§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN) (Dublin University)
In rising to make the Motion which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. A. J. Balfour) for leave to bring in a Bill further to facilitate the purchase of land in Ireland, I ask from the House that kind indulgence to which I am not altogether a stranger. I feel sure that the whole House will join with me in regretting the indisposition which causes the absence of the right hon. Gentleman from this House, though that absence may, I trust, only be for a short time, and will bear with me while I, however inadequately, and at short notice, attempt to discharge the task which he would have discharged if he had been able to be in his place to-day. I am somewhat relieved from anxiety when I reflect that the task before me is to propose the continuance by this House of a measure which has succeeded beyond all others in achieving what has hitherto been regarded, by the representatives of all Parties, as of paramount importance in Ireland—namely, the multiplication in that country of the number of occupiers who own the land they till. In order to appreciate the success of that measure, it will be necessary for me to ask the House to follow me while I briefly refer to the history of the legislation on this subject. I think the first attempt—certainly the first substantial attempt—to deal with this question by general legislation was by means of what are known as the Bright Clauses of the Land Act of 1870. I will not detain the House by going into the details of these clauses, but their scheme was to provide from Imperial funds two-thirds of the purchase-money to tenants desirous of purchasing their holdings, the re-payment being calculated at 5 per cent and extending over 35 years. For certain 1521 reasons, into which I shall not enter, these clauses had no very extended success. The total number of tenants purchasing under this Act was 824, and the money advanced was £518,716.
§ MR. MADDEN
I suppose that the number of peasant proprietors will correspond, originally at least, with the number of applications granted. Then followed the Act of 1881, the provisions of which were still more liberal to the intending purchaser, as regards the Imperial Exchequer, than the Act of 1870. Under this Act three-fourths of the purchase money was advanced, and the annuity was calculated upon the same basis as before; but under this Act I find there were only 731 purchases, and the money advanced amounted to £240,554. These were the two Acts of general application which were in existence before the Act of 1885. There were also, however, some valuable provisions as to the purchase of glebe lands by a special class of tenants under the Church Act of 1869. The tenants of the Church lands were offered a right of pre-emption of their holdings before those holdings were offered in the market to the general public. I find that much greater success attended the operation of that Act than either of the two others to which I have referred. I find that 6,000 tenants became purchasers under that Act, and the gross amount of purchase money—not the amount of the advance, which will be nearly three-quarters of the gross amount—was £1,674,000. With those Acts appended to the Statute Book the question was again brought before this House in the month of May, 1884, by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) when he introduced his Land Purchase Bill. Now, not to go into the details of that measure, the Bill proposed to advance a sum of £20,000,000 from the Imperial Exchequer, in annual sums not exceeding £5,000,000, there being provisions for local guarantees of repayment, and other matters to which I need not refer, because they are absolutely irrelevant to my present purpose. But the fact remains that the Government of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Glad- 1522 stone) were prepared in 1884 to advance £20,000,000 from the Imperial Exchequer to enable the occupiers of land in Ireland to become the owners of that land. Now, in introducing that measure to the House the right hon. Baronet said—The Government believe, and earnestly believe, that the social and political state of Ireland and its agricultural condition are such that there never was a country in the world in which it is more important that many of those who till the land should own it. They recognize that former legislative attempts to bring this about have not met with the success that could be wished. … My belief is that in the course of time, if not immediately, the tenants will begin to see what a great boon is offered to them; and then no advice in the world, coming from whatever quarter it may, will prevent them from taking the chance that is given them."—(3 Hansard , 1511–26.)The Bill was not proceeded with in that Session of Parliament. Then, in the year 1885, the Land Purchase Act, which is now the existing law of Ireland, and with which the name of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland is so honourably associated, became law. The main differences between that Act and its predecessors and the Bill which was presented to the House by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow are these. The whole of the purchase-money is advanced by the State, and the terms of repayment are provided by an annuity calculated on the basis of four per cent upon the purchase-money for a period of 49 years. In that respect the provisions are more liberal than the terms of the former Act, since the annuity in that case was 5 per cent for 35 years. Under the Act of 1885 the State obtain the protection of a cash guarantee by the landlords' deposit of one-fifth or more, that guarantee being the protection between the Treasury and any possible loss which, rightly or wrongly, was substituted for the local guarantee finding place in the proposition laid before the country in 1884. Now, I have heard it stated that the Act of 1885 was received with a chorus of approbation; but I wish to correct one slight error in that statement. There was one portion of that measure that was not so received—namely, the limitation of the amount to £5,000,000. I find that the Liberal Attorney-General—Mr. Walker, the Law Officer of the Government who had introduced the Bill of 1884, and was in the House of Com- 1523 mons in 1885—speaking from the Front Opposition Bench, said that he did not think £5,000,000 at all sufficient, but described it as a ridiculous sum for such a purpose, and referred in terms of commendation in this particular to the Bill of 1884, which offered the sum of £20,000,000 from the Imperial Exchequer. But I find that objections to the Bill on this clause were not confined to the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench. The hon. Member who now represents West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) had an Amendment on the Paper increasing the amount guaranteed under the Bill to £20,000,000. How did the measure develop itself? It was accepted by the Representatives of all Parties in the House, and I will ask the House whether hon. Members, who were willing to spend £20,000,000 on what was then an untried experiment, can now refuse a much smaller grant to what is a proved success? In all respects, except as to the amount of the grant, the Bill met with unqualified approval. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) said—I have always held, sinde making my entry into public life, that it is eminently desirable that the Irish Land Question should be settled permanently upon the basis of occupying ownership. My mind has not at all been altered by the passage of the Land Act of 1881."—(3 Hansard , 1105.)I find, too, in looking over the debates in the House of Lords that Earl Spencer also approved the measure. He said on the 21st of July, 1885—If Ireland is prosperous, and law and order are maintained in that country, if intimidation is kept down, and if men of various classes may follow their lawful occupations without interference from voluntary and unlawful associations, then, I think, this Bill will have some chance of success, and certainly no one wishes it more success than I do."—(Ibid , 1351.)Now, I come to the all-important question, Has this Act belied the expectations of those who were in favour of it when it was presented to the House? Let us test it from every point of view. What is the avowed object of all legislation of this kind? It is to increase, upon fair and just terms, the number of occupiers who are owners of the land they till. I have stated the small number—not including those under the Church Act—of peasant proprietors whom either the Act of 1870 or the Act 1524 of 1881 succeeded in bringing into existence. I turn to the proceedings under Lord Ashbourne's Act of 1885, and I find that, bringing my calculations up to the 31st of October in the present year, there were 14,338 signed agreements for purchase. Now, of these transactions 8,632 have actually been closed, leaving of pending transactions 5,706. I do not mean that those closed transactions exhaust the £5,000,000; but the total amount of applications made would exceed the £5,000,000 by something like, in round figures, £1,000,000 sterling. The total amount of advances applied for under the Act is, as I have stated, £5,986,000—substantially, £6,000,000, according to the latest figures, and perhaps now it is over £6,000,000. So much for the extent of the operation of the measure, and for its success in creating a large number of peasant proprietors. Now, how have the applications been distributed? I will take them by provinces. I find that in Ulster there were 7,711 applications; in Munster, 2,730; in Leinster, 2,336; and in Connaught, 1,561. As regards Connaught, I observe a very remarkable and encouraging fact from the examination of the papers. I find that the disproportion between the applications from the province of Connaught and those from the other three provinces is disappearing. In 1886, I find that there were only 185 applications from Connaught, but others have since been received, bringing the total up to 1,561. Another question, a very important matter, in regard to the distribution of this money, in addition to that of local distribution, is the question of distribution having regard to the nature and character of the farms bought. The figures in relation to that point, based upon rental, are as follows, brought up to October 31 of the present year:—Under £10 rent, 3,599 holdings purchased; between £10 and £30, 3,234; between £30 and £50, 884; and over £50, 915.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
The figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave me with respect to the last item are not 915, but 868.
§ MR. MADDEN
Well, Sir, the figures which I have stated are those which have been supplied to me. The difference is not very great; but I rather fancy that the figures which I have read 1525 are substantially accurate for the period mentioned. These figures show how large a proportion of the advances have been given to the class which, I think, every Member of the House would like to see become owners of the land they till—namely, the occupiers of the small holdings; and the comparatively small number of applications by tenants over £50 shows that this Act has not led, to any very large extent, to any but those who might fairly be called peasant proprietors becoming the owners of the land they till. So much for the application of the Act—the extent to which it has been applied, the number of peasant proprietors, the class to which they belong, and the manner in which they are scattered over the whole of Ireland. I now come to another point—has the operation proved reasonably safe to the British taxpayer? As to that point, the figures which I shall lay before the House are, I think, eminently satisfactory. The total amount accrued due from the passing of the Act to the 1st of May of the present year is, omitting the odd figures, £90,000. On the 1st of November of this year, of the whole £90,000 there was only uncollected £1,767. And I am told that, between the 1st of November and the 9th that sum had been reduced to £1,300, and is now £1,100, and there is every reason to believe that that also will disappear as completely as any balance of the kind can ever be expected to do. In fact, the entire of that sum, with the exception of £170, represents the instalment which became due upon the 1st of May of the present year. Therefore the matter stands thus:—Of the whole amount of £1,767, now reduced to £1,100, due on the 1st of May, only £170 became due before the 1st of May of the present year. I do not think that more satisfactory figures could be given having regard to the large amount at stake, the immense number of transactions, and the variety of the persons concerned. Now, with regard to the general prospect of the collection of the annuities from the tenants purchasing as peasant proprietors, there are some figures in the last Report of the Commissioners which I wish to put before the House. I mentioned the large number of tenants who had taken advantage of the provisions of the Church Act to purchase their farms. The terms 1526 of purchase which must be considered with regard to the collection of arrears were more unfavourable to the purchasers because, though buying at a price which it was open to them to refuse or accept, it was yet not the same voluntary transaction between landlord and tenant as a purchase under the present Act. The tenant was offered aright of pre-emption before his holding was offered to the public. It was a question for each tenant to consider whether he would take the terms of pre-emption, or allow his holding to be sold over his head. Those terms in ordinary circumstances would be considered high. The tenants under the Church Act paid, on an average, 22 2–3 years' purchase of what would now be regarded as a rack-rent. That was at a time when the value of land was high in Ireland—in the years after 1869. If we take the experiment then found, and inquire now what is the amount of arrears due from the tenants purchasing under such circumstances, I think we need not despair, but, on the contrary, we may take a rosy view of the prospects of collection from purchasers under the present conditions. The entire sum duo to the Laud Commissioners, who collect the money, is £54,315, of which £47,912 is due by purchasers other than tenants, such as the purchasers of perpetuity rents, &c., while only £6,403 is due by tenant purchasers. That is a circumstance of the most hopeful augury with respect to any scheme of land purchase in Ireland. I have reminded the House, and it is important that we should bear it in mind, that the State is to advance the whole of the purchase-money. It may occur to some hon. Members that that is a somewhat risky transaction. Of course, if you proposed such an arrangement in regard to a purchase of land let to tenants—a purchase of the reversion on their tenancies—it would be a risky transaction, because you would be advancing what might be taken to be the whole amount of the value of the property, leaving no margin whatever for the protection of the lands. But what are the circumstances now? You have this remarkable advantage—which you could have in no other transaction—you obtain as a security not only the interest of the landlord, but the interest of the tenant, and anyone acquainted with Ireland knows that, in a large num- 1527 ber of cases, the interest of the tenant exceeds the interest of the landlord. [Loud Home Rule cheers.] Exactly. Hon. Members who are acquainted with Irish affairs will not contradict me when I say that the saleable value of the interest in the land, which the law has given to the tenants, is, in many cases, greater than the interest which the landlord, rightly or wrongly, still possesses. That is a fact which it is material to bear in mind with respect to the security offered by the tenant. In some instances from 10 to 25 years' purchase, or even in exceptional cases up to 40 years' purchase, has been given for the tenant's interest. I have hero a list of cases in which the price paid for the tenant-right in the open market was greater than the price paid for the fee simple. For instance, in the case of a holding of 40 acres, valuation £22 10s., rent £24, while the price paid for the fee simple was £425, the price paid for the tenant-right was £470. That is only one of many instances. Therefore you have as a security for the State advances not only the thing which you buy, but something which you do not buy, something which the tenant already has, and which the State gets as a security. So much for the operation of the Act of 1885. There is testimony from many quarters as to the benefits which may be expected to result from extending the principle of the Act. It is within the knowledge of the House that a Commission was appointed to inquire into the working of the Act, which reported in 1887. The Commission was known as Lord Cowper's Commission; it examined over 300 witnesses of all classes and from all parts of the country. There was a general consensus of opinion in favour of purchase, and though there was some difference as to whether it should be voluntary or compulsory, I find no difference of opinion, certainly no substantial disagreement about the beneficial working of the Act of 1885. The Report of the majority of the Commission is in these terms—We are strongly in favour of the continuance of the experimental policy embodied in the great Act of 1885 as a means of largely increasing the number of land proprietors in Ireland.I examined the Report of the dissentient Commissioner, and although he differs on some points from the other Commis- 1528 sioner, he does not differ from them on that point. In addition, testimony has been borne to the working of the Act by a number of persons representing all classes and all shades of opinion. I shall not trouble the House by reading many extracts, but there are one or two expressions of opinion to which I would call attention. In The Times of the 14th of August, 1887, these words of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) are given—In the Act of 1885 we come very near the right principle.In The Times of April 11, 1887, I find that Sir Gavan Duffy says—The Ashbourne Act is working fairly well. It is promoting a change on which there is a general consensus of opinion—the peaceful transfer of the soil to the cultivator. Why not leave well enough alone?Mr. Bright, so recently as the present year, writes as follows:—I cannot think it possible for the Government to suspend the operation of the Ashbourne Act. To continue it is the only good thing they could do. To give it up would be a fatal mistake.And I find in The Times of February 9, 1887, the following observation by the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley):—I cannot imagine any terms that could be more favourable to the tenant than the terms of Lord Ashbourne's Act.Well, Sir, I have heard the Bill spoken of as a landlord's Bill, and it did not seem to me to be altogether irrelevant that the right hon. Gentleman, who is not generally considered an advocate of the rights of landlords, considers the terms of this Bill as the most favourable to the tenant that he could conceive. In a letter from Mr. Tuke, who has carefully studied the Irish Question, which was published in The Times of October 24 of the present year, he said—He thought that a further extension of the principle of Lord Ashbourne's Act would be of the greatest service in certain districts.The value of that testimony is that it is founded on experience of the beneficial influence of this Act upon those who are enabled by its provisions to become owners of the soil they cultivate. Among the various criticisms of this Bill which have been made it has been called a treaty of peace between the State and 1529 the purchaser. That expression was used in a speech directed against the extension of the Act. But it will not be so regarded by the majority of Members of this House. Sir, it is the hope of the Government to widen the borders within which that peace reigns. Another objection which has been raised to the operation of this Bill is that it places the State in a position which it ought not to occupy, and it has been pointed out by some as the possible result of a possible course of events, by others as a matter of threat that there may be a strike against payment of annuities by tenant purchasers in the future. There are some considerations of great importance which occur to me in that connection. First of all let us consider the position of the purchasers under this Bill. They occupy no uniform position. One man may have paid five or six instalments and have acquired a substantial interest by payment of money out of his own pocket in his holding. Is he likely to join—is there any probability in his taking line with a man who may have bought his holding only yesterday and loses nothing if he gives it up? Another consideration is that this Act is voluntary and gradual in its operation. ["No, no!"] The hon. Member says "No." He will have an opportunity of proving that this Bill does not operate by way of voluntary contract if he can. I challenge any hon. Member to make good the statement, which I presume from the interruption it is intended to suggest, that it is other than a voluntary system of purchase. That is one of the secrets of its great success. No purchase entered into voluntarily between landlord and tenant can afford a moral ground for repudiation. When you regard its voluntary and gradual operation, and the fact that it is bringing into that operation persons with different interests, I think you will see the very great safeguard against the evil suggested—a suggestion which is entitled to the utmost respect and consideration—that the State occupies such a position in regard to the land that a strike against payment of annuities might be made use of as a weapon against the State. As a matter of fact the Land Commissioners, as the guardians of the public purse, are interposed between the State and the purchaser. It is the duty of the Land Commissioners—and they have so far discharged it 1530 with perfect satisfaction—to see that the State is saved from undue risk. That duty is not performed in a perfunctory manner. The Commissioners have carefully scanned the applications made by intending purchasers, and have refused upwards of 1,100 of those applications on the ground of insufficient security. That was a substantial and a real safeguard. If the State is safe, and if this Bill has succeeded beyond all its predecessors, and if the transaction can be carried out without substantial danger to the State, I ask on what grounds will the House refuse what is asked of it? Let the House consider that there is no rival scheme of purchase before it. The question is simply one of dropping this successful scheme of purchase on the one hand, with no alternative on the other. ["No, no!"] I am, of course, well aware of the Notice which stands in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. The Motion of the right hon. Gentleman in terms refers to an alternative, but in truth and in fact it suggests no alternative to the proposition of the Government. I do not intend to discuss the Motion, nor would I be in Order in so doing. I leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to explain how legislation with regard to arrears or evictions can be offered as an alternative to a system of land purchase. The questions of arrears and of evictions have indeed some bearing on the question of land purchase. But it is not that which the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman suggests. In the case of each purchase, those questions are settled by voluntary agreement between landlord and tenant, arrears are wiped out, and eviction becomes impossible. But, as to the bearing of those topics on the Motion which I have the honour of moving, there may or may not be a necessity for legislation on the subject of arrears. There may or there may not be suffering connected with eviction, which it would be within the province of law to prevent. Think what you will, legislate as you please, on those subjects. But while you discuss, or even while you legislate, why should you suspend the operation of an Act which is solving, and solving successfully, another branch of the Irish Question—the transfer on fair terms to the occupying tenants of the ownership of the soil which they till. The right hon. Gentleman proposes 1531 no rival scheme of purchase. The true alternatives before the House are, on the one hand, the abandonment of the scheme of land purchase in Ireland, and, on the other, the extension of the Act to a degree which would have appeared to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite moderate and even niggardly in 1884 and 1885. Even if the working of Lord Ashbourne's Act had been comparatively a failure, would you have flung it aside unless some better solution of the question was proposed? Sir, I claim for the Act of 1885 that it has achieved a great and signal success. I claim for it success in an endeavour which has enlisted the most earnest efforts of statesmen of all Parties for well nigh a score of years. I claim for it success where all other efforts have failed, and I confidently appeal to the House to adopt the Motion which I have the honour to bring before it.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill further to facilitate the Purchase of Land in Ireland by increasing the amount applicable for that purpose by the Land Commission."—(Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.)
