§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [2nd December], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "inasmuch as the Government have advised the landlords in Ireland to combine, strengthened their already exceptional power of eviction, and freely placed at their disposal the forces of the Crown to evict for the non-payment of unjust rents large numbers of those to whose toil the rental value of their holdings is chiefly due, and have also passed and ruthlessly administered a law of exceptional nature to prevent combination on the part of the tenants, and whereas, as a result of this policy, equality of conditions as between buyer and seller has been greatly impaired, and the landlord's interest is maintained at an artificial
value, and it is not proposed by the Bill to invest any Irish authority with a control over the transactions, this House declines to pledge the credit of the country to the scheme proposed by the Bill as being alike unsafe to the Imperial Exchequer and unjust to the Irish occupier,"—(Mr. John Ellis,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ (12.20.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I had hardly expected to address the House at this moment, but I understand that other speeches which would have preceded mine will be delivered at a later hour. There are one or two considerations which I wish to lay before the House in order to justify my opposition to this Bill, especially after the speeches delivered yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane) and my hon. Friend the Member for Northumberland (Sir E. Grey). The hon. Member for Haddington stands alone, I think, in his interpretation of the machinery of the Bill, in thinking that machinery might easily be adapted to the new condition of affairs, if Home Rule were carried. He stated his case with clearness and moderation, and consideration for those who do not agree with him. But I must say that the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Northumberland gave me a certain amount of pain. He had a perfect right to express dissent from the action of the rest of his Party, but I do not think he did so in a manner which tended to create confidence in his judgment among hon. Members on this side of the House. He said that the views expressed on this side of the House were merely in the interests of timid and selfish taxpayers. He added that the Radicals were not sincere in their opposition to the Bill, and that secretly they wished it to be carried so that one of the main difficulties which stand in the way of Home Rule may be removed. I demur to the contentions of both of my hon. Friends. The question goes far deeper. We are sent here to protect the pockets of the taxpayer, and if he is subjected to any risk or danger we are bound to protect him. But the question is one which 455 goes even deeper still than any interest of the taxpayer. We oppose the Bill because it offends against the economic and social principles which lie at the root of the reforms which we wish to see carried out in Ireland. We desire to see self-government established in Ireland, but we think that the Bill, in the form in which it is drawn, will tend rather to postpone than to promote that object. Both the hon. Member for Haddington and the hon. Member for Northumberland seem to me to treat the question in a superficial way. They have treated the Bill as if it were an indispensable preliminary to the carrying out of any measure of Home Rule. The hon. Member for Haddington contends that it is the merit of this Bill that it will place the substantial Irish tenants—the men with some capital—in possession of their farms, whereas the hon. Member for Northumberland is of opinion that the Bill will affect the poorer tenants, will remove the discontent of the Irish people, and so lead to their pacification. These two reasons contradict and defeat each other. We do not admit that land purchase is essential to Home Rule for Ireland, but we maintain that the proposals of the Government are fraught with social, political, and economical dangers. It is on account of these dangers that we believe the passing of the Bill would create difficulties in the development of self-government in Ireland, and the final solution of the land question. I have yet to learn that the arguments put forth last year with great force by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) as to the danger of making the State the creditor, or the universal landlord of all the tenants of Ireland, have received an answer; or the powerful speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty in 1883 when he brought this question before the House, and pointed out that the danger was not to be despised, and urged that it would be necessary to provide a Local Authority which should be interested in the collection of the rents. Nor have we had any answer to the contention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) in 1886, when he pointed out to the working classes of this country 456 the dangers in which they would be involved if they became the creditors of the Irish tenants, and the terrible position in which they would be placed if they had to carry out evictions and to enforce payment at the point of the bayonet. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. J. E. Ellis) has laid before the House evidence which I personally regretted to hear, because I am not sure that the action of some of these Irish tenants can be justified in finding fault with the instalments they have to pay. That evidence creates uncertainty in regard to the future of land values in Ireland, and shows the danger of social disorder and disorganisation in Ireland that must ensue if the debts of the purchasing tenants were repudiated, a contingency that would not be unlikely. But I will go further. I am not afraid of the full logical results of Home Rule, and I will say that no Home Rule Parliament would be worth granting in Ireland unless it is fit to discharge the duty which we Radicals, at any rate, wish to place in the hands of the County Councils and Municipal Authorities, namely, of dealing in an equitable way with the land within their jurisdiction. The hon. Member for Northumberland said that it would be beneficial if the tenants of Ireland were brought in contact with economic facts, and made to face them. That has been our contention from the first. We want them brought face to face with them, and made to see the social and economic facts which stand before them. But I say the same for the landlords. They should be made to face the facts, too, and it would be doing them no kindness if we created a false impression in their minds by passing a Bill of this kind, and by blinding their eyes to those economic laws which, sooner or later, they would have to face. The future of Ireland depends upon the tranquillity and good understanding between different classes, and this can only be brought about, not by such a measure as this, but by a full recognition of facts and economic laws. We object to this Bill primarily and finally, too, because it is a Compensation Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Reid) made a strong speech on the point yesterday, but I do 457 not think he was quite aware how strong a case he might have made out that the Bill from the beginning to the end is a Compensation Bill. What has been the origin of these proposals? My hon. Friend was in error in attributing to the Chief Secretary in his speech in 1883 the argument of compensation as a justification for land purchase, but he would not have been in error if he had pointed out that the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury in the previous year was the direct outcome of the Report of the Lords Committee on the working of the Land Act of 1881. In 1882, in moving for the Committee, Lord Donoughmore, after referring to the terrible results of the Act of 1881 upon the position of the Irish landlords, and expressing alarm at the 70,000 originating notices under the Act, stated that they wanted the Committee in ordar—To take some steps to check, before it is quite too late, that 'heavy loss' and 'ruin' which the Prime Minister himself repudiated and disavowed, but which is being inflicted day by day upon an admittedly guiltless class, the landlords of Ireland.Let me turn to a still higher authority, Lord Cairns, who was then Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He said, in the same Dabate—The Land Commissioners are alienating a portion varying from one quarter to one-third of the ownership of land in Ireland from those who hare hitherto held it to those who have never held it at all. … The Act was like the infant Hercules; it had taken to strangulation—but it has strangled the landlords instead of the Land League.We have here the clearest proof that the real motive of these proposals was to obtain compensation for Irish landlords for that average of 20 per cent. loss in their rents which they had sustained by the operation of the Land Courts in Ireland. After this House had committed itself not only to the original judicial rents, but to the revision of them, it would be an outrage upon common sense to deny that the motive and the arguments out of which these proposals sprung were not, in the main, the desire to secure some relief and some compensation to the Irish landlords for their losses as the result of the legislation affecting the position of rent. That is my first contention against this 458 Bill. My other contention is that whether it is a compensation Bill or not, the price to be paid for the land—the price for which the British taxpayer is to contribute his credit, and to stand a certain amount of risk in the future, is not a fair price nor is it to be assessed in a fair manner. How is this assessment of price to be arrived at under the proposals of Her Majesty's Ministers? It is to be left to freedom of contract. We know what freedom of contract in Ireland has been in the past, and how persistently and effectively Her Majesty's Government have strengthened the hands of the landlords in exercising what they call freedom of contract. They have at their backs a force of 35,000 armed men; they have new machinery of law creating new offences to defeat combination, and they have been able to reduce anything like freedom of contract to the most contemptible farce. Now, what should be the true basis of the price for land if it is to be bought at all in Ireland? In this very Committee of the House of Lords to inquire into the operation of the Land Act, Mr. George Fottrell, then solicitor to the Irish Land Commission, said in his evidence—Both parties arrive at the capital or purchase value of the land through its annual value, so that until the annual value shall have been established, they have not got a standard by which they are likely to come to a bargain for the sale of holdings.Going further back than Mr. Fottrell, there was the Commission, presided over by Lord Devon, which came to distinct conclusions on this point, and nothing can be more pregnant of wisdom than the words of that Conservative Peer when he said that the fundamental problem to be solved in Ireland was—To draw a distinct line between what was the property of the landlord and what was the property of the tenant.My contention is that that maxim laid down so wisely more than 50 years ago by that Conservative statesman has never yet been carried out. We have not yet arrived at a real separation of what is the property of the landlord from that of the tenant. Mr. Knipe, one of the Cowper Commission, in his separate Report, said—Advice not to purchase was justifiable under present circumstances. It would be a serious 459 matter if tenants were compelled to purchase upon the basis of judicial rents fixed prior to January, 1886, or that they should involve themselves in all the consequences and responsibilities of ownership before rents have been readjusted, so as not only to meet the fall in prices, but also to exclude from the rent the value of the tenant's interest and improvements. I am anxious to see dual ownership abolished, but purchase on any large scale can only follow the revision and reduction of rents.That is the opinion of a man of practical experience in regard to land matters in the North of Ireland, who up to that time, at any rate, was a warm supporter of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I will refer to only one more statement, which I think will be held to be one of weight and force in support of my contention that the rents of Ireland are not nearly fair, and that until they are any scheme of land purchase which enables the landlords to bargain on the basis of so many years' purchase of a rent which is confessedly unjust, can only result in social confusion and economic discomfiture. There was a Memorandum appended to the Cowper Commission, signed by the Bishop of Elphin and other bishops of the Roman Catholic Church. I will not read it, because the Chief Secretary and others must know it by heart. It put forward in the most moderate terms the contention I am now insisting upon, that the rents are not fair, and that they do include a portion of the tenants' improvements and the tenants' interest, and that until you have righted that fundamental wrong, land purchase will always remain tainted and full of danger. We know what happened in this House in regard to the Healy clause in 1881, and what happened in Ireland in the decision of the case of "Adams v. Dunseath," which practically placed at the mercy of the landlord the tenants' improvements from one end of Ireland to the other. When the Healy clause came under the consideration of this House the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), in urging the restoration of the clause in this House, after its mutilation by the Lords said—The doctrine accepted at the time of the Land Act of 1870 was that the tenants' improvements were the tenants' own property, and he would not admit the principle that the time during which he had enjoyed those improvments was any reason of their passing from him.460 That is the basis of our contention. On the decision of the Courts in Ireland these rents have remained tainted with unfairness, and do involve an injustice to the tenants. We were returned to the House of Commons as persistent opponents of land purchase from whatever side it came. There is no question upon which the Liberal Party would be so firm and so unanimous as the question upon which I am now addressing the House. But the Bill of 1886 had, at least, these two great merits, that it carried out what the First Lord had insisted upon in 1883, that the administration of land purchase in Ireland should be entrusted to authorities locally responsible, and there was machinery in that Bill for the assessment of a fair price under certain circumstances. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in his Bill deducted from she judicial rent 20 per cent. on the average for rates, tithe rentcharge, repairs and other outgoings of the estate, but in the estimate laid before us by the Chief Secretary last spring the deduction made in this respect was only 7 per cent., and was based entirely upon rates. In the Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian you had 20 per cent. reduction for every £100 of judicial rent, while in the present Bill you have only a reduction of 7 per cent., which makes a difference of £13 or £14 in the £100 in favour of the Bill of 1886, if you take the same number of years' purchase. I denounce this Bill as a sham, a delusion, and a dishonest settlement of the land question. I denounce it as a Bill for the benefit of a class. And I denounce it most of all as a bribe to obtain the consent of the ignorant peasants of Ireland to a robbery, not only of themselves, but of the taxpayers of this country. The hon. Member for Haddington said there were substantial farmers in Ireland. Thank Heaven there are, but what I ask is whether the credit of the country should be invoked for the improvement of the condition of men of capital and substance in Ireland? I hold in my hand a series of letters upon the operation of Lord Ashbourne's Act by the Times Commissioner. He says—The first man I met was able to boast of holding farms under five landlords, 'some good 461 and some bad.' He was evidently a very substantial farmer, and had a fine lot of cattle. His holding on the Lane-Fox property was one of 140 acres, the old rent of which had been £155, reduced in 1883 to £147, and his annuity will be £102 per annum. Another man had formerly paid £105, but this had been reduced to £92, and he will now have to pay £60 a year for 49 years, which he considered 'a pretty fair bargain.' One of the next houses was as nice and well kept as any farmer's place in England. There was a small flower garden in front of the door, and the kitchen was as neat as if it had been a sitting-room. A set of old pewter plates and dishes, well polished, were ranged on the dresser, and there was not a speck of dust to be seen. The parlour was carpeted and well furnished. There was a bowl of flowers on the table, and excellent engravings of the Queen and Prince Albert hanging on the walls. The owner, who was evidently a most industrious and thriving man, held 74 acres, the old rent of which had been £85 reduced to £80. The value was £78, and the interest on his purchase money came to £56 a year.There are dozens of such cases I could quote from this volume, but what I ask is, is it fair that in such cases the credit of the British tax payer should be invoked? I am quite ready to apply in Ireland the same principles as are applied to allotments in England, and the object of providing allotments is to benefit those who are now crushed down in the social scale and who need the help of the Government in order to enable them to obtain a better position. That is one side of the question. We know that