§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
In page 2. at end of Clause to add the words, "Half-yearly returns, ending on the thirtieth day of April and thirty-first day of October respectively, shall be presented to Parliament by the Land Commission, giving, the following particulars respecting cases giving default in the payment of any purchase annuity:— Nam e of purchaser; name of vendor; province, county, and townland in which the holding. is situate; date of purchase; area (in statute acres) of holding; tenement value of holding; rental of holding when purchased, and whether judicial or non-judicial; amount of purchase money; amount of instalments paid; amount of instalments in default; proceedings taken for recovery."—(Mr.. J. E. Ellis.)
Question again proposed, " That those words be there added."
§ (4.56.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
I would propose in the tenth line of the Amendment to leave out " tenement " in order to insert " rateable."
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ MR. KNOX
I beg to move the Amendment standing next on the Paper, save that I desire in the fourth line to leave out the words " twenty-five " in order to insert " fifteen." I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared to accept the Amendment, or if he proposes in any way to meet the difficulty. f he does I will not propose this addition to the clause. If Consols and other securities rise considerably in value the tenant may lose a great deal in consequence, and in respect of future issues this 938 Guaranteed Land Stock ought to be reduced proportionately, also the tenant's instalments. I do not know whether there is a better way of effecting this object than by the Amendment I now move.
In page 2, line 2, at end, to add, "(4.) If at any time the National Debt Commissioners shall report to the Treasury that Guaranteed Land Stock, consisting of annuities yielding dividends at the lowest rate of any theretofore issued under this Act, and not redeemable within fifteen years thereafter, is not purchase-able by them at a less price than £105 for every £100 Stock, the Treasury shall order that all Guaranteed Land Stuck thereafter issued shall consist of annuities yielding dividends at such rate that, in their opinion, the Stock so issued would he purchasable at par, and such Stock shall be issued accordingly, and the annuity payable by any purchaser purchasing after such order shall he reduced to the same extent that the rate of dividend shall have been so reduced."—(Mr. Knox.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there added."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)
I quite understand. the object of the lion. Gentleman, and .I will consider what steps, if any, can be taken. But I will venture to lay down this proposition that there should not be frequent changes, and if any changes should be made, that they ought to be extremely simple so as not to endanger any financial calculations. Hon. Members will see if anything should be done in the direction suggested by some hon. Members, namely, that the tenants should be able to find a Stock in order to pay the amount of their Sinking Fund, that this Stock ought to be Stock very easily negotiable; in fact the more negotiable the better for all parties With that object one large Stock would be inscribed by the Bank of Ireland. I will consider this point whether if it should appear that this Stock would command a price considerably above par for a certain time, after a certain amount of Stock has been issued, any change on the part of the Treasury should be made. I think the hon. Gentleman will see that in that suggestion, I am going in the direction he desires, and appreciating the point he has raised. I will see whether the object can be met by some clause introduced in the Bill.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
Suppose a tenant owes a balance of £100, would he be entitled to go into the market and buy a,few hundred pounds of Stock at £96, and apply that to the extinction of the balance of his debt?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I think that so far as he owes, for the extinction of Stock, that that would be a perfectly fair arrangement.
§ MR. SEXTON
I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will bring up words on Report. But there is one other matter connected with this. The National Debt Commissioners have power to purchase Stock from time to time for the extinction of the debt. What I want to know is this: Suppose the Treasury would get £100 cash for every £100 of Stock at the end of the 49 years, and the National Debt Commissioners purchase Stock of this kind, of course there will be a profit—I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the fact which the right hon. Gontleman has before stated, that the State should have no profit, he would consider whether the profit should be devoted to Irish purposes.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It will be necessary to look to the whole course of the 49 years. Looking at the possibilities of the future, it will only be towards the end that the State could say it would derive profit. I should not like to go so far as to say that every possible profit should be devoted to Irish purposes.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
This is a matter of considerable importance. I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the landlords, who have the advantage in the event of their being called upon to extinguish tithe rent-charge and the Stock depreciates—whether they will then be entitled to tender the Stock for the extinction of this tithe rent-charge?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
That is a totally different question. I do not see my way to that. The point is new to me, and the hon. and learned Member will scarcely expect me to give an answer to the matter without notice.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
It seems to me that the concessions which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has shadowed forth are likely to lead to great confusion and loss to the British taxpayer. There is the concession that if this Stock should be depreciated the tenant might pay with Stock, but if, on the other hand, the Stock is appreciated then the tenant might pay in cash, and the loss will be borne by the Treasury.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
No. There is no loss, because we are not bound to redeem above par. The Stock is redeemed at par.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (5.10.) MR. SEXTON
I beg to move to add, after line 2, the words(4.) The sums paid to the sinking fund for the purpose of the redemption of such stock shall ho applied in such redemption, and any stock issued under this Act shall be redeemed within forty-nine years from the issue thereof.The Chancellor of the Exchequer was good enough on my suggestion a little time ago to promise to bring up words to carry out this view, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might not have had time. The arrangement of the Bill is that by a Sinking Fund a sufficient sum of money should be raised for the extinction of Stock. I consider it of great importance with reference to the future relations between Great Britain and Ireland that there should be no out-standing liabilities with regard to this Stock, and that what the Sinking Fund intends to do should be done.
In page 2, after line 2, to add, " (4,) The sums paid to the sinking fund for the purpose of the redemption of such stock shall be applied in such redemption, and any stock issued under this Act shall be redeemed within forty nine years from the issue thereof."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ (5.12.) MR. GOSCHEN
I cannot accept these words as they stand, but the hon. Member is right in saying that it is the purpose and intention of the arrangement that the Stock should be redeemed within 49 years of the issue, and also that the Sinking Fund should only be applied to the purpose of this Act, and should be kept perfectly apart from any other financial purpose of the State. We should employ the Sinking Fund in the purchase of Stock, but the 941 hon. Member and the House would have every security that it would be absolutely tied down and would not be available for any other purpose than for the redemption of this Stock. There will be no diversion of the Sinking Fund to any other purpose than the redemption of such Stock. I think I shall be able to meet the hon. Member's wishes in the main.
§ MR. SEXTON
I think the right hon. Gentleman's reply substantially meets my purpose, and I suppose he will bring up words on Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, " That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ (5.14.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
As I understand it, on the Second Reading of a Bill we do not absolutely assent even to the principle of the Bill. What I think we do is to concede that there is sufficient in the Bill to warrant that the gentlemen proposing them should have the opportunity of defending and explaining them, and showing whether they are practical in Committee. I know this is not the Tory theory just at the present moment. There is all the difference between the " ins " and the " outs." When the Gentlemen opposite were out, as they showed on the Hares and Rabbits Bill and many other Bills, they considered they had a perfect right to discuss the Bill in Committee. But having come in, they lay down the rule, that in Committee we ought only to make clerical Amendments; that it is our business to hear and obey, and that any real discussion amounts to obstruction. That is not our view. We intend, subject to your ruling, to oppose this Bill, because it is bad in detail. In fact, there is no part of the Bill but which is thoroughly rotten, and I shall do my best to oppose it. The most rotten part of the Bill is Clause 1, which creates Guaranteed Stock. Of course, land purchase might be carried out in many different ways, and we should not destroy the Bill if we did away with this Guaranteed Stock, though that would make it necessary to introduce great and important modifications. We have discussed several Amendments to this Bill, all of which have been rejected, including that of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle. 942 Under these circumstances, it seems to me that the only thing we have got to do is to strike out the clause altogether, leaving it to the Government, if they can, to find the money in some other way. Hon. Members opposite come down here with a foregone conclusion, and far from my poor arguments having weight with them, were I to speak with the tongue of an angel, they would remain unconvinced. [" Hear, hear !"] Yes, the hon. Gentleman opposite says that even an angel would not convince him; he would stick to his view, even if addressed by an angel. The object for which this money is guaranteed is not so clearly advantageous that it justifies us in incurring this liability of £30,000,000. I do not believe myself that there is any value in the present dual ownership in Ireland.
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to enter into a general discussion on the whole scheme of the Bill.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
This is a scheme of land purchase. Might I point out that it will not pay; that the speculation is bad?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Not bad? Then what arguments can we adduce against this clause? I have plenty of arguments, but I do not know which would be consistent with the point of Order. But let us admit that this money is to be spent in the best way possible. Let up admit that it is the business of the House to do away with the existing dual ownership, and to introduce the taxpayer as the partner in this dual ownership. Then, Mr. Courtney, we have to consider whether this great and valuable and useful reform can be effected without any sort of liability to the English taxpayer. We are told that there will be no liability to the English taxpayer, because these new owners or partners will pay every year these annuities for 49 3-ears. I doubt whether they will be able to pay them. I think it very probable that agrarian and political feeling will be welded into one, and that there will be a general strike, in which case it is obviously impossible for us to go into the matter, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West 943 Birmingham has said that lie will not be a party—and I suppose he is in some way one of the authors of the Bill—to any sort of evictions. But it is urged that the tenants will pay because the Ashbourne tenants pay. But that is not germane to the point. The question is, will these tenants pay? Will we get back our money? According to a pamphlet by Mr. Sydney Halifax, some of the tenants who have purchased under the Ashbourne Act deny that they entered into the contracts voluntarily. Hear what the tenants of the Marquess of Waterford state. The Marquess received the sum of £124,000, bat the tenants are not able to pay, and the majority of them say that being in arrears they were threatened with eviction if they did not agree to buy on the landlord's terms.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I desire to ask what we are going to do if we find that these tenants cannot pay? I can only say that I know of reasons that would last me a couple of hours against this particular clause. But to put it generally, I object to the mode in which this money is to be expended, and I deny that we will get it back. I protest against the present Parliament guaranteeing this money, because the majority of this House were elected on the specific assurance that they would not expend money in this way. It is said that we Radicals are acting against the interests of Ireland, but I would point out to hon. Members for Ireland that we are bound to represent our constituents just as they are bound to represent theirs. I perfectly understand the position of Irish Members. They regard this as some boon. It is said that " A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." That depends upon what the bird in the hand is and what the bird in the bush is. A sparrow in the hand is not worth a turkey in the bush, especially if the sparrow is intended to prevent you from getting hold of the turkey.
Order, order ! The hon. Gentleman is arguing against the Bill, and is not directing his observations to the clause.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
All I can say is, that though we have great sympathy 944 with Irish Members on this matter, that will not prevent us from acting as our constituents wish, notwithstanding the taunts and misrepresentations of the hon. Member for Cork. We know perfectly well that we shall be defeated in this House; but it is our object to show the public that they are being tricked, cozened, and robbed by the men they were foolish enough to send to this-House. I trust, when the next General Election comes, that it will be proved we were in the right, and that we shall be thanked by the country for having done our best to prevent what we consider nothing better than a gross robbery of public money.
§ (5.29.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I wish to put one or two arguments before the Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to induce him to re-consider his answer to the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton. I think the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the question with regard to the repayments by the tenants to the Sinking Fund illustrates exactly what I wish to' lay before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman said he would allow the tenant, if the Guaranteed Laud Stock falls to a discount, to repay his loan (so far as the Sinking Fund is concerned) out of the depreciated Stock, but he would not allow him to employ the Stock generally for the repayment of the total amount of the annuity. Would it not be wiser to adopt the plan of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, and have but one Stock—a Stock which would incur the minimum of risk of fluctuation and depreciation, and would stand in the closest possible relation continuously to the amount contemplated to be handed over by the tenant to the landlord? Now, what the opponents of the Bill feel is this. We cannot prevent its passing through the House, but we hold with regard to the financial arrangements that there is a responsibility upon us which we cannot ignore. Now, the financial arrangements between the purchasing tenant and the selling landlord, and between the purchasing tenant and the Exchequer, should be of the greatest stability, causing the minimum of injustice to all concerned. It should also be the nearest approach to certainty and solidity, and 945 afford some guarantee for promoting an agrarian settlement in Ireland. We know that the Government laid it down in the first instance in 1888 that these payments should, as nearly as possible, correspond—that, so far as possible, £100 should be given to the landlord in cash for every £100 nominal debt. Last year the Chief Secretary, in introducing the Bill, made use of an expression of considerable importance in regard to this matter. He said not only ought the landlords to be paid in what is practically cash, but they ought to be paid in a form directly and immediately convertible into Consols or Land Stock which would really be equivalent to Consols. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the course of these Debates, has made it perfectly clear that Clause 7 of the Bill as now drawn does not correspond with Sub-section 2 of Section 22 of the Bill of last year; and, instead of allowing the Stocks to be interchangeable to one another, he gives only a limited power to the National Debt Commissioners to invest in this Land Stock. There will not, in fact, be a direct interchangeability. Last year the Chief Secretary said—The selling landlord will be repaid in Government Stock bearing 2¾ per cent. for 30 years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that in his opinion that Stock is at least as good as Consols, and if any landlord is foolish enough to take a different view there is a provision in the Bill which obliges the National Debt Commission to exchange Consols for the Guaranteed Land Stock should he so desire.Now, the whole of that has been cut away by the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The National Debt Commissioners, instead of being under an obligation to exchange, have only discretionary powers to invest under strict limits laid down by the Treasury. I submit the result will be that this new Stock which we are creating will be subject to great fluctuations and great depression. The Debates of the last few days have disclosed great differences of opinion on this point. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton holds that a Stock bearing 23/4 per cent. for 30 years is a superior Stock to Consols; that it would have a higher value, and that the landlords of Ireland. would be receiving too much. On the other hand, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after making a great many statements on this ques- 946 tion, has practically come to the conclusion that in all probability the Stock will stand about equal to Consols for the next three years; but he will not commit himself to anything further. I rather take it he means that for future purposes the Stock may be somewhat inferior to Consols. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton is correct we are committing an injustice on the English taxpayer; but if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right you are encouraging the payment from one class of men to another of a depreciated currency. Some may say the difference will have to be paid by the landlord. I say it will fall on the tenant, because the landlord will not only demand a larger number of years' purchase in proportion to the discount at which the Stock may be standing, but also, bearing in mind the possible depreciation of the Stock, will charge the tenant so as to cover future contingencies. And, again, while the tenant will be borrowing from the State in a depreciated currency, and paying the landlords in that, he will have to pay the State back in hard cash. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has intimated that he will consider the possibility of permitting the tenant to buy this Stock if it is at a discount, and pay that portion of the annuity which goes to the Sinking Fund with it; but why will he not extend that privilege to the whole annuity? The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that doing so would possibly entail a loss to the Exchequer. I submit, however, that the refusal of that right would entail a still heavier loss on the tenant, and I hope, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will re-consider his decision on that point. Again, I ask would it not be a wiser and a sounder policy to have but one Stock in the form of Consols? It is singular that a Minister who has distinguished himself and his financial reputation by a grand policy for the consolidation of all branches of the National Debt should support a proposal of this kind by his authority—a proposal which will multiply accounts, make new Stocks, and create financial confusion. I should have preferred, in the treatment of the Irish land question, to have seen the Government adopting the policy which is to be applied to small holdings in 947 England and make the advances to the Local Authority and to Land Banks; but, seeing that the Government have adopted the policy embodied in this Bill, I hold I am justified in supporting the rejection of the clause in order to emphasise once more the contention that if these thins are to be done well they should be carried out so as to produce the least friction between the parties themselves and between them and the State, and that the Stock created should not be of a varying and fluctuating nature. This is a strong argument for the Government adopting one Stock which would cause least loss to the State, would place these matters on a solid and permanent basis, and would produce less confusion, uncertainty, and discontent in Ireland.