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Sir, I cordially join in the regret expressed by the hon. and learned Gentleman at the beginning of his speech with reference to the cause which, I hope only for a short time, prevents our having the advantage of the presence of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. But I am bound to say, on the other hand, that the manner in which the hon. and learned Gentleman has treated this question from his own point of view—that is to say, the point of view of a supporter of the plan now proposed—leaves, in my opinion, nothing to desire and nothing to regret. Sir, I wish to say one preliminary word with regard to the form in which this question is brought before us—I mean that we are now in apparent contrariety to what in other times has been the practice of the House, and what has been thought to be a practice of the House founded upon most important considerations. We are now discussing not a Motion for a Committee with a view of bringing in a Resolution for a grant of money, nor a Resolution of that kind in Committee, but a Motion for the introduction of a Bill, which Bill, if it be passed, will allow the expendi- 1532 ture of £5,000,000 of public money, which at present is not devoted to the purpose now intended. Sir, I am as far as possible from questioning your decision upon a matter which I have no doubt has been carefully considered; and likewise I must frankly own that on the present occasion, at any rate, there is a positive practical convenience in the shape in which this question is presented; because it enables us at once to consider whether it is desirable to proceed upon the lines marked out by the hon. and learned Gentleman, or to proceed upon other lines such as are described in the Amendment. But so important is the question, and so desirable—I might almost say so necessary—is it that the House should be aware what are the cases in which, and the conditions under which, measures for the advance of public money can be dealt with without a preliminary Committee, that I venture to express the hope that some record may be made of this transaction which will tend to mark out both the authority on which we are now proceeding—as to which I do not entertain any misgiving—and likewise as to the manner in which, upon general considerations, in the granting of money, the ancient Privileges and ancient Orders of the House are to be maintained. In hoping that there may be such a record, I would also point out, what I have always regarded with regret, that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) and the Government are now using, for the purposes of a question greatly controverted in this House, that time which they have obtained from the House on the plea and distinct expectation—I think I may say the engagement—that controverted subjects were not to be discussed. When the right hon. Gentleman made his Motion on that subject, the Motion received from me a support which I believe was thought by some Gentlemen on this side of the House, and possibly on the other side, to be too warm. But the right hon. Gentleman is aware that I had not at the time the smallest expectation that any controverted matter was to be laid before us during what then appeared to be the limited and exhausted residue of the Session. I am quite aware that on another subject relating to a Commission now sitting, the pledge that was given was entirely disregarded 1533 and broken; but breaking the pledge once does not set the breaker of it free to break it on a future occasion; the pledge has a reviving force, and I say that in obtaining the time of the House the right hon. Gentleman's pledge was that controverted matters were not to be submitted to the House. This controverted matter is, however, submitted to the House, and not only so, but submitted with the threat of the most stringent of all methods of proceeding—that is, that the Bill is to come before us de die in diem until it is disposed of. Both with regard to the mode in which the power of pressing this Bill was obtained, and with regard to the manner in which it is to be pressed, I do not intend to detain the House, but I think it right to enter my protest against a mode of proceeding which, in other days, is, I believe, totally without example. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may say that this ought not to be a controverted matter. That is the very question that we are going to discuss. But how does it come to be a controverted question? I have endeavoured to point out by the form of the Amendment that the plan we propose is not necessarily or properly a Motion to stop the action of Lord Ashbourne's Act. If it had been the pleasure of Her Majesty's Government to submit to the House this plea—that the action of Lord Ashbourne's Act ought not to be stopped at this period of the Session, but that the subject ought to be reserved for discussion in the coming Session of Parliament, and if, in consequence, the Government had thought proper to ask for a limited sum of money which would be sufficient to carry on the present course of transactions until February or March, undoubtedly many gentlemen on this side—and I rather incline to that view myself—would have cheerfully accepted such a method of proceeding and have placed the Government, as far as we were concerned, freely and even, under the circumstances, readily in a position to go forward with their transactions and to submit the matter at an early date in 1889 to the deliberate consideration of Parliament. Therefore the hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely wrong in saying that we submit to the House no alternative. The proposition that we submit to the House at the present moment is this—that the subject of 1534 arrears, with all that it contains, is the one really urgent subject which is primarily entitled to the attention of Parliament. But I do not desire on this occasion to stop the policy of Lord Ashbourne's Act. Whatever I may think of its dangers, I do not think that this is the moment when it can be properly discussed. I do not object to the Bill now before the House because it proposes to keep alive that Act for the moment until it can be fully considered; but I object to it because it involves us in a fresh approbation of this policy, and evidently aims at those things. In the first place, it is manifest that the intention of its proposers is to withdraw the subject of Irish land purchase from the view of Parliament for two or three more years. I say that that is not a right course to take, and that from your own point of view you ought to have proposed that money should be taken sufficient to allow transactions to go on, and then that the Government should avail themselves of the first opportunity during the coming Session to consider the matter at large and see whether this be a sound policy and one that ought to be extended or not. I say that the first object of this plan is to withdraw the subject from the view of Parliament for two or three years. But it does a great deal more than that. I wish to say, by way of parenthesis, that it is not to be supposed, and it hardly can be supposed, that Gentlemen on this side are insensible to the value and importance of the question of land purchase in Ireland. I am not one of those who desire to see the landlords of Ireland removed as a body and as a class from Ireland. I think that there is much to be admired in the conduct of those landlords. I want them to be not loss Irish but more Irish than they are now, and I wish to see them residing on their properties from which so many of them are absent. But no one can say that the disposition of Gentlemen on this side of the House has been either to withhold from the landlords of Ireland fair opportunities of parting with their estates, or to undervalue the question of a peasant proprietary. The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to Acts which he well knows were proposed and carried on our responsibility for the purpose of creating a peasant proprietary; and he has availed himself of those Acts as if 1535 they were precedents for the proposal now before us. It is necessary to point out that he does not seem to be at all conscious that the principle of those Acts was totally different from the principle of the proposal now based upon Lord Ashbourne's Act. I shall not consider at this moment merely the question of £5,000,000. That sum of £5,000,000 is intended to be a precedent for other £5,000,000. It is intended to draw the House on by slow degrees into a defile from which there is no escape; to obtain presently approval by the House, first on one occasion and then on another, without seeing what we are about, to a system under which the land of Ireland is to pass to a very large extent into the hands of the State, and the State is to be the immediate landlord of the occupier, with no guarantee covering it. Could anything be more different from that than the proposals made from this side of the House? When my right hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) laid before the House the widest of those proposals—and undoubtedly it is not on a question between £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 that we at any time are disposed to join issue, provided that the plan be safe and the policy well-founded—when my right hon. Friend made that proposal he laid down in very distinct terms this proposition—that it is impossible to ask the taxpayers of the United Kingdom to show confidence in the farmers of Ireland—that is to say, so as to make them purchasers by an advance of the whole sum—unless the taxpayers of Ireland evince that confidence themselves; and the liability of the tenants who have borrowed the whole sum from the State will have to be strengthened by a local guarantee, which was to be found in the county cess. Now the House will observe that it is not merely a question of pecuniary security—it is the avoidance of political danger. When the county cess was our security it was not a mere question whether £1,700 or £1,100 remains unpaid; and when the hon. and learned Gentleman took notice of that reduction in the amount unpaid, he did not tell us how much more has become due since the £1,767 began to be reduced. But as to dealing with these minor sums, I admit that it is not a great 1536 pecuniary question, but when we have the guarantee of the county cess on the failure of the occupier to redeem his engagement, we do not go to the occupier and fix on him the responsibility to the State, but we are enabled to fall back on the county cess for whatever amount we are entitled to. In the same way with the Church Act, in cases of purchase under that Act there was no guarantee and there was no need of a guarantee. And why? Because the terms of purchase offered were not terms that were likely to draw into the field any but men of a prudent and solvent character, and because they were to prove that solvency and the previous exercise of that prudence by depositing at once, if I remember right, about one-third, or, at any rate, a large portion of the purchase money. It was the same with the principle of what were called the Bright Clauses. They were so framed as not to say to the tenants, with the most dangerous approach to Socialism, "We are going to make you proprietors of your holding, and at the same time to reduce your rent." They were framed in terms the compliance with which would of itself show that the men who so complied were the picked men of their class, who would be an example to the community, and whose action, in itself highly beneficial, would have laid that foundation of a peasant proprietary on the principles of industry and of virtue. There is no precedent to be drawn from such a case for the proposal before us, which must be considered upon grounds entirely independent. I am strongly of opinion that we ought to make every effort—every reasonable effort—for the purpose of promoting the extension of peasant proprietorship in Ireland; but this I contend—that until the tenant has been placed in a position of security—until the means by which the landlord may exercise on him an intimidating pressure have been removed by sound legislation, it is utterly wrong that our plan for creating a peasant proprietary in Ireland should depend, and depend exclusively, on the initiative of the landlord. Now recollect that under this Bill, if I understand it aright, no peasant, however great may be his intelligence, his industry, his forethought, whatever be his savings, will have power to move except upon the initiative of the land- 1537 lord. But on the other hand, every peasant, whatever be his position, may be put in motion upon the initiative of the landlord. I object entirely, Sir, in the present state of the law, which I will presently proceed to explain, to any plan which gives the exclusive initiation of land purchase to the landlord, whom I consider as the second, not as the first person to be regarded in all those questions, and entirely excludes the peasant from that initiative. This I must say—that if the Imperial guarantee is ever to be given for the purchase of land in Ireland, the security must be of the first order and must convey a moral certainty of recovery. It is a small question, I admit, with the sums we are now dealing with; but then, do the Gentlemen opposite confine them selves to the limited circle within which they now move? Do they think it is any material benefit to the State that in those particular cases where it happens to suit the convenience of a landlord to get rid of his property, small handfuls of peasant proprietors should be created to the extent of £5,000,000 or even £10,000,000? No, Sir; it is the large extension of that proprietary from which alone you can expect an important social action; and, therefore, I am obliged to consider the whole policy of the plan and the whole policy of the Government. I think, however, they will hardly themselves disavow it as aiming at that creation on a large scale. I must ask myself, therefore, what is the position of the State to be when multitudes of those transactions have taken place, when the demands for £5,000,000 have been repeated again and again, and possibly when they have given way, as far as the figure is concerned, to the proposal of much larger sums. It is in that extension and development of the plan that we must really examine and test the question of its soundness, and even the economical question cannot be disposed of in any terms short of these. I must own, in passing—I do not dwell on the point—that it has never been shown to me that the pecuniary terms of Lord Ashbourne's Act and the rate of interest paid to the Exchequer, combined with the costs of administration and of collection of money, are such as can, for any lengthened period of time, or, indeed, at all, recoup the Exchequer, even without any allowance for its risks. 1538 There is a more serious matter at issue than that, and as it requires a minuteness of examination that I cannot now give to it, I will pass on from that subject. I am obliged to assume, then, that we are to pass on to a large expenditure, and that it is idle to view these repeated proposals of £5,000,000 at a time as if they contemplated a small operation. If we give the second demand of £5,000,000, what are we to say to the third, and if the third, what to the fourth? We must regard the question in those dimensions to which the operation of the Act is intended to grow. How, then, does it stand? The Exchequer is to be the landlord, and security is to be found in 20 per cent of the money; but this is the first transaction of the kind that I ever heard of in which the security is to be found by the person who advances the money. It is usual that when security is found for carrying through a transaction it comes from a collateral source, and, without making a demand on the lender of the money, strengthens his position. Here it is simply this, the State is to lend 80 per cent of the money for the purpose of enabling the landlord and the tenant to settle their transaction together, and is further to advance 20 per cent of its own money as a security. But then we are to stand as the landlords of the Irish tenant-farmers, with no intermediate fund, no intermediate guarantee, no intermediate source to which to repair for the purpose of doing justice to the English taxpayer. Perhaps we shall have to take the emergency men into our employment, to go with our crowbars, backed by our rifles, for the purpose of enforcing those claims in the name of the State. Then, Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to think that there was something quite marvellous in the fact that only £1,770 or £1,750 at a given date were due and unpaid. But the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to recollect that at least, according to my experience and belief, there has hardly ever been a country in which engagements of this kind and of all sorts have been met as they have been met in Ireland. I do not speak of times of exceptional excitement. I do not speak of times of positive inability to pay; but this I will say, that, viewing the value of the land he has held, and the amount of rent he 1539 has had to pay, and the margin remaining for his own subsistence, my belief is that the Irishman, on the whole, has been the best rentpayer in the world. If hon. Gentlemen opposite desire it, I can give them an illustration taken from an estate in the County of Limerick. Before the recent disturbances, and before the recent reliefs, the estate was worth £15,000 a-year. There were 1,500 tenants upon it, and therefore the tenants averaged £10 apiece. The agent of that estate wrote to a relative of mine:—"I have just had my November rent-day, and the rents have been paid, as usual, without a single exception." I do not see, therefore, a case for triumph in the fact stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, especially when we consider that the £1,770 represents three things. In the first place it represents capital value, then interest on the money of the State, and then a reduction of rent to the tenant. How, then, does this question stand? I believe that if there is danger in this measure it is not at all because the Irishman is less to be trusted than other people in regard to the discharge of his pecuniary engagements. Quite otherwise; but would you pass a measure of this kind on a large scale for Englishmen or for Scotchmen? Would you deem it wise to put the State into the position of a landlord with no remedy but eviction in the case of Englishmen or of Scotchmen? Nobody answers "Yes." I might proceed to ask is there any Gentleman who, happening to be blessed with a larger portion of this world's goods than most of his fellow creatures, and who is habitually on the look out for investments, who would like to enter permanently and on a large scale into a transaction of this kind? I should like to hear the answers from the Treasury bench to each of those questions. Now, Sir, non-payment of rent may arise from either of two causes. It may arise from want of means; it may arise from want of will. How does the case stand with regard to want of means? We have seen within the last three or four years, especially in Ireland, a collapse of agricultural value so large and sudden as to produce, almost entirely without notice, a real and absolute inability in many cases to pay rent and very largely to pay the existing rent. That may happen again. What is to be the position of 1540 the State if it does happen again? Can you tell us whether it is your intention for your £1,700 or your £1,100 or any other number of hundreds you like—which must grow to thousands with the extension of your plans, and may grow much higher still—is it your intention to fall back on eviction as the remedy? But what do the Government think themselves as to the other cause of non-payment of rent? The other cause of non-payment of rent is want of will. Is there any apprehension on that account? Have the Government full confidence in the pecuniary integrity of the Irish people? Well, Sir, we have got before us the recent words of the head of the Government. The head of the Government has, at a recent banquet, in the presence of a sympathizing statesman, referred to the position of the Irish people with reference to the management of their own affairs, and what he tells us is this. He says there is in that country a minority of 2,000,000 of people, and there, in my opinion, he draws upon his imagination in a manner hardly allowable to a statesman. But let that pass for a moment. After all, those 2,000,000, on his showing, are a minority; but there is also a majority of 3,000,000 of people, and when the majority obtain power, when they become constitutionally entitled to manage by due course of law their own affairs, what does the head of the Government say they will do? He says they will put down the 2,000,000 and the 3,000,000 will sit upon them and rifle their pockets. It is from these 3,000,000 that the peasant proprietors are drawn. You have got Ulster in a state which you can constantly make the subject of eulogy, and which at the same time you do not conceive to call for the most part for any great measure of change. But these 3,000,000 are the people of Connaught, the people of Munster especially, and no doubt of portions of Leinster and Ulster too. And it is these people whom you are going to make unsecured debtors to the Exchequer, and of whom you at the same time declared through the head of the Government, in the presence of a sympathizing statesman, that if they obtain the power of making laws in regard to local affairs, they will use that power for the purpose of rifling the pockets of their fellow countrymen. If they have no respect for their fellow- 1541 countrymen, how much respect would they have for the English Government? I decline to take the shortsighted view to which the Government and the hon. and learned Gentleman, acting in the exercise of his duty, wish to confine me. I will not ask myself what is the position of the whole matter. It lies in a nutshell. I must ascertain the position which will prevail when it has attained its natural growth. I admit the possibility that the Irish occupier may again find himself unable through circumstances to meet his engagements. I admit the possibility that he may again become the subject of political excitement to the risks of which you ought not gratuitously to expose yourselves, but I show that according to the opinion of the head of your own Government these people, to whom you are going to lend money without security of any kind at a time, I am bound and grieved to say, when in my opinion from year to year you are making all the agents and representatives of the law more and more mistrusted in Ireland—when you are going to make them the debtors, the uncovered debtors of the State; although you believe that they cannot be trusted to respect the property of their neighbours, you think they may be trusted to respect the property of the Finance Minister of this country. Therefore, do not let it be said by anybody that I am speaking against plans of land purchase in Ireland, [Ministerial Laughter.] I think we have suffered pretty well for our efforts to promote land purchase in Ireland. And I think that a good many of those who are inclined to laugh profited a good deal by those endeavours at the elections. Now, Sir, my contention in regard to the Ashbourne Bill is this, that we are entitled