the Chief Secretary has excluded graziers from the Bill, but he has not attempted to exclude men in the condition so graphically described by the Times correspondent. Let me turn now to the congested districts, and I say at once I am heartily in sympathy with the motives of the Government; but I do not think they have set about the solution of the problem in the right way. I do not think it can be solved by the action of a Board in Dublin. I challenge the congested district part of the Bill on two grounds. In the first place, there is no Teal Local Authority brought in to superintend the transfer, and in the second place, the necessity I have insisted upon of a fair price tells, in regard to the congested districts, with infinitely greater force. Hon. Members talk glibly of so many years' purchase in the congested districts. So many years' purchase of what? Why, we know that the rent in these congested districts consists 462 not only of the landlord's reasonable share in the produce of the land, but also of the share which, backed up by the forces of the law and the battering ram, he has forcibly embezzled from earnings of harvesters in England, the wages of housemaids in America, and the earnings of shepherd boys in distant parts of Ireland. We know the origin of these congested districts. Their first cause was political. The landlords found it convenient to have more tenants, because they wanted more voters, and therefore they divided the holdings. The next cause was the use which has been made by the Irish landlord of the potato. Sir James Caird said that the policy of the Irish landlords has been based upon the dependence of the Irish people upon the potato, and there was an article in the Times at the time of the great famine upon the same subject, which said—It is one of the means by which the landlord exacts a rent wholly out of proportion, not indeed to the natural wealth of the soil, but to the capital invested upon it. In a country without capital, and without that security for life and for property which capital requires, the comforts and decencies of life pull against rent. Could the Irish live on the tops of their potatoes, they could then give the roots to their landlords.The Government brought in a very good Bill last year—a Bill which I took great pleasure in supporting—the Housing of the Working Classes Bill. The principle of that Bill was that the owner of unhealthy buildings and unhealthy areas should not profit by his own negligence. Well, let the principle of that Bill be applied to the congested districts in Ireland. The landlords who own congested districts in Ireland should not be allowed to take money out of the pockets of the British taxpayer, because of their impolicy, indiscretion, cruelty, injustice, and extortion. But the Government, instead of making these men contribute to heal the festering sores which they have created, are going to hand over to them the remainder of the Irish Fund, the last asset of Ireland, which I contend belongs to the whole of Ireland, and is not for the benefit of men who deserve no consideration from the House, for in the development of a system of land purchase—a system which will enable them to capitalise 463 their extortion from the tenants, not only of the results of the produce of their holdings, but the earnings of their friends in America. There is another consideration which seems to me to be again and again lost sight of. It is this: If you have Home Rule—and Home Rule you will have ere long—one of the important results will be that you will have a real national life in Ireland. [Laughter.] You mock at Irish national life, but Irish national life may laugh at you before long. You will have this result, that there will be a development of industries in various centres of Ireland, and you will consequently have migration from congested districts to the centres of new and various work. You will cease then to have competition for miserable holdings in the West of Ireland, and, therefore, the value of the land there will decrease. You have no sound economic basis on which to rest land purchase, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted as much two years ago, when the second edition of the Ashbourne Act was before the House. There is no real security or value in the land, and if Home Rule is carried out, and fresh and various industries are started, you will soon be brought face to face with the bare agricultural value of the land, which is practically nil, and you will find that the money laid out upon it has been lost to the English people. Valuable suggestions have been made by those who are connected with the Land Commission in Ireland. The Chief Secretary has based his scheme on the suggestions of Mr. Lynch and Mr. McCarthy, but he has not carried them out in that spirit and scope with which they were laid before the Land Commissioners. I, for one, as a Radical in this House, am ready to support a policy of dealing vigorously with these congested districts, and I am not disinclined to see the Imperial credit applied to the relief of the poor people of these congested districts. But what we must look to as the only solution of the question is the handing over to the Local Authority, under, of course, Imperial checks, power to acquire the whole of the estates in these congested districts, at a fair price, and not the artificial price which coercion and the circumstances of Ireland have enabled the land 464 lords to place upon the land. Let the Local Authorities acquire the land at a fair price; let them, and not the landlords, administer questions of bog and of turbary. Let the land be municipalised; let the Local Authorities have power to buy land in neighbouring districts, and to transfer such of the population as is desirable, in order to lighten the pressure in the congested districts. These are suggestions which, of course, are of no use to Her Majesty's Government. They are determined to refuse the formation of a Local Authority for this purpose. The Chief Secretary has talked about a plébiscite, and we have heard the further explanation of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, that a Local Authority is undesirable, because they are interested in the question of the land. I should think that is just the very reason why they should have the powers which I suggest. I conclude by protesting against this Bill, because in its inception and origin, and in its machinery, it is a Compensation Bill, and because it carries out a system of land purchase which involves risk to the English taxpayer, without ensuring at all to the Irish tenant a fair rent or his interest in his holding.
§ (1.10.) SIR JOHN COLOMB (Bow, Tower Hamlets)
Sir, the Bill before the House consists of two parts. One provides for a continuation of the policy already adopted by Parliament, and the other is to provide for something entirely new, and that is the practical remedies, the administrative machinery, and the money, to enable an effort to be made for the amelioration of the condition of the congested districts. I call the attention of the House to this fact, that while speakers on the other side have been going up and down the country picturing the gaunt figure of famine stalking through the land, the measure providing remedies for the difficulties of the congested districts has been delayed by an hon. Member moving the adjournment last night, and who does not even take the ordinary course of continuing the Debate himself next day. And the burning desire of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby for further discussion is 465 evinced by his coming in after the Debate has been going on one hour and a half. The country and the people of Ireland will judge them. [Cheers.] The Gentlemen who cheer do not live in Ireland. I repeat, that the people of Ireland will recognise who are desirous of passing measures for their relief in the congested districts, and who desire to delay them. I venture to think that the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down would never have been delivered if he had any practical knowledge of Ireland. But there was one remarkable passage on which I will touch. He said that he was certain that the question of the congested districts could not be settled by a Board sitting in Dublin. The hon. Gentleman will, therefore, concede this—that it cannot be settled by a Parliament sitting in Dublin. [Mr. CHANNING: Why not?] I leave the hon. Gentleman himself to explain. Turning now to the Amendment before the House, it is quite obvious that everything has been stuffed into it that may give rise to interminable debate. It makes the assertion that exceptional powers of eviction have been given to Irish landlords. I challenge hon. Gentlemen opposite to establish that assertion by reference to facts. If a comparison is made between the powers of the landlords in London and those of the Irish landlords, it will be found that the powers of the latter are restricted and restrained in a way those of the former are not. Then the Amendment speaks of the landlords' interest being maintained at an artificial value. What is the meaning of that? Is it that the Land Courts, created by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, are keeping up the value of the land in Ireland at an artificial standard? We know perfectly well that the judicial rents are fixed, after due inquiry, by these Courts, established by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), and supported by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Harcourt). It is rather strange proceeding on the part of the supporters of these right hon. Gentlemen to condemn the machinery which they created. Now, the Bill before the House is a small Bill compared with the proposal introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the 466 Member for Mid Lothian in 1886. The amount of money is limited by financial considerations, while the proposal of 1886 was unlimited as regards financial responsibilities. We know that the only limit in the latter proposal was that the amount of money to be provided by the British taxpayer was to be drawn at the option of the Irish landlord. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), in introducing the Bill of 1886, on the 16th April, said it was—To undertake not a partial, tentative, and timid touching of the land question, but a serious endeavour to settle it."—(3 Hansard, Vol. 304, p. 1780.)Again, he said—The object of this Act is to give to all Irish landowners the option of being bought out on the terms of the Act."—;3 Hansard, Vol. 304, p. 1794.)Again, he said—The policy is a policy which is to be distinctly understood us the policy of giving this option to all Irish landowners as regards their rented land."—(3 Hansard, Vol. 304, p. 1794.)Therefore, I do not think I overstate the case when I say that the financial responsibilities imposed upon the British taxpayer by the proposal of 1886 were only confined by the discretion of the Irish landlords. This Bill only provides £33,000,000 for converting tenants into owners; and I think it may be well to remind the House, in order to emphasise the statement respecting the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), that the annual value of the land in Ireland is £14,000,000, and the aggregate value of the buildings £2,500,000. Even supposing every house was built by tenants, which it is not the case, you have £11,500,000 as the aggregate value of the land in Ireland. Therefore, if you multiply that by so many years' purchase, you get, under the proposal of 1886, into hundreds of millions to be saddled on the British taxpayer. It is important to remember that. But why are we considering the question of land purchase at all? It is because the land legislation of the last generation has been such as to get landlords and tenants in Ireland into a state of confusion, or hodge-podge. The only way out of the difficulty is to create 467 new owners. That is admitted on all hands. [Mr. CALEB WRIGHT: No.] Well, it is admitted by all thinking persons. I would like to remind hon. Gentlemen who controvert the statement, I would like to remind them that the hon. Member for Cork, in his celebrated Kilmainham letter, used these words—It is unnecessary for me to dwell upon the enormous advantage to be derived from the full extension of the Purchase Clauses, which now seem practically to have been adopted by all parties.["No!"] If Gentlemen say "No" to arguments in favour of the termination of dual ownership in Ireland, then their quarrel lies not with me, but with the hon. Member for Cork. I say that this Bill before the House is really a full extension of the purchasing clauses, restricted only by financial considerations, and the necessary securities for the money advanced. Turning from that, I agree entirely with what my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary said last night, that this Bill is not going to terminate dual ownership in Ireland, but that it will make a large impression upon the present unsatisfactory condition of things arising out of dual ownership as it now exists in Ireland. I also endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said, that as time goes on it will be found that many tenants of Ireland will find themselves better under landlords than under the Land Commission. While there can be elasticity in relations between the landlords and their tenants, there can be no such elasticity between the tenants and the Land Commission. From experience I can entirely endorse that view. I have said to tenants that I wondered they did not go to the Land Commission to get their rents fixed, and they have replied that, if they did so, they would have to pay to the day. "Certainly. Why do you not purchase; perhaps that will meet your case?" The invariable answer I have received is—"We know we can squeeze the landlords; we cannot squeeze the Government." That is an obvious and practical way of looking at the matter. I wish to say that I do not believe that this is a final settlement of the Irish question. I do not 468 believe there is any legislative solution for the difficulties which now exist in Ireland. I believe these difficulties are too deep for legislation to touch. No Parliament on College Green could do it. The Irish question can only be settled by the lapse of time, the education of the people, and improvement of the individual. But the Government is doing what is right in endeavouring to clear away obstacles to the free exercise of liberty and to strengthen the appreciation of the rights of property in Ireland, no matter to what class they belong. With regard to the question of local control, I am in entire sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, but my practical experience teaches me that the attitude of the Chief Secretary on that point is correct. I think that a provision might be introduced into this Bill in a direction which I will indicate. I do not understand whether the labourers who hold allotments as tenants of Boards of Guardians are included in the Bill or not. I feel it very important that they should be so included. I do not see why a labourer is to be excluded simply because he is the tenant of a Board of Guardians, when so-called farmers, who are really labourers, are included. I hope the Government will consider this question and include those labourers, for I believe in that way you might get an expression of local opinion that would be valuable as to the operation, of the Act. Supposing we made the operation of the Act in any county contingent upon the Unions of the county resolving to include their own tenants occupying labourers' cottages and allotments. In that way local authority would be invoked, and Boards of Guardians, in selling to their tenants, would not likely sell below the true value. I throw out the hint. I ask the House to note how very badly the farmer often treats the labourers of Ireland. I have often had to interfere between tenants and labourers in order to get even the commonest justice done to the labourers by the so-called farmer, and, knowing what I do of the labouring population of Ireland, I say that I have a higher opinion of them than I have of the farmers in respect of their 469 capacity for work. I entreat the Chief Secretary to look into the question, and to see whether it is not possible to extend the operation of this Bill to labourers who, under the Labourers' Act, are tenants of Boards of Guardians. The attitude of farmers sitting on Boards of Guardians towards them is illustrated by something which appeared on the 8th of November last in the organ of the evicted Tipperary tenants, called New Tipperary. In this paper, under the head-line "Tipperary Union," is the description of the case of a labourer who, having been evicted by the Board of Guardians, had re-entered and taken forcible possession. The article says—At a meeting of the Tipperary Board of Guardians the collector of rents reported that a labourer named Ryan who had been evicted at a cost of £6 had again taken possession of the cottage. The Clerk to the Board said that the Guardians should take action to prevent the repetition of such conduct. Some Guardians acquiesced, observing that if this were tolerated labourers would do what they liked, while other Guardians were indisposed to prosecute, and advocated a reduction in the rents of the labourers. Ultimately it was decided to prosecute Ryan for re-taking possession.Thus an organ run in the interest of evicted farm tenants who did not choose to pay rent, although they were able to do so, declared that a labourer's attempt to follow their example thus set must not be tolerated. I think that by calling in a Local Authority it would soon be discovered that tenants who represented ratepayers on Boards of Guardians would take a view of the value of land in the case of the labourers different from that which they have taken in their own case.