§ (5.44.) MR. W. P. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
As I understand the object of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, it is practically to destroy the Bill. After your ruling, 'Sir, 1 think I should be wrong to do more than direct my observations to the point that the Stock which it is proposed to issue under this clause is to be Guaranteed Stock; that is to say, it will be supported by Imperial credit. This is, generally speaking, contrary to the usual custom of the House. We are now supporting by Imperial credit a measure of this kind, and it is only fair the question should be asked, " Why do we do so? " The answer is, I think, a simple one, and can be given in a very few words. It is this: The character of past legislation in this House bearing upon land in Ireland has been such that it requires an effort on the part of the Imperial Parliament to assist in changing the system of land tenure; a change most desirable to bring about. Dual ownership has been created by the legislation of the past. It was brought about, in the first instance, by land legislation, which enabled the landlord to confiscate in days long gone by the property of the tenants; and such a state of things having been created, it requires the intervention of Imperial credit in order to bring about that which sought to be established, namely, the cultivator of the soil being the owner of the land which he is cultivating. That is the defence to be put forward for the use of Imperial credit. It is one which, 948 when stated distinctly and plainly to my constituents, has willingly been accepted by them as being a good and sufficient reason for the introduction of Imperial credit to effect this object. It has frequently been said in the course of these Debates that some of us won our election in 1886 by opposing the Land Purchase Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. It is true, Sir, that we opposed his particular scheme; but we did not oppose land purchase as a whole, nor land purchase backed up by British credit. I need not dwell upon this point. I simply emphasise the fact that so far as myself, and I believe many of my colleagues, are concerned, the statement to which I have referred is not correct.
§ (5.48.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)
It is not possible to deal with the point raised by the last speaker without, I fear, transgressing the rules laid down for the government of this Debate, and I therefore will not attempt to reply to him. I may, however, say this: that if the hon. Member could be allowed to be correct in urging that the difficulties of the Irish landlord ought to be met out of the British Exchequer by British credit, at any rate the Irish landlord ought not to be treated more favourably than the holder of British funds, and I do urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to realise the injustice he is doing to the present holders of Imperial Stock by giving better terms than they now have to those who will be the holders of the new Stock. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he brought his great conversion scheme before this House, gave very good ground for his confidence that any amount of money might be obtained on British credit at 2½ per cent., and he argued that it was an injustice to the taxpayers generally to go on paying more than 2½ per cent. I think if this new Stock be at all required he ought not to offer more than 2½ per cent. for it. After all, he is creating but a new variety of Consols which rest on Imperial credit, and which constitute an addition to the National Debt. I consider that what he is doing is a piece of that policy of bribery and corruption by which we have endeavoured to rule Ireland through the landlords in the past. It has been shown that the difference between 2 per cent. and 2¾ per cent. will 949 amount to £75,000 a year. That, in 49 years, gives us £3,684,000 to be put into the pockets of the Irish landlords as a bribe. I contend that it is utterly unnecessary thus to waste money. If the Irish landlords or the holders of this new Guaranteed Stock had been treated on the same terms as the present holders of Consolidated Stock, if they had been offered 2¾ per cent; for the first 15 years and 2½per cent. for the remainder of the 49 years, we should have had to pay less by £2,500,000. But here we are giving simply more than £3,500,000 to the Irish landlords to bribe them into selling their land. I say there is no justification for this whatsoever, and, therefore, I cannot see this clause pass without uttering a final word of protest against it. I shall vote against it, as I intend to vote against every other clause and against every stage of the Bill.
§ (5.52.) MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
I wish also to utter a word of protest. I am not one of those, I confess, who have always said that under no circumstances would they support a scheme of giving Imperial credit for the assistance of the Irish Government in the matter of land purchase. Looking historically at the question of Irish land as it has been dealt with in this Bill, and especially at the aspects it has presented in the lifetime of many of those now here, there is, in my opinion, a debt due to Ireland from the Imperial Exchequer. At the same time, I think that those who sit below the Gangway will agree with me that this debt should be discharged in a way not dangerous to the Imperial Exchequer. In December last a large number of Members of this House voted in favour of a Resolution that this Bill was dangerous to the British taxpayer and hurtful to the Irish occupier, and it is because I believe it has both these elements of danger that I intend to oppose every line of every clause of this Bill. I take it that the objects set up by this clause are twofold. It is intended to settle the question of social order in Ireland and to create a peasant proprietary. At any rate, these have been objects which have been put forward by the Chief Secretary in supporting the Bill of which this clause is the essence. I think we are entitled to inquire whether there is any experience of the past to show that similar provisions in former Acts of 950 Parliament have attained these particular ends. Now, there are three very instructive Returns as to the danger we have run by bringing Imperial credit to the benefit of Ireland by advancing money under the Ashbourne Acts. So far as the Returns—No. 81, Session 1889, and No. 115, Session 1890—are concerned, they are the only two before this House which give adequate particulars of the operations of the Ashbourne Acts, and certainly it cannot be gathered from those particulars that either social order has been promoted or a peasant proprietary created. I have to acknowledge the courtesy and reasonableness of the Government in importing into this clause two Amendments which I have suggested with regard to the Returns under various heads; and if we had had before this House as regards the Ash bourne Acts full particulars, I think I should have been able to show that the result of the advances under those Acts had been nothing like those which had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman in the direction of promoting social order and creating a peasant proprietary. I am going to refer now to a Return which carries the Return of last Session a little further and gives the list of defaulters—a list of those who have not paid their instalments under the Ashbourne Act. It is a very instructive Return indeed, and in the hands of some Members of the House might occupy a considerable time in examination before the Committee. But I am not going into it in any great detail. I wish to draw the attention of the House to two or three facts arising out of the Return.
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman, to judge from his own language, is speaking to the principle of the Bill, and not to the machinery of this special clause.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
I am sorry, Sir, to have transgressed. It is my earnest endeavour not to do so. Do I understand your ruling to be that I am not entitled to show on this Return that danger has attended the issue of advances in the past, and that similar danger to the Exchequer may attend the operations of this clause?
Order, order! That is an argument against the Bill as a whole. No doubt it is an argument, 951 too, against every part of the Bill, but it is not an especial argument to be used against this particular clause.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
May I put it to you most respectfully that we are by this clause to bring Imperial credit to the aid of the Irish Exchequer? My contention is that that may be attended with danger to the English taxpayer. We are here as representing the English taxpayers. I have a Return in my hands submitted to Parliament showing that by advances under certain Acts for purposes identical with those set forth in this clause danger has arisen, and, therefore, I respectfully submit to you, Sir, it is in order for me to show upon this evidence à priori that the same danger will arise to the British taxpayer from this clause.
That argument would be relevant to the Second Reading or the Third Reading, but it is not revelant to the question now the Bill is in Committee. It does not affect this special clause.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
If you, Sir, rule that we cannot discuss the danger to the British taxpayer arising under this clause, then I have nothing further to say.
§ (6.0.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Do I understand that on this clause, which guarantees certain loans from the Public Exchequer, it is not open to us to discuss the danger that may occur to the Exchequer?
That is not quite correct. The question of guarantee has already been argued and decided by a Division in the Committee. The Committee cannot go back on that decision. The question now is whether Clause 1 stand part of the Bill.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I confess I am totally unable to understand the decision, and I will not attempt to address the Committee in regard to it.
§ (6.1.) MR. SEXTON
I think the discussion to-day has been vindicated by the useful results secured. For example, it was understood that there was to be £30,000,000 of Stock, and yet the Bill contained no provision whatever for the creation of the Stock. It would have been very awkward if the Stock had not been created. It was also important in the discussion to reveal the fact that 952 there was no provision in the Bill for dealing with the unexhausted balances under the Ashbourne Acts. The Chief Secretary has put down Amendments permitting the use of those unexhausted balances. I myself brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman another important matter, namely, that. there is no provision for the issue of the repayments under the Ashbourne Acts. Such provision has been withdrawn from the Bill of the present year without any explanation. It constitutes a. very important part of the sum available, and I trust, before we reach Clause 6, the Chief Secretary will think it his duty to re-consider the subject and make these resources available. The Irish Representatives will certainly consider it their duty to press the point. As the lion. Member for the Rushcliffe Division has very truly said, he has been successful in his two attempts to amend the clause. It is important that the House should have before it from time to time authentic records, firstly, of the transactions under the Act; and, secondly, of any defaults that may arise. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that the insertions of these Amendments have improved the clause. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has also made some concessions to-day. In the first place, at the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Knox), he has agreed that when this Stock reaches a. high premium, as it undoubtedly will, the Treasury will give the purchaser of the farm the benefit of any reduction in the price of the Stock. That is a very great improvement of the clause, and my hon. Friend deserves the thanks of the Committee and of the tenant farmers of Ireland for the foresight which enabled him to initiate an Amendment. so reasonable. I am also sensible of the importance of the concession, that the Bill should contain a specific engagement that the purchase for which the Sinking Fund is intended shall be effected within the contemplated term. These Amendments and concessions, if there is nothing else, amply vindicate us in occupying the time of the Committee. Personally, I am not hostile to the principle of the Bill. I consider it a necessary principle. I suppose no one will be more surprised than the Chief Secretary that the hon. Member for Cork 953 (Mr. Parnell), in a speech delivered in Ireland yesterday, boasted he saved the Bill on Friday night. I do not suppose the Chief Secretary imagined the Bill was in any danger; if it had been in danger, I do not think it would have been saved by the hon. Member for Cork and the 10 Members who followed him into the Lobby. The hon. Member for Northampton proposes to leave out the clause because it provides an Imperial guarantee for the stockholder. That, I think, is a just and necessary measure, not only for the sum of £30,000,000, but for such a sum as would effect a transformation of the whole abominable land system England has imposed on Ireland. No doubt the clause contains a pendant, which provides that, while in the first instance the guarantee shall be provided from the Consolidated Fund, any loss sustained shall be borne by the Guarantee Fund as provided by the Act. If the Guarantee Fund were defined in the clause I should feel it my duty to vote against the clause, because I object in principle to any local guarantee for what I consider a strictly Imperial responsibility. But as the final words of the clause do not define the amount or the sources from which it is to be provided, and seeing that the whole intention of the clause does not determine the subject of the Guarantee Fund, and does not preclude me from discussing at a future stage from what source the fund shall be derived, and that the question remains open, recognising that the essence of the clause is the establishment of an Imperial guarantee, and that the question of local guarantee is not, in fact, determined by the clause, if the hon. Member for Northampton goes to a Division, I shall think it my duty to vote against him.
§ (6.9.) MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
If I am in order, I should like to submit one point to the Committee. You, Sir, will recollect that the first evening the Bill was in Committee I moved the rejection of Sub-section 1 of Clause 1. I did so on the ground that by the Bill, and particularly by the 1st sub-section, we were not called upon to give direct power to grant money. The Bill did not authorise the issue of a single penny beyond the £10,000,000 under the Ashbourne Acts. I withdrew my Amend 954 ment in consideration of a promise by the right hon. Gentleman that he would meet all I demanded by words to be introduced in Clause 6. What I propose to submit to the Committee is that the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman has given notice of does not meet the difficulty I suggested.
It is extremely inconvenient to anticipate a discussion of words which are proposed to be added to a subsequent clause. If the hon. Gentleman tells me his action in respect of this clause depends upon the meaning to be attributed to these words, I do not see how I can prevent him examining them. It may be that the object aimed at is common to the hon. Member and the Chief Secretary, and that the only question is how the object is to be accomplished. In that case, the hon. Member may agree to withhold the discussion until Clause 6 comes up.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I may, perhaps, save time if I state my objections to the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment. The right lion. Gentleman proposes to amend Clause 6 by inserting the words—Advances may be made under the Land Purchase Acts as amended by this Act, notwithstanding any limitation contained in the Land Purchase Acts, 1885 and 1888, by the issue of Guaranteed Land Stock, but such advances.I submit that in three points these words fail to serve the purpose for which he has introduced them. Section 6, after these words are inserted, will do no more than Section 1 already does. Advances may still be made under the Purchase Act notwithstanding any limitation contained in the Acts of 1885 and 1888. The aggregate limitation of £10,000,000 is not the only limitation in the Purchase Acts of 1885 and 1888; there was an individual limitation of £3,000 on each individual advance—£5,000 in the Purchase Act of 1885, reduced to £3,000 in the Act of 1888, but capable of being raised to £5,000 in exceptional cases.
§ (6.17.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
On the point of Order as suggested by you, Sir, may I ask whether, considering that the whole object of the Bill is to authorise advances, and that the words the hon. Gentleman is criticizing 955 occur in an Amendment to Clause 6, this is the proper time to take the discussion?
It is extremely inconvenient, as I have said, to discuss these words here. It appears the object aimed at is common to both the hon. Member for Dundee and the right hon. Gentleman, and the only question is, what the words proposed to be inserted in Clause 6 accomplish. If that is so, it would be better to wait until we come to Clause 6.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
My main purpose was to inform the Government of the grave objections to the Amendment. I believe the new words make the Bill ten thousand times worse than it was before. The promise of the Chief Secretary to introduce satisfactory words, on which promise I withdrew my Amendment, remains unfulfilled. I am, therefore, obliged to vote against the whole clause.