to fair and full discussion of the question whether that is to be adopted as the true basis of land purchase in Ireland, and that it is an abuse of the Forms of the House, and of the legitimate principles and methods of policy to administer to us those homœopathic doses of a grant for a purpose which cannot be homœopathically dealt with; and that we have a right to look forward to the matter when it is extended to its own proper magnitude, and to review its merits in that state. Let that subject, I say, be considered with 1542 fair time, and under ordinary circumstances, and do not let us deal with it de die in diem in time obtained from us for totally other purposes. It requires a pledge of policy, we being perfectly ready to meet you if your object only were to prevent an inconvenient interruption of the course of transactions, and to hold over the matter for deliberate consideration when deliberate consideration is possible. Sir, in that sense I am for adjourning to the Session of Parliament that is coming any general consideration of the land question, and against this precipitate attempt to inveigle us, or perhaps I may say to induce us to a piecemeal adoption of what ought not to be adopted piecemeal, but in the gross and with our eyes open. As against that I say that the urgent want of Ireland is a dealing with the question of arrears. It is the peasant who is now suffering from your want of dealing with that question. Why should we deal with the question of arrears? I need hardly answer that question for this side of the House, because on this side of the House, since the year 1885, we have struggled in vain to procure the recognition of arrears of unjust rents as fit matters to be dealt with. But, Sir, you acknowledge this necessity in the case of Scotland. Is there to be an equality of laws between Ireland and Scotland or not? Acknowledging it in the case of Scotland, why do you not acknowledge it in the case of Ireland? Was it unimportant in the case of Scotland? Why, Sir, our measure for Scotland would have been utterly crippled and ineffectual without the recognition of the arrears. What is the proof of that? The proof is—and I believe I shall state the figures correctly, and if not I may be corrected—that while the rents of the Highland Crofters were reduced at the rate of about 30 per cent, the arrears were reduced by very nearly double that amount. Why is that justice to be withheld from the people of Ireland? Is it loss necessary in Ireland? No, Sir, it is a great deal more necessary in Ireland on account of one of the vicious social habits that has prevailed in Ireland—I mean the habit, not of remitting arrears, but of running them up almost without limits, a practice, as far as I know, wholly unknown on this side of the water. Yet in the Highlands, where the arrears 1543 were comparatively natural and necessary arrears, we allowed them to be dealt with, and they have been dealt with in a manner twice as stringent as rents; but in Ireland you refuse to deal with them at all. That is a most grave subject, upon which I must for a short time detain the House. I wish to say one word about a statement of my own which has been attacked in language the character of which I will not describe, which has been attacked upon the basis of an imputation to me of saying what I never said. It has been stated that I spoke of a man who had been evicted for arrears in Ireland, whereas he had not been evicted for arrears. But I never said that he had. What I said about Ireland and arrears on that occasion was—and this, as being strictly relevant, I am bound to notice, although without any implications or reflections—what I said was this, that in my belief a very large proportion of the evictions in Ireland were due not always in form, but in substantial relation of cause and effect, to the arrears of rent; and I believe this to be true. I wish very much that her Majesty's Government would do what I take it they can have no difficulty in doing, that is, give us a list of tenants who have been evicted since the passing of the Act of 1887, and would state what was the amount of rent due from each of those tenants. I hope the Government will agree to that. It will he of great value, and will tend to throw light upon this question how far the refusal of the majority of this House to deal with the question of arrears has been the cause of these evictions which, as my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) has said, and has said, in my opinion, to his honour, have been and still are wringing the hearts of the people. Well, Sir, this has more in it, I think, than appears upon the surface. I have shown that in refusing to deal with arrears you have established a gross inequality between Ireland and Scotland, and I have shown that you do that when the reasons for dealing with arrears in Ireland are special, and even higher than those which led you to adopt that course in Scotland. Now, Sir, what are the uses of arrears? I doubt very much whether there are many Members in this House who are 1544 unaware of the great use arrears can be I put to by those who understand how to manage them judiciously. In the first place, as I have said, you can evict upon arrears, or you can evict upon the rent last due men who have been so crippled by their arrears that on that account they have been unable to meet their current rent. In the second place, you can, by means of these arrears, prevent your tenants from obtaining judicial rents. If they are in arrear you come down upon them with an eviction notice, and that eviction notice bars their obtaining a judicial rent. Is not that a great utility of arrears? Does not that throw light on the reasons why the Government and the majority of this House have thought fit to keep alive this question of arrears? It was not merely to give the landlord the benefit of the sum represented by the arrears which he generally knows he mostly can never recover; it was to make him the master of the Land Act and of the fortunes of his tenants; and the first mode in which he can do that is by preventing his tenants, through eviction notices following on the existence of arrears, from obtaining judicial rents, and therefore compelling them to remain without the relief which Parliament has intended for them, and which the Act of 1887 purported to give, and has, I trust, in many cases given. But supposing a tenant has gone before the Land Court, and has obtained a judicial rent, is he then secure? No. If there are still arrears of the old rent hanging over him what may happen and what has happened in this. The landlord appeals from the Land Court to the higher Court, and while the appeal is pending he serves an eviction notice, and when the appeal comes on his agent stands up in Court and says, "The case cannot go forward as the man is under an eviction notice. The man is therefore no longer a tenant, but only a caretaker, and is not in a position to obtain a judicial rent." These considerations show, I think, why it was that with much tenacity the Government refused to deal with arrears. The arrears are an instrument for baffling and nullifying the Land Act, and of reducing to servitude the tenants. I think it will be interesting, and perhaps it will be a novelty, for some gentleman to be told what I will proceed to prove— 1545 namely, that the arrears may form, and do form, a most valuable instrument, not only for checking reductions of rent, not only of covering augmentations of rent, but actually of unsettling and destroying judicial rents after they are fixed. Now, Sir, I come to make a statement which is also a broad one, and I shall support it by a particular case. I have no personal knowledge of the matter. I do not live in Ireland. If I sat on the Benches opposite I should, no doubt, live in Ireland, but I have taken every effort in my power to ascertain the truth of this case, and I have been aided by an able and assiduous friend—a Member of this House, who will be ready and able, I have not the least doubt, to support what he had done—and I will give the particulars and names in the case and the dates, so as to show that in every point and particular it sustains the statements I have made, and these statements are very broad statements. One particular only will I hold back, and that is the name of the landlord. I never wish unnecessarily to bring any persons before the world in an invidious position, but those who think it material can ascertain, by making use of the geographical indications which I shall give, who is the landlord. No person would do that unless he had some really practical object. To the world at large it is quite unnecessary to deal with the name of the landlord; not to mention that in my opinion, not only the better landlords of Ireland, but even the worse landlords are in many cases to be looked upon as victims of an abominable system and cruel conditions, rather than as having themselves originated what is evil or unfair. And this is the declaration of a woman named Mary Connetan, the wife of an occupier of a small holding in the town of Faragay, in the County of Monaghan. The landlord lives in the County of Monaghan, so I will take it for granted that the place is in Monaghan. The old rent of the farm was £3 12s. Perhaps I ought to give some particulars of the estate. The estate is one which produces £20,000 a-year, and there are 2,000 tenants. Nearly 200 obtained judicial rents. Many more would have sought to obtain judicial rents but could not apply for judicial rents because they had upon their shoulders the unmitigated burden of the arrears of the past. In this particular 1546 instance—I will resume my reading—the old rent of the farm was £3 12s. It was reduced in the Land Court in January last to £1 18s. Here I will put in, by way of parenthesis, that the 200 tenants paid in the aggregate £2,382; this was reduced in the Land Court to £1,548, which, I believe, is exactly 35 per cent. In this instance the reduction was greater, being within 2s. of a reduction of 50 per cent. It was one of the cases appealed by the landlord. Observe—I hope the House will follow me—I pointed out that these appeals were the means of intercepting the system of judicial rents. In July, when the appeal was called in Court, the landlord's solicitors stopped the case by saying that an eviction notice had been served. That was true; the eviction notice had been served on the ground of the old rent unpaid, which rent had been reduced by nearly 50 per cent. The eviction notice being served, the whole affair fell entirely to the ground; the people remained in the condition of caretakers, subject to whatever rent their landlord might impose, together with the two years of the old rent unpaid and with the costs. This is the position in which the existence of these uncorrected arrears leaves the occupiers of Ireland who have not paid their rents. Well, Sir, they remained for some time thinking what they should do. At last, unwilling to be put out of their holding—whose attraction, cue would think, could not have been very great; there were seven acres of land, and the seven acres, together with the dwelling, were worth only 38s. a-year in the view of the Land Court, or about 9d. a week—but still, with that fond affection for the locality which, I think, is one of the most honourable sentiments of a population, and among the greatest securities in the long run for their good conduct and obedience to the law, these poor people determined to sell everything they had in the hope of meeting the claim and of paying, together with the costs, the two years' uncorrected rent, which was twice as high as, in the judgment of the Court, it ought to have been. On the 1st of November they gathered the whole amount, two years' rent at £3 12s.—that would be £7 4s., and the costs were, I think, £1 4s. 6d., making a total of £8 8s. 6d., They carried this £8 8s. 6d. to the agent, and 1547 what do you think was the answer? If he had said, "Aye, that will do," they might have become regular tenants again and might have obtained judicial rents. The answer was that he would keep them in the position of caretakers. The six months' redemption did not avail them; it was no advantage to them, as I understand, their position being caretakers. [Opposition cries of "Why not?"] They had become caretakers. The agent refused to receive the £8 8s. 6d. in satisfaction of the last farthing of the landlord's claim, unless the man would covenant by a now agreement to pay a higher sum than the judicial rent, which was 38s. He desired to raise that judicial rent to £2 7s.—an increase of 20 per cent, and thus to unsettle the arrangement made by the law and intended by Parliament for the tenants' benefit. Unless the man consented to this he was to remain as caretaker, liable at any moment to eviction and to all the disadvantages attaching in law to the position of an evicted tenant. Therefore I say by means of these arrears it is that the landlords in Ireland, where so disposed, are not only enabled to work the law so as to maintain their rents, and even to increase rents, by the terrors of the arrears imposed, but likewise even for unsettling and undoing the legal judicial arrangements already made in the Land Courts. I believe that these poor people did not choose to accept these conditions and go into slavery in the way proposed. I would point out to the House how these operations are connected with land purchase and with the conditions of Lord Ashbourne's Act. Lord Ashbourne's Act proposes to give a relief of 20 per cent upon the rent payable by the occupier. I will not complicate the question by entering into the consideration of what deduction ought to be made from that 20 per cent on account of the liability of the peasant purchaser to the payment of rates. I will assume the 20 per cent at present to be an integral relief, and I will not discuss this liability, because some people put it at 7 per cent and others at 5 per cent. Primâ facie there is a relief of 20 per cent. But look at the position in which the landlord, whom I have just quoted, is placed by Lord Ashbourne's Act. There is a quarrel between him and his tenant. His tenant wants to pay 38s.; he wants the tenant 1548 to pay £2 7s., or 20 per cent more. Lord Ashbourne's Act enables him to come to his tenantry and say:—"Surely you can make no difficulty. You can consent to become tenants again"—knowing the intense anxiety to become tenants again—"you will not pay a single farthing more. It is true there will be a nominal addition of 20 per cent to your rent, but that 20 per cent will be immediately knocked off by your purchasing under Lord Ashbourne's Act." Therefore, it is the greatest mistake in the world to say that this 20 per cent will be for the benefit of the tenant. It is a leverage placed in the hands of the landlords. These are the results which, by means of these arrears, the landlords are enabled to achieve, and which make them, as I say, masters of the Land Courts if they are inclined to be so—God forbid that I should say that the whole of them, or the generality of them would be so inclined—masters of the Land Courts and masters of the judicial rents and the fortunes of their tenants. The House will understand how an operation of that kind serves the purchasing landlord. If the landlord sells a farm rented at 38s., he receives so many years' purchase of the 38s. But if, by means of the machinery which I have described, he can make his tenant pay an increased rent, he will receive so many years' purchase of that increased rent. But the hon. and learned Gentleman says:—"Oh, these are voluntary arrangements. The Land Commission will not allow an unjust rent to be paid." Well, Sir, I must say, so far as I can see, I think the Land Commission deserves very considerable credit for its intervention. It appears, so far as I understand, that out of 1,198 cases there were no less than 998 cases in which the Land Commission found it necessary to interfere and find the terms exacted by the landlords to be exorbitant. So much for the voluntary contract. Even by the necessarily imperfect revision of the Land Court it was felt to be necessary to cancel or refuse the arrangement because of the unjust power the landlords had brought to bear to effect a settlement of the terms. And then it appears that 529 of these cases were reconsidered and re-adjusted, and other terms given, and 669 cases were wholly rejected. I define the 20 per cent in a 1549 different manner from which it is defined by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and in which it appears to be a very amiable thing. The 20 per cent is, in my opinion, a lever placed in the hands of the landlord to enable him, under terror of arrears, to bring up the rent on which he sells to any point not exceeding 20 per cent. I should like to know what the answer to that argument is. The more I contemplate this Act, the more I contemplate this machinery, the more I regard it as a measure to facilitate the augmentation of rent where there is a disposition for defeating the operations of the law with regard to judicial rents, to multiply evictions with the horrible incidents that from time to time accompany them in Ireland, and which I repeat here, as I have said elsewhere, never would for a moment on any proprietary plea be tolerated or permitted in England. All these things appear flowing out of the unchecked operations of this Act, not out of the operations of tenant proprietary, and not certainly out of a good Land Purchase Bill. It results from the injurious construction of this Act, which, as I have said, we might have been ready to tolerate for two or three months till we can discuss it rather than intercept proceedings which, in some cases, might be very beneficial; but with regard to which it would be entirely wrong to assume that they are beneficial to those whom, undoubtedly, Parliament intended to take profit by the operation of its laws. I do not say always to drive. Sometimes to drive, and sometimes to induce. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are familiar with legislation under which inducing sends more people to prison than driving. I think I have shown that this small plan must be judged as if it were a large plan, and when it has grown to be a large plan it will be a very dangerous plan. There is no need whatever for incurring these dangers. It was perfectly possible to interpose, and we ourselves have proposed plans for interposing on a smaller or larger scale the means of absolute security to the party that becomes liable for the price of the land. If this party were the Irish Exchequer, I affirm, without the least doubt, that the Irish Exchequer would be made perfectly safe in respect of the payment on transactions by local means. Even with the means now in existence you might, 1550 if you thought fit, by the provisions of the Local Funds Act, give to the State, not only entire security, but what is infinitely more important—namely, the exemption from the risk—it may be the certainty—of having recourse to that dreadful measure of State eviction which I for one regard with sentiments not short of horror. While here very doubtful and very questionable and very mixed relief is to be given to a handful of tenants selected by the landlords—tenants who have no means of obtaining relief except at the landlords' good will and pleasure—we point out a defect in your law so gross that it maintains the servitude and dependence of the tenant in cases which I believe Parliament never contemplated. We point this out to you at a time when, freely, unanimously, and promptly, you have given to Scotland the very relief that Ireland had previously demanded; and, although you have lost the grace and beauty of the act by unwarrantably postponing it, we ask you even now to intervene and oven now to stop the recurrence of the mischief which is but too certain, and which may come up on a greatly augmented scale, by doing justice to Ireland in the matter of arrears.
The right hon. Gentleman resumed his seat, but immediately rose again and said: If I am not going too far I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to have the kindness to state, for the information of the House and the guidance of hon. Members, the nature of the Rule under which it has been made clear that, greatly to the convenience of all parties, it has been found possible and right to dispense with the preliminary Resolution in Committee in the case of this Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The matter is one of such great, and I may oven say from a constitutional point of view grave, importance that I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman has thought it his duty to call the attention of the House to it. Ordinarily, a Bill dealing with finance, as the House knows, is introduced in Committee and a preliminary Resolution is passed. This Bill is not drawn upon the lines of Lord Ashbourne's Act of 1885, when there was an advance of £5,000,000 out of the Consolidated Fund, but it proceeds under the provision of the National 1551 Debt and Local Loans Bill of the Session of 1887. It is quite true that there is a contingent guarantee by the Consolidated Fund in the event of assets not being forthcoming. But in the case of the Act of last Session—the National Debt and Local Loans Act—that guarantee was duly provided, and when the House reached that particular guarantee clause the House then adopted the usual practice in Money Bills—namely, went into Committee, and a preliminary Resolution was passed before that clause was dealt with. The guarantee sanctioned by the National Debt and Local Loans Act is an accruing guarantee, and whenever funds are authorized to be drawn out of the resources of the Local Loans Fund that guarantee attaches. It has always been the practice of this House, sanctioned by my Predecessors in the Chair, to hold that it is not necessary for the House to go into Committee and to pass a preliminary Resolution in regard to a Bill which is in accordance with the provisions of an Act already passed, and where that Act has been passed under the ordinary sanction provided by the Standing Order in the case of Money Bills. Perhaps the House will bear with me if I give them an instance. In the case of the Irish Church Fund there was an ultimate guarantee out of the Consolidated Fund; and there were two Acts, which I have in my mind, which were passed to draw upon that Fund, but neither of these Acts had to go through the formality of a previous Committee and a preliminary Resolution of the House. Both these Bills were, in accordance with established practice, introduced on a Motion—I allude to the Irish Relief Bill, 1880, and to the Royal University (Ireland) Bill of the following year—1881. But there is a further reason which has induced me to come to the decision at which I have arrived. Under the very Act of last year, the National Debt and Local Loans Act, 1887, two Bills have been introduced which have passed into law. In neither of these cases—neither in the case of the Act of last year, nor in the case of the Act of the present Session—was it thought necessary, though money was involved, and primâ facie it might be supposed to require to go through the forms of a Money Bill. Both of these Bills were introduced on 1552 Motions, as in the case of the present Bill. These are, shortly, the reasons which have brought me to the opinion that this Bill did not necessitate a preliminary Committee, but might be introduced on Motion.