§ MR. PINKERTON (Galway)
How many ex officio Guardians attended at that meeting quoted by the hon. and gallant Member?
§ SIR J. COLOMB
I have read an extract from New Tipperary, and I have yet to learn that there are ex officio leading article writers on the staff of either that organ or of United Ireland. Our object ought to be to substitute a healthy opinion for that which has been produced by a falsely got up agitation. I am sorry to detain the House, but I wish to explain that I regard the congested districts clauses as the most important part of this Bill. 470 Having lived long in a congested district I thank the Government for approaching this part of the question from a rational, common-sense, practical point of view. That has never before been done, and the state of things in these districts have usually been used as a lever to secure the reduction of rents of men occupying large tracts of splendid land in the Golden Vale of Tipperary. It is sometimes said that in these congested districts a large portion of the land has no real value as rent producing land. If that assertion be limited to agricultural land it is, no doubt, true that it has little or no economic value, but I say that the mountains and bogs have an economic value if it is only called out by wise legislation. A great portion of the congested districts is not adapted to ordinary agricultural purposes. In some districts there are tenants who are endeavouring to utilise large areas of mountain land as dairy farms that are fit only for sheep walks. All this land would be of great economic value if it were applied to the purpose for which Nature evidently intended it—say, for the growth of timber; but such a use of it is absolutely incompatible with the conditions of the Land Act. There may be quarries, mines, fisheries, and great capabilities for sport. As far as I can make out this Bill makes over to tenant purchasers rights for which as tenant they have never paid. For instance, take the ordinary condition of things in a congested district. You have the low-lying land let in small patches to tenants who have besides in common enormous mountain runs; but rights of timber, of mines, minerals, and sport are all reserved to the landlords. They are specially excluded in judicial rents, and yet they are to be transferred to purchasers. These rights are valuable, and they ought not to be thrown in as a make-weight. They are in a sense national property. I will explain what I mean by that. Everything that goes to create wealth is national property; the nation may distribute it among individuals in private ownership; nevertheless it is national property in the sense in which I use the term. There ought to be some arrangement made by which when the 471 landlord sells the tenant shall have the option of purchasing, at so many years' purchase on a valuation, rights of timber, fishing, sporting, and mining; and if he does not so purchase, and the landlord who sells does not care to reserve for his own use these rights, I would have the rights made over to the Local Authority, the Local Authority paying the valuation to the landlord, which the tenant refused to pay. To that I attach considerable importance, because I say it is essential to the welfare of the congested districts that intelligence and knowledge of the outside world should not be entirely driven away, as they will be if rights and enjoyments which have hitherto been preserved to landlords are bartered away to the purchasing tenants for nothing at all. I therefore trust that these two points will attract the attention of the Irish Government, i.e., first the inclusion in the Act of labourers who are tenants under Boards of Guardians, and secondly, the invoking the aid of the Local Authority in securing that the land, especially in the congested districts, is put to its natural uses. Whilst admitting that the Bill will not produce a final settlement in Ireland, I am thankful to the right hon. Gentleman for having introduced it, because I know there are many tenants who are looking forward anxiously for the passing of it; and the benefits of its operation, I believe, will extend to the people of this country.
§ (1.44.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I had no intention of trespassing on the attention of the House, and should not have done so had not the hon. and gallant Member pointedly attacked me for saying a word last night in favour of the Adjournment of the Debate. I only spoke then from the knowledge I had that there were several Gentlemen who desired to speak on the subject. Of all the instances of human depravity, can any compare with hostile criticism on the Adjournment of the Debate coming from the hon. and gallant Member, who wished to deliver the carefully prepared and valuable speech to which we have listened with the greatest interest? If I have in any manner contributed to providing an opportunity for the delivery of that 472 speech, I ought to receive thanks, if not from the hon. Member, at all events from the House itself. The hon. and gallant Member spoke with great personal knowledge on the subject, and I listened to his speech with great interest and, I may add, with considerable instruction. I only wish his own leaders had been present to see the illumination the hon. and gallant Member is capable of throwing upon the subject. I hope, therefore, that upon due consideration the hon. and gallant Member will think more charitably of what I did last night. I do not desire to detain the House, but I think the suggestion that I and others have sought to pursue the arts of obstruction is very ill founded on the course which has been adopted to-day, and, as I never refuse a challenge coming from an adequate quarter, I could not ignore that thrown out by the hon. and gallant Member. If I attempted to go into the subject under discussion at the present time, all I could say is that I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Member when he observes that all thinking men are against dual ownership, because a stronger argument for dual ownership has never been delivered than that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself, and I consider him a thinking man. He told the House the tenants do not want to do away with dual ownership; and some months ago there was a very strong letter from the Marquess of Waterford, who may be considered a thinking gentleman I suppose, and he said the best and most successful land tenure in Ireland was the old Ulster custom, which is pure dual ownership, and which existed long before the Act of 1870 and other Acts. Then the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh has strongly expressed himself to the same effect, and therefore again I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will modify his view with reference to the opinion of thinking men on the subject of dual ownership. Another point in the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman which I listened to with some astonishment was his pronouncement on the Conservative doctrine of land nationalisation. That was worth hearing, and will afford food for reflection for all thinking men, because he holds that that 473 which the tenant has no right to is the property of the nation. It is held by some eminent writers that all property is the property of the nation, but that is an important question on which I will not now enter, and the treatment of which depends not a little on its special application. I am not going into the very large matters which the hon. and gallant Gentleman thought fit to introduce into the Debate; I only rose to explain my interposition last night, which, if it has had no other fruit, has produced the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ (1.48.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I do not presume or pretend to represent the Irish. Members in the few words I am about to address to the House. I only rise to point out a notable omission in the Bill. Now, in the congested districts part of the Bill there is a certain amount of provision for adding to the holdings of tenants. It is not a sufficient provision, in my opinion, but it might be readily re-modelled in Committee so as to make it work satisfactorily. By a short Act of Parliament, which was recently passed at my instigation, the Land Commission had power under certain peculiar circumstances to allow the tenants to purchase land in addition to their actual holdings, and that Act has received the highest commendation from the Land Commissioners, and has worked most advantageously in the few cases in which it has been applied. As the Bill now before the House is a very large Bill, I want the Government to deal with this matter on a more extended scale. What is the use of allowing a man to purchase three acres of land? It is not sufficient for the necessities of a family. If a man has half an acre of land he becomes a labourer or a carter; if he has 10 or 12 acres he can live on his holding and be a farmer. But with three acres of land he is neither one thing nor the other, and he consequently drifts into poverty. I want the Government to put into their Bill a provision by which these tenants may increase their holdings. Such a provision would be very beneficial to the landlords and would be of the greatest advantage to a large number of tenants. By enabling the small tenants thus to increase their 474 holdings the Government would satisfy the cravings of the western portion of the country more than by any other provision contained in the Bill. I desire also to see some definition in the Bill of what is a congested district, because we want elasticity in dealing with those districts. There are portions of Connemara which are less under the influence of the congestion than parts of richer counties. There are districts where the holdings are large and the people able to live on them; but on the other hand in Galway, although the population generally may be sparse in particular districts, the people are crowded together, and the holdings are too small. The provisions of the Bill regarding seed potatoes may be excellent for another year, but they are useless for this year.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I am glad to elicit that expression of opinion from a Member of the Government, and I trust that some steps will be taken to afford the necessary relief this year.