§ (6.16.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I shall most certainly vote against this clause, and my reason for doing so is drawn from the clause itself. The clause establishes a complicated machinery for carrying out most important objects. The clause saysFor the purpose of such redemption a Sinking Fund shall be established by means of an annual sum, at the rate of 1 per cent. on the nominal amount of the capital payable in equal half-yearly payments.We know what the whole clause is, and under what conditions this Sinking Fund will be carried forward, and I maintain that to put these words into the clause is to state something which will not be carried out. There is one county in Ireland where £450,000 in round figures has already been issued under the Ash-bourne Act. Of the £450,000, £270,000 has been issued to the tenants of two landlords. One of the landlords sold land of which the rent was £4,000 a year, and the tenants of farms which paid £3,000 or three-fourths of this rent, have already applied for an extension of the time of repayment which would make it absolutely impossible to carry out tins which Parliament is asked to pronounce shall be carried out in the clause.' But that is not all. Another landlord in the county has sold land for £12,000. Already farmers who pay rents of £3,800 a year have appealed for an extension of time, and to show that 956 the bargains were such that they had reason so to appeal, I say that some of the farmers have already been sold up. Now, Sir, if so quickly after that Act has been put into operation so large a number of farmers have applied for an extension —an extension which would render absolutely nugatory the machinery for setting up a Sinking Fund, what would happen with regard to the whole of Ireland? Observe what an extension will be required. All you have to deal with is this 1 per cent. which goes to the Sinking Fund, and in order to grant the extension which these tenants desire, and which from private inquiries I have made I believe they do require, considering the sums that have been paid to the landlords, you would have to apply the extension to an enormous area of time, and would have to maintain for a long time indeed the relations we object to enter into with Ireland. I believe that since these tenants have what is called purchased their holdings—as if it was they who had purchased them, and not we—there has been no bad seasons. How can you expect the Sinking Fund to go on successfully when they have bad seasons? The right hon. Marquess the Member for Rossendale (Lord Hartington), speaking not very long ago, said that the bad harvests which 'had prevailed in Ireland had rendered the payment of rent impossible. When you have a bad harvest, the carrying out of the machinery of the Sinking Fund will be an impossibility. The reason for these great difficulties in Waterford, as well as in many other counties, is that the Commissioners are not able sufficiently to inform themselves of the local circumstances of all these farmers. f this clause had provided for a reference to some body who knew the farmers and the district, I should have felt very differently about it; but this it does not do, and we are left at the mercy of the ignorance of the Commissioners and the greed of the landlords.
§ (6.25.) MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E. Eccles)
I have not troubled the Committee on this Bill before, and I am only desirous now of saying a few words, in order to prevent any misunderstanding of my views. I purpose voting with the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) in favour of putting au end to this clause, but I hold, in 957 some degree, different views from his. I am not at all opposed to the use of English money or English credit for the purpose of a real settlement of the Irish land difficulty; first, because I think that looking at the past transactions with Ireland we owe them much, and, secondly, because I take it that the removal of any great grievance is a legitimate object for the use of Imperial money and Imperial credit. I object, however, to this clause on three main grounds. First and foremost, it does not establish or provide for or refer to or permit any local control over the purchase. Secondly, the guarantee proposed is, to my mind, most objectionable; thirdly, I am not at all convinced that there is any advantage whatever in creating a new and peculiar Stock for this purpose. It seems to me in every way that it would have been better to raise the money required on the same terms and conditions as the Consolidated Stock. As my election has been tolerably fresh, I think I have a perfect right to express these views in the name of my constituents.
§ (6.27.) MR. LABOUCHERE
If this liability of £30,000,000, which is to be thrown on the British taxpayer, would bring about a settlement of the real Irish question, I should be very glad to assent to the proposal, even if the money were to be thrown into the sea. The reason why I am opposed to it is that I believe the expenditure will not be of any advantage to Ireland, and I do not believe it will lead to Home Rule. With your ruling before me, Mr. Courtney, I will not attempt to go into the whole question of Home Rule, but I think it ought to be understood that we consider we have a plan by which, if Home Rule were granted, Ireland would be able to borrow this money at precisely the same price as she will be able to borrow it now without involving the British taxpayer in any sort of guarantee or liability. We are asked to vote this money under an absolute and entire misconception as to the figures on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Remarkable as it would appear, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has himself furnished us with a Return in which he acknowledges his error. I think it will be admitted that the object of the clause is to create £30,000,000 of 958 Guaranteed Stock, which is to be paid off by a Sinking Fund at 1 per cent., and we are told that this will be covered by the £1,200,000 which we are supposed to have in hand in respect of the Irish contributions to the Treasury. But, remarkable as it may seem, this does not cover it in any sort of way. This is due to the use of the Sinking Fund for the object of the Bill. I think it will be admitted that the object of the clause is to create £30,000,000 of Guaranteed Stock to be paid off, and a Sinking Fund of 1 per cent., with 3 per cent. to be used as interest. I will try to make myself clear, taking an advance of £100 as an example. Each year you assume it is £100, and you never exceed that. What occurs? The first year there is 1 per cent. paid into the Sinking Fund, leaving £99; the next year it is £98. You are employing also your interest to your Sinking and increasing your liability each year; you are not covered each year by the annuity. Now the Chancellor f the Exchequer has furnished us with a Return which admits the fact. He has given us a table showing the maximum gross advances that may be made under the Bill for the first 30 years. I do not know why he does not go beyond that period unless it is that the sum proves so enormous. The Return which has been issued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer proves that he is wrong, for he himself shows that the annuity will increase to £1,212,000 in the second year and to £1,845,587 in the thirtieth year—that is to say, that if the tenants should not pay, the implication is that the deficiency will be covered by the £1,200,000. But that cannot be, because, as the Return itself shows, the tenants will in the thirtieth year owe more than £1,800,000. Some explanation is surely required from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Chief Secretary, because the very essence of the plea for this loan is that we shall be absolutely covered by the £1,200,000. I may be wrong and the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be able to convince me that I am, but I think we ought to get some explanation.
§ (6.34.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
As I understand the point of the hon. Member it arises only on the amount of the advances made and the amount paid to 959 and from the Sinking Fund, and I would ask whether it is in order to discuss this on the clause that does not deal with it. As I understand the hon. Member, his question would arise on a later clause (6) dealing with re-advances.
§ (6.34.) MR. KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
Before you reply, Sir, on the point of order, may I supplement the right hon. Gentleman's remark with another, which strictly affects the present clause—that this clause in the three last lines contains, as I shall show, if your ruling permits, two gross misstatements of fact. In the first place, the advances from the Consolidated Fund cannot be temporary; and, secondly, it is provided that every such advance shall be re-paid to the Consolidated Fund out of the Guarantee Fund which is simply an arithmetical impossibility, for the reasons shown by my hon. Friend.
The point of objection taken by the right hon. Gentleman seems to be a good one. As I understand the figures to which the hon. Member for Northampton refers they have relation, to Clause 6, Sub-section 3, and on that would come the opportunity to raise the question. The point arises out, of 'the re-issue of money which has been received in repayment of capital advanced, and it will not be in order to discuss that re-issue until we come to the clause dealing with it.
(6.38.) Clause 2.
§ The Committee divided:Ayes 247; Noes 126.—(Div. List, No. 142.)
§ (6.53.) MR. SEXTON
I wish to move an Amendment to line 5, after the word " moneys " to insert the words " except as hereinafter mentioned."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Before my hon. Friend does that I should like to ask the Chief Secretary what is meant by the words " under the prescribed regulations." These may be matters of great importance. If the Government will undertake that the regulations shall be laid before Parliament in the usual way, there will be no objection, but practically the Treasury will be free to make any regulations they please.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will see Mr. A. J. Balfour 960 that Sub-section 2 of Clause 9 meets his point.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Yes; but in that sub-section the reference is to " rules." If by " regulations " you mean rules, and will alter the word, that will meet the point.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 4 to leave out the word " regulations " and insert the word " rules."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ (6.56.) MR. SEXTON
I beg to move in line 5, after the word "moneys," to insert the words " except as to the percentages hereinafter mentioned." The clause provides that a Land Purchase Account shall be established to which shall be carried all moneys received on account of any purchase-annuity for the discharge of an advance, and from this pro.. vision the object of my Amendment is to except the county percentage of 5s. per cent. I do not see why this should be paid into the Guarantee Fund. The Stock you create costs you 2¾ per cent., and the Sinking Fund 1 per cent., together 3¾ per cent., and you have nothing else to provide for but the current dividend and the Sinking Fund. Why then add another ¼ per cent.? The required 3 ¾per cent. is sufficient without it, and I consider it a purely arbitrary exaction. I want some explanation of the reason why this is exacted. However, if the Government insist on levying this ¾ per cent, then I come to the object of this Amendment. Why should this ¾ per cent., which is called the county per centage, be carried to the Land Purchase Account, which account will be sufficiently filled if it receives the 2 ¾ per cent., with 1 per cent. for the Sinking Fund? I propose that instead of this ¼per cent. being carried to the Land Purchase Account it should be carried to a separate and independent account, to be applied as I will presently state. Your Guarantee Fund is precedent to the issue of Stock, but this is something subsequent—is a matter entirely foreign to the Guarantee Fund, and should find no place in it. Your Guarantee Fund is complete without it. I seriously ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the utility of his proposal? It 961 is unjust that money contributed wholly by occupiers should be divisible partly among landlords. No farmer will feel the benefit of this county percentage. Will the Chief Secretary say that its distribution will produce any appreciable effect, or that any county ratepayer will feel himself better off in consequence of it I believe that this clause, however, can be made into something that will confer a notable and memorable benefit upon Ireland. As the clause stands now the county percentage will sink into the sand. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is unwilling to leave this out of the Guarantee Fund, let him put it into that fund first and then, if it is not wanted there, let it be added to the Fund for the erection of labourers' cottages. The Labourers' Acts have hitherto failed in their effect. A contribution was given to us last year for the purpose of erecting cottages, and we had some hope that the Exchequer contribution would be available for some time for the purpose. Now you are going to lock this money up for five years, and, therefore, the labourers will be deprived of any chance of the continuance of the £40,000 you agreed to give us last year. The Guarantee Fund can do extremely well without this paltry £2,500 a year, and I would therefore urge the right hon. Gentleman to allow it to pass into the fund at the disposal of the Lord Lieutenant to be by him divided, as if it were Probate Duty, among the various Poor Law Guardians. I think the farmers would not object to this, and the labourers would bless you for it. The expenditure of this sum of money in this way would create a most happy, salutary, and memorable change throughout Ireland. It is as true to-day as it was formerly, of the Irish labourers, that they are not only the worst clothed and the worst fed, but the worst housed men in Europe.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 5, after the word " moneys," to insert the words "except as to the percentages hereinafter mentioned."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ (7.7.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
By this Amendment the whole question of county percentage is raised. It is 962 alleged that some injustice is done to the Irish tenant by not giving him full advantage of English credit. I consider that full justice is done by the Bill. The payment will be made, in some cases, by the tenant, and in some cases by the landlord; probably in more cases by the landlord than by the tenant. If the tenant thinks only of the amount of the annuity he has to pay in lieu of rent, and will bargain with his landlord on that consideration alone, I imagine that probably it will be the landlord who will pay the 5s. per cent., and not the tenant. Do not, at all events, let anyone assume too rashly that the party to the bargain who will pay this will be the tenant. I have to ask whether it really is unjust that we should ask those to whom we lend British credit to use part of the great boon bestowed upon them for purposes outside their own special requirements. Many important Members of the House not only agree with me in this, but think I have not gone nearly far enough. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and many others who do, not agree with him in politics, are of opinion, not that I have given too much to the Local Authorities, but that I have not given enough, and have too rigidly confined the advantages to the class of the landlords, and the class of the tenants. The course adopted in the Bill, I think, best meets the equities of the case. The hon. Member says, " After all, the boon you have given to the Local Authorities. is so trifling that it may be ignored. "am not sure that that is the case. It may almost be regarded as a fee to the Local Authorities for the collection of the annuities. It gives them an interest in collecting the annuities—an interest far greater than is given to any agent in Ireland in the collection of rents—and I cannot admit that that boon is of the insignificant and contemptible character. stated by the hon. Member.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, even so. I do not know what Irish ratepayers think, but in England we do not regard d. in the £1 as insignificant. Does the hon. Gentleman wish to withdraw this 5s. per cent. altogether from the guarantee? Does he wish that if there be a default in the locality the locality 963 should not suffer? I think that would be bad in every way. I entirely agree that we should, as far as lies in our power, associate the Local Authorities with the punctual payment of the annuities. If the hon. Gentleman's proposal were accepted, and we were to divorce the localities and the payment of annuities, we should. leave the localities animated by the dread of losing their share of the Guarantee Fund, and nothing else whatever. For these reasons I do not agree with the earlier part of the speech of the hon. Gcntleman. But he concluded by making an appeal which really assimilates itself far more to the proposal we have in the Bill than it does to the proposal in the earlier portion of his remarks. I do not see how the hon. Gentleman's proposal materially differs from the proposal in the Bill. He says, " I will show you a plan that will confer a great boon on the labourers in Ireland, and one which the farmers will not grudge." I thought he was about to propose a plan which had entirely escaped the notice of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. SEXTON
Under the Bill it is only at the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant, by exemption from the rule, that the money is to be spent on labourers' cottages. I want to alter that, and make it the rule and not the exception.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Quite so; but the hon. Gentleman said there was to be some enormous benefit given to the labourers, and I do not think that that would be the case. Our own idea was that whenever the Local Authorities showed a desire to spend the money on labourers' cottages, it should be given to them for general purposes; but that where the Local Authorities did not show this desire, the Lord Lieutenant should earmark it and say that it should be devoted to this purpose. I believe that there would be very little difference indeed between the hon. Gentleman's proposal and our proposal. I have no doubt that under our proposal labourers' cottages will be erected in those Unions where the Guardians object to erecting them at present, whilst there will be no need for them in the Unions where the Guardians have exerted themselves to erect such cottages.
