§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [21st April],"That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months.—"(Mr. Parnell.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *(4.20.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
Mr. Speaker, no doubt there are speakers of weight and authority in the House who have still to address us against the Bill which we are now engaged in discussing; but I suppose I am not wrong in assuming that during the course of the three days' Debate we have had on this subject the mainlines of attack have developed themselves. We have had three Speakers from the Front Opposition Bench, including the leader of the Opposition; we have had a speech from the leader of the Nationalist Party in this House; and we have had a speech from a gentleman of an authority among hon. Members below the Gangway second only to that of the hon. Member for Cork—I mean the hon. Member for East Mayo. We have had, besides, utterance given to the views of that section of the Radical Party which is represented by the senior Member for Northampton. I presume, therefore, we are in possession of the 1838 general objections which are taken on the other side of the House to the measure which it has been my duty to bring forward. I think it will be admitted by all those who have followed the Debate closely, as I have had to do, that the attack upon this Bill, though often violent in form, has in reality been rather hesitating in substance. These who used apparently the most decisive and vigorous language against the proposals of the Government seemed themselves to be more or less hampered by the feeling that this Bill is in accordance with the best traditions of every Party in this House, and that they themselves probably had been parties to recommending proposals not based on fundamentally or radically different lines, and that possibly, in obeying the natural instinct of an Opposition which is to oppose whatever the Government may bring forward, they may not have been pursuing the best interests of that portion of the United Kingdom whose welfare I am sure they have at heart. One speaker indeed there was quite undisturbed by inconvenient reminiscences. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby pounded away at this Bill for two hours the other night without apparently recollecting that he was a party to a measure open to all the most vital objections which he brought forward with such force and ability. I am well aware that in the view of the right hon. Gentleman the general history of the Liberal Party is a blank between the Union and the year 1885; apparently in the matter of Land Purchase the blank continues till the summer of 1886. He entirely ignores—he never said one word to suggest that he had the slightest recollection of the proposal to which he was a party only three years ago. Now, Sir, it would be very easy to drag up previous speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite as ample proof of the merits of this Bill, and of their inconsistency in opposing it. It would require far less industry than some of them have devoted to exhume the obscure placards and election addresses of certain friends of mine on this side of the House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite now seem to regard it as in no way embarrassing to have their previous utterances quoted against them. Custom has hardened them to that operation. But they apparently still credit us with 1839 sufficient regard for consistency to be annoyed by any apparent proof that it is absent. I notice, indeed, that even the most industrious among hon. Gentlemen opposite have not been able to extract anything from my speeches to serve their turn, though I have no doubt they have devoted special efforts to that branch of research, and I presume, therefore, I, at all events, cannot be charged with departing in any way from a policy which I have consistently advocated for the last 10 years. I shall not waste the time of the House by accumulating proof on proof from these old speeches of the discrepancy which exists between the present attitude and the former professions of the opponents of this Bill; it is sufficient that I should deal with the speeches that have been made during the last three days. I think it will be admitted that those speeches were made from a very remarkable variety of points of view. One hon. Member who made a maiden speech —and a very good speech it seemed to me to be—against this Bill, the other night, appeared to think that the fact that the attacks have been made upon the Bill from such a variety of quarters was a reflection, not upon the assailants but upon the assailed. That would be true if all those attacks were mutually self-supporting, but it is not true if those attacks be, as they certainly are, mutually destructive. If the objections urged by the right hon. Gentleman on the Bench opposite do not supplement but contradict the objections of hon. Members below the Gangway, that does not show that the Bill is bad, but that the opposition is disorganised. And I venture to think that it is far more conclusively proved by this Debate that the opposition is disorganised than that the Bill is open to serious criticism. The right hon. Member for Derby and the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division, who have spoken with all the authority of the regular Opposition, asked why a Bill of this kind was not to be extended to England and Scotland, while the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and the hon. Member for Cork, and every representative politician on the other side of the House, have always maintained that the position of the Irish land question is so peculiar, and that its 1840 peculiarity arises so directly from historical causes for which this country is more or less responsible, that the case of Ireland must be dealt with on an entirely different basis from that of England and Scotland. Again, the right hon. Member for Derby said that he had always objected to making the annuity of the purchasing tenant less than the fair rent. How he could say that when he must have had in his mind the provisions of the Bill of 1886, which lowered the fair rent of every tenant in Ireland by 20 per cent, I cannot imagine. The same right hon. Gentleman told us that it was absurd to describe the purchasing tenants under our Bill as owners in any sense of the word. Why, they have been described in this Debate by the hon. Member for Cork and they have been always regarded by everyone else as owners in fact as well as in law; and if the circumstances of having to pay an annuity deprives an occupier of that title, then every proposal for encouraging peasant proprietorship in Ireland from 1869 downward has been founded on a delusion. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the boon to the buyers under the present Bill would be so great and would excite such jealousy among the tenants of neighbouring landlords who declined to sell that a state of disorder will be produced more formidable than that to which this Bill was designed to put an end to. But, on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian told us that the Bill is so contrived that the whole of the boon proposed to be given to the tenants will be absorbed by the landlords. I ask, how are these two contradictory statements to be reconciled? If the landowner is to get all the benefit there will be no jealously between the occupying buyers and the tenants who do not buy. If, on the other hand, there is jealousy between the purchasing and the non-purchasing tenants, that proves that the landlords have not absorbed the advantages designed for the tenants under the Bill. Again, the right hon. Member for Derby has expressed his deliberate objection to hypothecating local rates to any purpose of land purchase in Ireland.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But the hon. Member for Cork based the whole of his speech upon the theory that local rates supplied the one security on which the Imperial funds necessary for land reform in Ireland could be burrowed. Again, hon. Members on the opposite Bench have expressed their objection to make the State the landlord of tenants in Ireland, and they have especially expressed their objection to making the State landlords of these small tenancies, where possibly difficulties of payment are more likely to occur. But in direct contradiction to this there is the scheme that was urged upon our attention by the hon. Member for East Mayo, who wanted the whole of the congested districts in Ireland compulsorily bought out, and contended that the State should become the universal landlord in the West of Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I am unwilling to interrupt the right hon. Gentlemen, but I desire to say that I expressed my conviction that you would undergo considerable risk in that case.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct; that is exactly what I understood him to say, and I want the House to notice the differences of principle which exist between the hon. Member and his friends on the one hand, and the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and his friends on the other, and also to note that all these contradictions, which are not superficial inconsistencies, go to the very root of land legislation. Yet these are the views uttered by right hon. Gentlemen who are never weary of telling us that we ought to base our whole policy upon the opinions of the Representatives of Ireland who sit below the Gangway. I venture most humbly to suggest to right hon. Members opposite, that before they lecture us for not consulting Irish opinion, they should make themselves acquainted with that opinion, and in obedience to their own principles frame their recommendations upon what they learn from the authoritative mouthpieces of public opinion in the South and West of Ireland. Now, Sir, I think I ought at this stage to deal with what the leader of the Irish Party called his alternative proposal to our scheme of land purchase. I shall not touch upon the details 1842 of that proposal, because I do not think they were very carefully thought out by the hon. Member, and in any case were criticised with great ability by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. Let me, however, make this observation. I never have been hostile to—on the contrary, I approve—the system of fining down rents, and I myself would have introduced clauses into this Bill on the subject if I had not been afraid of overweighting a measure, which is already almost too gigantic as it stands. But consider what invectives would have fallen upon my unhappy head if I had brought forward as an important or essential part of this Bill the scheme which has been laid before us by the hon. Member for Cork. In that case the speeches which would have been made against my Bill would have been far more effective than those which have been made against it as it stands, for the orator would have had something to say. I should have been told, and told truly, that while I was pledging English credit, that while I was compelling the State to collect the rents of Irish tenants, that while I was hypothecating the local funds of Ireland, that while, in the phrase of the Member for Newcastle, I was risking the danger of allowing lunatics to run loose throughout the length and breadth of the land, I was doing so not in order to establish peasant proprietorship, but to diminish rents, and that, when my scheme was in operation, and when the risks of the State had been run, the two classes of landlords and tenants would still remain, as heretofore, face to face, and the great social difficulty, the instrument and the occasion of so much agitation, would remain unsolved, that the whole system of dual ownership, with its attendant evils, would remain untouched, and that while we had exhausted the only securities which Ireland possesses for establishing peasant proprietorship we had not moved one step towards accomplishing that object. Now, I have told the House that I have always been in favour of fining down rents, but only if two conditions are fulfilled. The first condition is that such a proposal should be subordinated to the main scheme for establishing peasant proprietors, and the second con- 1843 dition is that the tenants on the lands where you have fined down the rants, should be tenants holding under what is called in Ireland a foe-farm grant or perpetual tenure, and not, as they would be under the plan of the hon. Member for Cork, still in the position of tenants under the Land Act of 1881. I regret that the hon. Member for Cork is not now present, but that is, I think, a fair account to give of the view we take of his proposal. This I believe was not laid before the House with any desire to embarrass the Government, and I trust that the manner in which I have commented upon it will be accepted by hon. Members opposite as prompted by a similar spirit. I proceed now to a subject of vital importance, and which has been dealt with at any length by only one speaker. I mean the congested districts. The hon. Member for for Cork told us that he intended to deal with the subject, but he forgot to do so, and the task, therefore, fell upon the shoulders of the hon. Member for East Mayo. I listened with attention to the speech of the hon. Member, and I have read it with not less attention, and I am bound to say that to me he appears greatly to over-rate the differences between his plan and the plan of the Bill; and in those respects in which his plan differs from the plan of the Bill it differs materially for the worse. The hon. Member made a most eloquent, vehement, and fiery attack upon emigration, and he stated that, although the Bill provided for migration, practically he understood the Government to discountenance everything but emigration. But that is not a fair interpretation either of the Bill or of my speech in introducing it. The Bill provides for migration as well as for emigration, and it will rest not with the Government but with the Congested Districts Board to decide which plan is to be adopted. If my right hon. Friend the Attorney General expressed his private opinion that it would be difficult to carry out on a large scale a system of migration, that was not his interpretation of the provisions contained in the Bill; but his inference drawn from the facts of the case, an inference which, I am bound to say, I entirely endorse. If migra- 1844 tion can be carried out, let us have it, for I shall prefer it; but has the hon. Gentleman considered the inevitable difficulties which must attend every system of migration? The great difficulty of all is the difficulty of cost. I do not mean to argue it at length; but I will put before the House a line of reasoning which will suggest the class of objections which will have to be met whenever you attempt to carry out schemes of this kind. I presume the House would not intend to house the migrated population worse than Irish labourers are housed under the Labourers' Acts; and it would be recognised that the social amelioration of this class was one of the objects of the Bill. The average cost of a labourer's cottage under the Labourers' Acts is about £110; and that will be the first cost that will have to be incurred if you have a system of migration. The second item of cost is the outlay on the purchase of land. The land to be bought must necessarily be land not in the occupation of a tenant, otherwise you must buy out two sets of people, owners and occupiers. It is a curious comment on the effect of recent legislation that if you want land that is not under cultivation by tenants you will have to pay considerably more for it than yon would have to pay if you bought land in the occupation of tenants. I do not suppose you would wish to plant your migrants upon holdings of less value than those in the congested districts. The hon. Member for Mayo implied that the inferior limit for holdings ought to be £20 annual valuation. Therefore, for every migrated family you would have to provide a house that will cost £110, and you will have to buy at 20 years' purchase a holding of £20 annual value. Of course, these are speculative figures, but if they be anything like the facts it will cost you, without providing for the improvemenss necessary in turning a grazing farm into an arable farm, £500 for every family you attempt to migrate, even supposing that suitable land can be found. No exchequer can bear the cost of this on any very great scale. Moreover, I believe the class of population you will have to deal with live upon the seaboard of Donegal, are accustomed to eke out their living by fishing and by labour in Eng- 1845 land, and are in the habit of cultivating land by the use of seaweed; and my conviction is that the change in their mode of life caused by transferring them, to inland districts would be so great that they would as soon emigrate as migrate. I am, of course, only giving expression to the private opinions I have formed; but if the Members of the Congested Districts Board should come to a different conclusion, no one would rejoice more than I should. The hon. Gentleman went on to tell us the Bill did not provide for fishing. It does provide for fishing; but the hon. Gentleman is in error in supposing that you can encourage fishing by Irishmen on the west coast of Ireland merely by multiplying harbours and loans. You cannot do anything of the sort. The proof of that is that Manxmen, Scotchmen, and Frenchmen come and fish under the very eyes of Irishmen. You want a great deal more than deep harbours, which exist already along the coast of Ireland more plentifully than on the coasts of England and Scotland. What are really required, more than harbours and loans, are knowledge and organisation. I warn those who are seeking the solution of this congested districts question by the encouragement of fishing, that it is not harbours and loans that will enable the fisheries on the West Coast of Ireland to rival those of England and Scotland; they will have to change not only the habits but also the distribution of the population on the Irish coasts. It will not be sufficient to create harbours that will accommodate large boats. You must collect the people round them. And they will have to learn that subordination which is necessary when there are ten or a dozen men in a boat. Capital will have to be organised, the fishing industry itself will have to be organised, and the children of fishermen will have to learn the subsidiary industries which are carried on in the fishing villages of England and Scotland, and which must be prosecuted if fishing is to be carried on with success. I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Congested districts Board ought to do all in its power to encourage the fishing industry; but the hon. Member will see that the great end is not simply a 1846 matter of multiplying harbours and showering down loans on fishermen. The hon. Gentleman tells us that we do not provide funds for carrying out the object of this part of the Bill, because the £1,500,000 of the Church surplus is also security for the loans for land purchases in the congested counties. But the hon. Gentleman will see, on reflection, that his inference is not well founded. There is, as I have attempted to show, no probability, no possibility whatever that the Church surplus or the Contingency Fund will be come upon at all. On the worst hypothesis, we shall not come upon the full amount until the limit of loans permitted under the Act shall have been reached, all the purchases have taken place in the congested districts. During that period £41,000 a year will be paid to the Congested Districts Board, which will be available for carrying out the industrial and social objects which the House and I have so much at heart.
§ MR. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman has not said one word on my chief proposal, which was the compulsory purchase of landlords' interests at a reasonable figure.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I see how the proposal of the hon. Member would injure the landlords, but I fail to see how it would benefit the tenants more than that of the Bill. The hon. Member proposes to give landlords eight years' purchase for their land; but there is no ground for thinking the land is worth only eight years' purchase. Suppose you bought out the landlords, the first result would be that the State would become the direct landlord of all these people. The second result would be that you would diminish the amounts of their rents. But does the hon. Gentleman think that the reduction of rents will materially affect their prosperity? He must know that the rents in the congested districts have little or nothing to do with the condition of the people. A tenant in these congested districts has a farm—a barren farm, I admit—on which he grows potatoes, feeds pigs, and raises poultry; if the holding be on the seaboard, he probably does a certain amount of fishing; he has a residence—of small intrinsic value, I admit; and for these 1847 things he pays much less than an English labourer pays for his cottage and garden, which, I believe, is between £4 and £5 a year. But these poor people pay far less,—£4, £2, or £3; and can anyone contend that an addition or diminution of 3d. per week will make the difference between destitution and prosperity, between civilisation and barbarism? Remember, Sir, that in order to judge of the plan of the Government you must consider not this Bill merely, but other measures we have passed or proposed. You must take into account the proposals contained in the Bill for the registration and transfer of land, brought in last year by the Attorney General, and to be re-introduced this year. You must take into account the great grant of public money which we made last year for the construction of railroads; and I say, if you take these things together no such plan for the benefit of the poorer parts of Ireland has ever been submitted by any Government or Party before. Hon. Gentlemen opposite lay on the Table of the House Session after Session multitudes of Bills on the subject of Irish land—Bills of that kind lie "thick as leaves in Vallombrosa"—but have hon. Members opposite ever suggested any Bill dealing with congested districts?
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have been rich in projects for dealing with the property of the landlords, but show me the Bill that has ever been produced by any of those hon. Members that really deals with the vital and essential difficulties of the congested districts. Hon. Gentlemen make many speeches in Ireland. Has any speech ever been delivered by any Member of this House, or by any man who agrees with hon. Gentlemen opposite, urging the inexpediency of improvident marriages? Hon. Gentlemen appear to regard that as an extremely comic proposal. Hon. Gentlemen have, as in the speech of the hon. Member for Mayo, thrown the whole blame of the excessive papulation of the West Coast on the landlords. I cannot help thinking that, even in Ireland, some responsibility for having children must lie on the parents. I am aware that that 1848 appears to be a paradox to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I can assure them there lies a not unimportant truth at the bottom of it. Have hon. Gentlemen ever discouraged sub-division in the West? [Mr. DILLON: Yes.] Have they ever urged consolidation? [Mr. DILLON: Certainly.] Have they ever produced any scheme in which they have discouraged sub-division? Have they ever urged emigration upon the people where they could not obtain a living at home? Never. Their view is that, whether a living can be obtained or not at home, the people must stay. A more pernicious doctrine, or one more fatal to the interests of the people, was never urged by any responsible politician. The truth is that in this part of the Bill the Government have attempted, perhaps with many imperfections, but they have attempted a task which no Government has ever attempted before. We did so without having before us any examples or suggestions on the part of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway of legislation bearing on this question. We have attacked virgin soil. We have had to trust entirely to the resources of our own ingenuity and invention. When a scheme is thus proposed in all good faith, a scheme which tends to the consolidation of holdings, to the promotion of other industries than agriculture, and to the improvement of agriculture itself, we ought not to be met in the spirit in which the hon. Member for Mayo has met us. I now proceed to some of the principal objections urged against the general scheme of purchase. Here, perhaps, I ought to give the place of honour to an objection urged most ably by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in the very remarkable speech which he delivered in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill. He urged that the Local Authorities in Ireland should be given a regulative share in the administration of the Bill, that their permission should be asked before the Bill was put in force in their localities, and that they should have some control over particular contracts made between landlords and tenants within the areas of their administration. I think the whole House will admit that the spirit of the observations of the right 1849 hon. Gentleman is entirely in accordance with the sentiment which probably everybody in this House entertains. Unquestionably, if Ireland were in a normal condition, I apprehend that it would be a very desirable thing to associate the County Councils in the great work in which the Imperial Parliament is engaged. But is Ireland in a normal condition?
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Is Ireland in a normal condition? That is the question we have to answer. This Bill has no raison dêtre at all, unless it is to carry out an object, not merely local, but national. The end and aim of this Bill is not, as has sometimes been represented, to benefit those tenants and landlords who happen to be vendors or purchasers under it. The object is far wider than that. It affects the interests not merely of the locality in which the purchased holdings are situated, but of the whole Empire. It seems to me to be indisputable that if this be a national object we should not allow ourselves to be frustrated in carrying it out by the action of any Local Authority, especially if we have ground for thinking that that Local Authority will be influenced by political reasons, and by political reasons alone. The Local Authorities in many parts of Ireland—there never was any secret about it—are as much elected by political arrangements and on political lines as the Parliamentary Party opposite. If it suited the Parliamentary Party opposite to burke or misuse—to burke the efforts or misuse the liberality of the National Government—I think it would be most rash to give them a fitting instrument for carrying out their designs. Those objections appear to me to carry with them great weight. If they can be answered nobody will be more gratified than I, because I hope the time may come, and I think it will come, when Ireland will be in that normal condition which could justify, nay, compel us, to associate them in the working of one scheme. But until that time has come it appears to me that it would be an experiment of some rashness, to say the least of it, to hand over to the County Councils the sole authority for deter- 1850 mining whether this great object of the Imperial Parliament shall be carried into effect or not. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen desire me to develop for them this part of the subject? I have clearly indicated my views, and while with the general intention of the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman I concur heartily, on the other hand I am not convinced that it can be safely carried out. Then we are told, and this is the next objection which has been urged with great force, that Irish opinion has been ignored. Now, I entirely admit that any statement coming from those who represent a large portion of the Irish population, and who, in many cases, are probably acquainted with all the circumstances of the persons they represent, is well worthy of consideration in this House. But, after all, we have to look the facts in the face. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not conceal from us that they look on this Bill as an instrument for embarrassing the Government, and not as an instrument for ameliorating the condition of the people of Ireland. The hon. Member for North-East Cork expressed the amiable hope that this Bill would be the means of destroying a hated Tory Government.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the hon. Gentleman repudiates the statement I will withdraw it, but I think I saw it in some report of his speech.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
If the right hon. Gentleman desires to know what I said, I did express a hope that one result of the idiotic character of this Bill would be to involve the destruction of the Government, but I stated most distinctly that my ground of objection to the Bill was that while the fee simple of their farms would be bought for a very small section of tenants, the great majority of the farmers who were excluded from benefits under the Bill were to be held security against the non-payment of the debts of the richer minority.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Of course I never questioned but that the hon. Gentleman would find an excellent argument to support his opinion. I think that I am borne out in my statement that he expressed the amiable hope that 1851 the Bill might be made the instrument of destroying a detested Government.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, one of his motives. [Mr. W. O'BRIEN: No.] The controversy is not worth carrying on across the floor of the House. I will take another example from a speech which I heard in this House the other night, delivered by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool. He distinctly said that if, by refusing to pay their instalments, purchasers could bring disaster on a hostile Government, they ought to repudiate their obligations.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
This is from the Times. [Laughter.] Well, can the hon. Member find me a better report? [An hon. MEMBER: The Star, and laughter.] The hon. Member said—He would go further, and say that if any tenant entered into a contract under this Act, and if by refusing to pay he could bring pressure upon a hostile Government like the present, that tenant would be justified in so acting.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I beg to say that I admit entirely the accuracy of that; Report. If the right hon. Gentleman is a man capable of making a distinction I think he will find that there is a great deal of difference between that and what he attributes to me. I am not addressing Gentlemen of less acute minds than that of the right hon. Gentleman. But there is, he will see, a very great difference between my proposition and that repudiation of contracts which he attributes to me.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am sorry not to be able to earn the compliment that has been passed on my acuteness. I do not quite catch the distinction to which he refers; but, at all events, however you explain that statement away, persons who take such a view of the Land Purchase Bill proposed by a Tory Government cannot be considered by that Tory Government as very disinterested advisers. Hon. Members look—I do not say they are wrong, but they look upon this question from a political point of view. They regard themselves as being sent here to carry Home Rule. I do not say 1852 that they consider any means good which may promote that object, but I do say that they allow themselves considerable latitude in their choice of means and, therefore, naturally, it is difficult for us to gain all the advantage we should be glad to gain from the undoubted local knowledge of many of them—I say many of them, because, as the House is aware, local knowledge is not possessed by all. There was a gentleman, for instance, who addressed the House the other night for the first time —I refer to the hon. Member for Cavan. He made a very able speech, and I think that the hon. Member will be an ornament to the Debates in this House. But that Gentleman, who told us that he represented the views of Cavan upon this question, is a gentleman who has selected an English University for his education and an English profession for his livelihood, and at this moment, I believe, while denouncing the Land Purchase Bill, is himself making every preparation for selling his own estate under the Ashbourne Act, and, in the polite phrase of his leader, absconding with the plunder.
§ MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
I wish to make a personal explanation. I stated most distinctly in the speech which I delivered that I had no objection whatever to land purchase under the Ashbourne Act in places where there was no pressure of coercion and no pressure of arrears. I did not mention the fact, but I have no objection to its being mentioned, that in a county where, as it is chiefly Orange, there has been no coercion, though possibly there may have been some necessity for it, and on an estate where there is no pressure of arrears, I have made preparations to sell.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite have been fortunate in the interruptions they have made. I quite accept every statement made by the hon. Member; but that does not qualify my assertion that he is, in the phrase of the hon. Member for Cork, "absconding with the plunder." Now, Sir, a theory has been advanced against which I think this House should utter its most earnest protest. We have been told that if a majority of the Irish Members refuse their consent to the Bill the 1853 Irish people are not bound by it. I say that that theory has no justification either in politics or in morals. We do not vote here by nations; we vote here as individuals, representing separate constituencies; and if you are once going to adopt the theory that no constituency is bound by any Act passed in this Legislature if the Member for that constituency votes against it, then I say that you have not merely got Home Rule, but chaos and disintegration. I should be glad to know from hon. Members who take that view how they propose under Home Rule to manage the problem of Ulster. How would hon. Members who hold that theory have been able to deal with the Ulster minority if there had been a Home Rule Parliament sitting in College Green, and the Land Bill proposed in 1886 had been passed, and if that minority had said, "We do not propose to pay our instalments under the Act?" I want to know by what arguments hon. Gentlemen who have committed themselves to this new theory of moral obligation are going to refute such a contention? I think they would find themselves very much embarrassed. When we get to the further development of this doctrine contained in the quotation which I have read from the speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division do we not find in it another and an almost tragic example of the doctrine which has been ground into the very fibre of the Irish people during recent years of agitation, that every man who swindles his creditor is doing his country a service? The next objection, cognate to the one which I and considering, but distinct from it, depends on the absence from this Bill of what is called a buffer between the Imperial Exchequer on the one hand and the peasant owners on the other. Now, Sir, let me point out that the object of a buffer, be it a Local Authority or a Local Legislature, is twofold. The object, in the first place, is to give to the locality an interest in the honesty of the people living in the locality; and, in the second place, to prevent evictions having to be carried out by the State. With regard to the first of these objects, I maintain that without a buffer the machinery of the present Bill attains it more completely than the machinery of any Bill ever yet proposed. Take, for 1854 example, the Bill proposed in 1886 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. Under that Bill the burden was thrown on the Irish Government of directly collecting the rents from the owner. It is true that the Irish Government was supposed to be a buffer between the English Government and the Irish tenant.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
No; the English Exchequer had nothing whatever to do with the Irish tenant.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman caught what I said. I said that the Irish Government under his Bill was supposed to occupy the position more or less of a buffer between the English Government and the Irish tenant.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Not in the least. A buffer is between two things. The English Government had nothing to do with the Irish tenant.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
A buffer maybe between two persons or two things. I am very anxious not to misrepresent the views of the right hon. Gentleman expressed in the Bill of 1886; but am I not right in saying that the English Exchequer was to lend money and the tenant was ultimately to return the money, and that the instalments were to be collected by somebody from the tenants? That "somebody" was an officer of the Irish Government; and, therefore, I apprehend that I am strictly correct in saying that the Irish Government was a buffer between the English Exchequer and the Irish tenant.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The remedy of the English Government did not lie against the tenant at all; the English Government had nothing whatever to do with the collection of money or with the tenants.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes; and the reason that the English Government had nothing to do with the tenants was that there was this buffer. At all events, my point is not now the position of the English Government, but the position of the Irish Government; and I say that there was no buffer between the Irish Government and the tenant-purchaser, and that on the Irish Government was thrown by the Bill of 1886 the full responsibility of collecting rents from these 1855 tenant purchasers, while the locality had no penalty imposed upon it if there was a strike against rents within its limits. That will not be denied. I therefore say that the Irish Government was, tinder the Bill of 1886, brought far more directly into contact with the tenant than is the English Government under this Bill, and for this reason. Under the Bill of 1886 all that the Irish Government had to rely upon was eviction if the tenant did not pay, and eviction, though it might influence the individual, could not influence the locality. But under this Bill you are in an entirely different position. You have still the remedy of eviction, but if you do not choose to evict, the British Exchequer is none the worse; while the locality has the strongest pecuniary interest in seeing that the obligation to the English Exchequer is duly fulfilled by the purchaser. I assert, therefore, that I am justified in my contention that the one great object of what is called the buffer system is more completely carried out under the machinery of this Bill than it would have been under the machinery of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. The objection is that the State cannot throw upon other shoulders the duty of evicting, when evictions are necessary. On that I would remark that though, of course, the State is not directly responsible for the collection of rent now, yet that under no civilised Government can you deprive a landlord of his remedy against a defaulting tenant, or refuse the officers of the Court, who enforce that remedy, the protection to which they are entitled. Therefore, in the sense of protecting those engaged in evictions the State is at this moment, and must always be, do what you will, concerned in and responsible for eviction. But under this Bill the eviction of a defaulting tenant purchaser will not be for the purpose of replenishing the British Treasury; it will be for the purpose of preventing loss to the local Irish Treasury, and that makes all the difference. If not a single eviction were carried out, the British Treasury would not lose a penny; the loss would entirely fall under the Bill upon those local purposes for which the contribution is at present made from the Imperial 1856 funds. Therefore, when the State evicts under this Bill it does not evict as the Irish Government would have evicted under the Bill of 1886 for its own sake. It evicts for the sake of the locality. That, I think it will be admitted, alters the whole complexion of the procedure. Now, before I come to the main question —I mean the question of the security offered to the British Exchequer—let me correct one mistake. We are told that the Bill will drive out the Irish landlords. That is not its object and, in our opinion, will not be its effect. The Irish landlords at present, in so far as they are in conflict with their tenants and so far as they are made the objects of this chronic agitation, are not only rendered powerless for good, but they are practically driven out of the country'. Believe them of the consequences of this agitation, and I believe that the Irish landlords will reside not less, but more, in the country, with greater power of usefulness and greater power of enjoying country life among these with whom they have been accustomed to live. They will again be on good terms with their neighbours and their former tenantry; and I believe that, so far from diminishing the number, the prestige, the influence, or authority of the landlord class in Ireland, this Bill will do a great deal to increase them. Now, I come to the question of British credit as affected by the provisions of this measure. I think one fact must have come out very clearly to every hearer in the course of this Debate. No single critic of the Bill has ever attempted to show by detailed argument that the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund is not amply sufficient to meet every case of natural calamity due to agricultural depression or even to famine. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, the ablest and acutest critic of the Bill, did not attempt to show it. It has not been shown either by any hon. Gentleman below the Gangway. They have contented themselves with the vague assertion that the security is not worth the paper on which it is written; but beyond generalities of that kind there has not been a single successful attempt to show that the cash portion, as distinguished from the contingent portion, of the Guarantee Fund, is 1857 not amply sufficient to meet everything short—I am not sure that I ought to use the word short—of actual famine. The more you work out the method in which the cash portion will work, the more complete the security seems. I am justified therefore in ignoring now from default arising from calamity, and I pass to the consideration of default arising from repudiation. Even moderate dishonesty, if I may use the phrase, is amply provided for by the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund. I do not know whether the degree of repudiation recommended, or hypothetically recommended, by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division would be met by it.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Temporary refusal to pay which should cease with the existence of such a Government as the present.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, Sir, I will not use the offensive word again; but the theory of temporary refusal to pay which is now supported by the hon. Gentleman appears to be this—if Irish tenants happen to dislike the Government in office, they are at liberty to withhold all payments. If this thing should happen at the beginning of a seven years' Parliament, it is quite clear that the British Exchequer or the Local Authority would be out of its funds for a considerable period. Now, let us leave the theory of moderate dishonesty and come to the extravagant hypothesis of universal repudiation. Universal repudiation, as I understand it, has been distinctly adumbrated, or regarded as possible, by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) in a very remarkable passage of his speech. He told us the Government was to understand that not only the dishonesty of the Irish tenants, but their honesty, depended on the fiat of the Irish agitator. He told us that if purchasers under the Ashbourne Acts and the Church Acts had systematically and honestly paid their debts for the last 20 years, it was because they had always been recommended to pay by hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway.
§ MR. DILLON
No; I did not say that. I said that in our view our advocacy of payment should be taken into account as an element of consideration.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
These are the words which the hon. Gentleman used—It had been pointed out in the course of the Debate that the instalments due to the Government under the sales of land that had taken place in Ireland had been punctually paid. Why? Because the Irish Members had impressed on the people the moral obligation resting on them to pay the money. That was a state of things very different from what would have been the case if they had told the people that they were under no obligation to pay. Therefore, there was no analogy whatever between the condition of things now prevailing and that which might prevail when the leaders of the future, whoever they might be, or from whatever motive, proclaimed to the people that they would be justified, and acting patriotically, in refusing to pay the Government a single penny.I contend, therefore, that I am justified in saying that the hon. Member for Mayo looks forward to a time when possibly other leaders may arise "who know not Joseph" [laughter, and an IRISH MEMBER: "Judas"] who may give advice to the people urging them to repudiate payment, on patriotic grounds, and if that course is pursued the people would refuse to pay their debts. I accept for the sake of argument the hon. Gentleman's view of the honesty of the Irish tenants and the honesty of the future Irish leaders. I accept the theory he and has laid before the House.
§ MR. DILLON
I will relieve the right hon. Gentleman of all anxiety and say, for my own part, that I most certainly would do it.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
In my heart I did not doubt it; but I did not wish to import anything acrimonious into the Debate. But while I accept the hypothesis that the time may come when the Member for East Mayo and his friends will recommend repudiation, I desire to point out that we shall not be saved from that calamity, as Gentlemen opposite vainly imagine, by their giving their consent to this or any other Bill. How can such a consent bind their action in the future? I have known other sections and other political Parties change 1859 their minds. Your theory of the way in which a Land Purchase Bill ought to be carried is that it is safe, and only safe, when consent has been given to it by the Members from Ireland. But what security have we that that consent will last? What ground have we for supposing that the Member for Mayo may not change his mind, or may not be succeeded by a more extreme politician than himself, who may give advice to the Irish people which the Member for Mayo now says that even he is ready to give under certain contingencies? If that happens, how should we be more secure if we brought in a Bill which was signed, sealed, and assented to by every Irish Member sitting in this House? I accept, then, and I ask the House to accept, the possible effects of universal repudiation as a contingency which has to be contemplated, and contemplated equally whether we have or have not the support of the Irish Members. What we really have to determine is whether it can be successfully carried out under this Bill, and I say it cannot be carried out, and that the efforts of the Member for Mayo will be exhausted in the vain effort to accomplish any policy at all resembling universal repudiation. I will explain why. Anybody who has carefully examined the methods of Irish agitation against the landlords in the past, and the measure of success they have met with, will see that success can only occur under three conditions. In the first place, the landlord attacked must be financially weak; in the second place, the repudiation must be backed up by a system of general boycotting in the neighbourhood; and, in the third place, there must be adequate funds at the disposal of the agitators to support the evicted tenants. Now, I say none of these conditions will be fulfilled in the case of universal repudiation. You are not dealing here with a financially weak landlord: you are dealing with the British Exchequer; and I want to ask this question of hon. Gentlemen, Do they think that the Plan of Campaign would ever have been started, or if started would ever have succeeded on an estate on which all the rent which the landlord derived from the land was given back in the 1860 form of local subscriptions to the neighbourhood? Clearly all the landlord would have to do in these circumstances would be to diminish his subscriptions, shilling for shilling, as the tenant diminished his rent. Now that is the precise position of the British Exchequer. It has only to cut off, penny for penny, its habitual subscriptions to Irish local purposes, and it will not be a penny the worse. The second condition which has to be fulfilled is the condition that there should be general boycotting in the neighbourhood. This is obvious, because the whole of our legislation is founded on the land hunger in Ireland, and the land hunger is never likely to be more acute than when the land to be occupied is held under very favourable conditions. Therefore, you will require to have your machinery of boycotting in its very highest state of efficiency if you mean to prevent now purchasers from coming in and taking farms from which defaulting purchasers have been evicted.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Now, Sir, I fail to see what motive the neighbourhood has for taking part in this criminal conspiracy. By your own hypothesis these men who refuse to pay are holding their land under exceptionally favourable terms. They are objects of jealousy to the non-purchasing tenants in the neighbourhood, and why should these non-purchasing tenants band together in a criminal conspiracy to protect their more fortunate rivals? No reason can be shown for it, and I do not think it will be done. But there is even a stronger obstacle in the way of carrying out a system of repudiation. The reason why there has been no attempt to spread the Plan of Campaign over any large area of Ireland is that there is not money to support the evicted tenants. Everybody knows that who knows Ireland. I believe that the tenants evicted from the Ponson by estate, in the County of Cork, are paid at the rate of £3 a month. That is, at all events, what I have heard, and I do not suppose that you are likely to get these tenants to give up their homes to please hon. Members opposite for a much less sum. Now, I am told that 150,000 tenants are going to buy 1861 under this Bill. If all the tenants are going to repudiate, and if you are going to support them all at the rate I have mentioned, you will require a sum of £5,400,000 to do it. I apprehend that the resources of the National League, considerable as they may be, would hardly be equal to the strain. You tell us that we shall never dare to withhold the contingent portion of the grant if there is a general repudiation. I do not agree. I do, indeed, agree that if, owing to some visitation of Heaven, some great calamity which man is powerless to resist or to ward off, the agricultural population of Ireland were reduced to starvation, then you could not touch the Contingent Fund; but if Ireland were still joined to England the Imperial Parliament would have to put their hand in their pocket to help the unfortunate peasantry. If, however, this repudiation arises from a criminal conspiracy in which every one of the ratepayers or a great majority of the ratepayers are themselves participators, then I say that neither principle nor policy, nor even sentiment, would interfere to protect those who by hypothesis are guilty of this deliberate crime. Now, Sir, I proceed to deal with a part of the case, which I had thought I might have been spared. I mean a defence of the extension of a peasant proprietary in Ireland. The right hon. Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), forgetful of his own previous efforts in a different direction, actually defended the present system of dual ownership in Ireland. I believe that that system is open to every objection which can be urged against other systems of land tenure, while it does not possess one of the merits which other systems possess. On the bad stock of this system you engraft a social agitation which has torn Ireland to pieces for the last 10 years, and to cure that agitation you adopt the absurd, though well-meaning, expedient of settling every land contract by means of a Land Court What has been the result of that by the confession of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite? The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) made a violent attack on the present constitution of the Land Commission. He implied in the clearest language that, in his opinion, 1862 the present holders of office in that Court were not doing justice to the tenant. I am not going, at this moment, to take up the defence of the able and honest men who have the duty of determining fair rents in Ireland; but I want to point out the evil of the system under which the whole value of every man's property in Ireland depends not so much on his industry, not so much on his thrift, not so much on the condition of the market or the oscillations from time to time in the value of land, as upon how the Land Court happens to be constituted. [Home Rule Cheers.] You cheer. You think it is a wholesome system. You think it is a system which we ought to encourage and perpetuate. I say it is a system which, however it is worked, is a bad system. Supposing hon. Members opposite got their way and cut down rents by three-fourths through their appointment to the Land Commission, it would ruin the landlords no doubt, but would it benefit the tenants? I say the system is essentially and radically rotten. You cannot remain where you are; you cannot go back; you must go forward; and the only way in which you can go forward is by attempting, as fast as your means allow, to substitute some rational system of tenure for the absurd and abnormal system which, partly by custom, partly by legislation, and partly through historical causes, has grown up in Ireland. Of course, I admit that objections may be raised to this Bill. I never heard of a Bill to which objections, and even legitimate objections, could not be raised. My contention is that this Bill has merits of its own which no other Bill on the subject has ever possessed. Many of the objections to this Bill were equally or even more applicable to the scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1886; but this Bill, and this Bill alone, makes the security of the British Exchequer absolute. This Bill, and this Bill alone, provides for the "lean years" and for that casual and occasional inability to pay which may happen to the most thrifty and the most industrious of tenants. This Bill, and this Bill alone, attempts to do something—and something substantial —for the labouring classes, who have 1863 been excluded absolutely from the benefits of every other Bill ever proposed. This Bill, and this Bill alone, gives to localities the very strongest interest in maintaining the honesty of every purchaser within their midst; and this Bill, and this Bill alone, deals with the perennial problem of Irish society— the problem of the congested districts. These are the great claims of the Bill, and I confidently commend it to the favour of the House. I have been accused by the hon. Member for East Mayo, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, of having claimed that this Bill is a complete solution of the Irish difficulty. Language of that sort has never been used by me; it is the language of a quack, and not of a doctor. I do not believe that it is within the wit of man to provide by one legislative Act a complete cure for every one of the historic ills under which Ireland has suffered, and is suffering; but I do say that this is a great contribution—a practical and material contribution—to the greatest problem which English statesmanship has got to deal with. And recollect—and I beg hon. Gentlemen to take this to heart—this is a boon, and I believe a great boon, which under no circumstances can Ireland give to herself. No patriotism, no ability, on the part of Irish politicians, if they had to rely on Irish resources alone, could give this immense benefit to the tenantry of Ireland. They are dependent, and they must be dependent, upon the credit of the British Empire. The Radical Party—those represented by the senior Member for Northampton—say they will never give it to them. I do not know whether that view is shared by the legitimate Opposition above the Gangway; but if the Irish cannot give it themselves, if they are not going to get it from the Radical Party, I advise them to get it from the only Party that can or will give it to them. A great deal of time has been spent—in my opinion, mis-spent—in this Debate in discussing whether or not a man, when he purchases his holding, becomes a Loyalist. I am not in the slightest degree influenced by the question. My object is not political, but social, We do not desire by this Bill to score a political trick, or to trip up an opponent; and I appeal in all earnestness to the hon. 1864 Gentlemen below the Gangway, and to the leader of the new Liberal Party, who declaims so eloquently on platforms about the woes of Ireland, but who refuses to give 6d. out of his pocket. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Hear, hear!] He will not spend 6d. out of his pocket to cure the greatest calamity under which Ireland suffers. Let the country, and let the Irish Members, note the precise cash value of Radical sympathies. If I appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton and those who follow him in vain, I hope I shall not appeal in vain to the Members who sit near him, and who represent Ireland. I am sure that in their hearts they must know that this Bill is really a great contribution to Land Reform in Ireland [Cries of "No, no"], and that they will, at all events, show that they are prepared to discuss that which has been honestly offered in a candid, temperate, and impartial spirit. [Interruption.] But if to them, and I judge so from their interruptions, I appeal in vain, surely I may appeal to right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are bound by every public pledge and every private conviction to aid in the establishment of a peasant proprietary in Ireland. Do they seriously believe that a better opportunity for carrying out that policy will ever occur, or that they will be able to find a scheme materially better in any important particular? I believe, if they will forget for one moment the political contests which rages across the floor of this House, and ask themselves, in all seriousness, the question I have put to them, they will be only able to return one answer to it; and if they do so, I think I may appeal to them with more confidence, and perhaps with more success, than I have appealed either to the hon. Member for Northampton or to his Irish allies, to aid in the great work which for no small or Party purpose we have attempted resolutely to take in hand.