To leave out all the words after the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in lieu of proceeding again to vote the sum of £5,000,000, so as to place the State in the direct relation of landlord to the Irish occupier, under the provisions of 'The Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1885,' it is expedient, especially in view of the lamentable sufferings caused by recent evictions in Ireland, to extend the provisions of 'The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1887,' so as to empower the Land Court to reduce or cancel the arrears of rents found to be excessive, as well as to deal with the rents themselves, after the example of the legislation recently and beneficially applied to the crofters' holdings in Scotland."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
Mr. Speaker,—I am sure the House will feel the disadvantage under which we labour in dealing with a subject so complicated without the presence of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour); and if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had plainly rested his case upon details, it would have been more difficult for anyone to rise to follow him; but, save in one or two cases where he produced special and most exceptional instances, which will themselves require the closest examination, the right hon. Gentleman dealt rather with the broad principles underlying this question, and I think it will be perfectly possible to reply to him on those matters with success. I am bound to say that on many points the memory of the right hon. Gentleman has failed him to a remarkable extent. But, before I proceed further, I should wish to say one word—although it will be scarcely necessary after the remarks which you, Sir, have just made—with regard to the mode in which this Bill has been introduced. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that the mode in which Bills dealing with taxation are 1553 introduced ought to be most carefully scanned; and not only did the authorities of the House examine this matter with the greatest care, but it was the duty of the Treasury also, and a duty which was discharged, to see that the mode in which these proposals carne before the House was in accordance with precedent, and, after the observations which you, Sir, have made, it will be seen that it is in accordance with precedent that we make this Motion. The next point raised by the right hon. Gentleman was that he stated that a pledge had been given that no controverted questions should be introduced in this Session. I shall leave my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) to deal with that point; but I find it was distinctly stated in July last by my right hon. Friend that we should deal in the course of this Autumn Session with matters relating to Land Purchase in Ireland, if possible.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
That it was before the time of the House was given is merely the impression of the right hon. Gentleman. That is a matter with which, of course, my right hon. Friend will deal personally; but, at any rate, the right hon. Gentleman should have taken the trouble to verify this matter most carefully before he made charges of breaking pledges, which we wish to repel with the greatest indignation. Then the right hon. Gentleman suggested that there is another course which we might, and ought, to have followed, and that was to introduce a Bill, which the Opposition would have allowed to pass without much question—to take sufficient money to carry us over into next Session without asking for so large a sum as £5,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman gave us to understand that the principle of such a proposal would not have been challenged to the same degree. Well, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House did take such steps as were open to him to ascertain whether the Opposition would accept a proposal to continue the operation of the Ashbourne Act without a check until Parliament should next year deal with the whole subject. My right hon. Friend was 1554 given to understand that under no condition whatever would we be allowed to extend the operation of Lord Ashbourne's Act. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE made some observation across the Table which was not audible in the Gallery.] I did not catch the observation of the right hon. Gentleman. Measures were taken in the usual manner to ascertain whether such a course would be acceptable. Feelers, as the phrase goes, were thrown out, but the response which we got was not such as to encourage us in the attempt. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking for himself and his Friends, says that they would not have opposed such a course, but I doubt whether he will answer for his Friends below the Gangway; and, if we may judge from what we have read in the organs which generally represent the Party below the Gangway opposite, I believe that the temporary measure, so kindly suggested to us by the right hon. Gentleman as likely to have received general acceptance, would have met exactly the same opposition from the forces opposite as that which we are about to encounter now. We should have gained nothing whatever, and we should have found that this Act, which, as my right hon. Friend has explained, has done, and is doing, more for the pacification of Ireland than any Act of Land Purchase has done before, would have met with the same opposition as it is meeting now, and we should not have been able to give that continuity to it which we desire, and which we believe the great majority of the tenants in Ireland themselves desire. I wish that on that point we could have seen some of the communications which have been made to right hon. Gentleman opposite and some hon. Members from Ireland. I think we should see that pressure almost has been put upon them on the part of the tenants not to give a direct opposition to the plan of the Government. Hence it is being met by a veiled opposition, a veiled negative. But while the right hon. Gentleman's Motion is so drafted as to give a veiled opposition to the plan, he would appear himself to be so opposed to the whole measure that, though at the beginning of his speech he stated that he was not so much against the Act as against the manner in which it was now introduced, he soon remembered 1555 his real hostility to the measure, and brought against us as powerful an indictment as he could frame. If we look at the words of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, it will be seen that he states that—In lieu of proceeding again to vote the sum of £5,000,000, so as to place the State in the direct relation of landlord to the Irish occupier, under the provisions of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1885, it is expedient, especially in view of the lamentable sufferings caused by recent evictions in Ireland, to extend the provisions of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1887, so as to empower the Land Court to reduce or cancel the arrears of rents found to be excessive, as well as to deal with the rents themselves.It is "in lieu of the present proposal." Now, I hope the House and the public will see that the two things, dealing with arrears and dealing with Land Purchase, are not incompatible with each other. There is no declaration against dealing with arrears in proceeding with this Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman opposite and hon. Gentlemen opposite anxious to conceal the opposition which they make to the Bill itself, drag the red herring of arrears across the path, endeavouring, in that way, to convey to the tenants of Ireland that they are not opposing a measure which is so strongly and strikingly to the advantage of the Irish tenants as the continuance of the Ashbourne Act. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that this must be the beginning of and practically, as far as principle is concerned, the end of our Land Purchase schemes. I entirely decline to admit what the right hon. Gentleman has suggested with regard to this. Our policy is this. We do not wish to arrest the progress of an Act which is conferring benefits upon the tenants and the landlords of Ireland; but I say distinctly that we do net consider that we have redeemed our pledges with regard to Land Purchase in general in Ireland by the introduction of this Bill. It is not, as the right hon. Gentleman says, a final and permanent attempt, even as regards principle, to deal with the Land Question, but it is an honest attempt to prevent checking an Act at present in beneficent operation. Still I am none the less prepared to deal with the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman which are directed against this Bill itself; and lest I should forget the point, let me remind the 1556 House how remarkable it was that in the contrast which the right hon. Gentleman drew between this proposal and the proposals of 1884 and of 1881 and the proposals under the Church Act, there was one proposal which had escaped his memory altogether, and that was the proposal made by himself in 1886, when he introduced the Land Purchase Bill.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I beg your pardon; I mentioned that, and said a perfect security was given to the State under that scheme.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am within the recollection of the House that while the right hon. Gentleman argued elaborately, I do not say too elaborately, with regard to the 1884 Act, and with regard to the Church Act, there was the proposal of 1886, over which, at all events, I will say he glided with remarkable rapidity, yet which, he says, gave perfect security to the State. He did not take the trouble to contrast the security which the State would have had for an operation which might have involved an advance of £150,000,000, and the security which is offered in the case of this operation of £10,000,000, which we are now considering. Now, I will, with the permission of the House, reverse the order with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with this question, and inquire, first, into the subject of and how far that question of arrears bears on Land Purchase. The right hon. Gentleman assumes that the question of arrears being open, the Ashbourne Act confers an immense advantage on the landlord, and has enabled him to drive a harder bargain with his tenants than otherwise he might be able to do. The first point he makes with reference to arrears is the contrast which he draws between Scotland and Ireland, and he asked in tones of great indignation—You have given a certain measure dealing with arrears to the Crofters in Scotland; is it not iniquitous you should not deal similarly with the tenants in Ireland? Here is an instance in which the right hon. Gentleman's memory fails him. He treated this matter as if it were in pari materiâ—as if the case of Ireland was the same as that of the Crofters of Scotland, as if the same legislation had preceded the dealing with arrears in Scotland as preceded dealing with arrears in Ireland. He forgot his own Act of 1882, when he dealt with arrears in Ireland, 1557 an Act to which we have had nothing similar in Scotland; and one remarkable expression fell from the right hon. Gentleman in connection with this point. He gave us the information that the Irish tenant was the best paying tenant in the world. I cannot see, if the Irish tenant is the best paying tenant in the world, how these arrears could have grown to such proportions as they have done. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that the landlords of Ireland have wantonly allowed these arrears to accumulate. That is a part of his case. In another part of his speech, he attempted to show that the landlords deliberately forewent their rents, which it might have been thought so necessary for them to have, many of them being scarcely able to live because those rents are not paid. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that the landlords have encouraged these arrears for some iniquitous purpose of their own. But as to that point about Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten altogether that you have for some years had judicial rents in Ireland, whereas the arrears which have accumulated in the case of the Crofters in Scotland were not arrears of judicial rents. How can he say, then, that the two cases stand upon parallel lines? In the one case you have had a Land Act fixing a judicial rent, and not only that, but after this Land Act was passed, you wiped out the arrears which had grown up before it. How then can the right hon. Gentleman say that Ireland is iniquitously treated because you have not dealt with arrears in Ireland, after having done so in the case of Scotland? I am not saying whether arrears should again be dealt with or not, but what I am saying is that this parallel has no foundation in fact. The cases are entirely different. I could not understand, when I saw the Resolution drafted by the right hon. Gentleman, how he could put upon the Notice Paper that we are dealing with less justice with the tenants in Ireland after all the legislation that has taken place in reference to that country, which legislation has not taken place at all in reference to Scotland. In Scotland you have to deal with arrears of rents which have never been fixed by judicial Courts as in Ireland. In Ireland arrears have arisen under those Courts which were estab- 1558 lished by the right hon. Gentleman himself. I should wish to be permitted here to expose a fallacy which has been repeated over and over again, and used by hon. Members in almost every speech that has been made about arrears. These arrears are called unjust arrears, because the rent has been reduced. It is said, because the rent has been reduced, the arrears which accumulated previous to the reduction of the rent must be unjust, and ought to be cut down in the same way as the rent. An hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear!" He acknowledges that this is the opinion which is held by hon. Members below the Gangway. They have repeatedly said, in speech after speech, that when the rents were cut down it showed that the arrears were on an unjust scale. But see what has happened. The rents were reduced because of the fall in prices in 1886 and 1887. But the arrears accumulated in previous years before the fall in prices had taken place, and now the landlords are accused of asking for unjust arrears because the rents are cut down in consequence of the fall of prices which has taken place subsequent to the time when the arrears accumulated. Now, with regard to the accumulation of these arrears, the right hon. Gentleman made a very strong point as to the use to which arrears can be put, and he accused the Government of practically assisting the landlords in the conspiracy of allowing arrears to continue for certain specified purposes which he mentioned—namely, that evictions might take place; that the tenants might be prevented from obtaining judicial rents; and, lastly, that the arrears might affect the terms of purchase. Here is another of those extraordinary instances of forgetfulness on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. He forgets that we were prepared to deal with arrears. [Ironical cheers.] Those cheers are ingenious; but they repudiate the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. [Laughter.] Yes, because he said that we did not wish to deal with arrears. But we proposed dealing with them. We laid down certain conditions, which we shall still be prepared to accept. But hon. Gentlemen opposite were not thinking merely of the relief of the tenants. In their view these arrears were to be dealt with in a certain way, and unless they were dealt with precisely in accord with the 1559 views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, they were not to be dealt with at all. But does the right hon. Gentleman and do his Friends think that the Government are anxious to encourage evictions? The right hon. Gentleman puts his case as if both the landlords and the Government were anxious to avoid measures which would reduce evictions. Really the suggestion is so absurd that it scarcely requires repudiating. Are the landlords in such a position in Ireland that they like eviction for their own sake? Under what conditions do evictions take place now in Ireland? I should like to know who prefer the evictions; those who do not object to evictions for the political use to which they can be turned, or those who feel the full painfulness of having to enforce them, who feel the full difficulties involved in enforcing them, but who, nevertheless, are driven in certain exceptional cases to enforce them through the Plan of Campaign? I believe that out of 347 cases of eviction which have taken place within a certain date, 200 or 250 are simply due to the Plan of Campaign. These evictions which the right hon. Gentleman thinks we desire and wish to utilize are brought upon the country to the greatest extent by those arrangements which are encouraged and gloried in by hon. Members below the Gangway, and which now are scarcely discouraged, if at all, by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. I now come to an interesting point, and that is the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that through the existence of arrears the tenants are at the mercy of the landlords with regard to purchase. That is one of the points on which he laid the greatest stress, and stated over and over again that there was no reciprocity in the matter—that the tenant had no power to initiate negotiations for purchase, and that the power to initiate lay with the landlords only, and consequently that the landlords drove such bargains as show that they had the tenants at their mercy. I do not know how far that argument will be made good in this House; but it is a curious fact that the history and statistics of the Ashbourne Act during the last year or so prove that purchase is quite as much at the initiation of the tenant as at the initiation of the landlord. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that the landlords 1560 put the screw on by pressing for the payment of arrears. I have not only heard it suggested, but it has been stated and proved, that the tenants put the screw on the landlords by, on their part, withholding rent and allowing arrears to accumulate. There are cases in which tenants have brought about the sale of the land through the pressure that they put upon the landlords, who could not get their rents, nor afford to do without them, and the tenants in that way were able to coerce them. The right hon. Gentleman gave one specific, one exceptional case. I shall leave the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, or one of those specially conversant with proceedings in Ireland, to deal with that particular case. But it must have struck the House at once that this was an exceptional instance. It would have been far more to the purpose if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to establish from an examination of the actual terms under which purchases have taken place that the landlords have received in payment for their estates too high a price, and that the tenants have undertaken to pay instalments that are too high. That is the point to which I call the attention of the House. It is asserted that there is a power of coercion on the part of the landlords; but it would be far more to the purpose to prove that it had been exercised, and to show that they are receiving too many years' purchase of their estates, and that the tenants are not paying, generally speaking, annuities sufficiently favourable compared with the terms which they ought to receive. But the right hon. Gentleman, in his able speech, after preparing his case with all the assistance at his command, has not ventured to turn to the Report of the Land Commissioners, and say that there are cases in which the purchase-money is evidently too high. And why did he not do so? I think it will be in the recollection of the House that the right hon. Gentleman offered 20 years' purchase to the landlords in 1886. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE dissented.] Well, I read over the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and 20 years' purchase was what he considered to be fair—that was the basis, that was the standard on which he would proceed. [Mr. W. O'BRIEN: He named a minimum.] I am obliged for the interruption of the hon. Member. There 1561 is a minimum in our case also which will strengthen my argument. Twenty years' purchase was the general idea of the right hon. Gentleman. If he had been able to come forward to-day and say that 20 years is what he thought landlords might fairly expect, but that the Government are giving 21 or 22 years' purchase, it would have looked as if that power of coercing by arrears had really had some effect, and as if the landlords' machinations and a wicked Government had been able to get terms out of the tenants which otherwise they would not have got. But under this wicked Act, and with all this power of coercion by arrears which the right hon. Gentleman made so much of, what has been the result? The landlords have not got 20 years', but 17.1 years' purchase, taking it all over Ireland. Therefore, under the Ashbourne Act, the landlords have been receiving three years' less purchase than they would have done under the standard of the right hon. Gentleman. True, as I am reminded, there was no minimum in the case of his proposal, and under the present system, too, there is no fixed limit; but I call the attention of the tenants of Ireland, and of their Representatives, to the fact that under the Ashbourne Act tenants are placed in a far more favourable position than they would have been under the measure of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman's contention was that arrears were worked to make the tenants pay more. Here is the case of an estate in County Kerry with long arrears. The rate of purchase varied from 17 to 19 years. The tenants least in arrears paid 17 years', in other cases arrears were added to the purchase money, but in no case did it, even including what was added for arrears, exceed 19 years'. Or take this case in Tipperary. The ordinary rate of purchase on the estate was 18 years. Arrears up to two years were remitted. Where there were more than two years' arrears, half a year was added, and the rate of purchase was 18½ years. No tenant paid more than 18½ years' purchase, however heavy his arrears. There are other cases where arrears have been altogether remitted, or where long arrears have been compounded for by the addition of only one year to the purchase money. I have examined 1562 cases with some care, and I find that the arrears have not been added to the purchase price. I cannot deal with the particular case put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, which requires investigation; but apart from that case I say that the facts destroy the effect of his contention. I now turn to the other portion of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. I refer to the question of security, and I wish to recall to the House his extraordinary assertion that 20 per cent of the money of the State would be lent by the Government to the buyer. Why, it is the money of the landlord; it is not the money of the State. Can it be said that, when one man sells to another and 20 per cent is deposited by the seller with the banker, it is the banker and not the seller who finds the money?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The seller receives only four-fifths of his purchase money, and leaves the remainder in the hands of the banker; how can it be said it is the banker who has advanced the money? Does the 20 per cent constitute a real security or does it not? Instead of acknowledging that the 20 per cent was a real security, the right hon. Gentleman passed it over as if it were a financial juggle. This is the impression his speech will leave on the mind of the ordinary reader; he diverts attention from the fact that one-fifth of the purchase money remains in the hands of the State; and no one can deny that that constitutes an extremely valuable security. Moreover, the purchase will take place at a time of agricultural depression, on reduced judicial rents corresponding with low prices; and that will enhance the security as compared with the security under the Church Act and other Acts. Besides that, you have the tenant-right. I was surprised at the jeers which greeted my right hon. Friend's suggestion that it was as valuable as the freehold; I could not by any psychological analysis arrive at the reason why hon. Members jeered that statement. According to them, tenant-right is the right to continue to pay unjust rents. Yet they acknowledge the tenant-right is valuable. How do they explain this high value of the privilege of continuing in a holding and paying a rent which is assailed as 1563 iniquitous? But, however that may be, if the tenant-right is a valuable estate, then it is a valuable security. We have, therefore, got as securities one-fifth of the purchase money, a decreasing debt as the annuities are paid off; we have the tenant-right, and, moreover, these purchases are made at a time of unparalleled agricultural depression. In these circumstances it cannot be a venturesome act on the part of the Government to go forward in this direction. I entirely agree it is not desirable that the State should come into direct relations with the tenants. The right hon. Gentleman asks, "Would you apply any such system to England, or to Scotland?" But England and Scotland have not been blessed, or cursed, with such a system of land legislation as exists in Ireland. For the last 10 years you have departed in Ireland from the land system which exists in other countries, and we are now, by this Bill, only carrying out the policy upon which all Parties are agreed—namely, the multiplication of the small land proprietors in that country. We believe the method we are now proposing to be the best under the circumstances. The experiment has answered well in existing circumstances, and we desire to see it tried upon a wider scale. Of course we do not contend that it is desirable that the State should have direct relations with the tenants. But I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, are the relations satisfactory which now exist in view of the Plan of Campaign against law and order? Does he think evictions satisfactory? There is at present an infinitely greater chance of a tenant discharging his duty to the State than there is of his discharging his duty to the landlord. The State cannot be starved out under the Plan of Campaign; it cannot be calumniated in the same way as a landlord can be. No class interest can be aroused to stir up the tenant owners to refuse to pay their debts to the State. So, while I admit to the full that in ordinary circumstances nothing can be more undesirable than that the State should be the landlord, I think the relations at present existing between landlord and tenant are so disadvantageous to Ireland that, after all that has taken place, the position which we contemplate is a lesser evil, and the best mode which is at present available of 1564 increasing peasant ownership in Ireland. The Act has already promouted the pacification of Ireland; it has entirely changed the attitude of tenants who have become proprietors; we hear in many cases of their leaving the Land League, setting about the improvement of their property, and, what is as interesting as anything, we hear of their attempting to dispossess the Boards of Guardians whom they formerly elected when they had less interest in keeping down the burden of local taxation. On the occasion of a recent Poor Law election at Tralee, the Nationalists put forth a manifesto calling on the people to show that the National League, though harassed by the Chief Secretary, was "a more powerful factor than ever in the national life." The Unionists, who had hitherto seldom ventured to raise their voices, put out a circular calling on the people to show, as lovers of law and order, their contempt of the intimidation of village tyrants and the Land League. Lord Ashbourne's Act had been at work in that neighbourhood, and, as a consequence, while the Unionists got a majority, the secretary of the League was last but one. It is perfectly clear that the Land League cannot be in love with Lord Ashbourne's Act. It is a rival to the Land League, this process of increasing the number of peasant proprietors. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the perfect security of the scheme which he some time ago brought forward, and he charges us with inconsistency in our opposition to it. It is quite true that we did oppose the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman while we are in favour of Lord Ashbourne's Act. But there is a vast difference between the circumstances of the two Bills. The Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was to buy off the landlords before Ireland was handed over to the National League; the proposal of the Government is to pacify Ireland so as to destroy the power of the National League and maintain the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. I therefore maintain that, as far as the objects and motives are concerned, the circumstances of the two measures are very unlike. They are, indeed, alike only in this—that they both aim at multiplying the number of owners in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that his plan provided perfect security for the Exchequer, while 1565 ours is most dangerous. I should like to know would that security have been good which would have depended upon making Ireland tributary to this country, so that, if there were that strike against rents which the right hon. Gentleman thinks possible, it would have taken the form of a National movement endorsed under the circumstances——
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman really contradicted me before I had come to the end of my sentence. The right hon. Gentleman said there was perfect security. I wish to make the matter clear. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that if the State is the creditor of individual tenants, the tenants might strike against the payment of their instalments because they might either not have the will or the means to pay. Supposing the case put by the right hon. Gentleman, that there was such poverty in Ireland that the tenants really had difficulty in paying, then under his system the agents of the National Government would have to go with their crowbars to evict the tenants. Would the tenant who is poor immediately surrender his holding to the agents of the Irish Government? Under these circumstances, I think the crowbar would be applied not only to the cottage of the tenant, but to the doors of the Parliament in Dublin. We know now that under any Home Rule scheme that may hereafter be proposed the Irish Members are to remain in the Imperial Parliament—how, by what plan, we are not told; but, under conditions devised by the wit of the right hon. Gentleman, the Irish Members are to remain—and under the circumstances that I have supposed would not pressure be brought by those Representatives upon the Government in London to reduce "the tribute?" Under these circumstances, I should like to know is the security of the right hon. Gentleman so absolutely good that if an application came from the Parliament in Dublin to the Ministry here that they ought to let off the tenants from the payment of their full instalments, or to reduce the liability of Ireland to England, on the ground that Ireland was poor and England was rich, or the purchase price had been fixed too high, it would not be possible that the virtue of the Government might fail, and that there 1566 would be as much risk in that eventuality as there would be in the case of the State being the creditor of the individual Irish tenant. Both are unsatisfactory; but I think the former the more so. The right hon. Gentleman may answer, "Oh, under my scheme you have the revenues of Ireland as security, for this money advanced would be a first charge upon such revenues." But are the Irish Home Rule Judges, the Irish Home Rule Magistracy, and the Irish Home Rule police to be stopped in their salaries while the money is being sent over here from Ireland to meet this liability, which would be denounced as unjust and excessive? Then, indeed, we might have another National movement, and if Ireland said she would not pay, or could not pay, it would not be a case of police to make her, but of soldiers. I deplore that it is necessary to bring the State into financial relations of this character with individual tenants; but I do not see how, under the circumstances, it is to be avoided. I say that the risks under our proposal are not so great as if you were to put a National bribe before the Irish people, that if they continued to agitate they would get a reduction of rent. I have endeavoured to meet the right hon. Gentleman upon the broad principles which he himself wished to have discussed on this occasion. I have told him that by this measure Her Majesty's Government do not, in their view, redeem their pledges to deal thoroughly with the question of Land Purchase in Ireland. We are most anxious to go forward as rapidly as we can, and, as far as prudence will allow, to multiply the number of peasant proprietors in Ireland by every legitimate means. But, looking to the circumstances in Ireland at the present moment, we think we are justified in appealing to Parliament to grant this additional sum of £5,000,000, and we think that Parliament will not disapprove of our continuing the experiment which, of all the experiments that have yet been tried, has produced the best results as between landlord and tenant in Ireland.
MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
said, he desired to strenuously oppose this proposed legislation. Irish land had long been regarded as bad security. Even in regard to English land a mortgagee never advanced the whole value, 1567 but at most two-thirds, yet this proposal of the Government was to advance the whole purchase-money or value, and upon Irish land, which was regarded as peculiarly bad security. There was plenty of money in this country. If it was possible to buy land in Ireland and sell it to the tenants, why were not Companies got up for the purpose by hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House, who were rich men, and to whom a few millions would be nothing at all? The main fact was that no sane man would invest 1s. of his own in buying Irish land at the present moment. If Lord Ashbourne's Act was favourable to the tenants, that did not meet the contention of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, who maintained that it would he unduly unfavourable to the British taxpayer. Hon. Members who would not advance their own money, and would not be allowed as trustees to advance money under their control on such security as this, were now asked to advance the money of their constituents upon this most inadequate investment. He was rather amused at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), who painted the benefits of the investment in such rosy colours that he could not understand why people should not have been most anxious to invest their money. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy had been quoted in support of the measure, but if the right hon. Gentleman was going to be guided by Sir Gavan Duffy he was about to make a very large and a very rapid change of policy. Lord Ashbourne's Act gave an opportunity for fraud. Nothing could be easier than for a dishonest landlord—if there were dishonest landlords—if he could find a dishonest tenant to plan with the latter to put an artificial price on the land, get it out of the State, and divide the profits between them. In introducing an important Bill, which involved the voting of £5,000,000, neither the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) had ventured to give any evidence that the 49 proposed instalments had been properly calculated. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer made some outrageous accusations against hon. Members on the Opposition side of 1568 the House when he said that they objected to the stoppage of evictions because they turned them to political advantage. That accusation was made without necessity, and did not help his argument—it was simply a horrible jeer at the Opposition side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian's Bill of two years ago offered 20 years' purchase to the landowners, but that was not so. It offered a maximum of 22 years, and had no minimum. The difference between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian's Bill and Lord Ashbourne's Act was that there was no maximum in Lord Ashbourne's Act. In whose interest had the Bill been introduced? It was said that it was in the interests of the Irish tenants; but it was a remarkable fact that their Representatives were not in favour of the Bill, though all the representatives of the landowners were. But if the Bill were in the interest of the tenants he should oppose it, because he did not want to see anything done for the people of one part of the Kingdom which could not be done for the rest of the Kingdom. And how would English, Scotch, and Welsh Members explain the Bill to their constituents? He hardly thought that the Government would have ventured to introduce the Bill, and that they would have had some wholesome regard for the coming elections; but the social pressure put upon them had been too great for them. Their friends and relations and everybody they met in society with landed security were all hard up, and had consequently forced the hand of the Government. They had land securities in Ireland, and wanted to get something, and so the Government had chucked the elections as a bad job, and had concentrated their minds on doing something for their landlord friends while they had the power. If a Member of Parliament was a manufacturer and took a Government contract, he had to resign his seat, and a Civil servant had to do the same; but he saw that there were a great many Members of Parliament who were directly interested through their pockets in this Bill. There was one hon. Member who would, no doubt, vote for the Bill, and who had an interest as heir presumptive to an Irish 1569 estate of £90,000 a-year. This, at 15 years' purchase, came to nearly £1,500,000, so that he would take that sum out of the poor people of this country. There was another hon. Gentleman on the Opposition side of the House who would, no doubt, back up the Government, and who had an heir-presumptive interest to an estate which, calculated on the same basis, was worth £515,000. And there was another hon. Member on the Government Benches who had a like interest to the extent of £500,000. All these hon. Members would, no doubt, support the Bill. Hon. Members had got such a breeches-pocket interest in the matter that the Bill ought to be carried by a large majority. But if those who had got an interest in it were not to vote, he believed it would not be possible to pass the Bill through the House. Those of them who were in favour of a different scheme for governing Ireland ought to be glad of an opportunity for passing this Bill, because the great argument against the scheme proposed by the Liberal Party was that if it were adopted it would lead to a plan of land confiscation. Possibly that might follow; but he thought there were things worse than land confiscation, and one thing worse was the state of society, which must cause a feeling which would lead to land confiscation. There was a time when France, by a wicked, spendthrift Government and a spendthrift aristocracy, was reduced to a state of hopeless bankruptcy, and at the Revolution there was a widespread measure of confiscation, but that was followed by the restoration of a better state of things and of national solvency. He did not believe the state of Ireland was anything like the state of France before the Revolution, and he did not think the remedy to be applied would be half so drastic. He was encouraged by that to leave this matter to the Irish people to settle for themselves. He had read the speeches of the advanced Nationalists, and he had never seen one who had advanced less than 10 years' purchase of the Irish landlords, and that, he thought, would be to the full what they deserved. He believed in the great principle that men must reap as they had sown. The Irish landlords had made their beds for themselves, and they must lie on them. He believed 1570 there was in all people a sense of justice, which would make the Irish tenants deal not unfairly with the landowners; but it was for them to settle it, and they must take the responsibility if they acted unjustly. He hoped that no injustice might be done; but he could not give a vote that would put the responsibility of settling the matter on the poor and suffering classes of Great Britain.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, that if he found himself unable to assent to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Party to which he belonged, it was not because of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with whom he found himself at variance on almost every argument he used. Nor could they forget that when in 1886, acting under the Leadership of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), that Party were endeavouring to discharge an obligation of honour and policy to the Irish landlords, they were met by denunciations from the Tory Party on the ground of extravagance to the British taxpayer. He found himself, therefore, with more reluctance than it was easy to express, at difference on certain points with the majority of his Party. He followed the right hon. Gentleman in 1886; he voted for the two Bills then introduced; and he would vote for them to-morrow if they were again introduced. He thought them great and statesmanlike measures, giving effect to principles which he held. He found himself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman in this also—that he objected upon principle to proceeding to buy out the Irish landlords without a State guarantee from a responsible Irish Legislature. If the right hon. Gentleman had moved an Amendment expressing the principles of his Bills, or if the question was merely an academic and abstract one, as to whether the proposals of Her Majesty's Government were the best possible, he would vote against the Government. He was also entirely at one with the right hon. Gentleman in being in favour of legislation in the matter of arrears. In some full-dress debates he had himself moved one or two Amendments upon this subject. If the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman had been in the nature 1571 of an Instruction on going into Committee on this Bill, or if the right hon. Gentleman would even yet move an Amendment which should insist on legislation on the subject of arrears, in addition to the proposal of the Government, he would support him. But, looking to the form of the Amendment, he failed to see why the principles of Lord Ashbourne's Act should not be carried into effect, and, at the same time, the legislation with regard to arrears. He now came to the point of difference with the right hon. Gentleman and the majority of his Party. He (Mr. Haldane) was, under the particular circumstances of the time, in favour of £5,000,000 more being given for the purpose of buying out the Irish landlords. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) put forward an argument which, in one aspect, had great force and cogency. The right hon. Gentleman asked where were they to stop—at £50,000,000 or £500,000,000? That reminded him of a problem of antiquity, which occasioned great difficulty, as to how many grains of corn it would take to make a heap? At last it was resolved to answer—"After the grains of corn thrown upon the ground had reached a heap." His answer to the difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman was that, as soon as the advances had reached such a figure as appeared to be alarming, then, and not till then, would he stop them. There was a second point, though he did not know it was a point of difficulty. Although a great many of the Party to which he belonged differed from him regarding it, he knew he was entirely at one with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) in being sensitive about insisting on the necessity of Land Purchase. He believed he was at one with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that they were now, quite as much as in 1886, under an obligation of honour and of policy towards the Irish landlords. If he were asked why was he not content with an Amendment which did nothing to negative the principles of land purchase, but left the question to stand pretty much where it was before, he would recall to the House the position of certain hon. Gentlemen who took part in the deliberations of the Parliament of 1885 and 1886. In that Parliament there was a great deal of 1572 difference on the question of Disestablishment, and when any proposition savouring of Disestablishment was brought forward they voted against it, or abstained from voting, because they said it was always possible in the House of Commons to put forward under the cover of one proposal something quite different. He did not suggest that it was intended by this Amendment to give up the principle of Land Purchase; but there were other hon. Members of the House who were clear that they would have nothing to do with that principle in any shape or form. There was the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who, under no circumstances, would give a penny of British money to the Irish landlords; and there was his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lanark (Mr. Philipps) who had just sat down. Then, again, there was his right hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan). He was not sure what his views were. The right hon. Gentleman had made speeches which indicated, that he at least, was no friend of Land Purchase. Then there was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), who made speeches which did seem to him unsatisfactory as regarded this principle. It appeared to him (Mr. Haldane), therefore, that those who sat in the rank and file of the Party to which he belonged were placed in some difficulty. It was all very well for right hon. Gentlemen who took part in the drafting of the Amendment to vote for it, meaning only to vote for the words of which it consisted; but when they came to the rank and file of a Party which included such opposite elements, it seemed to him they were dangerously near being asked to express an opinion upon a general principle. He, for one, felt very strongly upon the general principle. He sat as a Home Ruler—as one who believed in giving Ireland, in the largest and fullest sense, practically the principle of self-government. He had an opportunity since 1886 of making the acquaintance of the Irish Members, and the more he saw of them the more he was convinced that they had the capacity and goodwill which was requisite for the successful formation of a Home Rule Government, and for the successful development of the in- 1573 stitutions of their country. But he also recognized that Home Rule must be prefaced by a generous measure of Land Purchase. It was not fair to ask the Irish Members to undertake the business of the government of Ireland unless the ground upon which they were to build up a proper system of administration was made clear. He believed that was not only fair to those who would under take the government of Ireland under such conditions, but he believed it was necessary that they should see the Irish landlords out of a situation which, in the altered circumstances, would be one of considerable peril. They all knew that there had been a good deal of difficulty about the course which was to be taken with regard to the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. While Mr. Michael Davitt was in a position of influence they were sure he would urge eloquently those principles which he had inherited from his political master, Mr. Henry George, and which he was prepared to carry out to their logical conclusion. However hon. Members sitting on the other side of St. George's Channel might desire it, it would be impossible for them to advocate a scheme of Land Purchase out of Irish taxes after the extent to which Home Rule had been advocated on agrarian principles. What remained of that minority who would strive to discharge those obligations to the landlords which they, as Englishmen, felt bound to carry out to their fullest extent? He had no hope of the policy which was being pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) at the present time. Even if it was successful for the moment, it was bound to end in failure. He (Mr. Haldane) wished to deal with the question thoroughly, and it was because he believed it could not be thoroughly dealt with in the absence of this principle of Land Purchase, and because he believed that in every landlord they took out of Ireland they had a gain to the Nationalist cause, and brought the country nearer to Home Rule—it was for that reason that he supported the principle of the Bill which was now before the House. In the Home Rule Party they had some who followed the hon. Gentleman the senior Member 1574 for Northampton, and they had also a certain number of weak Home Rulers who had been in doubt and difficulty, and only at the last moment succeeded in embracing its principles, and who now said they distrusted their Irish allies so much that they could not go the length of trusting them with Imperial credit. It did seem to him that those two points of view—Home Rule and distrust of the Irish Party in regard to the fulfilment of their financial obligations—were not easily reconcilable, unless they wished to see Home Rule established at the expense, and the expense only, of the Irish landlords themselves. He did not wish to be understood to say that there were no circumstances under which he should assent to Home Rule in the absence of Land Purchase. On the contrary, he refused to recognize it as a condition precedent; and if the landlords were to take the course of saying, "You are bound by your own declarations to offer us Land Purchase, and we shall use it, not for the purpose of getting out of the ditch, but of dragging you into it," then he would refuse to hold out a helping hand. But that was not the situation. It seemed to him they were bound again to repeat the offer they had made to the Irish landlords in the fullest and freest manner, in order to see whether they would not take advantage of what morality and right compelled them to offer. He was in favour of the present proposal, and that distinguished him from his right hon. Friends who sat on the Front Opposition Bench. He was in favour of the proposition to spend another £5,000,000 under this Act. In the first place he thought the Act, although not a theoretically perfect step in the absence of an Irish State authority, was, at all events, a step which experience had proved to be a safe and a right one. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian said he would be surprised to find any private capitalist who would go the length of investing his money on such a security as the Bill proposed. He might mention that within the last few months an experiment exactly analogous to this case had been tried in Scotland. A gentleman of great financial ability and experience—Mr. Auldjo Jamieson, of Edinburgh—had devised a plan based on the lines of Lord Ash- 1575 bourne's Act, but without the interposition of a Government guarantee, and the scheme had so far proved successful. There was another reason why he was inclined to support the Bill, and that was the Report of Lord Cowper's Commission. That Report stated that the Commissioners who signed it were strongly in favour of the continuation of the experimental policy of the Land Purchase Act, 1885, as a means of largely increasing the number of occupying landlords in Ireland; that the Irish landlord was more like an encumbrancer than an owner of his estate, and if the land were really the property of the occupier, subject to fixed instalments being paid, like taxes to the State, there was every reason to hope the occupier would set to work with a will to improve and cultivate his property; that the landlords considered themselves in an untenable position, and that the tenants had not much respect for the landlords as such. The Commissioners were aware that no immediate change on a large scale was possible; but they hoped that the ownership of land by occupiers in Ireland might gradually increase, and they therefore strongly recommended that the Government should continue their efforts to encourage the establishment in Ireland of the occupiers as owners of the soil, and continue from time to time to give limited sums for that purpose. That paragraph seemed to him to give reasons which should induce the House to grant the money asked for. He asked those who knew anything about land in this country whether there were not indications, amounting almost to certain indications, that they had very nearly, if not altogether, touched the bottom of the depression? This time last year it was almost impossible to get a tenant for any vacant farm in Scotland. This year they had got tenants crowding in to the number of four or five to each farm. And why? Because prices were better, because the prospects of the farmers were better, and because agriculture was far more promising than it had been in the past. These symptons in Scotland were to be found in an equal, if not a greater, degree in Ireland. He thought the present was accordingly a most favourable opportunity for purchase, and that was one of the reasons which had weighed with him in coming to the 1576 conclusion he had done upon this subject. Another point was made about the arrears, but he hoped hon. Members would not imagine that, by any process, Government money went in the discharge of those arrears. He recognized that the existence of arrears was being taken advantage of by some landlords for the purpose of forcing their tenants to sell; but was the protection which the Legislature had interposed, in the form of the Land Commission, not adequate to meet the difficulty? If it were true that arrears were being dangerously used for this purpose, he trusted that some of his right hon. Friends would see fit to move an Instruction, on going into Committee on the Bill, making it plain that it was the duty of the Commission for the future to make careful inquiry into this matter of arrears, so that proper precautions might be taken that the money to be advanced should go to the right persons. If that course was taken, he, for one, should have the greatest satisfaction in supporting it. Then there was another point. It was said that the advances were in some danger. Experience had shown that even under the present system of government with coercion there was no substantial danger of a loss. There were no actual arrears at all, but those which existed were due naturally. That seemed to point to this—that under the present system there was practical security for the payment of instalments as they fell due; and then, when Home Rule came to pass, he, from his point of view, was bound to assume that it would be accompanied by a proposition for the settlement of the Land Question on the basis of Land Purchase, and it would be the duty of the Party which proposed Home Rule and Land Purchase to stipulate that the outstanding instalments should be guaranteed. In no alternative, therefore, did it seem to him that there was any likelihood of loss in regard to these instalments. Holding these views, what must his position be with regard to this Amendment, which proposed that arrears should be dealt with in lieu of extending the Ashbourne Act? He was strongly in favour of dealing with arrears, but he was also strongly in favour of extending the Ashbourne Act, to a certain limited extent at all events. Holding the views he had expressed, the Amendment was one for which he could not 1577 possibly vote in its present form. He had a full sense of the obligation which one owed to one's Party, but, on the other hand, this was not a Vote of No Confidence, it was a vote which simply meant what it said. It meant on the part of him who gave it that he was either for or against a particular Amendment that had been proposed. For his own part, while dissenting from the Amendment, he had no desire to participate to any large extent in the responsibility which the Government were taking upon themselves in making further proposals for Land Purchase without the interposition of an Irish Legislative Body. That seemed a defect in their system. He would rather that they took the responsibility on themselves, and he would feel himself under no obligation whatever to support them upon the later stages of the Bill. At the same time he would interpose no obstacle in their way, but, on the contrary, would endeavour by his individual vote to assist them to come to a decision. Holding the political opinions he did, it was with something more than a sense of obligation—it was with respect and gratitude—that he regarded the lead which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had given to his Party upon the question of Home Rule; but his right hon. Friend himself would probably be the last man to say to him that personal considerations ought to stand in his way in giving a vote. It appeared to him (Mr. Haldane) that, from his point of view, there was only one course open to him. He thought he would be failing in his duty to the House, and wanting in respect to himself, however humble a Member of his Party, if he did not vote against the Amendment, and take the consequences which might follow from that vote.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
said, he thought it might fairly be held that this Amendment left it open to those, even upon the Opposition side of the House, to entertain some divergency of views, and even to support it from very different motives. In the Irish measures which were brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in 1886, he thought that not the least admirable portion was that which dealt 1578 with the Land Question in Ireland. Therefore, as a firm believer in the necessity for some adequate and safe settlement of the Irish Land Question, he felt some anxiety upon this point; but, unlike his hon. and learned Friend who had just spoken (Mr. Haldane), he was re-assured by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) himself, and he felt convinced from that speech that the subject of Land Purchase, and the idea of Land Purchase, through the intervention of the State, had not ceased to form part of the programme of the Liberal Party. If he thought that the Party to which he belonged was committed to a policy of non-intervention in the Irish Land Question he should go into the same Lobby with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington, and he would be prepared at any future time, if the time did come when they divided upon the question, to vote with his hon. and learned Friend; but he thought that this was a fair opportunity for protesting against the policy of the Unionist Party, and against the particular method by which they had attempted to settle this first part of the Irish Land Question. One might fairly ask the question why the original Ashbourne Act was passed with so very little opposition. In the first place, the Government had just entered upon Office, and was in a minority in that position. It commanded some consideration; and then there was another marked distinction—namely, that the Government had dropped the policy of coercion, and was committed to a policy of conciliation towards Ireland. In 1886 the Liberal Party did not experience that forbearance. They introduced a Bill of general application, safeguarded so far as they were able to safeguard such a measure, and that proposition was made the topic of denunciation upon the hustings. That night they had a proposed extension of Lord Ashbourne's original scheme. That extension must have one of two effects, either this Act must involve the whole of Ireland, or it would divide Ireland into two classes—the class which came within the scope of the Act, and the class which was left outside; and he thought that the principle involved was so great, and the expenditure might be so enormous, that one might fairly 1579 call for the opinion of the country being expressed before supporting it with a vote. The censure passed by hon. Members opposite upon the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was so great, that that would be an additional reason for referring a question of this kind to the judgment of the country. The difficulties of making any settlement of the Land Question in Ireland now were very largely due to the action of the Unionist Party. During the last General Election, in his own constituency and in others, the statement was continually made that the expropriation of landlords in Ireland would involve an expenditure of from £150,000,000 to £200,000,000, which would have to be extracted from the pockets of the British taxpayer. It was difficult to know how hon. Members opposite, and some hon. Members on that side of the House, could reconcile the attitude they took in 1886 with that they assumed that night. Landowners up till now seemed to play into the hands of the interest which would confiscate their just rights. Perhaps the reduction of judicial rents which was lately carried out might awaken them to the chance they lost by the land proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. Now, the landowners were unwisely trying to save themselves by pushing through a measure which left no security between the British taxpayer and the Irish tenant, with whom he was to come immediately into contact. The objection to this Act had not been better stated than by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), when he said that the fatal objection to this legislation was, that if the extension of these transactions greatly increased, there would be a strike against the payment of interest, and there would only be one landlord, who would be the unpopular British Government. He (Mr. Ferguson) thought a safe measure was essential in carrying through the transfer of Irish land from the owner to the occupier; but he would remind those hon. Gentlemen who were against the State intervening in any way in such a question that such a transfer was by no means likely to be confined to Ireland alone, but that there 1580 would have to be an operation of this sort upon a large scale, probably, in this Island also. Speaking generally, the system of land tenure which was bound to prevail in the end throughout the world was that of occupying ownership, and the problem was how to carry through that change as easily and safely as might be. In one way or another, such a transfer had been carried out by nearly every progressive European Government. In Germany the Teutonic land system had been modified to a great extent already, and was still being modified, under the operation of the land rent banks; and it was by means of such a policy that the rural society of the United Kingdom was to be reconstructed on a better, or more equitable, and lasting foundation.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. GILL (Louth, S.)
