§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 2.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 39, after " holding," insert " or from the guarantee deposit."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I accept the Amendment, modified so as to provide that all sums carried to the account in respect of the redemption of the purchase annuity, whether received from the proprietor of the holding, or upon the sale of the holding, or from the guarantee deposit, and also all other moneys carried to the land purchase account, shall be paid to the Sinking Fund.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (2.40.) Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 40, after " Act," leave out " any residue," and insert " all other moneys carried to the Land Purchase Account."
§ Question, " That the words any residue' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Question, " That the words any other moneys carried to the Land Purchase Account' be inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ The next Amendment stood in the name of Mr. BLANE, and it was as follows:—To add at the end of the clause—
" Provided always, that the Trish Land Commission may applot the purchase money and annual instalments for any labourer's holding or homestead situated on any tenement purchased under the provisions of this Act, in the same way and manner as may be done by the Irish Land Commission in the case of a tenancy purchased under the powers of " The Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1885," and subsequent Acts amending the same, and upon the full discharge of such annual payments by such labourer in occupation, he shall be deemed the owner of such holding."
§ Colonel NOLAN rose to address the Committee upon the Amendment.1327
§ Question proposed, " That Clause 2, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ (2.45.) MR. KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
I beg to move the omission of the clause as a protest against Sub-section 3, whereby one-half of the consequences of a default on the part of the tenant of a holding are thrown upon the locality. I regard the sub-section as containing a most iniquitous provision. There is an absolute unanimity of opinion among the Irish Members against it, and I do not think that even from the landlord element on the other side of the House there has been a distinct protest against the views expressed here.
§ COLONEL WARING
Then I hope the hon. Member will disabuse his mind of that impression. He must not assume anything of the sort.
§ MR. KEAY
I am glad to find that there is nothing like an expression of opinion on the other side of the House against the equity of our case, and I gladly welcome the interruption. The Government have refused to give way upon this point. They consider that one half of the burden should be borne by the localities, on the ground that the localities ought to have a large interest in the fulfilment of their obligations by the tenants. I was much surprised to hear the remarks of the Chief Secretary to this effect, because if they mean anything at all they seem to me to point to boycotting. He threatens the locality with a pecuniary loss in case of a single tenant becoming a defaulter.
§ (2.47.): Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (2.50.) MR. KEAY
I want the Chief Secretary to satisfy my conscience in regard to this matter, which simply means the boycotting of a number of innocent ratepayers for the default of 1328 one man. My principal objection to the clause, however, is that it is an attempt to improve the position of the landlord at the expense of the locality, and unless I get some further assurance from the Government, I shall certainly divide the Committee against the clause.
§ (2.52.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I hope that my hon. Friend will not divide the Committee. I agree with everything he has said in regard to the landlords' guarantee deposit not being made wholly available to meet any default. I believe that that is a great flaw in the Bill; but the point is one which has been adequately discussed in previous Sittings, and, therefore, with all due respect, I hope my hon. Friend will not take up time that may be devoted to other good and valued points.
§ (2.53.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I wish to support the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. Unquestionably, if the clause had remained in anything like the form in which it was introduced. I should have felt it my duty to vote against it; but I think that an important concession has been made. At the same time, I must protest against a provision which limits the landlord's liability to one-half of the guarantee deposit.
§ (2.54.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
The hon. Member for Elgin (Mr. Keay) has fought the Bill inch by inch, and he is quite consistent in his objections to this clause; but I think he would act gracefully if he were now to yield to the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Morley). No doubt the clause is bad, and I hope it may still be amended, but if the hon. Member goes on at the same rate his valuable lectures on finance will take up two volumes of Hansard. The volumes will doubtless form amusing reading for those who are interested in the subject, and especially for the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who has taken the hon. Member for Elgin as his financial adviser.
§ (2.56.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
The hon. and gallant Member has given a singular reason for voting in favour of the clause. He considers that it is a thoroughly bad clause and he hopes that it may be amended on the Report. I trust that before the discussion is closed the Chief Secretary 1329 will inform the hon. and gallant Member whether he intends to bring in another Bill or to amend the Bill now before the Committee. So far as the clause itself is concerned I take a large and broad view of the subject, but I am confronted with this difficulty—that the clause conflicts with the principle of the Bill. As I understand the Bill it is intended to carry out the Ashbourne Act, but we now find that the landlord is to be relieved of a considerable share of the liability which is imposed on him by the Ashbourne Act. I am sorry to differ from my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle. My right hon. Friend takes the same view as I do as to the pernicious character of the clause, but on a point of procedure he thinks that having voted against the pecuniary part of the clause we ought now to accept the proposal of the Government. Now, think that if there is any part of the clause that is so objectionable that it will do violence to our principles we ought to vote against it. Therefore, if my hon. Friend goes to a Division I shall certainly support him. I regret that I was not in the House in time to move my Amendment as to total capital loss in case of forced sale, and I should like to ask the Chief Secretary if he will propose some way of preventing injustice being done to the Local Authorities.
§ (2.59.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
I hope the hon. Member will not divide against the clause, but I wish to point out that on Lord Waterford's estates holdings have been sold in a case of default, subject to a reduced annuity. No doubt it is much easier to sell a holding subject to a reduced annuity than for the Commission to keep it in hand and work the farm. At present the Land Commissioners have no power, without consent, to apply the principal of the Guarantee Fund to the redemption of capital loss in such a case.
§ (3.2.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The hon. Member somewhat misunderstands the state of the law. Under the existing law, and under this Bill, it will not be possible for the Land Commissioners to sell a holding subject to a reduced annuity. It is therefore unnecessary to alter the Bill to meet such a case. If the Bill 1330 passes , the landlord will take his share of loss as represented by a diminished annuity. If the Land Bill (No. 2) passes there is a provision to enable the Land Commissioners to sell at a reduced rate and to make the landlord bear his share of the reduced annuities.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
At the present moment I have no doubt that it is not competent for them to sell a holding subject to a reduced annuity. It is not necessary therefore to provide for a case which cannot arise.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I think the hon. Member for Northampton has made out a clear case of objecting to the principle of the Bill, but as the second clause only deals with the machinery of the measure I do not see that there is any necessity for prolonging the discussion upon it. But for matters in which I am privately concerned I should have been in my place earlier to oppose the principle of the Bill.
§ (3.6.) MR. KEAY
I am unwilling to put the Committee to any unnecessary trouble, but I feel compelled to call pointed attention to the fact that the Chief Secretary has doggedly refused to say a word on the only question I raised in moving the rejection of the clause. I asked him what he means by this system of pressure on the localities, unless he means an incitement to boycott the defaulter, and the right hon. Gentleman, by his persistent silence, is himself the person who is prolonging the Debate. On every occasion on which I have brought forward what have been admitted to be important points, the right hon. Gentleman has refused doggedly to reply to them. He has just replied to my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Knox), but he has made no reply to me. Under these circumstances, unless I can get the right hon. Gentleman to do his duty I do not see how I can avoid dividing the Committee.
put the Question, " That Clause 2, as amended, stand part of the Bill," and declared that the " Ayes " had it.