§ (6.10.) Mr. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
The right hon. Gentleman in the closing words of his speech declared that his object is social, not political; but in an earlier passage, when showing cause for refusing to give certain control to Local Bodies in Ireland, he declared his object political, not social. It is rarely that a statesman of experience makes so palpable and so foolish a blunder, and I would recommend him to endeavour to learn at least the state of his own mind before ho can hope to impress himself on others. The elaborate speech of the right hon. Gentleman, though it purported to shed a flood of light on the subject, does not alter the fact that the Government in this great affair is pressing this House to legislate in the dark. It is a cardinal principle in their policy in dealing with the affairs of Ireland to refuse the House essential information. When the Coercion Act was before the House we strove in vain to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman some definite particulars of the sweeping allegations upon which the House was misled to pass the Bill. Now we are engaged in considering a Bill which proposes with State money to buy out the Irish landlord at 20 years of the value of what is practically the gross rent of 20 years, and as much in addition as he can extort from the tenant. There is a Court in Ireland for the sale of encumbered estates, and at the present moment there are in that Court for sale estates with a rent of about £2,000,000. If the right hon. Gentleman were proposing to buy anything else but Irish land I am certain he would help the House to ascertain the value of the article by every means in his power. I asked him a few days ago to give the House a Return of the estates for sale, of their situation, their rateable valuation, their rental, and the highest offer of purchase, where any offer of purchase has been made. The right hon. Gentleman informed me that he could not state either the rental of the estates or their rateable valuation, or the highest offer of purchase, although the valuation of each estate is a matter of public record, the rental of the estate is a record of the Court, and every offer made is in the hands of the Judges. Yet this information was not forthcoming for the House. He said that 1866 some fragment of the Return would be given. But when? At the end of the present Session, when this Bill will have either passed or been abandoned, or when it cannot be of the slightest use. He refused the Return, because he was well aware that it would disclose the fact that this Bill betrays the State.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I ought to remind the House that the Return asked for is a Return in the power of the Court to give or refuse. It does not come within the scope of any of my officials at all. The information I gave to the House was based on the information of an official of the Court. What the hon. Member wanted would take a very long time to prepare.
§ MR. SEXTON
The information could he prepared by any clerk in the Land Court in a week; and I refuse to believe that a polite intimation from the right hon. Gentleman to the Judge of the Land Court, whom the right hon. Gentleman is about to place at the head of the Land Department, would not have secured the immediate production of the Return; and I charge the Government with a wilful suppression of facts material to the case before the House. Now, I have a word to say on the verdict of 1886. The country, by a, majority in 1886, decided against land purchase involving risk to the State. The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. de Lisle) denies that. I did not, think there was a Member of this House so hardened as to deny that the judgment of the country in 1886 was that no Land Purchase Bill should be permitted which risked the credit of the State. The verdict, no doubt, was obtained by false pretence, but the judgment is none the less binding on those who obtained it. because they obtained it by deception. The Parties opposite and their confederates on this side told the workmen of England that the credit of the State was risked by the Bill of the Member for Mid Lothian. although that Bill saved the State the risk or trouble of loss and collection from the tenant—although that Bill pledged the public faith and honour of Ireland by a solemn national compact—the public interests of Ireland, the public revenues of Ireland, and the very existence of her domestic Government, in fulfilment of her compact. It was a security as perfect as any man could 1867 devise or could desire—a better security, all things considered, than the landlords of Ireland will ever again have any chance of refusing. But the Unionist Party persuaded the country that the Bill involved risk. The country returned its verdict against that Bill, and a verdict against risking the credit of the State, the verdict which at the present moment is the moral sanction for the official existence of the Party opposite. The Member for West Birmingham proved by his speech that the Bill involved considerable risk; and when a Minister without a portfolio makes a declaration of this kind, I think it wants attention from the Party opposite. Why is this Bill introduced to the House, and why is it pressed forward? It is a Bill as hazardous, as can easily be shown, as the former Bill was safe. The verdict of England stands against this Bill. Ireland has not asked you for it. Ireland does not want it. Ireland, so far from being thankful for this Bill, most bitterly resents it, and regards it as an odious and humiliating measure. Why, then, is it pressed forward? I can only infer that the Government do not expect a renewal of their lease of power. They are willing while time is yet left to them to do a good turn to a band of their political confederates, no matter at what hazard to the State. They are indifferent so long as they can do that, and they do not care what deep and bitter trouble they leave to those who will have to take up the work of government after them. But if the Party opposite give up the work of government at least the Party opposite remains; but what is a mystery to me is this, that the Party opposite do not appear to give intelligent thought to their fate as a Party. In a measure of land purchase of this magnitude the conditions apart from the principle are all important. They may make the measure or mar it; they may render it invaluable or useless, or worse than useless. They may constitute it a great public benefit or a public evil and danger. What are the indispensable conditions? They are, firstly, equal dealings with the tenants at large; they are, secondly, equity to the individual purchaser; and, thirdly, real security for the State. If anyone supposes that I do not think that security for the State is as important as the other two, the supposition is 1868 erroneous. I desire that all bargains with the State should be kept. I desire, in order that they may be kept, that they shall be voluntarily and freely made: and a matter of the first importance is this, that no Government shall be permitted to create a financial difficulty which would have the effect of embarrassing and impeding the future good relations between Great Britain and Ireland. As to the principle of land purchase by State credit, it must be under sound conditions. It is not necessary at this time of day that a Member of the Irish Party should say that he adopts that principle—the principle is our own. It was the foundation stone of the Land League 10 years ago. It has since been adopted by both Parties in the State. We have struggled for that principle and suffered persecution and imprisonment for it; and our most recent experience has been that in consequence of our persistent pursuit of the principle three distinguished gentlemen, having no connection and no acquaintance with Ireland, have found that we intended to drive the landlords from the country. The landlords, who know more about it, are under the impression that the Government intended to drive them out. At any rate, the notion that we bad a quarrel with individuals, and not with an institution—the notion that we desired to drive the landlords out of Ireland has, I think, been disposed of by the offer made in the course of the Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has asked us what would be said if that offer had been made by him. I confess it would have shared the fate of Parliamentary criticism; but if the proposal bad been made by the right hon. Gentleman we would then have compared it with ideal perfection; but the proposal being made as an alternative scheme, we have compared it with the Bill against which it was directed, and it is saying very little indeed for the scheme of my hon. Friend that we have found it an infinitely better scheme than the scheme embodied in the Bill. It is an error to suppose that my hon. Friend by his offer committed himself to the Bill or any part of if. In making his offer he was limited to the conditions of the case. What are the conditions of the case? He was con- 1869 fronted by a Bill which will be passed I through this House by a majority no matter what Irish Members may say or do; and the question to which he addressed himself was—could any better use than the use proposed in the Bill be made of the £33,000,000 which it is proposed to expend in the interests of certain classes? I venture to think my hon. Friend suggested a scheme which answered that question, for if his proposal had been adopted the landlords generally —I speak from the point of view of the landlords now—with least disturbance of their position would have obtained greater relief than a small portion of them will obtain under the present Bill. Under my hon. Friends scheme the tenants all over Ireland would have obtained immediately a greater reduction than this Bill is likely to offer them, and the State would have had to deal with a limited number of landlords upon the security of their estates, and might have got rid of flimsy guarantees instead of having under this Bill to deal with a multitude of tenants upon a scheme embracing all kinds of holdings at excessive rates. The criticism of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) did not affect the essential validity of the scheme. It is true that the general average between large farms and small farms would not be the same on an individual estate as it is all over Ireland; but the principle of fining-down rents might have been applied within wide limits. As to the observation of the Member for West Birmingham, that some Irish landlords are not encumbered, I think he might go out and search with a lantern and not find one. If he did find one I say that Irish landlord would do well in his own interest to accept the capital sum for a certain reduction of his rent, rather than give the reduction without any equivalent, as the mass of the landlords unquestionably in Ireland will have to do as soon as the transactions under the present Bill create a lower standard of payment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked two questions in connection with the scheme. He asked of my hon. Friend would the scheme abolish dual ownership? No, Sir, because the money is not forthcoming, and you cannot make 1d. do the work of 6d. But does the Bill of the Government abolish the system of dual ownership? 1870 The Bill of the Government indirectly, but not the less certainly, means ruin to the great majority of the landlords of Ireland. The Chief Secretary exhausted rhetoric in denouncing the existing system of dual ownership; but his Bill not only continues but perpetuates the present system of dual ownership over at least five-sixths of Ireland. In reply to the other question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether we could insure him against a strike against remnants of rent under the scheme of my hon. Friend, I ask him another question. Can he insure himself against a strike against the annual payments under his Bill? The weapon levelled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer recoils upon himself. The scheme of my hon. Friend would have proved to be a palliative measure; it would have mitigated dual ownership; it would have relieved the strained relations between londlord and tenant; but the effect of your Bill will be that it will leave dissatisfaction even among the landlords you buy out; and, as regards the landlords you do not buy out, it will leave them absolutely helpless in the face of the strike. The Government proposed to take in the scheme of my hon. Friend to their Bill as a lodger. My hon. Friend, however, demanded the status of an occupier. The point of his suggestion is that if the £30,000,000 is to be usefully employed it should be employed entirely for the purpose of fining down rent. I do not see how you can carry on side by side a system of fining down rent and of voluntary purchase. It is evident the two schemes could not run together. At any rate, in order that the scheme of my hon. Friend should have a fair chance of success, the whole of the money would have to be applied to it, because the Government would foster its own child and starve the stepchild. They would spend all the money upon their own plan, and by-and-by they would tell my hon. Friend that their plan was going on exceedingly well and that the plan of my hon. Friend had failed. Of course, with your majority at your back, you may do whatever you please; but if you introduce the scheme into your Bill as supplementary, and not alternative, you will do it without the consent of my hon. Friend and on your own responsi- 1871 bility; and whatever some may think of the rejection of the scheme proposed by my hon. Friend, I think the landlords hereafter will have cause to lament it. I am greatly astonished that the right hon. Gentleman has not endeavoured to explain away the extraordinary error which he made in his former speech. He placed the capital value of the Guarantee Fund at £33,000,000; but when the Return came into our hands it turned out that the capital fund is only value for £27,000,000, and that in order to make it even £27,000,000 the right hon. Gentleman had to include a credit which did not exist at the time of the introduction of this Bill—a credit never heard of in this House until the Budget Speech three weeks afterwards—a credit which does not exist at the present moment, and which has not passed into law. I allude to the £100,000 paid for Customs and Excise. The right hon. Gentleman, by illegitimately appropriating that credit, increased the apparent value of the Guarantee Fund by £2,500,000. I find in another column of the Return a trifling error of £500,000, into which I do not propose to go. The first point is that when the right hon. Gentleman said the capital value of the Guarantee Fund was £33,000,000, the value of it was really £25,000,000. Now, if any man in an actuary's office had made so gross an error he would certainly have lost his place; and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the sponsor of the Bill has, upon a computation of £33,000,000, made an error of £8,000,000, is a fact which I think will affect the value of his judgment in matters of national finance. I may add that in the Return the sum of £2,000,000, repayable under the Ashbourne Act, is added to the Guarantee Fund. But these £2.000,000 will be a loan, they will not be money for the purpose of a guarantee; but even if they were to be used for the guarantee, then I say still the capital value of the Guarantee Fund is £25,000,000, and not £33,000,000. But the right hon. Gentleman need not concern himself about the capital value. I can show him an easy way to double it. Let him clap on to his Guarantee Fund the money that is paid for the Irish police and the Irish prisons. He takes everything away we find of any use: and if society in Ireland is to be 1872 resolved into its primitive elements—so far as the Government can accomplish that—I think we can do as well without the police and without prisons as we can without industrial schools for the prevention of crime, without asylums for the custody of the insane, without dispensaries for the care of the sick poor, without officers for the supervision of the public health, and without primary education. There is one little matter I shall not forget. Among the useful grants the right hon. Gentleman proposes to leave us is £800 a year for vaccine lymph. I think he had better take the vaccine lymph along with the rest It will be very little use to us if no one is left to apply it, and I intend to move in Committee to make the right hon. Gentleman a present of the vaccine lymph, because I think his scheme is so repulsive that it will not be worse even by a touch of small-pox. Are hon. Members opposite entirely certain of the finance of this Bill? They take it, I believe, to be a Bill for the issue of £30,000,000 of Stock to be redeemed by the purchasers in a term of 49 years. I can tell them it is nothing of the kind. It is a Bill to involve the State in far deeper responsibility. This is a Bill for a permanent addition of £70,000,000 to the National Debt. The sum to be issued primarily under the Bill is only £30,000,000, but the Bill provides that the balance of £2,000,000 unexpended under the Ashbourne Acts, and also that all the repayments under the Ashbourne Acts, and all the Sinking Fund under the present Bill shall be re-issued as the repayments come in. Let us pursue it to a conclusion. The Sinking Fund, under the present Bill, is to be issued as it comes in. How are the £30,000,000 to be redeemed? The £30,000,000 will never be redeemed except by Imperial Funds. The repayments under the Ashbourne Act will amount from this time forward to £300,000 a year; the Sinking Fund under the present Bill will also amount to £300,000ayear. These two sums, amounting to £600,000 a year, are, by the provisions of the Bill, to be reissued for fresh transactions in land. If they are reissued from year to year, these two sums together, in the normal term of 49 years, will amount to £30,000,000 more. The £30,000,000 more will be issued at the 1873 end of that term, and there is no provision to redeem that £30,000,000 under the present Bill, or the £10,000,000 coming in under the Ashbourne Act; and it is perfectly clear that if the Sinking Fund and the repayments are taken away that £40,000,000 coming in under this and the Ashbourne Act could never be redeemed except by Imperial funds. The £30,000,000 will, no doubt, be redeemed, not at the end of the first, but at the end of the second term of 49 years; and I venture to submit that this Bill is a Bill not for the creation of £30,000,000 Stock, to be redeemed in 30 years, but a Bill for the addition of £70,000,000 to the National Debt—first, by the issue of £40,000,000 not to be redeemed, and afterwards, £30,000,000 to be redeemed after a second term of 49 years. The provisions stand plainly in the forefront of the Bill, and will the Chancellor of the Exchequer deny this?
*THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHES,) St. George's, Hanover Square
§ MR. SEXTON
Let him wait and hear me. Will he deny that it is intended by the Bill that the Treasury shall re-issue, for fresh transactions, the repayments under the Ashbourne Act, and will he deny also that provision is made for the re-issue of the Sinking Fund under the present Bill?
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Member does not see that the Sinking Fund is to be used in cancelling a portion of the £30,000,000. When that portion is cancelled then an equal sum can be issued again, but it will not be more than £30,000,000, and the hon. Member will see the operation is that every year a portion of the original £30,000,000 will be paid off, and when that is paid off, and there is so much standing free, issues may take place to repay the amount.
