HC Deb 10 April 1891 vol 352 cc239-85

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 7, to leave out the words " the Land Purchase Acts after the commencement of."—(Mr. Conybeare.)

Question proposed, " That the words ' the Land Purchase Acts' stand part of the Clause."

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I am satisfied with the Debate which occurred last night. I understand that the Chief Secretary has undertaken to make some alteration of the Bill.


I wish to point oat, with regard to the Amendment moved last night by the hon. Member for Camborne, that the hon. Member for Long-ford had suggested that it would be an improvement if we allowed the £900,000, or so, out of the £10,000,000 originally granted under the Ashbourne Act to be allocated under this Act. That is not a matter with regard to which the Government has a strong opinion one way or another. I think it would be better to have one system of land purchase in Ireland, but I have no objection to the Amendment. However, the proper way would be to omit " for the purpose of such prior proceedings." If the hon. Member will withdraw the Amendment I will at the proper time move the omission of these words.


I am quite willing to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I have placed on the Paper an Amendment to this effect: In line 1, Subsection 1, after the word " Acts" to insert " as amended by this Act."


I accept the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, in Sub-section 1, after " Acts " insert " as amended by this Act."—(Mr. E. Robertson.)

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, to omit the words " for the purpose of such prior proceeding."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)

Question, " That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.