§ Question again put.
§ (3.9.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 137; Noes 44.—(Div. List, No. 150.)
§ (3.20.) Clause 3 (Establishment of Guarantee Fund).
§ MR. SEXTON
I beg to move as a protest against the proposed guarantee an Amendment, which provides that " contingent " shall be substituted for " guarantee " fund. The clause provides for and defines a local guarantee to which, as the Chief Secretary knows, we are irreconcilably opposed. We protest against the guarantee, first because we think that, as this is an Imperial scheme, it ought to be founded on Imperial responsibility; secondly because the Government have means enough in their hands to make everything safe without a local guarantee; and thirdly because they have no right, against the will of the Representatives of Ireland, to pass a scheme which may ultimately have the effect of heavily mulcting the people of Ireland in reference to things over which they will have no control; and lastly because farmers who pay their own debts will be made liable for those of defaulting tenants. The Irish Members will take their objection at the proper time by voting against the clause. In the meantime the question before the Committee has reference to the details of the clause and the possible amendment of those details, and with the view of making substantial progress I have put down Amendments with the object of submitting an alternative scheme which I think worthy of consideration, and the acceptance of which will dispose of a great number of Amendments. In the first place I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman as to the division of the Guarantee Fund into contingent portions. It is an unreal distinction. All funds are equally " cash" and equally " contingent." The effect of taking the Probate Duty grants will be that the local rates in Ireland will have to be raised by £250,000, or on the average 8d. in the £1. I greatly 1332 doubt whether in the present condition of Ireland it can stand that augmentation of rates. I am willing that the Exchequer contribution should be taken at once and put into the Guarantee Fund, because it has not been definitely applied to any Public Service in Ireland, and existing arrangements would be disturbed. In the case of exceptional agricultural distress, the Reserve Fund could be applied to the relief of such distress. I therefore ask that in any year any default may be paid out of the Consolidated Fund, as a temporary advance, and that the local finance may not be deranged for that year by taking away the Probate Duty in anticipation of the default. At the end of the year, when it is known precisely what default has arisen, the actual loss to the Consolidated Fund could be recouped from the Probate Duty of the next year. For many years to come there could not possibly be a default exceeding the amount of the Exchequer contribution. The proposal does not conflict with any principle of the Bill or derange any of its machinery. Next, I take exception to the particular funds to be drawn upon in order to constitute the Guarantee Fund; and my Amendment substitutes alternative funds without effecting any alteration in the total capital sum. These alterations will, I believe, make the Bill more acceptable in Ireland. I propose to leave out of the clause as it now stands the sum paid for the care of the insane and the destitute sick poor in Ireland. These services must be continued whatever the cost may be. The Chief Secretary will admit that if an adequate substitute for this sum can be provided it ought to be provided. In place of it the Amendment substitutes the grants in aid of Queen's Colleges in Ireland. Primary education, after all, claims the attention of Parliament before University education, and if it were tolerable that the funds provided by Parliament for primary education should, even in theory, be hypothecated for the guarantee, there can be no objection to the hypothecation of the grants in aid of University education. Secondly, I propose to take, instead of the fund for the expenses of [the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland, the whole Votes for national education. If the right hon. Gentleman sees his way to 1333 accept my Amendment, which, in my judgment does not conflict with the principle of his Bill, I think he will find that the number of Amendments moved on the clause will be very greatly reduced.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 1, ^after the word " a " to insert the word "contingent."-(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, " That the word contingent ' be there inserted."
§ (3.43.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has with great lucidity explained the very important Amendment he has placed on the Paper, and let me say at once that of some of his remarks I entirely approve. His main reason for objecting to the retention of the cash portion, I understand to be this, that if it be retained, it will delay the distribution among various localities ultimately entitled to it, and the delay will disturb the whole course of local finance for a year. I think if that were the effect of the clause, there would be very substantial ground for his criticism. But the payment into the Guarantee Fund of the Irish Probate Duty grant would, unless that grant were required to meet the deficiency, involve the payment to the various authorities of the sums to which they are entitled. That is distinctly the interpretation put on the clause by the Government, and therefore the criticism of the hon. Gentleman falls to the ground. The hon. Gentleman asks me on what we base the distinction between the cash portion and the guarantee portion. I take it that it is very necessary that there should be in the hands of the Exchequer a certain amount of money, not necessarily to meet permanent default, but to meet temporary default. He has stated with truth that it is a serious matter to touch the contributions from the Imperial Exchequer with regard to pau per lunatics and the sick poor. He and I are agreed that it is scarcely conceivable that the securities which are antecedent to the contingent portion of the fund will not prove sufficient. He states that public opinion will be shocked even by seeing the amounts for pauper lunatics named as part of the contingent security, and he prefers that the money granted for the support of the Queen's Colleges and certain portions of the money now given 1334 for elementary education in Ireland should be included in the contingent portion of the fund. The principles which have governed our selection of the contingent portion of the fund have led to the exclusion by us of everything not purely local in its character. We think that neither the Queen's Colleges nor the salaries and expenses of the education officers in Dublin can properly be defined as local. Though it may be said that the Queen's Colleges are mainly of interest to the towns and localities in which they are situated, the officers connected with them in Dublin and the educational machinery are of interest equally to every county and the whole of Ireland. It is clear you cannot touch the salaries of civil servants, and the officers in the Central Office in Dublin are civil servants. The Queen's Colleges are situated in three cities in Ireland, two of which are excluded altogether from the operation of this Bill, namely, those in Cork and Belfast. The College in Galway supplies not only Galway but a large district, and persons even go from Ulster and Munster to take advantage of the grants given to the College. It would, therefore, be impossible to give the Colleges the local significance that is given to all the other fends we take for the guarantee. Moreover, the professors of the Queen's Colleges are civil servants, and I find they come under the Minute of the Superannuation Department of the Treasury. So much for the alteration the hon. Gentleman desires to make in the substantial constituents of the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund. Now, as to what lie has said as to the order in which the grants should be taken, we can have no special objection to the alteration he proposes; but 1 think he is under a misapprehension. He seems to think that the order in which these various matters are mentioned in the clause governs the order in which the funds will be seized for the purpose of meeting default; but as a matter of fact, the order will depend upon the rules.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the hon. Member has strong views on the point, and is fortified by the views of the Committee, I do not know that the Government 1335 need entertain any serious objection. In regard to labourers' cottages, I think we ought to move cautiously in the matter. No use whatever has been made of the money placed to the credit of certain counties, especially in the North of Ireland. I have a full Report of what has been done, and I gather from it that that is the case. To add another £40,000 to the Labourers' Cottages Fund, especially when unaccompanied by qualifying conditions in Clause 2, would be a very serious matter. As the hon. Member knows, I am entirely in accord with him in urgently desiring to see the agricultural labourers of Ireland better housed, but it would be disastrous to localities to build in them labourers' cottages which are not required by the necessities of the case. I am unwilling to hastily accept the proposal.