§ (1.58.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
The hon. and gallant Member for the Bow Division of Tower Hamlets commenced his speech by a statement showing that he was in the way of rapidly becoming a good Home Ruler, for he contended that no Member who did not live in Ireland had a right to speak on a purely Irish question. I am disposed to agree with him in that, but I submit that this is more of an English than an Irish question, for it involves English credit to a much larger extent, I believe, than the Bill purports to show. The hon. and gallant Member made an elaborate comparison between the proposals of the Government and the Bill of 1886 brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. He appeared desirous of making me responsible for that Bill. Now, I do not propose to enter into that comparison or to point out the important points in which the two Bills differ; but as far as I am personally concerned, I may say that nothing I said in 1886 is inconsistent with the position I now occupy. In 1886 I said that portions of the Bill 475 then before the House did not meet with my approval, and should the measure go into Committee I would raise those points. But turning to the Bill now under debate, it has been commended to the House as one which will effect a complete and final settlement, if not immediately, at any rate ultimately, of the land question in Ireland, as one which will ultimately do away with dual ownership, which will create a vast body of small peasant proprietors, and which will effect all this without any more than a mere theoretic danger to the English taxpayer. If I thought the Bill would be a complete and final settlement of the land question I would be very unwilling to oppose it; but I am confident that the Bill as now framed will not bring contentment to Ireland, but will lead to new agitation, will give rise to other difficulties, and will not be confined to the £30,000,000 of English credit which is now demanded. Even on the showing of the Chief Secretary, it will be necessary to advance £95,000,000 before the settlement will be complete. It is easy to show, moreover, that on the principle of the measure it will take about 100 years for the completion of the settlement and for the abolition of dual ownership, even on the assumption that all the landlords are willing to sell upon the reasonable terms which are contemplated. Meanwhile, there will be constant agitation and constant pressure, both on the landlords to agree to sales and on the State to advance more money. This measure is presented as a great remedial measure for Ireland founded on the advance of English money. A first principle of wise statesmanship is that a remedial measure should be accepted as such by the Representatives of the people for whom it is intended; but there is no evidence whatever that any large section of people in Ireland accept this measure in that spirit. The Representatives of the Irish people voted against the measure of last year, which was practically identical with that before the House, by a majority of four to one. There is no doubt that the Irish Members look upon the Bill with extreme suspicion, that they believe in many respects it is not in good faith, that the object of many of the clauses is to screw 476 up the price of land in the interest of landlords. This year the Irish Party are unable to give attention to the Bill. Their attention is distracted by internal matters; but there is no evidence whatever of their acceptance of the scheme. Again, the tenant farmers in the North of Ulster have declared, through their Associations, that they will never be satisfied until this measure is made compulsory and universal. They say that it is very hard that those who have paid their rents with regularity should find themselves debarred from taking advantage of the Bill because their landlords refuse their consent, while those who have agitated and given their landlords great trouble will get the full advantage. They demand universally that where landlords refuse to consent to sell on reasonable terms they should be compelled to do so by the Land Commission at a price to be fixed by the Commission. Turning to the landlords, I do not find that there is any general support to the measure; those landlords who desire to remain in the country and to live with their tenants are strongly opposed to it. They know that it will give rise to an agitation against them, and to a demand for their expropriation. The people who are in favour of it are the great absentee landlords, who desire to clear out of the country, the great landlords like the Duke of Abercorn and Lord Waterford, who desire to reduce their estates in the country, and the English mortgagees who desire to realise their mortgages. As to the scheme of the Bill, I will assume that the measure as it stands will have every success which the Chief Secretary can expect; that within a very few years, say four or five, the whole of the sum will be applied for, and that tenants to that amount will be converted into owners on reasonable terms—namely, about 18 years' purchase. At 18 years' purchase those tenants will pay 28 per cent. less than their previous rents in the shape of interest and instalments. That is not, however, the full measure of the benefit. The annual repayment of capital is in the nature of an investment: it increases the interest of the owner, and is not to be compared with the same amount of rent. The real comparision is between the previous rent 477 and that portion of the tenant's annual payment which represents interest. Looked at in this way the real reduction is 46 per cent., or nearly one-half. When, therefore, the £30,000,000 are exhausted there will be about 130,000 tenant-purchasers paying 28 per cent. less than their previous rent for a limited term, or enjoying an advantage equivalent to 46 per cent. on their previous rent; while the remaining three-fourths of the tenants will be paying their old rents for ever. The amount available for extending the scheme will be about £400,000 a year, and at that rate it will be 100 years before the remaining tenants can be dealt with. Is that a condition of things which is likely to be a settlement? Just in proportion as those who obtain this benefit are contented, so those who are left out in the cold will be discontented. The Chief Secretary has felt the strength of this argument and has endeavoured to lessen it. For five years he provides that the purchaser shall pay 80 per cent. of his previous rent. That is a mere blind. The tenant who pays this extra amount for the first five years will derive the advantage of a reduced payment later. The real comparison between the tenant who has bought and the tenant who remains a tenant is unaffected. The one will receive an advantage equal to 46 per cent. of his rent, or 28 per cent. for a term of years; the other will pay rent for ever. Suppose two estates adjoining one another where the tenants are equally anxious to buy on these terms. The landlord of the one consents, the other refuses. I ask whether the tenants who continue to pay their rent will be content? It is certain that an overwhelming and irresistible agitation will arise for making this scheme universal and compulsory; and if this House refuses to advance the further £90,000,000 necessary for the purpose, there will be an agitation for an equivalent reduction of rent. The fact is, we shall have created by these transactions a new standard of rent. No one has appreciated that prospect better than the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), who supports the Bill with the full knowledge that such agitation must arise. This is what he said in an able article in one of the monthly reviews a few months ago— 478The measure will introduce a new standard of rent. No Irish tenants will consent to pay more for the hire of their land than some of their neighbours are paying for their purchase. The present fair rents, which have been judicially fixed, will then appear so unfair that a new agitation will spring up, and such pressure will be brought to bear upon landlords that they will practically have no choice but to sell. One result of this will be that it will be impossible to stop lending when the limit of £33,000,000 has been reached, and it is well Parliament should understand that once it is committed to the principle of land purchase it must go on until the whole body of tenants is dealt with.And again he said—In my own constituency a large estate has recently passed from owner to occupier. The transaction has meant a reduction of 30 per cent. on the judicial rent, and a terminable annuity takes the place of an annual rent. The result is that every tenant in South Tyrone is discontented, and compulsory sale is demanded in every fair and market. The larger the transfer the greater the benefit, the more will the feeling spread.I quite agree with the hon. Member. There will be a universal demand either for compulsion and expropriation of landlords at the average rates of sale and for an immediate further advance of £60,000,000, or for an equivalent reduction of rent. Let me illustrate the argument by specified cases. The House will be rather surprised to hear that the Land Purchase Commissioners have refused their assent to schemes of purchase in no less than 3,000 cases. In nearly the whole of these cases the Land Commissioners have refused their assent on the ground that the number of years' purchase agreed upon between landlord and tenant was too high in relation to the security offered to the State. I believe I am right in saying that in no single case of that kind have the terms of purchase been more than 18 or 19 years' purchase; in very many of the cases I am informed the number of years' purchase has been as low as 10 or 12. I actually know of I one case where the terms of purchase were as low as five years. I ask the House to think what the result is in this case. The landlord and the tenants agreed to five years' purchase, and the Land Commissioners refused their assent to the transaction. The tenants then continued to pay the old rent. If the Land Commissioners had given their consent to the scheme of purchase, the tenants' payment would have been reduced to 479 one-fifth of what was the previous rent. How is it possible that you can maintain the rents at their present rate in cases of that kind? In this case the tenants have already gone to the Land Commission and got judicial rents fixed, but you have one Government Department saying the rents are so high that there is practically no security to the State in ease of purchase, and you have another Government Department maintaining the rents at their present rate. That is an unstable condition of things
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
Can the right hon. Gentleman state whether in the case he refers to the Purchase Commissioners based their refusal to agree to the purchase on the rent or the size of the holding?
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
On the rent. Of course, the holdings were very small; the rents averaged £4 or £5 a year. But that very much strengthens my argument. Here are tenants paying £4 or £5 a year, and if they could have got the assent of the Land Commissioners they would have had their annual payments reduced to one-fifth of what they previously were. There is one other point I wish to advert to, and that is the position towards the state of the tenant-purchasers under the Act. We have had a good deal of light thrown upon this relation by the events of the past few months. In previous discussions on this subject I have said that I do not expect that the tenant-purchasers will repudiate their obligations; the pressure will come from them in a more insidious form, grounded on inability to pay through the fall of prices, or other causes. That is what has happened during the last few months. There have been numerous Petitions and Memorials presented to the Land Commission by large bodies of purchasers praying for relief in various forms. The Chief Secretary has said that they are all of a stereotyped form, and are not worthy of attention. That is not the case. I have eight of them in my hand. The petitioners allege various causes for their applications, and they apply in various forms for remission. Some ask for remission on the ground that, by reason of a great fall of prices, they are unable to pay their instalments; others allege the failure of crops; many 480 allege that they were coerced into terms of purchase by threats of eviction. This Petition from 17 tenant-purchasers in the County of Kerry is an illustration of the kind of pressure they will bring to bear. In this the petitioners say—That on account of poverty, the fall in prices, and the potato famine, they are unable to meet the instalment due, and they therefore humbly request inquiry into their allegations, the truth of which they offer to support by documents; that they were compelled to purchase harassed by rack rent and writs of ejectment held over them. They had no option but to buy or leave their holdings. They pray for an extension of time and a reduction in the amount of the instalments.This is an illustration of many cases of the same kind, varying in circumstances, but all based on the representation that they were coerced into the scheme of purchase by threats of eviction or otherwise. Hon. Members may have doubts if these representations are true; but unfortunately we have evidence from the Land Commission that threats have been used by landlords and their agents to force tenants into purchase. Mr. J. G. McCarthy, the head of the Land Commission, stated before the last Royal Commission that agents exercised pressure by telling a tenant that he must either sign a contract of sale or go out, and Mr. McCarthy said he had seen a letter of the kind, and had in his possession a letter from the agent of an extensive estate telling a tenant that he could not put off the Sheriff beyond the morrow, bat that if he entered into a contract for purchase he would get possession. It is beyond doubt that there are cases in which such pressure has been used, cases in which tenants have been coerced into purchase by threats of eviction. I am not concerned with further inquiry into the truth of these statements. It is not necessary for my argument to go into the question whether these representations are founded upon truth or not, but they are very significant indications of the kind of pressure that will be brought to bear in the future. It may be easy for the Land Commission to intervene and prevent such cases where tenant - purchasers are not numerous; it may be possible to protect tenant - purchasers under such circumstances when they are few in 481 number, but if, we multiply cases by hundreds—if, instead of there being 4,000 or 5,000 applications brought into Court there should be 150,000 and thousands more under renewed applications to Parliament for further advances, where will there be any force on the part of the Land Commission in Ireland or on the part of the Executive in Ireland under pressure of Petitions of this kind from all parts of the country, where will be the force to insist on prompt payments, or to evict those who do not pay their instalments? My conviction is, that it will be almost impossible for any Central State Department to insist on payment, or for County Courts to enforce evictions. I should have pointed out before that the kind of relief tenant-purchasers ask for is not so much reduction of the amount as a postponement of the instalments. What they ask for generally is either that the present instalment shall be postponed until after the whole term of 49 years is over, or that the term over which payment of the capital is spread may be extended to 60 or 99 years, making a very important reduction in the amount of the instalments. My belief is that the form in which pressure will come will not be by repudiation. I do not believe that, but in a demand for an extended period of payment from 49 to 99 years. When that comes from a vast body of tenant-purchasers, enforced very likely by political action in this House, I believe it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a Central Department to resist the demand. Such a scheme can only be carried out with safety, with any prospect of collecting the annual amounts if the collection is made by a Local Authority interested to a large extent in collecting the money. The Chief Secretary told us last night that evictions would not be carried out by the Land Commission in the interest of the State, but of the Local Authority. But if the sympathies of the district are evoked on behalf of the tenant-purchasers, where will be the force on behalf of the Local Authority? I believe the Land Commission in the long run will find it most difficult, if not impossible, to insist on any very great scale in presence of pressure such as I have referred to, on the prompt payment of instalments, the faithful 482 fulfilment year by year of these obligations, or in enforcing eviction of those who do not pay. I will not detain the House at any greater length; but it appears to me that a scheme of this kind, if it is to be carried out, must be coupled with many precautions and conditions. I began by saying that if I thought this was likely to give content and be a permanent settlement of the question, I would not oppose it. I have never been an opponent of some limited scheme in this direction, but there are certain conditions absolutely essential to make it more safe for the Imperial Exchequer and the taxpayer, and to create content throughout Ireland. The first condition is that the scheme shall be accepted by the majority of Irish Members as complete and final. Without this I believe any scheme would be dangerous. It must have popular assent elicited on its behalf. Secondly, the Local Authority ought to be the instrument for the collection of the annual payments, and responsible for the collection to act as a buffer between tenant-purchasers and the State. My opinion is, that the collection of the annual payments by any Central State Department would be dangerous, and would probably result in failure. Thirdly, in my opinion the operation of the measure ought to be confined to the small tenants of Ireland. The object of the Bill is to create peasant proprietors, but the Bill actually goes far beyond that. It will enable a class of persons far removed from the position of peasants to become proprietors—farmers holding 200 or 300 acres, and paying a rent of £250 a year. These are not the persons we are interested in converting into owners at great expense or great risk to Imperial credit. Fourthly, it ought to be so framed as to be complete and final within the limits it proposes, not giving rise to further agitation and discontent on the part of a number of persons left outside the operation of the scheme. These are the main conditions which ought to be fulfilled in any proposal of this kind, the main conditions which were fulfilled by the two proposals made last Session by the hon. Member for Cork. I will not further allude to them, except to point out that there was an opportunity at that time for the Government to come to an 483 agreement with the Irish Party on the subject, and I believe if they had accepted either of the proposals made by the hon. Member for Cork they could have framed a scheme likely to give contentment to Ireland, and not open to the many objections which have been pointed out in the present measure. But their scheme is so large and is so certain to lead to further demands, is so certain to give rise to discontent among large classes in Ireland, that I cannot give it my support. It will be attended with the greatest possible danger to the British taxpayer, and in no sense will it be a settlement of the question. On the contrary, far from it being anything of the kind, it will lead to greater agitation and give rise to feelings of discontent among a very large body of tenants in Ireland, who will be unable to avail themselves of the privileges offered by this Bill. Hence it is I shall vote against the Second Reading.