§ MR. SEXTON
That may be the private intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I can only say it does not appear in the Bill. In the provisions of the Bill the repayments under the Ashbourne Act and the payments to the Sinking Fund may be paid out, and there is no security that the National Treasury may not be involved to the extent of £70,000,000; and I think hon. Gentlemen have not informed them- 1874 selves of the nature and scope of the liability in which the State is about to be involved, and that they will find this Bill an exceedingly delicate subject by-and-by. The landlords, I understand, are grumbling at the 2¾ Stock. The landlords are dumb in this Debate. They are not dumb elsewhere, and the conferences between the landlords and the Government are conferences of a character not adjudged fit for the public ear, and, in fact, are held in camera. Now, Sir, the guaranteed Land Stock under the present Act will stand at 2¾ per cent. for a term of 30 years, but existing funds which stand at 2¾ now will fall to 2¾ per cent, at the end of 13 years. Yon give the Land Stock a preferential position, for, of course, Stock which carries 2¾ per cent, for 30 years is more valuable than that which carries 2¾ for only 13 years, and, therefore, the Land Stock will take a preferential position. I am not sure whether hon. Gentlemen have grasped the fact that when your Bill comes into operation, you will inflict a fine on every Imperial Stockholder proportionate to the extent of this reduction to which I have alluded. Are the Government playing with the landlords, and do they really intend that the Bill shall ever operate or pass? If the Government intend seriously to grapple with the enormous question of land purchase they will first have to clear the ground; they will first have to introduce and pass their Local Government Act for Ireland. It is a very curious sequel to the Election of 1886 that of the two pledges given by the present Government, the pledge in favour of Local Government and the pledge against land purchase with risk to the State, they insist on violating the one pledge as a necessary preliminary to proceeding to keep the other. If you desire to have a valid guarantee you should proceed to create in Ireland elective Local Bodies. If you had given these Local Bodies a veto on transactions under the Bill, you would have been in a position to ask their assent to the hypothecation of the public grants to aid local rates. The Member for West Birmingham perceived the futility of attempting to act without public consent. He declared it to be a very strong and a very serious step, and one that was absolutely dangerous, and he called upon the 1875 Government at least to give a promise that County Councils would be constituted in Ireland on the English model, which would have a veto on transactions under the Bill, which would have an interest in the success of the nation, and that you should request the assent of this County Council to a levy upon local rates. And what does the Chief Secretary reply? He says there is a leader arising in the future, a leader who knows not Joseph. Why, we have a leader now, and the right hon. Gentleman has himself proved him self to he a leader who knows not Joseph. His reply to the appeal of the Member for West Birmingham was that Ireland is not in a normal state. When will Ireland be in a normal state? When will Ireland be fit for any measure of Local Government? Is this the principle—is Ireland never to have elective Local Bodies until the Government can be assured in advance that the will of the Government will be carried out by these bodies when constituted? Sir, I do not know how the Member for West Birmingham will vote, but I have to ask the Liberal Unionist Party how they intend to vote on the Division on the Second Reading of this Bill? One of their leaders has proved the Bill to be dangerous, because he regards it as dangerous to hypothecate public grants payable to Ireland and place a levy on local rates without giving Local Bodies a share of responsibility, or securing their consent. Do the Liberal Unionist Party intend to vote for or against the Second Beading? As to the Member for West Birmingham the House is so used to seeing him vote against his own speeches that there will scarcely be the remnant of a languid interest to observe whether on the present occasion the speech which has not left the Chief Secretary a leg to stand on is sufficient even to convince himself. The Government, if they meant seriously to have laid down an equitable basis of purchase, should have arranged, as the Bill of the Member for Mid Lothian did in 1886, to enable every tenant about to purchase to fix a judicial rent. I go further, and I say that as a necessary precedent to purchase the Government should have arranged to allow every tenant in Ireland, no matter of what status, to subtract from his rent the value of his own improvements to 1876 his holding. Men under duress may agree to pay rents on their own improvements, but men with any liberty of choice will never agree to buy from the landlord the capital value of what these improvements represent. At present you have in Ireland the judicial rents under the Act of 1881. You have the judicial rents adjusted under the Act of 1887, and again you have the great majority of the tenants of Ireland still paying rent on the whole of their improvements; and I say, therefore, that your basis of purchase is chaotic, and permanent order cannot be founded upon it. There were two other necessary preliminary conditions. You should have made free contracts possible. And how could that have been done? You should have repealed your Coercion Act, because under your Coercion Act any body of tenants who meet together to consider their interests to decide on an offer of sale are liable to be hauled before two of your Resident Magistrates for holding a meeting of a suppressed branch, or an unlawful assembly, or intimidation; and instead of going into the ownership of their holdings are more likely to go for six months to prison. I tell you so long as the Coercion Act remains in Ireland land purchase will never work. Lastly, Sir, you should apply to Ireland —as you have in Scotland—a provision to liquidate arrears. Arrears accumulated widely in 1885 and subsequent years, and the existence of arrears makes a tenant liable to eviction, and places him at the mercy of the landlords. So long as you abstain from applying to Ireland the policy of liquidation, which you have applied to Scotland in respect of arrears, it is futile and illusory to look for free contracts in the country. Therefore, I say' the Government have introduced this Bill, while they have deliberately ignored every one of the essential preliminary conditions. Now, Sir, there is a part of the Bill about which scarcely anything has been said. Yet I think that part of the Bill affords the most striking evidence of a sinister and dangerous intent. I refer to part 3 of the Bill, which constitutes the Land Department, and proposes to place at the head of that Department the Judge of the Land Court, who has blocked that Court with two millions of rental by waiting for unattainable prices. The salaries of the non-judicial 1877 Commissioners amounted to £7,500. The Bill proposes to make them £12,000. One of these Commissioners a few years ago was a sub-official in one of the minor Courts. Another was a small law agent. The incomes of these gentlemen did not reach £1,000 a year. Two others accepted as sub-commissioners at £1,000 a year, and now their salaries are to be made £3,000, and I miss any explanation of the reason for such a proposal. I consider it absolutely unjustifiable in relation to the ordinary remuneration of the services of this class in Ireland. These Commissioners have been hitherto under the control of this House, and properly, as this House is the guardian of the public purse, but now their salaries are to be placed on the Consolidated Fund. They are to hold office as Judges, they are to be removable only on Address from both Houses, which means as long as they do the work of the Land Courts as the landlords want it done that they can never be removed. Sir, these officials, who are about to expend £30,000,000 out of the public purse, of which this House is the guardian, are, by a stroke of the pen of the right hon. Gentleman, to be removed from the control of this House as completely as if they were ambassadors of a foreign State. What is the meaning of that proposal? What purpose lies under it? Sir, there is something more. The Land Commission at this moment costs the country in salaries the enormous sum of about £100,000 a year. It is a temporary Department, but the right hon. Gentleman takes power in his Bill to break the law of 1881, by which no person in the employ of the Land Commission, whether a Commissioner or otherwise, has any claim to superannuation or any other allowance by reason of the abolition of his office or any other cause, and the right hon. Gentleman proposes, firstly, at his pleasure, to place ail these officials upon the permanent Civil Service of the State and secondly, to place every man of them upon the Pension Fund first of the United Kingdom, and eventually of Ireland. I denounce the proposal as an attempt to bribe the Department engaged in the administration of vast sums of public money. And I tell you if you accept these proposals to make these Commissioners irresponsible, to make this Department, with this enormous 1878 overgrowth of work, a permanent Department, to place these officials, high and low, upon the Permanent Civil Service Pension List, you will see if you accept these proposals how far and in what directions your £30,000,000 will go, and how much pains will be taken either to protect the interests of the purchaser or to guard the interests of the State. I give you humble warning on the subject. I come now to say a few words on the Congested Districts Scheme. The main aspect of that scheme is the appropriation of an Irish Fund without Irish consent of any kind or sort whatever. We protest against the filching away of £1,500,000. We say the balance of the Church Surplus Fund should be employed for Irish public purposes in accordance with the working of Irish opinion. What right have you to take away this £1,500,000 of Irish public money? And for what purpose? For the purpose of making good the defaults of private individuals upon contracts over which the public have no control. I say that this alone is a fatal objection to the finance of the scheme. Again, the congested districts are segregated, they are taken out of their counties, these districts which are usually on the verge of insolvency, these districts which are always staggering under poor rate, these districts are separated from the rest, while you promise that a purchaser upon the congested districts, even if only buying a strip of moor or mountain or bog, shall pay 80 per cent, of the old rent for five years. You think this system will not produce default when you place this responsibility upon those pauperised and already overburdened districts. Migration is mentioned in this scheme, but it points to no definite purpose. Migration could be usefully employed if it were employed by men of knowledge. The few words spoken by right hon, Gentlemen have shown what is their intention upon it. Emigration, and emigration alone, is what you have in your mind. The right hon. Gentleman thinks it is a pernicious idea that the Irish people should stay at home. I tell him emigration is no cure. If Irish history has proved anything it has amply proved that. No scheme of emigration will be tolerable to us unless it is accompanied, as this scheme is not, by some definite plan for the future settlement of 1879 the people in the countries to which they are consigned. Let me say that, having first applied the Church Surplus Fund, its capital and its income, to make good the default upon the purchase of land, you then proceed to apply it to such philanthropic schemes. I tell you nothing is more likely than that the capital and income of this fund will be swallowed up by default. The right hon. Gentleman proposes a Board. Why, Sir, we are plagued with Boards in Ireland. What are to be the constituents of this new Board? The right hon. Gentleman himself is to be at the head of it. Well, I am bound to tell the right hon. Gentleman that we have no confidence in him. Men judge by their experience, and our experience of the right hon. Gentleman makes the effort to regard him as a possible reformer or philanthropist an effort that defies the imagination. He will appoint as his associates men who have not the confidence of the people. I go further, and I venture to say that if he did appoint men who possessed the confidence of the people, these men would jeopardise the confidence by accepting nominations at his hands, seeing the policy which he is endeavouring to carry out. I hope for nothing from the new Board. The right hon. Gentleman avoids two points of the Irish question to which the Act could be usually applied. He puts aside the question of Irish harbours. [MR. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] Well, he said there were harbours enough. Why, the coast of the West of Ireland is absolutely bare for want of harbours. The poor fishermen on the west coast of Ireland have not even boats for fishing. He callously ignores the wants of the West of Ireland. He proposes to sell seed oats and seed potatoes at cost price, and to place the men who buy them under the superintendence of a Government bailiff. He proposes to make himself a preceptor in the arts of spinning and weaving, and to teach them the taking of and curing of fish. They know how to take the fish and they will find out how to dispose of them. The question I have to ask is, to what the funds are to go in these congested districts? The first claim on the capital income will be the claim of the Land Purchase Scheme. One million and a half will be employed for all the default of the whole 1880 congested districts. Although the right hon. Gentleman is extremely clever, philanthropy requires money, and I tell him with regard to his philanthropy he will not be a success to start with. We want to see definite proposals. We want to see men to carry out these proposals, and I say that in the meantime the scheme is not one which demands our serious attention. With regard to the Purchase Scheme I shall ask three questions. Is it to deal equally with the tenants of Ireland? You have spent £10,000,000 of money in two years; you have made 20,000 proprietors. A million of money makes 2,000 proprietors. In that proportion £30,000,000 would make 80,000. When that operation is exhausted, when every penny of that £30,000,000 is exhausted, after your Bill has worked itself out, alongside the 80,000 purchasers who have purchased under your plan, there will still be six times as many subject to judicial or non-judicial rents, tenants who will be expected to make good the defaults of those who have purchased. One-sixth of the tenants will have become purchasers under the Act, and five-sixths will remain under a system which the Chief Secretary has denounced as a rotten system. These tenants will have to pay an excessive rent and also for the default. Does the Bill protect the purchaser? I have shown he is subject to coercion. I have shown he is in arrear. By the insertion of 20 years' purchase in the Bill you incite the landlord to strain up to that amount. By the provision to add two years arrears to the purchase money you suggest an easy way by which the 20 years can be obtained. There is still a more sinister provision of the Bill, because you provide that wherever a landlord can induce or compel a tenant to pay him directly a sum equal to one-fourth, then the landlord will need no guarantee deposit. I should think this is the case which needs most the guarantee deposit, because the tenant, by procuring from some other source the money needed to make the one-fourth, leaves himself less able to pay in the future. I say you deliberately create a standard of 25 years' purchase, 20 years from the State and five years from the tenant. You neither protect the State nor the tenant, and let me tell you that whatever pro- 1881 tects the tenant purchaser protects the State, and whatever leaves the tenant unprotected exposes the State to risk. You might have erected a Land Department to ascertain that the thing sold showed value for the money given. That is a very simple rule. Have you done that? No, Sir. What you propose to enact is this, not that the interests of the landlords shall be value for the price, not that the thing shall be value for the money given, but that the holding, the interest of the landlord and the tenant put together shall be value for what? Not even for the price as a whole, but for a portion of the price, and whatever may be advanced by the State. Can any rational man insist that this policy is intended to secure the State? The Government must be well aware that the interest of the tenant in. the holding may be pledged so deep that it is no security at all. The Government must be well aware that when a tenant gives a sum in addition to the State advance the means by which he procures that sum may render him unable to meet his obligation to the State. To this they are indifferent, and under the Bill they take no means to ascertain the fairness of the transaction or the security of the tenant. No, Sir, I tell you that the only valid guarantee is the guarantee of a fair price. If you have this guarantee you need none of the flimsy guarantees that have been introduced here. Bat if you ignore the necessity for a fair price, if you endeavour to extort an unfair price, then I tell you no cobweb of guarantees, however deftly woven, will ever avail to save you. Not only do you not protect the tenant purchaser, not only do you permit the landlord to get an extortionate price from him, but there is no limit to the price you allow him for his property, provided it is within double the value of the holdings. Not only that, but by this Bill you suggest it, you invite, you encourage it, you directly subsidise it by allowing him, when he extracts a high rata of purchase, to keep the guarantee from you. Does this Bill give real security to the State? The answer to that will be supplied by the answer to another question. Who will buy—will the solvent tenants buy? I emphatically say that they will not. The solvent tenants will 1882 see that the proper rate for State advance is 3¾ per cent., and that you charge them 4 per cent., and I say that you will compel the solvent purchaser to make good the default of the insolvent. They will not consent to pay the taxes for such a policy. The solvent tenants will see that while the Ashbourne purchasers are only called upon to pay the purchase annuity, the purchasers under this Bill will have to pay 80 per cent, of the old rent. Your Bill provides an Assurance Fund which you do not mean as an assurance. They will see that, the liabilities of ownership taken into consideration, the relief will probably be so slight that they will be wise to wait a little longer; they will see that experience justifies them in waiting a little longer, and they will wait rather than bind themselves to a contract to the State which will be rigorously exacted. Every tenant in Ireland is shrewd enough to anticipate that before five years this Government will come to an end. With the Government, he thinks, the Act will come to an end. If it docs not come to an end, no other Government will ever use its powers. The solvent tenants will generally agree that they had better use their independence and wait for a settlement upon a more equitable basis, and a more comprehensive scale which will certainly be proposed, either by the Liberal majority here or by an Irish Parliament in Ireland. How have you in your Bill treated the evicted tenants? You have shut them out, although you know that until these tenants are put back in their homes there will never be peace in Ireland. I tell you what class of tenants will purchase—the bogus tenants on the Campaign estates, and after they have bought, and when they have distributed the purchase money in a special sense not comtemplated by this Bill, these bold adventurers will end their agricultural career, and leave you in the lurch. The men who will buy under this Bill are not the solvent tenants, but the men in arrear, the men in debt, the men who will clutch at any raft to save themselves from drowning. They will consent, to escape eviction for a time by going through the form of purchase. Do you tell me there is any prospect of these men, now sunk in arrear, now struggling with debt, now endeavouring to pay 1883 their landlords, do you tell me that by giving them State money there is any prospect of greater saving or greater benefit? Repudiation has been spoken of. I do not think it necessary to speculate on repudiation, for without repudiation at all, your scheme contains in it the seeds of financial collapse. The Chief Secretary for Ireland put back the date of financial default until after five years. He postponed the inundation until his dykes were ready. But what if the inundation occurred before the dykes were built? Why, the first five years of the working of the scheme is the most critical period. I say such a casuality as might follow from a fall in prices, the succession of bad seasons, or even the occurrence of one, might place you in a position something short of universal bankruptcy. You say if the tenant fails to pay you have an Insurance Fund. The Insurance Fund is a myth. It will never exist. The landholders will run the price to 20 years' purchase money, and there will be no Insurance Fund. If the tenant purchaser fails to pay, then what have you to do to recover the defaulting debt? You will have to evict him from his holding. Have you considered the novel and dangerous phase of government that will arise in Ireland from the point of view of economy? You may say you have the landlords' guarantee. Let me point out the insidious character of this Bill. While the landlord's guarantee under Lord Ashbourne's Act is one-fifth, in this case the landlord's guarantee will be one-tenth, and, in case he can extract from the tenant one - fourth of the State advance, there will be no guarantee whatever. Moreover, under the Ashbourne Act the landlord's guarantee is a security for all default; in this case it is a security for only a half. You have to evict the holder. What will you do with the farm? You may try to let it, or you may manage it yourselves, or you may try to sell it. The right hon. Gentleman knows, or ought to know, that from the first moment of the operation of this Act the relations with regard to him between the Government and the community in Ireland will not be the ordinary relations of assent and support. They will be those of dissent and hostility. There will be from the first a strong, a general, I may say a universal, current 1884 of public feeling in reference to your Bill, in consequence of the odious and humiliating conditions attaching to it. You take Irish public money for private contracts, and the Irish people have no control over the funds you appropriate. That is a policy of brigandage. It will arouse against this Act from the first the passionate indignation of every self-respecting and independent man in Ireland. When you have evicted the tenant, what are you to do with the farm? The experience of the last 10 years should teach you. The Landlords' Association had many more facilities than you have had. Let me tell you you are in error if you are counting upon the assistance of the landlords after you pass this Act, because out of nine of the landlords you are leaving eight in the cold. The Landlords' Association, with all its facilities, with the aid of public funds—money contributed by their friends—undertook the management of farms, and there was not one of them that did not end in complete bankruptcy. Will the Government escape that fate? Will they try to manage the farms themselves? It will he interesting to see the Chief Secretary for Ireland getting down to the life of a small farmer. And not to the management of one small farm, which is comparatively easy, but 10,000 or 15,000. The right hon. Gentleman may do a great many things well, but he will not farm such holdings at a profit. The third alternative course is to sell the farm. He may try to sell it. Will he find anyone to buy it? I have conclusive reasons for anticipating that there would be a public feeling more strong and general in Ire land in opposition to this measure than to any previous measure dealing with the land question in this country. Will he be able to sell the farm? As there is only one person who is willing to buy it now, and that is the tenant, so then there will be only one person, and that will be the landlord. He may come back, and may buy it for a fraction of what he gave for it. He will then have the farm, and you will have neither the one nor the other. I leave you to imagine what the state of Ireland will be when a few of these landlords have re-entered their farms on these conditions, and what a prospect there is for peace or order until you have put them 1885 out again. Now, I come to the question of guarantee; I tell you that your Guarantee Fund is nothing better than a farce; it will never save a single sixpence which the State, without the fund, would lose. And if you come upon the Cash Fund what would be the effect? The moment you do so, the question enters upon the gravest possible phase. Every penny you take from the Cash Fund will be added to the Poor Rate in Ireland, and the Boards of Guardians will probably refuse to make the necessary call upon the rates. The immediate result of resorting to any portion of the cash fund will be that the whole of the Local Administration of the Poor Law in Ireland will be thrown on your hands. And how if you resort to the Contingent Fund? You will then have a still worse state of things. This proves the very absurdity of the position. No, you will never dare to do it. The people of England would never allow you to do it. They would never permit you to enter upon a policy which means nothing but the abdication by the Government of the primary functions of rule and control. If you resort to the Contingent Fund you will either have to close industrial schools, workhouse schools, and other institutions, and put a stop to primary education, or else make good the Local Debt; and I tell you that although you have force in Ireland you have not sufficient force in the British Empire to turn into cash a levy under such circumstances. The real argument in your minds for the insertion in this measure of these securities is that you will never have to use them. I tell you from my knowledge of Ireland, as an Irishman born and bred, that there is nothing more probable than that, considering the incitement the Bill offers to landlords to extort excessive prices, you will have to use both the Guarantee Fund and the Contingent Guarantee Fund, and whenever you try to apply them for the purpose you will be unable effectually to do so. I tell you you had better strike these flash securities out of your Bill. Those who have drawn up this scheme have proceeded, it seems to me, under two great misapprehensions—firstly, that Imperial Revenue from Ireland can always be relied upon as a matter of course; and, secondly, that Irishmen 1886 differ so much from Englishmen and Scotchmen, or any other nation on the surface of the globe, that a levy on their means, no matter how un-Constitutional or oppressive, will be met with the same submission. Upon these two misapprehensions rests the structure of your guarantee. Imperial Revenue from Ireland is mainly derived from the consumption of exciseable articles, and you may easily drive the people of Ireland to a point—and I think that certain aspects of thought in Ireland are in favour now of such a, result—at which they may so limit the use of exciseable articles as to inflict on the Revenue a greater loss than the whole of the Guarantee Funds, and I have no doubt that a local levy would be impossible. The consequences which appear certain to follow your Bill by the mere operation of the Act itself will be a reduction of rent over five-sixths of Ireland to a level of the standard of the Bill. As I have said, if you descend to the guarantees you will have a movement adverse to the Imperial Revenue and a general strike against it. I deprecate and desire to avoid these consequences, and I offer you a warning in good time. If you take the warning, well and good; if you reject the warning you must take the consequences. As for myself, adhering, as I do, to the policy of the Land League days, a policy since adopted by both Imperial Parties, the policy of extinguishing dual ownership by enabling the tenant on fair terms to purchase his holding, and under safe conditions by the help of the credit of the State, nevertheless I oppose this Bill most heartily and without reserve; because this Bill ends nothing; because this Bill proposes to continue and perpetuate over five-sixths of Ireland the dual system under circumstances of aggravated danger; because this Bill introduces into an already troubled sphere fresh elements of discontent, and by consequence of disorder; because this Bill errs, and errs mortally, in my judgment, against every one of the conditions I regard as indispensable to the sound administration of any large measure of land purchase, and especially one that, like this, purports to be final.
