§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 3.
§ Question again proposed " That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ (7.19.) MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
There is no disposition in this or any other quarter of the House to discuss at length a clause which has already been subjected to very substantial criticism; but we desire to make our formal protest against the clause in the only Parliamentary way at our disposal. This is the clause which creates the Guarantee Fund springing from local Irish Funds as a sort of buffer between the operation of the Bill and the liability of the British taxpayer. Now, this guarantee is either real or unreal. If it be unreal, if it is not to be drawn upon, but is simply inserted as a sort of sop to the British public against the wishes of the Irish Members, then it is neither fair or statesmanlike to insert such a clause in the Bill. If, on the other hand, the Government mean this to be a real and substantial guarantee, then we Englishmen protest—and in our protest we shall be joined by many Irish Members— against the Government impounding these local grants made for a specific purpose to the Irish Local Authorities, who have a right to deal with them. Whichever way we look at it, we feel that the clause is one we cannot assent to, and therefore we propose to take a Division against it.
§ (7.21.) MR. KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
I do not intend to interpose for any long time between the Committee and a Division; but I desire to call attention to the extraordinary character of the speech 1803 of the Chief Secretary two days ago in replying to myself. I had been pressing him to do his duty—to lead, to guide the Committee in regard to essential provisions in the Bill, and what did the right hon. Gentleman say? " The hon. Member will be more useful to the Committee "—this was the right hon. Gentleman's ex câthedra dictum—" if he avoids going back so much on past questions and past replies received." I should correct that by saying " replies not received." However, in such replies as they were, the right hon. Gentleman admitted in the plainest manner his great annoyance at my reference to his past speeches. Still, so long as I have the honour of a seat in this House I intend to follow a legitimate Parliamentary practice, and bring forward in Debate whatever inconsistencies, misapprehensions and contradictions I can cull from previous speeches and replies of the right hon. Gentleman. If he wants to stop this he must contrive to destroy all last year's volumes of Hansard, and if it were possible for him to do that, no doubt he would make things more pleasant for himself. I warn him that when we reach the 6th clause to which period he has relegated many important points of controversy, I shall have need to make further references to his speeches of last year. There is only one other point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech of the other day to which I desire to call attention now, and that is the extraordinary statement which he made with regard to his joy and delight that the amount of money under this Bill is not fixed at £30,000,000 sterling. Now I prize this statement, for I am convinced that whatever he may think, the country does not share this joy and delight. I wondered when I heard his statement whether he believed that the country was with him in this pleasure which he expressed that the amount in the Bill was purposely left elastic and unknown, so that nobody could say to what extent of capital these loans may be made. Does the right hon. Gentleman want to take the opinion of the country upon this point? I hear that the representation of my constituency is to be contested. Let him send a candidate to fight out the General Election on this ticket, and let that candidate express to the electors that he 1804 shares the gratification of the Chief Secretary that £30,000,000 do not represent the limit to which this Bill goes, and if that candidate wins the election in my constituency he will be the most remarkable man who ever went there.
§ (7.25.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. Balfour,) Manchester
I do not rise to reply to the hon. Gentleman who, as usual, has not been able to restrain himself from references to speeches delivered some days ago, but to reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland who has said this guarantee is genuine or not genuine, and that if it is not genuine we are deceiving the British taxpayer, while if it is genuine then we are going to draw upon funds which ought not to be used without the consent of the locality. Now, has the hon. Gentleman never in his experience heard of a guarantee for a loan which it is never anticipated will be used? A more familiar incident in commercial life does not exist. The guarantee may be perfectly genuine, it may be necessary before the lender will make the advance, and yet it can be stated, so far as there is any certainty in human affairs, that the position of the borrower is such that the guarantee will never be drawn upon. That is the case in the majority of mortgages, and as it is in mortgage debts so will it be with these land purchase advances. I do not accept the dilemma the hon. Gentleman offers, not admitting the unfairness of the guarantee or that it is unnecessary.
§ (7.27.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
On that point I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman. He is convinced of the genuine character of the guarantee, but has he estimated the extent to which it may be possible to draw upon these resources? I take leave to observe that assuming the possibility of having to draw upon this fund you never could collect the money, you could never impound these resources without bringing the whole machinery of your Local Government to an abrupt termination. The value of the guarantee is not to be measured by pounds, shillings, and pence, but by the possibility of realising that guarantee. Is it possible that any sane and constitutional Government could venture to impound these sums of local money intended 1805 for local matters, the maintenance of lunatics, the salaries of school teachers, and medical officers and others, and the supply of medicines and surgical appliances to the poor? How are you to carry on Local Government with such an appropriation of local resources? Are you going to open the doors and let your pauper lunatics stream forth all over the land? Can it be supposed that any' civilised Government will impound these moneys, and is it not therefore ridiculous to insist that this is a genuine guarantee? No; this is a sham, a bogus, humbugging guarantee, of a Tory character, in fact. It has been proved to demonstration that there may be a deficit to meet at any time. In the ordinary course of things you may have to face a decline in land value, and a bad season may bring a tenant to the ground, and especially is this likely to be the case after those unfortunate people have been coerced into purchasing their holdings at prices far above their fair value. A tenant will be coerced into paying 25 years' purchase for land only worth 10 years' purchase; but, notwithstanding misfortunes that may fall upon agriculture, he will still be expected to keep up punctually the instalments to be paid to the State landlord. It is not only possible, it is probable, that you will have this position, and I maintain it is puerile to consider that this is, under such circumstances, a genuine guarantee. This clause, during the numerous discussions we have had upon it, has been considerably amended, and we ought to know before we part with the clause what the effect of these Amendments really is. We ought to have in full perspective view the operation of the clause; but how can any conscientious politician pass judgment upon it unless he has the amended clause before him? I shall certainly vote against the clause being passed, on that ground.
§ (7.35.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I have certainly heard in commercial matters of persons giving a guarantee without being called on to pay it, or without in the least anticipating that they would ever be called on to pay it; but the analogy is not complete in this case. In the present instance the Government are forcing a guarantee on the Irish people without their consent, 1806 and it is for that reason that I consider it a sham guarantee. It is a guarantee which can never be enforced because the persons you hold responsible are not to be called upon to give their consent to the transaction. And not only that but only nine Irish Members voted in favour of the guarantee, while three times that number of Irish Members voted against it. This shows that the Irish people will not accept the guarantee. The Government will never be able to put the guarantee in force, and consequently it is not a real guarantee. If it were a real one I should be inclined to support it in view of the principle that has already been adopted by us.
§ (7.38.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the majority of the Irish Members against this clause. Well, I admit that the majority of the Irish Members are against this clause, but I think they would accept it rather than not have the Bill, therefore I repudiate the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman as to the action taken by the hon. Members from Ireland. Nor can I accept the species of public morality which he thinks ought to animate the public bodies in Ireland. He says they will not be able to increase the guarantee because the localities have not been consulted. Suppose the localities had been consulted there would probably always have been a minority, possibly a large one, against the grants being used. Would they be bound by the opinion of the minority or would they not? I apprehend they would not, and that they would only be bound by the opinion of the majority. If they would be bound by the opinion of the majority then I apprehend, as the majority of the House assents to this clause the localities will be bound by it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, the majority of the House has accepted the guarantees, and the whole theory of Representative Government is that the minority shall be bound by the majority.