said, that the hon. Member who from those Benches had expressed his disapproval of the Amendment was taking up a position absolutely inconsistent with that which he had adopted two years ago, when he, in common with the whole Liberal Party, had refused to sanction an advance to the Irish landlords unless an Irish Executive were placed between the English taxpayer and the Irish tenant. But now the hon. Member was prepared to sanction such an advance without any safeguard. The hon. Member said that there were now no substantial arrears to interfere with the working of an Act like this. This remark showed the absolute ignorance of the hon. Member with respect to this question. The Irish Members were not hostile to buying out the landlords and the establishing of the tenants as owners, provided the measure were framed in a proper spirit and carried out in a proper manner. Quite the contrary. It was one of the chief objects they had in view in the future. There was only one condition they laid down as essential to the object, and the condition was the establishing in Dublin of a Legislature, with an Executive responsible and pledged to the Imperial Government to collect and remit the instalments of the purchase money advanced to the tenants. The question in Ireland was the question of arrears. They saw the question of arrears operating every 1581 day in producing evictions, in producing the disturbance in the relations between landlords and tenants which now, unhappily, existed in Ireland and would exist so long as the House refused to deal with the question of arrears. It was the question of the coming winter in Ireland, and it was the question to which statesmen—anxious for the tranquillity of the country—should address themselves with all their earnestness. The case of James Dunne, who was recently evicted in County Louth, and died shortly after his eviction, had a most direct bearing on the question of arrears, because his eviction had, notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary's denial in his speech at Leeds, been caused by arrears of rent; and had an Arrears Bill such as was brought before the House last year and the year before been passed, the eviction would not have taken place, the man would probably be now alive, and his family would certainly be in possession of their old home. He would tell the House what the real facts of Dunne's case were, and be had not taken his views with an unquestioning ear, but had gone to the place and investigated the matter for himself. In the first place, Dunne was a man of 80 years of age, and during 60 of these years he had paid rent to the Singleton family for the holding, of which his family had been in possession for 300 years. They had built the dwelling house. They had drained and fenced the land. He could not imagine a more damning case against the state of the law in Ireland than that such an eviction could take place. The rent was fixed 60 years ago, and from that time it had never been reduced. During the years that had intervened since 1879 Dunne had made every effort to pay his rent. In 1885 he paid all his rent except £25. In 1886 there came the crisis, and Dunne was unable to pay the rent, and the landlord seized his cattle and crops, and in 1888 Dunne paid exactly half the rent; yet the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had said that the public opinion of England would support the landlord in casting Dunne out on the roadside; but he had not so poor an opinion of the people of England as the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The landlord had totted up the arrears for five years, and refused to take anything less 1582 than one year's rent in full. Under the Act to which he had given his support last year Dunne had been able to break a short lease. If the Arrears Act which had been pressed upon that House had been adopted Dunne's rent would have been reduced by 40 per cent. Dunne was paying a rent of 25s. an acre to the landlord, and he sub-let a portion of his land, but when it was put up for public auction all he could get was 14s. an acre. The next farm to Dunne's was one from which the tenant had been evicted. It was exactly the same class of land, and the tenant had been paying exactly the same rent as Dunne—namely, 25s. an acre. The tenant was evicted, and £300 was spent in improving the land. The agent then put it up for auction, expecting, of course, to get an enhanced rent after this expenditure on improvements, but the highest bid he could get was 10s. an acre, and he had to give the farm back to the original tenant at 12s. an acre. Other tenants on the same property, who had been enabled to go before the Land Court, had had their rents reduced—in one case from £28 to £17, and in another from £57 to £36, and that proved that had Dunne been able to have had his case heard before a Court, such as they had urged upon the House to institute in Ireland, and holding such powers as they contended should be vested in the Land Courts, he would have had his rent reduced by 50 per cent, so that if they calculated the difference between the rack-rent Dunne had been paying and what would be a fair rent, they would find that the old man had paid, since he became tenant, the arrears for the non-payment of which he was evicted at least seven times over. They must also remember that Dunne had built his house, the out-offices, and effected all the improvements with his own money and the industry of himself and family, and he lost all that property by the simple process of the law which evicted him after his long lifetime, and after paying the rent he had been paying for so many years. These and other facts which he adduced disposed, he contended, of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary's statement with regard to Dunne's arrears, and showed how eminently his was a case to be dealt with by a Bill dealing with arrears, such as was indicated by the Amendment before the House. The 1583 right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had suggested the infamous conclusion that the National League, for the purpose of making capital out of this old man's death, had allowed him to lie on the roadside to die from exposure; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this tenant was not a member of the National League at all, nor had there been any branch of the National League in the district in which he lived. If there had been a branch of the National League there, he (Mr. Gill) believed that the old man would be alive to-day, and his family would be provided for. He was not in the Plan of Campaign either—the tenants on this estate not being as fortunate as the tenants on a neighbouring estate at present leagued under the Plan of Campaign. This sorrowful story would not have to be told. It had been boasted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that the Plan of Campaign had been broken up on the neighbouring estate of Lord Massereene; but on the very same day that this old man was put out, Messrs. Dudgeon and Emerson were carrying out evictions on that estate, and on the first day of the inquest those gentlemen took advantage of the people going away to withdraw their soldiers and police to carry out five or six evictions on Lord Massereene's estate. The very presence of death was not sufficient to deter them.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, he was glad to observe that the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Louth (Mr. Gill) took up quite a different position to that assumed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lanark (Mr. Philipps). As to the case of James Dunne, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had made a statement, which was before the public, and they could judge between that statement and the one now made by the hon. Member. Therefore, it was unnecessary to go further into the details; but he would venture to say that the hon. Member had chosen a very unfortunate example of the rent-paying Irish tenant. It appeared that in 1881 Dunne was about £80 in arrear; in 1882 he was due £50 more; in 1883, £30; in 1884 he paid no rent at all; in 1885 he left 25; and in 1886 he paid no rent. That case would hardly extricate the 1584 right hon. Gentleman the Member fo Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) from the dilemma in which he placed himself when he represented the Irish tenant both as a rent-paying tenant and as crushed by arrears. The hon. Member (Mr. Gill) contended that Dunne's rent was an unfair rent; but it was admitted that in 1879 and 1880, which were two bad years, Dunne paid his rent out of savings of previous years. Of that the natural conclusion would be that, at all events, up to 1880 it was a fair rent. The hon. Member attempted to deny that Dunne's landlord had offered to wipe out his arrears, but, at all events, his arrears could not have been the result of pressure in previous years, as he had only paid about one-third of his rent the previous year. As far as he (Mr. Macartney) could gather from the tone of the hon. Member's remarks, he was not prepared to offer any opposition to the Bill now before the House. He understood that the hon. Member would vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian; but he did not appear to be disposed to vote against the Main Question. He did not know if that was the position which would be generally taken up by the hon. Member's Colleagues, but it was satisfactory so far as it went. Well, then, that being so, he would address himself to the question of arrears, which was apparently the important question. The hon. Member for Mid Lanark refused to admit that he and those who sat with him represented any Irish opinion at all. He did not wish to enter into a discussion of the point, especially as the hon. Member was not then in the House; but he would instead offer the opinion of eminent Irishmen who, he believed, would be admitted to represent the opinions of Irishmen of all classes. He found in the Appendix to the Report of the Cowper Commission the expression of the opinion that—The provisions of the Ashbourne Act, as to amount and security of loans for the purchase of holdings, would give entire satisfaction to the tenants without involving any loss to the Treasury.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
No; they were Roman Catholic Bishops—the Bishop of Tuam and other Roman Catholic Bishops; 1585 and he dared say the hon. Member would feel happier after that.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that what he had quoted was a declaration by four eminent Irishmen, representing the opinions of Irishmen of all classes, and it must carry great weight in favour of the Bill. Additional testimony was given in a periodical this month by the Archbishop of Dublin, who wrote that—The abolition of the present system of dual ownership by a comprehensive measure of purchase is by the consent of all parties the ultimate goal to be aimed at as a stop towards a desirable end. The extension of the singularly successful Act of 1885 will not he objected to by many Irishmen, provided always that the step be taken within the limits of a purely temporary measure, so as not to stand in the way of the consideration next year of the whole question of Land Purchase in Ireland.[Ironical Cheers.] He was quite willing to give hon. Gentlemen opposite the full benefit of the safeguard which the Archbishop had introduced. All he claimed was that, with regard to the measure now before the House, they had the opinion of the Archbishop that it was beneficial, and that the Act which the House was asked to extend had been a singularly successful measure. He invited the House to give its attention to that opinion in contradistinction to the view which had been somewhat wildly put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lanark. As to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, it indicated the worst possible way of dealing with the Irish agricultural question. It would be said by hon. Members opposite that he (Mr. Macartney) represented the opinions only of landlords, but in what he was going to say he believed he represented the opinion of every tenant farmer in Ireland who had paid his rent. He had taken special trouble during the last few months to ascertain their opinion with regard to arrears, and he unhesitatingly said that if the House proceeded to relieve men who were now in arrears it would be a step absolutely opposed to the views of the great majority of tenant farmers in Ireland. [Cries of "Oh!"] He was referring to men who had, with or without difficulty, paid their rent during the last eight or nine years. Hon. Members might deny the statement, but they would find it almost impossible to pro- 1586 duce a single tenant farmer who, having paid his rent, would approve of any further measures with regard to arrears. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian said, "Why should you extend to Scotland a measure of relief which you are not prepared to extend to Ireland?" but it had been already extended to Ireland, and without any good results whatever. He ventured to say that nine-tenths of the tenants who were now in arrears were men who had their arrears swept away in 1883 by the operation of the Act of 1882; and if those arrears under which they now laboured were swept away by any measure such as that which the right hon. Gentleman proposed, they would be in arrears again in another five or six years. He had quite an array of facts and figures in support of that view. On the Gosling estate, in Queen's County—on which there were 66 tenants—every tenant who availed himself of the Act of 1882 was in arrears again in November, 1887, to a larger extent than before. One tenant, who had £285 cleared off in 1883, had accumulated, in 1887, £388 more. On the Ashdown estate, in County Galway, there was a remarkable case of a man who, having been freed of two years' rent in 1882, had only paid a year and a half's rent in all the time since. If his present arrears were swept away, no doubt he would at once proceed to run up some more. Mr. Uniacke Townsend recently had a conversation with a tenant, a neighbour of his, who had paid his rent. This tenant was greatly disgusted that Parliament was going to intervene on behalf of his neighbours who had not paid, and he said—" I will not be caught again. I am going to be qualified for the next Arrears Bill." [Cries of "Name!"] That was the feeling which pervaded the tenantry of Ireland. He would not give the name of the tenant in public, but he would he happy to hand the letter over to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley). The hon. Member read to the House numerous estate details, showing how general it was that tenants who were relieved under the Act of 1882 were again in arrear, and proceeded to point out that they would never get rid of the weakened condition of the agricultural interest in Ireland if by a series 1587 of measures in Parliament they insisted on keeping upon the land men who were absolutely incapable of farming at an advantage. The benefit of Arrears Acts was mainly taken by idle and neglectful tenants, who ought to be cleared off and replaced by "strong" men. He could not understand the Parnellite Members, who looked forward to Home Rule, wishing to encourage a pernicious system for the benefit of men who never had been good farmers, and never would be, and who must, therefore, be a source of weakness not only to the agricultural interest, but also to every other interest in the community. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian tried to make the House believe that this Bill was being pushed forward for the benefit of landlords; but, speaking for Ulster, with which he was specially acquainted, he could assure the House that there was far greater anxiety in that part of Ireland on the part of the tenants than on that of the landlords to carry out sales under this Ashbourne scheme. Indeed, in some parts of Ulster pressure was being brought to bear on some Members of Parliament to make the sale compulsory on the landlord. The real objection on the part of the Gladstonians and Parnellites to extending the Ashbourne Act was simply that it had been too successful, and that it would destroy the foundation of the National League agitation. He would read to the House portions of two letters which he would show privately to any hon. Member, but he would not name the writers. One letter was dated October 10th, and related to a portion of County Monaghan. It said—Things certainly are very much improved in Ireland. The farmers are getting into better spirits, and in a corresponding degree are dropping agitation. I got some remarkable proofs of the change at Carrickmacross the other day. My informant, a Nationalist, acknowledged that the 600 tenants who had purchased from Lord Bath had lost all their patriotism. They would subscribe to no Nationalist fund, and they refused to attend the League; and, worst of all, the circulation of The Freeman had fallen off by upwards of 100 a-day.Another letter, dated November 17th, stated—I have just returned from Kilkenny, where I went yesterday to complete negotiations with tenants for sale under the Act. They all closed and signed agreements except one, and he will do so before a week. They increased their offers 1588 to 20 years' purchase. This was very good, and as well as I expected; but, better still, the tenants on another property were all paying rent, and I said to them—'What would you think now about buying?' They had been approached on the subject 12 months ago, but then they were indifferent, and almost averse, and I did not think they would respond, but the sequel proved there had come a change, and they all bought before I left at over 18 years' purchase, and seemed delighted. I heard that pressure was put upon their Member (Mr. Quinn) not to oppose the grant. This is a curious commentary on The Freeman articles, saying that the grant would be a curse, and also upon Mr. Gladstone's Notice of Motion. There is a great change in the tenants; the air seems purer.With regard to an observation of the hon. Member for Mid Lanark, that it was usual to insert in deeds a provision that the trust funds should not be invested in Irish land, it ought to be borne in mind that this had not always been the case. Such investment in Irish land had only been forbidden in such deeds during the last 20 years, dating, indeed, from about the time that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian commenced his Irish remedial legislation. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the Prime Minister's simile of the three Irishmen sitting on two others and rifling their pockets, and had said that if this was a true picture of the Irish people it was scarcely advisable to trust them with this further advance. But the simile had only reference to a hypothetical Ireland in which Home Rule was established. If there was any reasonable probability of Home Rule being granted, then he could understand the force of this objection; but they now believed that Home Rule was not within the limits of probability. Lord Spencer, on the second reading of Lord Ashbourne's Act, strongly recommended the gradual extension of purchase by the tenants as the best way of dealing with the Irish Land Question, and so did the Irish Bishops. The Government were doing the right thing at the present time in proceeding step by step with the question of Land Purchase in Ireland. They were proceeding in a way which would not only benefit the Irish people and successfully establish a proper race of peasant proprietors, but would also conduce best to settle one of the most thorny elements of the Irish Question.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork Co., N.E.)