(3.24.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I have now to move to omit from line 10 in the clause the word "guaranteed." This is an important Amendment, because if it is accepted there will unquestionably have to be a considerable change in the Bill in regard to the mode of procedure. I object to a Guaranteed Stock, because I believe that the responsibility of the country should not be nominal, but real, and at the last election the country decided against incurring any liability for the objects of this Bill. I do not think those objects are such as to justify us in throwing more responsibility on the taxpayers. There is, in the Bill, both a suppressio veri and a suggestio falsi; and the Government try to persuade the unfortunate taxpayer that he will incur no liability. If we assume that estates of the value of £150,000,000 are to be sold, we may take it that, before getting back our Sinking Fund in full, at least a century will elapse. From whom do we buy these estates? We buy them from the Irish landlord for cash. To whom do we sell them? We sell, the estates to the present tenants. Many of these tenants have very small holdings, and Sir James Caird says there is no economic rent in these small holdings. We should thus come into the legal right to extort what ought not to be extorted. The Chief Secretary says there would be a margin, but that depends on whether the price of produce would be maintained. Who can guarantee that the price of produce will not fall during the next century? In all probability it will fall. We know that there has been a heavy fall in the price of produce during the last 20 years. While the purchase of land will be regarded by business men as a bad investment in Ireland, there are special reasons why it might be regarded as a bad speculation. In Ireland there are a large number of properties supposed to be worth millions, which are now in the Encumbered Estate Court or in Chancery, and cannot find purchasers. Only two years ago the Land Commissioners reported that 15 years was too long a term to grant without a revision of rent owing to the rise and fall in the price of produce. If these properties had been bought in 20 years ago, the purchasers would have been told that their security was perfectly safe, and yet we now know that the loss would have been very considerable. We may, therefore, fairly say that it is problematical that in the next 20 years there may not be a fall equivalent to that which has taken place within the last 20 years. Whilst the purchase of land in England would be regarded by business men as a bad or questionable investment, in Ireland there are special reasons why it would be regarded as a bad speculation. Rent in Ireland has not the sanctity of property which rent elsewhere has. There is a feeling—I do not say whether it is right or wrong —against rent in Ireland. Landlords in Ireland are not popular. Does anyone suppose this feeling will diminish? Does anyone suppose that landlords will be more popular when England is made the landlord in many cases? Common sense tells us the reverse will be the case. It tells us rent will soon be called Land Tax or tribute paid to an alien Government. Last year the Chief Secretary told us we were entirely mistaken in supposing there would be any opposition to the payment of this tribute or annuity, because no one had protested under the Ashbourne Act. But we find there are numerous protests against that Act. There are many persons unwilling or unable to pay rent, and who ask for a reduction of the annuity. You may take it that although the tenants may possibly be able to pay their rents, there will be what I may term a political strike against rent. That assuredly is possible, and I think it exceedingly probable. It is absolutely impossible to meet this by eviction. You cannot, for a moment, think of evicting hundreds of thousands of persons because they do not choose to pay their rent. I have here a statement by a right hon. Gentlemen who, with hon. Gentlemen opposite, is a great authority upon this matter, I allude to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). Speak-in Scotland he said— Working men of England and Scotland, you will be Irish landlords; you will have to evict the tenants; you will have to collect your rent at the point of the bayonet, and I refuse to be a party to such contingencies. What does the right hon. Gentleman say now? Is he not a party to such contingencies? These contingent securities cannot be impounded until evictions have taken place; therefore, evictions are the first things that will have to take place. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman overcomes his refusal to be a party to these contingencies, where are we to get buyers? Who in the name of wonder would buy these holdings? At present when a man is evicted you have the greatest difficulty to induce anyone else to take the farms owing to the strength of public opinion which is brought to bear against the persons who take evicted farms. Unquestionably that difficulty would be very greatly increased if evictions were to take place at the instance of the British Government. But the Bill suggests you should farm these farms yourselves. Can anything be more ridiculous? Practically, all we have for the repayment by the tenants is their goodwill. They will decide in their own consciences whether they will pay or not. No doubt you will find a very large number of persons who in-some place or other will decide they will not pay. I have here also the opinions of other eminent men. What does Lord i Selborne say? He considers the tenants would not pay rent, and he proves satisfactorily to himself and to me that Solomon was of the same opinion. He says— I know very well that Mr. Gladstone has persuaded himself that, if this immense accession is made to the National Debt, we may-rely on the Irish re-paying. Now, I have authority even higher than Mr. Gladstone's for warning you against suretyship, even for a less amount. In a certain Book of Proverbs it is said, ' He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it, and he that hateth suretyship is sure.' Look at the party from whom repayment is expected in this ease. I feel sure that if the country enters into these transactions it must expect to pay. So much for Lord Selborne, backed up by Solomon. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) said— The first effect will be that the tribute asked from Ireland will be unpaid. It would be idle to think of exacting tribute, or the interest on any loans you may advance to a starving peasantry or to the unemployed artisans of once flourishing communities. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham, addressing some people somewhere, said— Yes, and you were to take the risk, which at the beginning was to be £50,000,000, and which very soon would have been £200,000,000, and you were to take that on a security on which I venture to say no private individual and no Financial Company would have advanced one farthing. It is said we do not advance more than £30,000,000. Personally, I think we involve ourselves in the necessity, if we agree to this grant, of advancing a very much greater sum. I put the minimum at £150,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian limited in his Bill the liability to £50,000,000, and then hon. Gentlemen opposite said we should he forced to advance £200,000,000 or £250,000,000. The same arguments which went to show that if you advanced under the right hon. Gentleman's Bill £50,000,000 you would have to advance a larger sum, go to show that if you advance £30,000,000 at present you will have to advance a larger sum, only they are considerably stronger now than they were then. We do not select estates. It is the first come , first served. This is proved by what took place under the Ashbourne Act. Under that Act the Duke of Abercorn received £267,000, and the Duke of Leinster received £244,000. I do not say they were in any way bad landlords, but they applied first and they got the money. What will be the result of the operation of this Bill? We shall have two classes of tenants in Ireland. The first class will be what I may term the tenants of the State. They will pay lower rent than the other tenants, and will at the end of .49 years obtain their holdings. The other class will be the tenants of private individuals. They will pay a higher rent than the tenants of the State, and at the end of 49 years they will not get their holdings. It seems to me obvious that this will create such agitation and confusion that the only way out of the difficulty will be to buy all the land of Ireland. But the Bill only deals with £30,000,000, and it is asserted that if the tenants do not pay, we are to secure repayment from other sources. I admire the ability of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in trying to make a really good financial omelette out of rotten eggs, as I shall show the other securities to be. The first of the other securities is that we retain one-fifth of the purchase money in our hands. This would undoubtedly be a cover so far as one-fifth is concerned if we were to give the real value of the estate, but as a matter of fact we begin by giving about one-fifth more than the value of the estate. The Chief Secretary said we buy on a certain number of years' purchase on the net value. We do not buy on the net value, we buy on the gross value, less the local contributions of the landlord. No allowance of any sort or kind is made for expenses of management, local charges, cost of eviction, or other incidentals. This one-fifth is perfectly illusory. We are told the British taxpayer is absolutely and entirely protected from any chance of having to pay. We collect £1,169,000 from Ireland every year by way of Imperial taxation. This, capitalised, amounts to £29,717,000, which it is proposed to advance in these guaranteed bonds. It is said, therefore, that the British taxpayer is secure by holding this money in his hand even if the tenants or annuitants do not pay. That is very pretty in theory, but let us look at the fact. The £1,169,000 is made up of a considerable number of items. In the Return which is furnished to us of the amount of each item, the first class of items is called the cash portion of the guarantee fund. That amount is not in any way allocated at the present moment to any particular service. That amounts to £293,000 per annum. I think the Government might have added £40,000 or £35,000, the Customs portion. I admit this is absolute cover, so far as it goes, although it is doubtful whether we could really refuse to give it to Ireland, and whether, if we did refuse to give it as now, we should not be called upon to give it to Ireland in some other shape or form—in meal, or malt, or something else. If I add £35,000 to the £293,000, it gives us £328.000. The capitalisation of this sum is £8,025,000. Therefore, we have to find somewhere else £841,924 in order to make the capitalisation up to £29,717,000. How is this done? And here comes in the ingenuity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman takes the Imperial contributions to local charges— to the maintenance of lunatics in workhouses, the salaries to workhouse schoolmasters, allowances to medical officers, and payments for medicine for dispensaries and medical appliances. I assert this expenditure could not be withheld. It is absolutely necessary for the future of civil society. It is absurd to say we could allow the lunatics to go at large. We could not refuse to pay schoolmasters and others in Ireland because a number of tenants—our tenants—had refused to pay us their rents. If the counties did not meet this expenditure you would have to meet it. The State pays a portion of the charge for the police of London. Does anyone say that we might mortgage that portion and go without the police? What have these unfortunate lunatics, these schoolmasters, these paupers specially to do with the fact that the Imperial Parliament takes upon itself to enter into these transactions? Are you to say to a lunatic: " I will turn you loose if a tenant in Tipperary does not pay me "; are you to say to an unfortunate schoolmaster: " Go; you shall not have your salary;" are you to say to the pauper: " You shall starve because I cannot get some money from the tenant?" The real amount of cover from Ireland is £328,000, which capitalised will make £8,025,000. That leaves £21,691,000 absolutely uncovered. The Government have another plan forgetting back our money, although, if their former plan were good they would not trouble themselves to provide other securities. They propose, if the money is not paid by the tenants, that the Lord Lieutenant shall be empowered to issue a precept to any defaulting county to make up by means of a rate the amount due. If the default is owing to distress. how can we get the rate any more than the rent? The same may be said in the case of a political strike. If the people should say, " We are not going to pay the rent," are they likely to recognise their obligation to pay the rate? Then I ask what does the grocer in Tipperary gain from your giving credit to the Tipperary farmer? Yet you say, " If the Tipperary farmer does not pay you come down on the Tipperary grocer.'' You do not intend to obtain the consent of the county to levy this local rate or to enter into these transactions. You impose these transactions on the the county and, having done so, if the individual does not pay you call on the whole county to pay. Yet this is the Government which, during the last few years, has been prating about introducing a grand scheme of local self-government for Ireland. I think one thing seems to be forgotten. Before you can impound any of the local money, or levy any rates, you must exhaust all possible means of getting the money from the particular individual who owes it to you, that is to say you must proceed by eviction. We have the statement of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) that he never will assent to the contingency of eviction, and, therefore, he never will assent to our obtaining our money in any other way, because eviction must be the primary step. But allowing that the £30,000,000 are amply covered by the securities, I think that a fatal mistake has been made in the calculations. As the money comes in we are to reinvest it in fresh purchases. New credits are to be opened before the old are extinguished. The consequence is that there is an overlapping. What will happen in the fortieth year? The State will in that year have £1,169,000 covered, but it will in that year lose about £2,250,000, and therefore will be above £1,000,000 short. Assuming the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be perfectly right, we shall not be protected so far; because, instead of investing the money in Consols, we are to invest it in other securities risky in themselves. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham has said that if we could show that the securities were not covered he would be an inconsistent person. I have shown it. Now, what advantage, social or political, is to be derived from this purchase of land, which outweighs the risk? In 1881 an Act was passed creating dual ownership in Ireland. That was regarded as a perfect panacea for all the ills of Ireland; but now we are told that it is so unjust and injurious a measure that we ought to risk £30,000,000 to get rid of it. What is this dual ownership? I lake it as simply meaning fixity of tenure and fail-rent. If the rent is not fair let it he made fair. You have laid it down that a fair rent is the margin that remains after the tenant is allowed to live and thrive. You based your legislation of 1881 on the landlord being only allowed to exact a fair rent. If the rent is unfair then reduce it. But if the rent is fair, why change it; why not leave it as it is? I see no earthly reason why the taxpayers should pay in order to convert these exceedingly fortunate tenants into freeholders—they are much better off than English agricultural occupiers, and why, because they are better off, are they to be converted into owners at the risk of the British taxpayers? Now, here in London we have dual ownership, we have heavy ground rents, and very few people are able to get freehold's; the people of London pay excessive rents and they are badly lodged owing to the high price of land resulting from this system of dual ownership. We have long complained of this, and we have urged reform, but we have never come to the State for assistance. When the Londoners ask for the enfranchisement of leaseholds they do not ask the State to lend them the money for 49 years, they say they are willing to pay for this; and if people in Ireland want to be freeholders why should they not pay for it? Why are we in London to incur the cost of making the Irish tenants freeholders? Let them in Ireland as in London, if they want to become freeholders, pay for it themselves and not come sponging on the State for credit and assistance. Further, why should it be for agricultural tenants only that State aid in this direction should be invoked? There are plenty of manufacturers and traders who, if they could obtain capital at 2¾ per cent., with 49 years given to pay the principal, would be able greatly to benefit themselves and to give a share of the benefits to their employés under them. There is a name I can mention which will command respect on both sides of the House—the late Mr. John Bright. What does he say on this question of dual ownership in Ireland? Mr. Bright, writing to Lord Kilmorey in 1887, said— The Land Act of 1881 and the Land Courts have given 15 years leases to the tenants at a rent fixed by the Courts during the period of 15 years. To me there seems no reason why, under those leases, landlord and tenant should not live in as much harmony as they have lived in past times' under ordinary leases in Ireland, and as they live now in Great Britain. I do not agree with those who are saying so much about the dual ownership, as if there is great importance in that phrase. Well, I do not see why tenants should not be left to this dual ownership. II; is somewhat curious that hon. Gentlemen opposite and Liberal Unionists should be now so anxious for the extinction of landlords in Ireland, that they should consider they have a sort of function of a political St. Patrick to drive out landlords from Ireland, as if they were so many snakes. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian made a proposal of this kind all those gentlemen denounced it as a perfect monstrosity. Lord Salisbury said— If the money is to be spent, for Heaven's sake let it be spent in a common-sense way, not spent in a fantastic scheme which never, in the experience of the human race, has been attempted before. I can show the Prime Minister a better way of spending the money than in buying the landlords out. 1 do not say I recommend it, because I am not at all convinced that the electors of Great Britain ought to bear such a tremendous burden; but, assuming that the Government is right in thinking that they ought to bear it, I would point out to them that if they could only emigrate another million of the Irish people, they might do it for a great deal less than that sum. Again, speaking to an assembly of Primrose dames and knights, on the same date, Lord Salisbury said— Buying out landlords for the purpose of evading the duty of protecting them would he a cowardly shirking of our responsibility. What did the President of the Board of Trade say speaking to his constituents at Bristol?— If a large liability is to be incurred for Ireland by this country, it would be better spent in promoting emigration rather than in that wild scheme of buying out the Irish landlords which Mr. Gladstone proposes. In a manifesto of Liberal Unionists at Liverpool, signed by Lord Derby, the measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was thus described— A measure bad in itself, likely to be disastrous to Ireland and injurious to Great Britain, pregnant with danger of future strife and collision, and involving the expenditure of many millions of the hard-earned money of the taxpayer. What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say? Upon finance I may say I am a disciple of the right hon. Gentleman, and I treasure up everything he says. Speaking in Scotland the right hon. Gentleman said— You are going to expropriate and expatriate the whole of the landlords in Ireland to other parts of the United Kingdom. You are leaving Ireland to fight her way alone with this burden on her, having removed from the country most of those who might contribute to her support. Does the right hon. Gentleman say " Hear, hear " to that? [Mr. GOSCHEN: Hear, hear !] Very well. The Duke of Rutland, too, was very indignant with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian for bringing in the measure. Speaking at Hatfield he said— Part of the scheme of the Government was the expropriation of the existing landlords of Ireland. What class was it that maintained the large section of the Irish people, the day labourers, the grooms, the gardeners, the men-servants and the maid-servants, the vast body of people who could not be reckoned either as landlords, tenants, or manufacturers? Why it was the landlords of Ireland, whom it was proposed to exile from their native land. These people would have to emigrate to England, and the English labourer and artisan would find additional Irish competition not only beating down their wages but rendering it impossible for wages to be sustained or increased. Well, I do not find myself able to agree with all the Duke of Rutland has said, but I am inclined to agree with him here. If you remove the rents and the landlords it would be beneficial, but if you remove the landlords and substitute a great absentee landlord in the State, if you carry away the rents to another country, then I think the Duke of Rutland is entirely right and that you do harm by spending money in this way. We have in this country a large revenue derived from land, especially in rents, and imagine what this country would suffer if all these rents were paid into France and withdrawn from this country. But in Ireland the case is much stronger. Here we have other industries than that of agriculture, but agriculture is practically the only industry in Ireland, and yet you lightly say you are going to take away the rents arising out of this industry, and that you will benefit the country by so doing. I say the money we are asked to vote now will be wasted, and that for all the good it will do you might just as well convert it into bullion and cast it into the sea. The Government will not effect their own purpose by this measure. Their object is to do away with dual ownership in Ireland; but there will still be dual ownership between the State and the tenants. They will establish in place of the dual ownership between the tenants and the landlords, some of whom are resident, a dual ownership between the tenants and the non-spending State, and this is to go on for 49 years. What happens at the end of that term I do not care, and I do not know that anyone does. As practical men we must look a little closer to the immediate future than that. Then, again if you convert the tenant into owner he may and no doubt will sell or let. You cannot prevent it by legislation, you cannot make the people adscriptus glebœ, a sort of caste as in India—an agricultural caste, and say, " You were born on this land, you must remain on this land, and throughout your life you must continue to cultivate this spot of land." Who really does benefit by all this outlay? Do the landlords? Some undoubtedly do. Some landlords will sell well. They will pocket their money and go somewhere else to enjoy it. But many landlords do not wish to do that. What will their position be?—for instance, I take the case of the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). I believe he is a landlord who deals fairly with his tenants, and he probably wishes to remain in Ireland. Look at the unfortunate position in which he will be placed. I think it ought to induce him to come to our assistance in our endeavour to do away with this guarantee. He is on good terms with his tenants, and they pay only fair rents. But neighbouring tenants are suddenly enabled, by the use of British credit, to pay less rent and to take possession of their holdings at the end of 49 years. Will he not thus be placed in a false position? Will he not find himself at feud with his tenants from whom he demands nothing but a fair rent, or will he not have to reduce his rents below that which is fair simply because others around have had their rents reduced by the assistance of the State? I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the sake of the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his position as a fair landlord, to pause before they assent to the scheme of the Government. Do the tenants profit in any way? I do not think they will if they keep faith. They will have to pay a fixed amount for 49 years. I would rather pay on a sliding scale with a revision every 15 years than pay a fixed amount in 49 years. It may be a good bargain or a bad one. I can conceive it being such a bad bargain that they could not pay; but as they have not the remotest intention to pay and as they know that it is the British taxpayer who will have to pay, in that sense they will make a good bargain for themselves. Will Ireland be benefited? I have pointed out the effect of the absenteeism proposed to be created. Will the relations between the two countries be improved? Surely not. When we become the owners of the land in Ireland we shall inherit all the ill-feeling engendered by centuries of injustice, and be hated as landlords of the country. Who, then, will get the benefit? Some landlords will, and the tenants will if they do not pay; but the real persons who will gain will be our friends in the City here—the mortgagees. Companies have advanced enormous sums on estates in Ireland, for while in England they get 4 per cent. they get 5 per cent. in Ireland, and there is the natural result of high interest and bad security. These companies cannot foreclose; they cannot get their interest, and they are delighted with the Bill because it will enable them to be paid in full. The mortgagees will be the beneficiaries. How are the Irish Members going to vote? My impression is that they are going to vote for the guarantee because they regard the money as a gift. As sensible men, they know that much nonsense is talked about security, but that nobody in Ireland dreams of paying a halfpenny. A few months ago, I read a speech of Lord Salisbury's, in which he urged as a reason why this Bill should be passed that it would render Home Rule impossible. Irish Members are therefore selling their birthright for a mess of pottage, and a rotten mess of pottage it is, too. Still, with us Home Rule is a principle, and, come what may, we still remain Home Rulers. There is Homo Rule and Home Rule, and by aiding the Government to pass this Bill Irish Members are -making it somewhat difficult for Radicals to give them that very large measure of Home Rule which they desire. Control over the land of Ireland is a portion of the measure of Home Rule which should be given to Ireland; but the electors will say, " It is not Irishmen's land, it is our land. The Irishmen have bargained it away for our money, and we must look after that land, and exercise some sort of control over it. We may be base and bloody Saxons, but we are mortgagees; we have our rights, and must look after them." It is suggested that the Bill may remove a difficulty, that if they get hold of the land the Tories will perhaps agree to allow the Irish to exercise control; but the Tories will do nothing of the sort. On the contrary, they will use the fact of this money being advanced as an argument against giving the Irish control over the land. It may be said, some Liberals do not go so far as others as to the amount of control to be granted, and that if the Bill passes we shall become a happy family in this matter. Well, I do not see how the difficulty that exists is to be removed by the Bill. There can be no absolute finality in legislation on land. Whether you pass this Bill or not you must place the control over land with an English or an Irish Parliament, and the difficulty will exist whether you pass the Bill or not. Personally I could never understand how any one calling himself a Liberal, much less a Radical, can hesitate for a moment to give the Irish full control over the land. I do not understand the distinction between property in land and anything else. I can understand the opposition to Home Rule but that anybody in favour of Home Rule should say we will give the Irish Parliament full power to deal with manufacturers and other property, but reserve to the English Parliament the right of control over land, seems to me absolutely illogical. It may be asked why are we so indignant at this guarantee, particularly as the Liberal Government brought in a Bill with a similar sort of guarantee. Well, that does not concern me, for I voted against it, and undoubtedly of the two Bills that was the better. The annuities were to be paid from the Irish Exchequer, and if we had an Irish Parliament the Irish Local Authorities would act as a buffer between us and the actual tenants. But the real point is this, that it is no use going back to that; we must recognise the fact that at the last General Election the people declared against any species of Imperial guarantee being given for the purpose of purchasing land. No great measure involving a huge liability like this should be passed without the approval of the country being obtained to it, and à fortiori no great measure like this should be passed when the country has expressed disapproval of such a measure, as the country at the General Election did. At the last General Election not only did Members on this side declare against an Imperial guarantee, But almost every Tory, as well as Liberal Unionist, went to the electors with the cry, " Do not return the Liberals to Parliament, although Mr. Gladstone has declared the Land Purchase Bill is dead, for it is humanly possible that he may bring it in in another shape. Send us to Parliament as the guardians and protectors of the Imperial Exchequer against the possible raids of Mr. Gladstone." I have in my pocket 69 addresses of Conservative and Liberal Unionists [Cries of " Read, read "] which I have obtained at the British Museum. The hon. Gentleman would not say "Bead" if he realised the utter sameness in the addresses. I will, however, read one or two as samples. Here is one signed " Algernon Borthwick," who is, I presume, the Member for South Kensington. He said— The English taxpayer in these times of hardship and depression is to be asked to contribute millions on millions upon the chance of the Irish tenant farmers paying their rents to the permanently-absentee landlord—the British Treasury. Common sense, honesty, loyalty, and law all condemn the wild and dangerous scheme which the Premier (Mr. Gladstone) has adopted. The next extract is from the address of Mr. Bartley, the Member for North Islington, who said— The very heavy additional burden of taxation which the policy of the Government involves in buying out the Irish landlords seems to me to be both unjust and unnecessary to the English, Scotch, and Welsh taxpayer. Viscount Baring, the Member for the Biggleswade Division, said— I am opposed to the Land Bill, because the British taxpayer would become liable to a charge of at least £30,000,000, and probably not less than £200,000,000, for the purchase of the property of the landlords of Ireland. Lord Henry Bruce, Chippenham, in his address, said— That you, the British taxpayer, should, out of your hard-earned incomes, —we all know this style— be called upon to pay the fabulous sum of from £50,000,000 to £150,000,000 to buy out the landlords, and that in future the odium is to devolve on your shoulders of collecting their rents—which will assuredly be considered foreign tribute—is a burden which I imagine you will not for a moment tolerate. Mr. Gathorne-Hardy, East Grinstead Division, said— The second Bill provided for buying out the landlords at an enormous expense, which would almost certainly eventually fall upon the British taxpayer. It was the principle of this scheme, and no mere Resolution, which was decisively rejected by Parliament. I have taken these as the most moderate samples, but all alike condemn the principle of an Imperial guarantee. The present Bill unquestionably gives such a guarantee, and that guarantee is justified by the most transparent of subterfuges, the subterfuge being, I fancy, the effort of the Member for West Birmingham. That right hon. Gentleman explained all over the country that he had a plan for reducing rents and making occupiers owners with no loss to landlords, no Imperial guarantee, no liability to the British taxpayer. Well, we wondered how he was going to do this, and for a long time he did not produce his plan, but at last this plan is produced, and, I presume, we owe it to him. He says that guarantee is merely nominal, and there is no real liability. But I think I have shown that there is, and I think we can, as men of business, judge of the security. I put it to men of business, if you were to go into the City and ask for a loan on this security in the Bill without this guarantee would you get it? How much money would you get? I defy the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get up. in his place and fairly and honestly say that, from his knowledge of the City of London, he could place a loan for the purposes of the Bill without a general Imperial guarantee at 5, 7, or even 10 per cent. But this violation of a pledge on the part of a great Party is really more important than the financial loss, because it strikes at the confidence that ought to be entertained by the country in the majority of the House of Commons, whether Liberal or Conservative. The Party opposite call themselves constitutional: I think their conduct in this matter is unconstitutional—so unconstitutional that I was going to say it was "dishonourable;" but I will not do that; I will say, " Brutus is an honourable man." We know that if this Bill is passed here, there is no chance of its being thrown out in the House of Lords, which is a mere pale reflex of the majority in this House. I suppose if the Liberal Party were to bring in a Bill in opposition to their pledges to the country, the House of Lords would throw it out; and they would be justified in doing so. But you do not expect the House of Lords to do that now. The head of the House of Lords is the head of the Government, and gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench opposite are merely his clerks. These are my chief reasons for moving this Amendment. I have not a vestige of doubt that I shall be beaten, because I do not believe that the present Government could propose anything, no matter how monstrous, no matter how contrary to the pledges that had been given at an election, which their henchmen on that side and on this side would not vote for. Though we shall be beaten, we shall have done our duty. We shall have protested against this guarantee on it merits, and have protested against it as one of the grossest violations of confidence ever perpetrated by Representatives against those they re- present. Though we shall be beaten, I have no doubt that the electors will take the matter up at the next General Election. Two days ago an eminent Member of this House, taking part in the proceedings on some festive occasion, in returning thanks, said this-House was on its death-bed. My only prayer is that it may never rise from its death-bed.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the word " guaranteed."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