§ (7.40) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I would point out that if this were a question affecting the whole Empire the majority of the whole House would bind the minority. But this is a question purely affecting Ireland, and I contend 1807 that in such a case the opinion of the majority of the Representatives of that country ought to prevail. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary if he can produce a case in the whole of our legislation in which a measure of this kind, imposing a guarantee on either Ireland or. Scotland, has been carried against the wish of the majority of the Representatives? If he can produce such a case I withdraw my argument. I do not think it possible, however, as I have myself gone carefully through the legislation for England, Ireland, and Scotland.
(7.42.) MR, SEXTON
I think it right to acknowledge that the Amendments made in this clause are neither few nor unimportant, but the fact that we have not these Amendments in print is no reason for fighting against the clause. As to the Amendments which have been made in the clause, I would point out to the hon. Member for Camborne that they cover the order in which the various portions of the Guarantee Fund will be called on to meet default in the payment of annuities. The funds connected with education, lunatics, and medical services will he called on last, so far as one portion of the guarantee is concerned; and as to the Exchequer contribution of £40,000, it will be devoted to the construction of labourers' cottages, and will not be called on for guarantee purposes until after the Probate Duty grant has been exhausted. I am sensible of the importance of these Amendments, and if we were dealing with any part of the Bill except that relating to the local guarantee, I should be disposed to vote in favour of the clause. But we hold that the State, which has created the agrarian system in Ireland and has put the landlords there, should accept the responsibility of taking them away again. If these guarantees are ever resorted to a gross injustice will be done to the people of Ireland. We are now on the question of the local guarantee, and as this clause embodies the principle of local guarantee, I am bound to say that, whilst I recognise the importance of the changes that have been made, I shall be bound to vote against it.
(7.45.) MR. ELYNN (Cork, N.)
I object altogether to the principle of these 1808 guarantees, and I agree with the hon. Member for West Belfast, when he says that it is the duty of the State at the present time, having brought about the system of landlordism in Ireland, and having given it the complexion and colour it has borne for generations, to meet every possible default. I oppose the principle of guarantee as it stands in the Bill, because it is tyranny. It is a despotism under the form of Constitutional Law, because the Government propose to hypothecate local rates without consulting Local Authorities. Anything more corresponding to the nature of tyranny, it is impossible for a Constitutionalist to imagine. As to the guarantees never being required, I say this Bill offers every scope to the landlords to get an unjustly high price for their land, and if these transactions go on in Ireland, and if there are many of them —as I hold there will be—the guarantees will be called for. In moving the rejection of this clause we are entitled to the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) because, speaking on this subject in April of last year he said—Why should not the consent of the Local Authorities be asked? There is no Local Authority that you could put in the Bill, but the Government have promised to bring in a Local Government Bill, and there is no reason why that should not be brought in this year and passed; and when the County Councils are-established it will be right to give them a voice in the transactions that would take place in Ireland as to the transfer of land.The right hon. Gentleman, however, has given us no assistance in this matter. The Chief Secretary is—or so his friends say—a bold man, and he assumes that if the guarantees are called for the Local Authorities will tamely present any amount of money the Lord Lieutenant calls on them to present. But there are precedents in Ireland from which the right hon. Gentleman can easily see that the localities, when they make up their minds that an impost is unjust, refuse to present, and the money cannot be obtained. There is, for instance, the case of the Constable Leahy, who was awarded £1,000 for injuries received by the Grand Jury. There was the greatest difficulty experienced in collecting the money. Then, in the case of the City of Limerick.—
§ MR. FLYNN
I would simply call attention to the fact that the Local Authorities not being consulted, it is most unjust to call for these guarantees; and 1 warn the Government that if these transactions are unduly advantageous to the landlords, there will be great difficulty in getting the local guarantees to be of any avail.
§ (7.51.)The Committee divided:— Ayes 115; Noes 54.—(Div. List, No. 166.)
§ Clause 4.
§ (7.59) MR. SEXTON
Looking at the number and variety of the Amendments to this clause, I think it would save time if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would make a statement as to the modifications, if any, he proposes to adopt. I move to omit the first subsection, which contains provision for the charge on the Guarantee Fund and the consequent levy on the county, and I make the Motion in order to interrogate the right hon. Gentleman as to the vital points of the scheme of the levy. The right hon. Gentleman proposes, in case he has to resort to the Contingent Fund, to make good the amount by a levy on the county through the agency of the Grand Jury. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, who must be well aware that the Grand Jury, as a Fiscal Body, is moribund, and that its control over local finance will speedily come to an end —whether he will be willing to insert a provision to the effect that the levy by the Grand Jury is only to take place pending the introduction of County Councils. The pledge of the Tory Party to give Local Government to Ireland is ripe, by this time, for fulfilment, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will hardly think it unreasonable in me to ask for the insertion of a provision of this kind in the Bill. We know that the Committee on a previous occasion rejected the principle of local control, but never had an opportunity of giving a decision on my Amendment, which proposed that Boards of Guardians first, and afterwards County Councils, should have a voice in the application of the Act. That question will come up again on Report, and I shall certainly claim a 1810 decision on it. Though the question of local control may be out of our purview at present, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether on this clause he has considered further the question of local option—that is to say, the right of any county to determine whether or not effect shall be given to this Bill. We had a plébiscite suggested, but I venture to say that the plébiscite proposed would be worse than useless. It would not be applied until the first part of the guarantee was exhausted, when, of course, a great many purchases would have taken place—perhaps a twentieth part of the whole—and it would be too much to expect 19 farmers out of 20, who have been left out in the cold, to deprive themselves of the opportunity of purchasing. They would naturally think that, although the previous purchasers had made default they themselves would be able to make better terms with the landlords. And after the plébiscite was taken you would tell the farmers that they had accepted the Act, and that they had no right to grumble at anything that might follow as a consequence. What I would suggest would be that there should not be a plébiscite as of course; but that if the elected Members of any Board of Guardians by a petition to the Sheriff demanded a plébiscite, it should be in the power of the Sheriff to have one made, not only as to whether the Act should be discontinued, but whether it should be discontinued or suspended for a year. This would afford something like a real check on the continuity of the operations under the Act. Then I would ask the Chief Secretary why it is proposed to charge the possible burden arising out of default on the county cess? The poor rate has a good deal more to do with the local grants, involving the contingent guarantee, than has the county cess. The county cess is paid by the occupiers; and does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that this scheme is put forward in the interest of any one class in Ireland? Is this legislation not put forward rather more in the interest of the landlords than the tenants? And if the Bill is needed in the interests of the two great classes of landlords and tenants, why should the burden be thrown on a rate which is paid by one class only? To so allocate it would cause public opinion to go against the Act, and would impede 1811 transactions under it. If you consent either to throw the burden on the poor rate borne by all classes, or if you throw it on the county cess and make it divisible between the landlord and tenant—and there are thousands of precedents for such a course in Irish legislation—then I think it would be to the interest of all classes, and would remove what otherwise would be an impediment to the success of the scheme. Then I would remark that there is nothing to prevent the Treasury from taking the money out of the Contingent Fund before the Lord Lieutenant has time to make the levy. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to insert in the clause a provision that it shall not be open to the Treasury to lay hold of the Contingent Fund for the purpose of default until the County Treasurer has had time to obey the requisition of the Lord Lieutenant to levy the money, and to lodge it in the Local Taxation Account. I notice that the procedure with regard to the levy is of the most cast-iron kind, and that no discretion is left to anyone or opportunity given for consideration and representation, the word " shall " appearing in every instance in the clause. I respectfully urge that these matters might fairly be allowed to go before the Presentment Sessions. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that the Treasury have no right to come upon the county until the Land Commission have exhausted their legal power. That leaves over the general question of the Land Commission. They might proceed by civil action against the tenant, or they might say it was no use proceeding by civil action. Now there comes in a matter of opinion. Suppose the Land Commission said they would neither purchase the holding or take civil action, nevertheless they could come upon the county for one-half the default. Would it not be fair to urge that before the Presentment Sessions. Under Clause 6, where there is exceptional distress, the county reserve may be applied. Would it not be more proper that the Grand Jury should have an opportunity of saying that in their judgment there is such exceptional distress as to render it advisable that they should meet these annuities, and default should be met otherwise than by coming on the county already suffering from the burden of an 1812 excessive rate? I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to afford some relaxation of this point. One other point. The Lord Lieutenant will fix the share of the county in the Guarantee Fund, and that will unalterably govern the amount of Stock issued for the purchase of holdings in the county. The Lord Lieutenant fixes the amount of the burden in case of default, and the amount to be refunded. We know that he is the mere figure-head in matters of administration, and that this work will fall to some official at Dublin Castle, and I submit that the action of the Lord Lieutenant in such important matters should he subject to review. I have made these suggestions in no factious spirit, and, if adopted, I think the progress of the measure would be greatly facilitated.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, to leave out Sub-section (1.)—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ (8.28.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Sir, the hon. Gentleman has raised a great many questions of very great importance as far as the clause is concerned, and as far as the whole Bill is concerned. It is true that any scheme of County Councils would disestablish for very large and important purposes connected with finance the Grand Jury. But if compulsory levies are to be made at all, it should not be by Elective Bodies. I cannot hold out any hopes that for the Grand Jury will be substituted any body such as the hon. Gentleman has suggested. With regard to the second point raised by the hon. Gentleman, it is true that, being unable to accept the suggestions of the hon. Member's colleagues and of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham as to local control, I did say that if I were driven to some form of local control, one of the least injurious would be a plébiscite. The hon. Gentleman told the Committee that a plébiscite would not exercise the power given by Parliament in the direction of stopping the further action of the measure. But the hon. Gentleman's speech on this point does not seem to be quite consistent with itself, for he suggested an Amendment of the plan under which a plebiscite should be called upon to say, not whether the Act should be adopted, but, in the first place, whether its operation should be suspended for a 1813 year, and at the end of that time whether it should be postponed for another year, and so on from year to year. I do not see in that case that the Act must come into operation at all. However, we ought not to spend much time in discussing a plan which I am not disposed to accept at any stage of the Bill. I never thought it an improvement to the Bill, and in these circumstances I announced to the Committee at an early period that they would hear no more of it from me. With regard to the third point, which deals with the incidence of the rate to be called upon in aid of the Guarantee Fund, the Bill provides that the rate in aid shall be the county cess. The hon. Gentleman preferred that it should be the poor rate. The incidence of the county cess is on the occupier, whether owner or not, while the poor rate is equally divided between the owner and the occupier, except in the case of occupiers below £4, who pay no poor rate; but the incidence of the county cess is really the fairer of the two. There might be some species of combination of which the landlords would not be the authors, and it would be very unfair entirely to relieve occupiers under £4 of any share of responsibility thrown upon them by the Bill. There are large counties in Ireland where the great mass of the occupiers are under £4, and under the hon. Gentleman's proposal this vast body will be wholly relieved of any responsibility consequent on the refusal to pay the annuities, and consequently the opportunity will be lost of putting them on the side of financial honesty. The hon. Gentleman urged that the provisions respecting the county cess would create a species of soreness, and make the occupiers opposed to the whole measure; that it would, in fact, arouse public opinion against it, and make occupiers disinclined to become the owners of their holdings. But I hope and believe that the desire to purchase will be so strong that under no circumstances will an end be put to the operation of the Act. The fourth point raised by the hon. Gentleman had to do with the rigid and automatic character of the provision with regard to the levy of the special rate. I admit the system is rigid, but that is a necessary and essential part of the scheme. If we are not to have these 1814 securities called upon by a process inexorable and automatic, the security for the Treasury will be seriously diminished. There is no Presentment Sessions existing which would not find some ground for thinking that there is distress of a sufficiently grave character to warrant them in making use of the reserve fund rather than levy a special rate. Amendments of that kind would seriously impair the character of the securities which the Treasury has at its back, and would have the effect of preventing it from advancing the loan altogether. Therefore, in the interest of the borrower, stringency is an advantage, not a disadvantage. I cannot hold out any hope to the hon. Member that the Government will be able in any material degree to meet his wishes on this point. Another point which has been raised deals with the proposal that some Court shall be instituted to determine questions connected with the allocation of the Guarantee Fund. I admit that the Lord Lieutenant may possibly come sometimes to a decision under a mistaken view of the facts, and that the result may be that a county will have allocated to it more than its fair share of the total Guarantee Fund. Therefore, whilst not attaching great importance to the point myself, I shall be glad to take into consideration any practical proposals on the subject, and I hope to be able to come to an agreement with the hon. Member. (8.38.)
§ (9.8.)Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (9.10.) MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
The Chief Secretary has objected to substituting the Poor Law for the county cess as the means of levy. The objection so far as it concerns the method of levy is unimportant, but as regards the incidence of taxation the Amendment is very important. County cess, in the vast majority of cases in Ireland, falls solely upon the occupier. This House has already acknowledged the injustice of that by making it law that in all let-tings since 1870, the county cess shall be equally divided between occupier and owner except there be some special contract or agreement, and beyond that, I think, in every instance in which this 1815 House has imposed any special levy through the county cess, or certainly in the majority of instances, it has specially directed a division between occupier and owner notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary. That is to say, this House has taken care that when it has made a distinct addition to county cess the House has shown on all occasions that the spirit of the arrangement enacted in 1870 shall be adhered to. The great objection the right hon. Gentleman raised to the poor rate was that in the case of holdings under £4,the poor rate—
The hon. Member for West Belfast moved to omit the 1st sub-section in order to enter upon a conversation of a practical character in reference to the clause. In so doing he anticipated by reference certain amendments to the clause, but his observations were of a general character, and such as might facilitate the proceedings in Committee, and were therefore permitted; but if these observations are to be carried into a discussion of a particular Amendment, that must be deferred until the Amendment is reached.
§ (9.14.) MR. STOREY
I beg to call your attention, Sir, to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.
I have so recently satisfied myself that there are 40 Members in attendance that it is unnecessary for me now to count again.
§ MR. STOREY
I wish to draw your attention, Sir, to the fact that only two Members are on the Treasury Benches opposite. What is the use of pursuing the Debate under such circumstances?
§ MR. MAHONY
I bow to your ruling, Sir, but I may observe that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary did enter minutely into the particular point I was referring to. There were other references the right hon. Gentleman made upon which I defer remark to a later stage.
§ (9.15.) MR. SEXTON
As you have observed, Sir, I moved the omission of the sub-section to secure at once an explanation that might expedite the consideration of useful Amendments, and I now ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1816
§ (9.15.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, N.)