§ MR. SEXTON
For my part, I should not wish to see any part of this money 964 thrown away on Unions where they are not willing to devote it to the building of labourers' cottages.
§ (7.17.) MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
The hon. Member for West Belfast will will not be surprised if I say that I cannot support this Amendment, because I have two Amendments upon the Paper which I think would make the Bill more effective than the present Amendment, which only, so far as I understand it, provides that the money shall not pass through the Land Purchase Account. I do not think it matters very much whether the money passes through that account or not, so long as it ultimately comes into the possession of the Labourers' Cottage Fund. The tenants in Ireland are quite intelligent enough to be able to calculate how much they will have to pay at so many years' purchase, and therefore it will be no direct benefit to them to reduce the instalments to 3i per cent., because if it remains at 4 per cent. they will not be prepared to pay quite so many years' purchase. But there is a direct reason why you should give this small amount of 5s. to the labourer. They are part of the community who will have to guarantee payment year by year of the 4 per cent. I heard an hon. Member allege the other night that the labourers would not have to guarantee 4 per cent., but he was in error in the matter, for he assumed that persons occupying holdings of under £4 valuation do not pay county cess. It is true they do not pay poor rates. The landlord has to pay those, but they do pay county cess, and are liable for it as much as any other class of occupiers; and if there is any default in the payments under this Act, it is by means of an extra payment to the county cess that it will be made good. Therefore, the labourers will have to contribute towards this; and I say that, under those circumstances, they have a special claim to consideration. They are in the same position as tenant farmers, save that the latter have a chance of securing benefit by purchasing these holdings, whereas the labourers have not. The labourers have a special claim to get this 5s. My hon. Friend says it will be a trifling amount, but if the whole £30,000,000 were expended it would be £75,000 a year, which would hardly be a trifle. I think we may press on the Chief Secre 965 tary to make some concession on this point. I ask that instead of throwing the onus of proof as to whether the money is required for building labourers' cottages on the locality we should assume —what everybody who knows Ireland is willing to assume—that there is no district in the country where labourers' cottages are not wanted. Let us leave it to the ratepayers to show that the money is not wanted for this purpose, and to apply, if they think it necessary, to the Lord Lieutenant for power to spend the money in relief of the rates. If no such application is made, I ask that the money shall be used for the erection of labourers' cottages, and for no other purpose. The Chief Secretary could give this small amount of money out of the Guarantee Fund, and do so without any risk to the British taxpayer. I hope he will seriously consider the matter.
§ (7.25.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
I must say that I view with great apprehension what has happened to-day. The hon. Member for Cork made a speech in Ireland yesterday and said that Irish traitors refuse to take British money when they have the chance. That may have an effect on the people of Ireland, and the English people may think with the hon. Member that the Irish Members have now the chance of taking British money. These hon. Gentlemen get up to-day and say, " We want your money, but what we object to is the provision for its repayment. We object to the repayment coming from Irish pockets." It seems to me that this 4 per cent. is the only real assurance we have for the repayment of this money. There are likely to be some bad debts, and this amount will go to make them good and to recoup the British taxpayer to the extent of 23/4 per cent. This per cent. will be security against bad debts, and if it is not wanted for that purpose it will go to the improvement of the cottages of the Irish labourers. I do not like the friendly approximation we see between the Chief Secretary and hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the House, who have just voted for the 1st clause. The Chief Secretary says, "The first part of the speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast I do not accept, but the second part does not seem to be so bad." He seems in 966 clined to give up the security for the payment of Irish debts in order to devote it to Irish local purposes
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
We hear that when a certain class of people differ, honest men come by their rights. May not the converse of that happen; and that if a certain class of people agree together, honest men will be deprived of their rights? I hope the Committee will insist on retaining this small Irish security for the repayment of these loans.
§ (7.28.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I do not deny that the hon. Member who has just sat down is an honest man, but I am sorry he compares us to people who are not quite honest. However, the courtesy of the hon.' Member is well-known, and I pass from his courtesy to his argument. I would point out that Irish credit has been pledged for the benefit of the English Empire over and over again. Our credit is pledged with yours in India; and although you benefit, it has been computed, to the extent of £14,000,000 a year by the possession of India, we derive no benefit at all. We ask in return for the pledging of our credit in this and other directions that we in Ireland should derive some slight benefit from British credit. Passing from the hon. Gentleman's speech I will deal with the Amendment. It is a double-barrelled one, the hon. Member seeking with the left barrel to bring down the small tenant in the West of Ireland, and with the right barrel to bring down the labourer in the South of Ireland There are not many of either class, but I think we are at some disadvantage in discussing an Amendment which has this twofold object. I should have preferred to take each object separately. However, they are both very good. The hon. Member says the tenants should get the loans at £3 15s. interest. There is a large sum of money given from the Probate Duty to Ireland; and before the Imperial credit would come in, the whole of this Probate Duty could be come upon, consequently the Government could very well afford to allow the tenants in Ireland to buy their lands at the rate of £3 15s. per cent. I have an Amendment dealing with small tenants only, but I will take the case of 967 the whole of the tenants, and I think it is a great mistake to endeavour to tax them for the benefit of any other class of the community by putting on this extra 5s. I think they ought to get the money at the cheapest rate at which the Government can give it. What I chiefly object to is that this 5s. fund combines the two characteristics of a Guarantee Fund and a Benevolent Fund. It ought to be either a Guarantee Fund, when the Guarantee Fund would come back to the tenants, or it ought to be a Benevolent Fund upon which the Poor Law Unions and the neighbours ought to be able to reckon. I think it is highly disadvantageous for every one concerned. It is bad for the State, because it prevents bargains being made, and also bad for the landlords, because it stops bargains; but it is worse for the tenants, who have to pay 5s. more. It will be ultimately, no doubt, borne partially by the tenant and partially by the landlord, but at first the burden will fall chiefly on the tenant. In this way, I think, this is a most objectionable part of the Bill. As regards the case of the labourers, they ought not to be set against the farmers; and, as in my own part of the country, the farmers are nearly all small farmers, and they are intermingled with the labourers in many ways, this proposal of the Bill is particularly objectionable. What this Bill ought to do for the labourers is to give them facilities for acquiring land. That I do not think the Bill adequately provides for at present. But the labourers ought not to be benefited by a tax under this Bill as against the farmers. The worst of all, however, is that they are to be benefited by an uncertain tax, which will prevent them from getting some other benefits. It will be argued that the labourers pay some county cess to the Guarantee Fund, but we know they pay an almost infinitesimal amount of county cess, so that the actual contribution under the Bill is very small. The labourers pay a good deal in the shape of taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and tea, and if the labourers are to benefit at all, it should be out of the Imperial Funds to which they are larger contributors. As a class they pay far more for Imperial purposes than rich men, and I personally would like to see all reference to labourers struck out of the Bill so far as 968 surplus money is concerned, and I should like to see introduced facilities for the acquisition of half an acre or an acre of land on the same terms as the farmer buying 100 acres. I hope the Government will re-consider the case, and will seriously consider the point whether it would not be far better to strike out altogether the extra 5s. and let the tenants have the land for £3 15s. per cent.; or if they cannot do that, at any rate, when the Guarantee Fund is satisfied, let the 5s. be refunded. On the whole, I am inclined to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), because it is an Amendment that depends entirely upon how it is looked at. The actual wording is rather difficult to follow, but I interpret it in the shape in which I have endeavoured to put my remarks. I look upon this as the most important part of the Bill, but one upon which the Government have gone wrong.
§ (7.40.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
The hon. Member for "West Belfast lays great stress upon the 'Amendment; but if that is so, and if he considers that very great benefits would accrue from it, I think it is a matter of great regret that it was not placed on the Paper. The hon. Member will know from experience of this House that it. is a very awkward and inconvenient thing to propose in manuscript an Amendment upon which any hon. Member relies. If it is desired to obtain a very important alteration in a clause, certainly it is much more convenient that lion. Members should have an opportunity of judging clearly its effect. I have listened to the argument of the hon. Member, and, in the first place, I do not agree that his Amendment would make much alteration in the bargain to be arrived at between tenant and landlord. I do not think it would be of that great benefit to the tenant which some hon. Members opposite seem to think. I fancy, if this 5s. were struck out altogether, it would only result in the landlord and tenant coming to an agreement on a slightly different basis, which would end, in all probability, in the tenant paying a higher price for his land. So far as the Amendment regards the labourer, I have listened to what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I cannot 969 see that the alteration which he proposes in the machinery of the clause will lead to any material benefit to the labourer. If it did I should be extremely glad to join him. It is my opinion that the benefits conferred on the labouring population of Ireland in the Bill are extremely minute. I regret much that the Government have not been able to see their way to make them more effective. Everybody seems to have his own little plan to improve the Bill in that direction, and possibly before the end of the Committee I may venture to offer a plan, which I think will, at all events, place a more effective sum at the disposal of the Government and the Local Authorities for the benefit of the labourers. If I felt convinced that the alteration proposed was a really effective alteration in the direction of conferring a much larger material benefit or placing a much larger sum at the disposal of the authorities for the labourers, I should vote for it, but I cannot see that the distinction is very great, and I shall therefore support the clause as it stands, hoping before the Committee comes to an end to do something in a more material way to amend it.
§ (7.44.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
The proposal of my hon. Friend. the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) is one which has my cordial approval. It seems to me that this 5s. out of the £4 which is to be handed over first to the Guarantee Fund and then to be devoted at the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant to labourers' cottages is very important. For my part, I should like to see it a larger amount; And if the Government had been inclined to support the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), this fund would. have been increased by £75,000 a year. 1 am sure my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast is justified, from his point of view, in moving his Amendment. He proposes, I understand, that the tenant should be paid the sum of 5s. per cent. out of the £4.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I entirely ,agree with what the Chief Secretary has -,said, that this is not a reduction from ..the tenant, but rather from the landlord. My impression is that if the tenants paid 970 3¾ per cent. the landlord would. get rather a larger price for the purchase than he otherwise would do if political economy—and I am afraid it does not—prevailed in Ireland. The importance of the clause as it stands is this: The 5s. out of the £4 goes to the Guarantee Fund for the security of the English taxpayer beyond the amount of the instalments; secondly, it gives a bonus to the labourers; and, thirdly, it associates public opinion in Ireland with the payment of these instalments. Now, all these objects seem to me well worthy of assistance, and I should be very unwilling to see the Bill altered in this respect. If, therefore, my hon. Friend means that the 5s. should not pass through the Guarantee Fund, then I, for my part, could not support the Amendment. If, on the other hand, he means that the discretion to the Lord Lieutenant as to labourers' cottages should be more mandatory, I should be willing to support him.
§ MR. SEXTON
I am willing to agree to the point that the money should pass through the Guarantee Fund, and that, on being released from that fund, it shall be applied directly to the purpose specified.
§ (7.50.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I understand that this 5s. is to be disposed of according to the principle on which the Probate grants are now made. I have two or three times raised the question, and certainly I shall move the omission of the words when we come to that part of the Bill, because a more mischievous way of distributing money I have never known. I think the Government would do well to accept the Amendment at this stage. Now, this 5s. per cent. over the whole £30,000,000 will amount to £75,000 — or £2,500 for every £1,000,000 paid out. The Government, by their present attitude, are really refusing practical benefit to the labourer. The labourers in all the provinces of Ireland, except Ulster, have used the Labourers' Act, but in Ulster it has not been put into operation at all; and the result will be that the Lord Lieutenant will make an Order which will benefit the Orange districts, where ,the Labourers' Act has not been put in operation at all; while the labourers in other parts of the country, where, the Act has been used, will , gain no 971 benefit whatever. In other words, you will be able to take advantage of your own wrong. The result will be that the Lord Lieutenant will use this provision for the Province of Ulster, and Ulster alone. I therefore think my hon. Friend is well advised in moving his Amendment at this particular stage. I wish to make a remark in reference to what was said by an hon. Gentleman in regard to the speeches—he said " the very important speeches "—delivered in Ireland by the hon. Member for Cork. I would venture to assure him that they have about as much influence in that island as the speeches of the hon. Gentleman himself have in this House. The only other remark I have to make is this: that they attract as much attention as the speeches of the respected Grand Master of the Orangemen about whom a question was asked to-day.
§ MR. SEXTON
The Amendment in its present form is quite consistent with the use of the Guarantee Fund. The money may be kept out of the land purchase account, and yet may come into the Guarantee Fund.
§ (7.55.) MR. KNOX
I venture to think that there is no reason why some arrangement should not be come to between both sides of the House. The hon. Member for North Antrim, for instance, was largely in sympathy with the object of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast. My hon. Friend's Amendment would leave the county percentage as before, but it would ensure that it would go to the labourer, there being little security at present that it will go in that direction. If real benefit is to be conferred on the labourer in Ireland, the sum should go to him directly. The Government have ample guarantees in the latter part of the measure in the Irish Probate, and in the Exchequer contribution. Suppose the Lord Lieutenant ordered that the county percentage should be devoted to the erection of labourers' cottages, you would have no guarantee, nothing really that would make the farmer more anxious to pay his instalments. It would not hurt the farmers to find the labourers in cottages like pig styes. Therefore, we say there is no real guarantee. We urge the Government, if possible, to accept this Amendment, and to provide that this 972 money shall go directly to the labourer. We think he ought to get some benefit under this Bill. So far he has reaped but little advantage from Irish land legislation. But the Government propose that the money shall be ladled first from the tenant's pocket into the land purchase account and thence into the Guarantee Fund, and it will be only after a considerable lapse of time that it-can reach the labourers. The object of this Amendment is to make it certain that the labourer will get this not inconsiderable sum which, if it is employed as we suggest, will effect a great and beneficial change on the face of Ireland. If the Amendment is not carried it is. evident the labourer will get nothing at all.
§ (8.3.) MR. MACARTNEY
I am as anxious as hon. Members opposite that this money shall go direct to the labourers. I understand the contention to be that it should be withdrawn from the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund and go directly to that fund over which the Local Authority has control. Now, that is a matter entirely for the Government and the Representatives of the British taxpayer to settle. For myself I am quite prepared to agree that this. ¼ per cent. shall go directly into the hands of the Local Authorities to be applied to the erection of agricultural labourers' cottages in Ireland.