Question proposed, "That the word ' guaranteed ' stand part of the Clause."

(4.35.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

The hon. Member who has just sat down has taken the opportunity afforded by the Amendment standing in his name to make a most elaborate Second Reading speech against the Bill. No topic touched upon in the prolonged Debates that took place last year on the Second Reading, so far as my recollection serves me, has been left untouched—I will not say unadorned—by the hon. Member. He has discussed the necessity, or absence of necessity, for land purchase. He has. discussed the advantages and disadvantages of landlordism, and he has discussed the advantages and disadvantages of dual ownership. Whether the course taken by the hon. Member was strictly in order it is not for me to say. [Opposition cries of " Order !" " Chair !" and " Withdraw ! "


Order, order !


Yes; whether he was strictly in order it is not for me to say. I think that it will, at all events, be admitted that is not my bounden duty to follow the hon. Member closely through all the topics to which ho has thought fit to refer. One observation made by the hon. Member caused me some surprise. The hon. Member expressed his inability to understand the frame of mind of any person who thought that a legislative distinction could be drawn between landed property in Ireland and other kinds of property. He said he could understand the frame of mind of those who oppose Home Rule, but that the frame of mind of anyone who could be so silly as to suppose that legislative precautions had to be taken in the case of Irish land which need not be taken in the case of other property in Ireland was a degree of stupidity that he could not understand. If the hon. Member's view is right, the most stupid men in this House are the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and the right hon. Member for Newcastle, and their stupidity is shared by nearly every considerable Member of this House, except the hon. Member himself, who has in the last 10 or 15 years expressed an opinion upon the Irish land question. Then the hon. Member raised a topic which is not raised for the first time in this House. He dwelt on what he termed the inconsistency of the Tory Party in making themselves responsible for a large scheme of land purchase in Ireland, and quoted some election addresses to show that objection was taken by Conservative Members to the Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. Of course, objection was taken to that Bill; and if it should be revived, I think the hon. Member would find that the same objections would be taken by the same people, and on the same grounds, and that it would not be necessary to express them in different language to that which was used in 1886. The objection made in 1886 was not to land purchase in the abstract. [Laughter.] The opinion I am expressing is founded entirely upon the extracts quoted by the hon. Member. The Committee will see from those extracts that what was objected to was the risk of loss to which the British taxpayer was exposed by the Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. But those who opposed that measure do not think that risk is thrown upon the British taxpayer by the Bill before the Committee. They may be right or wrong. I shall in a few moment's have to explain why I think they are right; but whether they are right or wrong, there is no inconsistency in their position, which is that the scheme advanced by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian in 1886, connected as it was with a scheme for a Home Rule Parliament, was essentially insecure; whereas the present Bill, with its entirely different sets of guarantees and its different machinery for recouping the British taxpayer, and with no association with a Home Rule measure, is a Bill which may be accepted in perfect security by even the most anxious economist. The hon. Member has asked us—and again this is a question which has been asked before in the House—what financial house in the City would lend money upon the security provided by this Bill. I reply that if you were to go into the City and say, " You shall have absolute control over that part of the Imperial Fund which goes to support Irish local taxation; the Guarantee Fund shall be put into your till if there is any insufficiency of payment," there is no house that would refuse to accept the proposal. The security is absolute. If you gave an Imperial pledge—if this House were to give a pledge that the £30,000,000- to name a sum—of the Guarantee Fund should be paid to the City house in case of insufficiency in the receipts from Irish land, of course no firm would refuse to take the responsibility, and the House of Commons is in exactly the same position as this hypothetical firm.


The Government are under the prior obligation of keeping the lunatics in Ireland.


There is no obligation of a financial kind to keep the lunatics.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

How about the police and removables?


I trust we shall not hear much more about this hypothetical firm. The hon. Member for Northampton has criticised the security for the advance of money by the State, saying that agricultural produce is very likely to fall in value. The hon. Member said that arrangements are going to be made with the tenants which will cover a period of 49 years, that during that period any number of vicissitudes may affect agriculture as they have done in the past, and that as the income the occupier receives is diminished, so his ability to pay will diminish with it, and we may find we have lent our money on agricultural security which has greatly shrunk in value. Of course, no one can absolutely forecast the future, and what the hon. Member predicts with regard to the value of agricultural produce may come to pass, but there are two observations with which I may meet the hon. Member's criticism. The small tenants whom the hon. Member has in his mind as those who will suffer most by a, shrinkage in the value of agri- cultural produce sell only a small and insignificant portion of the produce of their holdings. The greater part they consume themselves; and in respect of that part, therefore, it matters not a farthing whether the price goes up or down. Then I believe the tenants will very seldom have to pay more than 80 per cent. of their present rents; and in the case of the small petty holdings which afford least security, no doubt the number of years' purchase will be proportionately small, and the reduction in the annual payments in proportion to the present rents comparatively large. In the poorer districts of the West I suppose there will be few cases of more than 15 years' purchase, and the reductions will probably be reductions of 40, 50, or even 60 per cent. upon the rents now paid. The margin supplied by such reductions is so enormous that I think we may look forward with perfect equanimity to anything that nay happen to agriculture in the next 49 years, and not anticipate any difficulty of the kind the hon. Member has referred to. We must also bear in mind that the eventuality of periods of exceptional distress is met by the creation of two kinds of Reserve Funds which will, I believe, be adequate to bear any strain that is likely to be thrown upon them. So much for the objection of the hon. Gentleman, on the score that the land on which the money is lent will fall in value. But then the hon. Gentleman complains that the Government give too much for the land, and settle too long a term of years for the purchase. I think that the hon. Gentleman must have had in view the Bill of last year; the Bill of this year mentions no number of years' purchase, and leaves the whole question entirely to the landlord and tenant to settle what price they shall receive and give, subject to the decision of the Land Commissioner that the land given in security is ample to meet the loan made upon it. The hon. Gentleman has based his speech upon, not memory, but forgetfulness of last year's Bill. The hon. Gentleman, however, has preserved the greater portion of his criticism for the Guarantee Fund. For my own part, I fully accept the principle that the Government cannot ask the House of Commons or the country to lend more money than they have already lent on the security of Irish land without supplementing the security in some effective manner. I contend that we have succeeded in doing so. The hon. Member has, first, taken the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund, and his criticism is, " I grant that the cash portion fully covers the £8,000,000 or so advanced, but even as far as the cash portion is concerned, you will have to evict before you use it, and eviction is a thing from which you will shrink, and is a thing in which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham has expressed the opinion that he will never take part." But it being accepted that the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund is inadequate, the hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken with regard to the question of eviction, which is not in any way an essential preliminary. The Bill provides that as soon as there is any deficiency in the Land Purchase Account in consequence of the non-payment of annuities, immediately the Treasury shall seize upon an amount of the cash in its possession equivalent to the default, quite irrespective of any payment on the part of the tenant, or of selling his holding. The criticism of the hon. Gentleman on the cash portion is, therefore, based upon an imperfect acquaintance with the contents of the Bill. With regard to the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund, the criticism is that since that portion of the money is devoted to such local purposes as the support of pauper lunatics and other analogous purposes, it will be impossible for this House, under any circumstances, to touch it. For my own part, I fully believe that under no conceivable circumstances which any practical statesman can contemplate will it ever be necessary to touch the contingent portion of the fund. Even the hon. Member himself does not contemplate a general conspiracy against the payment of the annuities. But if there were, for my own part I do not believe that the House would shrink from requiring the locality to pay a tax sufficient fully to pay the deficiency in the cash portion. Before we can arrive at the contingent portion we have to conceive a universal conspiracy against payment of the annuities all over Ireland; that the localities refuse to pay the tax legally put upon them to meet the deficiency; and that this House will be so soft-hearted — I was going to say pusillanimous—as to meet this deliberate conspiracy against the taxpayers of this country by calmly repealing the Act and giving to the localities—who must have been privy to the conspiracy—funds to which they have no earthly right. I do not believe that the House would hesitate for a moment if the contingency arose. But is this possible? I contend that it is not. I dealt with this question at very great length last year, both on the First and on the Second Reading of the Bill, when I gave detailed financial arguments and figures which nobody has attempted to meet. Does the hon. Gentleman think that it is so easy to get up a universal conspiracy against the payment of annuities?