§ *(7.31.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
Observation has been made upon the fact that no Irish Member has addressed the House from this side 1887 during the Debate, but I can assure the hon. Member that it has not been because we have not been anxious to speak, but, unfortunately, up to the present we have been unable to obtain the opportunity. Every trumpet connected with the Party opposite has been in full blast, and we have had support of the Bill from the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner (Mr. Plunket); therefore, I hope the House will not deem it an undue intrusion on its patience if I, a Member representing an Irish Division, ask to be permitted to give an opinion, an opinion not so enthusiastically in favour of the Bill as other opinions expressed from both sides have been. I cordially agree with the criticism passed on the general tone of the Debate by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Birrell) that hon. and right hon. Gentleman on either side have too much devoted themselves to ex-posing the inconsistencies of their political opponents. Their arguments have been directed sometimes to raising the cheers of Party spirit and sometimes to appealing to the cupidity of those outside the House whom they think they may attract to their support, but rarely and briefly to the consideration of the effect the Bill will probably have in Ireland. It is a matter of indifference to me as to which Front Bench the charge of inconsistency may best apply. The Bill introduced by the Government brings before us a system which does not come altogether before the House as an untried experiment, and what hon. Members have to do is not to determine whether the Government and their supporters are more or less inconsistent in their position, but whether the provisions of this measure will secure in Ireland all these advantages which are predicted for it. Now, the Bill happily differs from most other measures connected with Irish land which the House has had to discuss because its provisions may be fully discussed without imputing to the criticism they arouse a bias in favour either of the landlord or tenant. The provisions of the Bill applied to the development of peasant proprietorship naturally fall into two divisions, namely, facilities to be offered to the tenant to become purchaser and the terms offered by the State to the landlord who is the vendor. 1888 The tenant is enabled, under the Bill, without the expenditure of a single farthing, to become the owner of his farm at a price to which he must voluntarily consent, and which will not be less than a reduction of 20 per cent, on his present rent; the annual payment must not be less though it may be much more. I hold these to be liberal terms, and, what is more, I say that the great majority of tenants in Ireland have recognised that they are liberal terms, and that, as far as they are concerned, the Bill will be largely availed of. I know doubts are expressed by hon. Members below the Gangway on that point, and by the Member for Mid Lothian, and an attempt has been made to distingbish between the attitude of the northern tenants and the attitude of the tenants in other parts of Ireland on this question, and to turn certain isolated expressions in Ulster into evidence of general opposition to the Bill. I have had considerable opportunities during the Easter recess of becoming acquainted with the opinions of tenants belonging to all political parties in my neighbourhood, and I am led to a conclusion diametrically opposed to that stated the other day. If the terms proposed by the Bill with regard to the landlords were as satisfactory, or even within a measurable degree as liberal, as those offered to the tenant, I should be contented to give a silent vote in favour of the measure; but before I proceed to state my objections to it, I desire to express my regret that the Government had seen fit to depart from the dimensions of the Ashbourne Acts. The conditions connected with those Acts are, I will not say the only safe method, but one of the safest methods, to adopt in this class of legislation. The Government, however, for reasons for which they are entirely responsible, had determined to abandon the limited undertakings of those Acts, and had enormously increased the area of their operation; but that area is not exhausted. When the Government choose to abandon the gradual and limited development of peasant proprietorship they ought not to stop half-way. It is most unfair both to landlord and tenant. This Bill ought to have afforded facilities for a complete transfer of the land in Ireland. I may be told the Bill is limited by the securities available. 1889 Then I should prefer the limited progression of the Ashbourne Acts with which we are acquainted to the enormously increased possibilities of dissension, dispute, and disagreement which the Bill presents owing to the tender susceptibilities of the British taxpayer which the Government have been unable to remove entirely. I am unable to share the sanguine views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Member for South Tyrone. They appear to see in the future an agrarian millenium. Ireland is to become a terrestrial paradise, cultivated by model occupying owners. They also appear to think that the measure is final with regard to the abolition of landlordism, whereas, as a matter of fact, it is nothing of the sort. It is strictly limited in its effects. It only applies to the present race of landlords, and the term of the normal annuity will witness a gradual evolution of the landlord of the future from the 49th year old peasant proprietor. The Chancellor of the Exchequer believes that the condition of Ireland under the Act of 1881 is eminently unsatisfactory, and that dual ownership is ruinous to agriculture. That is the right hon. Gentleman's view, but it is not evidence on the question. The hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) expressed the same view in a more rhetorical form, but with equal inaccuracy, when he described dual ownership as an infelicitous partnership. Now, I live in a province whore our agricultural prosperity is founded on this cardinal feature of dual ownership, and this it was that induced Ulster Members to vote in favour of the legislation of 1881. On the Ulster estates, where the custom most nearly approximates to dual ownership, there the land is best farmed, there the tenants are in the most prosperous condition, and there the rents are best paid—landlord and tenants are equally benefited. The Chancellor of the Exchequer believes that agriculture in Ireland and land in Ireland has been ruined by dual ownership. All I can say is that, so far as I have been able to observe the effects of dual ownership upon certain estates in the North, where the Ulster custom is fully developed, it has produced a totally opposite result. The tenant under the dual ownership system protected by the salient points of the legislation of 1881 1890 has farmed his laud better, has put more capital into the development of the land, and has kept the land in far better condition than it would have been in some years ago. Advocate this Bill by any arguments you choose, but do not advocate it by condemning the system of dual ownership. In dealing with that subject the Cowper Committee reported that the grievances to which the tenants are liable in insecurity of tenure are entirely removed by the provisions of the Act of 1881, which gave fixity of tenure to every tenant who applied for a judicial term. Another salient feature of that Act is free sale, and throughout a great portion of Ireland free sale has been of great benefit to the tenant and is largely availed of, while fair rents have been fixed in nearly half the holdings in Ireland. The cry against dual ownership which has been taken advantage of by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is, in my opinion, an absolutely fictitious cry. It is a cry raised in Ireland by a small body of men who, 10 years ago, were the strongest advocates of its establishment. They do not object to dual ownership because it failed to secure the benefits they attributed to it in 1879–80, but they are now attributing to it certain demerits for the purpose of forcing forward compulsory purchase at low rents, and that is the real origin of the agitation in certain parts of Ulster. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he hoped that Bill would assist landlord and tenant, and said that it was introduced in the interests of the social and economical prosperity of Ireland. I understand the Chief Secretary said the Bill would bolster up the Irish land interest. I have endeavoured to understand what will be the position of an Irish landlord who consents to the full measure of the Bill. I find that the "bolstering-up" process will, in the most favourable view, deprive him of at least 55 per cent, of his income. The Government stated they have the interests of Ireland at heart, and the Government have announced, by its various organs, that it does not wish to expatriate the Irish landlords; and the hon. Member for Cork has also intimated that it would be desirable, in the interests of Ireland, that the Irish landlords should remain as residents in that country. The right hon. 1891 Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in] 888, speaking on the Ashbourne Act of that year, said he did not desire to see the Irish landlords removed as a body, and that, as a class, he saw much in their conduct to admire. I am glad to be able to quote a favourable opinion of the right hon. Gentleman. He has sometimes criticised the Irish landlords severely, but I do him the justice to say he has never descended to that abuse of Irish landlords which sometimes appears in the speeches of the hon. Members for Derby and Newcastle. What are the terms offered by the Government who are so anxious to assist Irish tenants and landlords in laying the foundations of their social and economical prosperity in Ireland? They, in effect, say to the landlord, though your property be worth more than 20 years' purchase: though your tenant may be prepared to buy at 22 or 24 years' purchase; though you may be anxious to join the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his attempt to restore Irish land to a more fertile condition, you shall not be allowed to aid him in this object until you have consented to despoil yourself of three or four years' purchase. These are the terms proposed in the Bill, and they are terms which, I say, must force the Irish landlords either to refuse their concurrence in the benefits of the measure, or else must load them to eke out their existence in a condition of poverty to which the term genteel cannot be applied. The Ashbourne Act did not err on the side of liberality; but that Act owed its great success to the fact that no restrictions were placed on the bargain between the landlord and tenant provided the security to the State for the advance was sufficient. The Government in the present Bill have attempted to do what is impossible with any regard to equity; they have attempted to define on a certain fixed principle the years upon which purchase shall be established. Any set of statistics taken from (he records of the Irish. Land Court, will show that is impossible. I will give the figures from January, 1889, to March, 1890, the result of the sales in Ulster, Munster, and Connaught. In Ulster the average rental of the land sold was 9s. 6d. per acre, the price paid per acre was £8 12s., and the average time of purchase as 1892 18 years. In Munster it was 14s., £11, and 15 years. In Connaught it was 10s. 2d, £8 6s., and 14 years. The excess of valuation over rent averaged in Ulster, 8d. per acre; and of rent over valuation in Munster, 5s. 2d; and in Connaught, 9d. Now. I contend—and I do not care from what point of view you look at it—that it is impossible from these figures to lay down any distinct and clear rule with regard to what may be a proper number of years' purchase or the figure at which land should be sold generally throughout the country, or indeed throughout a province, or even a single county. The scientific spoliation of Irish landlords commences here, but it does not finish here. It is after the vesting order has been made that the Irish landlord, whose income has been reduced by over one-third, is left to meet in full the charges and encumbrances which lie against his estate; and then, if he "walks off with the swag," as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle says——
§ *MR. MACARTNEY
Then I will not attribute it to the right hon. Gentleman; but the phrase has been used. If the Irish landlord walks off at all, it will be lucky if the swag consists of a whole skin. I do not know what he will do in the future in his native country. I cannot conceive any other occupation remaining to him except that light industry which gave employment to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. [An hon. MEMBER: What! Tailoring?] We are told that the operation of the Bill is voluntary, and therefore no landlord need come under the injurious features I have mentioned. Yes, it is voluntary if it is inoperative; but if it becomes operative, it ceases to be voluntary: that is admitted by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. The Act, then, becomes compulsory with all the worst features of compulsion about it. Just a word or two about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. He came forward with a suggested Amendment and a concession, and I am bound to say the acceptance of the Amendment and the concession would be fatal to the Bill and much the 1893 worse for Ireland. He has suggested that the Bill should be confined to tenants whose valuations do not exceed £50. Bat to exclude from the Bill tenants over £50 valuation would be to fly directly in the face of the Report of the Cowper Commission, which went out of its way to specify these as the best subject for conversion into peasant proprietors. Then the concession of the right hon. Gentleman is to hand over to future County Councils the power of veto upon all transactions. Now, I have always advocated the establishment of Local Government in Ireland. I did so years ago in this House, but J am bound to say that to hand over to County Councils—I do not care in what part of Ireland—the difficult. delicate, and exciting topics connected with the transfer of land would be not only to destroy all chance of the successful operations of the Bill, but would also be fatally injurious to all chance of the County Councils being useful for any local administrative purpose. The right hon. Gentleman came down to the House in a, spirit of concession and sacrifices. I have no objection to his sacrifices. I have no objection to his widening his phylacteries; but why does he not apply the principle of the Merchandise Marks Act, and if he wishes to make sacrifices, let him do so at the expense of his own constituencies, and not at the expense solely of Irish landlords? The Government desires that the landlords should remain in the country. But it is necessary, if they are to do so that terms should be offered to them that will enable them to remain with advantage to the country. But what is the result of this Bill? The terms you offer the land lords are, I will not say ruinous, but such as will render it impossible for all landlords with incomes under £5,000 a year to remain with any advantage to public institutions, or to assist in carrying out that era of social prosperity to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer looks forward in the future. Individual landlords may be forced to sell whether the terms are equitable or not; you will then have driven them from the country and established in a limited number of farms, a limited number of occupying proprietors; you will have ruined the Church of Ireland; you will have driven out of the 1894 country a large number of gentlemen who in every district have done their best to promote local industries and local prosperity, and, after all, your Bill will not be a final settlement of the land question. You will have done this at the expense of every class in Ireland. You have made no provision in the Bill for the labourers upon whom, in a great measure, the prosperity of the country must depend. There is no attempt to secure for them the overflow of the benefits that are to be heaped upon the tenant farmers; the only clause that has any reference to this class is an absolute delusion, and can be of no material advantage to the Irish labourers. For this reason, if for no other, I cannot support the Bill. Undoubtedly, it is a measure which has been introduced with the best intentions; but as it utterly fails to exhibit any equitable regard, such as might reasonably have been expected, for the interests it proposes to benefit, I cannot go into the Lobby in support of the Bill. (8.0.)
§ (8.30.) MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
The speech of the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) to which the House has just listened was one not only of marked ability, but of great significance. Speaking as he did on the part of the landlords of Ireland, his concurrent testimony with that of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), who spoke in the name of the tenants of Ireland against the Hill, is a remarkable and interesting fact. I hope that any right hon. Gentleman who may rise from the Government Bench will not tell us that the opposition of the hon. Member for South Antrim to the Bill is neutralised by the fact that the measure is also opposed on the part of the tenants; but I hope that he will take the view which, at all events, other people will take—that that combined opposition is sufficient to destroy the Bill. I do not rise to address the House on the details of the Bill as affecting Ireland. That is a subject which is much better left in the hands of persons more familiar with the details of the Irish land question than I am. I wish to say a few words from the point of view of a Representative of the British taxpayer; and I feel confident that in uttering 1895 these views I am not speaking for myself alone, but that the views are shared by a very large number of English Members; and the strength of the opinion I express is not to be measured by number of speeches which have been made in the Debate, but by the test we hope to be able to subject our opinions to, namely, the test of a vote. I do not ask the House to accept the principle that under no circumstances and under no conditions is it justifiable to use the credit of the State. It is not necessary for my purpose to take up so extreme a position; but I shall sufficiently prove the point to which I wish to draw attention if I show that all the good objects which can be obtained by the Land Purchase Bill could be obtained without it, and that all the advantages which can possibly be obtained by peasant proprietorship in the remote future may be equally or even better obtained by the measures applicable to the tenure of land in Ireland. It is not sufficient to say that the House is asked to vote a sum of £33,000,000. It is obvious that the advance from the State cannot end there. If this measure of land purchase succeeds—if the money is taken up—we shall still have from three-fourths to four-fifths of the land of Ireland to be dealt with, and in respect of which Parliament will be asked for additional money——
§ (8.36.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
The sum of £30,000,000 proposed by the Bill is not nearly sufficient for the purposes of a land purchase scheme in Ireland. It will necessarily follow that if the scheme is successful it will place one-fourth or one-fifth of the laud of Ireland in the possession of the tenantry; and when that is accomplished, this House must be prepared to carry out the scheme of purchase to a much fuller extent. Although, nominally, the question before the House is a matter of £30,000,000, the real effect of the scheme will involve no less a sum than £150,000,000. It is not to be denied that this is a serious use to make of the credit of the State. It is no doubt a very attractive scheme that either Irish tenants or other persons should—by use of a sort of magic wand, 1896 by paying less money than they are now paying—become enormously richer; but I wish to point out that the credit of the State is destroyed by the very use of it in this case. The more we draw from the credit of the State the less remains for future use. The effect of this scheme of land purchase will not be as limited as hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to imagine. The effect will most certainly spread to England and Scotland, so that it may be taken for granted that the Government are embarking on a gigantic scheme of land speculation. This scheme will not only extend over one year or two years, but over the very extensive period of more than half a century. Now, if the House accepts the principle of this Bill creating a peasant proprietary for Ireland at the expense of the credit of the State, it will be found impossible to deny similar advantages to the tenant farmers of England and Scotland. I received a very clear lesson on this subject at the time of the General Election. I think my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the other Division of the City of Aberdeen will agree with me that there was no more unpopular measure in that constituency than the Land Purchase Act of 1886. But when I went to meetings in the County of Aberdeen I found a very different state of feeling existed. I found that my hon. Friend, who is now Member for East Aberdeenshire, appealed to the electors mainly on the ground of the Land Purchase Bill, and pointed out what a beautiful Act it was. If we pass a measure of this kind for Ireland we must also be prepared to grant an extensive measure of land purchase to England and Scotland. What reason could be suggested against this? I know of no reason why the farmers of Scotland should not have the same rights against the Exchequer as the farmers of Ireland. The only reason that can be assigned for the special treatment of Ireland is that they are killing the calf for the prodigal son. That is a very dangerous argument to use. We find in Scotland that no remedy could be given for the crofters until they had taken a leaf out of the Irish book and exhibited disregard for order. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham tells us that if there were an atom of risk to the British taxpayer he would 1897 not support the Bill. He seemed to be thinking of the risk that attaches to repudiation by the tenants, but there is also the risk of a future fall of value in the land of Ireland. It is impossible for anyone to say that that is not a contingency that may occur. How can the most prudent or the most experienced man venture to predict what will be the range of prices for 49 years and what will be the rents payable? Let us put ourselves back in the year 1840. Suppose in that year you had asked the most experienced agriculturalist in England to give you a sketch of the probable history of agriculture between the years 1840 and 1890, and to tell you the prices that would be received and the rents that would be paid. What an extraordinary prophecy he would have made! It would have been impossible for anyone to give a sketch, even approximating to the true state of the case. There, then, is an element of risk that must attach to all land purchase schemes. Before 49 years have elapsed, there may be such a change in the relative position of tillage farms and pasture farms as to entirely destroy the whole basis of calculation. Another objection is that you are converting that which is now rent into Consols. What is the result of that from an economic point of view? In the first place, of course, it necessarily involves absenteeism. But, in the second place, to those of us who look forward to a Home Rule Parliament, it presents itself under a much more serious aspect, because by turning rent into Consols you are depriving the future Legislative Assembly of Ireland of a sum approximating £10,000,000 a year, and that the most solid and certain part of the income of Ireland. That, to my mind, from a political point, is a circumstance not free from danger. The danger is less in the case of local rates, but it is a serious element in the financial calculations of Ireland, even if it does not have Home Rule, that you are taking away from all future taxation the power of rating that enormous amount of property. We have once more before us the old historical argument that in the past we in this country have done great injustice to the Irish tenants, and that we owe them some recompense. I admit the historical fact, but I deny that the course we ought to take is the course of handing over money to buy 1898 out the Irish landlords and relieve them of their bad bargains. All we owe to Ireland is justice. We owe it to the Irish tenants to protect them against unreasonable and excessive rents. When we have done that, we have done all that the obligations of the past can possibly impose upon us. We have heard, and very properly, a good deal about repudiation by the Irish tenants, but there is another repudiation which must not be left out of view, and that is the repudiation of the British taxpayer. Not very long ago I read in an article by Lord Derby a statement that, in his opinion, the time was not far distant when the National Debt of all nations of Europe would be in peril of repudiation. Lord Derby is known as a very sharp and keen man of business, and, looking with his placid gaze upon the future National Funds of Europe, he expresses that opinion. But observe the grounds of repudiation in this case. You are imposing this liability upon the taxpayers of Great Britain, not in accordance with their wishes or their mandate, but in express defiance of the mandate you received at the General Election. You have broken your trust. ["No, no!"] I do not say all, but the great majority of Members opposite obtained their seats in this House by declaring against the policy of pledging the credit of the British taxpayer to buy out the Irish landlords. When these gentlemen go back to their constituents what answer will they have when they are addressed by their constituents in these words, "False trustee, where are my millions?" If there is one thing more calculated than another to impair national credit and lead to repudiation, it is so gross and flagrant an instance of repudiation of your principles by yourselves. I wish to say one word with regard to the immense significance of the position taken up by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). He puts forward his plan as an alternative scheme to that of the Government. The scheme of the Government is to make one-fourth or one-fifth of the tenants into occupying owners, and to leave the rest where they are. The plan of the hon. Member for Cork is to have no occupying owners at the expense of the State, but to give all the tenants occupying ownership at 1899 reduced rents. In other words, the hon. Member has abandoned the pernicious doctrine of peasant proprietorship at the expense of the State, and I hail with delight the fact that he has done so. It is astonishing, after the experience we have had of the Land Act of 1881, that there should be any persons in this House who can imagine that the fixing of rents for a long period of time will be a solution of the Irish difficulty. By the Act of 1881 the rents were fixed, and before five years were over it was found that those rents could not be paid. What ground is there for supposing that the sums fixed under this Bill will 50 years hence be more easy to pay than those fixed under the Act of 1881? I heard with great gratification the observations of the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) on the subject of what is erroneously described as "dual ownership." The words are an absurdity—a contradiction in terms. Joint ownership you can have, but you cannot have two hostile owners of the same property. The Act of 1881 did not create dual ownership. It reduced the landlord to the position of an annuitant with a charge which he could enforce on the land. He became nothing more or less than a rent-charger. The tenant was made, to all intents and purposes, an occupying owner for ever, with the power of free sale, and he was not to be charged more than a fair rent. I say that for agricultural purposes a perpetual tenure is superior to an ownership in fee simple, and that the status created by the Land Act of 1881 is for agricultural purposes a superior and better tenure than that now proposed. It has always been contended that the system prevailing in England and Scotland has this great advantage over the system of peasant proprietorship—that the former is able to employ the whole of his capital for farming purposes, the landlord providing what may be called the dead capital, which cannot possibly bear a high interest. We know that the profit on a farmer's capital must always be in excess of the profit on the landlord's capital to the extent of two or three times, or even a little more. For the purpose of illustration, let me take the case of a farmer with £300 and the choice of taking land on a secured tenure or buying. It is demonstrable that it is 1900 more to his interest to become a tenant than a landlord. Suppose he buys land at £20 an acre. For £200 he will get 10 acres, and the remaining £100 would just be sufficient to work the farm. Assuming that the farming interest is only twice the interest of the landlord's capital, he would then have £10 interest on his £200, and £10 on his farming capital, making £20 a year altogether. If, however, he could rent 30 acres at £200, he would make a profit of £30. We know perfectly well that in countries where peasant proprietors have come into existence their land is often heavily mortgaged. The perpetual tenure has this advantage, that though it is in the nature of a dual mortgage it is a mortgage which cannot be called in. Tenure for tenure, therefore, peasant proprietorship is a mistake, and perpetual tenure is the more profitable. When I hear what is called dual ownership exposed to ridicule, I ask myself whether the Chief Secretary ever heard of a place called India. Throughout the whole of India, with the exception of Bengal, what is called dual ownership has been for centuries a universal tenure. Everywhere the ryot, or tenant, is much in the same position as the Irish tenant under the Act of 1881. He has security of tenure; he occupies his property in permanence; he can sell his interest to the landlord, and he is subject to a fair rent, or rather to a fixed rent revisable once in a period of years. The principle on which rent is revised is that nothing shall be added on account of the tenant's improvements, and whatever additional value has accrued in consequence of those improvements is the secured property of the tenant. It is also true as a general proposition that from 2,500 years ago down to the present time a large portion of the soil of India has been farmed—where free men are concerned—on the principle of the perpetual tenure. In some cases these tenures have remained till the present day; but of course in the majority of instances, owing to the change in the value of money, the rent has become so small that it has ultimately been transformed into quit-rent and disappeared. Therefore, the notion that this perpetual tenure is an invention of recent date or is not warranted by experience is entirely erroneous. Let me now say a 1901 word on one other question. As against the policy of the Government I set up the policy of the Land Act of 1881. The failure of that Act was only partial, but to some extent undoubtedly it was a great failure. The cause of the failure was the sudden collapse of prices in 1886. The Act failed, in the first place, because the Healy Clause was emasculated, and because the Courts of Law succeeded in drawing a coach and six through it. It was also a failure because it had hardly come into operation when a Committee of the Lords was appointed, and the persons who were going to administer it were subjected to a searching cross-examination. The result was that fair rents were never fixed in Ireland. A fair rent is one in which the improvements made or inherited by the tenant are given to the tenant, and the interest of the landlord is given to the land lord. That was the principle of the Healy clause, which, if it had been left alone, would have given distinct guidance to the Commissioners. Having no such guidance, what the Commissioners did was to reduce rents in cases where they were so high that they could not be paid and, to fix them at such a point that under the existing circumstances the tenants could pay them. Instead of establishing fair rents, they established only modified rack-rents. That error was made irremediable by the unfortunate 15 years clause. To these causes alone was due the failure of the Land Act of 1881. In my opinion, if the Government will act wisely, they will abandon all these nonsensical notions of converting the Irish tenants into peasant proprietors at the expense of the British workman, and will revise the Land Act of 1881, so that fair rents on sound and true principles can he established. If they take this course, the Irish difficulty will completely disappear. I was opposed to the principles and to some of the details of the Act of 1886, but I must candidly own that there were circumstances in 1886 which gave a justification for the introduction of a Purchase Act—circumstances which are now entirely wanting. At that time the failure of the Act of 1881 had become apparent. The Government proposed to hand Ireland over to the control of an Irish Parliament. Two evils had to be guarded against. First of all it was to be feared 1902 that the Irish Parliament would begin its work under great difficulties if the first subject they had to deal with was the fiery and thorny subject of landlord and tenant. On the other hand it was feared by some that, owing to the exasperation of feeling which many long years of controversy had excited, an Irish Legislative Assembly might do less than justice to the Irish landlords. But at the present moment these difficulties do not exist. The Government suppose that they will continue to govern Ireland, and the Irish landlords, therefore, have nothing to fear. You hold them in the hollow of your hand, and can see that justice is done to them. I cannot understand what has influenced the Government to raise this question, which divides everybody and unites no one, unless it be the case that coercion is a failure. The object of coercion is to collect rents. We are told that now everyone pays his rent, and peace and prosperity reigns in Ireland. Under these circumstances it is absurd to bring in this Bill. It must be remembered, also, that the Land Bill of 1886 had the hearty concurrence and support of the Irish people and the Irish Members. You are proposing to advance British money to people who, instead of thanking you for the gift, threaten you with repudiation. Again, the Bill of 1886 applied to the whole country, while this measure applies to only a portion of it. Under this Bill the English Government is a landlord or mortgagee; under the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian an Irish Government would have been the landlord or mortgagee. The guarantees are uncertain in this Bill, and are really based upon the principle of downright dishonesty. You take funds which do not belong to you, and say, "We shall hold these funds as security for certain persons' debts." It comes to this, that, without the consent of A, B, C, and D, you put down their names as sureties to a Bill which is due by E and F. Anything more utterly inconsistent with the most elementary notion of property or honesty it is impossible to conceive. How can you expect the people of Ireland to have any respect for a Bill which, in its fundamental clause, is based on a principle which I can only describe as petty 1903 larceny. Having opposed the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member' for Mid Lothian, I am not likely to give any support to a Bill which, in every particular, compares disadvantageously with the Bill of 1886.