On behalf of my hon. Friend (Mr. M. Kenny), I beg to move the Amendment of which he has given notice, the omission of the words "at any time" from the first line of the clause, and its object will be understood by taking this in connection with the subsequent Amendment to line 3. As the liability upon the landlord's guarantee deposit ceases at the end of 18 years, when the fifth of the total sum outstanding has been repaid, so it is proposed by the Amendment that the same Rule shall be applied to the cash and contingent guarantee under the Act. The object of the Amendment might, I think, be stated in the words, so far as I remember them, used by the Chief Secretary when he stated in answer to another argument of my hon. Friend, that in his opinion there was no chance of any default after 18 years. I do not want to enter into the question whether or not the Chief Secretary is justified in forming that opinion, but there is no doubt he formed it deliberately. As he said, after 18 years there is no chance of default, therefore after that time there need be no liability upon the landlord's deposit. Then, for the same reason we contend, taking the premisses of the right hon. Gentleman, there should be no longer any liability upon the county guarantee. I need not enter widely upon the question, the point is plain and simple, and I venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider it with reference to another Amendment of mine to the end of the clause. Without entering into the substance of that Amendment I may say the object is to prevent in some degree what we consider a most disastrous effect likely to arise from this local guarantee. We do not any more than hon. Members opposite expect any large amount of default under the Act, but we do think that if this guarantee is to remain for the whole period of 49 years during which any part of the advances is outstanding, there will be serious risk that the borrowing powers of the Local Authorities will be seriously damaged. These borrowing powers, of course, are measured by the amount of security offered to the lender, and the amount of security will be decreased by the fact that almost all the available sources of Revenue are pledged to a very large 1817 extent, under this Act. I press, therefore, upon the Government that this local guarantee should not be continued for a longer period than is absolutely necessary to prevent loss. If it is the opinion of the Government that after 18 years the apprehension of loss ceases, then I say this liability should not remain in name even upon the Local Authority, diminishing thereby the borrowing powers of all the Local Bodies in Ireland.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 1, to leave out the words " at any time."— (Mr. Knox.)
§ Question proposed, " That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ (9.20.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
The hon. Member has stated very concisely the object of the Amendment, and I do not differ from the hon. Gentleman in his forecast, for I believe, and I may say it is the opinion of the Government, that the repayment of an amount representing one-fifth of the advances will be ample security for the State; but, at the same time, the hon. Member must see that his Amendment is at right angles with the principle of the Bill, which differs from the Ashbourne Act in this particular, that it provides not only what we believe to be sufficient security, but an absolute certainty that there shall not in any event be loss to the State. This character of the Bill the Amendment of the hon. Member would remove. I fully believe that we are justified by experience in the opinion that the repayment of the fifth will be sufficient guarantee; but the hon. Member will remember that the object of the Bill is not to leave this as a matter of opinion or speculation, but to make it a mathematical certainty. Therefore, though I do not differ from the hon. Member in his anticipation, it is impossible for the Government to accept the Amendment, which would entirely alter the character of the Bill, which is intended to afford absolute security to the taxpayers of the country.
§ (9.22.) MR. SEXTON
I regret that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not see his way to accept this and the Consequential Amendment. I think it is a very great pity that in the case of 1818 this guarantee, which is offensive to Irish public feeling and repugnant to the Irish Representatives, the Government should persist in retaining it in existence after a time when they confess it will not be needed. The Attorney General lays stress upon the mathematical certainty of the guarantee; hut I think the British taxpayer will be satisfied if the security is absolute, as undoubtedly it will be when the landlord has received his final fifth, which the tenant has provided. There will be then an absolute security in human nature itself, for the tenant having paid so much will not wantonly incur the possibility of the loss of his holding if it can possibly be avoided. If there be default you have the fact that a fifth of the money is paid, you have the Insurance Fund, and you will be enabled to sell the farm without loss. There will be ample security for what is owing to the State. We have put our argument, and we can do no more than protest against the fatuity with which the Government persist in their intention to keep this offensive guarantee in existence.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (9.23.) MR. KNOX
I now move my Amendment to line 2, the insertion after " payments " of the words " and the county percentage." I hope there will be no objection to this. If I am to understand that the Government do object, then I must submit the matter for serious consideration whether this county percentage is to be of any real use in the interest of the labourers. As the Bill was originally drawn it would not be a matter of great importance; but as the Attorney General is aware, owing to the acceptance of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for "West Belfast, the order of payments out of the various parts of the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund has been changed, and this Amendment becomes of real importance. So far as I can understand the scheme of Clause 2, it is this. The sums paid by the tenants year by year will be applied first to the payment of dividends and Sinking Fund; and, secondly, to the county percentage—that is to say, for every £A owing by the tenant £3 15s. will be applicable to dividend and Sinking Fund payments, and 5s. will be payable to the county. 1819 If a default on the part of the tenant should arise, if he pays less than the £4, the liability will fall, as I conceive, on the Guarantee Fund. When any considerable number of tenants fail to pay the whole of what is annually due from them, what will be the effect if these words I propose are not inserted? Let us suppose that in any county the tenants pay sufficient for the payment in the year of what is due to dividend and Sinking Fund accounts, but nothing more as the clause is now drawn, in that event there would be no call on the Guarantee Fund, there would simply be no county percentage, and the labourers would get nothing from the Amendment to Clause 2, which has been accepted by the Government. Now, if this Amendment of mine is accepted the effect will be that in the event I have contemplated of a sufficient amount not being paid by the tenants to make up the £4 for dividend, Sinking Fund and county percentage, then the balance would be taken from the Guarantee Fund—the balance will therefore come out of the Irish share of the Probate Duty grant and the Irish share of the Probate Duty grant will be taken before there, is any loss to the county percentage, before there is any diminution of the amount of the money we desire should go to the benefit of the labourers of Ireland. If this Amendment is not accepted, the effect will be, that the first charge will be made upon the county percentage, although the Government have in terms accepted the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast, that the last charge shall be upon the county percentage, I venture to say, that if the right hon. Gentleman will consider the point, that really it is a mere farce to enact in Clause 3, that the deficiency is to fall, first upon the Probate Duty grant; secondly, on the Exchequer contribution; and thirdly, on the county percentage, if you so frame Clause 4, that in spite of these provisions you first impose the whole of the failure to pay, upon the county percentage. I must, therefore, press this Amendment as necessary to carry out the intention of the Government expressed in the earlier clause.
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ (9.29.) MR. MADDEN
I think the illustration which the hon. Gentleman has given will show the Committee that his Amendment is inapplicable. He supposes that the payments from the purchase annuities are sufficient to meet the dividends and Sinking Fund; but not sufficient to produce the county percentage. Very well, if that be so no demand should be made upon the Guarantee Fund. There will be a loss to the county percentage, no doubt, but this county percentage is not to be drawn from the Guarantee Fund, because it was not for the purpose of providing labourers' cottages that the fund was instituted. I fail to see that the hon. Member has made out his case. Assuming his state of facts that the purchase annuities are sufficient to meet the demands for dividends and Sinking Fund, I fail to see there is a case made out for resorting to the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund.
§ (9.30.) MR. SEXTON
But look at the position. Take the case of £100 advance for purchase. If a man cannot pay the £4 due upon that, the Land Commissioners will not accept part payment, and for default they come upon the Guarantee Fund to make up the requisite £4. That I take to be the enactment arrived at in the earlier clause. The clause provides that the payments are to meet dividends, Sinking Fund, and county percentage, the latter not divisible from the other two. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I hope by inadvertence, in his observations, implied that if dividends and Sinking Fund are made right, it does not matter about the county percentage.
§ MR. MADDEN
What I said was that if the dividends and Sinking Fund were deficient, they must be met out of the Guarantee Fund, but that the hon. Member (Mr. Knox) had not made out a case for resorting to the Guarantee Fund in the event he contemplated, to make good the Land Purchase Account so far as the county percentage is concerned.