§ (3.59.) MR. SEXTON
I have no desire that an undue number of labourers' cottages should be built in Ireland, but I think the money should be so applied in cases where bonâ fide agricultural labourers pay excessive rents for miserable hovels, which are a disgrace to civilisation and destructive of the health of their occupants. I am quite willing to fall in with any arrangement or provision to prevent the misapplication of funds; but if a proper authority in Ireland should think that the money might be wisely spent in the direction I have referred to, I think it should be done.
§ (4.1.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the suggestion of the hon. Member, as I understand him, would involve a serious departure from the clause, which merely deals with the funds which have been captured, so to speak, and are already destined to certain uses. The hon. Member proposes to alter the destination of funds, already appropriated in a particular direction.
§ MR. SEXTON
That is hardly the case, for the Exchequer contribution has not yet been definitely applied to any purpose. The case is open, and I wish to define what it shall be.
§ (4.2.) COLONEL NOLAN
If I thought there was even the slightest chance of the fund for medical officers and the kindred funds ever being called on I should regard the Bill as doing more harm than good. But I do not believe that. I believe these things are 1336 put in to give a general notion of security to the English electors. [Laughter.] Yes, I look on them as unnecessary, but I do not object to their insertion as I am confident they will never be reached. As to the Queen's, Colleges, it would be very hard if the Galway College were taken and the other two were left out. I should vote against the Galway College being) made a cock-shy of under this Bill. So far as I understand the proposal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast this sum should accumulate instead of being distributed each year, and should then be handed over to the Labourers' Cottages Fund, while in the Bill it is proposed that the money shall be distributed in the first place for labourers' cottages, wherever they are wanted.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
The £40,000 a year the hon. Member wishes to vote for labourers' cottages in places where they are required, some of it to go to Unions where they are not required. Well, the Labourers' Act as at present drawn is of very little use. If the Act were drawn so that you could repair and build cottages for the small tenants it would be useful; but as it stands at present the only use is to create an artificial class of tenants to compete with the small fenants—to build houses for competitors of the small tenants at great expense. Wherever the cottages are not required the money should go in aid of the local rates.
§ (4.6.) MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
From his observations I gather that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is not disinclined to make concessions on this point, especially as the £40,000, if not required for the purpose of erecting labourers' cottages, will go as proposed in relief of taxation. The substantial matter in the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast is founded on his fear that the financial arrangement come to will be disarranged by the payment to the Guarantee Fund, and I understand that the Chief Secretary 1337 thinks the Bill is drawn in such a way that this disarrangement will not take place. It appears to me that the objection of my hon. Friend would be met if the Chief Secretary would agree to these Words—The cash portion of the Guarantee Fund, so far as it is not required at the date of its payment into that fund in any financial year, shall be forthwith applied as follows.
§ MR. MAHONY
Certainly. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that the Bill will secure what we want without Amendment, but we are in doubt about it.
§ (4.8.) MR. SEXTON
As the matter stands at present I cannot accept the statement of the Chief Secretary that there is no danger of the funds being withheld. It is provided that the Probate Duty grant shall be paid into the fund each year, there to await default if on the year's financial transactions default is found to exist. It is evident that the Probate Duty will remain in the fund a year, waiting to see if there is default, but what I want is that this money should be paid as at present, and then, at the end of the year, if there is a default, that the necessary amount should be taken out of the fund for the next year. In this way the Local Services in Ireland would not be interfered with. In regard to the order in which the items should stand, though the matter is not one of great practical importance, I think that in Acts of Parliament we should have regard to seemliness.
§ (4.9.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I shall have a difficulty in voting for the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast, because, although I think that in some respects it is an excellent one, it seems to put the cart before the horse. The first point to decide is whether we should call upon the Irish to incur this liability, and when that has been settled by a decision of the House, we should go into matters of detail such as are raised by my hon. Friend. As I take objection to the principle, I am not prepared to vote that there should be any sort of Guarantee Fund of this nature. In the first place, I do not see anyone present who could pledge what 1338 are 'practically the local rates of Ire land.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The hon. Member belongs to a small and unimportant section of the Irish Members, who would find it quite impossible to pledge themselves, even if backed by the hon. Member for Meath. I gather that my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast does not recognise the principle of pledging the local rates, which is in direct opposition to the views of the majority of the National Party. Therefore, we have no guarantee that these local rates, if the tenants do not pay, will stand between the British taxpayer and their liability. No one has any right to pledge those rates, and the Representatives of Parliament have received no mandate from their constituents to pledge the local rates for this particular purpose. It depends upon the inhabitants of the locality what shall be done with the rates. The Chief Secretary is one of those generous gentlemen who spend for their own objects moneys that do not belong to them. The Whole thing is an utter sham. The object was to find £1,200,000 in order to persuade the British taxpayer that if merely that was capitalised there would be something really tangible which would prevent any liability falling upon him owing to the pledge that he gave. I need not say that is all nonsense. I regard these different items of the Reserve Fund in the same light as the fine crusted port, or the Old Masters, or the paving stones that the usurer trys to palm off upon some silly person who falls into his hands, and calls them "cash." I hope the House does not accept seriously the fact that there is an additional security standing between the British taxpayer and this liability, owing to these particular rates. Take the rates for education, lunatics, or medical officers. You cannot alienate them or you would stop the Local Government of Ireland. I have heard of a savage ruler who kept wild and fierce animals caged, ready to be let loose upon the people if they did not pay. Here you are to have the lunatics turned loose upon Ireland. You know perfectly well that nothing of the kind will occur. No House of Commons would incur the responsibility 1339 of interfering with the care of lunatics, with education, or with medical officers. If such a proposal as this were made for England there would be an uproar. I really could not vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I suggest that he withdraw it, and allow us to vote upon the Amendment to leave out " the cash and contingent." If we are beaten, as we shall be beaten, then we could go into details on these different guarantees.