§ (9.15.) MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) is against He principle of land purchase under any circumstances, but I understand him to express approval of the suggestions of the hon. Member for Cork. But the proposal of the hon. Member for Cork involved State liability.
MR. JESSE COLLLINGS
Then I misunderstood the hon. Member. He states that the Act of 1881 very properly reduced the landlord to the condition of a rent charger, but I should like to ask him whether, after having settled the rent-charge of an Irish landlord, let us say of £50 a year, he would secure to that landlord the receipt of the rent? Let us take the Ponsonby district. The question there is not one of high or low rent, but one of no rent at all, because in nearly every case there is from three to seven years' rent owing. Does the hon. Member agree that in a case where no rent-charge has been paid for three or seven years the State is to step in to secure the landlord or possessor of the rent-charge, or does he consider that the State is not to exercise any power or influence at all? If the State is to protect the rent charger, there is no protection but eviction. Certainly the hon. Member occupies the only legitimate position of opposition to this Bill. The proposals contained in the Bill have been criticised, and suggestions as to the purchase of land have been made, but there has been no real opposition offered to the Bill. While the opposition to the principle of purchase is an intelligible one, it applies to Great Britain as well as to Ireland. The hon. Member has said that, in 1886, the mandate of the British constituencies was against the purchase of Irish land at the risk of British credit. I contend it was nothing of the kind. I took a very active part in the elections of 1886, but I am far from being opposed 1904 to creating a peasant proprietary through British credit. Indeed that is what I have advocated all my life. I opposed the Bill of 1886 not on that ground, but because it was of a compulsory character. The tenant was compelled to buy his holding at a price dictated by the landlord, and the State was compelled to supply the money for the transaction. Then we had to face a possible liability not of £50,000,000. but of nearly £200,000,000. If the tenant had been compelled to buy at 20 years purchase, undoubtedly all the dangers would have arisen which the hon. Member fears under this Bill, for, within 12 months of the rejection of the Bill, every Member on the Front Opposition Bench declared that the 20 years purchase would have been based on rents 30 per cent, too high. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) said that the rents were 50 per cent, too high. Therefore, if the Bill of 1886 had passed, the tenants would have been required to buy against their will instalments bused on rents which, 12 months later, were declared to be from 30 to 50 per cent, too high. But then we were told by hon. Members who voted for the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, that even under those circumstances there would be no risk to the British taxpayer. Then, an Irish Parliament was to be created, with a separate Executive, and the administration of law and everything else to be placed in its hands. That Parliament might fairly have said, "We were not consulted about this liability; we were not in existence as a Parliament; indeed, while the Bill was passing through the English Parliament, the Irish Members protested that the rents were too high." You may rely upon it that that protest would have been taken advantage of if at any subsequent date the excessive instalments were brought in question. The tenant might have said, "I was not a party to the purchase; the landlord wished to sell, and I was compelled to buy at these exorbitant terms." Under the present Bill, however, the tenants' assent is necessary before the transaction can be carried out. When a man enters into a contract without any legal compulsion it is very difficult for him to find a reason for repudiation. But the objections I 1905 have stated were not the main objections to the Bill of 1886. The question of the principle of State aid was not brought before the constituencies when they condemned the Bill. The constituencies saw that, while a tremendous liability, with insufficient security, was to be undertaken, the Legislative Union was to be destroyed, and Ireland was to be turned into a colony or a tribute-paying province. No doubt, the Purchase Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was intended as a bribe to the landlords of Ireland, and I think it is greatly to their credit they did not accept it. I agreed with the promoters of the Bill of 1886 that if the landlords were to be put outside the protection of the Imperial Parliament the Bill was a necessity. I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian that the Land Bill could not be separated from the Home Rule Bill; the two Bills are indissolubly bound up with one another. The mandate of the constituencies was in no way against the principle of purchase at the risk of British credit, but it was against the whole business. Much has been said concerning the securities under this Bill. Even supposing that any reasonable risk were contained in this Bill I would nevertheless vote for it. because I consider we owe a heavy debt to Ireland for ill-treatment and misgovernment in the past. But I maintain that there is no risk. The first security for the advances is to be found in the honesty of the Irish people; and it is curious to find the so-called friends of Ireland putting forward, not only the possibility, but the probability of wholesale repudiation. The opponents of these hon. Members bring no such charge, which is a slander on the Irish Nation. Go back as long as you like and you will not find any people who have been as good rent payers as the Irish. They paid their rents when they were iniquitous and high, and how, then, can we suppose they will repudiate their obligations when they are reasonable and fair, Take, also, all the purchases under various Acts. There has been no repudiation there, though there have been great incentives held out to repudiate. [Cries of "No."] Well, when I hear hon. Members say, as was said to-night, that they have paid because they were 1906 advised to pay, then I may take the converse and assume that if they had been advised not to pay they would have refused to pay. But I believe that in teaching repudiation hon. Members would fail. Was not the "no-rent" manifesto an attempt to prevent payment of rent, and did it not fail? There are, I know, certain corners in Ireland, for instance on the Ponsonby estate, where the people followed advice which no man with the elementary feeling and knowledge of common honesty ought to have given. The result of taking that advice has been that some 200 tenants have been persuaded to their ruin, and if the Plan of Campaign needed its death-blow that would be found in the result of the advice given to the Ponsonby tenants. We have, I say, no right to make use as an argument of a charge against a nation of wholesale repudiation. Strange it was to find the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench receiving this intention of repudiation with something like a cheer. They seem to have changed the political character of this side of the House, but I believe the political character of the people of England remains unchanged, and I am sure they will receive these threats of repudiation with regret. The first security then, I say, and that I think sufficient, is the honesty of the people of Ireland in the position in which the Bill seeks to put them. There are several other securities, but it will suffice to name one. The proposition in the Bill is that the sums retained by the Executive are, in capitalised value, to be equal to £33,000,000. Well, surely that is the highest form of security, cash in hand? I am not now speaking of the argument whether we ought to use this security or not, but, qua security. I do not know that you could have a better. The security is alsolute, because, as was said by the Chief Secretary, if you receive £100 from an estate and pay it all back in contributions towards local purposes, then, if your tenants pay you, say only £90, you can easily recoup yourself by taking £10 off your local contributions. This is apart From the question whether it is right or wrong to retain the subventions, but as security their value can not be questioned, that being so, let us get rid of all this talk about risk to the British taxpayer, for there is no risk when we have in our 1907 hands control of an amount equal to the amount of the advances. I hope it may never be that we may have to avail ourselves of this security, and I do not believe we ever shall, but, having this security, I say there cannot by any possibility be any loss to the British taxpayer, even though the Irish people should have the dishonesty, which I believe them incapable of, to repudiate their obligations. I was very much surprised to hear the hon. Member for Belfast say that the estimate of £30,000,000 would probably grow to £70,000,000. By some extraordinary calculation the hon. Gentleman arrived at this result, but I should have thought the elementary principle in the Bill is clear, providing that this sum shall not be exceeded, though it may be re-advanced as soon as it conies in. You might as well say that if you over-draw at your bank to the extent of £500, and, subsequently, having reduced it to £400, you again over-draw to £500, that you are increasing your liabilities. It is clear the British taxpayers will be liable to the extent of £33,000,000, and no more. I confess any doubts that have been raised in reference to this proposal are equally applicable to the proposal of the hon. Member for Cork. What the effect of the proposal of the hon. Member might be as a supplement to the Bill I do not now enter into, but, as an alternative, it has all the doubtful features that can be urged against the Government Bill, while it leaves every other difficulty connected with the system of tenure untouched. It leaves the basis and material for renewed agitation; it cannot leave such a satisfactory position as that in which a man is his own landlord. I do not see how any one can oppose the principle of the Bill unless ho is an opponent of the principle of State purchase altogether. But go to any constituency in England, and put the question whether they are in favour of this principle of State assisted purchase as applied to England, and you will find a large preponderance of opinion in the affirmative. They know that only by such means can you prevent the migration from the rural districts into the towns, and the swamping of the labour market. They know that the only means to do this is by giving the people a career upon the land, and that this can 1908 only be brought about by the use of State credit. Nearly every nation in Europe has had to have recourse to this process, some for economic, some for social, and some for political reasons, and nearly all of them have seen the good results that flow from it. If the advice of our lamented Friend, John Bright, 20 years ago, had been taken and carried out we should not have had the difficulties in Ireland we now have to encounter. One good result of this policy will be the creation in Ireland of a middle class which does not exist there now, a class conservative in the best sense of the term and of enormous use to the country. I quits agree that the question of sub-letting must be carefully considered; we must be sure we are not creating a new set of landlords. Mortgage, too, is a danger to small properties which we must guard against; experience on the Continent shows us the danger. But I will not detain the House now on these matters. I wish hon. Members to recognise the social and economic effects that have resulted on the Continent from the adoption of proposals similar to these. In Prussia, at the beginning of this century, a complicated form of dual ownership existed, and with it discontent, disloyalty, and disorder. The whole country was in such an unsatisfactory state that the Government took the matter in hand and initiated legislation, converting tenants into owners by the use of State credit. By the operation of that legislation the people became stable, loyal, and contented; and those who have followed the history of this legislation know that although the landlord class opposed this legislation for reasons not difficult to understand, they have since fully recognised the advantage it has been to the country. It did not come about suddenly, it extended over years; this legislation associated with the names of Stein and Hardenberg. It is said that this legislation consolidated Germany and that it won the battle of Sadowa, and carried Germany through the war with France. It may be so; it laid the foundation, it created thy material. I trust that the Government will persevere with the Bill. I do not believe that, much as they value the attempt they are now making to deal with the land question in Ireland, the Government are able to estimate the enormous advantages for good it will 1909 confer on the country. I believe that in connection with the other measures which the Government are to bring forward this measure will go a long way to remove discontent in Ireland, so far at least, as it affects the agrarian difficulty, on which the desire for Home Rule is based and through which it finds expression. The Government can pride themselves on the fact that they have, at least, made one real attempt, which I believe will be successful, to solve this great traditional problem of the land question in Ireland, upon which so many other difficulties hang.
§ *(9.45.) MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's Co., Ossory)
It is impossible not to be struck with the difference in the manner in which this Debate is conducted from that of a Scotch Debate on an equally important subject. On a question of Scotch Local Government, for instance, the Debate is almost entirely confined to Scotch Members, and is prolonged until any Scotch Member who desires to do so has expressed his opinion. But here, on a question of intense interest to our country, we, the Irish Members, or at least the great majority of us, get no opportunity of expressing our views. I do not complain of English and Scotch Members taking part in the Debate, but, at least, I think the time of the Debate should be extended to allow of Irish Members taking part also. On Tuesday the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket), in his graceful speech, wont very far a field in defence of the Irish landlords, even going back to the great famine year of 1847. He quoted a passage from Mr. A. M. Sullivan's New Ireland defending the landlords from the charge of having done nothing to assist the famine-stricken people. But this is not the charge which the most intelligent leaders of history have brought against the landlords. That charge is not that they neglected the people when the famine came, but that they had so raised rents and cut down wages that the great mass of the people had nothing to live on but one article of food, and when that failed, ruin and destitution came. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork in opposing this Bill has been accused by certain sections of the Press of inconsistency, because formerly the National League supported 1910 the idea of peasant proprietorship, but if he and we, who intend to vote against this Bill, needed a justification for the course we mean to take we might find it in the speeches of supporters of the Chief Secretary. The hon. Member for Dover, who writes the Chief Secretary's letters, in what was, upon the whole, a conciliatory speech, said that if we believed that the government of Ireland would be soon in our hands, we were justified in opposing the Bill. The hon. Member thought that an extremely improbable contingency, but we think it probable, and so thinking are justified in the eyes of the hon. Member. Again, the hon. Baronet who sits for North-West Sussex has said that he is not in love with the Bill, and that he would not vote for it if he did not believe it would be a final settlement. But does anybody believe this is a final settlement? It affects only one-fourth of the tenantry in the country, and the result will be that assuming the plan to work demands will be preferred by the remaining three-fourths for an extension of the principle of purchase. I am absolutely opposed to the use of one single penny of English credit or the payment of one penny of Irish money in buying out the Irish landlords. In former years John Stuart Mill wrote enthusiastically on the advantages of a peasant proprietary, but no man of equal intellectual eminence in these days would write in equally glowing terms. Mill spoke much of the advantages of the system of peasant proprietorship in France, Belgium, and the Rhenish Provinces of Prussia. But since then we have heard more of the trials and difficulties of these poor owners, and how the usurer has got among them, and they have had to mortgage their little holdings. Other ideals, as, for example, land nationalisation, have been put before the popular imagination, both in England and Ireland, and men care somewhat less than they formerly did for the ideal of a peasant proprietary. Again, the Land Bill of 1881, by the means of that which was described by its author as its one radical principle, the principle of valued rents, has done much in Ireland to weaken the demand for a peasant proprietary; and if the Healy clause had been worked as the Member for Mid Lothian intended, that demand would now 1911 scarcely be heard at all. Furthermore, it is now fully realised that if the principle of buying out the landlords is to be carried out it must be done at enormous cost. I remember the unprincipled use which was made of this fact in the Election of 1886. I was in Wales, and I read a leaflet issued by the friends of hon. Gentlemen opposite, which asked:—Do you want to pay more for your tea? Do you want to pay more for your' baccy? Do you want to pay more for your beer?Yet here we have the right hon. Gentleman turning round and offering to pledge the credit of the British taxpayer to the extent of £33,000,000, with the prospect of a great deal more money being required. I object to the Bill because it is inadequate, and because it will not do what it ought really to try to do—namely, to tranquillise the disturbed districts. It is on estates where there is no disturbance that this Bill, like the Ashbourne Acts, will be utilised. There is nothing in it to secure that the landlords of estates which form centres of disturbance shall sell. Who is the nobleman who has taken the largest slice of the money advanced under the Ashbourne Acts. It is the Marquess of Bath, and I am not aware of any disturbance having taken place on his estate, or of any plan of campaign being put in force there. Again, the City companies have been selling their estates in the North of Ireland—a district which is always held up to us as a model of quietness and honesty, and a district where there is a due observance of contracts. Now I come to the proposals dealing with the congested districts, and I can say nothing more strongly condemnatory of them than the words used by the Daily Express. That Government organ has declared in reference to the clauses for consolidating holdings, and for assisting emigration and migration, that the great difficulty is to get the people to move, and unless you can do that, you cannot put the clauses into operation. As to the proposal to supply seed potatoes at cost price, including carriage and storage, I can already fancy the potatoes rotting in the storehouses before they reach the people; and, there is something pathetic in the provision that officials shall be sent to the holdings of the tenants to see that the potatoes are planted, and 1912 not eaten. You will have the men of the Royal Irish Constabulary engaged in the work of spying upon the doings of these unfortunate people. As to the clauses dealing with the curing of fish, I see nothing is said about enabling the people first to catch the fish, and the recipe of the old cookery book to "first catch your hare before jugging it," applies in this case. Certainly there is no distinct provision for supplying the people with nets or boats. I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is to preside over the Board which will deal with the congested districts. The failure of the many Boards of which the right hon. Gentleman is at the head ought to have been a sufficient warning against creating any more Boards; while with regard to the extraordinary proposal to enable the Board to receive bequests and gifts of money in order to carry on its work, I can only say I should as soon think of presenting a gift to the Chief Secretary for the humane and Christian spirit in which he has carried on the work of coercion during the last three years, as I should of giving money to a Public Board in Ireland to be used for a charitable purpose. And now as to the contingent securities. It is said that they will never be wanted. From the paper which the Chief Secretary has placed in our hands it will be seen that while the capitalised value of the cash securities amounts only to £7,000,000, the capitalised value of the contingent securities amounts to £22,000,000. Why do the Government put the contingent securities in the Bill if they do not mean to use them? Among those contingent securities is money given for keeping children in industrial schools and money given for popular education. Now, I venture to say that the Government will not dare, in face of the world, to leave Ireland without the money which is due to her for these purposes simply because certain persons do not meet their obligations. We are told by the Chief Secretary that the provisions of the Bill are voluntary. I do not believe it in the least. I believe that unjust agreements will be forced on the tenants by the landlords on pain of eviction, and if agreements are made by the tenants lest they should be evicted there will be a moral leverage for repudiation, the importance of which cannot 1913 be over estimated. It has been asserted in the Unionist newspapers and on Unionist platforms that by passing this Bill, Home Rule will be got rid of. Any such expectation is a delusion. The people are devoted to their leaders, and at every public meeting the first resolution put demands legislative independence for Ireland. If anything could make me hesitate as to the vote I am about to give it would be a fear, which I trust is groundless, that if this Bill be defeated some future English Government will try to deal with the question. No settlement by the British Parliament can be final. No question of this magnitude can be shut out from the review of an Irish Legislature. It has been said that the question has been embittered by too many memories for it to be left to Ireland to solve; but those who so speak do not fully understand the generous and forgiving character of our people. We have no desire to got rid of the Irish landlords, for, in the future, Ireland will stand in need of all men of education, culture, and position, to do their duty in assisting in the government of the country. Because I believe this Bill will not provide a final settlement of the question, because I disapprove of the arrangements which it seeks to make for the congested districts, and because I am convinced the matter can best be dealt with by an Irish Parliament, I shall oppose the Second Reading of the Bill.