§ MR. SEXTON
I claim that the objects of Clause 2 must be considered inseparable, and that there is no distinctive treatment of the county per- 1821 centage. The clause provides that the Commission shall establish a Land Purchase Account, and apply to this all moneys received on account of any purchase annuity for the discharge of an advance. Let me again take the case of an advance of £100 for which the tenant pays £4. You are bound to apply this £2 15s. to the dividends payable on the stock £1 to the Sinking Fund and 5s. for the county percentage. The whole of the clause is of equal validity, and you cannot separate the one purpose from the other? But under this clause as it stands you may apply the annuity so far as it is paid not to the three objects but to two, and I say that would be a violation of the provision in Clause 2 that the county percentage should not " go by the board." We must press this Amendment, which is consequential upon the adoption of Clause 2 as amended.
§ (9.35.) MR. KNOX
Let me again explain that as the Bill was originally drawn it did not matter, because the full liability in case of default fell upon the percentage, but in this respect a change has been made in deference to the argument of the hon. Member for Belfast. The Government have assented to the change by which the first liability is to fall upon the Irish Probate Duty grant, and only after the whole of that grant has been absorbed is anything to be taken from the Exchequer contribution and the county percentage, which are to be devoted to labourers' dwellings in Ireland. The object of this change obviously was that the labourers might be as sure of getting the 5s. for their dwellings as the Government of getting payment for interest and Sinking Fund. To advert again to the £4 illustration, as soon as the Land Purchase Account is insolvent and cannot meet the payment of £4, then you have at once to go to the Guarantee Fund, that is to say to the Irish Probate Duty grant. Now, if this Amendment is not accepted the effect will be to reduce Clause 3 to a nullity, and the Irish labourer instead of losing his money only in the second resort, will lose it on the first resort in case of default. I venture to suggest that the Amendment is necessary to carry out the intention of the Government as expressed in Clause 3 of this Bill.
§ (9.37.) MR. STOREY
This seems reasonable, and I am amazed that the Government do not accept the Amendment, for it is entirely in their own favour. I put it to right hon. Gentlemen that for their own sake they should agree to this. Suppose a man has got £100 advance and has to pay £4. If he pays this you apply it in the proportion of £3 15s. to Dividends and Sinking Fund and 5s. to the county contribution. But suppose he pays £3 10s. only, you have a deficiency to provide for, for which the Bill makes no provision so far as the county percentage is concerned. I know it is no use pressing arithmetical arguments upon empty benches, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see the Amendment is really in the interest of his own Bill, and I am sure any man with experience of bookkeeping in relation to these monetary transactions will appreciate the difficulties that must arise without such an Amendment as this.
§ (9.38.) MR. SEXTON
The view taken in the operation of this clause is, that when payments are made for dividends and Sinking Fund the Land Purchase Account is solvent, though the county percentage is left out altogether. But I invite the right hon. Gentleman to look back at Clause 2, and he will find that the language of that clause deals with individual advances. The clause says that the Land Commission shall establish a Land Purchase Account, carry thereto and apply all moneys received on account of any purchase annuity for the discharge of an advance. The clause refers to an individual advance, and goes on to declare that payments shall be made for three specific objects, for dividends on the Stock, for the Sinking Fund, and for the county percentage. Is it not clear that you are as much obliged to fill up the county percentage as to provide the dividends and Sinking Fund? Now, imagine a county in which 21 men have advances, and each owes £i. Twenty of these men pay their instalments, and from these you provide £75 for the dividends and Sinking Fund, and £5 should properly go to the county percentage. But the 21st man fails to pay, and thereupon you appropriate £3 15s. of the instalments that go to make up the £5, to provide for the default of the man who has not paid. What I contend you ought to do 1823 is to declare a default of £4 in the Land Purchase Account, and take that from the Guarantee Fund. It is as broad as it is long; having agreed that the Probate Duty grant is the first guarantee, you should provide from that for the Land Purchase Account. If you do not do that you invert the order and place the first charge upon the county percentage instead of on the Probate Duty grant. We really must insist upon the Amendment. We had the greatest trouble in securing this county percentage for the labourers, and if we let this clause pass in this slipshod or malicious form.—I will not say which—the result of our efforts which we thought we had secured by the earlier clause will be destroyed.
§ (9.42.) MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I do not think the hon. Member for Belfast is quite justified in using the expression malicious—perhaps he used it by inad-vertance—because this clause was drafted before the county percentage provision was included in the Bill.
§ MR. SEXTON
No; there was a provision in the Bill originally for the labourers, though not such a good one as at present. The clause would be equally injurious to the Bill as originally drawn.
§ MR. PARNELL
This clause stood before the Amendment for labourers' cottages was drafted into the Bill. May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, master as he is of many points of detail and complexity in this Bill, the Attorney General has not quite grasped the meaning of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cavan, or the arguments with which it has been supported. Certainly it would be lamentable if we should pass any error in draftsmanship by which the benefit intended for the labourers in Ireland would be lost. What I would suggest would be that the Amendment should be agreed to on the present occasion, and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should examine the question between now and the Report, with a view of seeing whether it would be necessary to modify it. We ought especially, I think, to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman now to agree to the insertion of the Amendment, against which he has advanced no case. It seems to me that a great deal of light has been given to us by the two hon. Members; but that no light what- 1824 ever has been afforded against the Amendment by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I should think that under these circumstances, the Government would see their way to accept the Amendment on the present occasion, reserving to themselves the right on Report to modify or reject it, if they show cause for such modification or rejection, which they certainly have not done during this discussion.
§ (9.47.) MR. A.J. BALFOUR
I think I can show cause to the Committee for not accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cavan. The real substantial question we have to discuss is the order in which the county percentage should be come upon, and undoubtedly, both the hon. Gentlemen the Member for West Belfast and the hon. and learned Member for Cavan, are correct in stating that as the Bill is drawn the persons who will first suffer from any default on the part of the tenants are those who pay the county cess. Let us consider whether that is wrong. The county percentage, recollect, is a tax or tribnte paid by the farmers who buy their land at the rate of 4 per cent. The State could lend to them at the rate of £3 15s. per cent. including the Sinking Fund. As a matter of fact, it insists on their paying not £3 15s., but £i per Cent., and the difference between the two we have decided, so far, to give to a class only remotely and indirectly connected with the scheme of land purchase. If you decide—and the hon. Member for Cavan would like to decide— that this 5s. should not be taken first to meet default, but that some other fund should be taken, what fund will it be? If it is the Probate Duty grant it practically means that the whole community is to be fined for the default. Really it seems to me more equitable that those who benefit under the Bill, which confers upon them a free gift, ought to be the first to suffer from the default of their co-beneficiaries, and that therefore it is only right that the loss, if any, should be made good out of the county percentage. I hope I have put the case quite clearly to the Committee. I agree with the hon. Members for West Belfast and Cavan that the people who will first lose the money will be the recipients of the 5s., but I would point out that these people are not 1825 deprived of a sum which they at present enjoy, or to which they have the slightest title or claim in equity. They are merely deprived of a bonus or charitable donation which they would never have without this Bill, and I, therefore, think that they, rather than the general community—who, as we have been shown over and over again, are being made liable without their own consent to mortgage their own funds—should be held liable to meet the default of the tenants. For these reasons I venture to think—whatever view hon. Members may take as to the necessity of again raising this discussion on Report—the Committee should not accept the present Amendment.
§ (9.52.) MR. SEXTON
What the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in showing us in his observations is that hon. Members have been kept in the dark as to the intentions of the Government upon this point, as it has been universally understood that the Government intend to throw the loss upon the Probate Duty in the first instance. What we understood when Clause 3 was under discussion was that the sum we had secured for the benefit of the labourers would not be touched until the Probate Duty had been exhausted. It would now appear that we have been in the wrong, though not a syllable has been said until now to make that evident. The right hon. Gentleman has not replied to the invitation I gave him to give us an interpretation of Clause 3. That clause is an effective part of the enactment of Clause 4, which says plainly what you are to do and must do with any money you receive from the purchasers. The 5s. being paid into the County Percentage Fund we have a right to expect that it will remain there and not sink into the sand. On what principle will you say to the men who pay it, " We have not done what Section 2 directs, and paid the money into the County Percentage Fund, but have used the payments of solvent men to defray the default of solvent men, and instead of forming the County Percentage with it we have used it to pay dividends and Sinking Fund." What can you use the money for if you do not use it for the. County Percentage?
