commissioners to consider simply the question of prices. Well, in a single part of my own constituency last year some of the farmers were absolutely ruined at the close of the harvest by floods. You do not allow the Land Commissioners to take the slightest account of yield or produce, and you fix them to a hard-and-fast line regarding prices. I say this proposal will break in your hands. It cannot possibly do justice. Now, what is the excuse for altering this clause? We are told of some letter that has come from the Land Commission—we are told that three gentlemen — three highly paid officers of the State—object to have this discretion thrust upon them. I heard nothing of this objection in 1881, when the Commissioners were let loose upon every farm in Ireland. The Commissioners were willing enough to take the responsibility then. What has come over them since? Has the presence of Mr. Frederick Wrench had any effect in making them cautious as to what powers they should have? I say that the Commissioners, who were able in 1881 to decree what was a fair rent, ought to be able in 1887 to decree what is a fair rent under the circumstances of the economic revolution that has overtaken landlord and tenant alike in Ireland. Now, there is another thing I should like to point out. The landlords in Ireland are screaming that they are going to be absolutely ruined by this discretion which is to be vested in the Land Commission. Why, there has not been a single sale under Lord Ashbourne's Purchase Act where the tenant has not got an abatement of 20 per cent on his judicial rent. Both the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland have given their opinion as to the value of this Bill which we are now discussing in its final stage. I do not now wish to detain the House more than a few minutes, but I intend to give my opinion. I say that when it came down to this House it was a Bill that 1036 would have been practically useless. In this House it was made into a most valuable Bill—a Bill that would have been a great been to the tenant farmers of Ireland. What you have done is that you first of all allowed the hon. and learned Gentleman who represents Trinity College (Mr. Serjeant Madden) to strike a deadly blow at the Leasehold Clause; then you sent up the Bill to the House of Lords, and you have allowed the House of Lords to strike a still more deadly blow at the Revision of Rent Clause. You have allowed a most valuable Bill in the closing days of the Session to be whittled down. I do not say that it will not be useful; I do not say that it will not be a been to the farmers of Ireland; but I say you have raised hopes in the breasts of the tenant farmers of Ireland that you have quenched by your action to night, or rather that you have allowed the House of Lords to quench. I deny the right of the House of Lords, composed exclusively of landlords, to make ducks and drakes of a Bill like this passed by the Representatives of the people.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I will not detain the House more than a moment or two; but as I belong to the unhappy class which has come under the reprobation of the hon. Gentleman opposite perhaps I may be allowed to say a word about the position I occupy now, which presumably many hon. Members in this House desire to occupy in the future. As a landlord I have listened all through these debates with anxious expectation to hear some definite statement on the part of hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway opposite, as to what the landlord ought to receive. As far as I can make out from the expressions of opinion which have come from hon. Gentlemen below, and some times from hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, the landlord ought to be kept in Ireland as a sort of ornamental individual, receiving no rent, and perhaps paying the poor rate and county cess. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) and the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) pretty well agree that this Bill will be almost useless——
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Well, the hon. Member believes it will be almost 1037 useless, and the hon. Member for Cork believes it will be altogether useless, The hon. Member for South Tyrone thinks it will be of some use.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me to explain? I said the Bill was a most valuable Bill when it left this House, but that it had been whittled down since. I did not say that it will not be of use, but I maintained that it has been deprived of a great deal of its value.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I am glad to hear the hon. Member say that; but the hon. Member for Cork, whose speech I should like to make a few remarks upon, stated that, so far as he was concerned—I think it was he who said it—he would just as soon not have the Bill at all as have it in its present form. He said that the principle of regulating rent on the scale of prices to accommodate the amount of the fall which has taken place is an absolutely illusory method. He says that it is a method which will not give any satisfaction to the Irish tenants.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I think it will be in the recollection of the House—it certainly is within my recollection—that, time after time, day after day, we heard from the hon. Gentleman opposite the fact stated, that it was the fall in prices that necessitated the revision of rents. Well, I admitted the fall in prices then, and I admit it now—I admit that there is a great deal to be said in favour of making the landlord suffer when a fall in prices takes place. Now, when the Government propose to take the fall of prices as the basis of reduction, and to accede to the aguments used so repeatedly this Session and last Session by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, they scout the proposal with derision, and they say such a Bill as this never could satisfy the Irish tenants. The fact is that no Bill brought in by any responsible Government, unless it is brought in by a Government composed of Gentlemen like the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), who would do anything to destroy the class to which I belong, would ever satisfy hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. Those hon. Gentlemen do not mean the Irish tenants to be satisfied. Even