§ (4.25.) MR. KNOX
The object of my hon. Friend is to get something in the way of reasonable Amendment without pledging himself to the principle of local guarantees, which we object to in toto. I am afraid, the Chief Secretary having refused any concessions to my hon. Friend, that there is nothing for us but to fight this clause throughout; but I hope there is still some chance of the Government recognising the reasonableness of the course proposed by my hon. Friend.;So far as I can understand the distinction between the " cash and contingent " funds, it is a distinction drawn for convenience of drafting, and the cash portion is not to be a cash portion at all, save in name. If this is so, it ought to be made clear, and words inserted to prevent the cash portion from being detained in the Guarantee Fund after it ought to be paid over to the Local Authorities. The Bill, as it now stands, leaving the order in which the contingent portion of the fund is to be called on in the discretion of the Lord. Lieutenant, gives an amount of power to the Castle officials which the House ought not to repose in them, and the Amendment of my hon. Friend, I think, is infinitely preferable to the proposal of the Government. Then, as to the order in which the funds in the cash portion are to be called upon, we are not told whether the county percentage is to be used before calling upon the Probate Duty or the Exchequer Contribution. The Amendment of my hon. Friend is to enable the House to say which portion of the cash as well as contingent funds is to be taken first, second, or third. As the Bill is drafted it is impossible to know in which order the funds will be taken. In not accepting my hon. Friend's Amendment, it would seem that the Government are not anxious to facilitate the discussion of this matter, and we will, therefore, be 1340 compelled to fight the various portions of this clause.
§ (4.30.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have listened to the arguments in favour of the Amendment, and with some of them I agree, and I do not think there is any great difference between us. There are three matters on which I am prepared to give an answer to the hon. Gentleman. The first relates to the danger which the hon. Member fears if the Bill remains in its present state, and in order to meet his view I shall, on the Report stage, bring forward an Amendment with a view to securing that payment to the Local Authorities shall only be withheld if default was made antecedent to the day at which payment to the Local Authorities was due.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Quite so. The second point to which the hon. Member called attention was as to the order in which the contingent portion of the fund is mentioned in the second sub-section. I have no objection to altering the order to meet his view, and, therefore, that will become a matter of practical politics. I do not think it is very material, but I defer to the voice of hon. Members opposite. The third point relates to labourers' cottages, and as to this my lion. Friend the Attorney General for Ireland has drawn up an Amendment which will come under sub-head A of Sub-section 2 of the clause. It will, I think, carry out the view of the hon. Member for West Belfast, though I cannot accept the Amendment which is on the Paper.
§ (4.35.) MR. SEXTON
I believe the right hon. Gentleman's promise effectually provides that there shall be no disturbance of the Local Service in Ireland by reason of the Local Guarantee Fund. The right hon. Gentleman also agrees to take the contingent securities in a different order. Of course I retain my objection to the principle of a local guarantee, but I am so sensible of the extent of the right hon. Gentleman's concessions that I will not press this Amendment, nor will I move the next Amendment.
§ (4.37.) MR. STOREY
My hon. Friend seems to be satisfied with very little. He must still, however, reckon with the fact that some of us in England object to this arrangement. As I under 1341 stand the offer of the Secretary for Ireland it is this, that he promises not to dislocate Irish local finance by retaining the local Probate Duty in the future, except to the extent of the antecedent defaults. How does that differ from the words in the Bill? The words in the Bill at the present time mean this and this only. My hon. Friend has got no concession whatever.
§ MR. STOREY
Well, when doctors disagree who shall settle the matter? I apply common sense to the clause and say that the concession which the Irish Secretary has made just now is precisely on all fours with the clause of the Bill as it stands. The right hon. Gentleman also makes a concession about cottages. He proposes that the Exchequer contribution, if not needed for the Guarantee Fund, shall be applied to the provision of labourers' cottages in the Irish counties. Under this concession you might have this condition of things, that actually there would be a necessity for money to meet some deficiency, and yet the deficiency could not be met because the money was being applied to the building of labourers' cottages. In other words, the money that was to secure English credit against default is to be applied to the building of labourers' cottages.
§ MR. SEXTON
It is only when every possible claim for deficiency has been met that the claim for labourers' cottages is to be made.
§ MR. STOREY
Well, if my hon. Friend is content with the provision, I have no reason to be otherwise. As to the Amendment to the whole clause, I was going to vote in favour of it because I thought it was better on the whole than the Government proposal; but I must say that both proposals seem to be very objectionable from my point of view. I cannot understand the methods of the Irish Secretary in this matter. He is proposing an Imperial scheme, actuated by great Imperial purposes, and for great Imperial ends, and then instead of proposing a Guarantee Fund out of the Imperial Exchequer he goes to Ireland and seeks in all the holes and corners of the land for petty sums in order to present them to us as possible guarantees. Why did he not go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night 1342 and say, " I have a great Imperial purpose to carry out in Ireland and it does not become a great nation like ours to go peddling about Ireland seeking for Guarantee Funds. Let me put down £1,000,000 right away and have a Guarantee Fund that will meet all contingencies." I do not say I should have voted for such a proposal; I must have voted against it; but I am looking at it from his point of view. He actually proposes that we should obtain guarantees from the funds applied to the maintenance of pauper lunatics, to the salaries of schoolmasters and masters of workhouses, to the cost of medicine for the sick poor, and so on. When we say, " You do not mean to toll us that any Government would be mean enough to take this money and allocate it as proposed in the Bill," what does he say? When it was suggested that to take the Irish Probate Duty grant would be to discolate local finance, the right hon. Gentleman said "The localities will not suffer by our keeping the Probate Duty." Why will they not suffer? If he keeps it they must suffer. If they will not suffer he does not propose to take it at all.
§ MR. STOREY
I am sorry if I have mistaken his meaning, but that is certainly how I viewed the matter. What answer did he make when it was suggested it would be shabby to take the money for pauper lunatics, and so forth? He said it was scarcely conceivable that the antecedent guarantees would not be sufficient. Quite so; and if the antecedent guarantees are sufficient, why does he come before the House and the public, and put in small make-shifts of guarantees which he never means to realise? My feeling about this clause is simply this: I would have voted with much more willingness for a Bill to create a peasant proprietary in Ireland if there had been a Ministry that had boldly come forward and said " We are going to do this thing because it is a national thing, and we are going to do it in a national way." But when, in addition to a proposal from which I dissent, the Government come to the House, and in this peculiar way of theirs suggest to the British public all sorts of guarantees, 1343 when they know they are not real and tangible guarantees, I must say they add meanness to that policy, and it is my duty to oppose this clause and any succeeding clause which gives effect to it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (4.48.) MR. SEXTON
I should like to move the next Amendment formally, so as to have it on record, and then to ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment proposed,
In page 3; line 1, to leave out all after "Fund," to end of Clause, and insert "consisting of the following sums to be paid into the Fund, in the order stated, if and when and to the extent required in pursuance of this Act in any financial year:—
(2.) A sum of forty thousand pounds (in this Act described as the Exchequer contribution) shall in every financial year be paid out of the Consolidated Fund, and the said sum shall be carried to a reserve fund until the sum of two hundred thousand pounds has been so carried; and so far as it is not required for that purpose shall be paid, in the same proportion as if it were the part of the Irish probate duty grant divisible between boards of guardians of the poor in Ireland, to the said boards to be applied in providing labourers' cottages under the Labourers' (Ireland) Acts 1883 to 1886. (3) The guarantee fund shall be under the direction of the Treasury.—(Mr. Sexton.)