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
On this point I am disposed to agree with the 1826 Chief Secretary. I think the Bill is properly drawn on this point, but, after all, it is not one of extreme importance.
§ (9.56.) MR. KNOX
When I prepared the Amendment I relied on the drafting of the Bill and the Amendment the Government had already accepted. I was justified, I maintain, in concluding that the order of liability would be the order in which these various funds are mentioned in Clause 3. If this Amendment is not adopted the words the right hon. Gentleman proposes to insert will be simply farcical, as he proposes to enact at the end of one of the sub-sections that the first charge shall fall on the Irish Probate Duty grant.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I do not want to intervene more than I can help in the discussion of these Irish funds, but I do want again to take exception to the assumption that it is safe to lend the money at 3¾ per cent. The quarter per cent is simply a small insurance to meet the failures which may occur in repayment. It seems to me that this margin is no more than any prudent lender would require when he lends large sums to a large number of small borrowers.
§ (10.0.) MR. FLYNN
The question is, is this 5s. an integral portion of the purchase annuity, or is it not, and is Clause 2 to work in the manner in which it stands in the Bill or not? Nothing can be more clear than the understanding which was arrived at upon Clause 3, but now we find that the Government intend to swindle the labourers, so to speak, out of the 5s. of the purchase annuity. I do hope the Government will see their way to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Clause 2 has been alluded to, and hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to think that there is some inconsistency between that clause as amended, and Clause 4 as it appears in the Bill. Surely they are wrong. Hon. Members opposite would make a tenant pay for the default of a brother tenant, but would leave untouched by that default the labourer who is made the recipient of a charitable donation by the Exchequer. Those who pay their instalments honestly will be indignant if they are to be the first persons come upon in case somebody else does not pay. The tenants would think 1827 that those who were in receipt of eleemosynary donations ought to be the first to suffer. I quite admit that the Amendment I put down to carry out the agreement come to on Tuesday will require some verbal Amendment, but not any Amendment to alter the intention with which it has been put down.
§ (10.6) MR. SEXTON
When the 5s. has been paid into the Land Purchase Account there is no right to use it for any other purpose. Any default ought to be first met out of the Probate Duty, and the County Percentage Fund ought not to be touched until after the Probate Duty fails to meet the default. The Government are breaking faith and are denying to Members the substance of the concession it is believed they made.
§ (10.8.) MR. KNOX
Section 2, Subsection 2, contemplates that under certain circumstances a part of the county percentage shall be paid to the Guarantee Fund. Under Section 4, Sub-section 1, as now drawn, no part of the county percentage will ever get into the Guarantee Fund. We do not now want to enter into the question whether it would be better that the Probate Duty Account or the other account should first pay the deficiency. That is a question which was discussed and decided by the Committee. We do not want to go back to ground which has already been covered, although the right hon. Gentleman by his argument invites us to do so. We see no reason why the Committee should have changed its mind, or the right hon. Gentleman should have changed his since the discussion on the 3rd clause. If the labourers of Ireland are to get anything considerable under this Bill this Amendment must be passed, and I still venture to hope that the right hon. Gentleman will insert these words. They are necessary, in our judgment, to carry out the intention of the clauses of the Bill, and if it be found on Report that we are wrong, we will not then put any difficulty in the way of a change.
§ (10.12.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
Surely my hon. Friend is reversing the ordinary process. If in the interval between now and Report my hon. Friend is able to convince himself that he is right, he can move the Amendment on the Report.
§ (10.13.) MR. MAHONY
It was in order to ease the doubt existing in the mind of the Chief Secretary that we pointed out that there would be an opportunity for alteration at a later period. I think there is an irresistible case for pressing the Amendment now. As the clause is drawn, it seems to me that the county percentage may never get into the Guarantee Fund. You propose to take a guarantee consisting of the whole local taxation of Ireland, and to do so without the consent of the Irish people. We believe that by so doing you are going to inflict an injury on the taxpayers of Ireland, because you are going to deprive Local Bodies of their credit in the future. The classes in Ireland may be roughly divided into landlords and tenants and the working classes. Both the landlords and the tenants will get a direct benefit under this Bill. You have inserted this provision in order that the labourers may also get a direct benefit under it. Why should the labourers be the first to be deprived of their direct benefit? I have heard the Chief Secretary, I think, argue in this House that one of the advantages of his guarantees would be that if there was repudiation in a district the whole of the district would suffer, and the tenant farmers, the class from which the repudiators come, would suffer. Now you propose to do away with that provision because you say the first people that are to suffer are the labourers. If there is any repudiation let the tenant-farmers be the first to feel it, and do not throw the first injury on the unfortunate labourers, who can have no possible power either to promote repudiation or prevent it. I want to ask the Chief Secretary a question on another point. In case the tenant pays only £3 15s. instead of £4 in any one year, will it be a case of default, and will his interest have to be put up and sold? I would 1829 also ask whether this fund will be called upon before the landlord's guarantee deposit or simultaneously with it.
§ (10.19.) MR. SEXTON
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think we are pressing him unduly. I must ask him for a reply to my argument about Section 2. Did not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the first charge for default was to be made upon the Probate Duty? I would beg the right hon. Gentleman to defer to the unanimous opinion of the Irish Members with regard to this Amendment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Any default by the tenant will have to be met in part by a grant from the landlord's Guarantee Fund. It will be quite impossible for the Government to accept the Amendment.
§ (10.24.)The Committee divided:— Ayes 64; Noes 161.—(Div. List, No. 167.)
§ (10.36.) MR. SEXTON
I regret, Sir, to be under the necessity of moving that you report Progress and ask leave to sit again. I am obliged to traverse the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that there has not been a breach of faith. I say that Clause 3, as it stands on the official record, is conclusive evidence in support of the case I laid before the House. I was under the disadvantage of arguing from a copy of the Bill in which that clause stood as it was originally drawn, and I had, consequently, to depend upon my memory. But on referring just now to the official record I found that the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund was made up of three parts, which stood in the following order: first, the Irish Probate Duty; second, Exchequer contributions; and third, the county percentage. Later on, after we had considered the contingent part of the fund, the Government accepted an Amendment which stated, with regard to both the cash and the contingent portions, that the several parts should be applicable to the Guarantee Fund in the order specified. Not only are the Government not entitled to retire from that arrangement, I say it is incapable of being altered. I appeal to the Committee as strenuously as I can to stand by that agreement, my view of of which is confirmed by the official records.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ (10.41.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I understand the hon. Member to allege a breach of faith on the part of the Government. I confess that the speech the hon. Gentleman has just made induces me to regret that, with a view of meeting the wishes of Gentlemen opposite, I accepted certain Amendments in Clause 3 for the purpose of facilitating business and making the Bill as far as possible in accordance with the views of all Parties. The fact that the hon. Gentleman has had to refer to the records to see whether any such engagement as he alleges was entered into is conclusive proof that no such engagement was ever made, and that there has been no breach of faith. The order in which payment was to be made was never once in question throughout the Debate. The point (as far as my memory serves me) raised by the hon. Member was whether the Exchequer contribution or the Irish Probate Duty should be first taken, and he urged reasons which induced him to think it desirable to place the Exchequer contribution second instead of first. I did not think it much mattered, so I agreed to the re-arrangement, because the hon. Gentleman wished it. But that the Irish tenant-farmers should be mulct of the grant which this House has given them in order to provide an eleemosynary subscription for the purpose of raising labourers' cottages is a monstrous proposition which I never thought of accepting, and which I never even knew the hon. Gentleman desired me to accept. I repudiate the idea of ever having contemplated so violent or unjustifiable a change in the Bill.