before this Bill was altered in "another place," the hon. 1038 Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) very distinctly stated that he intended to go over to Ireland to show the Irish tenants what a delusion and a snare the Bill was for them. Now, the fall in prices is to be the basis of the reduction. What has the fall in prices been? As far as I have been able to ascertain, it has been roughly from 15 to 20 per cent. If the rents are reduced 15 or 20 per cent, or whatever the fall may have been, I cannot see that the tenants who enjoy the reduction could look upon is as anything else but a great and satisfactory concession to them. What will the effect be of the fall in prices? Now, 170,800 tenants have come into Court, and had a judicial rent fixed. The former rent of these tenants amounted to £3,227,000, and the judicial rent amounted, in the yearl886,to £2,638,000. If the whole of the tenants of Ireland, numbering 564,235, came into Court, and if their rents were fixed, as they probably would be fixed, en the same principle as those of other tenants who came into Court, the result would be that the judicial rent in Ireland would come up to £9,312,000. The valuation of live stock and produce in Ireland in the year 1886 was £77,468,000, and the valuation of the crops was £28,986,000—that is to say, a sum of over £106,000,000. Out of that the landlords would receive £9,312,000 in judicial rent. That does not appear to me to be an exceedingly great amount to give to the landlords out of the value of the stock and crops of Ireland. [Ironical cheers.] I am perfectly well aware that would never satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite; it would never satisfy the tenants who joined the Plan of Campaign. Let me give an instance. The House will remember the long debates which took place in respect to the Woodford evictions, with which the name of Father Fahy was associated. On the Woodford estate there was a tenant named Egan, who held a farm of 16 acres, whose rent was £8 15s. This unfortunate man could not pay, and he was turned out. Alter be was turned out, he prosecuted the landlord for the value of the crops he had left behind, the value of which was £60. Besides this, he had six head of cattle, which, probably, were worth £20 or £30 more. When the Judge asked him why, in these circumstances, he could not pay £8 15s. rent, he was 1039 not able to give a satisfactory answer. I should like some hon. Gentleman opposite to say what he thinks a tenant like this man Egan ought to have paid his landlord. I cannot think that £8 15s. was an outrageous amount for a landlord to ask from a tenant who had property to the value of nearly £100. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) in his speech to-night—the most valuable speech the hon. Member has made in this or last Session—has more than amply justified what we have said over and over again—namely, that the hon. Member and his Friends do not mean the tenants of Ireland to be satisfied with any arrangement that this House was likely to make. It is not a reduction of rent they seek, but it is the annihilation of a class. I have already made quotations from a speech made by an hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Cork, in which he said he would go on until the landlords were in the last ditch. I suppose that meant until the landlord had no more rent paid to him. That is what hon. Members aim at. They know perfectly well that this House will never give them what they want, and therefore they go on keeping the pot of Irish agitation seething and frothing, because they float on the froth. The hon. Member for Cork said he would rather not have this Bill, because then the Irish tenants would resort, as they have resorted in former times, to a desperate agitation—to another Plan of Campaign more formidable than the last. Yes; the Plan of Campaign was formidable last year; but if another desperate Plan of Campaign is commenced this year, it must be remembered that the Criminal Law Amendment Bill has been passed. Well, I have myself some experience of Irish tenants. In the Division I have the honour to represent, the tenants have told me over and over again that what they want is a reduction of rent in conformity with the reduction of prices; and I feel perfectly certain that the tenants in the Division I represent, and the tenants all over Ireland, where they dare to be satisfied, will say that a Bill which proposes to reduce rents in conformity with the fall in prices is a Bill which confers an immeasurable been upon the tenants of Ireland.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I think it is greatly to be regretted that 1040 we should have to deal with this important question at this hour of the morning (1.10). Nobody will say for a moment that the case of the Irish tenant should be allowed to expire practically in a padded Chamber like this, at 1 o'clock in the morning, or like a frog under an exhaust air-pump. We cannot agree to allow the case of the Irish tenant to be done to death in the dark; and, Sir, I was never more astonished in my life than when the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) got up, and in the most perfunctory way, as if he was moving one of the motions in the Law Court paid for at the rate of a guinea a-piece, moved that the House do agree with the Lords' Amendments; no one would imagine that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was thereby giving the death-blow to the hopes of nearly 250,000 tenants in Ireland. What did we expect? We expected that inasmuch as the Government refused to make us any concession as regards the Town Park Clauses, they would never move to agree with the Lords' Amendments in this matter. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) tells us we never shall be satisfied. Why do you not leave the Bill as it was? If you had left the Bill as it was sent by this House to the House of Lords, you would never have had a bit of this debate. And as to our never being satisfied, what do you think we move Amendments for? Is it for the purpose of getting them rejected? You tell us it is impossible to satisfy us; but you reject every reasonable Amendment that we devise in this House. One great misfortune of the present position is that, thinking as we did that the second Amendment of the Lords was about to be rejected, we abstained advisably from putting Amendments on the Paper. See to what that tends. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) in his bland manner, and without a dream of the importance of the discussion or the effects of his action, moves that the Question be now put. Now, I must say that the Irish Representatives will be placed in a most unfortunate position if, when the Government have misled them as we suppose by inference, the Rules of 1041 this House are going to be availed of to quash and crush adequate debate in this House. I think we are entitled to proper discussion, representing, as we do, the Irish people. Nobody will deny that when my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) speaks in this House, and he is supported by such hon. Gentlemen as the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), the voice of the tenants of Ireland has not been heard. We have now come to a most serious position of affairs, a position in which, at least, I say, we are entitled for time in which to think. We claim this time. We claim time to enable us to put down Amendments to this clause. We had supposed you were going to disagree with the Lords, and, having so supposed, it would have been bad tactics on our part to put down Amendments, as if our Amendments were all that we needed to make to the clause. Amendments would only be put down to mitigate the effects of the clause, and therefore we would have deluded the House had we placed Amendments on the Paper. We claim that, in the first instance, this important question shall be relegated to another Sitting; that the people of England, as well as the people of Ireland, shall have an opportunity of judging of the importance of the matter; and that our Amendments shall have some chance of a reception by a House other than a jaded and weary House such as is now listening to us. Now, Sir, allow me to toll the House—and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) will do me the favour of believing that I speak with sincerity—that in my judgment this present year in Ireland will be the worst year for farmers since the time of the famine. That may seem an extreme statement; but I state without fear of contradiction that, bad as the year of 1879 was for the Irish farmers the year 1887 will be twice as bad, three times as bad, although, happily, you will not have the starvation you had at the time of the famine, because the mercy of Providence has been such that, whereas in the famine time, owing to the fact that the potato crop failed, it failed in congested districts, in poor districts in the West of Ireland, and upon the bad land, this time—and it is a curious thing to say—it is upon some of the most boggy 1042 and miserable farms that the crops have been good. Therefore, I do not think even in the West of Ireland you will have absolute starvation; but, as far as dearth goes, this year will be the worst year which has elapsed since 1847. Only last Saturday I was in the market in the City of Waterford, and I saw a man bring oats to the market unthrashed. It would not pay to thrash them, and he sold the produce of some acres for 5s. or 10s. You have fields of potatoes in splendid bloom—champion potatoes on which the country of late years has so much relied—but yielding scarcely anything at all. The manure never rotted, and potatoes no bigger than marbles have been produced. The turnip crop has failed. The crop of mangel-wurzels has been good, but oats in many places will not pay for the growing. You may ask how is this relevant to the Amendment. You must have, while you have dearth, a rise in price. What has happened? In the City of Cork market you have 40,000 fewer firkins of butter than you had this time last year. Butter was selling last year at 5d. and 6d. per 1b. Similar butter is now fetching 1s. per 1b. What good is that, however, to the man who has not got it, and yet the Land Commission is to have regard to the present price of butter, and is to have no regard to the yield? The Midland Railway Company in Ireland have carried 2,000 tons of butter less this year than last. What does this mean to the poor devils in the South of Ireland? It means wretchedness and starvation and eviction. The price of the article of butter alone has doubled, and the Land Commission is to have regard to the price. What about the yield? Is no account to be taken of that? Am I to be told that if a man has no potatoes he is to get no redress—his rent is not to be reduced? If you read this clause you' will find it is one which enables rents to be raised. There is not a single word in the clause about the reduction of rent. The word used is "vary" or adjust the rent. There is nothing about reduction. So that a poor man whose butter has gone up 2d. or 3d. or 4d. a 1b. is to have his rent raised accordingly, though he has not got the butter at all. [Laughter.] I can tell hon. Gentlemen opposite who laugh that they would not laugh if they saw the only two or three acres of 1043 ground on which their cow was dependent turned into a gravelled walk through the absence of rain. In some districts of Ireland there is not now even water enough for a man to wash his face with. I maintain that for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland to treat this matter in a Nisi Prius sort of way is a degradation of Parliamentary procedure. I claim for the tenants of Ireland some consideration in their present position. For my part, I have never varied. I have taken a much stronger view than some of my Colleagues with regard to this Bill. From the very moment the Government made their intention clear I have been in favour of the rejection of the Bill. My opposition to the Bill has been intensified by the way in which the Government have dealt with the leaseholders, for they have refused to include any leaseholders of over 99 years. It is absurd for the Government to use the arguments they have used, and then to accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Serjeant Madden) robbing the tenant of his improvements. You have gone from bad to worse, and now you have come to the last straw which breaks the camel's back. There are some 500,000 tenants in Ireland, and I think that some 30,000 of them will receive benefit under this Bill. If I were asked my candid opinion, I would say I am not prepared to sacrifice the rights of 500,000 for the sake of 30,000 tenants, and