- (i.) the Exchequer contribution hereinafter mentioned and the reserve fund constituted thereout;
- (ii.) the Irish Probate Duty Grant;
- (iii.) the Irish share of the Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Duties Grant; and
- (iv.) the following local grants, that is to say, the grants
- (a.) for rates and contributions in lieu of rates on Government property in Ireland;
- (b.) in aid of the maintenance of the Queen's College in Ireland;
- (c.) to defray the expenses of national education in Ireland; and
- (d.) in aid of industrial schools in Ireland.
§ Question proposed, "That the words That under the direction of the Treasury' stand part of the Clause."
§ (4.50.) MR. MAHONY
I quite agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland Mr. Storey) in his objection to the use of Irish credit, but we have already had discussed that subject on Clause 1, and I do not see what useful purpose can be secured by re-opening the matter on Clause 3. We could urge special objections against many of these forms of guarantees, but the Chief Secretary has, on the whole, made very substantial 1344 concessions. I hope we shall quickly come to a decision. I, personally, do not intend to move any of the Amendments which stand in my name.
§ (4.51.): COLONEL NOLAN
At present a portion of the Probate Duty is devoted to Poor Law purposes. It is to be put into the cash account, and then to overflow to the Poor Law Unions. Am I to understand that until there is a deficiency caused by some tenant not paying, the Poor Law Unions will not only receive the same sum as now, but receive it quickly?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (4.52.) MR. KEAY
My hon. Friend the Member for Meath has just told us he does not intend to move any of his Amendments, and would lead us to believe that in his judgment the fight, so far as the Irish Members are concerned, is all over. But I understand that, on the contrary, the fight has to begin upon my Amendment. I view this Amendment from a financial point of view, and I may add from a British point of view. I do not intend to enter into the question of the incidence of the alleged Irish guarantees on Irish social and political life, but to speak of them as a security, as a form of protection, to the British taxpayer. I decline to recognise them or to have anything to do with them as a security, unless they fulfil one necessary condition. A Guarantee Fund is only created, and ought only to be created, for one honest object. There should be grouped together funds of a class or classes which can be easily and readily arrested for the purpose of covering any default which may have been made. I hold strongly that this Guarantee Fund is useless, because you cannot collect it when you want it. I do not now propose to leave out both the cash and contingent portions of the Guarantee Fund; but only the latter portion. I consider the collection or retention, or interception of the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund for the purpose of meeting a default to be a conceivable supposition; but I hold it to be altogether inconceivable that local grants in aid of local purposes could possibly be intercepted. It is not without 1345 reason that all these ridiculous claims are going to be made upon the Irish localities by Her Majesty's Government. The reason of it all is, that under the construction of this Bill, for every £40,000 which they can get swept into the Guarantee Fund they can lend another million sterling to their hungry friends the landlords. I propose to retain the cash portion in the fund, and to move to omit the contingent portion. The financial effect of that will be this: The cash portion comes in round numbers to about £300,000 a year. According to the Government scheme the amount of the Bill will be 25 times £300,000, in other words it will be about 7 ½millions. Each of the Ashbourne Acts was put forward with £5,000,000 only in it, and I think that if the cash portion is reserved, and if 25 times that portion is capitalised and paid over to the landlords, it is quite enough to carry out the real purpose of the Government, which is to furnish ample funds to their own immediate friends and supporters among the Irish landlords. I, therefore, move the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ (4.58.) MR. LABOUCHERE
On a point of Order. I have an Amendment to leave out the contingent portion to which I think there are greater objections.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 2, to leave out the words " consisting of a cash portion and a contingent portion.—(Mr. Keay.)
§ Question proposed, " That the words consisting of a cash portion ' stand part of the clause."
§ (4.59.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I could not vote for omitting the words " the cash portion," but I should be prepared to vote for leaving out " the contingent portion." I do not think it would be possible, under any circumstances, for the Government to withhold the funds which go to the rateyayers in respect of criminal lunatic asylums and education. Therefore, I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should withdraw his Amendment, and allow the hon. Member for Northampton to move his Amendment.
§ (5.0.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I object to both portions, but I object to them on different grounds. My reason for objecting to the cash portion, is that it is practically a fund which is obtained from Ireland itself. The proposal as to the cash portion is an attack upon the rights of the localities, and Irish localities have the same rights as any localities in England. According to the Budget last night, Ireland is to receive certain sums. We should have no right to take it away from Ireland unless we withdrew it equally from England. We could acquire that right if we were able to say that the Members for Ireland had a distinct mandate from their constituents; but I do not understand them to pretend that they have that mandate to give it up absolutely. In fact they say just the reverse. And again, it is impossible to tell whether Ireland will continue to contribute this £40,000 for 49 years. We have just read a second time a Sunday Closing Bill for the country, and it may be that some day we shall pass a Bill closing the licensed houses on every other day as well. It may be that Ireland may not drink whisky for 49 years. Yet by this we are pledging them to go on drinking it for all these years. Surely the hon. Member for South Tyrone will not assent to that. He is continually going about the country, urging the Irish not to drink whisky, and thus provide the money; and yet, if he supports this proposal, he will be calmly hypothecating the money obtained from the consumption of whisky for the next 49 years. I say we are not entitled to pledge this money. It is money obtained for the Irish people, and they have a right to it; and we cannot, by the mere fact of its passing through our hands, lay hold of it and hypothecate it without the clear and distinct assent of the large majority of the Irish Members.
§ (5.5.)The Committee divided:—Ayes 185; Noes 113.—(Div. List, No. 151.)