§ MR. MAHONY
May I point out there will be really no risk to the British taxpayer if this money does go-direct to the Labourers' Fund, because if the county percentage is not paid the person who will be the sufferer will be the labourer. The money is not due to the State; what is due to the State is the 3¾ per cent. I hope that the Government will grant this small concession.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
It is rather inconvenient to discuss an Amendment which does not appear on the Paper. I can state my objection in a couple of sentences. This is not a labourers' Bill, but a measure for the creation of an occupying ownership in Ireland. I am not prepared to nibble here and there at the securities provided in the Bill, and, therefore, I support the clause as drawn. At the same time, I believe the labourers will reap great advantage under the clause.
§ (8.6.) MR. LABOUCHERE
1 cannot agree with my hon. Friends that this is not, to a certain extent, covered by the advances. Unquestionably, this £75,000 per annum is part of the compulsory Guarantee Fund. What I would suggest is this: If they wish it to go directly to the labourers instead of to the county there will be no objection, so far as I can see, from the standpoint of the British taxpayer, but it must be provided there is no default anywhere.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
We have now had an expression of opinion from the most watchful guardian of the British taxpayer. I really think the Government might make some little concession on this point. The hon. Member for South Antrim is in favour of our proposition, so is the hon. Member for Northampton. Of course, the Government are not in the habit of taking notice of what the hon. Member for South Tyrone says, so there is nobody in the House of any account against our Amendment. The Chief Secretary treated the County Board, the Grand Jury, and the Board of Guardians as if they were composed of persons who were the safety-valves of the successful working of the Act. He seemed to have an idea they would have a temptation to see that no fault was made. But I venture to say that if a man knew a neighbour was about to make default, the infinitesimal loss which would thereby accrue would not cause his remonstrance to amount to sternness. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if everybody would be watching the operation of the purchase system in the same way as a gardener watched the growth of a new plant. 'Why, that is absurd. I could not understand what the hon. and gallant Member for Galway was aiming at. He seemed to argue that the labourers ought to get nothing under this Bill. He seemed to say that in his district there were no labourers, but that they were all small farmers. Well, my point is that the labourer does not get a sufficient advantage, and I appeal to the Government, as there is considerable discontent in Ireland as to the distribution of the Probate Duty, to concede this direct benefit to the labourer—a benefit which would be real and substantial, while causing infinitesimal loss to the farmer and to the rates.
§ (8.12.) Sin J. COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
I cannot see that a case has been made out for the Amendment. The amount of money which would be placed at the disposal of Boards of Guardians would be so small that scarcely any cottages could be built. I sympathise with the agricultural labourer in Ireland; but if we intend to confer any substantial benefit on him under the Bill, it should be in a direction that is practical and not theoretical. I am strongly of opinion that labourers occupying cottages under the Board of Guardians should be allowed to purchase; but I think it is unnecessary to tamper with the financial arrangements of the Bill, especially when there has not been placed before the Committee any reason showing that there will be any substantial benefit conferred on the labourers.
§ (8.14.) COLONEL NOLAN
I am sorry the hon. Member for North Longford failed to understand my point. I think if the labourers are to get any benefit they should be allowed to purchase their holdings, but I do not think a tax should be put upon Consols for their benefit. The hon. Member in one of his speeches said the arguments of the hon. Member for Cork would have no weight in Ireland. I will not say what the general effect is, but I know that in the Counties of Roscommon, Mayo, and Galway they will have great weight on the smaller tenants. I have just had an opportunity of speaking to a local gentleman, who—
§ (8.16.) MR. SEXTON
I venture to point out to the hon. and gallant Officer opposite that his Amendment does not merely confer a theoretical benefit; the benefit it confers is of an extremely practical character. The £75,000, which would be the amount available when the full £30,000,000 is advanced—
§ MR. SEXTON
I hope very soon. The £75,000 will be sufficient to erect 1,000 cottages per annum. It appears to me that the Chief Secretary's object in regard to the county percentage is substantially the same as that of the Irish Members; and, if that is so, I do 975 not see why the right hon. Gentleman should object to have it stated in the Bill. I would, therefore, propose that the clause be amended by providing that the money in question shall be applied towards the cost of erecting labourers' cottages under the Labourers' Cottages (Ireland) Acts, subject to such regulations as the Lord Lieutenant may think expedient. I will go further. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks the Lord Lieutenant should have a more general discretion as to the application of the money, I will not make it a mandate that the money shall be applied in a particular way. But anyone who knows anything about the condition of Ireland must be aware that the great bulk of the agricultural labourers are miserably housed, and are yet paying intolerably high rents, and, therefore, for many years to come this money could be most usefully employed.
§ (8.21.) MR. MAHONY
If the Chief Secretary falls in with that suggestion it will preclude the necessity of my moving several Amendments which stand in my name.
§ (8.22.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There were originally three questions before the Committee. The first was whether this money should form part of the Guarantee Fund. I understand that the hon. Gentleman does not press that. The second question has never been clearly stated, but I think it was whether this 5s. should be put into a common purse for the whole of Ireland or be distributed only in the county in which the holding is situated. I do not think any change is possible in the Bill in that respect. I hold that the county in which the sale takes place is, ought to be, and must be, the county to derive the benefit from the 5s. The third question is as to whether the whole money should be given for the purpose of erecting labourers' cottages, or whether some discretion should be left to the Lord Lieutenant, who is the Executive Government, as to how it shall be used. I take it the Debate is now narrowed down to one point, and I think I can show the Committee reasons for preferring the present form of the Bill. I agree with everything that has been said in favour of substituting tolerable houses for the miserable hovels in which many labourers at present live in Ire 976 land, but I think that every one acquainted with the condition of Ireland will admit that to do anything to make the number of labourers in a district in excess of the employment to be obtained there would be most disastrous to the labourers themselves. A careful eye must be kept on the needs of the district, and public money must not be used for the purpose of encouraging labourers to remain there.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The point of the hon. Member is that the whole of the money must be spent on labourers' cottages and within the county. I can conceive cases in which the erection of large numbers of cottages would he a serious evil in the county in which they may be built. I agree that there is probably no county in Ireland in which a considerable sum might not with advantage be spent in that way. That, however, is a different thing from putting a provision in the Bill compelling a sum of £75,000 to be spent annually for that purpose. I cannot agree to earmark the money in this way. There is no danger that the Lord Lieutenant, who through the Chief Secretary is subject to the .will of the House, will not do his best to see that the money is spent to the utmost advantage and for the benefit of the labourers. I think he will have the strongest possible motive for using it for the erection of labourers' cottages in every county in which such cottages are required. Therefore, I think there is no necessity for a change in the Bill.
§ (8.27.) MR. MAHONY
I think we are all practically agreed, but I fear the Chief Secretary has not quite appreciated the object of the Amendment: It is that Clause 2 presumes, in the first place, that the money is to be used for the reduction of the county cess and poor rate, save where it appears to the Lord Lieutenant, on the representation of the Local Government Board, it should be applied to the erection of labourers' cottages. The presumption, then, is that it is not to be applied to the erection of labourers' cottages unless a special case can be made out. We want the presumption to be the other way. We do not object to giving the Lord Lieutenant power to apply the money to the reduction of the county cess if it can 977 be shown there is no necessity for labourers' cottages in the county. All we want to do is to reverse the order of this clause, and to avoid the necessity of incurring the expense of making application to the Lord Lieutenant. We want to secure the money without expense. There is one other alteration I would suggest to the Chief Secretary, and it is that there should be power, under the direction of the Lord Lieutenant, to use this money not only for the purpose of erecting new cottages, but for the purpose of paying the annual instalments on cottages already erected.
§ (8.31.) MR. T. M. HEALY
What we suggest is that the right hon. Gentleman should reverse the order of things; that is to say, that the presumption should be that the money should go to labourers' cottages in the first instance, and in the second case be diverted to the relief of local taxation.
§ (8.32.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I prefer the clause as it stands, but I shall be glad to make a concession on this point. Hon. Gentlemen have given up their ideas on several matters, and I should be glad to join hands on the suggested terms, namely, that this money should not necessarily be applied to labourers' cottages in cases where it is not required, but that the clause should be so framed that the presumption should be in the direction of so applying it.
§ (8.33.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
We are not all agreed about this matter. There is one important individual who has not been consulted at all, and that is the British taxpayer. I regard with great suspicion every attempt to devote any money, whether it comes from—
I understand the hon. Member for West Belfast wishes to withdraw his Amendment, so as to leave this fund primarily in the Guarantee Fund.
§ MR. MAHONY
Are we to understand the right lion. Gentleman agrees that this money may be used for the purpose of paying off some of the intalments on cottages already erected?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.978
§ (8.35.) MR. T. M. HEALY
In the absence of my lion. Friend (Mr. Chance), I beg to move, in Clause 2, page 2, line 9, after " (a)" to insert—In paying to the Labourers' Dwellings Fund hereinafter established a sum equal to the difference between the nominal value of the Guaranteed Land Stock purchased by the National Debt Commissioners and the price paid by them therefor.The object of the Amendment is that in case the National Debt Commissioners are able to purchase the Stock at 98, and so to make a profit of £2 on each £100, the profit should go into the Labourers' Dwellings Fund. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that the Government do not desire to make any profit by the transactions, but it is clear that if the Stock is depreciated there will be profit somewhere.
Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 9, after " (a) " to insert the words
In paying to the Labourers' Dwellings Fund hereinafter established a sum equal to the difference between the nominal value of the Guaranteed Land Stock purchased by the National Debt Commissioners and the price paid by them therefor.—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It is quite true that the Government do not desire to make a profit; but the 'real point is, how the Sinking Fund will stand. It may happen that the Government or the National Debt Commissioners may not be able to invest the money without loss. The hon. Gentleman need not be afraid; this balance will simply be used in the redemption of so much more Stock.
§ (8.37.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I will withdraw the Amendment; but will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that, in case there is an appreciable profit, we may have a claim to devote the profit to some purpose connected with Ireland?
§ (8.3S.) MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Member is putting this claim forward in the interest of Ireland 49 years hence, but the interest of the British taxpayer 49 years hence should not be lost sight of. The. Government will consider whether, if after the whole operation, there be a surplus, the surplus may not be applied to Irish purposes. It is certainly not the intention of the Government to make one atom of profit out of the transaction.
§ (8.39.) MR. CONYBEARE
I am exceedingly relieved to hear that the right hon. Gentleman has not altogether forgotten the existence of the British taxpayer. What I and many others contemplate is that these operations will land the country in great loss, and we do not view with equanimity a proposal that whatever profit there may be on the Chancellor of the Exchequcr's Stock-jobbing transactions, should inure to the Irish tenant, but think it should inure to the British taxpayer.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I do not agree with my hon. Friend. I think if there is a profit it ought to go to the Irish people. They have to bear any loss, and, therefore, they ought to receive the benefit of any profit.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. (8.40.)
§ (9.16.) MR. MAHONY
The Chief Secretary has made a concession which will render it unnecessary for me to press the Amendment which stands in my name, and I only want the Attorney General for Ireland to consider this matter before the Bill reaches Report stage—
(9.17.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (9.19.) MR. MAHONY
There is no necessity for me to press my Amendment, owing to the concession made by the Government, but I suggest, the consideration of this further concession before the Report stage is reached, that in any county where the Lord Lieutenant decides that such percentage is not required, he may have power to apportion, in that particular county, any part of such sum in any way he thinks fit, for the reduction of annual payments in the case of houses already erected under the Labourers' Dwellings Act. My reason for asking this is that I know as a positive fact that there are many districts in Ireland where the instalments necessary on the erection of labourers' houses are a very heavy payment. It is all very well to provide labourers with better dwellings than they formerly occupied, but I am not at all sure that when a man can hardly earn the money to supply his family with food, he appreciates this benefit 980 he has to pay for'; and if this money is not required in any particular county for the erection of new buildings, then the Lord Lieutenant should have power to apportion the money for the reduction of instalments on this account.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I think it was understood that, having this substantial concession, we should proceed to make progress.
§ (9.21.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The Amendment which I would suggest to carry out the pledge I gave earlier in the proceedings, would be to omit the words after "advance," in line 14, down to " that," in line 19. Perhaps I had better read the sub-section as it would read when amended—In paying to the Guarantee Fund an annual sum (in this Act referred to as the county percentage) at the rate of every Cs. for every £100 of the advance, the whole or any part of such percentage not required for the purposes of the Guarantee Fund shall be applied to erection of labourers' dwellings in the county wherever such holdings are situate under the provisions of the Labourers (Ireland) Acts, subject to such regulations and terms as the Lord Lieutenant may think expedient, save where it appears to him, on the representation of the Local Government Board, that the whole or any part of such percentage should not be so applied he may order it to be applied as if it were part of the Irish Probate Duty grant, and subject to such regulations as he thinks expedient he may withhold or suspend the distribution of the whole or part of the said percentage when paid to the Local Taxation (Ireland) Account.As a preparatory Amendment, I would move the omission of the words from " which," in line 14, to " that " in line 19.