for why? Because, as my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) has said, if the tenants only wait they will get another and a better Bill. There were no truer words, and they are words which will be always remembered by the Irish people, than those spoken by my hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) at Ennis in 1880. My hon. Friend said to the Irish people at that time—Remember that the measure of the Land Bill that you will get next year will be measured by your exertions in the present year;and I say to the Irish people that it will be better for them to put up with the severe suffering they may have to endure from the fact that this Bill will not pass or may not pass if this Amendment is insisted upon, knowing very well that with the flood tide which is coming in 1044 they must get a better Bill next year. We are not in a position now to consider the present state of Ireland. We are in the month of August, and the people are hand feeding their cattle. [Cries of"No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen do not understand the matter. But it is nevertheless a fact that in the best month of summer, when everything should be green, the cattle have nothing to eat and are gasping for water. What will it be next winter when they have no food, or when food has doubled or trebled in price? The Commissioners have only to have regard to the price. I say that a solemn moment is coming to the Irish people in consequence of the brutal manner in which this Amendment has been dealt with on the Treasury Bench, and I am surprised at the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland—a gentleman who, I suppose, we shall soon see administering equity to the Irish people, and before whom tenants may have to go under this Bill—I am sorry he should have attempted, I will not say to hoodwink, but to delude the House by treating this question as if it is of no importance. It is nothing of the sort, and, under these circumstances, my vote would be given for the rejection of the Bill if the question were directly before the House. I would prefer that the Irish tenants should wait, say, until next February or March, to see what their organization will do in the meantime. I am not a bit afraid of the Coercion Bill to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh has referred. All you can do is to put us into gaol, and we will come out, again at the end of six months, and whoa we come out we shall know what it is all about, for we shall have seen the whole show. And let me tell you that the temper of the Irish tenants when we do come out will not be a bit improved, and the landlords will not get very much rent. How much rent have you got out of the tenants since a tenant was asked in the Bankruptcy Court if he had given any money to a certain priest? The man said, "I refuse to answer." Indeed, he preferred to take his imprisonment rather than be supposed to be a spy or an informer. That is the spirit you have to deal with those people in, and, what is more, that is the spirit in which you have to deal with their Leaders in. It 1045 is absurd to tell the House, because the House has heard it before, that the Bill on which you place so much reliance will subdue the feelings of the Irish people. I claim that further time be given to the consideration of this Amendment. We have arrived at a moment of supreme gravity. The crisis is not to be met by the Motion that the Question be now put. That will settle nothing. I maintain that the Government are bound to listen to the demands we make upon them. They agreed apparently with the Liberal Unionists some weeks ago for a certain thing, and they now propose to go back upon it. Most of the Liberal Unionists are out of town, and the Government declare that they yielded not because it was just, but as the son of the Prime Minister informed us, improving upon his respected parent's words, because they could not help it. He condemned it, but he would not vote against it. Such is the consistency of the noble family of Cecil. Such being the facts, the Liberal Unionist Party are bound to have, as well as we are, further time to see whether some compromise cannot be made. I am willing to defer the strong opinion I have in favour of dropping this Bill in deference to the strong opinion that some other people may have. I know the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone has a strong opinion of the great value of this Bill, and I would be to some extent willing to see whether some agreement could not be patched up between the Liberal Unionist Party and the Government which may be satisfactory to us. I admit that the proper time for moving the rejection of the Bill is the third reading stage. We cannot make that Motion now. We have passed that stage, yet by the Forms of this House Amendments can be introduced after the third reading in "another place" practically embodying perfectly new propositions, and they can be dealt with by simply putting a single Question from the Chair, and without them undergoing a first, second, or third reading, or the Committee stage. Such are the Forms of this noble Assembly. Under these circumstances, we claim time for consideration. We claim time to enable our Amendments to be placed on the Paper, so that they may be read and understood by Members of the House. I will not make any Motion, but I rely 1046 upon the fact that the Government must see that a crisis of enormous gravity is at hand. This is not merely a question for the present. We may get through the winter. Under these circumstances, I think the case is one for the Government to allow further time for consideration. I trust the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will not make up his mind, or that it will not be so impervious to argument that it will not be possible for an additional day's argument to move it. I believe it would be possible for another day's argument to move it. At any rate, I think the time has arrived for us to adjourn this discussion. It would be very desirable for the Government at once, without further demur, to agree to a Motion to that effect. I will not move it myself, because I think it would be better that it should come from the Government—I believe it would be better for them to consent to an adjournment without demur in view of the extraordinary importance of the question before the House.
THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
The hon. and learned Member probably is not aware of the fact that an arrangement was come to to the effect that the Lords' Amendments should be taken on Friday, and concluded in the course of the week. He is not aware, probably, of the fact that an appeal was made to us by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that the consideration of the Amendments should be postponed, and that we agreed to postpone them until to-day. There has been an interval of six days—an interval of six days at the end of the Session, or what ought to be the end of the Session—to give hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway a full opportunity of considering all the bearings of the Motion before the House.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The hon. and learned Gentleman has given some explanation of his position; but it would be impossible for the Government to accede to his appeal as to the necessity for further adjournment under the present circumstances. We are passing the Bill as rapidly as possible as vital to the interests of Ireland. We are unable to accept the view the hon. 1047 and learned Member takes, nor can we take the view of his Friends in the matter. I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman with regard to the condition of a large part of Ireland. I deplore quite as much as he can deplore the partial failure of crops in some districts in Ireland; but for the House to refuse to pass the Bill will not aid any of the unfortunate tenants. It will not extend to them any relief or advantage, while it will deny to a large number of persons the relief and advantage that we are most anxious to confer. We believe that the operation of this provision will be a beneficial operation upon those to whom it is to be applied. We believe that it will meet the necessities of the case, and that with the other provisions of the Bill it will tend largely to satisfy the tenantry, and that it will conduce to peace during the coming winter. We cannot consent to further delay, but feel bound to ask the House to dispose of the Lords' Amendments to-night.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. T. M. Healy) who asked for delay, and to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), and I think those speeches must have satisfied everyone of the gravity of the question with which we are dealing. The whole tenantry of Ireland are affected by the change made in the Bill in the House of Lords—the change in a most vital particular—by which, in our opinion, you have given a test and standard of reduction of rent which is utterly useless and valueless for the purposes you propose. As was said just now, what is the use of applying the test of high prices or of low prices, utterly irrespective of the question of whether a man has a crop or not? Whether or not the distress of a tenant should justify the lowering of his rent is a question which ought to be fully argued out. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) has already said that H there is delay in this matter it is the fault of the Government, and of the Government alone. If they took this view of the question which, they now put for ward, why did they not state it in the House of Commons when they had the Bill before them? Why did they wait until the Bill went up to the House of 1048 Lords to make this change? It was on the 6th of August that the Bill left the House of Commons—on a Saturday. It was fully expected that the Government would have introduced it on the Monday in the House of Lords. If they had stuck to their own Bill and maintained their own proposals on the 8th August, the Bill would have been the law of the land by this time. Yet now, on the 18th August—10 days afterwards—the right hon. Gentleman opposite comes down and tells the House of Commons that it is their fault that the Bill has not passed into law. I have no hesitation in saying that, having regard to the importance of this question, to the vitality of the changes the Government have, at their own instance, made in the House of Lords, the discussion that has taken place to-night, having only occupied about two and a-half hours, is totally inadequate and disproportionate. We are helpless in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) has one argument—a very conclusive argument—if he has determined that this question so vitally affecting the interests of Ireland has been sufficiently discussed, let him at once have recourse to that argument. That will be the best course for him to take; I invite him to take it. Let him tell this House, let him tell the country, that they have changed in a vital particular, and destroyed this measure in the opinion of the Representatives of the Irish people, and that they do not want the House of Commons to discuss the question unless it is discussed at half-past 1 or nearly 2 o'clock in the morning. Let them have the courage of their conduct, and we shall know exactly where we are in the matter. Let the right hon. Gentleman get up and move the clôture—I invite him to do it at once. The right hon. Gentleman has a policy with which he is satisfied. The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends are never satisfied of the wisdom and sagacity of their Irish policy until they have got it into such a situation that the voice of the Representatives of Ireland on both sides of the House, and the voice of Irishmen from every part of the country, and the voice of all men from every section of the community, are against them. Well, they have secured that proud position to-night—that is their policy—the Unionist policy. It 1049 has been followed by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington); it has been followed by the Government. When-over you have arrived at this position, that every Irish Representative from every part of the country, and all public opinion condemns a measure, then you carry it out. That is your policy to-night. Happily, at all events, we have got one voice from amongst the Liberal Unionists for us to-night. We have heard the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) upon the manner in which the Government and the House of Lords have dealt with this question. The last time the Bill was under discussion that right hon. Gentleman made two proposals with regard to the Amendments of the Lords; he made two proposals, and the Government rejected them with contempt. Let that also be put on record. Then the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has protested, from the midst of the Tory camp, against the policy of the Government. We have him, as well as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who has divided, I think, steadily against the Government to-night upon their policy in regard to these Lords' Amendments. That being the case, and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham having shown the vitality of the changes that you have made, and the Irish Members having demanded an opportunity for discussion and time for debate, you refuse that demand through the voice of the Leader of the House; then the responsibility must rest upon you. ["Hear, hear!" from the Ministerial Benches.] Oh, yes; you are very ready to accept that responsibility; but a good many of you do not know what it means. Your assent to the proposals contained in this Bill is a condemnation of your conduct 12 months ago. [Cries of "No, no!"] Are these not the proposals that were made 12 months ago? Did you not refuse to admit the leaseholders to the advantages of the Land Act, and are you not accepting that principle now, and do you not think it possible that in one month hence you may change your opinion with regard to the policy you are now adhering to? But that is not the main point. Hon. Members from 1050 Ireland have demanded time to debate this change, and you refuse it. I say that that is a refusal which it is impossible to justify in the mind of any right-thinking people. The debate on this subject did not begin until 12 o'clock; and do you think that this is a proper way to deal with such a question as that which is involved in this clause? For the present you have power—you can use it or abuse it, as you please; and the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite can get up and move the clôture, if he likes. Let him do so. ["Hear, hear!" from the Ministerial Benches.] Yes; I see his supporters are ready. Let him move the clôture, and then we shall thoroughly understand the position. Let it be thoroughly and clearly understood throughout this country, as well as in Ireland, that you are not only prepared to refuse justice, but that you will not even allow an argument to be presented against you.