§ (5.16.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I am anxious, consistently with my duty, to get on with the business as speedily as possible. I have already expressed my 1347 views in regard to this Guarantee Fund, and can consequently abbreviate my observations on the specific Amendment which I now rise to propose. As I said just now, we are opposed to the cash portion, although something plausible might be said in its favour; but we are still more opposed to the contingent portion. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary a question with regard to this matter: What is his position in relation to it? This contingent portion would be used as a cover in the event of the tenants not paying their rents. We will suppose that they do not pay; we will suppose that a strike has taken place; or we will take the case of a combination of persons who declare that if they do pay the annuities they will be absolutely ruined. It may be that produce has fallen greatly in value or that the harvest has been a 'very bad one. What would the Chief Secretary do? Would he use this Contingent Fund or not? If he uses it, what would be the result? First, the locality would have to double its rates, because the Imperial contribution would be no longer available. And if they could not get the rates in, the lunatics would have to be released, no medicine would be provided for the sick poor, nor would there be any other relief for them; and if the non-payment of the annuities arises from the fall in the value of produce, how can it be expected that the people will be able to pay a double rate. The probability is they will be unable to pay a single rate. You say that the taxpayers of Great Britain are guaranteed from any possible liability because you impose a double rate at the very moment that the people to whose interest it is to pay the annuities are absolutely unable to do so. I maintain that you cannot do it. I say that the people would not agree to the imposition of this double rate, and if they refuse to pay, what will the Chief Secretary then do? It is humanly possible that the value of produce may fall to such a point as to make impossible the payment of the annuities, and it may be that the people, holding that the rates are already sufficiently heavy, will refuse to pay more. That the Chief Secretary will be face to face with the fact that he must let loose the lunatics and stop all poor relief, 1348 I say it will be impossible for him to do that. A Government has certain primary responsibilities and one of those reponsibilities is providing for the sick poor and for lunatics. It cannot hypothecate money which is intended for such purposes, and therefore I assert that this proposal is merely an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the British taxpayers; it is, so far as the lunatics are concerned, a lunatic proposal from beginning to end. Both the Chief Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer know perfectly well that this guarantee is utterly and absolutely illusory; it has been introduced in order to keep apparent faith with the pledges on which they and their followers secured their seats at the last General Election—the pledges that the English taxpayer should incur no sort of liability in connection with land purchase in Ireland. It is only fair we should have a clear understanding with the Chief Secretary. Would he under any or all circumstances insist on this rate being levied? Would he send his police and his bayonets to levy it? Would he, in the event of its non-payment, let loose the lunatics and the paupers, and would he stop all education I await his reply. I do not anticipate that that reply would do away with the necessity for my taking a Division on this Amendment, but still, I am always open to argument, and if the right hon. Gentleman can prove to me that I am in the wrong I shall be glad to go over to his side.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, lines. 2 and 3, to leave out the words " and a contingent portion."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, " That the words and a contingent portion' stand part of the Clause."
§ (5 24.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
This question has been discussed whenever the general principles of the Bill have been raised, and, therefore, I need not discuss it again to-day. In answer to the hon Member, however, I may say that I do regard the guarantee as a real guarantee, and I shall, if necessary, enforce it. I am not obliged to contemplate such extreme possibilities as those presented by the hon. Member. If such catastrophes as the hon. Member has pictured occurred anywhere in the British Islands, the Parliament of the 1349 day would no doubt take measures to cope with them. The Bill deals, as every Bill must do, with probabilities, and there is no probability of the Contingent Fund being called upon, or, if it were, of the local taxation being difficult to enforce. The hon. Member has spoken of letting loose all lunatics and withdrawing aid from the poor. He must know that, the care of lunatics and poor is riot a duty of the central Government, but essentially one of the locality, and that the grants from the Exchequer are given only to aid the locality in carrying them out. I think I have covered the points raised by the hon. Member. I do not suppose I shall be fortunate enough to convince him, but I hope I have said sufficient to indicate the views of the Government and to prove to the Committee that this is a real guarantee.
§ (5.26.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I agree with the Chief Secretary that this question has been argued before, and therefore I do not propose to take up the time of the House in discussing it again. But, at the same time, I think that the question is too important to be allowed to pass without a protest. I do not agree with the Chief Secretary that the words in question are a fundamental part of the Bill. I think, on the contrary, that, they could be omitted without detriment to the measure. There is a great distinction to be drawn between the cash portion and the contingent portion. I hold that under no possible circumstances could a Government withhold contributions for lunatic asylums and for the education of paupers, nor for any other purpose mentioned in the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund, nor would the fear of such funds being withheld supply an inducement to the payment of the instalments. This part of the Bill is entirely illusory, and affords no real guarantee to the taxpayer. I shall therefore vote for the Amendment.
§ (5.30.) MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I have the strongest possible objection to this proposal to seize and impound local rates without the consent of the locality affected. I say that there is no power in existence in Ireland at the present time which is competent to pledge its own credit, and I do not think any Member for an Irish constituency would venture to support this proposal 1350 before his own constituents. Neither do I believe that any considerable body of the Irish people would be found to approve it; I doubt if even the constituents of the Attorney General for Ireland would sanction it. I quite admit that the Chief Secretary has improved his proposal by offering to re-cast the order in which the securities may be impounded. The grant to pauper lunatics would be fifth now instead of second on the list, and that is a material improvement. At the same time, I do not think it would be impossible to realise the securities. I think they might be realised, and the maximum of local inconvenience and irritation caused thereby. Although the Chief Secretary says it is the duty of a locality to provide for its paupers and lunatics, I must remind him that for many years. the Imperial Government has assisted in the task both in England and in Ireland, and it would be very hard now to withdraw the grants in aid. Anyone who has knowledge of agricultural life in Ireland knows that the rates and taxes are already equivalent to the rent, and if, by the withdrawal of the Imperial grant, the burden were increased, the farmers would be taxed beyond their means. While the Lord Lieutenant might succeed in levying for the county cess, such a storm would be raised as would be extremely awkward for the Government of the day, and it would not conduce to the satisfactory working of the Land Purchase Bill.
§ (5.35.) MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)
This is a Bill of complicated details,. many of which require special ability for their discussion; but the point we are now considering stands out clearly enough, and I think every Member who represents an Irish constituency should join in the protest against this proposal, and support the Amendment. My support is given on entirely different grounds to those upon which one hon. Member gives his support. He opposes the clause because he thinks the guarantee is illusory, and that the risk must eventually fall upon the English taxpayer. I am not so credulous as to agree to put our names on the back of a Bill, satisfied with the assurance that it is merely a matter of form, and no liability attaches to it. We are called upon to give this 1351 guarantee, and the resources of the locality will be absolutely pledged. Since I entered this House, I have had forced upon my attention the humiliating position that Ireland occupies in our Parliamentary system, but never have I felt this more keenly than in having this clause forced upon my country against the unanimous wish of Irish Representatives. This Bill was introduced with a great flourish of trumpets as a generous measure of assistance for the pacification of the country by the use of British money and credit. It was kept out of sight that our own resources were to be pledged to carry out this Imperial measure. It cannot be too often repeated, it should be thoroughly understood, that to obtain this benefit supposed to be extended from Imperial resources we are called upon to pledge the grants to our asylums, the salaries of our schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, the medical assistance to our poor, the salaries of officers under the Public Health Act, the maintenance of our children in Industrial Schools. I hope a strong protest will be made against the unfairness of the proposal.