I willingly join in the regrets that the House is deprived of the presence of 1589 the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for the Government of Ireland in this very important debate. I do not think there is any disposition on these Benches to improve the occasion by saying the sort of things which the right hon. Gentleman thought it right to say when the illness was the illness of men who were his own prisoners and in his own power. I pass from that. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), both in his Amendment and in his speech, insisted that the arrears question is the urgent question and the only urgent question in Ireland at this moment. The Irish Bishops, to whose authority the last speaker appealed, insisted upon the same thing a short time ago. The Irish Members insisted upon the same thing. I will try to recall to the House, and to fix its attention upon that question of arrears; and as to that question I must say I was not able to gather from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer what exactly is the position of the Government in reference to it. He did not deny the difficulty, but he did not face it; and he will excuse me for saying that his speech did not seem to me to betray anything like proper consciousness of the fact that this question of arrears is a question that is torturing the hearts of fathers and mothers in many a thousand poor Irish cabins to-night. He told us, indeed, that we are all labouring under a tremendous fallacy, and that those arrears are not the arrears of unjust rents, but that they are the arrears of judicial rents. I dare say that that tremendous fallacy is the precious discovery on the strength of which the Chief Secretary for a short time ago lectured the Irish Bishops in a compassionate manner upon their ignorance of this arrears question. They do not enjoy the superior advantage that the right hon. Gentleman enjoys of studying this question from a philosophical standpoint in Haddingtonshire or London. They live amongst the people, and the right hon. Gentleman taunted them, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taunted us to-night, with being under a complete hallucination as to the question of arrears. I do not know whether there is any truth in the rumour that the right hon. Gentleman has been taking measures to correct the erroneous doc- 1590 trines of the Irish Bishops by another Re-script from Rome. He gave a very broad hint in one recent speech that he was trying it anyhow. But what is the fact as to this precious discovery that these arrears are the arrears of just judicial rents? In the first place, the vast bulk of these arrears began to accumulate long before these judicial rents could be fixed at all. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Gill) gave an example to-night in the case of James Dunne. The arrears for which he was evicted, and for which he lost his life, began to accumulate as long ago as 1880, and they had been ever since increasing; I and my hon. Friend told you of Dunne's fruitless struggles to beat off those arrears that were hanging like a millstone round his neck. What do the figures quoted by the last speaker as to the Arrears Act prove? Simply that these tenants swept themselves bare in order I to raise the year's rent that was necessary to compound under the Arrears Act, and they never have been able to flounder out of debt since. In the second place, the Chancellor of the Exchequer forgets that until the Act of last year there were over 100,000 tenants who were debarred from getting judicial rents fixed. In the third place, even as to judicial rents, you yourselves had to reduce them last year as impossible and irrecoverable rents; and, more than that, every just landlord in Ireland has been for several years past reducing these judicial rents, and giving lower reductions than were scheduled under the Act of last year. It is the fact that nine-tenths at least of these arrears are the direct result of rents which are now acknowledged by law to be unjust and oppressive rack-rents. That is the fallacy to which the Irish Bishops and the Irish Representatives are a prey. The Chief Secretary has developed such an astounding faculty for denial that I would not be surprised if in his next speech down the country he told us that this arrears difficulty is purely an imaginary one, and is a fable a thousand times exploded. It would not be a bit more daring than his story of the Mitchelstown ricochet shot. If this question is not a very vital and burning question, why is the Government asking for £5,000,000? Is it for the benefit of thriving tenants that the British taxpayer is asked to supply £5,000,000? I regret to say that it is the rich flourishing tenants of the 1591 Abercorn family who are feathering their nests at the expense of the British taxpayer, and not the poor cottier tenant of the West. But, of course, that is not the Government's case; it is their case that it is the embarrassed and over-burdened tenant that will be benefited by this Bill. I think it will be easy to show that the Bill will do nothing of the sort; it will make the rich tenants richer; but, so far as the poor tenants are concerned, it will leave them as hopeless and helpless as ever, unless, indeed, they can be tempted to join in a fraud on the British Treasury; for when the Solicitor General told us to-night that the arrears would be wiped off by purchase, he did not tell us that if wiped off at all, they will be wiped off by adding them to the purchase money which the British taxpayer is asked to advance. I hold—and I think it will be proved in the course of these discussions—that the Bill will be either a fraud itself or the cause of fraud in others. But the point I am on at present is the terrific magnitude which I do not believe the House appreciates of the danger to the tenantry of Ireland from these iniquitous arrears. I think it is perfectly impossible on that point to resist the evidence of the Eviction Returns for the last two years, although most impudent attempts have been made to juggle with them, and all sorts of attempts made to minimize them, owing to the change in the form of eviction procedure under the Act of last year. When I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking to-night of 300 evictions for the past year I took the trouble to examine the Returns; and I beg the attention of the House to a comparison of the Eviction Returns for the year 1886—the year before the Chief Secretary introduced his Crimes Act—with the Returns for the present year, when the right hon. Gentleman and his newspapers and his friends are bragging of the triumphant success of his Administration. If the House will bear with me for a moment I think I will be able to show that during the career of the Chief Secretary for Ireland there has been a most alarming and progressive increase—a perfectly horrible increase in the number of legal evictions—in the number of persons whom the law has deprived of every shred of property in their holdings, and placed them absolutely at the mercy of the landlords. In 1886 1592 —the year before the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Coercion Act—there were 698 tenants evicted in the first quarter; 1,309 in the second; 1,108 in the third; and 666 in the fourth—making a total of 3,781 tenants evicted during that year. In the present year, after two years' experience of the right hon. Gentleman's policy, there were, by one form of process or another, 2,780 tenants deprived of their property in their holdings in the first quarter; 3,775 in the second; 3,812 in the third—that is, the last quarter for which we have Returns—which shows there were in the last three months more tenants deprived of their property in their holdings than during the whole 12 months of 1886. For the nine months of this year 10,367 tenants have been legally, and quite as effectively, if not bodily evicted and deprived of every shred of their property in their holdings—10,367 tenants against 3,781 in the year 1886. If the same rate continues until the end of the year—and the rate is steadily increasing—you will have 14,000 families, or 70,000 men, women, and children, subjected to this process of legal eviction this year—nearly fourfold of an increase in the figures for one year before the passing of the Coercion Act. I notice an interesting fact, which I commend to the attention of the hon. Member opposite, who boasted that he spoke for all the tenants of Ulster; and I commend it also to the attention of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), who, I dare say, will during this debate also speak for all the tenants of Ulster. In the loyal Province of Ulster there were 903 tenants turned into caretakers in the first quarter of this year, against 754 in the Plan of Campaigned Province of Munster. In the second quarter, the number of tenants whose tenancies were determined in loyal Ulster was 1,126; while disloyal Munster got off with 654. I venture to suggest to the hon. Member for South Tyrone that the next time he is in search of evictions he need not go so far afield as the County Clare. The farmers of Tyrone would be very much obliged to him to look at home; while he has been doing Emergency work in East Clare the landlords have been scourging Ulster, and Ulster had not a Plan of Campaign to protect her. I know it will be attempted, but it is perfectly idle to attempt to get rid of these appalling 1593 figures by telling us that the greater number of 10,600 tenancies determined within the last nine months have been tenancies determined by caretakers' notices under Section 7 of the Act of last year—that is, the new form which the law prescribes—the new form of eviction; but it is a tenfold cheaper and surer form of eviction for the landlord, and it is every bit as effective in destroying the tenant's property in his little holding and in his improvements. An audacious attempt has been made by the Chief Secretary's Secretary and the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Fisher) at Haslingden to prove that the caretakers' notices were most innocent documents—that they were mere civil invitations to pay up, and that they did not damnify the tenants' position in the least.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
I refer to another gentleman whom I can name, as he is not a Member of the House, Mr. Wyndham. His speech at Haslingden is extant in choice English in The Manchester Courier. What is the fact? The moment the tenant receives one of those registered letters through the post, just as if the guillotine descended upon him, he ceases to be a tenant and becomes a more caretaker. The ownership in the home and the house that he built, and in his own improvements, and, practically speaking, everything that he has in the world is put into the pockets of the landlord. He is liable to eviction on the roadside at any moment after a month when the landlord chooses to apply for an order for possession at the cost of, I think, 1s.; and he can never regain his status as a tenant unless within six months he can satisfy the landlord's demand for rent and arrears, and pay the lawyer's bill of costs—an impossible bill of costs—into the bargain. That is the effect of these notices, which the English people are led to believe are nothing more than a mere pleasant interchange of courtesies between landlord and tenant. The effect of them is simply to strip the tenant of every shred of legal property, and reduce him to a condition of absolute helplessness, hopelessness, and living death. I have shown you that there will have been this year 14,000 families, 70,000 persons, in that terrible position in this year of grace, 1594 when the Chief Secretary goes about bragging that he has brought back tranquillity and prosperity to Ireland. I know, Sir, side by side with this prodigious increase in legal evictions there has been a very marked suspension of actual bodily eviction; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night told us that the greater number of cases in which persons had been actually thrown out on the roadside and their houses demolished about their ears had been on the Plan of Campaign estates. That by no means has been universally the fact. Take the case of the Singleton property for example. That was not a Plan of Campaign estate; and let me cite as an example one of James Dunne's neighbours, Thomas Reid, who was evicted on the same day. His old rent was £57; his new rent, which was fixed as a fair rent, was £36; that is to say, he had been paying an unjust rent of £21 a-year during the 21 years while his lease had been running on, so that practically speaking he was robbed in that time of £441, whereas he was evicted for arrears amounting to £175; so that if full justice had been done in Thomas Reid's case he would not only have got a clear receipt for the arrears, but he would have been entitled to something like £300 from the landlord. I admit that the Plan of Campaign estates have been specially selected for vengeance, and that a great number of evictions have taken place there. That is our contention, and I hold that is the proof of the danger of the general body of tenants and a triumphant vindication of the Plan of Campaign. I have shown that there were over 10,000 tenants who were liable for the last nine months to be flung out on the roadside; but if they have not been flung out they do not thank the Government nor the landlords, but the Plan of Campaign. The landlords have been concentrating all their strength and their venom against the Plan of Campaign estates, because they know that the tenants' combinations on these estates are the only barriers against a torrent of evictions; and I will tell you why that torrent of evictions has not broken loose, because the Government, with all their terrors, have absolutely and ignominiously failed to crush the Plan of Campaign. Those poor groups of Irish tenants have been for the last couple of years persecuted and maligned in every possible brutal way. But they have 1595 stood their ground against all odds, and they have shown a heroism that never was surpassed on the battlefield—they faced evictions, faced bayonets, faced gaols, and faced the Holy Inquisition. Nearly two years have elspsed, and these poor unarmed Irish peasants stand unconquered and unconquerable still. It is because their sacrifices have aroused the attention and indignation of the English people against evictions in Ireland that the landlords have not long ago gone in for wholesale clearances like a pack of wolves. And these people would have been exterminated like vermin if the Plan of Campaign had been broken down. But it cannot. The right hon. Gentleman is quite correct. It has caused a few evictions; but it has saved thousands. Let me give you an illustration of this. There is not in the whole County of Mayo a single Plan of Campaign estate at this moment. Yet what is the fact? Of all the counties in Ireland Mayo is the one that heads the list of evictions for the three-quarters of this year. Is the Plan of Campaign answerable for these? No. It is the Plan of Campaign that has prevented all these 2,000 eviction notices that have been served in the County of Mayo from being executed, because the landlords remember the result of our struggle on Lord Dillon's estate in Mayo. They dare not face wholesale clearances in the face of the combination of the Irish people and the watchfulness of the English people; and though every man of these poor caretakers continues to be stripped of every legal right he has in the world, unless, as the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) has suggested, they pay the amount of their rent and arrears—and many of them do manage, by some extraordinary shift, to endeavour to satisfy the landlord—but if they do they simply put off the evil day, and are plunging themselves deeper and deeper into embarrassment. You may dislike the Plan of Campaign; and I, for one, never hesitated to confess that I am ready to abandon it in the morning if you even give us a decent Court of Arbitration to replace it. You may abuse the Plan of Campaign; but where is the alternative? You may abuse it; but you cannot brush it. Up to this hour I defy you to affix any stigma of dishonesty or crime to it. The hon. Member for South Tyrone as been lying low to-night; but 1596 he has publicly stated that he means to convict us with fraud, and all the rest of it. He has publicly made mention of his intention to discomfit us over the Vandeleur estate, and I am sorry that he has not given us the opportunity of hearing him to-night; but I can very well anticipate what his statement will be. In the whole history of these transactions there is no incident more repulsive than that trip of the Member for South Tyrone to the Vandeleur evictions—burrowing all day in search of every scrap of evidence that could be twisted against the unfortunate tenants, dining and hobnobbing in the evening with the evictors, and then sitting down like the candid friend to write his letters to The Times, reporting every bit of tittle-tattle he had picked up from the enemies of the people, and making a particular entry of every bit of ribbon or fringe worn by a young girl, and of every decent pair of shoes that he saw on the people in the streets. It is not a nice trade, that of "tenant's friend" in Tyrone and literary Emergency man in West Clare. To all intents and purposes the hon. Member was just as much a part of the machinery of eviction as the battering ram. He was very much worse, because the English people would not have permitted the machinery of eviction to work so long, but for the machinery of misrepresentation. I do not know if it would be within Order to say that the hon. Gentleman went there to spy; but, as he said himself, he went to record everything that he wrung from the poor people of West Clare under the eye of Mr. Cecil Roche, when the elected Representatives of the people of Clare were batoned back by the police when they attempted to verify his inquiries. The House is not in a position to judge of the complicated details of these cases; but I will tell you who is. The landlord's brother-in-law, Mr. Henry Carew Reeves, is in a position to judge. Then there is Mr. Micks, the Local Government Board Inspector, the Secretary under the Arrears Act. The testimony of these two men is worth more than that of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. Both these men formulated terms of settlement which the tenants were willing to accept, but which the landlord rejected. Both these men—one a landlord and the other a high official—proposed terms; and by the rejection of these terms these 1597 men, I can tell you, practically speaking condemned the landlord and vindicate, the position of the tenants. In face of the testimony of two men like these, what becomes of the twopenny-halfpenny fables which the hon. Member for South Tyrone picked up at the dinner table of the agent? But there is something more than that. I do not know whether the House is aware that in a public speech in the tenants' name I myself offered to submit this whole dispute to the arbitration of another Mr. Reeves, who is himself a Land Commissioner, a Queen's Counsel, a Protestant Conservative gentleman, and a landowner in the County Clare; and I undertook to pay £1,000 to the funds of the Landlords' Defence Association if the arbitrator decided that, upon the whole, the tenants' claim was a dishonest one, on condition that Colonel Turner would agree to pay £500 to the evicted tenants if the decision of the arbitrator was adverse to the landlord. I repeat that offer here to-night, and I will accompany it by an offer to the hon. Member for South Tyrone. If he is so confident of his position, let us both resign our seats in this House to-night. I am afraid it would be a French compliment to ask him to meet me in my constituency of North-East Cork, though if we believe what we are told by Ministerial speakers, my intimidated constituents would be only too glad, too enthusiastic in welcoming the hon. Member as a deliverer; but, seriously speaking, let him take the opinion of the farmers of South Tyrone as to his part in these Vandeleur evictions; and if he comes back victorious to this House, I pledge myself to sign the humblest apology he can pen for ever having impugned his action. If he will not close with that offer, and if he dare not face and show himself to South Tyrone, as the landlord dare not face the arbitrator, let us hear no more of the hon. Member's profound investigation into the condition of County Clare from the top of an Emergency jaunting car. There is another point in reference to these Vandeleur evictions, and it is of considerably more importance, and considerably more serious, than the hon. Member's contributions to The Times newspaper. I told you that Mr. Micks, the Local Government Board Inspector, proposed terms of settlement. Mr. Micks has since been removed from his post. He has been banished to the North of 1598 Ireland, and on the express ground that he interfered between landlord and tenant; and what I want to point out is that there was another official in connection with these Vandeleur evictions who interfered between landlord and tenant. He was not a man of Mr. Micks' experience in arrears. He was a military man—a police magistrate—Colonel Turner, and Colonel Turner interfered not in a quiet and friendly way in order to preserve the peace. He wrote a furious partizan letter to The Daily News, in which he accused the most venerable priest in Clare—the Vicar General, Dr. Dynan—and the hon. Member for East Clare (Mr. Cox) of being receivers of stolen goods; and then went on to say—I have not hesitated to express my regret that so far no steps have apparently been taken on behalf of the landlords to utilize the effect of these evictions and work the evicted farms. Evictions are a sad necessity, and especially so where the tenants can pay and will not; but certain duties are incumbent on the landlord, and if the vile and dishonest conspiracy known as the Plan of Campaign"——[An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] That may be the hon. Gentleman's opinion; but I have yet to learn that the Chief Magistrate of Clare is paid to express those opinions in English newspapers. Colonel Turner continued—than which no more fraudulent scheme was ever started by seditious minds, is to be successfully fought, more must be done than merely evicting tenants and, leaving evicted farms idle, and the combination will not be defeated unless such take place. In this connection I am able to state with fairness to the agent, Mr. Stoddart, that this defect is now being remedied, and active steps are being taken on behalf of the landlord to save the crops and work the land, and generally to utilize these evicted farms.Now, here is a man—a magistrate—paid to stand impartially between man and man, and his notion of impartially preserving the peace is to launch out into a furious newspaper controversy, and to accuse men at least as honourable and as moral, and as good men as he, to accuse a most respected priest and the Representative of the people of being receivers of stolen goods, and actually to flog the landlord up to his work, to stimulate him, and to prompt him bring further trouble and further misery upon that estate by flooding it with hired bravos, with Emergency men, in order to make war on the unfortunate tenants. I want to know 1599 from the Government what better right Colonel Turner had to interfere than Mr. Micks had? Unless it be that, unlike Mr. Micks, Colonel Turner interfered as an open and virulent partizan of the landlord. Has Colonel Turner been removed or reprimanded, as unfortunate Mr. Micks was? On the contrary, I have no doubt, in due time, we shall hear of his being gazetted a K.C.B., or sent out to Queensland; but, possibly, recent events have spoilt his chance in that quarter. Has there been any sort of rebuke administered to him? On the contrary, within the past few weeks, Colonel Turner has tried his hand upon a new interference between landlord and tenant, and this time it was on the Kenmare estate, in County Kerry. This time he appeared in a new character—that of a successful intimidator of the landlord—and he posed as a rival to the Plan of Campaign in the confidence and affections of the tenantry. Most luckily we have got the evidence under his own hand, and the correspondence speaks for itself, though I do not think it was originally framed by Colonel Turner with a view to publication. On the 28th of October Sergeant O'Callaghan informed the tenants he was authorized by Colonel Turner to tell them that if they would abandon the Plan of Campaign he would submit their demands to the proper authority, and take stops to obtain reasonable reductions; and he, furthermore—this Sergeant O'Callaghan—informed the tenants that Colonel Turner was a more powerful person in Munster than even the Chief Secretary. The tenants took the Sergeant's hint and they wrote to Colonel Turner. This is his reply—Sir—I have received your letter, and I will put your case before the proper people as your representative. I must, however, point out that I have no power or authority whatever to interfere.That is precisely what we say; and then he immediately proceeds to interfere and lay down conditions, and says—I did not say I would undertake to see the tenants fairly dealt with. What I did say was"—and I would like to know what legal warrant there is for saying this—that if they abstain from taking any part whatever in the fraudulent conspiracy called the Plan of Campaign, which has been declared illegal.1600 By whom? "By the Government." That is the Dublin Castle theory of legality to a T. It is not the law which has got to be obeyed; but the Government—That if they abandon the Plan of Campaign, which has been declared illegal by the Government, and pronounced immoral by the highest ecclesiastical authority—namely, the Pope.I do not see the hon. Member for South Belfast. I would like to know what he thinks of the definition, unless he also has gone over to Rome in a political sense. We hope the hon. Member, whom we all respect, will be able to give us his opinion on this subject. "If, further," the letter continues—They cease to have any dealings with agitators, who, for their own selfish ends"—this is the unmalicious and impartial magistrate—Who for their own selfish ends are endeavouring to push the unfortunate tenants to their ruin"—Colonel Turner is the only friend unfortunate tenants had—"I will do all in my power,"—he commenced by saying there was nothing in his power—I will do all in my power to get their case fairly put forward.The tenants immediately thanked him, and they wrote—As this is the gale day, and we at any moment might be pressed for the payment of rents which are unjust, and which we are unable to pay, may I ask you will you kindly let me know at your earliest convenience, for the information of my fellow tenants, what reductions you have been able to obtain for us?[Laughter.] Well, Colonel Turner did not laugh at that letter; but he sent a perfectly grave reply, saying he had received the letter; that he would submit the case to the proper quarter; and that he would communicate the result as soon as he received it. I venture to say that is the Government plan of dealing with the arrears. That is what all their boasts and coercion have come to; and after two years they are driven back to the same hit or miss, the same arbitrary plan of pressure on bad landlords, which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was detected in two years ago. I say the Government have acknowledged that interference in some shape or form is absolutely essential; and this is their Plan of Campaign. I ask the House, can there possibly be a Plan 1601 of Campaign that is more un-Constitutional, any that is more objectionable in every shape or form? What does Colonel Turner mean by his promise to do all in his power if he does not mean exactly what Sergeant O'Callaghan said—if he does not mean that he—a police magistrate—is to assume to himself the very function which the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) would transfer to a competent and regular judicial tribunal? To my mind it is perfectly clear that he—a police magistrate—practically speaking, undertakes to bully landlords or tenants into any terms, whether just or unjust, that he in his ignorance may lay down. And remember this also—that Colonel Turner never interfered at all until the tenants had adopted the Plan of Campaign; and because they had adopted the Plan of Campaign, and because he found it necessary to compete with us and to outbid us, and because we ventured to emancipate Kerry from the dual control of the Chief Secretary and Captain Moonlight. I would like to know hew hon. Gentlemen opposite like the idea of dealing with arrears by drumhead court martial? Are the Irish tenants to be taught that they must adopt the Plan of Campaign if they want Colonel Turner to interest himself in them, and what is to become of the tenants in the other 30 counties that have no Colonel Turner? I hold that Colonel Turner's action is a complete official recognition of the necessity for this Amendment. The wit of man could not devise a remedy more objectionable and more unjust to landlord and to tenant than this system of ignorant and arbitrary meddling by a police magistrate, who takes up his quarters in the house of the most hated agent in Clare, and who does not as much as attempt to conceal his uncontrollable partizanship. Now, I have addressed myself at very undue length to the subject; and I will say that, so far as we are concerned, while we do not object to Colonel Turner's interference in the least, still we join the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in desiring to establish a regular or judicial Court of Arbitration instead of the amateur Arrears Court of Colonel Turner and Sergeant O'Callaghan. The urgency of this question is now admitted. If 1602 what the Government want is to bring about peace in Ireland, and not merely to gain political triumph and vengeance, I say here to-night that it is perfectly within their power this Session, or even within the limits of this Bill, to construct a tribunal which would do for Ireland what the Crofters Commission has done for Scotland, and wipe out with generous and judicious hand the accumulated results of many years of suffering and injustice. I say that this Bill is not a remedy, and is not intended to be a remedy. It is a mere Bill for shovelling English gold into the pockets of the Irish landlords; and if you pass it you will simply be enabling the Irish landlords to complete their historical career of public mischief and guilt by plundering England after draining and plundering Ireland.