§ (2.42.) MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
This Debate has been made the opportunity of trotting out a number of fallacies we thought had been disposed of long ago. In this direction no speaker has distinguished himself more than the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. In the first place, he says we are setting up a new standard of rent in Ireland; while the fact is, rent has really nothing to do with the subject in hand. The payments to be made by the tenant are payments by instalments of principal and interest, and not rent at all. That fallacy underlies the whole of his argument, and a great many other arguments which have been addressed to us by other und more important debaters. The right hon. Gentleman further said that in certain cases—and he dwelt on the fact—advances had been refused by the Land Commissioners, and that he had little doubt that this was because of the number of years' purchase in the proposals submitted to them. The fact of the matter is, the Land Purchase Commissioners have to look not at the number of years' purchase or existing rents, but at the total amount submitted to them and the sum to be advanced by the State for the purpose of enabling tenants to become owners of the property they occupy. The exposition of this 484 fallacy completely removes one of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman and one of his objections to the Bill. But he is not the only one who has argued under delusion. The Senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labonchere) and also the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian have given other instances of fallacious arguments disposed of long ago. We who are Unionist Members had no part in the pledges given against land purchase. That certainly is so, as far as I am individually concerned.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Against a guarantee. I never said against land purchase.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
I, for one, quite admit the fact that land purchase on an extended scale cannot be adopted without some form of guarantee, Irish or British. Individually, I have invariably supported land purchase based on a British guarantee. The objection we held at the time of the General Election of 1886 was not to land purchase based on a British guarantee, but to the particular form of land purchase then put forward in the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, then Prime Minister, and coupled as it was with the scheme of Home Rule for Ireland. In the first place, it was compulsory, and therefore the amount under the Bill one might be justified in saying was practically unlimited. Then, again, it seemed unequal and unfair because, though not universally, it was based on 20 years' purchase of the rents, rents in many cases since reduced by the Land Court. Then the security was considered bad, for it was a second mortgage.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
Well, if I am wrong I apologise for using the argument. The principle of the Bill is an endeavour to transfer the property of the landlord to the occupying tenant, and, in the opinion of those who have the welfare of the country at heart, in that transfer lies the hope of a solution of a great deal of the difficulty that exists in Ireland. The security under this Bill and under the Ashbourne Act is ample—first, the land itself, not only the landlord's interest in it, but the tenant's interest, and then the 30 per cent. of the amount which is ultimately to be given to the landlord. Then we have 1 per cent. every year and the interest on each payment added year by year, an increasing security on behalf of the State. I do not think I ought to detain the House by going in detail into the advantages of land purchase; they are very great and have often been referred to in former Debates. I have already stated that one of the fallacies underlying much of the arguments of the opponents of this measure is on the question of rent. Now, one of the advantages of this scheme of land purchase is that it can be applied where a holding is rack-rented, or where the rent is fair and reasonable, simply by varying the years' purchase. Take two identical farms, one fairly rented at £15 a year, the other highly rented at £20. By simply in the one case arranging for the purchase of the farm at 20 years where it is fairly rented, and at 15 years in the other case, you in each case get identically the same sum of £300. The Commissioners, it must be remembered, will have simply to consider the amount to be advanced, not the way in which it has been arrived at. This entirely disposes of the argument of the hon. Member for Northampton, who says it cannot be .supposed that the Irish tenant will be more reconciled to the payment of rent when the landlord is an alien Government in England. The English Government will not be the landlord, but will simply advance money on good security 486 to the occupiers for repayment under the favourable terms of the Ashbourne Act and this Act. The benefit is not to the landlord only. Though this has been called a Landlords' Bill, it is far more a Tenants' Bill, and that is the reason why over the length and breadth of Ireland this land purchase scheme is loudly called for. The only real justification for the intervention of the State in matters of this kind is the part the State has taken in the past in creating the present difficult situation, and in its recognition by unfair laws in the past of the power of the landlord to charge rent on the improvements of the tenant, and the necessity that now exists for getting away from the present unhappy state of affairs and changing the system of land tenure by these advances to promote land purchase. We have satisfactory experience of the working of land purchase under these conditions so far as it has been in operation. Last year the Chief Secretary furnished me with certain statistics which give very favourable evidence on the subject. On 31st October last year, instalments to the amount of £235,000 had become due since the Land Purchase Acts had been in operation, and of this amount there was £2,590 still outstanding. Of that amount how much is there still outstanding in the shape of arrears? Out of nearly £3,000 there is only £216 owing. We have had two half years in which instalments have become due since, and out of a total of £410,000 instalments due on November 1st, according to the information given by the Chief Secretary the other day, the arrears are only £2,554. Here is evidence that the tenants of Ireland appreciate the advantage of land purchase by the payment of these instalments, and I may fairly say there is every encouragement to the Government to proceed further in the direction of land purchase. As was well stated by my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) last night, we have had experience of purchases under the Ashbourne Act, under the Bright Clauses of the Land Act, and under the Church Act, and in the different circumstances under which they purchased the manner in which the tenants have kept up their 487 payments gives every encouragement to proceed by further legislation in the same direction. There is, however, one danger in the Bill, I think, which it would be well for us to guard against. I have always felt that the only valid objection to the Ashbourne Act lay in the fact that it was possible to allow the tenant to pay too much for the landlord's interest, and practically to buy some of his own improvements in buying the landlord's share in the holding. I put an Amendment on the Paper last Session dealing with this subject. I proposed to cast on the Land Commission the duty not only of estimating the total value of the holding to see there is security for the advance, but the further duty of estimating the value of the landlord's and tenant's interests respectively, to enable the real and ostensible object of the Bill to be carried out, the purchase by the occupying tenant of the landlord's interest in the holding. It is not possible to judge from the examination I have been able to give to the Bill now before us, how far the Government have endeavoured to meet this valid objection to last year's Bill, but I trust when we see the second part that we shall find the suggestion has been adopted by the Government, or the difficulty in some way met. Then it has been stated there is danger in raising the limit of £50 for purchase under the Bill. Now, I think that a modification of the assistance to be given under this Bill might very fairly be considered. We had a very admirable speech from the hon. Member for Carnarvon yesterday, dealing with the danger that may exist in the creation of a new class of landlords in Ireland, worse than the old, and, certainly, such a danger would arise if the purchasers of large farms were allowed such a large margin as to enable them to sublet at a profit. It seems to me that while the Government may fairly ask the occupying tenants of farms of £30 or thereabouts to re-pay the principal at the rate of 1 per cent., where the value is more than £30 they may fairly ask an increased percentage. I would suggest that where the value is between £30 and £50 per annum the farmers should be required to pay at the rate of 4½ per cent.—3 per cent. for interest and l½ per cent. for principal— 488 and that where the value is over £50, 5 per cent. should be required, that is to say 3 per cent. for interest and 2 per cent. for principal. This, I think, would operate largely in favour of small tenants. If I were asked to find a reason why this Land Purchase Bill, or one like it, should be passed into law, I would go no farther than the speech made in Ireland by the hon. Member for Longford against the Bill. He used these remarkable words, advising the tenants against Land Purchase—Therefore, until a great Treaty of Peace has been made between England and Ireland, no Irish farmer ought to make a Treaty of Peace on his own account, and the man who purchases under the Ashbourne Act is making a Treaty of Peace behind the backs of the nation as a whole.It is because I believe that the individual farmer, throughout the length and breadth of Ireland, is making a Treaty of Peace on his own account with the English people and the English nation, and that it will, thereby, assist in the restoration of peace and tranquillity to the nation at large, as well as bring additional happiness to himself and in his home, that I urge the passing of this Bill into law at the earliest possible moment. (3.5.)
§ (3.29.) MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
I must express my surprise that this Bill, which, in my opinion, contains such a dangerous principle, has not met with stronger opposition in this House. I am very much surprised, too, that the Front Opposition Bench has not offered a stronger opposition to it. I have listened to the arguments which have been addressed to the House, since the Second Beading Debate began, most carefully, and I must say that in none of them have I seen anything to justify me in supporting the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Bow, who addressed the House a short time ago, stated that the Bill consisted of two parts—the land purchase portion, and the congested districts portion. But, for the purposes of this Second Reading Debate, we have to consider the Bill as a whole. 489 I confess that if the Bill had been introduced in two parts, I should not have offered very strong opposition to that part which deals with the congested districts. I recognise that there are difficulties in Ireland which require to be dealt with by Her Majesty's Government, and if that part of the Bill had been brought in as a separate measure, I would have given the Government the best assistance in my power to enable them to deal with these difficulties in a satisfactory manner. The hon. and gallant Member for Bow told us that, on comparing the measure with that which was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), he regarded the present Bill as only a little one. I must say that that is an argument which does not have much weight with me. This is the third time a measure has been introduced for the extension of the right hon. Gentleman's measure. One measure that was introduced and passed is now known as Lord Ashbourne's Act, and in that we are asked to assent to an expenditure of £5,000,000. That Act was found in its operation to be insufficient, and a second measure was asked for, with the result that we now find ourselves called upon to increase the sum formerly agreed upon by something like £33,000,000. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bow has stated that this Bill would not terminate dual ownership in Ireland, but that it will nevertheless make a large impression upon it. The meaning I gather from those words is nothing short of this, that the expenditure of a farther sum of £33,000,000 will not be sufficient, but that the time will come when we shall be obliged to give a further sum, if we are to carry out this policy to its ultimate end. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said last 490 night that, in his opinion, it will require £95,000,000 to carry this land purchase scheme to its full extent; but the right hon. Gentleman very carefully guarded that expression of opinion by saying he had to confess that it was very difficult to make an accurate estimate. For my part I quite agree with what he has stated, and in my opinion £95,000,OOO will no more settle the Irish land question than the £33,000,000 for which the Bill provides. In point, of fact, the amount that will be required is practically only limited by the willingness of the landlords of Ireland to part with their property. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bow pointed out that the Irish tenants were receiving various rights for which they were not called on to pay. Now, Sir, I take issue with the hon. and gallant Gentleman on that statement. I cannot believe that anything in the shape of timber or minerals is not taken into consideration by the landlord if he means to part with his property for so many years' purchase, and I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in saying that anything which is on the property, and which is not paid for by the tenant, should become the property of the State. I am altogether opposed to that view of the question, and I must say that I think it a very dangerous thing, particularly for a Conservative politician, to advocate such a view as that. I must certainly express my surprise at the change of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government on this question. I think if we were to look at the election addresses of hon. Members opposite, delivered on the occasion of the last General Election, we should find that, almost without exception, they declare themselves opposed to what is the main principle of this Bill. I was amused at the attempt made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) to give a reason for the support he is offering to this measure. When we fire dealing with a Gentleman like him, who has again and again accused those who sit on these benches of having changed their minds in regard to the question of Home 491 Rule, I think I am entitled to say that he ought to be most particular in seeing that he has a good reason to put forward for having changed his mind on a question of this sort. Only the other day my attention was drawn to a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman on the 13th October, 1887, at Coolgraney, on the Irish land question, and I will trouble the House with a brief quotation from that address. The right hon. Gentleman said—The question, therefore, is how to establish a fair value for the transfer that all agree ought to be made. I do not believe you can lay down a number of years' purchase of judicial rent, whether it be 20 or any other number, which would be fair under all circumstances and in all cases, or which would be universally adopted. I should think the first condition of any settlement of this business would be that there should be a new and independent valuation for the purposes of purchase.I think that this statement shows very clearly that the right hon. Gentleman does not consider that the judicial rents are fair rents upon which to base the purchase of land in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say—This separate valuation for the purpose of purchase alone is the foundation on which any transfer of the ownership of land can take place.I trust that if the colleague of the right hon. Gentleman who sits below me (Mr. Jesse Collings) intends to address the House he will be able to give some satisfactory explanation of the reason why the right hon. Gentleman now undertakes to support the Government on an important measure of this kind, when in 1887 he distinctly laid down the proposition that the foundation on which the transfer of the ownership of land could alone take place was a separate and independent valuation. As it now stands I think I may claim the right hon. Gentleman as one who agrees with us that the basis on which these purchases are to be made is not a fair basis. I cannot think that the tenants are allowed a free hand in this matter. I quite agree with what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, that 492 the tenant is threatened with purchase or eviction. It is as if a pistol were held at his head with a demand for his money or his life; for I think that to many of the Irish tenants to be forced to leave their homes is as bad as the loss of their lives. I may state that I am one of those who voted against the ashbourne Act. I believe the principle of that Act is a wrong principle, and certainly if any opposition to the passage of an Act of Parliament was justified, I think the opposition to that Act has been justified by the Bill now brought in by Her Majesty's Government. At the time the Ashbourne Act was before Parliament it was pointed out to the Government that they could not stop at £5,000,000, but that of necessity circumstances would arise to compel them to increase the amount. To illustrate my point I would say it is just as if a waggon were placed on the top of a steep incline where a very slight push would be required to start it; but when once it was started it would accumulate force as it descended, so that it would be impossible to say what disaster it might not ultimately cause. I oppose this Bill on principle. I look on the measure in pretty much the same light as I should regard that waggon. We cannot see or estimate the disasters it will cause. At the present moment our vision is obscured by the advantages it offers; but I, for one, feel assured that time will show that the advantages are very small in comparison with the mischief that will be brought about. I maintain that even those who were in favour of the Ashbonrne Act are not justified in supporting this measure. We have not as yet, it is true, sufficient experience of the working of that Act; the time has been too short. We have seen statements to the effect that in some cases tenants who had purchased under that Act had begun to complain that the farms they had purchased were too highly valued. We do not know exactly to what extent rents have fallen, and we cannot tell whether there may not be a greater fall of rents than has already taken place. Another question is, what capital will the tenants have to fall back upon? If this Bill is to be justified at all, the purchasing tenants will be mostly those who have little or 493 no capital, and the only way in which they can be kept going is by a reduction of their annual instalments. But there is another important point in connection with this measure which I will endeavour to put before the House. We all know that rent is a fluctuating thing, and that it is affected by the fluctuations in the value of the land which the rent represents. If heavier rates are put upon the land than the tenant can meet, those rates ultimately fall on the landlord, because of the inability of the tenant to pay. Now, I object to this measure, because I hold that in it we shall be practically stereotyping the rent upon the holding for another 50 years, and if there should in the interval be an increase of rates, as I have no doubt there will be, for we must look forward to the time when Ireland will have control over her own affairs, when many improvements will be wanted and undertaken, and money will be needed to carry them out, the result will be disastrous to the tenants purchasing under this Bill. Indeed, it must be obvious that whether under a local Parliament dealing with the whole of Ireland, or whether under a system of county government, it will be found absolutely necessary to increase the rates in that country. What, then, is the position of the purchasing tenant? At present he can appeal to the landlord, and in many cases he does get a reduction of rent, and therefore the rates practically fall on the landlord; but those who purchase their holdings under this Bill will be prohibited from that. The whole of the rates and taxes, whether for educational purposes, for which at present I believe no rate exists in Ireland, or for improvements that may be required, will fall on the purchasing tenant, while for the next 50 years the rent is practically prevented by this measure from undergoing any modification. I have said that I have seen nothing that can justify this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary boasted not long ago that Ireland was quiet, and hon. Gentlemen opposite have made it one of their platform utterances throughout the country that the policy of Her Majesty's Government has been successful, and that Ireland is in a calm and peaceful state. If this be so, what is the need of this Bill? 494 Surely there is nothing in the condition of Ireland to call for exceptional legislation, and I maintain that you have no right to take the public money to enable any class of tenants to purchase their holdings unless you can show that they are in a condition which absolutely requires it. If you will look at the purchases that have been made under the Ashbourne Act it will be found that a large number have been effected by tenants well able to pay their rents, and for whose assistance the Government have no right to advance money from the Treasury Funds. The Government have made it some what difficult properly to oppose this measure owing to the small amount of information they have furnished on the subject. Before you advance State money to enable any class of men to purchase their holdings you are bound to show that there is an absolute necessity for it, and in this case I say that that has not been done. Admitting that there is a difficulty in getting rents in Ireland, that is only the case in regard to a very small area, and I ask the House why should we be called on to advance money to every leaseholder in London to enable him to purchase his holding, or to every tenant in Wales for the same purpose, or to the artisans throughout the country for the purchase of the works in which they are employed? I say it is a monstrous thing for the Government to bring forward a scheme of this kind to enable well-to-do tenantry to purchase their holdings at the expense of the State. Anotherpoint I desire to put before the House is that this scheme contains practically all the dangers of the nationalisation of land without any of its advantages. We are to enable a large number of tenants to purchase their holdings whereby they will become tenants of the State. We who do not believe in land nationalisation hold as one of the greatest objections to such a system that in this case, instead of the State having any of the benefits of land nationalisation, it will simply be advancing money for the purpose of enabling one class of landlords to succeed another class. The trifling advantage accruing to the small area in which there is any difficulty in the collection of rents is a mere nothing compared with the immense amount of money the Government are 495 asking the country to advance without, as I contend, any justification. Before any such advance is conceded the Government ought to show that a corresponding advantage will accrue to the State; but in this case there can be little or no benefit to the State. In the case of what is termed nationalisation the State would get the full value of the land; but here the State gets nothing whatever. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham last night asserted that there was comparatively no risk in the matter, and he made a comparison as between the credit of the State and a £5 note of the Bank of England. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would prefer to have his money in the hands of the Irish peasantry or in the Bank of England? I think I know what his answer would be, and that is that he would prefer the Bank of England. How are we to get the money back? The hon. Member below me (Mr. Jesse Collings) says we have got it in our pocket. I cannot agree with him. If we advance the money how can we have it in our pocket? If the money is raised on the credit of the land, the land may depreciate in value, and if the instalments are not paid there is very considerable risk. The right hon. Gentleman has recommended the Government to insert in the Bill a clause providing for control by the Local Authorities. I am surprised to hear him recommending that, when he knows that one of the chief arguments against a Local Government scheme, which Her Majesty's present Government have promised to give to Ireland, but which they apparently dare not propose, has been the argument used by hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, that every Local Authority which might be set up would simply mean an additional tool for obtaining Home Rule. But the right hon. Gentleman says that the Local Authority will act as a buffer between the State and the tenant. Now, what is the nature of a buffer? As I understand it it is something that yields to pressure. Does he intend that the Local Authority is to yield to the pressure that may be put upon it? If so, I can hardly think he would recommend it. This being the case what becomes of the right hon. 496 Gentleman's arguments that there is no risk? On the whole I think that the more we consider the details of this Bill, and the recommendations of those who support it, the more dangerous does it appear. I am not one of those who are anxious to get the landlords out of Ireland. I think that in Ireland the majority of the landlords will bear comparison with those of any other portion of the kingdom. Many of them deserve well of their country. They are not all bad, and we know that there are many who do much good in the districts in which they live. I regard this Bill as a measure for the wholesale expulsion of the landlords. I think the public safety is better ensured when the community is composed of different classes, and I will support no scheme that will practically tend to the expulsion of the landlords from Ireland for the next 50 years. One of the reasons why I urge the views I have expressed is that I think the measure would prejudice the Home Rule scheme. If there is to be, as no doubt there will be, a Home Rule Parliament, it ought to be able to deal, more than with any other question that can be suggested, with the subject of the land; for if there is a vital question in Ireland it is the land question, and for my part I will be no party to any land purchase scheme that will practically remove the consideration of this question from an Irish Parliament. I am not one of those who think that in the event of an Irish Parliament being conceded the landlords will flee the country. I think that when they find they have their own interests to protect they will protect them, while the tenants will also protect theirs. It is in keeping the different sections of the community together that we shall find the general safety. I regard the whole scheme of this Bill as unfair to the United Kingdom. If you are just to Ireland you cannot stop at £33,000,000, and I cannot see where you would be able to stop. It is unfair to ask this House to sanction a scheme that will enable only one section of the community to purchase their holdings. There are many industries in this country, in some of which a large number of men are employed, that have been obliged to stop for want of capital, and I say we should be as much justified in advancing money in such cases as in the case of the 497 Irish, tenants. For my part I do not see why the miners of the County of Durham should be prevented from applying for an advance to enable them to purchase the collieries in which they work, if the principle of this Bill is to be sanctioned. Indeed, I fail to see where we are to stop if we allow this measure to pass. Are you prepared to advance money to the Welsh tenants and Scotch crofters to enable them to buy their holdings? Unless you are you have no right to advance money in the way you propose to do in Ireland. But, Sir, one of my strongest reasons for the opposition I offer to the Bill is that Her Majesty's Government came into office chiefly through their opposition to two measures: one being the Home Rule scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and the other the land purchase scheme. I know which of the two was made the most of in the country. My own district was inundated with pamphlets asserting that we were going to give 150 or 200 millions of cash to Ireland. That was one of the chief subjects on which all the Conservative candidates dilated in my district, and what was the case there I feel assured was the case throughout the country. I maintain, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government will be committing a breach of confidence if they pass this measure. They had no mandate from the country to do it, and I, for one—re-cognising that the advances would not stop at £93,000,000, the figures stated by the Chief Secretary, nor even at £153,000,000, because if you are to be just, and you advance sufficient to buy the property of a certain number of landlords, you cannot in equity refuse to do the same in the case of the others—I shall oppose this measure with all my power, contending, as I do, that the Government have no right to ask the House to pass a Bill which I maintain really means an advance of at least £100,000,000, without having previously appealed to the sense and feeling of the country.