§ (9.23.) COLONEL NOLAN
I have an Amendment to propose before that. It is necessary, before we proceed to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, that this should be first considered. The object of my Amendment has relation to the small tenants, and I fix the limit of those at £15, because in other Acts I observe that has been adopted as a limit, though I attach no importance to that exact limit; it may be fixed at £10 or £20. I will accept any limit to the large number of tenants between £1 and £20. My object is to provide that the annual payment to the Guarantee Fund shall be at the rate of Is. for all holdings paying a purchase annuity under £15. I may say that in the West of Ireland, at all events, with which part of the 981 country I am best acquainted, the great bulk of the tenants have holdings ranging in value from £1 to £20. I do not think that these people should pay any tax or contribution to any account beyond what they pay at present. I think that above all classes in the community these are the people who should be made peasant proprietors. One reason is that these very small tenants are so very much more numerous, and if our great object is to solidify society, and the peasant proprietor class in Ireland, then this can be accomplished to a much larger extent and by the same expenditure where you deal with 50 tenants of £4 than with one tenant at £200. Now of the £30,000,000 these small tenants, though so much more numerous than the large tenants, will have the benefit of £6,000,000 or £8,000,000 only, the larger tenants will have the great bulk of the advances. For the advantage it will be to the scheme as a whole, I think the small tenants might have the benefit of obtaining money at a slightly lower rate than the larger tenants, and the possible loss to your Guarantee Fund will be extremely small. It cannot, I suppose, exceed at the utmost £20,000. I ask that they should have slightly better terms, £3 16s. on each £100 Stock, L3 15s. to the State, and 1s. to the Guarantee Fund, instead of £4 paid by the larger tenants. You will thus more rapidly solidify the class of small proprietors at a cheap rate, and you will have some lien on their gratitude when they appreciate the advantage of British credit, On the other hand if you demand this extra 4s. they will be entitled to say that they are subjected to extra taxation for local purposes, for labourers' cottages, or the Poor Law or other purposes. They are in fact their own labourers where these small tenancies prevail, so that by this slight modification you would be really taking nothing from the labourers of the district. This is the only Amendment I have on the Paper, and if the Government accept this I will undertake to put no other Amendment down. I attach great importance to the Amendment, and I am sure it will make this Bill very popular among the small tenants to whom it would apply. About five-sixths of this very Guarantee Fund is formed by the tenant purchasers 982 themselves, and my Amendment will not prevent the larger tenants paying to that fund, and I believe that if my proposal is carried it will confer a great benefit on society and on the smaller tenants especially.
In page 2, line 13, after the words "rate of," to insert the words " one shilling for all holdings paying a purchase annuity under fifteen pounds, and for all other holdings."—(Colonel Nolan.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ (9.32.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am sanguine enough to think that I can show the hon. and gallant Gentleman conclusive reasons why this particular Amendment shall not be accepted. In the first place this Act is based upon the Ashbourn e Acts of 1885 and 1888, where the amount required from the tenant is 4 per cent., and if this relief, as the hon. and gallant Member considers it, were given to the tenant, the only effect would be that 4s. out of the 5s. would be unappropriated and unused. This Amendment would lead to an additional second clause. But ought they to pass such an inconsequential clause? The hon. and gallant Member says that in Galway there are practically hardly any labourers, and that almost the whole of the poorer population are excluded from the operation of this clause, because they are excluded from the operation of the Acts on which the clause is based. It is undoubtedly accurate that in, Galway and other counties there are many small tenants. But what would. be the result of this proposal? It would be that when the poor labourers were provided for, the whole of this money would go to the mass of the cess payers, and the mass of the cess payers are those whom the hon. and gallant Member desires to serve—the small tenants. He seems to think we are taxing the small tenants. I object to the phrase. What we are doing is to take some 50 per cent. off the rent payable by these small holders, and you can not call this enormous boon in any' sense taxing those to whom it is given. The hon. and gallant Member wishes us to introduce the principle of the graduated. Income Tax, and to use our credit in a. different manner for the poor and for the relatively well to do. I do not think 983 you can adopt that principle. f you did, you would have to give it great development in the Bill. The proposed relief would go more to the mass of the cess payers and to the landlords than to those whom it is intended to benefit, and under all those circumstances I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will not press an Amendment which, in view of the framework of our measure, it would be absolutely impossible to adopt.
§ (9.37.) COLONEL NOLAN
I certainly admit that this would necessitate the adoption of a consequential clause, but we are not likely to reach the new clauses for—I suppose even the sanguine Chief Secretary would say—at least three weeks, and therefore there will be plenty of time to consider the new clause. I believe that nine-tenths of:the benefit that would be given by my Amendment would go to the small tenants. As a general rule, if you give an advantage to any small class of the;community, although some other classes reap a certain amount of the general benefit, the bulk of the benefit sticks to the man to whom you give it first. If .you let .,these small tenants off with 1s. per cent. the great bulk of the benefit will stick to them. The Bills drawn in this House have been nearly always framed in favour of the larger tenants. I have always been most anxious to help .the larger tenants, but I have often wondered during the last 10 or 15 years at the conduct of statesmen on both:sides of the House. For a comparatively small sum of money they could have done a great deal, simply because the same amount goes infinitely so much further in dealing with small than with large tenants. I believe that in the interest of punctuality it would help to let the people see that they were only paying the bare minimum the State could afford to lend them the money for. If this were only a small Guarantee Fund, they would be much more ready to pay up, I think. They will think the interest they pay according to the Bill a very heavy one, and it will act as a deterrent to their paying their instalments with punctuality. I am sorry the Government will not accept the Amendment which is one of great importance, and one which will be heard of a great deal later on if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secre- 984 tary does not make some movement in, the desired direction.
§ (9.42.) MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
The Amendment will reduce the instalments from the small farmers, and as the hon. and gallant Member said on a previous occasion, that the higher the rate from the Stock, the more valuable it will be, it seems to me that his present proposal is directly in the teeth of his earlier declaration. He is now attempting to undermine the argument he very gravely urged previously, and it, therefore, appears to me that he is trifling with the House. The effect of the Amendment would be to withdraw from the labourers the advantages proposed to be given by the proposal the Chief Secretary gave notice of. In my opinion, we should do nothing on this side of the House which would tend to deprive the tenants of Ireland of the advantages promised at the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman, the Member for West Belfast. But with regard to the Labourers' Act, not being of any advantage to the labourers in towns, I would say that where the Acts have been properly applied in Ireland, the effect has been to withdraw from small towns a considerable number of labourers who were hanging about and idling away their time to the rural districts where they have since led a much better and more useful life.
§ (9.45.) MR. SEXTON
I think the right hon. Gentleman would do well to consider whether it would be possible, whilst preserving the efficiency of the machinery of to adopt some considerate line of treatment with regard to the small agricultural labourer. The right hon. Gentleman should consider whether he could relieve the small holders by making the insurance money less and postponing the payment of it to those paying 20 years' purchase—which will be harder than paying 10 years' purchase. It would be a relief to them to postpone it until five years before the date when the guarantee deposit has to be paid to the landlord, even if they were charged 10 per cent.
§ (9.47.) MR. MACARTNEY
I desire to warn my right hon. Friend that if at this early stage of .the Bill he endeavours to differentiate between the various classes of tenants he will be entering 985 upon a sea of troubles, from which he will find it difficult to extricate himself. There is not an hon. Member, from whatever part of Ireland he comes, who would not have a special grievance for the tenants in his constituency. It would be safer for my right hon. Friend to adhere to the broad lines on which the Bill is now based.
§ (9.49.) COLONEL NOLAN
If the Chief Secretary will make a difference in favour of these people, as suggested by the hon. Member for South Belfast, I shall be willing to accept the proposal. I do not much care about the manner in which it is given, provided these people do get an advantage. I cannot think that the hon. Member for Tyrone altogether misunderstood my remarks, as his words would seem to imply. It is one thing to say that the higher the rate for a Stock the more valuable it will be, and another to say that the lower the rate of interest the better it is for the tenant. The less the tenant pays on the Stock the better. The foundation of the fallacy in the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind is that he seems to think that there is only one set of interests, whereas there are two. No doubt it would be better if there was only one, namely, the £2 15s. interest. As to differentiating between classes I would point out that we have already done that under the Ashbourne Acts. I think we should regard differently men who pay small sums and men who pay large sums. I am sorry the Government will not accept the Amendment, and that the hon. Member for Tyrone has given it such opposition.
§ (9.51.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I think the proposal of the hon. Member for West Belfast is worthy of attention in the interest of the small tenants, who should be relieved. I would suggest that when we come to the proper clause there should be some relaxation in the case of small holdings.
§ (9.52.) MR. KEAY
The Chief Secretary has not been able to reply on the financial part of this matter, but I think he will be able to reply to a question I would now venture to ask him. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway said that in the West of Ireland there are very few labourers and a great many very small tenants, if you exclude the cities and towns. There will, therefore, be very 986 little direct advantage to the labourers, and the hon. Member wants a corresponding advantage for the small tenants. The right hon. Gentleman's reply to that was very specific. He said that it must be remembered that although there are very few labourers in these poor country districts in the West of Ireland, yet it is also true that the small tenants there get an enormous reduction in the rent of land under the Land Purchase Bill. He said the tenants would have to pay only 50 per cent. in their instalments compared with the rental they now have to pay. We on this side of the House think the landlords have an unlimited power of extortion in forcing up the purchase price, and consequently the amount of the instalment. I want to know on what grounds the right hon. Gentleman has made his statement?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
My general impression of what land lets for in Ireland.
(9.55.) The Committee divided:Ayes 5; Noes 202.—(Div. List, No. 143.)
§ Verbal Amendments made.
§ (10.10.) MR. KEAY
The Amendment I have to propose is Clause 1, page 2, line 32, to leave out the words after " Fund "—Provided that where a sum is applicable out of the guarantee deposit for the discharge or reduction of an irrecoverable debt, one half only of the amount so applicable shall be paid. out of the guarantee deposit to the Land Purchase Account.The " guarantee deposit " means the landlord's fifth. Now the Ashbourne Act provides that if £100 is advanced, £20 of it is to be retained by the State, and applied as a security in case of default by the tenant purchaser. But we have here an innovation which is perfectly inexplicable, and I want to know on what principle of rectitude such an alteration of the Ashbourne Act is introduced here in favour of the landlords. The landlords' deposit should be the first security in case of attempted or absolute default by the tenant, and this proposal is an insidious design upon the part of the Government to favour their friends, the landlords. By the provision in this Bill the landlords' fifth has practically become one-tenth—that is to say, only one-half of the fifth is to be practical security for the default of the tenant. Along with 987 this innovation there was, in last year's Bill, another iniquitous provision, by which even this one-tenth was made to disappear altogether. It may be remembered that last year the combined effect of those two provisions was such that it elicited a considerable amount of opposition on both sides of the House, especially amongst Irish Members, as was only natural. What do the Government do now? They put one of these provisions only into this Bill, and reserve the other one, hoping that this Bill will pass, until the next Bill, namely, the Land Department Bill, in which it is inserted as Clause 17, Sub-section (2), so that they will, they believe, be able as it were to defeat opposition in detail. I fancy their policy is that of the well known saying, " Here a little and there a little." They will take a little in this Bill—that is to say, they will take away half of the landlords' fifth, and when the next Bill comes on they will take away the other half, and the result will be that they will have the whole entirely to their own satisfaction, in favour of the landlords, and there will be no landlords' deposit remaining at all. The full significance of this insidious design is only to be estimated by another reference to the Land Department Bill. The present Bill says nothing about the process of when and how the landlord's fifth is going to be drawn upon; but the Land Department Bill says that the landlord's fifth is only to be drawn upon after eviction, and all sorts of processes, in which the Imperial Government and the British taxpayer are very much interested, have taken place. This clause here provides that even after eviction, after the British taxpayer, after the Imperial State has incurred all the difficulty and all the odium of evicting the tenant, only one-half of the deposit shall go as an irrecoverable debt, and the other half be retained in the name of the landlord. I hope this side of the House will make a decided stand against the introduction of any such provision; and it is to be hoped the Government themselves will consider the desirableness of accepting this Amendment, in so much as it surely is a matter of fair consideration and equity that the landlord who, alone in Ireland, under this Bill escapes all subsequent penalty, and all subsequent levies, should be put in the 988 position of one against whom the State have a certain claim with regard to the guarantee deposit.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 32, to leave out from the word " Fund," to the end of Sub-section (3)—(Mr. Keay.)
That the words Provided that where a sum is applicable out of the guarantee deposit for the discharge or reduction of an irrecoverable debt ' stand part of the Clause.
§ (10.25.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman bases the Amendment he lays before us upon the grounds of high equity. I confess I fail to follow him in the reasoning with which he supported his argument. If you are to have a Purchase Act at all you must trust the tenants to pay the annuity. You will also have to contemplate the possibility that certain tenants will not pay their annuities either through idleness or through misfortune, some fault of their own, want of skill or otherwise. f there be default, as default there must be in a certain proportion, I hope a very small proportion of the cases in Ireland, on whom is it to fall? Under the Ashbourne Act it necessarily fell first on the landlord, so far as one-fifth was concerned, and then on the taxpayer, because there was nobody else upon whom possibly it could fall. Now that we have introduced other guarantees, I am perfectly unable to see why they should not bear their portion of the loss. Take the case of a landlord who sells his land very cheap. The year after he sells it the tenant-purchaser sells it to a man who is drunken and incompetent and who fails to pay his instalments. The holding has to be sold, and when sold it does not realise the price paid. Why is the landlord to bear that loss? Why does equity declare that his fifth shall be exhausted before the collateral guarantees are come upon? Surely the fair plan is the plan by which the two collateral guarantees shall be called upon for the same amount at the same time. There is a further argument not based upon equity, but based upon expediency, which points in the same direction. It is very important that the locality should be deeply interested in the payment of the annuity. If the interest of the locality is only to begin when the 989 landlord's fifth is exhausted, I fear that habits of non-payment will have time to form before antagonistic influence of a powerful character is established in the district. So that, apart from the ground of equity, I think on the ground of expediency there should be maintained an arrangement which is obviously the best one. The locality is called upon to pay its half, and the landlord is called upon to pay his half. Neither will be called upon to pay anything unless the debt is proved to be irrecoverable.
§ (10.28.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I think the Chief Secretary has given no reason whatever for the change he proposes from the Ashbourne Act. He has argued the question as if a deficiency or defalcation would arise only from the incompetency or neglect of the tenant, but there is another cause very likely to arise, namely, the high price paid for the land. When the clause of the Ashbourne Act was under discussion I myself was of opinion that it was hardly worth while to insert it. It appeared to me at that time that the tenant's interest was likely to be so valuable that it would not often occur that the holder, when there was a defalcation, would sell at less than his debt to the State. But the experience we have had of the Ashbourne Act has shown that I was mistaken, and that there have been many cases in which tenants have been unable to pay their instalments, and the holdings have been sold by the Land Commission, and have produced nothing at all. Here are one or two cases which will show the working of it. There was a case on an estate in Limerick, where the extent of the bolding was 175 acres. The Poor Law valuation was £168, and the rent was £130. It was sold by the Land Court. The purchase money was £2,500. £500 was deposited by the landlord. After the tenant had been in about two years he became unable to pay, and the estate was put up for sale and realised nothing, there being no bidder. That showed that the tenant's interest was all gone, and that the rate of purchase had been a great deal too high. The defalcation amounted to £170.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
No. 1 in the Return. The property was put up for 990 sale by the Land Court. I ask is it fair that any portion of the defalcation of £170 should fall on the ratepayers of the district. It seems to me it is only right and fair that it should fall on the guaranteed deposit of the landlord in consideration of the fact that the purchase money was in the first place too high, and that the rent also was excessive. I will take another case—that of a farm in Waterford. The valuation was £82, the rent £92, and the purchase money £1,670. The instalment payable by the tenant was £66, and the tenant defaulted three years after the sale. The holding was thereupon put up for sale. It fetched nothing, and the Land Commission then applied for the guaranteed deposit. The landlord out of his own pocket had to forfeit his one-fifth to the Land Commission. Would it have been fair for any portion of that sum to have fallen on the ratepayers? Ought not the whole of it to come out of the guaranteed deposit? If you get rid of that security, it seems to me that you very much lessen the chance of repayment to the State; and, therefore, I hope that the Amendment of my hon. Friend will be allowed to pass.