Then I maintain that the hon. Gentleman knows little about Ireland. In order to make such a universal conspiracy successful they must, in the first place, deal with a landlord whose pecuniary position is such that he cannot stand by himself; secondly, the conspiracy must be backed up by a system of boycotting and intimidation; and thirdly, the conspirators must have enormous funds at their disposal. I believe that the amount paid out of the Land League funds to each evicted tenant is about £3a month, and from that anybody may calculate what sum it would need to back up a universal conspiracy against the payment of annuities. It would require millions, and where are they going to get those millions? The hon. Member seemed to think that the Government would be under the necessity of cultivating the holdings. What the Government would do would be simply to turn the tenants out of their holdings. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] I suppose if there was a conspiracy nobody would object to that? Then they would have to be supported out of other funds; and, of course, the thing would break down. I suppose they would build a certain number of Land League huts, but the conspiracy would break down, and a great many of the people would come back to their holdings. But a general refusal to pay is quite impossible to contemplate. Whether from historical reasons or otherwise, there undoubtedly exists in the minds of a certain portion of the Irish tenantry san idea, which is backed up by the Irish in America, that there is something inherently wicked in what they are pleased to call "landlordism," and that a tenant fighting his landlord is a proper object of sympathy and has some peculiar rights not known to the Common Law. But what sympathy would there be for men who had got a reduction of from 20 to 40 per cent. on the original rents, and who had been aided by the British taxpayer to become proprietors of their holdings, on the part of any section of opinion in Ireland, in this country, or in America? They would get no sympathy, and they would deserve none. They would occupy the position of an ordinary debtor who, having the power to fulfil his obligations, absolutely declines to do so, and they would utterly fail in receiving' assistance from America. I do not believe' that any such struggle, if attempted by the most insane agitator, would meet with the slightest degree of support from the Irish purchaser. We have had 20 years' experience in these purchase matters, and in no case has there been the slightest indication of such an attempt. We have had to deal with purchasers under the Acts of 1869, 1870, 1881, 1885, and 1888; and if our experience proves anything, it proves that the Irish purchaser is not the scoundrel which the hon. Member for Northampton endeavours to make out. But if by any possibility we can conceive any conspiracy against the payment of annuities on so enormous, so gigantic, and so inconceivable a scale that the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund will not be sufficient to meet the deficiency in the annuities—if we accept such a wild hypothesis—then I do not think that the Legislature of this country would hesitate to meet that conspiracy by the only arm by which it properly could be met; they would refuse to pay the ratepayers of the counties, who must have abetted the conspiracy, funds to which they had no legal title; and they would fail in their duty not only to this country, but to the Irish people, if they allowed the provisions with regard to the contingent portion of the fund to remain a dead letter. Never was there, or can there be conceived to be, a safer financial transaction than that which the Bill asks the House to undertake; the whole advance is, and must be, covered. Imagination may wander at will over various possible contingencies—potato failure, conspiracy against rent, what you please; but, if the figures involved in any fancied hypothesis are worked out, the conclusion must be reached that, whether the Bill is a good Bill or a bad one, whether it is suited to the needs of Ireland or it is not, whether it will or will not contribute to the solution of one of the greatest difficulties that ever arose in the government of Ireland, it is financially a perfectly sound and secure measure.

(5.1.) MR. KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)

I have listened with much pleasure to the address of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, but I notice that he made one important mistake, and that was when he stated that he had answered in detail all the different points raised by the hon. Member for Northampton. I wish to remind him of what appears to me to be the most important point in the hon. Gentleman's speech to which he did not allude at all. I refer to the challenge given by the hon. Member for Northampton to the right hon. Gentleman to say whether my hon. Friend was or was not right in giving certain figures which would be the deficit between the amount of the Guarantee Fund at its 40th year on the one hand, and the amount due from the tenants in the 40th year on the other hand.


I admit that I did not touch that point, because, although I felt the importance of it, I thought it much better to defer allusion to it, because it is not strictly relevent to this Amendment. In dealing with such complicated figures as I shall have to present, I prefer to deal with them at a later stage.


Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to his opinion; but, at the same time, I think that the point which he so gracefully elided is one which presents in the most forcible manner the risks that the British taxpayer has to incur under the guarantee which is the subject of the present Amendment. I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman has adopted and endorsed in the speech just made all he said last year on the First and Second Reading of this and of the former Bill. As the matter is fresh in the memory of the House, it would be well for me to deal with the statement on which he has laid particular stress on the present occasion. In what I thought was a very courageous, if not a boastful, spirit, he spoke of his description of last year as to how the tenants' instalment was to be met in case of total repudiation, and he said that the figures given by him on that occasion had never been controverted. Now, in my humble way I attempted to controvert those figures in my speech on the Second Reading of the present measure, and I was further prepared, after the Amendment we were then discussing was disposed of, to have addressed the HOUSE on the Main Question; but, by some subtle influence for which I cannot account, it appeared to be known on the Treasury Bench that it was this point as to the insufficiency of the Guarantee Fund that I intended to touch on, and the result was that no sooner had I risen in my place than I was promptly closured by the First Lord of the Treasury. I am bound to add that that was the solitary occasion on which during the period I have sat in this House I was appointed Teller on a Division, that Division being on the Closure. I will now ask the House to allow me to read from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which I have just alluded. It certainly was what he has called an exhaustive speech. I will not trouble the House with the preliminary passages in which he boastfully alluded to how the tenants' instalment was to be met from the Guarantee Fund in case of total repudiation. The right hon. Gentleman very properly accepted universal repudiation as the only contingency that was worth considering when discussing the financial solvency or otherwise of the Guarantee Fund. The right hon. Gentleman said— Very well, instalments at 4 per cent. on an advance of £30,000,000 amount to £1,200,000 a year. Let me suppose that in one year—the hypothesis is an absolutely unfavourable one—not a single sixpence of the annuity was paid, what funds would there be at the disposal of the Treasury, and of the Land Commission to meet the deficiency? I should here tell the House that this speech of the right hon. Gentleman has been very carefully revised by himself, and that I am quoting it from Hansard. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say— We shall have, first, the £200,000 reserve fund; secondly, there would be the £200,000 annual probate grant; and, thirdly, £40,000 of the new Exchequer contribution, and £75,000, being the ¼ percentage on £1,200,000, and there would be besides that, if we accept the hypothesis of 17 years' purchase, £1,118,000 of tenants' reserve; so that without touching the £5,000,000, which is the landlord's fifth, and without touching a sixpence of the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund, you have £1,633,000 to meet a call of £1,200,000, on the extreme and absurd hypothesis of not one sixpence of annuity being paid during the year in question. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman said that these figures had never been controverted. I am sorry he has left his place, because I am going to controvert them now. He spoke of the reserve of £200,000. That was the first item. To that I answer that that reserve is only available for one single year, and that in the following year it would not exist. The second item is the Probate Duty grant, which he put at £200,000, whereas the Returns show that it ought to be £189,000. Then there is the Exchequer contribution of £40,000 a year. I accept this, and I have put it to both sides of the account. He then tells us that in some mysterious way there will be £75,000, being a ¼ per cent. of the tenant's 4 per cent. instalments, called the county percentage. How he could ever have imagined that, on the assumption that the 4 per cent. instalment was to be withheld bodily by repudiation, the ¼ per cent. was to come in and the 3¾ per cent. were not to come in, I should be glad if he would explain to the House. The last item is one which had a great effect upon the House. He said there was the tenant's reserve of £1,118,000, adding, in a qualifying parenthesis, that that was on the assumption of 17 years' purchase being the average rate. But the right hon. Gentleman must know, and it is shown by the Return presented to this House, that whenever 20 years' purchase is reached no tenant's reserve can come into existence at all. The present Bill provides that 20, or even 30, or 50 years' purchase may not only be the price of the land, but may be advanced by the Treasury. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman was not justified in talking about the tenant's reserve being a guarantee at all, seeing that it is merely contingent on the improbability of the tenant getting the land from the landlord at only 17 years' purchase. What, then, are the incontrovertible figures the right hon. Gentleman rests on? I have summed them up in two columns. I have one column containing what the right hon. Gentleman says was the amount last year of the safeguard of the British taxpayer, and I have put the truth of the matter in the other column. The right hon. Gentleman's column comes to £1,633,000 of cash held against tenants' instalments of £1,200,000. The truth is, that the actual amount would be £229,000 only, which would leave an odd £1,000,000 totally uncovered.

(5.15.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)

I think the hon. Member has shown that there is a superabundance of guarantees, and there is an annual income of £1,000,000 to cover deficiencies. I object to the multiplicity of guarantees, which are totally unnecessary. I should prefer the simple guarantee of the Consolidated Fund to all these local guarantees, which I would like to see swept away altogether. It is quite certain that no person in the City would advance money so cheaply as the Government. There was a dispute between the hon. Member for Northampton and the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The hon. Member said that no person in the City would advance 10 or 15 per cent. and the Chief Secretary plainly showed that the Government advances would be a good speculation. I do not think that any firm in the City would advance money so cheaply if there were no Government guarantee. In my opinion, the great advantage of this Bill is that the small tenants of Ireland would get their farms at a much cheaper rate per year than they would if there was no guarantee by the Government. That is why I think the Bill a good one for the Irish tenant. Now, to come to the point as to the English taxpayer. If hon. Members on this side of the House think that the English taxpayer ought not to guarantee the funds, I think they are justified in voting against the Bill. But if it can be proved that the taxpayer ought to pay, then I do not think that in order to gain a Party advantage they ought to sacrifice the tenants of Ireland. The whole sum involved is about £1,000,000 a year, or £30,000,000 in the aggregate. What is likely to be the probable deficiency? Experience of the various Land Acts of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and of Lord Ashbourne's Acts, shows that the deficiency will be very trifling. It has not yet amounted to anything like 5 per cent. of the annual income. The British taxpayer would in all probability have a very small sum indeed to meet, even if all the local guarantees were swept away, and the Irish tenants would gain a considerable advantage. The outside cost to the British taxpayer would be about £50,000, if that much. It is not a great deal to provide. Ireland in five days provides £50,000 for the conveyance of British troops to any part of the world, and in the same period for that and other purposes she contributes £100,000. Therefore, the surplus contribution of Ireland for five days alone is all that the Imperial Exchequer is likely to be called upon to pay. The sum required is extremely small compared with what Ireland contributes; and I think the taxpayers may fairly come forward and say the sum is so small they are willing to pay it. I intend to vote against most of the local guarantees, because I think the charge should be borne by the Imperial Exchequer. I think the small tenants in Ireland have certainly very strong claims which cannot possibly be met without the Imperial guarantee.