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt) is extremely anxious that the clôture should be put on before a word of reply is made to his speech; but, for once, he will be disappointed. The right hon. Gentleman has again pleaded for time. Let me remind him, as my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury reminded the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), of what happened before—namely, that it was in deference to a request which was made to us on a previous occasion that a postponement was made until to-day; and lot me remind him, also, that if this question did not come up till half-past 11 o'clock, it was because the previous question was discussed at somewhat inordinate length. No doubt, this is an important Amendment; but when the right hon. Gentleman says that this is—to use his original expression—an Amendment which strikes at the vitality of the Bill—by which, I presume, he means the vital principle of the Bill—he was entirely in the wrong. We do not strike at, nor have we changed, any vital principle in the Bill; but the right hon. Gentleman conveniently omitted to mention the reason which led to the change in the House of Lords—namely, the request that was addressed to us by the 1051 Land Commissioners. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I wonder whether my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby approves of these interruptions which come from his Friends below the Gangway, seeing that he is so extremely sensitive to the slightest interruption himself? I trust that when, next he addresses a lecture to those who sit on these Benches against the practice of interruption he will reserve some of his reprimands for his own Friends below the Gangway. I was speaking of the vital principle of the Bill, and I was saying that the Amendment to which exception is taken is an explanatory direction, given, as has been stated before, at the request of the Commissioners; therefore the whole of the right, hon. Gentleman's argument falls to the ground—that argument in which he attributed every evil intention to the Government. Let us now see how the right hon. Gentleman has shifted his ground, following the lead which was set him by hon. Gentlemen, below the Gangway. He said—"You have not considered the yield; you are only considering the prices; and it is because the yield is to be considered now that we ask for further time." Why, the Bill only deals with the question of prices. We were asked to deal with the question of prices, and we have dealt with the question of prices.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It was having regard to prices that we were asked to make the change, and it is now having regard to prices that we have made the change. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No, no!] At all events, no one will contend that the whole argument throughout the discussion of this Bill has not been that. What we had to consider was the question of prices, and that we were to deal with the loss of the tenant from the fall in prices. Now, however, the hon. and learned Member for North Longford says that prices are beginning to rise in Ireland, and that we are to shift our ground; and we are asked to postpone the consideration of the Lords' Amendments, not in order to see whether this question of prices should be dealt with in another way, but to see——
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. and learned Gentleman asks now that we should again postpone this Bill and the consideration of this Amendment, after having postponed them already for along time, in order that we may discuss a totally new question—namely, the question of yield. If this was not, what was the object of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford? I say again that he has introduced a totally new principle, and wishes to raise an entirely new discussion. That is the old tactics of Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite. Having been met to a certain extent in one direction, and seeing that some satisfaction may come from the concessions which have been made, hon. Members shift their ground and ask for delay, in order to discuss a different matter. No; we are not going to give time to consider, and hon. Members know perfectly well that we cannot give time to consider, a totally new principle. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby says now that we are to introduce the principle of yield. Does he accept that statement? [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: No.] He does not accept that statement. He does not wish to consider the question of yield, and yet he places upon us responsibility in this matter in most grandiloquent language, because we do not answer the demand of the hon. and learned Member for North. Longford, who is urging us to consider that question. I leave the right hon. Gentleman to settle that question with the hon. and learned Member for North Longford; but, as I said, we are unable to give further time. We consider that this matter has been fully discussed. There is not a single Member in this House who does not at this moment know that the whole question has been fully discussed, and we trust that the House will now come to an early decision with regard to it.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I wish to recall this House to a recollection of the position in which, we stand as to this particular Amendment. I must say that when the right 1053 hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) got up to-night there was not a single Member on these Benches, and I do not think there was a single Member above the Gangway on this side of the House—except, perhaps, a small troupe of Liberal Unionists who were taken into the confidence of the Government—who did not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was rising to ask the House to disagree with the Lords' Amendments, and I may say that the announcement of the intention of the Government with regard to the Amendment excited amongst Members on these Benches not only a feeling of surprise, but a feeling of absolute dismay. I am perfectly convinced that the majority of the public to-morrow, when they take up their papers, will be surprised to find that the Government have dealt with the Lords' Amendments in this manner. That is the position in which we were placed. We were taken by surprise and at a disadvantage. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is a great hand at making the worse appear the better reason, and who is not particularly scrupulous as to the method in which he does it, said that the postponement of the consideration of this Amendment had been at our request. Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for the frequent delays which have taken place in the course of this Bill? Was it at our request that the House of Lords postponed the consideration of this Bill, which left us on Saturday morning, not to the next Monday, or the next Tuesday, but to the following Thursday? Then, again, was it at our request that the discussion on the decision of the Government was postponed from last Friday to the present Thursday? [Cries of "Yes! "] I dare say some who now say "Yes!" were enjoying themselves at the time at those sports from which I regret they have been called; but, as a matter of fact, the proposal was made by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington).