§ MR. SEXTON
Does the right hon. Gentleman forget his own Amendment " in every financial year, shall be paid in addition to the county percentage." He gave way on our representations, and put the county percentage third.
§ (10.45.) MR. KNOX
There is a conflict of recollection between us and the Chief Secretary. My recollection is that when the Chief Secretary changed the order in which these payments were mentioned 1831 in Clause 3, the change was not a mere matter of drafting, but a matter of substance. If the Chief Secretary did not intend to make any substantial change why did he put down an Amendment in Clause 4 inserting the words "in the order hereinbefore mentioned." Hon. Members may sit in the smoking room while these matters are being discussed and simply come into the House to vote. Indeed, we whose duty it is to be present during the Debate have a painful sense of the way in which the united and unanimous views of the Irish Representatives are thus voted down. Either the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment that the money should be taken "in the order hereinbefore mentioned " was put down by inadvertence or it was put down to carry out a distinct agreement which it is now proposed to break.
§ (10.48.) MR. MADDEN
I desire to remind the Committee of what happened in connection with Clause 3. As the clause originally stood, the two funds mentioned were the Exchequer contribution and the Irish Probate Duty grant. Under Clause 2 as it originally stood, the county percentage was to be distributed as a part of the Probate Duty grant, which formed part of the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund. But Clause 2 was remodelled owing to suggestions of hon. Members opposite, and the county percentage was carried in the first instance to the aid of labourers' cottages, and only secondarily to the Probate Duty grant, and it therefore becomes necessary the county percentage should be referred to, in some way, in Clause 3, as forming part in any event of the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund. In the Debate on Clause 3 the whole discussion was as between the Exchequer contribution and the Probate Duty grant, and the county percentage was not mentioned. Then the hon. Member for West Belfast suggested that instead of the words " in addition to the county percentage "— the language of the Chief Secretary's Amendment—the section should run " (3) the county percentage."
§ MR. SEXTON
The right hon. Gentleman must have realised that when I moved that Amendment I had it in my mind that the items should be liable in that order.
§ MR. MADDEN
No doubt the hon. Member had it in his mind if he says so, but why did he not state the effect he thus contemplated to the Committee? If he had done so, the Chief Secretary would at once have objected.
§ MR. SEXTON
Why did the right hon. Gentleman accept my Amendment, stating that the several sums of the cash portion should be liable in the order stated?
§ MR. MADDEN
It may have been very stupid, but it will be a warning to the Government not in the future to accept Amendments which are not fully explained. Fortunately there is a stage in every Bill at which errors of this sort which creep in can be corrected.
§ (10.55.) MR. MAHONY
There seems to be a good deal of difference of recollection in this matter. But there is no getting out of one fact in regard to the order in which the three funds should stand. The Chief Secretary wanted to place the county percentage first, but at the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast he placed it last. After that he agreed to a definite Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend — an Amendment as to which there could be no mistake— which stated distinctly that the funds should be drawn on in the order in which they stood. Surely it-is superfluous to ask hon. Members, most of whom were not present at the time the agreement was come to, to carry back their memories. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would come out of the matter much better if he made a concession on this point.
§ (10.57.) MR. J. MORLEY
I think that the tone in which the Chief Secretary replied to my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast was scarcely justified. It is quite true the hon. Member was not sure of the exact change made till he had consulted the Clerk at the Table; but that consultation only confirmed the impression on his mind which he had stated to the Committee. The order of the items was undoubtedly changed, the county percentage being placed last, after the Exchequer contribution and the Probate Duty grant. After that change was made the hon. Member for West Belfast moved as an Amendment— 1833And the several sums constituting the cash portion and the contingent portion respectively of the Guarantee Fund shall be applicable for the purposes of that fund in the order specified in this section.That Amendment was assented to, and is, in fact, now incorporated in the clause. I maintain that the hon. Member for West Belfast is perfectly justified in the account which he has given of the transaction.
§ (11.1.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think that the hon. Member for West Belfast is at all justified in his attitude. By this Amendment the county percentage will be placed, not first, but third. Now Clause 3, as amended yesterday, will carry out that proposal. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite realised that when they moved the Amendment to the clause. I was not aware of it myself; I take blame to myself for it. Bat in my anxiety—my weak anxiety— to meet the wishes of hon. Members opposite, I did not realise that Clause 3, as amended, would have carried out this very proposal. If hon. Members realised it they would not have proposed this Amendment. The Government do not agree with the view taken of the Debates last night, of the propriety of the Amendment we have just debated, or of the propriety of Clause 3, as amended, and on the Report stage I shall move words to restore its original object.
§ (11.4.) MR. SEXTON
Clause 3, as it stands, carries out our object. Under it this county percentage is going into the Guarantee Fund, and this Amendment is to secure that it shall do so. Unless the Amendment is carried it may not be paid into the Sinking Fund at all. Of course, if we understand that the reading of the clause is that this county percentage shall be taken out of the Land Purchase Fund immediately, then that to a great extent will get rid of the difficulty, for then Section 3 will remain as it now stands.
§ MR. SEXTON
Well, then, what is the position? The right hon. Gentleman accepted the Amendment after full consideration. I distinctly remember that in Debate it: was clearly stated that the Probate Duty grant should be the first guarantee, and it was upon this understanding that my Amendment, which had been several days on the 1834 Paper, was accepted. I moved it deliberately and with due notice, and the right hon. Gentleman tells us now that he did not know how to regard it then, and that he accepted it not knowing its full scope.
§ MR. SEXTON
My Amendment was perfectly plain, and I think a more curious episode never happened in Parliamentary proceedings, that, after an engagement has been solemnly arrived at and ratified, the right hon. Gentleman should express his intention of reversing it at the next stage of the Bill. I think we have shown that we are perfectly consistent in moving this Amendment; and, indeed, it is necessary to bring the county percentage within the scope of Clause 3.
I do not know that this discussion is relevant to any point before the Committee. Clause 3 is passed and is unalterable. May I suggest to the Committee that it would be well to proceed with the further discussion of the Bill after the Motion has been withdrawn?
§ (11.8.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
I only hope that a lesson will be learnt from this discussion. I confess, for my own part, to feeling a sort of malicious satisfaction at the position in which the Government find themselves. I was not in the House when Clause 3 was actually passed, but I do know that on the last occasion it was before us there were very few Members of the Committee who really understood the clause. I tried to understand it myself, and I was unsuccessful; and I do not think I need be ashamed of that now that I find the right hon. Gentleman himself has fallen into an error in regard to it. The right hon. Gentleman tried to conciliate Members in the hope of getting the clause passed the other night. He accepted a vast number of Amendments. He turned the clause upside down, and all that is intelligible to me is that £500,000 additional money was to be thrown in as a kind of sop, and we, who are the guardians of the British Treasury, were pat wholly out of the running and unable to understand the clause. The clause was not passed on Tuesday, and it appears to have been shoved through this evening 1835 under the circumstances in which it was then left, that no Member in the House understood it. I hope the Government will take a lesson from this experience, and not be so anxious to push through clauses in a hurry.