(5.24.) MR. E. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)

I am one of those who are strongly against a guarantee for any purpose contemplated by this Bill. I think in the country some rather unjust reproaches have been levelled against this side of the House, because of unwillingness to allow the guarantee. Were it intended for the congested districts or to mitigate the unfortunate consequences of our policy in Ireland, I should not be unprepared to accede to the proposal. But that is a wholly different business from the proposals of this Bill, which are not designed primarily for those who are poor and in distress. The guarantee is mainly on behalf of those who are by no means poor. The Bill proposes to make advances irrespective of the financial necessity or position of those who receive them. Under the Ashbourne Acts, during the last five years, the money has been spent not in the poor districts of Ireland at all, but in Ulster and other prosperous parts of Ireland, outside Ulster; and what has been the experience of the past may reasonably be anticipated as the experience of the future. I doubt whether this guarantee would close accounts between landlords and tenants, for it would still be competent for the landlord, after receiving a certain number of years' purchase under this Bill, to stipulate for further sums for the tenants who get their farms by purchase. The landlord will be able to refuse his consent to the tenant getting the benefit of this guarantee, and by that means he will be able to appropriate to himself the bonus created by the use of British credit. That objection alone is, to my mind, fatal to the use of British credit in this way. The use of British credit will create a certain bonus in the hands of those persons for whose benefit it is applied. If you say that it is to be applied to the very poor people of Ireland, then I can understand it. But you apply it indiscriminately to all the tenants of Ireland. As an illustration, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, when he first introduced his Bill, spoke of a tenant paying a fair rent of £100, which would be reduced to £68, thus putting into his pocket a bonus of £32 a year. If you are going to use British credit for the benefit of a tenant who can pay £100 a year, how will you refuse to use it for the benefit of the poorer classes of this country, or all classes in a like position in this country, when they ask for it to be extended to them? The strongest ground of opposition of all is that the use of the guarantee will put the British taxpayers in the position of the landlords of Ireland. That point, however, has been so much dwelt upon that I will not pursue it. I am not going to suppose a general strike against rent; still, it would be necessary for the Government to evict a considerable number of persons, or otherwise they would not be able to enforce payment. I do not think it necessary to say anything about the securities. Had the Bill been a good or a fair measure, or one intended to benefit the poor people, and not the landlords, I should not have looked too closely or jealously at the securities; but when we consider the nature of the securities it is found that they have been condemned wholesale by the most competent authorities. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke just now said that the debt was so good that no security was required. I do not know how that may be. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington, in a series of letters which have not been answered, and the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn, in a pamphlet which cannot be answered, have demonstrated that these securities are absolutely worthless. It is quite true that the Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian in 1886 was a much safer proposal, and although it could be defended on the ground that it was part of the general settlement of the government of Ireland, still I cannot say that I liked it; indeed, I declared at the General Election that I would not support it. But it is no answer to the damaging criticisms which have been made against this Bill to say that similar proposals have been made in past times. No doubt, had it not been for the land proposals of 1886, the Liberal Party would have now been in power, and it does seem to me inconsistent with the honour of Parliament that a Party whose success at the polls was due to its attacks on the land scheme of 1886 should now propose a Bill of a more dangerous character. It is of no use dealing further with this point. I am perfectly sensible of the position in which we now are. The Opposition appear to be in this position: that they are hampered by the unfortunate fact that in 1886 a similar Bill was brought forward. It is of no use our offering any arguments to hon. Gentlemen opposite dealing with the Irish question. For the last five years we have been trying to persuade the Conservative Party to share in our views, but not much attention has been paid to the arguments. It is, therefore, a hopeless struggle; but, notwithstanding this, I trust that the Opposition will fight this Bill in Committee right through, thus doing our duty to our constituents. Although the Government may betray their constituents we will not betray ours.

(5.35.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

I think it is a little too unjust to reproach my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton with having travelled beyond the limits of the subject now before us in the able speech which he delivered, and which contained a great deal of matter of great importance submitted for the guidance of the House. I am not going to alarm the Government with the idea of an extended speech, but I am ready to give my opinion that there was not a word in the speech of my hon. Friend which was not perfectly relevant to the scope of the subject before the Committee. I will not speak of any implied reproach upon yourself, Sir; but I think it was conveyed in the question put by the Chief (Secretary whether the speech of my hon. Friend was in order. I own it appears to me that, if it were the pleasure of the Committee so to do on this question whether the guarantee of the British Treasury is to be afforded to the outlay of a large sum of money, nothing could be more clear than that the Committee, if so minded, has a perfect right to discuss all the conditions of that guarantee. That is the protest I make on my part against the attempt at undue limitation, perhaps made without sufficient consideration, of the power of the Committee. I shall only make one or two observations upon what has fallen from the various hon. Members in the course of the Debate. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway—I will not say has objected to the Bill, but has observed on the Bill that his difficulty is to make out a justification or necessity for all the securities which the Chief Secretary and the Government have promised to provide. He thinks that, viewing the good disposition of the Irish people to pay their debts, there would undoubtedly be a moderate loss; still, that loss ought to be cheerfully borne by the British taxpayer, who ought not to condescend to place between himself and the possible loss these elaborately provided securities. Let me say that the scope of that moderate loss was not quite accurately estimated by the hon. and gallant Member. He stated that the amount of the risk which was incurred by this Bill was limited by the sum of £30,000,000; whereas, as has been frankly told to us from the first, the £30,000,000 is to be a circulating fund invested and re-invested until it has performed the whole of its operation, which may extend, with certain exceptions, to all the agricultural land of Ireland and a sum near £100,000,000, being a good deal within the mark, was stated by the Chief Secretary as the extent of the liabilities that would ultimately devolve. I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member will find that there are many candidates for seats in any portion of Great Britain who would like to announce in their addresses to their constituents the doctrines which he has announced to-day: I perfectly understand the position of the Irish Members. Their position is a very difficult one. They have an unsettled money account between England and Ireland, in respect of which England is largely indebted to Ireland, although that debt has not been acknowledged, and has not been paid. Whenever a grant is made or proposed in this House it is the universal practice of Irish Members to accept that grant, but to frankly admit that they accept it without acknowledgment and without gratitude. They accept those grants as part payments of a sum of money which they hold—and, in my opinion, within limits, justly hold—as due to Ireland; and they regard the distribution of that sum of money by an authority of which they consider the moral competency to be more than doubtful, as portion of a policy expressly based upon, and intended to secure, the permanent refusal to Ireland of her rights of constitutional self-government, and to intercept and frustrate the attainment of the dearest wish of their country. That appears to me to constitute a case for them quite distinct from our point of view. We have to consider our own obligations to our constituents generally, and we ought to remember the circumstances under which in the present Parliament we have to comply with those obligations. Reference has been made to the subject of dual ownership, and the abolition of dual ownership by the plan now before us. Dual ownership, as has been stated by the hon. Member for Northampton, is not about to be abolished. For the ownership of the landlord the ownership of the British Exchequer is to be substituted, and our belief is that to present that ownership of the British Exchequer to the Irish occupier in general in lieu of the ownership of the landlord is a course dangerous and impolitic. That is a course in respect of which we, the authors of the Bill of 1886, stand in no embarrassment what- ever, because there was no ownership at all on the part of the British Treasury — the ownership was that of the Irish authority. It was the Irish authority, and the Irish authority alone, which would in any circumstances have been called upon to settle with the Irish occupier the question of the repayment of the instalments due to the plan of land purchase. There is another point which, in my opinion, is of importance—the City firm. A challenge was thrown out by the hon. Member for Northampton to this effect—" What City firm would lend money on the securities that are offered by this Bill? " It is necessary to distinguish, of course, between the security and the guarantee. A City firm would lend money freely enough on the guarantee; but the question is whether the guarantee ought to be given. The Government say that this proposal is safe; that there is no liability at all; it is a nominal guarantee. But my hon. Friend proposes to test the question whether upon those securities a City firm would propose to lend money. What is the answer of the Chief Secretary? It was this—that if the House of Commons is prepared to place at the disposal of the City firm the Votes which it is now proposed to make, and which are under our control, for Irish purposes, then the City firm would lend the money. Our contention is that the House of Commons cannot place those grants at the disposal of any creditor in the manner intended by the Government. It would be impossible to prevent the application of them to their legitimate purposes. But what I want to observe is that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely suicidal, because, if the allocation of the securities gives a sufficient guarantee for the City firm to lend its money, why are we to have an Imperial guarantee? Does the right hon. Gentleman not see that he has himself supplied the best argument for the proposition that is now before the House — that no Imperial guarantee ought to be given unless that guarantee is necessary? For the guarantee he now proposes there is no case whatever, and the Bill ought to rest alone on the validity and sufficiency of the securities he proposes. But I wish to state in a few words the main ground—indeed, I may say, the one sufficient ground—upon which I feel myself absolutely precluded under the present circumstances, and in the present Parliament, from dealing with any question whatever of British guarantee for an expenditure of this kind. It is quite true that the Bill of 1886 was condemned at the General Election. Of that there can be no doubt. But it was not condemned, as has been asserted, on account of the principle of guarantee which was involved in it, but on the ground of the conditions with which that principle was accompanied, and the manner in which it was applied. I suppose the main argument of the Chief Secretary would be that which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham—that it was the withdrawal of Imperial control from the government of Ireland, which really constituted the reason for condemning and refusing such a guarantee as was then proposed. I wish, however, before making an answer to that proposition, frankly and honestly to confess that the Bill of 1886 was condemned by many gentlemen sitting on the Liberal side of this House and by many constituencies. Whether it was condemned after sufficient discussion is another matter. Whether the principle of the guarantee of British credit of funds for Irish purposes is admissible, I do not feel myself at all obliged at the present time to question or decide. It is no doubt a question for the people of this country to decide, and they ought to decide it after full discussion, and with full knowledge of what they are about. But it is obvious that all those Liberal Members and constituencies who were disposed to condemn the guarantee of 1886 did not in the least degree condemn it on the ground supposed by the Chief Secretary, but on other grounds totally distinct. They did not disapprove of, but, on the contrary, they approved of, the granting of self-government to Ireland, and considered that to be a great recommendation of the plan proposed by the Land Purchase Bill of 1886, which had this recommendation, at any rate—that it was presented as a portion of the settlement of the Irish question. That question now remains unsettled, and has to be dealt with if this Bill should become law. I wish to affirm in the strongest manner— I am not speaking the opinions of Liberal Members of this House, or of Liberals outside its walls, but the general opinion of the country in 1886, without distinction of Party, whether that opinion was hastily given, whether it is revocable or not—there can be no doubt that that opinion was absolutely hostile at that time, at the time when the country gave its commission to the present Parliament, to the granting of this guarantee in any form. That, I hold, is entirely beyond question. I do not think we are here simply to act upon definite instructions from the Government. We are a deliberative Assembly. The general rule of our procedure must be to hear the entire case, and freely decide on the various issues that are before us; but, at the same time, there are given circumstances under which we are bound by pledges, which ought not to be disregarded. In my opinion, a large portion of the minority, and certainly the whole of the majority, of this House, speaking generally—I admit the right hon. Member for West Birmingham is an exception—were returned with the fullest conviction on the part of the country that they were not to pledge the credit of the British Exchequer for this purpose. That conviction, I should say, constitutes a pledge. Nothing can be more important as a principle of the Constitution than that whatever understanding has prevailed at the time when the nation gave us our commission should be fully and absolutely maintained. My opinion is that the nation arrived at the conclusion that this guarantee ought not to be given. It might alter it. I do not scruple to say that there was an open pecuniary account between England and Ireland, and that that account will have to be settled on liberal terms. The nation will have to consider whether in those terms the use of the Imperial credit should be introduced. Undoubtedly, in 1886, speaking for myself, my view was that the Bill then introduced for the purchase of Irish land was a Bill that without risk to the British Exchequer— though I confess I feel some scruple in using those words after the way they have been used on the opposite side of the House—conferred a boon on Ireland which was demanded by justice. Whether that was a wise form of proceeding is a matter I do not consider myself able to discuss, because I think the proceedings of the election of 1886 have limited the arena in which we are to act. The nation at that time had arrived at an understanding, which we are bound to respect. Do not let it be supposed for a moment that I question the motives of any gentleman in this House, or presume to impeach his full right to determine for himself the limits of his duty; but, according to the best opinion I can form on public affairs, I think it would be a breach of faith to the country if we now proceed to pledge the credit of the British Exchequer to a great scheme of land purchase in Ireland, we being here, not as perpetual legislators for this country, but as those who received a certain commission in 1886, to the terms of which we are bound rigidly and loyally to adhere. I feel myself entirely shut out, therefore, from assenting to this principle; and, as I have taken the opportunity to declare it in previous discussions on the Bill, so I shall feel it my duty to give to-night no hesitating vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton.