§ (4.0.) MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
The speech we have just heard is one directed against State - aided land purchase of every description and under any circumstances, 498 and I must commend that speech, which was so loudly cheered from hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the House, to the labouring population of this country. My hon. Friend said that one of his objections to this system of purchase was that the rent at once became stereotyped. But stereotyped rent is a principle in all such purchase, and therefore to object to such a rent is to object to all land purchase. The hon. Member says he can see no difference between the State-aided purchase of land and the purchase of other undertakings; but on this point I would refer the hon. Member to the practice of almost every civilised country which has had to deal with the tenure of land either by revolutionary or by constitutional methods, such as are now proposed by the Government. The security of the British taxpayer under this Bill has never been questioned by any speakers in this Debate. The subject of a Local Authority interposing has been raised, but this fact has never been disputed: that the £33,000,000 which is to operate under the Government scheme is simply the capitalisation of money over which the Government have absolute control—which they have, in fact, got in their own pockets.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
I mean to say that for every penny of indebtedness, or credit, or liability, or whatever you like to call it, which the British taxpayer will incur, he will have its equivalent I under his own control. Hon. Members may, if they can, dispute the fact that the £33,000,000 is simply the capitalisation of subventions, or money to be paid, which moneys are under the absolute control of the Government of the day. And, be it remembered, that is 499 only one of the securities offered, although it is enough, it is absolute, and cannot be questioned. At the same time, there are collateral securities which strengthen the case of the Government. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford stated that this was an English question, and I agree with him for reasons which I will state directly. But he went on to say that he believed the repudiation of which we have heard so much would not take place; that there was no danger of it unless political pressure is exercised on the tenants; any arrangement, of course, must be subject to the action of those who, if they choose, can exercise political pressure. I think the right hon. Gentleman was rather unfortunate in anticipating that the only danger of repudiation was not from inability to pay the instalments, but from political pressure being put on the tenants not to pay. An hon. Member near me says danger may arise from both sources. Then I tell him it is contemplating a most dishonest proceeding on the part of those who are able to exercise that political pressure. I do not belong to the new-fangled Radicalism of those hon. Members who oppose the Bill. I prefer the constructive Radicalism of Cobden, Bright, and Fawcett, who have achieved something to that of hon. Members who have accomplished nothing. Those who to-morrow read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford will come to the conclusion that his complaint against the Bill is that it does not provide for the outlay of £95,000,000 instead of £33,000,000. He said he was confident of this thing and certain of that, but he adduced no proof of anything, and the only point he amplified was that £33,000,000 would be insufficient. Hence his difficulty. All those who have addressed the House against the Bill have spoken of it as merely a question between landlord and tenant. I say that it is not merely a question between landlord and tenant that is at issue. The benefit derived by either is merely incidental, and the great purpose for which the Bill is proposed is the public good. That is our only warrant for dealing with this question, as speakers and writers, both in the past and in the present, have always represented 500 the land question as the difficulty in Ireland. I go further, and say that if that question is settled on a satisfactory basis, Home Rule will not survive, at any rate in its present proportion's, and, therefore, the Government have every justification for the proposals they are making. If the history of the magnificent land legislation in Prussia, which begun in 1807, is read, it will be found that the result of that legislation, which was similar in its lines to the Bill now before the House, has been to reconcile sections of the community who had long been discontented, and to bring them into the ranks of the law-abiding. The Chief Secretary has reason to be extremely contented with the Debate which has taken place, for if the speeches of objectors are placed side by side, they will be found to answer each other. One speaker declared that the instalments are so high that the tenants must repudiate, while the next declared them to be so low that the tenants who are kept out will have a grievance Again, one speaker asserts that purchasers will have a grievance, and another declares that non-purchasers will have such a grievance as will almost justify them in revolting, and so you may go on. One speaker declaimed against the severity of Irish landlordism, while another occupies himself with the glorification of Irish landlordism. Thus do hon. Members destroy one another's arguments. I was amused to see how lightly the question of repudiation was touched upon on the Home Rule Benches; it has been spoken of as if it were positively of no account whatever. But I should like to remark on that question that the argument of repudiation has been advanced by some speakers in face of the fact that the Irish have been among the best and most punctual ratepayers in the whole world. They have, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone pointed out, fulfilled their pecuniary engagements under very difficult circumstances, and in places where the Plan of Campaign has been in force, have paid rents in the dead of night, well knowing that if the act were known they might be subjected to outrage and even death, and yet the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford speaks coolly of the exercise of political 501 pressure. We have been told to-da that this Bill is a bribe to ignorant tenants in Ireland for the benefit of the landlords. What did the Front Opposition Bench think of that, seeing that their proposals in 1886 were of a compulsory character, and would have handed the tenant bound hand and foot over to the landlord? The landlords under the Bill had only to declare their intention to sell when the tenant was obliged to buy at a high price, whether or not he was willing to do so—at prices which have since been declared to be 20, 30, and even 50 per cent. too high. Again it has been suggested that under the Bill the British taxpayer will become an Irish landlord, and that he will have to collect the rents. Neither of those statements is true. The tenant as soon as he agrees to purchase the holding becomes the landlord, subject only to the payment of the annual instalments, which are not rent at all. I am glad that the Government have taken out the 20 years' purchase which appeared in the last Bill, for, though no fair-minded man could misunderstand the proposal, it provided a peg on which any amount of misrepresentation might be hung. One more point and I have done. One Party has constantly opposed this Bill, and that is the Party represented by the hon. and senior Member for Northampton, by the hon. Member for the Cirencester Division, and by my hon. Friend who last spoke. Those Gentlemen oppose land purchase under any circumstances. I understood the hon. Member for the Cirencester Division to say that in his election address in 1886 he stated that he was opposed to land purchase. I had hoped he had altered his mind about that, as he has since changed his attitude on the Home Rule question. I take it that the issue raised by these hon. Members is really the one we are about to divide upon. Liberal Unionists have never opposed the principle of land purchase or the pledging of British credit for the purpose of purchase. What they have opposed is the monstrous proposition that Great Britain should undertake an enormous liability for a country which is immediately to be placed in the position of Canada or of a foreign State. The hon. Member for Cirencester based his objection to the Bill also on 502 the ground that that might be used to dispossess the landlord in Ireland, but if the rural population in either England or Ireland are to have a closer connection with the land the present owners must be dispossessed. I take it that my hon. Friend does not favour confiscation. I recommend his views to the consideration of the agricultural population. He has figured on many occasions as the friend of the labourer, but I fear he is rather giving himself away in his opposition to the principle of land purchase, without the adoption of which the vivid hopes of the rural population of this country must be disappointed. The hon. Member for Caithness wishes that the scheme may be so arranged that the County Councils shall have the land and let it at perpetual rents to the cultivators. I hope that those lines will be adopted in any legislation of a similar kind for England. But the proposition now before the House is simply a continuation of legislation that has long been adopted in Ireland, and it would be absurd for the Government to create another class of tenants now, after both Parties have gone so far in another direction. I hope that the results anticipated from the Bill will be obtained, and then it will be possible to see the net value of the Home Rule movement in the eyes of those who have attached themselves to it for the sake of agrarian advantages, about which they alone care.
§ (4.25.) SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
I hope my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division will himself go into villages and explain to the labourers—who, after all, are taxpayers—why it is desirable that their money should go into the pockets of the Irish landlords. He talked about the new-fangled Radicalism, but it is not new fangled to me. I have been a Radical ever since I came into this House, and I intend to remain one. I am glad that we have had this Debate to-day, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House agreed so courteously to the adjournment last night, because we have been discussing the real issue, namely, whether or not the principle of State-aided land purchase is right. It is desirable that that matter should be thoroughly threshed out. But the 503 curious part of the Debate is that it has been carried on for two days without the presence of the Irish Members. The House can now see what it will be like when the Irish Members are withdrawn—and a precious dull place it will be. As English credit is to be so extensively pledged, the question before the House is essentially an English question. I have been sent to the House by taxpayers, and it is my first duty to look after their money. The hon. Baronet the Member for Northumberland spoke in a high tone about the "timid and selfish taxpayers." I do not see why taxpayers have not every right to be timid and selfish, seeing that for several generations they have been robbed by the upper classes. We had on this side a very interesting Debate last night. The hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division gave us a comprehensive speech full of facts and figures, the ex-Prime Minister followed with a very moderate speech, then came the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham with a diplomatic speech, the Member for Elgin with a practical speech, and the Member for Haddington with a theoretic speech, for he said that both he and his constituents were prepared to run a theoretic risk with regard to this guarantee. But he was only following the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who asserted that there was absolute security for every penny used, and remarked that British credit was used, but not risked. What do you give a guarantee for unless there is some risk? If there be no risk, if the security is sufficient, why put in the guarantee at all? That is the whole question; that is what I am fighting about. I am opposing the bringing in of British credit for this scheme, and if you take that part out of it, leaving the scheme with the other security, I believe this Bill might pass in 10 minutes to-morrow. But my hon. Friend the Member for Haddington will find that he is mistaken; it is no use giving this guarantee and saying we shall not have to pay. Just as certain as that I stand here this guarantee will come into operation, and it can only come from the taxpayers. From the results of the labour of the country is this guarantee 504 created, and by this scheme you are proposing to sacrifice the interest of labour for the benefit of land. The two most interesting speeches we have had during the Debate were those delivered last night by the hon. Baronet the Member for Northumberland (Sir Edward Grey) and the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire (Mr. Haldane), and what I was most struck by in these speeches was an admission which pleased me very much indeed. Both hon. Members said things had now got to such a pass that a certain section—meaning the Radical section—had made such work up and down the country that the Liberal Party, if ever they came into power again, would never be able to carry a scheme of land purchase. This did good to my heart. We have not lived in vain. We have educated our party. We have educated our Leader. I should like to be quite certain that we shall never be able to carry such a Bill. When Robert Bruce was told by one of his friends "I doubt I have slain the Red Comyn," he replied, "Dost thou doubt, I will mak sicker." I hope it is a certainty impressed upon the leaders of our Party that they may as well attempt to fly as to carry a wholesale scheme of land purchase for any place. Of course hon. Gentlemen will find something to say against us, and they will say that in 1886 the bulk of the Party were willing to accept a scheme of land purchase.
§ An hon. MEMBER: And will again.
§ SIR W. LAWSON
No, never again. That is the point we have reached. We accepted it then, some of us, as part of a large scheme for settling the Irish difficulty. We will never accept it again coupled with any scheme for Ireland. I believe, myself, the bringing in of that Bill, done though it was with good intentions, has been one of the greatest causes of the confusion into which the Liberal Party has fallen in late years. It was brought in as a good idea to float the Home Rule Bill, but it had the effect of sinking Home Rule for a time, though it will rise again. All the revelations of the last few days show 505 that the abominable proposition of buying up Irish landlords is at the bottom of much of the trouble we are undergoing at this moment. Nothing has been more oppressive than these land schemes. Last Session it was sickening to hear the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) talk as if he were negotiating with the Chief Secretary. We know what it means. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) "let the cat out of the bag" last night in replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Reid), who made a capital speech, thoroughly Radical, against land purchase.I know," said the hon. Member for South Tyrone, "why the Radicals go against land purchase, because they think that is not the way to arrive at Home Rule.This Bill is brought in then to block the way to Home Rule. The hon. Member admits it. But "in vain is the snare set in the sight of any bird." Every real Home Ruler, everybody who believes that a nation ought to govern its own affairs, will spurn this Land Purchase Bill. I have listened to speeches from the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Mid Lothian and Newcastle; but they never convinced me that it is a wise or desirable thing to settle the land question, not leaving the plan to the Irish people. The land question is the great trouble and difficulty in Ireland. You say you are going to give them. Home Rule, and yet you will not let them settle the one question which makes Home Rule necessary. That commends itself to the hon. Member for South Tyrone.
§ SIR W. LAWSON
But I say we are going to have it, and I say to withhold from Home Rule consideration the most important of the matters concerning the country seems to me—and I should think so if it were not advocated by so many able men—to be absurd. If you settle the land question you can only do so in a way to satisfy the Irish people, and you might 506 as well leave to them the settlement. If you do not satisfy them, you settle nothing. It is a curious Bill. We are told landlordism has been the curse of Ireland, and now you are going to turn hundreds of landlords into thousands. It is an extraordinary way of settling the question. Judge O'Connor Morris has written a pamphlet, and in this he says—Before many years two-thirds of Ireland will have become the land of mere peasant landlords, presiding over a mass of rack-rented tenants.That is your Bill. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) has talked about new-fangled Radicals, and said he followed Mr. Bright. But a very few years ago John Bright said the idea of buying out the propertied class was both unnecessary and unjust. We shall hear, when the time comes, what the constituencies say. New-fangled Radicalism will have something to say, and I think it will have an effect on the Ballot when we tell constituencies that money is going to be taken from them to enhance the price of land for the landlords of Ireland. We have had three pamphlets on this land scheme of the Chief Secretary, one written by my hon. Friend who spoke last night (Mr. Keay), a Radical, and who went carefully into the matter; another written by a Tory, to which I have alluded, and another written by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who is not a Radical. I do not know what he is. These afford full opportunity of studying the question. In the pamphlet by O'Connor Morris, a Tory landlord and County Court Judge, the writer says the Bill, if it passes, will disturb or subvert Irish land legislation, will bring new mischiefs out to be endured, do enormous wrong, and probably lead to revolutionary changes, aggravate instead of heal the feuds in Ireland, will have far-spreading disastrous consequences, and be at once iniquitous, mean, and selfish. 507 This is a pretty good description of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. I want a declaration from our Front Bench. What do they think of the Bill? If the usual occupants of that Bench are not present they ought to be. I remember how they fought last Session against compensation for the brewer and the publican; why will they not fight now against compensation to Irish landlords? if they would make a bold stand, if they would lead us now as then, if they would use all their power, influence, eloquence, and argument against this Bill as they did against the Licensing Clauses, the Liberal Party would follow them almost to a man, with the exceptions, perhaps, of the hon. Members for Northumberland and Haddington (Sir E. Grey and Mr. Haldane), who would form a Party of their own, I suppose. I think it is our duty, whether they lead us or not, to use every mode of opposition, every resource of resistance, every Parliamentary form we can possibly find to frustrate this attempt at wholesale robbery of the British taxpayers.
§ (4.35.) MR. MADDEN
I am glad that at last a speaker has risen in opposition to the Bill who has taken upon himself the task of proving that it is financially unsound. During the Debate I have listened with attention for that part of the argument to be reached. It appeared to me to be a most important part of the attack, and when the hon. Baronet approached that point I endeavoured to follow him and to grasp his argument. It is within the recent recollection of the House. What argument did the hon. Baronet used to rove the financial unsoundness of our proposals? Did he address one single argument to meet the proposition advanced earlier in Debate, namely, that the Imperial taxpayer is his own paymaster? If there is no risk, asked the hon. Baronet, why give a guarantee? The very idea of a guarantee, he said, involved the idea of a risk. I answer, not if you got an absolute, counter security, and in the present case the excellence of this counter guarantee removes all risk.