§ (11.10.) MR. KNOX
The Chief Secretary says that neither my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast nor myself, in supporting the Amendment, referred to the agreement which was made in reference to Clause 3; but I wish distinctly to remind the Committee that when introducing my Amendment, and during the subsequent discussion, I distinctly based my proposal solely and entirely on what had gone before Clause 3. I described it as a consequential drafting Amendment, and until I heard the latter speech of the Chief Secretary it never entered my mind that the right hon. Gentleman could have any idea of going back upon the solemn agreement arrived at.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I hope that hon. Members will understand that this Motion to report Progress was made and this discussion has arisen solely out of regard for the interests of the unfortunate Irish labourers, which interests are threatened in the clause.
§ (11.12.) MR. MAHONY
I do not wish to discuss the unalterable nature of Clause 3, but I think I may remind the Chief Secretary that we on this side are anxious to pass the Bill just as he is, although we approach it from different and perhaps opposite points of view. I quite acknowledge that on the whole he has met us with a certain amount of concession, and I think he will be wise not to go back upon the concessions he has made. I trust he will be content to let Clause 3 remain as it now stands.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I cannot agree to sacrifice the rights of the tenants of Ireland to the interests of the Irish labourers.
§ (11.15.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 92; Noes 164.—(Div. List., No. 168.)
§ (11.23.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I beg, Sir, to move that you do now leave the Chair; 1836 and I make the Motion on this ground. We have now reached what I conceive to be a most critical point in the fortunes of this Bill, and the Government cannot expect at this hour of the night, and after the events which have occurred, to make much more progress. It is not, therefore, unnatural or unreasonable that we should request them now to take the time between this and to-morrow morning to consider the very important events of to-night, which have changed the temper of this Committee. I think it will not be denied that we on this side received in a conciliatory spirit and certainly with great satisfaction the important concession made to Irish labourers by the Government; and the result of that concession has been shown in the spirit in which the Debate has been conducted on this side of the House since. Now, there has arisen to-night a considerable amount of warmth and friction; and it appears to have arisen through the right hon. Gentleman not having taken into his purview the whole of the provisions arising upon this and the preceding clause. I confess I am surprised at the attitude he has taken, and the more so when I look to the Amendment which stands in his name at the foot of the page; and if anything could convey to my mind that he wished to seal the contract and agreement entered, it is to be found in this deliberate notice he has put upon the Paper. For myself, I am anxious to see the Bill pass in a workable shape; and we cannot consent to see the provision in respect to Irish labourers passed in a form which must reduce it to a dead letter; and the only advantage that will come out of this Bill will be to one agricultural tenant in every four throughout Ireland. I do not address myself to the argument that the Chief Secretary did not fully understand the force of the Amendment he accepted the other night. I cannot understand that he—one of the astutest men in the House—could have fallen into error in this particular. However, I think that the Government would do well, seeing that we are within half an hour of midnight, and there being other business on the Paper to proceed with, to accept, not this Motion I know, but the alternative Motion, to report Progress and afford us a little time for con- 1837 sideration before resuming our discussion.
The point which has occupied the attention of the Committee for some time does not arise again upon the Amendment standing next. A discussion upon that Amendment may possibly occupy half an hour and may restore the Committee to a businesslike condition. I consider that the Motion the hon. and learned Gentleman desires to move will be an abuse of the Forms of the House, and therefore I refrain from putting it.
I beg the hon. Member to resume a businesslike temper and address himself to the Amendment of which he has given notice.
§ MR. KNOX
If words have escaped me which I ought not to have used I withdraw them, but I confess it is somewhat difficult for me to resume a business-like temper when we find ourselves dealt with in such an unbusiness-like manner this evening by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. The Amendment which I have now to propose is one which, if it had not been for the recent experience, I should say the Government would certainly accept. As the Bill stands there may at least be considerable doubt whether the land lord's guarantee deposit is to be the first thing taken, or whether the charge is to fall upon the Guarantee Fund before anything is taken out of the guarantee deposit. Is it the intention that the landlord is to bear his equal share of the losses that may accrue? If that is the intention, then I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment I now move.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 3, after the word " deficiency," to insert the words " so far as it is not payable out of the guarantee deposits."—(Mr. Knox.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ (11.30.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member seems to think that there 1838 is some doubt as to the order in which the guarantee shall be taken, but in the opinion of the Government there is no doubt at all as to what the order is. The guarantee deposit will be taken pari passu with the Guarantee Fund. There is no doubt at all about this, and I do not think the Amendment makes the clause one bit clearer.
§ MR. SEXTON
My hon. Friend said nothing about the order of the calls. All that he aims at is to secure that the whole amount of the default shall not come out of the Guarantee Fund. Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any objection to our proposition that security shall be given for only one half of the Guarantee Fund?
§ MR. MADDEN
Yes, I have. I conceive that the Bill is right as it stands. If these words were introduced the Consolidated Fund would never be recouped from the Guarantee Fund until the process of realising the guarantee deposit had been gone through.
§ (11.35.) The Committee divided: Ayes, 93; Noes, 162—(Div. List, No. 169.)
(11.47.) THE CHAIRMAN
The Amendment standing on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) is inconsistent with Clause 3 as settled.
§ MR. SEXTON
"Would the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary prefer to leave out the words—And such charge shall be paid first out of the cash portion of the fund and out of the Exchequer contribution?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
As I propose to alter Clause 3 on Report, I propose to move the omission of the words.
§ Amendment proposed in page 4, line 8, to leave out all the words after the word "and"—(Mr. Sexton.)1839
§ Question, " That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause,"— put, and negatived.
I must point out to the hon. Member that in Clause 3 it is provided that both the cash portion and the contingent portion shall be applicable in the order there mentioned.
§ MR. SEXTON
I think that is rather a question for the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. He said he preferred to leave out the words. As, however, another hon. Member has made use of the words of the right hon. Gentleman it will be interesting to know how he will deal with them.
In page 4, line 7, after the word " Fund," to insert the words "and such charge shall be payable out of the cash and contingent portions of the Guarantee Fund in the order hereinbefore mentioned."—(Mr. Knox.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (11.56.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I think we are entitled to some explanation from the Chief Secretary about his own words. I have heard of a minister eating his words, but never of one refusing to eat them. These being the words of the right hon. Gentleman, I invite him to partake of them.
§ MR. STOREY
This seems to me an absolute comedy of errors. If the right hon. Gentleman will take time to con- 1840 sider this matter to-morrow I think he will find that the Members behind me have been fighting all night for that which is more to the advantage of the Government than to their own advantage. I think the clause as it stands is really ridiculous. I would suggest to him that when once he introduces a reference to the county contributions into Clause 3 he will find it absolutely necessary, in order to make the Bill symmetrical, to introduce the same thing into Clause 4. I am sure, if he will take the hint and consider this, he will do wisely.
§ MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
I have listened to the Debate that has been going on for some time, and I must say that, with regard to these various Amendments, the Committee seems rather in a muddle. I think it desirable that some more time should be taken to consider the effect of the Amendment, and I, therefore, move that the Chairman report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, " That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again." — (Mr. Joicey.)
§ (11.59.) MR. CONYBEARE
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, considering the muddle we have all got into [Laughter.] Well, I have taken no part in this discussion, but I can see that the Committee has got into a muddle. I pointed out, at an earlier period, the injustice of not having the amended form of Clause 3 before us, and I venture again to say that if we had had it before us we should have been spared all this comedy of errors. I would ask the Attorney General for Ireland if he will undertake that we shall have the printed copy of the amended form of Clause 3 before the Committee to-morrow.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.