§ (5.39.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I have no wish to protract the discussion to any length, but, looking at this question from a Scotch point of view, I am bound to say I do not hold the same views in regard to land purchase as those held by the hon. Member for Northampton. I have not much to say against the principle of land purchase, but my action has been very much guided by what I have heard by the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). He, in discussion, has admitted absolutely that if a locality were consulted, the locality would not agree to the purchase of land under existing circumstances. I understand that the terms of purchase will be forced upon the tenants in the interest of the landlords, and a Local Authority, whose resources are to be appropriated as security for payment, would not sanction the terms of purchase. Here the question arises in its barest form. We are told by the large majority of Irish Members that they will not consent to this security. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Northampton that this security is illusory. I am of opinion that it never could be enforced, and probably there 1352 never be the need to enforce it. But that is not the point of my objection. I am not opposed to land purchase in the interest of the tenant, but an objectionable feature of this Bill is, that under its provisions the purchase money will be higher than would be sanctioned if the opinion of the Local Authorities were taken into account as to the securities to be given. This is not denied by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, or anybody else, and so far as we are concerned, and looking upon this as a precedent for land purchase in Scotland—a precedent we shall use in favour of land purchase in Scotland—
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
Notwithstanding the protest of my hon. Friend I, as representing a Scottish agricultural constituency, say that this precedent of buying out Irish landlords will at some time be used, and the Government of the day will find it hard to resist the claim from Scotland under certain circumstances. But I know I stand on a very different platform to some of my colleagues in this matter. I deprecate in the strongest terms as an insult to Local Authorities in Scotland or elsewhere that they should not be consulted at all as to the security they are called upon to give. I am sure the people of Ireland, or of Scotland, in view of the demand for land, would agree that the utmost value should be given compatible with good security, without undue risk. We have before us a very important issue. It is idle to say, after we by a majority have said to Local Authorities, " You shall not be consulted in any way, but we shall keep these grants for local purposes, for education and for the maintenance of your poor, for the security of payment for the land"—it is not to be expected, I say, that these Local Authorities will not resist such action. I do not think they would be doing their duty if they did not refuse to give up these taxes. We in Scotland should resist these local taxes being taken from us against our will, and as it would be in Scotland, so I think it must be in Ireland. Let our friends show whether they believe in the justice of the claim for local government in Ireland. I have no wish to detain the Committee in this discussion of Irish matters, but, 1353 apart from Ireland, I wish to protest against a disregard of Local Authority over local funds.
(5.46.) MR. T. W. R USSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I do not pretend to any special liking for this form of security in the contingent Guarantee Fund, but the matter presents itself to my mind in this way: The people of Ireland, generally speaking, desire a land purchase measure such as is now before us. There can be no question about that, because Members who resisted land purchase as proposed in the Ashbourne Act have been forced to yield to the pressure of their constituents and support this Bill. Therefore, I take it that the Irish people desire that this Land Purchase Bill should pass. Although, as I say, I have no liking for this form of security, I come to ask how is land purchase to be effected without sonic security for the money advanced? Surely the Members below the Gangway do not mean to affirm that the nation is going to hand over some £33,000,000 without any security at all?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
It is quite true that in the two Ashbourne Acts there was no security for the £10,000,000 save the land itself and the guarantee deposit of the landlord, but what has taken place since those Acts were passed? Why are the securities in the present case set up? Because of what has since been going on in three out of the four provinces of Ireland. The teaching which has been given to the farmers in those three provinces is now coming home to roost, and guarantees are now required by the British people which would never have been thought of but for the experience of the past seven or eight years in the South and West of Ireland. The matter, therefore, stands thus—we must accept a Land Purchase Bill with these securities, or we shall get no Bill of the kind at all, and I am bound to say that I would not dare to face my constituents if I had refused the Bill with the securities proposed. I deny that Ireland is unanimous as to these guarantees. Ireland is not unanimous, and the Division will show that. Ireland will reap the benefit of land purchase, and it is not asking too much that Ireland should 1354 pledge her local securities to secure that benefit. When we find two parties opposing this provision, one declaring that this local guarantee is not required and the other that it is altogether illusory, I say let them conic to some general agreement before they assail this fundamental part of the proposal.
§ (5.50.) MR. STOREY
I do not wonder to hear the hon. Gentleman say he does not like this guarantee. I put it to his sense of justice, if there be a guarantee, from whom does it come?
§ MR. STOREY
Does my hon. Friend say that this clause contains any guarantee from the Irish people? In this Contingent Fund are not the main proceeds of Customs and Excise Duties obtained mainly from the people in the towns drinking more liquor than before?
§ MR. STOREY
That does not destroy my argument. As a matter of fact, a much larger amount is drawn from the people in the towns as compared with the contributions from the rural districts. What advantage is it to the people in the towns to have this Land Purchase Bill passed? What advantage is it to the people of Belfast or Dublin that a certain number of farmers in the rural parts of Ireland are to be singled out to become landowners? Not only upon the districts concerned, but upon the people in Dublin, Belfast, Londonderry, Limerick, Cork, and all the towns do you call to contribute their portion of the guarantee that the State may be secured from loss. Is that fair?
§ MR. STOREY
I think it is utterly unfair and unjust, and therefore I oppose the clause. Now, let us look at this guarantee. We have been jibed at because we have called it illusory, but I repeat it is illusory to the extent of absurdity. If there should be any deficiency, if there should be need to call up the guarantee, is there any Government that would take from the Local Authority sums now applied to the support of pauper lunatics and other purposes and use them to make up the deficiency in the Land Purchase Fund? Everybody knows what would happen Should there be such a deficiency the 1355 Government of the day will come to us 1 and say, " We admit that under the letter of the arrangement we ought to refuse Local Authorities these grants, but in decency and in our conscience we cannot do this; it, would not be consonant with our duty to do this, and therefore we ask for some other guarantee and. the advance of the cash by Parliament to meet this deficiency." Now, I submit to my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone—who is a logician outside the House, if he is not in the House — would it not be more honourable and statesmanlike to at once make it an Imperial guarantee entirely, and not put forward this illusory local guarantee? Take the next item, is it possible to withhold the salaries of the schoolmasters of Ireland in order to enable a limited number of farmers to become owners of land in Ireland? Will you appropriate the salaries of the medical officers, or say that the sick poor in Ireland shall not have the medicines now provided at the cost of the State, because the landlords must be paid out, handing over their land to the tenants on certain terms? I will not go through the items, they all hang together, they are of the same mean description. If you carry this land purchase scheme for Ireland, how can you resist a claim for other parts of the Kingdom on the same basis? I am not saying that I would make such a proposition. Anyone who opposes it for Ireland may consistently oppose it for Scotland or England; but how, when such a claim is made, can you consistently refuse it, having established this precedent? It is because we think this guarantee is illusory, and if not illusory most unfair and unjust, we oppose it. Take the case of any county in Ireland, where there are, say, 5,000 tenant farmers. Of these you turn 1,000 into owners, leaving the other 4,000 still in the condition of tenants; besides you have all the trading class, the grazing farmers, and what there is of the professional class, and a number of other people following various occupations, and because 1,000 men have been singled out to receive a particular benefit at the hands of the State you propose that all the other ratepayers shall become guarantees for the minority who are to receive the benefit. Well, all I 1356 can say is that hon. Gentlemen opposite must be much duller than I know they are if they do not, see the logical conclusion to which a policy of this sort may be pushed. Can you confine the claim to those and n few of those who occupy farms? History repeats itself; and, just as in. Imperial Rome, 2,000 years ago, the agrarian question reacted on the occupation of tenements among the working-classes in towns, so may you have the. principle agitated, not only for the occupiers of land in England and Scotland, but for the urban population. Having regard to the possible consequences that may flow from such a precedent, we oppose this clause.