§ (10.34.) MR. MAHONY
One of the strongest arguments in favour of this Amendment appears to me to have been put forward by the Chief Secretary himself. The fact is that this is a proposal to treat the ratepayers of Ireland in a less fair manner than the British taxpayer is treated under the Ashbourne Act. Under the Ashbourne Act the British taxpayer had this guarantee to be used in its entirety; now are you going to force the Irish ratepayer to give security to the British taxpayer, and you will not allow him as you allowed the British taxpayer to come down in the same way on the guaranteed deposit? If it was fair to the British taxpayer that he should have the full advantage of this guarantee, surely it is equally fair to the Irish ratepayer that he, too, should have it in its undiminished extent. And all the more is it so, because the Irish taxpayer has no voice whatever in fixing the amount which the Land Commission may advance on the security. Unquestionably no risk of this kind ought to be borne. The person who ought first to bear any loss incurred, owing to the Land Commission advancing 991 too much, surely should be the landlord who gets the amount advanced. I hope the Chief Secretary will treat the Irish ratepayer as he held that the British taxpayer was entitled to be treated under similar circumstances.
§ (10.36.) MR. SEXTON
Why does not the Chief Secretary adopt a straightforward mode of dealing with this matter? It seems to me that his conscience is uneasy. The candid way of dealing with it would be to provide that the guaranteed deposit should be one-tenth instead of one-fifth. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the whole of the fifth, which is retained for the landlord, will be available for the satisfaction of arrears?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes. If there is default it will be available until it is exhausted. It will be used pari passu with the local rates for the purpose.
§ MR. SEXTON
Undoubtedly, the local funds will always be available. But I say that immediately you touch the landlords' fund you can only take one half from it. Under the Ashbourne Acts, the moment a tenant fell into default the arrears were wholly realised out of the guaranteed deposit. But, for the future, that deposit is to be relieved at the expense of the local rates. I think it is incumbent on the Chief Secretary to show cause why the system embodied in the Ashbourne Act should be departed from. We have had that system enforced for six years. It was initiated in 1885 and revised in 1888; it has worked satisfactorily up till now, and I ask why should the guaranteed deposit not continue to be wholly liable as at present? The right hon. Gentleman asked why should the deposit of the landlord be entirely liable, and he suggested that, if it were entirely liable, it would differ from the general system of guarantees under the Bill. Let me ask the right Gentleman what are the securities under the Bill? Suppose there is a default on the part of the tenant. Yon take first the purchaser's insurance money. You do not take half of it, but you take the whole of it, in order to make up the default of the tenant, and then, if that be not sufficient for the purpose, you come on the helding. Do you sell a part of the holding, or half of the holding? Not at all. You sell the whole of the holding —you sell every acre and every stone 992 upon it, and you turn the tenant out into the world. And then, if after all that you have not sufficient, you come, in the third place, on the landlord's guaranteed deposit. You have realised to the utmost extent against the tenant, but the moment you come to the landlord you say, " Oh ! we will only ask him to pay one half, and we will come upon the public for the remaining half.' I ask is it fair? Why should not the landlord be treated in the same manner as the tenant? Why, if you exhaust the tenant's property, should you not. then exhaust the landlord's deposit? Moreover, if the half of the landlord's deposit is not sufficient, what do you do? You come upon the contingent deposit, and you stop thereby the working of the schools and the asylums, and other public institutions in Ireland. Surely that is not a desirable thing to do. I claim that we have an unanswerable case against this scheme of the Government. I heard just now an ejaculation from an hon. Member opposite. I take it that he is willing that the whole of the landlord's deposit should be utilised.
§ MR. SEXTON
Well, I have pointed out how the landlord is favourably treated while the tenant's funds are exhausted to the uttermost. I maintain that there should be no distinction between the two, and that the personal interest and realisable assets should all be exhausted before you come either on the ratepayers of Ireland or on the taxpayers of the district.
§ (10.45.) MR. M. J. KENNY
I maintain that this clause is intended merely for the relief of the landlords. They will not only receive 2¾ per cent. but after 18 years they will be entitled to payments of 3 per cent. on the one-fifth of the purchase money which has been retained by the Government, and in addition to that, one-half of the one-fifth so retained cannot, under this provision, be used to make up any default. It can never be exhausted. The right hon. Gentleman says that this sum will be exhausted pari passu with the sum which was originally guaranteed by the tenant. I think that is not so. The tenant's guarantee has first to be exhausted, and when the landlord's guarantee comes to be resorted to—if ever 993 it is—then you come upon the local rates. The tenant, under this Bill, has to provide a series of securities, and these have to be exhausted before the guarantee of the landlord can be touched. I invite the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland to this point. If his contention is that the landlord's deposit can be ultimately used up in case of default, I submit that that is not so; that it can never be fully exhausted, and that at the period of 18 years the landlord will be entitled to withdraw one-half of the one-fifth. In the observations which we have heard from the Chief Secretary, I can find no reason advanced for this departure from the policy of the Ashbourne Acts.
§ (10.50.) MR. LABOUCHERE
Assuming that the money will be paid by the tenant, I do not think that the landlord will lose anything. On the contrary, I think he will be a considerable gainer. The landlords in Ireland have proved themselves to be exceedingly reckless persons in the matter of money. They have mortgaged their lands, and generally speaking, spent over and above their incomes. Suddenly they will be given a large sum of money, and surely it is an advantage to them to have a certain portion of it tied up, and to receive 3 per cent. upon it for a good number of years. As a matter of fact, we are acting as a species of trustee for the improvident Irish landlords because, no doubt, if the landlords had all the money down at once it would be recklessly squandered. I do not assume that the tenants will always pay. I think it is exceedingly probable that in many cases the landlords will manage to screw out of them a great deal more than the holdings are worth, and in the long run the tenants will find it exceedingly difficult to pay, owing to a fall in the value of produce, or other matters. Let us clearly explain what will be the position of the landlords. I will assume that the produce has fallen in value. If the estate had not been sold to the tenant, the landlord would have been unable to get in his rent, and therefore by the purchase transaction the landlord is to a certain extent indemnified, although he has to deposit one-fifth of the purchase money with the State. But under the proposal of this clause, although the call upon the guaranteed 994 deposit may be £10, only £7 10s. will have to be paid by the landlord, while £2 10s. will have to be contributed by the locality. The Chief Secretary for Ireland says that that is placing the landlord in the same position as he was under the Ashbourne Act.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Then he admits that the landlord is in a better position. Yet Gentlemen opposite, who reprcsent the landlord interest, are perpetually complaining that they are injured by this Bill, and will not be placed in the same position as they were under the Ashbourne Act. There is, therefore, a difference of opinion between the Secretary of State for Ireland and his supporters, which will, no doubt, lead to a very interesting Debate. I take the liberty to agree with the Chief Secretary. I say that the landlords are benefited by this, and placed in a more advantageous position than they were in under the Ashbourne Act. I have in my hand a pamphlet. You told me, Mr. Chairman, when we were discussing a previous Amendment, that I was then out of order. It, no doubt, occurred to you that I should be in order in quoting from it on this clause. The point raised is, whether the tenants are likely to pay or not, and this pamphlet deals with that matter. It goes beyond a Return which we have had presented to us in this House. It gives certain memorials from tenants who have purchased their holdings under the Ashbourne Act, and those memorials show the difficulty they have in meeting their engagements. This is not the case of purchases made from the small landlords. They are purchases made from men of whom I speak with greatest reverence—men belonging to the nobility. For instance, the Marquess of Waterford obtained £124,000 under the Ashbourne Act. What do his tenants who purchased from him say? They say that the majority of them had no voice in arranging the contract; that they were obliged to agree to the landlord's terms under threat of eviction. Again, the Marquess of Bath's tenants ask for a reduction, and pray that in the Land Bill about to be brought before Parliament, some provision may be inserted to reduce the amount of annuities they now have to pay. The tenants of the Duke of Leinster say— 995Inasmuch as we, the majority of 365 Leinster tenants, were induced to purchase our holdings under the Ashbourne Acts, are now, through no fault of our own, unable to pay this year's instalment or purchase-money without disposing of the requisites for the working of our farms, we strongly protest against the confiscation of our property and our expulsion from our homes.Memorials to a similar effect have been presented by the tenants of George Lane Fox, Meredith, and others. Now, what do these things show? They show that in the opinion of those tenants who bought under the Ashbourne Act they were forced to pay higher prices than the value of the holding, and that they are unable to meet the instalments. Why should we not have the same allegations raised in respect of purchases which may be made under this Act? Remember that this Act will have a far wider operation, and that, consequently, greater injustice may be committed. I think I have shown good cause for supporting this Amendment, and that the Committee will agree with me that the landlords' deposit ought to be exhausted, at any rate, before the local rates are trenched upon.
§ (10.57.) SIR H. DAVEY (Stockton)
I think the Committee should have some further explanation and information as to the reason for the making this most important departure from the policy of the Ashbourne Acts. We were told on a former occasion that the machinery of this Bill was taken from the Ashbourne Acts, and that the only difference was that there was to be a much larger expenditure of money. But this is a most material alteration. Under the Ashbourne Act the whole of the landlords' deposit was applicable to making up the default of the tenant; but by this Act it is proposed that the ultimate liability shall fall on the ratepayer, and that the landlords' deposit shall only be affected to the same extent as the local rates. To my mind, that is all moonshine, because I hold that it would be perfectlyimpossible'toenforce the liability on the Irish ratepayer, or to take away the local resources of an Irish county in order to make up that default. In my opinion, the ultimate liability will be upon the British taxpayer. If it was right at the time the Ashbourne Act was passed, why is it not right now that the landlord's guaranteed deposit should be the fund available for making 996 good defaults? I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that any experience he has gained of the working of the Ashbourne Act has led the Government to consider that the arrangement then made was unjust. What I want to know is why a change is made now? As I have already said, the ultimate liability of this Bill will be on the British taxpayer. But assume that it is on the Irish taxpayer. Why is it not equally right that the Irish ratepayer should have the benefit of the landlord's guaranteed deposit, as it was in previous years that the British taxpayer should have the benefit of it? Another question arises on this Amendment. I have always been of opinion that the Bill was defective in many particulars, and especially in that it did not state clearly or, as far as I can discover, at all the order in which the different securities are to be applied. I cannot anywhere in the Bill find the point at which the debt is to be released by ejecting the tenant, or by selling up his holding, and I should like to know whether the guaranteed deposit and the guarantecd fund are to be made applicable pro rata, or, if one is to be made applicable before the other, what the priority is to be. I infer from the language of the clause that the tenant's holding must have been released before this clause comes into operation. The debt cannot be pronounced to be irrecoverable until all means of recovering it have failed, and, therefore, you must, before this is brought into operation, have sold the holding. I do not, however, find that in the Bill.
§ (11.5.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin University)
I do not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was in the House when my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary explained the reason for this change, but I rather fancy he could not have been, or he would not have asked for a second explanation. I will, however, answer his questions. There is this very important consideration to be borne in mind—that, under the Ashbourne Acts, there is only a single guarantor, the sole guarantee being that of the landlord. When there is only one guarantor it is evident that he must bear the entire responsibility. But under the present Bill there are two distinct sets of guarantors — the landlord and the 997 locality. In those circumstances it would be most unfair to throw the whole responsibility on the landlord and none on his co-guarantor. That is simply the explanation of the departure from the Ashbourne Acts, the machinery of which we have adapted to the altered financial arrangements of this Bill. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) asked whether we might not just as well at once provide that one-tenth should be retained. Assume that you retain one-fifth, say £100, and a default say of £10 is made; under the Ashbourne Acts the whole of that £10 must be borne by the sole guarantor. Under this Bill £5 would be borne by the landlord's deposit, and £5 by the Guarantee Fund. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite seemed to forget that there may be subsequent defaults. It would take 20 defaults of £10 each to eat away the entire deposit, whereas after 10 defaults under the Ashbourne Acts the entire deposit would be gone.
§ SIR H. DAVEY
Will the right hon. Gentleman excuse me? This only applies where the debt is irrecoverable, and before it is proved to be irrecoverable the tenant will be sold up.
§ MR. MADDEN
That is an entirely different question, and is absolutely not relevant to the argument I was addressing to the House. I must remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that this Act must be read with the Ashbourne Acts, and that you cannot resort to the guarantee deposit at all unless the Land Commissioners declare the debt to be irrecoverable; but, whilst under the Ashbourne Acts you can resort to the deposit for the entire debt, under this Bill you can resort for only one-half to the deposit. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked me to point out in what part of the Bill is to be found the order in which the liability shall be applied. The 1st sub-section of Clausc 4 makes provision for the order of application.
§ (11.14.) MR. SEXTON
The practical effect of the change seems to be that assuming the prospect of default to be the same as under the Ashbourne Act, and the chances of payment being the same, one-half the landlord's deposit is saved for him at the expense of the local rates. There are to be three personal guarantees in the case—one afforded by the landlord and two—the county percentage 998 and the insurance money—by the tenant. You put the county percentage into the Guarantee Fund, and if there is any call on the Guarantee Fund, you exhaust every penny of it. If there is any default at any time, you take the right to take every penny of the insurance money. I repeat the contention I formerly urged, namely, that the personal guarantee of the landlord and that of the tenant should be treated alike.