(5.57.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

Courtesy demands a few words from me in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian; but they shall be very few and said in no hostile spirit. The main point of his contention was that the objection the country felt in 1886 to the Bill he proposed was one based on the broad fact that British credit was to be used. I differ from him. I say the objection of the country was based on an impression, right or wrong, but in my opinion right, that the credit of the country was not only going to be used, but was also going to be imperilled. Although the country expressed that opinion with no uncertain sound against the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman introduced, yet he now asks this House not to support a Bill which differs in almost every essential particular from his. It may differ for better or worse, but it does differ. It has a different set of guarantees, and a different set of securities, and, whatever its merits or demerits, it is not to be judged by any argument that may properly be urged against the Bill of which the right hon. Gentleman was the author. The right hon. Gentleman made one statement which struck me with surprise—that, in his opinion, a pecuniary boon was given to Ireland by his Bill, a boon which is equally given now, and demanded by justice. Sir, if the boon given by his Bill was demanded by justice, I cannot understand how the author of that Bill —let the verdict of the country be what it might—can now retreat from that position. If strong political justice is involved in a scheme of this kind, I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman can reconcile the lofty grounds on which he proposed his Bill of 1886 with his action against the measure now before the House. I probably should not do anything that would be conducive to the brevity or the amenity of the Debate if I were to explain the reasons which make me think that the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman imperilled British credit. I submit that his Bill should be excluded from this discussion. The present Bill must be judged on its own merits, and by what it contains; and I repeat the conviction which I expressed to the Committee two hours ago—that, whatever else this Bill may do, it does not imperil the credit of the British taxpayer.

(6.0.) MR. T. M. HEALY

I regard this matter from a different standpoint to that of the hon. Member for Northampton, and what I have to ask the Government for is some explanation of the meaning of the word "guaranteed." While the hon. Member for Northampton objects to what may be called the original guarantee, I, on my part, object to guaranteeing the guarantors. I am amazed that the Irish Secretary abstained from defending that branch of the scheme which is so obnoxious to Irish Nationalist Members, but which is equally covered by the word "guaranteed." As a matter of drafting, what is the necessity of this word " guaranteed " at all in this part of the Bill? It may either be inserted or omitted, without any damage whatever; and, for my part, I do not think the Government were well advised in drawing the fiat of the hon. Member for Northampton and of the Irish Members on the same matter, though from a wholly different point of view. From my point of view, I am entitled to argue this; if this House is not really building a castle in Spain for the purpose of holding out a mirage to English electors with the idea that they have a solid bulwark to resist Irish non-payment, I would ask why should{ you ask the pauper lunatic to pay rather than the policeman? You give £90,000 for education in Ireland every year, and you cover that under your guarantee. You have for one schoolmaster receiving £1 a week three policemen receiving 30s. If you want a guarantee, why not draw it from the policeman, who is a useless object? {" Oh ! "] Well—I think I can gratify hon. Gentlemen opposite—who will become a useless object when the Bill passes, because we are told that it is the Irish agrarian question which poisons the social life in Ireland. The moment you withdraw and settle the Irish agrarian difficulty the necessity for the policeman disappears. I think I have heard that argument somewhere from Leicestershire. Accordingly, I say that if you declare that your advance of £30,000,000 is justified by the foundation of social peace in Ireland, then, having regard to the force, which exists to an enormous extent because of the agrarian difficulty, it would be more natural to hypothecate the police rate or charge rather than the charge for national education in Ireland. I think that is an unanswerable argument; but there is another. If we have any need for the police in Ireland, will even the Member for South Hunts contend that we have need for the removables? You have them in Ireland now 80 or 90 strong, enjoying salaries and allowances, which I imagine come to about £150,000 a year. They have their staffs of policemen attached to them, so that the removables, so to speak, breed an expenditure of a quarter of a million a year. Why, then, in face of the existence of this body, should you hypothecate the funds which go to pauper lunatics, schoolmasters and mistresses, medical officers of workhouses and dispensaries, and medicines and surgical appliances? If the Government are sincere and genuine in their proposal, knowing, as they must know, that the charge for education is more likely to increase than to diminish, and that the charge for the removables and police ought to diminish rather than to increase, why do they hypothecate these sums and not the charges for removables and police? Will anyone answer that argument? The Government have thought it well to entirely elude that branch of the discussion, and yet it is as fully covered by the word the hon. Member for Northampton objects to as the question of the Imperial guarantee. The losses to the Imperial taxpayer sit very lightly on my mind. I suppose I may consider myself to some extent an Imperial taxpayer. If this charge of £30,000,000 were distributed equally all round it would come, I suppose, to 6s. 8d. a head of the population of the United Kingdom. My view of this proposal is that it is a contemptible spirit for the House of Commons to display with regard to an Imperial guarantee in respect of a nation to which, as the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian declares, the Imperial Exchequer is still largely in debt. The imposing of this local guarantee upon Ireland, I say, is more odious to Irish Nationalist Members than is the Imperial guarantee to the hon. Member for Northampton. The Government are not sincere in the guarantee. No one knows in his heart better than the Chief Secretary that not a penny of the pauper lunatics' or schoolmasters' money is ever likely to be called on. [" Hear, hear !"] Hon. Gentlemen say " Hear, hear !" then why do they put it in the Bill? Surely there is such a thing as frankness and sincerity in the conduct of the business of the State. We object to the schoolmaster having his interest imperilled. Why do not you include the policeman and the removable rather than the schoolmaster? Assuming it is desirable to have a local guarantee, there can be no answer whatever to that branch of the argument. But is it necessary to have a local guarantee? [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Hear, hear !] By his " Hear, hear ! " the right hon. Gentleman thinks not, but he belies himself—of course, I use the expression without offence—by the drafting of the Bill. It is the poison you instilled at the General Election of 1886 into the minds of the electorate, and the fears you yourselves created in your minds for the purpose of shipwrecking Home Rule and destroying the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, which brings about this fanciful and inartistic guarantee. Either act in an Imperial spirit in this business or do not act at all. When this Bill is passed you will go to your constituents and say) " Oh, what a grand boon we have given to the Irish. How good is Mother England to her Irish children, or adopted children. Once more the great Imperial milch cow has given cream to the starving Irish." At the same time, you take very good care to make the starving Irish guarantee you against every shilling of loss. You declare that is generosity: I say it is the height of meanness. If you wished to act generously you would abandon this local guarantee altogether. You know every shilling of the advance will be repaid, and yet, for the purpose of laying the bogey you have raised, you persist in this local guarantee. If that is my view in regard to the pauper lunatics, schoolmasters and others, what is to be said of the fourth guarantee which you insist on getting from the localities? I ask for a definition of this particular guarantee stock. Having denuded us of our education, having deprived us of the sustenance of the pauper lunatics, is it creditable or decent in you to insist on a further guarantee out of the local rates, and to do it under a system which deprives the local ratepayers of the smallest amount of control over the advances which are to be made? Not only are we to be deprived of local control, but you yourselves declare you will not even allow the Members of the House of Lords to vote year by year the salaries of the gentlemen who are to pay out these moneys. I, therefore, might fairly vote with the hon. Member for Northampton, but I do not feel inclined to do so. To hear you talk about Imperial guarantees, one would think that Ireland is no portion of the British Dominions. The Income Tax gatherer comes round in Ireland as regularly as he does in England and Scotland. To speak of yourselves as the British taxpayers, when Ireland pays three times more than her fair share into the Imperial Treasury, is, in my opinion, a piece of Imperial impudence. Ireland's debt at the time of the Union was £13,000,000, but now the Imperial Debt is £800,000,000. Our view in this matter is entirely different to that of English and Scotch Representatives. We take exception to the word "guarantee," on the sole ground that it involves and implies a local guarantee just as much as an Imperial guarantee. We say that a local guarantee is unjust and iniquitous, and we wish to obtain from the Government some assurance that it will be struck out of the Bill. If you do require a local guarantee you might very well find it in the provision for the police, or the removables, or the Judges, or some other branch of the Civil Service, which certainly might fairly be expected to be cut down if a scheme of this kind is passed to bring social peace into our country.