§ MR. MADDEN
What is it? The counter security is this, and to this argument no answer has ever been attempted, either last Session or this: The total capital amount advanced cannot exceed 25 years' purchase of the annual amount which you have under your own control. You are your own paymaster, you have that sum under your own control, and until that argument is met it is idle to deal with vague attacks on the financial soundness of the scheme. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in his speech used an expression which I heartily and respectfully endorse. He said that the Debate appeared to him to be rather a continuation of the discussion of last Session than as a substantive Debate upon a new Bill. In one particular, I must admit, the present Debate has had a resemblance to the Debate last Session: each opponent of the Bill has in turn been answered by speeches from his own side. Following out the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, though not exactly as he intended, I think the continuity of the Debate has in this respect been strictly observed. Thus the hon. Member for Dumfries anticipated general repudiation of instalments; but he was answered to-day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), who indignantly repudiated repudiation. The whole point of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford was, there was no risk of repudiation or dishonest attempt to evade legal obligations. He declined to entertain the idea of repudiation, though he added there might be instigations to dishonesty proceeding from political advisers. Upon the probable action of the political advisers of the Irish tenants, he is more competent to form an opinion than I am. His opinion is that men might be dissuaded from paying from political motives.
§ MR. MADDEN
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation; but he stated that in his opinion there might be 509 opposition to payment of instalments caused by pressure largely applied from political motives.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
Pressure applied, I said, in Parliament, for postponement of payments, and for spreading these payments over a longer period.
§ MR. MADDEN
Pressure from political motives in the direction of declining to pay at the proper time a legal debt. That is another way of stating the same thing. The right hon. Gentleman uses the euphemism "spreading payment over a longer period." I leave the difference of opinion on the subject of repudiation to be settled between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries. Then we have been told this is a landlords' Bill, and from that standpoint the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has denounced it. It was a Bill for the benefit of the plutocracy. He even coined a word, describing it as endowing the landocracy. Again, to save us trouble the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) has entirely demolished the argument of the hon. Member for Northampton. He says his objection to the Bill is that it will not be a final settlement, because the bonus which some tenants will get will prove such an enormous benefit to them that we shall never have peace because of the continual pressure which will be applied to landlords who refuse to sell. How it is possible to recognise this argument of the right hon. Gentleman with the description of the Bill by the hon. Member for Northampton I do not see. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian also says the action of the Bill in conferring a boon on individual tenants is fraught with danger in the future, because it will engender agitation and discontent on the part of those who are left outside the operation of the Bill. Again, I leave that argument to be met by the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite. When the arguments of our opponents thus destroy each other, I am left with little to reply to. Again referring to the remark of the right hon. 510 Gentleman that this is a continuation Debate, I ask what is the position? The House has now had the advantage of having the Government scheme before it for eight months. It was subjected to five nights' criticism last Session, and it has been debated for two nights on this occasion. Further, it has been subjected to criticism on platforms and in the Press, and I ask, has any alternative scheme for dealing with the Irish land question been propounded during the eight months which have intervened between the beginning and the end of this discussion? Into the general question of the propriety of a system of State-aided purchase of land in Ireland I will not enter now, for I take it there is practical unanimity on the subject among all classes and conditions of men. I take it as a political axiom that a well-considered and safe system of land purchase for Ireland is desired, and that no considerable body of politicians desire to terminate the experiment which has proved so successful in the past. Well, then, I ask—Does not the scheme of the Government hold the field? Has any alternative scheme been presented—have any counter proposals been seriously attempted? On the Second Reading Debate last Session the House and country were surprised when the hon. Member for Cork, speaking for his Party, laid as an alternative scheme before us a proposal for the fining down of rents. A discussion followed, and was continued throughout the country by the Press; but I fail to find that this alternative received any substantial support on public platforms or in the Press. Indeed, judging from an article in the North American Review on land purchase written by the hon. Member himself, I conclude that he has dropped, apparently for ever, the suggestions he made to the House on the Second Reading Debate last Session—at all events, as an alternative solution of this question. Our scheme holds the field. It has been admitted on both sides by speaker after speaker that the Irish land question is at the root of the Irish difficulty, and that it is a question that must be settled, and yet nobody has even provisionally offered to the House any other solution of the difficulty?
§ MR. MADDEN
To one portion of the Bill little allusion has been made except by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Joicey.) I mean the portion relating to the congested districts. The hon. Member said if this portion of the Bill stood as a Bill by itself he would be well disposed to assist in passing it into law. I welcome that statement. As soon as the House has got through the earlier portion of the Bill now before us, the House can take up the congested districts portion as if it were a Bill by itself. If it is admitted that the land question is the root of the Irish difficulty, that difficulty presents itself in the acutest, most accentuated form in the congested districts, and surely this is a time when circumstances have brought home to the heart and mind of every Member of this House the duty of dealing effectually with this difficulty? I attach the greatest importance to this portion of the Bill, and I say that the gratitude of the Irish people is due to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for this first serious attempt to grapple with the troubles and difficulties of the congested districts, intensified, as they are, by the incidents of the present year. It is remarkable and encouraging that this part of the Bill has met with no hostile criticism, though some questions have been asked in regard to it. I have been asked for a definition of a congested district. Well, rightly or wrongly, the Bill contains a definition founded on the ratio of valuation to population. That may be right or wrong, but it is a practical basis for discussion when we reach that part of the Bill. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) took exception to the scheme of the Government being divided into two Bills, and asked for an explanation on this point. I will give it him. Either there will be time to pass the entire scheme or not. If there is time to do so, no harm will have been done by dividing it into two measures. If there is 512 not time to pass the entire scheme, it will be because of that class of opposition to every line and word of the Bill with which, we have been threatened, and because of that alone. The second Bill contains improvements of the law as to head rents, turbary, and so on, as to which there will probably not be much opposition when included in a separate Bill. But those are technical and difficult subjects, dealt with in complicated clauses, which will readily lend themselves to the class of opposition I referred to, and, therefore, to embody them in a Bill dealing with controversial subjects might lead to opposition on points as to which there is no dispute in principle, but which would be treated as controversial, with a view to defeat or delay the passing of the other parts of the Bill. If there is no time to pass both Bills, and if we secure the first, I think that everyone will agree that half a loaf is better than no bread.
§ MR. MADDEN
The second Bill will be printed in the course of a few days. The differences between the former and the present Bills have been so fully dealt with by my right hon. Friend that I need only mention one. It is a provision to which I attach great importance—namely, the strengthening of the judicial force Land Commission by giving power to the Lord Chancellor to nominate any Judges of the High Court to act as additional Judicial Commissioners. I venture to say, in conclusion, that the Government scheme, and it alone, holds the field; I believe it will be passed into law, and that, when so passed, it will prove not only safe to the taxpayer, but the cause of peace and prosperity to many generations in Ireland.
§ (5.3.) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
Holding as I do opinions which conflict somewhat with those which have been expressed on this side of the House, and being a very advanced land tenure reformer, I think it only fair I should express the opinions which I entertain of the Bill, opinions which. I believe are, 513 rightly or wrongly, shared by a very large number of my countrymen. This Bill contains two main proposals: one to buy out the Irish landlords with British money, the other to sell the land which has been so purchased to the tenants who now occupy it. The first proposal indicates the great advance which has been made upon the subject of land tenure reform within the last 20 or 25 years. Twenty years ago Mr. John Stuart Mill, who sat in this House, published a remarkable pamphlet in which he advocated the same principle which is embodied in the Government Bill—namely, the using of British money for the purpose of buying out the landlords of Ireland. At that time the views of Mr. Mill were considered so advanced that the principle he advocated was scouted by a majority of the Members of this House, and received but very scant support amongst the general public. But now that principle has been embodied in a Bill brought forward by the great Tory Party, who are thereby placing in the hands of those who advocate land nationalisation a very powerful weapon, because the land nationalisers propose that the whole land of the Kingdom should become the property of the State, and one of the methods by which they wish to secure possession of the land is that the national funds should be used for the purpose of buying out the landlords. I will not discuss whether it is right or wrong to apply British money for buying out the landlords of the Kingdom; but the great fault I find with the proposal of the Government is that when the funds of the nation have been applied for buying out the Irish landlords, and the State has taken possession of the land, the State should again part with it. When the funds of the nation have been to some extent jeopardised by this process, why should the nation create another race of landlords? The fact that the land of the 514 country was owned by the State would be the best guarantee to the tenant against anything like arbitrary eviction. It is the arbitrary evictions on the part of the Irish landlords that have produced the present crisis, and it seems to me a very extraordinary thing to knock down one man and set up 20 in his place—to buy out one big landlord and manufacture a number of little ones. What guarantee have we that the new landlords to be created under this Bill will be of a better type than those which at present exist? The Bill affords no such guarantee, and I am inclined to think that the new landlords will be of even a worse type than the old ones. I therefore prefer to retain the existing system rather than create a new class of landlords about whom we at present know very little, and who, I fear, would be harsher in their conduct towards the tillers of the soil than the present owners of the soil. I object to the scheme also because the evils of the present system, as far as I can judge, would remain and become more crystallised. I further object to any man or any hundred men appropriating to themselves what is called the unearned increment, which should be appropriated for the benefit of the nation, and that evil is not dealt with in the present Bill. Finally, I object to the Bill on the ground that it would not be a complete or lasting settlement of land tenure reform. If you have a small or peasant proprietary created under this Bill what will happen will be that in a few generations the evils of the present system will be reproduced. The men of wealth will be always tempting the owners of small plots of land to sell; they will yield to the temptation, and the result will be that the small owners will in a short time disappear. The evils against which the Bill is now directed will then be reproduced, and in a short time we shall be face to face with another agrarian difficulty. The process to which I refer is going on at the present time in France. Some of our friends who advocate peasant proprietorship are never tired of praising the French system of land tenure, but I am informed by friends of mine in France—men who are entitled to speak with no small amount of authority on the subject—that the process of swallowing 515 up the small men in France is growing apace. There is a class of men who lend money at an enormous rate of interest to those who own small plots of land, and as the small owners are frequently unable to pay the interest, they lose their property. Consequently, these small owners are rapidly disappearing, and unless steps are taken by the enactment of a law to prevent any individual from holding more than a certain quantity of land, the evils which the promoters of this Bill profess to be desirous of removing will be reproduced. This Bill may afford some temporary relief to the tenants in Ireland, but it will not afford permanent relief, and cannot be regarded as a final solution of the difficulty. Again, if this Bill passes, what is to prevent a cry proceeding from the tenant farmers of England, Scotland, and Wales for State assistance to purchase their farms; and why should not the same principle be applied to the crofters of Scotland as you propose to apply to the tenant farmers of Ireland? I presume that those who have made this proposal have thought it out to the end, and are prepared to face similar demands which must come from all parts of the United Kingdom. All such difficulties would be avoided if the State purchased the land and held it. To such a proposal I should give my cordial support; but to the present scheme, which involves the creation of a new class of landlords, I shall give my deter mined opposition.
§ (5.20.) The House divided:—Ayes 245; Noes 173.—(Div. List, No. 6.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Debate arising;
§ It being after half-past Five of the clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker proceeded to interrupt the Business:—
§ Whereupon Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
I rise to a point of order. I apprehend 516 that as the Motion now made is not a Consequential Motion to the one just carried, it is not open to the right hon. Gentleman to move the Closure after half-past 5.
§ (5.35.) Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 242; Noes 172.—(Div. List, No. 7.)
§ Main Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (5.50.) The House divided:—Ayes 268; Noes 130.—(Div. List, No. 8.)
§ Bill read a second time.
§ On the Question, "That the House go into Committee on the Bill tomorrow":—
§ (6.4.) MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
I would ask the Government not to put down the Order for going into Committee to-morrow, as hon. Members desire to move Instructions to the Committee.
§ (6.5.) MR. W. H. SMITH
§ Bill committed for Friday.
§ It being after Six of the clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ House adjourned at five minutes after Six o'clock.