MR. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)
said, he could not attempt to follow the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. W. O'Brien) in the fire and eloquence of a speech which had interested, if it had not much enlightened them. He desired to congratulate the Government on their decision to introduce and press forward that Bill, and to meet with, he hoped, a firm and uncompromising opposition the most mischievous Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). He paid that tribute to the Government with greater pleasure because he had been totally opposed to the policy of an Autumn Session, and had thought it bad as a precedent and unwarranted by the reasons alleged for its justification. But the time which they might have grudged for the conduct of business which had fallen into arrear they would gladly give to the passing of a measure of that kind, conceived in the best interests of the peasantry of Ireland. He was sure there was not a man on the Benches around him who did not feel that he would be amply repaid for the trouble and inconvenience to which he had been put in coming there at that time of the year by the passing of the Bill. He held it to have been an act not of policy or of wisdom on the part of the Government, but of positive duty, to have introduced that measure. By Lord Ashbourne's Act of 1885 they bad entered into an obligation with two classes in Ireland—with such landlords as were 1603 willing on equitable terms to sell, and with such tenants as were willing on reasonable terms to buy. They pledged to both the encouragement of the State and the co-operation and the security of the State. That was an obligation of faith and honour on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to borrow a phrase from a forgotten vocabulary of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. That obligation had increased rather than diminished by the lapse of time. If landlords and tenants in Ireland were both anxious for a renewal of that measure, and if they asked to have the same facilities accorded to them as had been enjoyed by their fellows during the past three years, they should be refused they might justly complain of an act of bad faith on the part of the Government and say that instead of being encouraged they had been defrauded and aggrieved. The hon. Member who had spoken last called that Bill a Bill for shovelling English gold into the pockets of Irish landlords, and it had also been characterized as a landlords' relief bill. He (Mr. Curzon) maintained, however, that until they revolutionized the meaning of the English language that was a most incorrect description of the measure. He contended, on the contrary, that the Bill was most clearly a tenants' relief bill. The tenant made a clear gain—a twofold gain by the Bill. He was an immediate gainer by the fact that the interest plus the sinking fund he would be called on to pay from year to year under the Act was loss by a good deal, if he came at all to reasonable terms with his landlord, as he was pretty certain to do, than the rent he was now paying; and he was a prospective gainer by the fact that after the efflux of time, and that no considerable time, he became the owner of the fee simple instead of a more tenant. Therefore, to contend that the Bill was introduced in the interest of the landlords instead of in the interest of the tenants was in the highest degree absurd. He must congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane) on the honesty of the speech which he had made that evening. He understood that that hon. and learned Gentleman intended not only to vote against the Amendment, but that he was in favour, with certain reservations 1604 of the policy embodied in that Bill. But the hon. Gentleman, although he sat behind the rose, was not the rose himself; and what they wished to ascertain was what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was going to do, and what vote the Party behind the right hon. Gentleman were going to give on the Bill. He had listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, but was unable to extract from it any clear or definite information on that head. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not object to the Bill itself—that was, in principle, but he objected to it because it was introduced at that time, and because it involved the postponement of a larger scheme of land purchase which was supposed to be somewhere in the background. It was, he thought, not a very reasonable course of action to object to a measure of Land Purchase the character of which was known, the success of which was admitted, and with the principle of which they agreed, because it involved the postponement of another larger measure of Land Purchase the nature of which they did not know, the probable effects of which they could not gauge, and with the principle of which they might possibly disagree. [Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian stated that his objection against the measure was one of time and season, taunting the Government at the same time with the precipitancy with which they had introduced the Bill. But, he asked, where had been the precipitancy in the introduction of the measure? For months past it had been a matter of notoriety that the money granted by the Act of 1885 had been exhausted, and that the Government intended in this Autumn Session to come forward and make a demand for further funds. It was unfair, therefore, to say that this proposal had been suddenly sprung on the notice of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman did not object to the Bill itself, why did he object to its being taken de die in diem? Supposing the Amendment were to be carried, it would interfere with the progress of the Bill and practically destroy it. They wished to know what was the vote which the Party opposite—led by the right hon. Gentleman—were going 1605 to give on the Bill itself? Was objection on the score of time going to over-ride approbation on the score of principle, or was consideration of principle at last to have some sway? Then, the right hon. Gentleman said that he introduced the Amendment as an alternative proposal to that of the Government. The Party opposite deserved to be congratulated on the manner in which they had coupled together two questions so opposite and irrelevant as those of land purchase and arrears of rent. He failed to see any relation whatever, except that of opposition and contrast, between a measure for wiping out a certain portion of the debts of a particular class in Ireland and a measure for enabling another class in Ireland to become the purchasers of their holdings. It was just like meeting a resolution to give A a coat by proposing to give B a waistcoat. There were tenants in Ireland who would be much benefited by reduction of arrears, but there were also tenants who were anxious to become the purchasers of their holdings; and he contended that the solvent tenants of Ireland had just as much claim, had even a superior claim, on the attention of the House than the insolvent tenants had. He understood that the argument of the other side with regard to arrears amounted to this—that because rents had been pronounced to be excessive, first by the decision of the House in 1887 that they ought to be revised, and, secondly, by the revision of the Commissioners themselves, therefore the arrears must be excessive also. Plausible as that proposition was, it involved a gross fallacy. The rents pronounced to be excessive were those fixed some time between 1881 and 1887. They were not excessive at the time they were fixed, but they had become so since, owing to the fall in prices. He reminded the House that it was not until 1886 that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) asked leave to introduce a Bill for the revision of rents, and that in 1887 a Bill of a somewhat similar character was introduced by the Government granting a somewhat similar reduction for similar causes. But the arrears had accumulated since 1881; they were of several years' standing. The hon. Member for North-East Cork might say that the rents were excessive from the first; but if they were excessive from the first, then the hon. Mem- 1606 ber condemned the tribunal by which they were fixed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had referred in his Amendment to the lamentable suffering from recent evictions in Ireland, allowing it to be understood that the suffering and evictions were due mainly to the pressure of arrears. But they had a good idea as to the source whence the sufferings from evictions came and the evictions themselves. They had been due, not to legislation by the House, but to the action of certain legislators in and outside the House. Instead of all this being due to the pressure of arrears, it might, with greater justice, be attributed to the Plan of Campaign. He believed there had been scarcely any cases in which the landlord had not been willing to grant an abatement of arrears at least as great in proportion as, if not greater than, the reduction of rent forced upon him by the Land Commissioners after the passing of the Act of 1887. By this Amendment the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian asked them to upset the decision at which the House of Commons arrived twice in the same month in the Session of 1887. It could be shown that the Amendment was invidious and unjust, that it would be immoral in its operation, and that it would be fraught with injury to the people of Ireland. It was invidious with regard to those tenants who had already paid both rent and arrears. It would teach the people of Ireland that honesty was stupidity, and that the doors of that House were an avenue to the repudiation of those debts which were most disagreeable to them. Again, he contended that the Amendment would be most unjust in its operation, because it was an attempt to penalize one class of tenants at the expense of another. Where was the justice of annulling, or partly cancelling, the debts due to the landlord, and leaving the debts due to the shopkeeper and the usurer untouched? Indeed, the latter debts could hardly be said to be untouched, inasmuch as they would become better property if the debts due to the landlord were partly cancelled. In 1887 the Government made a fair and reasonable offer to the House and to the Party opposite to place all these debts upon a similar footing; but the offer was refused then, and, as he understood 1607 it, had been again refused that night. That circumstance threw a flood of light on the motives which led to the opposition to the present Bill. He contended that the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment would be immoral in its operation. The Land Bill of 1887 was not defensible in principle, but was a rough-and-ready way of dealing with a temporary and serious emergency. It was a natural corollary of what had occurred in the vicious system of land legislation since the disastrous Act of 1881. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian now invited them to take one more retrogade step, and to plunge deeper into the Serbonian bog of economic revolution which he inaugurated in Ireland in that year. If this Amendment were carried where were they to stop? The policy of the right hon. Gentleman appeared to him (Mr. Curzon) to be a policy not of statesmanship, but a policy of muddling utterly unworthy of the traditions and the legislation of that House. There was, he thought, something else behind the Amendment which had been moved by the right hon. Gentleman—something other than the mere philanthropic wish to relieve distress in Ireland, or the desire which some hon. Members entertained of still further mulcting the landlords. He was encouraged in that belief by the defence offered by the organs of the right hon. Gentleman. The morning after the right hon. Gentleman made the announcement of his Amendment to the House, he (Mr. Curzon) was so astonished at the apparent change of front with regard to Land Purchase, and so anxious to see how the question of the reduction of arrears could be described as an alternative to Land Purchase, that he went to the oracle that spoke from Fleet Street to see what it said on the question. The Daily News said on the matter—It is a matter of justice and of policy, and the action of the Opposition must be entirely approved of by every genuine Liberal.The test there offered of a "genuine Liberal" was that he approved of the action of the right hon. Gentleman, and that action was defended on the ground of policy. It was therefore not a practical, but a tactical Amendment. Policy suggested that it would never do to meet with a direct negative a principle in favour of which the Liberal Party 1608 had been pledged up to the eyes for the last 20 years. Policy suggested further, that it would be much safer to ride off on some side issue, and that if it was not possible to defeat the Bill, at least they might cast discredit upon it. Policy demanded that the bogey of evictions should be trotted out, and that one more "fillip" should be given to an expiring agitation. He hoped those who read the papers, not less than those who sat in that House, would see very clearly through that manœuvre, the tactical ability of which appeared to him to be about on a par with its morality. They would see very clearly that the Liberal Party and the right hon. Gentleman opposite had not merely set themselves up in antagonism to a policy they had espoused for 20 years—that they were accustomed to—but that they were doing their best to defeat a measure demanded by every true friend of the Irish people.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
said, he desired to call attention to the singularly unfavourable circumstances under which the House was forced to consider this important question. The general principle of the Bill was one on which he believed all Parties in the House of Commons were agreed—he meant the policy of creating in Ireland a cultivating ownership of the soil. The Liberal Party, nearly 20 years ago, attempted to create it in legislation, and the Party opposite, after their manner, had gradually come round to it. But Her Majesty's Government had contrived to present their proposal to the House in such a way as necessarily to provoke the most reasonable irritation and suspicion. The House was obliged to discuss this matter with a pistol at its head. The position in which they were placed was entirely without precedent in the history of Parliament. On the 19th November, with more than one-half of the laborious Business of Supply unaccomplished, and with measures on hand on which much time had been spent, the Government stepped in with this proposal, superseding Supply and endangering those measures, and that was not all. Not only were they to give this Bill precedence, but they were called upon to gallop it through without a halt or breathing time. This was a matter which, above all others, required time for consideration. Lord Ashbourne's Act was avowedly passed as 1609 an experiment, and he asserted it was their bounden duty, before doubling the experiment and granting a three years' supply of money for it, to know how the experiment had succeeded. It was the duty, as well as the right, of the House to require that information. Only a few copies of the Land Commissioners' Report had been placed in their hands, and the House at large had no knowledge even of the statistics from which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) quoted. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed some astonishment that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had not come forward and, looking at the actual terms of the purchases effected, complained of them. How could he complain of them when he did not know what they were? He would like to know, before he could be sure of this great experimental scheme having succeeded, the number of years' purchase that had been granted in each instance, and the particular rents upon which the transaction was based? He would like to know what in each case at the moment of the purchase were the relations between the tenant and the landlord, and whether the tenant was a perfectly free agent in the matter? He would like to know on what estates the operations had occurred, why these estates were selected, and why it had been applied with a lavish hand and on a large scale on certain estates? They wished to know also what was the nature and the character of the holdings affected? In short, they required to have information of this kind before they could know whether the result, however satisfactory it might he considered by the Government, had really carried out the intention of Parliament, and whether the evil and mischief which they had anticipated had been avoided. Before the Government proposed this large experiment of Land Purchase, there ought in fact to have been an inquiry before a Select Committee, into the manner in which the Act had been worked. The very least they might Lave asked was that they should be furnished with the information of which he spoke before the introduction of a measure, and that ample opportunity should have been allowed for that in- 1610 formation to be examined. He felt so strongly on this point that he should be quite content upon that ground alone to have opposed the introduction of the Bill. But when he came to consider the merits of the Bill itself, there was so much in it which was objectionable that he was quite content to put aside the other question with which he had been dealing and deal with the nature of the scheme itself. They all said that the true remedy for the agrarian difficulty was to be found in the doctrine that he who cultivated the soil should own it. His right hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) in 1884 brought in a Bill of a much more generous nature than this; but he interposed as security the guarantee of the county cess in Ireland. Whether on that ground or not he could not say, but the measure did not meet general favour. In 1885, when he was at the Irish Office, they were prepared to introduce a Land Purchase Bill; but they left Office, and then they had Lord Ashbourne's Bill. The House would observe that there had been a constant widening of the terms of purchase. He was not disposed at that time to criticize Lord Ashbourne's Act. He admitted that in the existing state of public opinion it would have been difficult to stop without advancing the whole of the purchase money, and if that Bill was not much criticized by himself and his hon. Friends who acted with him, it was because they were then in a somewhat unfavourable position to offer any suggestion to the House. They could not expect that their suggestions would meet with much favour from the party opposite, and, in 1885, they had not a large amount of the good will of hon. Members below the Gangway. He had therefore been unwilling to find himself between the upper and the nether millstone, and had held his peace. But, for his part, he had had the most serious misgivings with regard to the wisdom of that Bill, and many of those misgivings were as applicable to the Bill which his own Government intended to introduce as to the Bill of the Government which succeeded them. He was full of hesitation as to the whole proposal of proceeding piecemeal with Land Purchase in Ireland. While entirely accepting and adhering to the general principle of creating a peasant 1611 proprietary, he saw then, and still saw, the most alarming prospect of a continually increasing irritation and discontent in the future as the result of a partial measure. They would have two tenants living side by side under different conditions, one paving his judicial rent, the other paying for 49 years only an annual instalment amounting to perhaps three-fourths of that sum. Would that conduce to peace and contentment? That was one of the main reasons why he looked askance all along at those proposals for dealing partially with the question of Land Purchase, although he admitted that in 1885 public opinion was so strongly in favour of it that it was difficult for any Government to resist attempting to deal with the matter. Again, it must be remembered that judicial rents had only been fixed for 15 years, and that at the end there was to be a re-valuation. If the rent was lowered, the purchaser would complain that he had entered upon the basis of the present rent on a bargain which was to extend over 49 years, and if the rent was raised the contrast of which he had spoken between the two cases would be greatly exaggerated, and the discontent thereby increased. His second ground for hesitation was the risk to the taxpayer who advanced the money, and this was a point which was better appreciated to-day than it was then—he meant the danger of leaving the Treasury as rent collector face to face with the tenant paying his instalments. We should not only be face to face with a great money risk, but a great political danger. His third point was the confusion which it created. They had class after class created by these fresh measures, which called into being different bodies of purchasers. They had already those under the Church Act, under the Land Acts, under Lord Ashbourne's first Act, and there would next be those under the present Act; and not only would there be discrepancies and disparities in the position of these men, but their existence would make it almost impossible for the Government to deal with Land Purchase on a large scale when the time came for that to be done. He remained as strongly as ever of opinion that it was in Land Purchase alone there would be 1612 found rest and satisfaction for the agrarian community in Ireland. But he disputed altogether that by these partial advances they were now entering upon they were doing anything else than to make confusion worse confounded, and further complicating a situation already too much complicated. He had another difficulty as to the nature of the holdings to be dealt with; and in this connection he was most concerned that money should not be paid to landlords to compensate them for nominal rents which were not really agricultural rents. There were in many parts of Ireland small wretched holdings, for which money, which was called rent, was exacted, which was not rent, but a mere fine extorted from the affection and attachment of a man to the place in which he was born, or for which at least he had a home feeling. He denied that such property ought to be brought within the scope of a Land Purchase scheme. Those were some of the reasons for hesitation which possessed him in 1885, and there was not one of them which did not remain as strong now as then and most of them were even increased in strength; and therefore he maintained it was not only inexpedient but even dangerous to proceed further with this bit by bit or bite by bite legislation. The time had passed for any temporary or experimental measure such as this, and the question, in fact, should be left alone to be dealt with comprehensively at a future time. This question of Land Purchase, moreover, had moved on since 1885. In 1886 his right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian produced his great scheme of Land Purchase. That scheme was never fully considered or discussed in Parliament; it was greatly misrepresented in the country, but it was made abundantly evident when it came to be discussed that this country was in the extremest degree reluctant that its credit should be directly pledged for any such purpose without the intervention at least of an Irish guarantee. It was to his mind evident that the one plan of all possible plans to which public opinion in this country was most strongly opposed was precisely a plan such as that proposed by the Government, which interposed no Irish guarantee to protect the 1613 interests of the taxpayer, and which left the British Exchequer to collect as best it could the instalments which would take the place of rent. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and those who thought with him, however, did not stop there. They suggested an alternative. The Government had admitted that rents in some cases were unfair, and the arguments on the Opposition side of the House were that if rents were unfair, the arrears, which were the multiple of the rent, were unfair also. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the arrears had accumulated before the prices fell. If that were so, the Court would not reduce them. All they asked was that the Court should have the same equitable power of dealing with arrears as it had with rents. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer also stated that the Government were ready to deal with arrears; but the condition was that they should be treated in exactly the same way as any ordinary debt, and astonishment was expressed by the Government that this was not accepted. The principle on which all this legislation proceeded was that rent did not stand upon the same basis as other debts, and that the State had a right to interfere and see that justice was done in the matter of rent, which it did not possess in the case of an ordinary debt between a shopkeeper and his customer. The proposal of the Government was, in fact, absurd. The Government practically refused relief in the matter of arrears, though the arrears lay at the bottom of all the agrarian disturbances in Ireland at the present time. The Purchase Bill which they proposed did not, like the rain, fall upon the just and the unjust alike. But an Arrears Bill, on the other hand, would reach everybody in the country. The plan proposed by his right hon. Friend was one of a pacifying character; it was wise, equitable, and safe; and it had no element of future mischief in it, while it was immediate and universal in its application.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Sir Edward Grey,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.