§ (11.15.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
Surely there was one obvious fallacy in the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He spoke of there being two guarantors and 'spoke of them being entirely on an equal footing; but he forgot that one of those guarantors has given his consent by being a party to the bargain, whereas the other party, the ratepayer, has had no voice or choice in the transaction. Yet the two guarantors are treated as if they are equally spontaneous and equally voluntary. It would be well if the Government would state precisely in what order the Commissioners or the Treasury will proceed to realise the securities. When will they sell up the holding? What will they do with the collateral securities? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us plainly—firstly, secondly, and thirdly—how they will proceed to realise one security after the other? Under the Ashbourne Act, the landlord, so long as his guarantee deposit remains in the hands of the Commissioners, is to receive 3 per cent. interest. Why is the landlord to receive 3 per cent., while other people receive only 2¾4 per cent., and, in a short time, 2½ per cent.?
§ (11.18.) MR. M. J. KENNY
Under the Bill the tenant's deposit is to be exhausted before the landlord's guarantee is touched. I submit with confidence that is what the Judges in Ireland will hold. If the clause stands as it is, the landlord's guarantee deposit becomes a portion of the Guarantee Fund. Clause 4 of the Bill governs the priority of the securities, and everything in that clause goes to exclude the landlord's deposit. The landlord's guarantee deposit is not liable pari passe, as the Chief Secretary said, with the tenant's deposit, it is only liable in the event of the Local Guarantees, both contingent and cash, being absolutely exhausted; then, there is the further injustice that while the land 999 lord can get a charging order in the Courts as against the holding for any portion of his one-fifth guarantee which becomes exhausted, the Bill does not give the localities power to get a charging order for their contributions to the guarantee. I submit something ought to be done to remedy that defect.
§ (11.21.) MR. MADDEN
The current payments will go to the Land Purchase Account, and any deficiency will be made up out of the Guarantee Fund, which is applied as provided in Subsection 1 of Clause 4. By this arrangement, the Land Purchase Account will be made solvent, and subsequently into the Guarantee Fund will flow all sums in respect of arrears of purchase money. Under Clause 7, Sub-section 8, provision is made for such adjustments being made. No doubt the system is a complicated one, but does anyone suppose that these guarantees could be worked with the simplicity of the Ashbourne Act which has only one guarantee?
§ (11.24.) MR. J. MORLEY
I submit that the language of the last line of Section 1, Clause 4, is obscure—First out of the cash portion of the Fund, and out of the Exchequer contribution.What is the meaning of that? As I understand it it ought to be—First out of the Exchequer contribution to the cash portion of the Fund.Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers us to Sub-section 8 of Clause 7. Will he tell us what the adjustments are? I deny that anyone can gather the facts from the wording of the sub-section.
§ MR. MADDEN
The arrears are carried to the Guarantee Fund. Before they come in it may be necessary to resort to the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund, but according as the arrears come in they will be made available to recoup the Guarantee Fund.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is mystifying the Committee. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to tell the Committee plainly in what order the securities are going to be realised. What is the meaning of all this mystification?
§ MR. MADDEN
I am sorry I cannot convey my meaning to the right hon. Gentleman, but I have no doubt it is my fault. What I was endeavouring to explain is extremely clear. If all annul 1000 ties are paid up to date, there will be no need to resort to anything but the Land Purchase Account. If they are not paid up to date then resort must be made to the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund. I have explained the order in which that fund is to be resorted to. I cannot say in what order subsequent transactions will occur after that. They will depend on the order in which the receipts in respect of arrears or guarantee deposit occur, by which the Guarantee Fund is recouped. According as the arrears come in they will be available for the purpose of the Guarantee Fund, and adjustment will take place, as provided in Clause 7, Sub-section 8. Until the order is made by the Commissioners declaring the debt to be irrecoverable, there can be no receipt for the guarantee deposit. How long may be the period between the default and the making of the order I cannot say. I cannot state the time at which the Commissioners may declare the debt irrecoverable. All I can say is that whenever, in consequence of such a statement, they capture the guarantee deposit, that comes into the Guarantee Fund. When arrears are recovered they also come into the Guarantee Fund. The Guarantee Fund has, to a certain extent, been applied to make the system solvent, but it will be recouped to the extent of any payments made in respect of arrears of guarantee deposit.
§ (11.32.) MR. J. MORLEY
We have heard several complaints that my hon. Friend the Member for Elgin and Nairn has not been always perfectly lucid, but my hon. Friend is lucidity itself compared with the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the landlords' guarantee deposit coming in. But surely that deposit is retained, and therefore cannot come in?
§ MR. MADDEN
The right hon. Gentleman is under a mistake. I do not wish to bandy complaints about lucidity, but I must say the right hon. Gentleman's complaint is founded on a total misapprehension of the position. The guarantee deposit is retained by the Land Commission, but no portion of it is paid into the Guarantee Fund until the debt has been declared by the Commission to be irrecoverable?
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Are we to understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the 1001 deposit is not to become a fund until the debt is found to be irrecoverable?
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Are we to understand that the holding will be brought into the market before the landlords' guarantee is touched?
§ MR. MADDEN
The Land Commissioners must come to the conclusion that the debt is irrecoverable, and they cannot come to that conclusion unless they have tried to sell the holding.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Then we are back at this point, that no reason has been shown why, when the Guarantee Fund is resorted to, at one time or another, only one half of the landlords' guarantee deposit should be attached.
§ (11.35.) MR. KEAY
I think we are worse off instead of being where we were in consequence of this explanation, if I may call it so. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has inverted the pyramid altogether. Excellent lawyer as he is, I am afraid that book-keeping is not his strong point. The sole point on which he has founded his remarks about this complication of accounts, this changing and interchanging and ladling of amounts from one fund to another is based on an absolutely wrong conception of the facts. How often has the right hon. Gentleman told us in the last five minutes that the guarantee deposit if required is to be paid into the Guarantee Fund and then the Guarantee Fund is to be paid into another fund. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at Sub-section 3, Clause 2, he will see that the guarantee deposit, which is the landlords' fifth, is never paid by any possible chance into the Guarantee Fund at all, but into the Land Purchase Account.
§ (11.36.) SIR H. DAVEY
The fault of obscurity is not with the Attorney General for Ireland, but with the Bill itself. It is one of the most obscurely and badly drafted Bills that I have ever seen. The right hon. Gentleman has now cut away the ground he took in giving his first answer. I had some glimmer of what was meant when the right hon. Gentleman first answered my queries, but my notion on that head has been entirely removed by what he has said since. He has spoken of the Guarantee Fund and the landlords' guarantee deposit as being co-guarantors; but now it appears that the deposit is 1002 only resorted to after the Guarantee Account has been made solvent from the Guarantee Fund. The right hon. Gentleman has not touched the question which is really the essential point of the matter. At what point is the holding to be sold up? At what stage does the guarantee deposit come in? I must say the Attorney General for Ireland has not approached an answer to our questions, asked more than once. He has given us a more or less clear account of the adjustments contemplated in the Bill, but of these we do not ask. There is a guarantee of the deposit, there is the guarantee of the Guarantee Fund, and the purchased holding is also security for the debt. What we want to know is where the guarantee deposit comes in? At what stage is it brought in? It comes in when the debt is irrecoverable. The guarantee deposit is not applicable until the debt is declared irrecoverable, and the Attorney General for Ireland has admitted that involves that the holding has been sold or that there has been an attempt at sale. Now, we want to know where that comes in—we want to have a clear idea of the process between the application to the Guarantee Fund, the sale of the holding, and the application to the guarantee deposit, and not how the accounts in this complicated Bill are to be adjusted by the Treasury. I must also say, and I gave all the attention I could to what the right hon. Gentleman said, that I am at a loss to know why this change is made from the Ashbourne Act. We are told they are co-guarantors, but we are also told that the Guarantee Fund is the guarantee in the first instance, and the guarantee deposit not until afterwards. This is not a co-guarantee in any intelligible sense. The landlords' deposit is made liable because the default may be made in the first instalment, and it is not an unfair inference that the default is made because the purchase-money is too high, as may be proved from a fall in the price of produce and change in the value of land. It is perfectly right that the guarantee deposit of the landlord should be retained on that ground, but the Guarantee Fund stands on a different footing, it is a mere surety. The landlord is not a surety, his money goes to recoup the Exchequer when default arises from the advance having been made at too high a rate. 1003 They are not I say co-guarantors in any intelligible sense, and the origin of the liability in the one case is totally different from that in the other.
§ (11.43.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
The Attorney General for Ireland has admitted that the machinery of the Bill is somewhat complicated, and it has been suggested that the difficulty has arisen from that cause, not from his explanation. Now it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman is in error in supposing that there is any provision in the Bill for the payment into the Guarantee Fund of d. of the guarantee deposit. There are a great many different accounts arranged for, the Land Purchase Account, the Consolidated Fund Account, the Guarantee Fund Account, the Sinking Fund Account, the Reserve Fund Account, and there is the guarantee deposit for which a separate account will have to be kept. The Attorney General stated what is in direct contradiction to the Bill when he spoke of the payment of the guarantee deposit into the Guarantee Fund. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to Sub-section 8 of Clause 7, but when I look at this I find that it merely provides that the Treasury may cause adjustments to be made between the Sinking Fund, inclusive of the purchaser's insurance money, the Land Purchase Account, the Guarantee Fund, and the Reserve Fund; and may cause payments to be made from one account or fund to another, and sums to be placed to such credit and such securities to be sold or bought as may appear to them necessary for the purpose of carrying the Act into effect. There is not a single word about the guarantee deposit. Now this is a very nice piece of financial scratch-cradle, but it is perfectly unintelligible to the ordinary mind, and I doubt very much if the thing will work out in practice. There is no provision for the appropriation of the guarantee deposit at any particular stage in Sub-section 3 with which we are now dealing. The design seems to be that when the debt has been declared to be irrecoverable, that is to say, when every other asset or security has been drawn upon—and all have precedence of the guarantee deposit—then only is the guarantee deposit to be drawn upon, and then only to the extent of 50 per cent. We now find that every other form of security is to be exhausted 1004 before the landlords' guarantee deposit is to be touched.
§ (11.45.) MR. KNOX
There is, I think, what will be admitted to be an omission, in there being no mandatory provision ordering the Commissioners to pay over the guarantee deposit to any other account. There ought to be a mandatory provision ordering this payment to the Guarantee Fund. In Subsection 3 of Clause 2, now under discussion, it is assumed that these sums will be repaid from the guarantee deposit, but there is absolutely no provision in the Bill for that.
§ MR. MADDEN
The hon. Gentleman will find by Sub-section 3 there is a mandatory direction to the Land Commission that all the moneys in respect of arrears, whether paid by the proprietor of the holding or from the guarantee deposit, or from any other source, shall be paid into the Guarantee Fund.
§ MR. KNOX
I venture to say I do not think it is likely that there will be any payments from the guarantee deposit. In Sub-section 3 it is clear that it was the intention of the draftsman that the guarantee deposit should go to the Land Purchase Account; but though it is assumed that in certain cases it may go to the Land Purchase Account there is no provision in the Bill ordering the Commission, at any fixed period, to pay over this money to any particular fund. I venture to think some further provision is necessary, and it may perhaps be introduced later, dealing with this point in explicit terms. But after all, the immediate question under discussion is one of principle, not of drafting. We are discussing a provision in this Bill which is an absolute innovation on the provisions in the Ashbourne Act. The Attorney General for Ireland and the Chief Secretary have both assumed that under the Ashbourne Act the risk is borne wholly by the landlord, but that I entirely deny. I say under the Ashbourne Act the risk is borne rather more by the tenant than by the landlord; there is the risk of his interest in the holding, which the Attorney General for Ireland has declared in this House is in many instances equal to the landlord's interest in the holding. The first charge in default of instalment is the tenant's interest in the holding, whereas the landlord's guarantee deposit is only a 1005 fifth of the value, so the liability is not I say fairly distributed, the tenant bearing rather more than his proper share of the risk. But the proposal of the Government does not mean an equal risk, even if that equality is just, because, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle has pointed out, the positions of the two parties are entirely different. The Local Authority is not consulted as to the arrangement, and has no voice in the matter. The landlord gets the money from the sale, the Local Authority gets no benefit whatever. There is no equality of risk as the Bill is drawn. The Chief Secretary assumed that half the guarantee deposit might be taken in certain cases, and that therefore half the risk is borne by the land. lord, but that is not so. The landlord's guarantee deposit remains for only 18 years, the risk of the Local Authority remains throughout the whole term of the purchase annuity—and is therefore three times as large as the risk borne by the landlord. The Attorney General for Ireland spoke of the tenant committing default on 20 occasions in which case he assumed the whole of the deposit would go, but as a matter of fact, this is almost an impossibility. Before the tenant could have committed 20 defaults the landlord would have gone off with his money, and his liability would have ceased. The Bill provides that you may take the whole of the tenant's interest and the whole of the tenant's insurance deposit, and yet after that you can only take half the landlord's guarantee deposit. There is no equality between the risk of the landlord, the tenant, and the locality.
§ (11.55.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
I really think that before the Division is taken the Attorney General for Ireland ought to answer clearly the question that has been repeatedly put to him—namely, at what point in the proceedings the tenant's holding is to be sold. I can only suppose that the right hon. Gentleman has not answered because he does not know. The Bill, I maintain, is unintelligible, that is the opinion I expressed many weeks ago, and it is now confirmed by the hon. and learned Member for Stockton.
§ (11.56.) MR. J. MORLEY
I cannot suppose the Government are going to force on a Division without a clear explanation of the questions we have put.
1006 For my part, I cannot consent to the judgment of the Committee being taken before full and adequate information has been given on the point which has been raised again and again. At what point is it that the landlords' guarantee deposit is going to be appropriated? Is the first process the attempt to realise by the sale of the holding, or at what point is this step to be taken?
§ MR. MADDEN
It will be the duty of the Land Commissioners at once to realise. The Commissioners, of course cannot declare that the debt is irrecoverable until an attempt has been made to sell.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Then it appears that, first of all, the Commissioners will proceed to realise what may be called the tenants' deposit before even half of the landlords' deposit is touched? The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of co-guarantors, but the ratepayers have never been consulted—
It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow, at Two of the clock.