*(10.20) THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
Sir, in rising, as I do, towards the close of this long Debate, it is hardly necessary for me to say that I do not intend to refer to the numerous topics and arguments that have been addressed to the House in the course of this somewhat discursive discussion. I know the House has still to be addressed by some Members who have possibly a better claim to be heard on this subject than I have, and I think I shall be discussing the wishes of the House, as well as my own inclination, if I endeavour to confine myself to two or three points, and not attempt to travel into a general review of the discussion that has already taken place. Of the many objections that have been urged to this measure, there is, I think, only one which, if established, would necessarily be fatal to the passing of the Second Reading of 1914 this Bill—namely, the objection that is based on the supposed decision of the country at the last General Election. It is said that the country then decided that no Land Purchase Bill would be entertained that either involved any risk to the credit of the State or which established direct relations between the State and individual occupiers. If that objection could be established I admit that during the existence of the present Parliament, at least, it would be a conclusive objection to the Second Reading of the present Bill. But I am not prepared to admit that that objection can be made good. I fully admit that the judgment of the country at the General Election was final on two points—first, against the establishment in any shape of a separate Legislative Body in Ireland, and, secondly, against the measure of land purchase that was proposed by the Government of that day. That admission I am prepared to make, but I cannot extend it. I am not sure that I am prepared to go quite so far as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. It is quite true that my right hon. Friend at the time of the General Election devoted a great deal more time than I did to the discussion of the Land Purchase scheme, while I applied myself to the examination and criticism of the legislative proposals of the Government with regard to Ireland contained in the other Bill. It is quite possible that my right hon. Friend, having, as I have said, devoted much more attention than I did to the land purchase proposals of the Government, may feel himself more deeply committed than I and many of my hon. Friends do. Speaking for myself, I am not prepared to analyse what was the exact effect of the decision of the country, save with regard to the two points I have mentioned. It is sufficient for me to know that the two measures, in the form in which they were presented by the late Government, were decisively, and, as I think, rightly rejected by the constituencies, and I am not prepared to admit that any mandate was given by the constituencies which could prevent this House from dealing with either of those subjects on principles different from, and in some respects opposed to, those on which the late Government proposed to deal with them. I deny that the objections, which we successfully 1915 urged against the Land Purchase measure, were based either upon the proposal to pledge public credit for the purpose of increasing the number of occupying owners in Ireland or upon the inexpediency of establishing direct relations between the State and the purchasing tenants. The objections were founded mainly, if not entirely, on the nature of the security which the measure provided, for the security depended on the willingness of an Irish Government, not then in existence, to discharge their liabilities. It depended on the willingness of an Irish Parliament, hereafter to be created, to pledge the resources of Ireland for the re-payment of loans contracted without the consent of an existing Irish Legislature. I am quite aware that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian considers that he provided the most complete security for any loan which the British Exchequer might be called upon to make when he placed that security on the Irish national resources, but we held, and still hold, that by the arrangement the right hon. Gentleman raised international and political questions between the two countries which might endanger their amicable relations, and certainly did endanger the stability of the security on which the loans were to be advanced. We pointed out that the arrangement involved the collection of the instalments from the purchasing by agents of an Irish Government, entirely dependent on Irish public opinion, and that, in the event of the tenants being unable or unwilling to pay, the Irish Government would have thrown upon it the duty of imposing taxation in order to make good the default of the purchasing tenants. We argued that it would be easy for an Irish Opposition to protest against the engagements entered into in the name of the Irish nation. We argued that the question of repudiation of this debt, contracted without the knowledge of the Irish Parliament—before, indeed, that Parliament was called into existence—would' be the most popular subject which an Irish Opposition could take up; and we pointed out that, in the event of that opposition being successful, there would have been no resource open to the Imperial Government of securing the repayment of those instalments, and 1916 enforcing the obligations entered into, except the resources of actual armed occupation of the country and the operations of actual war. Whatever objections can now be urged against this Bill are of a totally different character to that brought by us against the Bill of 1886. I do not for a moment say, and it was admitted by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that objections may not be made to any measure that can be proposed. Under this proposal no international question between the two countries can be raised. No international obligations are created, and no sources of international difference are set up, no temptation to international repudiation is given, and no political questions between the two countries are raised. The dealings under the Bill, whether they are wise or whether they are not, are dealings not between two States, but between the State and individuals. I am unable to see any inherent difficulty or risk or objection in placing the State in direct relation with the purchasing occupier. I deny altogether that the relations which will be set up under this Bill between the State and the purchasing occupier will be the relation of landlord and tenant. The relation which will be established under this Bill will be rather that of creditor and debtor. For my part, I see no inherent impossibility in the State collecting the instalments of a debt voluntarily incurred any more than] see any inherent difficulty in the collection by the State from individuals of taxes that have been imposed, not by the actual individual consent of every individual taxpayer, but by legislative enactment. At the very utmost, under this Bill, the dealing with the State will be not between nation and nation, but between the State and individuals. I will not deny that danger may arise of repudiation or attempted repudiation by counties of the liability that it sought to be imposed upon them by this Bill; but I think that the risk, if any risk attaches, will be infinitely less than that which would have arisen under the Bill proposed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian in respect of dealings between nation and nation. That being the line of opposition which we took to the proposals of my right hon. Friend in 1886, I maintain without hesitation for myself, 1917 and I think I may say for my friends, that nothing we urged against that measure in 1886 can by any fair interpretation, or by anything other than a strained and unfair interpretation, be construed into a pledge to vote against a Bill founded on principles so absolutely dissimilar to that of 1886 as this measure. I believe that in this Debate very few hon. Members have taken exception to the objects at which this Bill aims. With the exception, perhaps, of the senior Member for Northampton and the right hon. Member for Derby, the number of hon. Members who have taken exception to the objects of this Bill has been extremely small. The right hon. Member for Derby has been, perhaps, the only Member of this House who took the position that this Bill was an unnecessary, gratuitous, and unwarranted interference with an admirable existing state of things. The right hon. Gentleman denied that there was any necessity for this attempt to convert the occupiers into the owners of their holdings. He is perfectly satisfied with the condition of dual ownership. He treats the question as one of rent only, and he says there is no reason whatever why we should interfere with the existing settlement of the land relations in Ireland. My right hon. Friend thinks that nothing can be more admirable than the system of dual ownership, but upon this condition— that one of the dual owners, that the owner of the fee simple, who has been hitherto supposed to have some title, at all events to have a voice at least in the settlement of the terms upon which he will let his land, is to have his rent not only fixed for him by a judicial tribunal, but my right hon. Friend is prepared to force him by law, if necessary, to reduce that rent so fixed whenever the other dual owner is dissatisfied with it. I must admit that this view of the Irish land question which is entertained by the right hon. Member for Derby has received no support from the leader of the Opposition. I do not think that there has been anything in what he has said upon this Bill which would prevent him from supporting a measure for the extinction and abolition of dual ownership if a measure for the purpose could be introduced, founded upon principles which would meet his approval. But I think 1918 we ought to hear something more from some of the right hon. Gentlemen who sit upon this Bench, perhaps from the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Morley), as to whether the right hon. Member for Derby is supported by them in the doctrines he has enunciated respecting dual ownership and the relations of dual owners to each other. It seems to me that the doctrines announced by the right hon. Member for Derby are doctrines which strike at the root of all private ownership in property. I should like to know from the right hon. Member for Newcastle whether he attaches any importance to rights which for centuries up to a recent date have been supposed to confer upon the owner of the fee simple the right to fix for himself the rent at which he will let his land to other persons, and which under the most recent enactments have permitted him to exercise, at all events, a voice in the terms on which his land was to be disposed of. I suppose it will be useless, in fact we know by experience that it will be, to remind the right hon. Member for Deby that these doctrines with respect to the excellence of dual ownership and in respect to the relations that exist, or ought to exist, in the future between dual owners are entirely of recent origin, and that they require a little more explanation and a little more defence than he has thought it necessary to give them. Not only once, but twice within a period of six years my right hon. Friend has himself been a party to a measure, the object of which was similar to the object of the Bill we are now discussing. In 1884 the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir G. Trevelyan) produced a measure for the purpose of largely intinguishing dual ownership, or, at all events, for the purpose of largely increasing the number of occupying proprietors. In 1886 the right hon. Member for Derby was a party to a measure of a much larger scope which would have placed in the hands of every landlord in Ireland the right to require the State to purchase his share in the dual ownership in the land. The measures to which my right hon. Friend was a party were measures the objects of which were similar to that of the Bill we are now discussing, but the means to be taken to carry into effect the objects of 1919 the measures were different, all the securities which were proposed were different! But the object of those measures was precisely identical with the present, namely, the extension of the system of occupying proprietorship and the gradual extinction of the system of dual ownership. My right hon. Friend treats this question as one of rent alone, but let us examine for a moment his position in that respect. Here or elsewhere my right hon. Friend has said that rents are either fair or unfair; if unfair the landlord ought to reduce them, but if fair there is no reason why the taxpayer of this country should incur any risk or liability, or should sanction the use of his credit for reducing what is now a fair rent. That argument is plausible, but it seems to contain a fallacy, and I wish it had fallen to someone better qualified than myself to dispose of that plausible logical fallacy. I think a very simple statement of the case will show to some extent, at all events, where the fallacy lies. Take the cases where a fair rent has been fixed, and where there is no difference of opinion between the parties as to the fairness of the rent. The landlord's position is this: lie is getting a fair rent for his laud, but he may think that he may lose by reason of a further fall in the value of agricultural produce, or ho may doubt the solvency of his tenant or his successor, or he may dread further legislative interference with his rights as a landlord, or he may shrink from being exposed in the future to have recourse to the only method by which in the last resort he may exercise his legal rights, or he may dislike the prospect of being in future disputes with his tenant, and may desire to live at ease and in peace. For some or all of these considerations he may be willing, although the rent he is now exacting is a perfectly fair rent, to accept a capital sum which will not produce him a similar income, but which will relieve him from all risk and inconvenience. Take the case of a tenant under similar conditions: He may be perfectly willing to pay his fair rent, but he may be unwilling to incur the obligation to pay that rent for a long period, in addition to paying all the taxes which may now or may hereafter be imposed on the holding. He may be unwilling to bind 1920 himself punctually and without the prospect of any remission to pay that rent on a certain fixed day; still more he may be unwilling to lay out any capital for the permanent improvement of his holding unless he can obtain some present relief in consideration of which he would be prepared to undertake all those additional liabilities. Incidentally I might point to the fact that the advantages of this scheme are not so exclusively as has sometimes been supposed on the side of the tenant. It is quite true that the tenant will obtain a considerable immediate relief; but although the tenant obtains this advantage, there are also certain advantages which he surrenders and foregoes and certain liabilities which he undertakes. Under his present tenure he knows very well that if, through accident or misfortune or bad seasons, he is placed in a position of absolute inability to pay his rent, the great majority of the landlords will voluntarily, and the worst and hardest of landlords will, by the necessities of their position, be compelled to give him some reduction, or, at all events, some time in which to discharge his obligations. When he undertakes engagements under this Act he knows that no such consideration is possible; he knows that the reduced payment will have to be made upon a certain day, and that the State will not be in a position to give him that indulgence which he has obtained from his landlord and which he obtains under his present tenure. This consideration may be some consolation to those gentlemen on the other side of the House and to some on this side who have suddenly within the last few days taken the landlords under their protection. The unfortunate position in which the majority of the landlords of Ireland are going to be placed by the passing of this measure, when, as they tell us, a small minority of the tenants will be placed in a position of exceptional advantage, will make it absolutely impossible for the landlords who remain outside the operation of this Bill to exact the rents which they are now receiving. I say this is a matter of fair bargain and calculation between the two parties. Each side makes certain sacrifices and incurs certain liabilities, foregoes certain advantages and obtains certain advantages, and it is a bargain which the two parties may perfectly 1921 safely be left to settle between themselves. To return to the case I have been putting—the case of the landlord who, for reasons sufficient to himself, is anxious to sell and the tenant who under certain conditions is willing to buy. Supposing a capitalist comes forward, and being satisfied with the security which the two parties conjointly offer, proposes to advance a sum which will enable the rent of the landlord to be converted into a capital sum, and which will enable the relation of the tenant to be changed from that of an agricultural tenant to that of a debtor, owing a debt secured upon his holding—would there be anything inherently unreasonable in such an arrangement, although the effect of it should be a temporary loss of income to the landlord on the one hand and an immediate relief to the tenant on the other? And supposing, further, for reasons of State policy, that thinking, as all statesmen who have hitherto dealt with this question have thought, it is a, desirable object of State policy to increase the number of occupying owners in Ireland, supposing the State comes forward and takes the place of this capitalist, is there anything inherently absurd in the proposal, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby seems to think, although it should involve a reduction of the rent which the landlord is at the present moment fairly receiving and the tenant is perfectly willing to pay? The fact is, this is not a question only of rent; it is a question of tenure, of security, of release from cert in liabilities and risks on the part of the landlord on the one hand, and on the other a question of the assumption of certain liabilities for the future on the part of the tenant. Therefore it seems to me if involves a complete fallacy to treat the question as it has been treated by my right hon. Friend, as simply a matter of rent between the landlord and the tenant, which ought to be solved in the simple fashion of compelling the landlord, if the tenant is dissatisfied with his rent, to make a further legal reduction of rent. The arguments against this Bill have been so conflicting, so mutually destructive, that it is not a subject for surprise that any appearance of difference of opinion among the supporters of the measure should be eagerly welcomed by the Opposition. The speech of my right 1922 hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has been treated as a symptom of such difference or divergence of opinion. I cannot understand why any surprise should be felt or expressed at any of the suggestions which my right hon. Friend made in that speech. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby ridicules the land schemes which have from time to time been put forward by my right hon. Friend. If he has paid any attention to the subject he knows that the principal suggestion on which my right hon. Friend dwelt the other night has formed an essential feature of every one of these propositions. And when so many of the suggestions and ideas of my right hon. Friend have been adopted by Her Majesty's Government in the measure now before us it is not altogether unnatural that he should seek to induce the Government to adopt the remainder. But, Sir, important as have been the suggestions put forward by my right hon. Friend, I have not understood them, and I do not understand them as conditions which he seeks to impose on the Government as the price of his support. I rather understood them at the time, and I understand them now, as suggestions for possible amendments in Committee on the Bill, of even for adoption at some future time, and in some other measure. My right hon. Friend contended the other night, and I think successfully, that no practical risk to the British Exchequer was involved in the proposals of this Bill, and that therefore no pledges which the Unionist Party gave at the last Election have been violated by their supporters. He has contended, further, that the securities which are provided in this Bill are securities which may justly and reasonably be enforced, even against the protests of five-sixths of the Irish Members, who do not represent five-sixths of the Irish people. My right hon. Friend has simply suggested amendments in the machinery of the measure—amendments which, in his opinion, if adopted, ought to go far—he did not commit himself to say they would go far—to remove the hostility even of the Irish Members. He put them forward as amendments which, if adopted, would, in his opinion, meet the more reasonable objections which have been urged against this Bill by critics upon this side of the House— 1923 criticisms such as have been put forward by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, founded on the want of popular consent to the measure and of popular ratification of the securities provided under it. I admit that it is quite open to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby to urge that, holding these opinions, my right hon. Friend ought to insist either that a measure of Local Government in Ireland ought to be incorporated in the present Bill, or else that such a measure ought to precede the passing of it. That certainly is not my view, and I do not believe it to be the view of my right hon. Friend. It is obviously impossible to incorporate a Local Government Bill in a measure such as this, dealing as it does with so large a number of difficult, important, and complicated questions. There are strong arguments, in my opinion, why a large measure of land purchase ought reasonably to precede, and not to follow, a measure for the wide extension of Local Government in Ireland. I have often argued, and I think my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has argued also, that the main, if not the only, obstacle to such a wide extension of Local self-Government in Ireland exists in that unfortunate antagonism of class and class, that unfortunate state of relations between occupier and owner in Ireland, which has been, in the opinion of most statesmen who have studied the state of Ireland, the cause of the unsettled condition of that country. We have both, I believe, argued that owing to the existence of that unfortunate antagonism and those unsettled relations it might reasonably, under present circumstances, be apprehended, that if large local powers were conferred on the occupying tenants of Ireland they might treat with something less than justice the rights of the minority. That obstacle which we have always admitted and recognised when we have discussed the question of the extension of Local Government in Ireland would be, if not altogether removed, at all events diminished and mitigated by any measure which should largely increase the number—with the possibility of increasing it still further of occupying owners in Ireland; and we have always been of opinion that a large and effective measure with that object—the 1924 object aimed at by this Bill—was a necessary preliminary to any large measure giving extension of Local Government to Ireland. Well, Sir, I am not prepared now to discuss how far these two objects may soon, may even ultimately, be combined together; but I am convinced of this, that every step which we are enabled safely to take for the extension to a large number of persons in Ireland of the rights and responsibilities of full and uncontrolled ownership of property will remove one of the difficulties which stand in the way of the extension of local liberties and Local self-Government which we all desire to see in that country. I maintain, Sir, that these suggestions of my right hon. Friend have been made—and I think the fact is recognised by Her Majesty's Government—in no hostile or unfriendly spirit. These are questions eminently for discussion in Committee. When we are asked, as I think I have been asked to-night by the hon. Member for West Belfast, how the Liberal Unionists are going to vote on the Second Reading of this Bill, I have no hesitation in replying, and I believe I reply in the name of every Liberal Unionist in the House, that we are going to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill to the governing principles of which we are, almost every one of us, more or less committed, and which provides ample securities for the protection of the British Exchequer and of the British taxpayer, which we found eminently wanting in the measure we denounced in 1886. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian has told us that the hopes he had formed on this subject have been disappointed. He had hoped from the 'declarations of the Government that it might be possible to get out of the way this question of Irish land, and that such a removal from the sphere of our controversial politics would have formed no impediment to the realisation of his further ideas upon the subject of Irish Government; but his hopes were disappointed when he found that this measure in the first place was not welcomed, but was rejected by the great majority of the Irish Representatives. Sir, I must admit that for myself I have experienced no such disappointment. Although at the time of the introduction of this measure I was in a distant country, although I had no 1925 opportunities such as are enjoyed by my right hon. Friend of communication with the majority of the Irish Members, I think I should have ventured to prophesy, without any fear of my prediction being falsified, that no measure for this purpose, with these aims and objects, that could be proposed by the present Government, had any chance of acceptance by the Irish Members. I do not say this as a matter of charge or imputation against the majority of Irish Members—I fully recognise they have an object in view in their opinion of far greater importance than even the settlement of the Irish land question. They have in view they do not disguise it from us -the establishment of Irish national independence: and one of the strongest weapons on which they rely for the attainment of that object is the unsettled state of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland and the discontent, dissatisfaction, unrest, and disturbance created by those unsettled relations. I may point out to the House, Sir, that if this fact of Irish opposition is as my right hon. Friend conceives it to be, a fatal bar in itself to any measure such as this, it is an equally fatal bar to any Imperial legislation short of Home Rule which can be proposed by any Government. I admit all the disadvantages under which we suffer from the want of the co-operation on questions of this kind of those who are entitled to speak with local knowledge, and who represent the local opinions and feelings of a large portion of the Irish people. But does the fact of our suffering under that disadvantage absolve us from all further duty towards Ireland, or from endeavouring to do what we can to the best of our knowledge to remedy admitted evils and admitted grievances? When we are asked whether we would attempt to pass such a measure as this for Scotland in the face of the opinion of the majority of the Scotch Members, I reply that opposition offered to such a measure for Scotland, coming as it would from Scotch Members, who accept the fundamental facts of the existing relations between the two countries, and who are prepared to sustain and not to destroy those relations, would be admitted and accepted by us as opposition to the measure founded on its merits alone. Unfortunately we cannot accept, 1926 we are unable to accept, the opposition proceeding from the Irish Members to this measure or to any other measure as being an opposition based only on the merits of the measure. We cannot forget, as I have already said, that the Irish Members are inspired, as they admit they are inspired, and they may be perfectly legitimately inspired, by other and greater, but ulterior objects. Therefore, when our object is, as I firmly believe it is, to legislate for the benefit of Ireland, to improve the material condition of Ireland, to extinguish, or at least to soften, the differences which have prevailed between the two great classes that are interested in the land of Ireland, and who are engaged in its chief industry—when we are thus engaged just as much as when our efforts have been directed to preserve for Ireland what we conceive to be the elementary advantages of the maintenance of order and of obedience to the law, we cannot permit our actions to be limited or altogether controlled by the action of the majority of the Irish Members. If we are to take into counsel, as I believe every Member of this House would desire we should take into counsel, the Members representing the majority of of the Irish people upon this question, if we are to work together for the regeneration of Ireland, it is necessary that we should have some common understanding as to the objects at which we are aiming, and the ends at which we are seeking to arrive. If we find that our objects are irreconcilable, if we find that the ends which we are striving to arrive at are not the same ends, but lie in different directions, then, with whatever regret, under whatever sense of difficulty we may feel, we cannot abandon the duty which we feel we owe to Ireland, as we do to every other part of the United Kingdom. We must work and do our best with the means which we admit are limited and imperfect—we must use the power which we undoubtedly possess to the best of our own judgment, and acting upon our own responsibility.