(6.20.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

There is no passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian'(Mr. Gladstone) which will be so heartily echoed by every Radical in the country as his frank recognition of the debt due from this country to Ireland. But it is just because we consider the proposals of this Bill will tend to defeat the payment of the real debt to Ireland, and because we Radicals intend to give Ireland the full control of the land question, that I, for one, oppose the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) said he hoped we were not opposing the granting of a British guarantee for Party reasons. Those of us who have tried to think out the question oppose this scheme, as we should oppose any such scheme of land purchase, because we consider it calculated to do injury to the Irish people themselves, and calculated to promote discontent and dissatisfaction among them——


Order, order! That line of argument is not relevant to the question of the guarantee.


I am opposing the giving of this guarantee Sir, because I consider that it will only unsettle the land question in Ireland instead of settling it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has made it very doubtful whether he intends to deal with the local guarantee at all; and one feels inclined to ask whether he really proposes when the cash portion of the guarantee fund is exhausted to go straight to the rates. One can hardly read his pledge otherwise than as a pledge to the people of Ireland not to deal with the local funds, which are made part of the security, but to go straight to the rates instead. The British taxpayer is asked to give a guarantee in this matter, although he has no satisfactory pledge or security that the price to be paid for the land is a just and a fair price. You deny to the people of the locality the consent of some representative authority to the pledging of their credit. My main objection, however, to the Government proposal is that we are asked to guarantee the application of money to the carrying out of a scheme which will lead to social disorder and discontent in the future, and will discourage national thrift in Ireland. I think it would be wiser if the Government were to introduce some form of local control. There has been, in my opinion, but one sound proposal of land purchase put before the House of Commons, and that was the scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Sir G. Trevelyan) in 1884.


Order, order ! The hon. Member is wandering from the subject. That is quite apart from the question of the guarantee.


I will conclude, then, by saying that we oppose the granting of this guarantee, because it is given not to set Ireland free, but to forge for her a fresh chain.

(6.27.) MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)

Before deciding on the retention or rejection of the word " guaranteed," I think the House had better ascertain what the word means. I have been at some pains to examine the Bill, but I am in a state of considerable doubt about it. The drafting of the measure is of such a character that, at any rate to one who has not studied it very closely indeed, it appears to be self-contradictory. The Government had to admit yesterday that the advance which the Bill is intended to authorise could not be made until some important Amendment had been inserted. In considering the present Amendment one is driven to the examination of those portions of the Bill which are likely to throw light upon its signification, and I would invite Members opposite, who have copies of the Bill, to look at the last two lines of the first page and the first line of the second. There it is provided that the dividends and payments to the Sinking Fund shall be paid out of the Land Purchase Fund, and, if that is insufficient, shall be paid, as a temporary advance, out of the Consolidated Fund. On page 4, lines 5, 6 and 7, it is provided that if the Land Purchase Account is at any time insufficient to meet the dividends and Sinking Fund payments, the deficiency shall be a charge on the Guarantee Fund, and so on. Having read these pages, I am bound to admit that I cannot make out clearly what is to be the nature of the guarantee for the land stock issued to meet this difference. It is a very simple question to answer—what is it exactly that the House is undertaking to guarantee, and what is the guarantee here expressly referred to worth? The House ought to pause, I think, before deciding the question.

(6.30.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

I think it is pretty evident from what has been said that what Irish Members want is to get our money under an illusory security. I object to a British guarantee in any shape or form, and so I shall support the hon. Member for Northampton. The Chief Secretary has made a long Second Reading speech, but he has failed to justify this dangerous, insidious proposal contained in the Bill. The hon. Member for Northampton has done well to attack the whole principle of the guarantee. The Bill is like some marine monster, with all its machinery under water. We do not really know what it means; we only know that in some shape it means the guarantee of the British taxpayer, and to that I have the strongest objection. There is no necessity for a guarantee for the Irish tenants; they are fairly prosperous, they are well off, and there is no reason why we should be burdened in order to turn them into landlords. There are certain parts of Ireland, called the congested districts, where distress exists, and with which we deal in another part of this Bill, and with which this Amendment does not deal. Putting aside those parts of Ireland, it seems to me the Irish tenants are an exceedingly prosperous set of people—they get good prices for good crops, and they have an exceedingly valuable property; as a matter of fact, I believe the only kind of property that is saleable at a good price in Ireland is tenant-right. I am not one of those who ' object to dual ownership. I think it is the right thing. In the interest he has in his holding it seems to me the Irish tenant has all the advantages of a real peasant proprietor in the true sense of the word, and this Bill proposes to turn him into a landlord at the expense of the British taxpayer. This will be of no advantage to Ireland, but, on the contrary, it will do a great deal of harm, creating a new set of evils with a new set of landlords. The Act of 1881 was founded on a right principle, and the Irish tenants are well off under it. I do not see why the British taxpayers, who do not own their houses, should be called upon to give this enormous security that the Irish tenants may become owners, and therefore I shall vote with the hon. Member for Northampton.

(6.35.) MR. MORTON (Peter borough)

Such an important Amendment as this, in which the enormous amount of £30,000,000 is concerned, requires to be fully debated before we come to a decision. On many grounds I object to this guarantee, and one strong reason is in the fact that I, in common, I think, with the majority of Members in the House, am pledged against supporting a proposal to use British credit to buy out Irish landlords. In itself that should be a reason for supporting the Amendment, and our duty to our constituents requires that we should carefully consider the chances of repayment of these advances. The security is hardly good enough for the English people, and but for the British credit behind it, every business man will say the money could not be raised. I do not say the time might not arrive when it might be right to consider whether we should allow the Imperial credit to be used for settling the land question; but the time has not arrived yet, because we shall practically be compelling the Irish tenants to pay more than the actual value of their holdings. I say distinctly you have no right to use British credit until you have decided in the first place what is the fair rent for the tenants to pay, and the number of years' purchase at that fair rent. If by any means the Irish tenants think they will not be compelled to pay back the money, then for the sake of a present advantage, the interest being less than their rent, they may be induced to agree to purchase at more than the land is worth, and by-and-by they will urge this as a reason for being relieved from their debt to the State. Before British credit is pledged in this way' the question of fair rent should be settled, and the actual value of the land determined. I do not accept the statement that the object of this guarantee is the benefit of the Irish tenants, but rather, I think, the object is to obtain money for the Irish landlords. They know, as we know, and the people of this country know, that Home Rule must come before long; and so the Government are trying to make the best terms they can for their friends the landlords while they have the opportunity. If you are going to use the Imperial credit so that people may get money at 3 per cent., let the whole of the people benefit by the transaction. Why should you confine the advantage to agricultural tenants? If a scheme were proposed whereby tenants would continue in the occupation of their land at a fair rent, and for the benefit of the whole country, I could see some reason for using the Imperial credit so that money might be borrowed at a cheap rate; but why is this scheme to be carried out in this manner for the interest of one particular class? Have not tenants in England, Scotland, and Wales an equal right to the advantage of borrowing money at 3 per cent., or do you put a premium on agitation? Are the tenants in England and Scotland to take to heart the lesson that if they carry an agitation to extremity, they may hope to have a similar advantage conferred upon themselves?

(6.50.) Mr. A. J. BALFOUR

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, " That the Question be now put."

(6.53.)The Committee divided:— Ayes 21G; Noes 157.—(Div. List, No. 125.)

Question put accordingly, " That the word ' guaranteed' stand part of the Clause."

(7.6.)The Committee divided:—Ayes 232; Noes 138.—(Div. List, No. 126.)

It being after Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House at Nine of the clock.