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to explain. The suggestion for the postponement had been made before the suggestion I offered on Friday that the other Amendments of the Lords should be gone 1054 through on that occasion, and that the important Amendment which we are now discussing should be postponed until to-day.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Precisely so. I understand what the suggestion was. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Permit me to explain what I said. I said that the postponement of this particular Amendment from Friday to Thursday was made at the suggestion of the noble Marquess. I did not say that there was not a proposal to postpone the consideration of the Amendments from Friday. A proposal was made for the postponement by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell); but what he suggested was that the consideration of the decision of the Government, as embodied in these Amendments, should be postponed from last Friday to last Monday, and the suggestion to postpone this particular Amendment from Friday, not to Monday, but to Thursday, came from the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, so that, in spite of the somewhat premature jeers of hon. Gentlemen opposite, my statement, it seems, is confirmed by the noble Marquess himself. The other day the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, in language the portentousness of which excited various rumours in this House, in reply to a request of mine to give us an entire day for the discussion of this Bill, said that the Government were firmly convinced that this Bill was so necessary to peace and tranquillity in Ireland that they could not even allow 48 hours to elapse before it was passed, and thereupon following that statement not 48 hours were allowed to elapse, but four or five days were allowed to elapse before the measure was considered in the other House, where the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends have complete control of the Business. The responsibility for the postponement of this matter rests with the Government and their supporters, and they are also responsible for the vital changes which have been made in the measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his characteristic style—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to object to my reference to the right hon. Gentleman's characteristic style; but they seem to like his characteristic style, and I do not see why they should object to the phrase. Well, the right 1055 hon. Gentleman, in his characteristic style, entirely denied the statement of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford. He says it is because we desire to discuss another and entirely new principle that we wish to have a postponement; but it is nothing of the kind. Our wish is to restore the Bill to the position in which it was when it left this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaks altogether as if the Bill, as it left this House, was exactly the same as it is now. Let me compare the two things. The Bill, as it left this House in line 34, page 15, was to this effect—The Land Commissioners are to do so-and-so, they are to consider what alterations, if any, should equitably be made in the judicial rents to be paid. As this clause was amended by the House of Lords, instead of that are inserted words to the effect that the rents fixed under the provisions of this section shall differ by the difference in prices given in the respective years. So that you see under the Bill as it left this House the Land Commissioners had a large equitable jurisdiction, and under the Bill as amended by Earl Cadogan's Amendment that discretion is limited, so that the reduction in rent will be measured by the reduction in prices only. Why, the two things are absolutely distinct. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has been asked to apply the clôture. He is quite welcome to apply it if he likes. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to take that serious responsibility upon himself he is welcome to do so; but we beg to point out—and in this we are supported by one of our most vehement opponents—namely, the hon. Member for South Tyrone(Mr. T. W. Russell), that the Amendment of Earl Cadogan is a message of woe, disaster, and civil war to the people of Ireland. Under circumstances like these, is it too much to ask that an Amendment which has such a wide range, and which will have such enormous results, should be fairly and fully discussed at a reasonable hour? This is a clause which vitally affects the lives and homes of many thousands of the Irish people, and if it is passed in its present form it will amount practically to a message of starvation and woe to those people. We are supposed to be asking too much when we ask that it should have more 1056 discussion than two or three hours after midnight. For these reasons I feel it necessary to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. T. P. O'Connor.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 224; Noes 155: Majority 69.—(Div. List, No. 401.) [2.5 A.M.]
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 155; Noes 224: Majority 69.—(Div. List, No. 402.) [2.15 A.M.]
§ MR. CLANCY (rising and speaking at the same time with Mr. W. H. Smith)
I rise to move that this House do now adjourn.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The Question is, that this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
§ Original Question put accordingly.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 215; Noes 161: Majority 54.—(Div. List, No. 403.)