§ (11.15.) MR. J. MORLEY
I have listened, I admit, with some consternation to the speech of my noble Friend. If that speech has any meaning at all—and the noble Lord is not accustomed to speak without meaning—it is a declara- 1927 tion of war. I understand you won the last Election upon two points—one was no land purchase, and the other was the retention of the Irish Members. But what do you retain the Irish Members for? If the doctrine of the noble Lord is to apply, if his purposes are to be carried out, and if the opinion of the majority of the Irish people is to be disregarded, what is the advantage of the 85 Irish Members coming here? But in reference to the particular question which we are discussing to-night, I would call the attention of the House to this: that we are not merely disregarding the opinion of the 85 or 86 Irish Nationalist Members, but we are disregarding, as far as I have been able to gather, the opinion of the whole of the Representatives of Ireland. The noble Lord commenced his speech by saying that the Debate had been prolonged to a considerable length, and the other night the First Lord of the Treasury actually expected that the Debate would close in a couple of nights. What are we debating? We are debating the construction of a new Agrarian Code for a great province of this United Kingdom. Nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the Agrarian Code goes to the very root of the national life in a country which lives by its agricultural produce. Not only, therefore, is the Bill, in itself, of the most profound and deep-reaching importance, but since its introduction large proposals have been made in addition to it. My hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) made a proposal which, with soma reservations, which will probably deprive it of all efficacy, the Government have accepted. My hon. Friend the Member for Fast Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has made proposals in reference to the most difficult branch of the subject, I mean the congested districts, which, in themselves, open up large fields of Debate. I regret to have to point out to the House that in the course of the Debate upon a Bill of this kind, which goes to the root of the agrarian system in Ireland, not a single Representative of the Irish agricultural interest has expressed his approval of the measure. Where are the landlords? We have not heard the martial accents of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). nor the 1928 winning speech of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Sir C. Lewis), nor a word in favour of this pacific legislation from the peace-maker, the Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry.) The right hon. Member for West Birmingham rather scolded me the other night for something I had said from which he drew the inference that I disregarded the views of the Irish minority; but it is he and the Government whom he is supporting who are disregarding the views of the Irish minority. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend heard the very remarkable speech of the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney). That hon. Member, speaking with great moderation, informed the House of his inability to support the proposals of the Government, and he gave reasons which I wish my noble Friend had shown that he had some appreciation of when be supported the statement of the Chief Secretary that this was a measure of which the landlords could not complain. The Chief Secretary told us that the prestige and authority of the landlords would remain undiminished; but the hon. Member below the Gangway opposite says just the contrary. He says that your proposals must reduce all the landlords of Ireland having incomes under £5,000 a year to penury; that you will drive them out of the country; that you will ruin the Church of England in Ireland; that your Bill will not be final; and that you will do all this, which he and I presume my noble Friend also, regards as mischief at the expense of every class in Ireland. My noble Friend said a great deal about dual ownership. Listening to him, I could not have supposed, if I had not known him before, that he was a Member of the Government that in 1881 established the system of dual ownership in Ireland. My noble Friend could not have heard the hon. Member for South Antrim declare that dual ownership was the foundation of the prosperity of Ulster. The Act of 1881, in which my noble Friend was concerned, was founded on the Ulster custom, and the Ulster custom depends upon and is, in fact, dual ownership. But that is not all. Does this Bill which my noble Friend has just recommended to the House get rid of dual ownership? No; dual ownership is as sure to revive under this Bill as it is 1929 certain the sun will rise in the heavens to-morrow morning. Of course, if you give this immense boon to a certain class of tenants a great many will avail themselves of it in order to place themselves in the position of landlords. You cannot prevent it, because you permit sub-division and sub-letting with the consent of the Laud Department. Then you are leaving untouched by this Bill three-fourths or four-fifths of Ireland. You are leaving four-fifths of the Irish tenants either actually or potentially in that very position of dual ownership which my noble Friend declares it to be the object of the measure to abolish. I would call attention to my noble Friend's remarks upon the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham with reference to Local Government. My noble Friend seemed to say that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham had simply expressed a kind of pious opinion that some day or other it might be expedient to give Ireland the same kind of County Councils that we have in England and Scotland and to intrust to those Councils the administration of this measure. But I did not understand my right hon. Friend to express only a pious opinion upon this subject. He said that to impose liability upon ratepayers who had not a voice in the matter was thoroughly unjust, and that if such a thing were attempted in the Municipality which he knows so well—namely, Birmingham—it would produce a very pretty kettle of fish. It is for my right hon. Friend and the noble Marquess and the Chief Secretary to settle the Unionist theory amongst themselves. I will only say that I listened with considerable admiration to that portion of my right hon. Friend's speech, in which he showed the essential connection between the creation of Local Authorities and the working of this measure. It is a disappointment to us and a surprise that he has not been able, in the phrase of my noble Friend, to impose his opinion upon the Government. I wonder what the Chairman of Ways and Means thinks of the proposal of the Government. He has, again and again, told his constituents that the creation of Local Government ought to precede a Laud Purchase Bill. But to-night the noble Lord, his leader, says that 1930 Land Purchase ought to precede, and not to follow, Local Government. The argument of my noble Friend, which has weighed with the Government and has led them to throw over the counsels of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, if it is good for anything at all, is an argument for 10 or 20 years, or for a whole generation. The Chief Secretary himself used language which seemed equally to close the door of hope in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman said the reason why the Government do not now bring in a, scheme of Local Government for Ireland is that Ireland is not now in' a normal condition. When has Ireland been in a normal condition? When is it likely to be so? You have had four years of "firm and resolute Government;" are we to wait 16 years longer before the "normal" time will arrive? I do hope the Liberal Unionists—though they are a very impenitent class—who have pledged themselves to the extension of Local Government, will mark the words of the Chief Secretary, that Ireland cannot have an extension of Local Government, such as has been given to England and Scotland, until she has arrived within normal conditions.
MR. A. J.BALFOUR
I never said that. I said that I saw great difficulty in giving particular powers suggested to the County Councils until Ireland was in a normal condition; and I observed that no powers of the kind indicated have been given to County Councils either in England or Scotland.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I wonder what the English or the Scotch County Councils would say if they were informed that, although a full extension of Local Government had been made, their rates might be pledged without their consent. It comes to this: that the extension of Local Government to Ireland, when the normal time arrives, is to be on such lines that it will be wholly unlike what has been given to Scotland and England, for it would be revolting to the minds of Englishmen that they were to have their credit pledged and their rates pledged without their having yea or nay to say in the matter. That is the scheme of Local Government which we have to look forward to from Her Majesty's Government when they think the normal time has come. A good deal has been said as to the 1931 difference between this Bill and the Bill of 1886. I notice rather a curious discrepancy between my noble Friend and the Chief Secretary, because my noble Friend said the principles of the Bill of 1870 were entirely opposed to those of the Bill of 1886, and the Chief Secretary said both Bills were, in fact, drawn upon the same lines, and that there was nothing essential or vital in the Bill of 1886 which we might not equally find and equally accept in the Bill of 1890. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that or something like it. We are told truly enough that the Bill of 1886 is dead, and at this moment I am not called upon to defend it, although I am quite ready to do so when a convenient time occurs. I fought my election in 1886 upon both the Home Rule Bill and the Land Purchase Bill; I never shirked the Bill of 1886. I am not now defending what happened in 1886, or talking about our consistency; but I merely wish to say that I found in the Bill of 1886 two vital principles, and that if they had been incorporated in this Bill I should have had some difficulty in resisting it. Bat those principles are not in the Bill of 1890. The first of these principles was that the British Exchequer should not come into direct contact with the individual debtor. In his speech to-night the right hon. Gentleman declared that we spoke of a buffer between the British Exchequer and the individual purchaser in Ireland. But the right hon. Gentleman was under a complete misapprehension, if he will allow me to say so. We laid down the principle that only an Irish authority, backed up by the general Irish nation, can enforce remedies that are indispensable to security for advances. In the Bill of 1886 there was no chance of communication between the British Exchequer and the individual Irish debtor.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I am not going to quarrel about the metaphor, but the word "buffer" is absolutely inapplicable; and when the right hon. Gentleman recommends this Bill because, amongst other grounds, it makes the British Exchequer the direct creditor of the individual debtor in Ireland, I say this Bill does that which the Bill of 1886 carefully, scrupulously, and systematically avoided 1932 doing. Then the Bill of 1886 contained in a distinct and perfect form this principle, without which I will never vote for a Land Purchase Bill: the condition I that the benefit of the use of British credit should not be confined exclusively to the Irish landlords, and to a certain section of what I call privileged tenants. I said in Debate in 1888, upon the renewal of Lord Ashbourne's Act, that if resort was to be made on a great scale to Imperial credit, we were bound to see that the benefits accruing from it should not be absolutely confined to one or two sets of individuals who were not numerous, but that they ought to be shared by all taxpayers. That was a fundamental principle of the Bill of 1886; and I recall it because the omission of that principle is my main reason for objecting to this Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, in introducing the Bill of 1886, said—and as we are likely to bear much of this controversy the House may not think I am unnecessarily taking up time in reading this passage—We are not acting simply for the interest of the Irish tenant. We are acting for the interests of the Irish labourer and the Irish community, and it is our duty, if Great Britain is to make an effort by the use of her credit to bring about an improved slate of tilings—it is our duty to leave some fair proportion of the resulting profit to be for the advantage of Ireland at large in case the whole of these transactions should go forward. The sum to become subject to the discretion of the Irish State Authority would not be much less than £400,000 a year.Therefore, under the Bill of 1886, if the transaction had gone forward, whatever might be said against it, at least there was this to be said for the use of British credit which is not to be said for the Bill of 1890; that a sum within the operation of that Bill—about £20,000,000—would have gone to general Irish purposes in the discretion of the Irish Government as a consequence of the resort to British credit. That made a most important and most vital difference. The objections to Imperial credit are almost insuperable in the minds of a large section of the public, and they can only be overcome, if they are to be overcome, on one condition—that it is a boon to Ireland as a whole and that the Irish Authorities directly enjoy some portion of it. I cannot justify Imperial credit being used for the 1933 benefit of Ireland under the principles of this Bill. The Bill of 1886 was a purchase Bill and much more—it was a Bill for helping the Irish taxpayer and for smoothing the work of the Irish Government. But the Bill now before the House not only fails to leave any portion for the benefit of Ireland at large, but it actually perpetrates the absurdity of imposing upon Ireland at large a general liability in order that a favoured section of Irishmen may enjoy particular benefits. We are talking upstairs on a certain Committee, of which I am a Member, of the waste that took place years ago when we allowed the colonies to make away with laud, but that waste was as nothing as compared with the waste you are making yourselves parties to—a waste of something that is quite as valuable as land or anything else. You are throwing away precisely as our ancestors did a great opportunity of using State credit for great public purposes. You will not get clear of this experiment of yours for less than £100,000,000, and for that you will get very little advantage, and I think it very doubtful whether you have any guarantees for even that little. I am not going to say very much about the guarantees because I think their illusory nature has been pretty fully exposed already, but I was surprised at the tone the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary took in talking about the funds which constitute the guarantees. He balked of them as though they were funds passing between a donor and a donee. Those funds are no such thing. They are funds in a partnership fund which are contributed by Ireland for Imperial purposes. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR shook his head.] Does the right hon. Gentleman really contend by his gesture that those funds are contributed to the Imperial Exchequer by Ireland for the purpose of enabling a certain number of Irish tenants to be made owners? No. They are contributed for Imperial purposes, and if you hypothecate them for a purpose not Imperial but local, and even personal, you are clearly inflicting a great wrong upon Ireland, and committing what the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) calls an act of brigandage. This is a matter where repudiation may take place. I would like to say a word about repudiation. I do not 1934 myself believe that the Irish tenants who purchase their holdings are at all likely to commit themselves to a policy of impudent, fraudulent, wholesale repudiation, for I do not think that the Irish tenant is either a fool or a rogue. [Ministerial cheers.] You cheer now when I say that, but what have you been saying for the last four years, both in this House and all over the country? In the Debate on the Report of the Judges what have you been saying except that the Irish tenants are a parcel of rebels and swindlers and the dupes of agitators. [Cries of "No—victims!"] This very night the Chief Secretary said that there had been driven into the fibre of the Irish peasantry the notion that to get rid of their obligations was a very great boon.
§ MR.J. MORLEY
Well, but those are the men whom you regard in this Bill as perfectly honest and incapable of breaking a bargain. Those men who have been so deteriorated are the men to whom some Chief Secretary will have to lend £100,000,000 of British money. This is a kind of inconsistency which seems to me to deprive of its value the defence which the Chief Secretary has set up for the policy of the present Bill. I do not myself apprehend wholesale and fraudulent repudiation, but I do apprehend two things. First, with regard to the purchaser himself, he will, no doubt, be subject, as farmers in Ireland are from time to time, to scarcity, and will be pinched for his rent. On the other hand, the Irish farmer is no longer what he used to be; he is no longer a creature, a serf, who will be content with the potatoes and salt which his landlord chooses to leave him. He is—chiefly, I believe, through the influence of the National League and the Land League—[cheers and cries of "Oh!"]—yes, you can call it a criminal conspiracy if you please, but I say that the National League and the Land League, whatever mischief and harm there may have been—and there was plenty of mischief and harm—by their operation have produced one good result at any rate—that the Irish tenant is now able to stand up erect; and he has been so unreasonable as to set up for himself a standard of comfort from which you will not easily drive him, and 1935 from which no man ought to wish to drive him. Well, the Irish purchaser, determined not to lower the decent standard of comfort at which he has arrived, will perhaps throw himself, when he is pinched, not upon repudiation, but upon some of the clauses which have been inserted in this Bill, which as I read them amount almost to a direct invitation to the purchaser to plead that he has been subjected to some exceptional calamity. On this head I should like to ask the Chief Secretary—I did not like to interrupt him in his speech, but it is an important point which even now he may deal with -whether the Government intend, when there is default, to resort at once, and in the first instance, to their legal remedies before they fall back upon the Guarantee Fund?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I suppose that that would depend upon the circumstances in which the default occurs.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for making that answer. I know what the difficulties are which he will have to face, and it is those difficulties that make me absolutely distrust the polity of this Bill. He admits that when there is default he will have to consider, in each individual case, whether or not he ought to enforce the legal remedies. Therefore it is a matter, I may say, of accident whether or not the legal remedies shall be put into force before the Guarantee Fund is to make good the default. I submit that that exposes a fatal weakness in the whole policy which this Bill is to carry out. I think that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will say that if the Irish tenant thinks that there is a chance of squeezing his landlord, like most of us, he is very likely to take the opportunity of doing it. Now, the Chief Secretary in what he has said to-night—and it is shown in the clauses of the Bill—admits that in each ease there will be a possible opening: to the tenant of squeezing the State and calling upon the sureties to make good his default. Therefore, I submit to the House that it is utter folly and infatuation for the British Government to attempt to enforce the remedies. It is only a native Government and a national Government, with all the force of Irish opinion behind it, that can secure a strict enforcement of the law. The 1936 Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other night that the Irish Government would perhaps have to evict and use the battering ram. It may be so; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows the incidents of European history, and does he mean to tell me that the brigands in Sicily who have been absolutely put down by the national Government could have been put down as easily by the Bourbons? My right hon. Friend knows well that it was because theirs was a foreign Government they could not put the law into force, and immediately the Government became a national Government it became perfectly possible, and so it will be in regard to enforcing the remedies in this case. On the point of repudiation I say that what you have to look forward to is not repudiation by the tenant: what you have to look forward to is, especially after what we have heard from gentlemen from Ireland in this Debate, is repudiation—and I do not say that it is very wrong—by the Irish counties of thoS3 liabilities which you have thus imposed upon them. I cannot see upon what principle you are to expect Irish ratepayers and Irish taxpayers to bear a burden for the sake of other people to which they have not consented, and which their Constitutional Representatives repudiate in this House and warn you they will repudiate in Ireland. I should like to say one word about the congested districts. The Government were congratulated by the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) upon having faced the difficulties of this question. I submit that they have not attempted in any real sense to face the difficulties of it; and I think that even hon. Gentlemen opposite who listened to my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), when he was speaking on a question which he knows so well, could not help feeling the contrast between the language of the Chief Secretary and that of the hon. Member, as the language of an amateur and a dilettante on the one hand, as compared with that of a man thoroughly versed in his subject on the other. I think that this must have impressed hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I cannot imagine a stronger argument for Home Rule, stronger than any abstract argument, than the contrast between the intimacy which my hon. 1937 Friend showed with, this difficult and perplexing subject and the want of intimacy shown by the Chief Secretary, though I am sure the Chief Secretary has done all that industry could do to acquire a full knowledge of the subject. I may as illustration refer to an incident, within my own experience, when I was Chief Secretary. I had to bring in a measure which was not at all successful for the relief of the districts affected by this part of the Bill. I will not go into the history of where the mistake lay; but this I do say, that I had good reason for not taking the advice of the hon. Member for Mayo, but if I had taken his advice that measure would have been much more prosperous and successful than it unfortunately happened to be. I predict that everything that is done by the Congested Districts Board—of which the Chief Secretary is to be the Chair-man or President—will have as melancholy a fate as the things that were done under the Relief Act which was passed in 1886. We have heard to-night from the Chief Secretary that the Government do not rely on emigration for the amalgamation of holdings. I want to call attention to this, because I know that in many quarters of the House emigration has been regarded as a solution of the problem of the congested districts. I will direct the notice of the House to one fact on this point, and one only—that in spite of all the emigration that took place during a considerable number of years in the districts which were scheduled in the Belief Act of 1886, which forms a large portion of the congested districts part of this Bill, the population rather increased than decreased. And not only so, but, what is perhaps better known, those who emigrated were the young and able-bodied, and those who were left behind were the old and feeble, and thus was prevented that very consolidation of holdings which the Chief Secretary now professes to desire. This Congested Districts Board with a changing Chief Secretary—for Chief Secretaries will change, even if the very magnanimous proposals of the hon. Member for Mayo be accepted, and a majority of Irish Members are placed on it, even then I doubt, subject as the Board must be to Dublin Castle, whether it will successfully effect the purpose the Chief Secre- 1938 tary has in mind. These districts will need 25 years—nay, 50 years, it may be—of skilful, patient, vigilant, persistent attention, and the men who will fulfil this condition must have the confidence of the Irish people, they must have the friendship of the Catholic Church, and the general public opinion of the country at their back. They must be men whose whole character, interest, and reputation are bound up in bringing about an improvement. Even then, and I am sure hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will agree with me, the task will be one of enormous difficulty. As it is, the Chief Secretary may depend upon it that he has entered upon, and is endeavouring to induce the House to enter upon, a course which will produce none of the results he so sanguinely desires. As to the composition of the Land Department, which is the third part of the Bill, the hon. Member for West Belfast has, perhaps, said as much about it as it is necessary to say; but in all the glorious history of waste, extravagance, and prodigality in Irish administration this third department of the Bill caps it all. The Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland Bill was a remarkable specimen of extravagance and prodigality. We resisted that Bill with success, and so I hope we shall resist almost the whole of the third part of this Bill. Four Judges are to be appointed at salaries amounting to £12,000 a year. These are gentlemen who were appointed at high salaries because the appointments were temporary, and who are to have higher salaries now because their appointments are not temporary. There is no earthly reason, I say, why one of the Irish Judges of the Supreme Court—who, as everybody who has thought for a moment on the subject is aware, are the most extraordinarily over-paid and under-worked men in the service of the Queen—should not be called upon to hear appeals, and why the work of the whole department should not be done by two Judicial Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman hopes that this Bill will produce peace and order in Ireland and prepare the people for a normal time. I am assured, and I am the more assured after what I have heard from the hon. Member for South Antrim, that in every direction it will cover the land with confusion. 1939 You will have round every estate which is to be sold a ring of tenants whose landlords do not sell; and I will read an extract from the statement of a deputation of Ulster tenants who waited upon the Chief Secretary in October last year on the subject of this Bill, which was then expected. They said—Where the Ashbourne Act does come into play it has no doubt set up centres of peace and prosperity, but they become centres of envy and discontent to those who are unable to obtain the benefits of its provisions;and they added that they looked forward with apprehension in the future to the spread of agitation and discontent in the country. That was the warning addressed by the Ulster Tenants' Association to the Chief Secretary; but, in spite of that warning, he has proceeded in the course which they deprecated. Therefore, we may reasonably expect that the results predicted by the so-called party of law and order in. Ireland are sure to come. Sir, the Irish landlords will perhaps now realise whether they can suffer anything worse from a Home Rule Parliament. At all events, the hon. Member for South Antrim has attributed to the operation of the Bill results as bad to Irish landlords as any which an Irish Parliament could inflict upon them. Depend upon it, no Bill can do any good to Ireland which on its introduction to this House is repudiated by every section of Irish opinion, whether it be the representatives of the landlords or the representatives of the tenants, whether it be the representatives of the so called party of order, or the representatives of the Nationalists. On these grounds, and apart from other grounds which touch us more particularly as English taxpayers, and because I believe that the Bill will increase confusion in Ireland, will remedy no evils, but will create new evils, I shall without any hesitation vote against the Second Reading.
MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
I will only detain the House a moment. I wish to express an opinion entertained by several Members on this side of the House. Speaking for the Member for South Buckinghamshire 1940 (Viscount Curzon) and myself we shall vote for the Bill as an attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to deal with a difficult subject; but we shall entirely reserve to ourselves full liberty to endeavour to amend the Bill in Committee in many great and material particulars.
§ (12.10.) The House divided:—Ayes348; Noes 268.—(Div. List, No. 66.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday next.
§ MR. SEXTON
Can the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury give us any indication of the further progress of the Bill? Will the Tithe Bill be taken before further progress is made with the Land Bill?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I presume that the date now fixed for the further stage of the Bill is only pro formâ, and that we shall receive notice before the Bill is really taken?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Are we to understand that the Committee on the Tithe Bill will be absolutely concluded before Committee on the Laud Bill is taken?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I have already stated that Committee on the Tithe Bill will precede Committee on the Land Bill.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Yes; but surely we are entitled to an answer to this plain question, whether it is intended that the Committee on the Tithe Bill shall be concluded before the Committee on the Land Bill commences?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I have stated that the Committee on the Tithe Bill will precede Committee on the Land Bill. I have also stated, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, that ample notice will be given of when it is proposed to take Committee on the Land Purchase Bill. I can say no more.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before One o'clock.