§ (6.0.) MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
There is much of this Bill complicated and technical in character; but one thing comes out clearly: that it will be more beneficial to landlords than former Land Purchase Bills. This was to be expected, and from their point of view the Government would naturally assist their friends in Ireland. With regard to the danger of repudiation which the hon. Member for South Tyrone sees ahead, I believe there will be nothing of the kind. There is no danger of the Irish people repudiating an engagement they have entered into, providing the bargain is a fair one and freely entered into. But what does this Bill propose? It proposes to provide the means whereby a certain number of tenants may become owners of their farms. But the amount placed at the disposal of the Commissioners will not allow of more than one out of every four tenants becoming owners, and the others, together with all the ratepayers in town and country, are to become security for the defalcations that may arise, though they have no voice in allowing the transactions. Now, I object to such a proposal; it is against any principle of fair play and contrary to the accepted principle that, representation should accompany taxation. The Chief Secretary repudiates any right of Local Government to the Irish people'; he throws over the principle of representation, and I never heard a more gratuitously insulting observation than that used the other night by the right hon. Gentleman when he said that the elected bodies were the repudiated bodies. If these bargains are fairly made 1357 there will be no repudiation of engagements, and the working of the Ashbourne Act proves the truth of my assertion; but without the safeguard of local sanction, there is the greatest danger of tenants acting under duress being forced into unfair bargains. I shall certainly support the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ (6.5.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
I confess I am somewhat in a dilemma as to giving my vote. When I find Irish Members assisting the Government to pass Clauses 1 and 2 to secure the advance of these £30,000,000, then I confess I do not like to go into the Lobby with them to shake off these local obligations. If I thought it would get rid of a real local guarantee, I would vote in favour of retaining it. The hon. Member who has just spoken expressed his belief that his countrymen would not repudiate a bargain fairly entered into; but who is to judge of the fairness? Is there not a danger that Irish farmers may hereafter say they were coerced into these contracts; and as they are not fair, they will not carry out their obligations? I am unwilling to advance the money at all, but I should prefer to have some Irish guarantee for repayment. But I am impressed with the belief that this contingent guarantee is an illusion, and is merely intended to throw dust in the eyes of the British taxpayer to induce him to assent to a Bill which he would never agree to if it were put forward in its naked form of British security only. Under the circumstances, and believing as I do that this contingent guarantee is utterly worthless, I think I cannot do better than vote against it, in so doing endeavouring to put the Bill before the electors in its naked hideousness, showing that we are really going to make these advances without any real security whatever. I object to the principle of the Bill, for I believe it is unnecessary, and that the Act of 1881, properly administered, is sufficient. I shall vote for the Amendment, for the idea that there is any security in this contingent guarantee is altogether a delusion.
§ (6.10.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
The provisions of this landlord's recupe ration Bill are of so highly technical a character that it is difficult for anyone but an experienced legal man to deal 1358 with them. We have now, however, arrived at a most important point touching the contingent guarantee — the guarantee which is to be exacted from the Irish people without any expression of Irish opinion with regard to it—and, as one who represents an important constituency in the province of Munster, I cannot consent to give a silent vote. This guarantee is worthless, or it is valuable. If it is worthless, I perfectly understand the proposal to strike it out. If it is not worthless, I want to hear some expression of opinion from gentlemen opposite with regard to it. Are the unfortunate lunatics of Ireland to be turned loose without any sort of care or attention being paid to them? I can conceive nothing more unworthy of even a Tory Administration. The poor children are to go untaught, and the expenses of medical officers and the cost of medicine and surgical appliances are to be sacrificed. What a pretty kettle of fish you will have in Ireland if this guarantee is called upon ! If there is any possibility of such a thing happening, no English or Scottish Member can, with a clear conscience, go home to his constituency and say he has voted in favour of such a measure. Either the Government have made a mistake in imposing this guarantee at all, or else they should have acted on some other principle so as to avoid the most fatal error into which they have fallen. I maintain that no Irish Member will be doing his duty at the present time if he does not attempt to alter this proposal, or to obtain some highly satisfactory answer from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ (6.15.) MR. SEXTON
I must strenuously object to the insertion of this local guarantee; first, because it seems to me unconstitutional in its character; and secondly, because, if it is ever exacted, it will be most oppressive to the people of Ireland. I shall not repeat the arguments I have already used en the subject.
§ (6.16.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 196; Noes 113. — (Div. List, No. 152.)1359
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 3, after " shall," insert " in addition to the county percentage."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is purely consequential on the alterations made in Clause 2, in deference to the hon. Member opposite.
§ (6.29.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin University)
As the Bill was drafted, the county percentage went as part of the Irish Probate grant, and thus into the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund. This has been modified, and those words are intended to make it clear that the percentage is still to be paid into the cash portion of the fund.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 5, after " fund," add " the Irish Probate Duty Grant and."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ (6.32.) COLONEL NOLAN
Before this is taken I want to know what the Government are doing. We have had so much conversation about this Irish Probate Duty and this £40,000 that I should like to be assured where we are. I should have no objection to giving the first lien on either of these sums to labourers' cottages where they are wanted; but I want it to be clear that if this transposition is allowed, the £4,000, where no cottages are desired by the Local Authorities, shall go to the relief of local taxation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is owing to the fact that we have now allocated the Exchequer contribution to labourers' cottages. When the Bill was originally framed there was nothing of a fund at all, and our idea was to come down on the newest fund; but now there has been an alteration, it follows that the general grant should be come down on. I therefore think that the transposition should take place. The point referred to by the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Nolan) is provided for by the Bill. There can be no question about it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Another Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 9, to omit the words " the county percentage and.' Agreed to.
§ (6.36.) MR. KEAY
I beg to move to omit the following words in lines 11 and 12: "The Irish share of the Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Duties." This is only a small Amendment; therefore, I do not intend to detain the Committee for more than a moment in dealing with it. This is one of the items which should be left out if any other item is omitted. My objection to these words is a general one, which I have already stated to the Committee. I object to these niggardly and peddling and wholly illusory guarantees, and I consider that the British people, if they are going to devote £30,000,000 to this work, ought to have their eyes open and know what they are doing. They ought not to proceed on the pretence that there is a Guarantee Fund, which, as a matter of fact, does not exist.
§ Amendment proposed,
In page 3, lines 11 and 12, to leave out the words "the Irish share of the Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Duties, and."—(Mr. Keay.)
§ Question proposed, " That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. STOREY
This can be put in a single sentence. Take, for instance, the Excise and Customs of London, and apply them to the purchase of holdings 1361 from the landlords in Bucks or Berks, and you have what is the case in Ireland. I object to the clause on principle.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I do not object to every item, and I hold that this particular one might be left in.
§ (6.45.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 173; Noes 95.—(Div. List, No. 153.)
§ It being after ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next, at Two of the clock.