§ Next Amendment, in Clause E, line 19, to leave out "counties, unions, or," read.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Before the next Amendment is put from the Chair—a point of Order, Sir—I wish to move a consequential Amendment to that now carried. The House has decided this point, and I wish now to ask whether the Government will not agree, now that they have carried this Amendment against us under circumstances I will not characterize, whether they will agree that the reduction shall take effect on any outstanding arrears existing—[Interruptions]—I will not detain the House more than a moment—I move this Amendment with no idea beyond that of improving the Bill. You have agreed to the proposition that the Land Commission shall have regard to prices in certain years; then I think it is not too much to ask that as they are dealing with rent on the question of 1057 prices, that the arrears shall be dealt with on the same basis. You propose to deal with the rent falling due in November as the Bill stands. I propose to add further words to those inserted providing that the rent fixed under this section shall differ in respect to prices as aforesaid in the respective years—then I propose to add, "provided such reduction shall take effect on any arrears outstanding in 1887, and"—
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, S. W., Bootle)
I rise to ask you, Sir, whether this is a point of Order?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman rose to a point of Order, but he is now moving an Amendment which I think is not in Order. It is entirely new matter. The "difference in prices, as aforesaid," has nothing whatever to do with arrears of rent, it is importing matter totally foreign to the Lords' Amendment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg respectfully to submit to you, Sir, the Lords have introduced a new element—new matter—into the section. The clause, as it originally stood, enabled the Commissioners to have equitable regard to any considerations they pleased—[Cries of "No, no!"]—that is my view. They were to have equitable regard to any circumstances they pleased. They were to have regard to prices, but they might have regard to a thousand other things. You have introduced an Amendment that has regard to rent, and the tenants will have less reduction than they otherwise would have got, and I propose that as you have decided that the rent shall not be reduced by half what it would be if the Bill had been allowed to retain its old shape that this new matter, this slight reduction you now give shall have effect0——
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I do not for one moment desire, Sir, to question your ruling. I submit at once if you say it is not germane to the clause.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Will the hon. and learned Member point out in the clause any reference to arrears of the rent?
§ MR. SPEAKER
In the clause with which we are dealing. I do not find such, neither does the Lords' Amendment touch the arrears of rent; it is applicable only to the relation that rent shall bear to prices.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The clause, Sir, deals with the matter of old rent, and that old rent was calculated on a particular basis, and if the Lords had allowed the clause to remain as it originally stood the question of arrears would consequently have arisen. But I will not press the point if the Chair is not fully seized of it. We have had no opportunity of putting down our Amendments and were anxious to have more time for that purpose. I admit it is scarcely fair to spring an Amendment of this kind on the Chair before there has been an opportunity of considering it; but I submit that it is consequent upon the new matter introduced by the Lords' Amendment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Lords' Amendments are pertinent to the matter of the clause. In the clause there is no reference to arrears of rent; therefore, it is not in order to introduce the question of arrears in this clause or on the Lords' Amendment to it.
§ Amendment, in Clause E, line 19, to leave out "counties, unions, or," again read.
§ Motion made, and question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."— (Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— (Mr. Clancy.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I trust the hon. Member will not persist in that Motion. Its only effect will be to delay the Bill and there is nothing to be gained. This is an Amendment to which we propose to disagree.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I deplore as much as anyone what has taken place to-night; but I do not see that anything will be gained by any further delay. We have done our best, we have 1059 done all we could, and I warn the House of Commons now that they have passed a clause to-night which, instead of reducing rents, subjects tenants to very great risk of having their rents raised. All I have to say is that I protest against the whole proceedings of tonight, but I will take no part in factious opposition of this kind.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
It is not worth while to persist in this Motion after the protests we have made un-availingly, I regret to say, and the Divisions we have taken. I cannot join with the hon. Member for South Tyrone in the belief he expressed that he has done all he could. I think he could have done more. I think he might have called his Party together to agree upon concerted action before allowing: them to leave town. However, it is no use crying over spilt milk. I deeply regret the issue, and the result of this Bill will I fear be most unfortunate, most unhappy to the tenants of Ireland, and the pretended concessions to them will turn out but a sham.
§ MR. CLANCY
I withdraw, Sir, in deference to the wish of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork, certainly not to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, who has refused alt consideration to us, and meets all our just demands with his habitual answer.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Next Amendment read.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
The first part is consequential, the latter part would be important if it were necessary, but I am given to understand by those whose judgment may be relied on in such matters, that there is no doubt whatever that the words are unnecessary, and that all the objects the Lords may be supposed to have had in view are already carried out in the Bill as it stands. I therefore move that this House doth disagree with the said Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment,"—(Mr. A. J. Balfour,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Remaining Amendments disagreed to.1060
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Committee be appointed, 'to draw up Reasons to be assigned to The Lords for disagreeing to the Amendments made by the Lords to the Amendments made by the Commons to the Irish Land Law Bill, to which this House hath disagreed:'
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Mr. Arthur Balfour, Mr. Attorney General for England, Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, Mr. Solicitor General for England, The Marquess of Hartington, Mr. Secretary Matthews, Mr. Jackson, and Mr. Akers-Douglas, nominated.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
If it is competent for me to do so, I beg to move that the name of Colonel King-Harman be added.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That Colonel King-Harman be added to said Committee "—(Mr. T. M. Healy,)— put, and agreed to.
§ To withdraw immediately; Three to be the quorum.